Posts Tagged ‘George ‘Dubya’ Bush’

The Ancient Near East as the Birthplace of Democracy

May 15, 2017

This is a bit of a rejoinder to Boris ‘Mugwump’ Johnson. Johnson, as a public schoolboy steeped in the Classics, believes that everything great and good began with ancient Greece and Rome. But a few years ago I put up a blog post about a book, The Origins of the Democracy in the Ancient Near East, which argued that the roots of democracy went further back, and further east, than ancient Greece. It began instead in the popular assemblies, which governed ancient mesopotamian civilisations such as the city state of Mari.

I found this passage about the democratic nature of ancient near eastern civilisation in the entry ‘Law (Mesopotamian)’ in Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Biblical World: A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (London: Pickering and Inglis Ltd 1966), 356-359. This states

The pattern of society in early Mesopotamia has been described as “primitive democracy”. There was an assembly (Sumerian ukkin, Akkadian puhrum) of the elders and young men with whom they chieftain or leader (antecedant of the later king) must consult. All major decisions were put to a vote. In addition, the cheiftain was obliged to give to his tutelary deity an annual account of his conduct of authority during the previous year. No doubt here also, as in the case of Egypt, there was drastic modification in practice especially in later years when, for example, such strong men as Sargon of Akkad, Hammurabi of Babylon or Sennacherib of Assyria ruled. But the principle remained in daily life as a unique characteristic of Mesopotamian civilization and spread into Syria and Anatolia as well. 356.

I don’t doubt that in the half century since the book was published, this view of ancient near eastern society as democratic has been revised. I think the book that came out about it a few years ago said that these states weren’t democratic. However, popular assemblies did exist.

Mesopotamia was the old name for the area that is now Iraq, and I wonder how much of its ancient history and precious archaeology has survived the western invasion by Bush and Blair, sectarian conflict and the destructive fury of ISIS. Nicholas Wood in his book, The Case Against Blair, describes how the Americans trashed Babylon when they chose to make it into one of the bases. And the barbarians of ISIS released a vide of them levelling Nineveh and destroying priceless antiquities in one of Iraq’s museums.

And their fury against anything they judge to be un-Islamic isn’t confined to the ancient past. They’ve also desecrated and destroyed Christian churches and the country’s Muslim shrines and mosques. And this is besides the horrific carnage and destruction which the war and its aftermatch have unleashed on the region and its people.

Iraq was one of the major centres of world civilisation, and the destruction of its ancient monuments and artefacts is a massive loss. And all because Bush, Blair and the Saudis wanted to steal the country’s oil and other state-owned industries for American big business.

Blair Should Be Thrown Out of the Labour Party for Urging People to Vote Lib Dem or Tory

April 24, 2017

Mike also put up a piece yesterday commenting on the news that the former Labour leader, Tony Blair, had urged people to put party differences aside and vote for a Conservative or Lib Dem candidate if they have an ‘open mind’ about the Brexit deal. He said he wanted to maximise the number of people willing to stop May ‘steamrolling’ a hard Brexit.

Mike quotes a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn, who said

“On 9 June, we will either have a Labour government or a Tory one. If you want Brexit to be used to turn Britain into a low-wage tax haven, vote Tory. If you want a Britain for the many not the few after Brexit, vote Labour. The choice is clear.”

This is absolutely correct. If you vote Tory, you will be voting for more poverty, more starvation and more privatisation of the NHS, all to turn Britain into an offshore tax haven. Lobster examined the source of Tory funds a few years ago. Guess what? They’re not coming from their grassroots members. Membership of the party was falling, and some branches were closed to new members. Others had closed entirely. And the grassroots members were complaining that they were being ignored by the party bosses. The Tories simply don’t have enough coming in from party subscriptions to support them. At the moment it seems that the party is being funded primarily by American hedge fund managers in London.

Mike also states, quite correctly, that Blair should be thrown out of the party for encouraging people to vote against it. He’s right. This is against the Labour party constitution. He also states he agrees absolutely with Eoin Clark that Blair’s administration was far better than the Tories under May. Well, you really can’t argue against that.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/23/tony-blair-should-be-drummed-out-of-labour-after-urging-voters-to-support-other-parties/

But this latest comment shows how tenuous Blair’s own connection to the Labour party was. Lobster and other political commenters have made the point that Blair and the New Labour coterie’s support for the Labour party was only tribal, not ideological. Blair himself also seems to have said that he joined the Labour party because he believed he had a better chance at promotion within it than any of the others. Once in power, he threatened to tear the party’s heart out by cutting ties with the trade unions, despite the fact that the Labour party was partly founded by them in order to represent the interests of British working people. He also ditched the Labour party’s commitment to nationalisation, Clause 4, and continued the Tories’ policy of privatisation, including the NHS. He was essentially a Tory entryist, and this latest pronouncement shows he still has the same mercenary attitude to politics.

And this is quite apart from the fact that he took us into an illegal war with his and Bush’s invasion of Iraq, a war that has killed and displaced millions of people across the Middle East and destabilised the entire region. There are very good reasons for having him indicted as a war criminal. See the book by Nicholas Wood and Anabella Pellens, The Case Against Blair: War Crime or Just War? The Iraq War 2003-2005 (London: South Hill Press 2005).

Blair did some very good things when he was in power. But he also managed to destroy much of Labour’s grassroots support, and pioneered some of the policies that have been continued so disastrously by Cameron and May. In some ways, his present disloyalty to the party he led is the least of his crimes. His actions in the Middle East alone mean that he should not be allowed anywhere near power, nor be listened to by anyone ever again.

How the ‘White’ Race Was Invented to Divide the American Working Class

April 10, 2017

There was another, very interesting piece in Counterpunch last week by Richard Moser, ‘Pawns No More: Ted Allen and the Invention of the White Race’. This discussed the work of Theodore W. Allen’s classic analysis of the origins of racism and racial oppression in America, The Invention the White Race: Volume I Racial Oppression and Social Control and Volume II: The Origins of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America. Allen was a White working class writer and political activist, who spent 20 years working in the Virginia state archives to amass an impressive amount of evidence to support his view: that the ‘White’ race was invented by the colonial authorities to divide the bonded poor, both Black and White, and stop the formation of a united working class opposition to slavery.

Allen noted that when the first Africans arrived at Jamestown in 1619, there was no special status attached either to them or to people of European origin. Indeed, Whites, as a special demographic category, did not exist, and would not exist until after Bacon’s Rebellion 60 years later. Moser writes

What Allen discovered transformed our understanding of race in America and can transform our organizing practice and activism.

He shocked readers with a startling finding:

“When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no “white” people there; nor according to colonial records would there be for another sixties years.”1

Oh, yes, there were English and Irish, but nowhere in the colonial record is there evidence that law or society granted special privileges to people based on European origin.

The white race and white identity were “invented,” Allen argued, by the ruling elite of Virginia, in order to divide laboring people in the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. The white race was constructed and used as a political instrument to divide and conquer.

How did this come to be?

By 1620 or so, a system of unfree labor became the dominant labor system in Virginia. The system was essentially slavery, some “bond-laborers” had time-limited contracts, but most servitude was open to interpretation by custom. A majority of these bond-laborers were Europeans.

The archival evidence is clear, as well, that the role of African and African Americans was “indeterminate.” From 1619 to the years following Bacon’s Rebellion, the status of black people was contested in the courts and in the fields. Africans held a variety of social and economic positions: some were limited term slaves, some free, some endured lifetime bondage, while others were property holders, even including a few slave owners.

It was not until after Bacon’s Rebellion, or the second phase of Bacon’s Rebellion to be precise, that law and society created a new custom of racism, and for that to happen, the white race had to be invented.

What was the trigger?

“[I]n Virginia, 128 years before William Lloyd Garrison was born, laboring class African-Americans and European-Americans fought side by side for the abolition of slavery. In so doing, they provided the supreme proof that the white race did not then exist.”3

The Rebellion occupied the capital of Jamestown and pointed the way toward freedom for everyone, by contesting the rule of the oligarchs who had grown rich on slave labor and land stolen from the natives.

“[I]t was the striving of the bond-laborers for freedom from chattel servitude that held the key to liberation of the colony from the misery that proceeded from oligarchic rule…” 4

After the rebellion was suppressed, law and custom began to shift. Europeans were increasingly designated as “white” in the historical record, and given privileges that conferred a “presumption of liberty” while blacks were increasing subjected to legal and cultural limits to their freedoms. Whites were encouraged to view blacks with contempt and see their inferior social positions as proof of innate inferiority.

Conditions for working class Whites continued to be appalling throughout the US, both in the North as well as in the South, but there was a major difference between White and Black. The law presumed Whites were free, and so they had the ability to improve their conditions, and even such basic rights as the right to basic literacy – which were denied enslaved Africans.

Moser’s article is written not just as a piece of interesting historical analysis, but as a piece of factual ammunition for the campaign against the neoliberal rule of the rich elite in Trump’s America. He concludes

Here is Allen’s legacy and challenge to us: racism is historical, it is the product of human activity. If it was then, it is now. Racism was founded on a system of privileges designed to win working class white people’s support for slavery. And so it is to white privilege that we must look if we want to free ourselves from being the tools and fools of the rich and powerful.

We must be pawns no more.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/06/pawns-no-more/

This is important. American progressives have repeatedly pointed out the way the corporate elite are using working class White racism to bolster their own dominance, while at the same time doing everything they can to deny working and middle class Americans of their rights and ability to make a decent living, regardless of race. Bernie Sanders recounts in his book, Our Revolution, how he asked a local union leader in Mississippi how the Republicans got so many poor Whites to vote against their own interests. The union leader told him: racism.

Trump, Bush senior and junior, and Reagan all used White working class fears of Blacks and Black empowerment to get Whites to vote for them and policies that favoured only the rich in a policy that goes all the way back to Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’.

And the corporate elites over this side of the Atlantic have also used the same approach. It isn’t as blatant as it is in America, because British laws banning the promotion of racial hatred makes some of the overtly racist rhetoric of some American politicians illegal. But it’s there, nonetheless. You think about the way the Tories have constantly harped on the dangers of immigration, and the way that shaded quite quickly into racism with the vans Cameron sent round into mostly Black and Asian areas, which encouraged illegal immigrants to hand themselves in. Or asked the public to snitch on illegal immigrants. And then there’s UKIP, which again tried to attract White working class support through opposition to immigration, which at several times crossed over into real racism and Islamophobia, attracting members, who were very definitely part of the Fascist right. All the while also promoting policies that would hurt the very working class White voters they pretended to want to protect, such as privatising the health service, destroying the welfare state, as well as employment rights and rights for women.

Moser’s right in that this strategy, and the people behind it, need to be shown for what they are: a wealthy, corporate elite, who don’t care about the White working class, only about their own rule and power. A wealthy elite, who are using them to divide and rule working people. An elite that fears Whites and Blacks coming together to break their power and improve conditions for all working and middle class people, regardless of race. Theodore Allen’s analysis of the origins of the ‘White’ race is an important part of that ideological struggle.

Norman Mailer Predicts American Fascism

February 8, 2017

Blum’s book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, has a number of very telling quotations from all kinds of people – diplomats, politicos, writers, journalists and others, revealing just how nasty and vicious American foreign policy – and the lies told to support it – actually are.

One of these is by the great American writer, Norman Mailer. Mailer not only accurately predicted that America would invade Iraq, he also warned against the rise of Fascism in America itself. He said

My guess is that, like it or not, or want it or not, we are going to go to war because that is the only solution Bush and his people can see. The dire prospect that opens, therefore, is that America is going to become a mega-banana republic where the army will have more and more importance in our lives…And before it is all over, democracy, noble and delicate as it is, may give way… Indeed, democracy is the special condition… we will be called upon to defend in the coming years. That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military and complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America already.
(p. 313).

He wrote that in 2003, three weeks before Dubya ordered the troops into Iraq. And he isn’t wrong on any of it. A Harvard study found that America isn’t a democracy, but a functioning oligarchy because of the massive influence of corporate power to the exclusion of the interests of ordinary, working Americans. The Economist Intelligence Unit has catalogued America as a ‘flawed democracy’, because of the deterioration in its political culture.

And we now have real Nazis and anti-Semites in Trump’s cabinet in the presence of White supremacists like Steve Bannon.

Mailer was a bitter critic of American foreign policy, and absolutely despised the Neocons. I don’t think he was a man of the Left, however. I think he himself once said that he was a Conservative, but of the old school. America didn’t have any right to invade or push around other countries, just as they didn’t have the right to do the same to America.

Trump Replaces Military Chiefs with Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon on National Security Council

February 5, 2017

This is another stupid move by Trump, in which ideology is shown to weigh more in his mind than military experience and expertise. In this clip from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and his team discuss Trump’s reorganisation of the National Security Council. This is the top government organ for discussing issues of national security and foreign policy. Trump has just made Steve Bannon, the White supremacist head of the right-wing news agency, Breitbart, a permanent member. By contrast, the head of the joint chiefs of staff and the director of national intelligence will only attend when issues directly relevant to them are being discussed.

Pakman and his team point out that Bannon doesn’t have any experience in national security. He was a naval officer, before becoming a documentary film-maker and then head of Breitbart. They also question how Trump has the authority to make these changes, as the legislation governing the composition of the council states that the president appoints its personnel with the advice and consent of the senate.

They also point out that this is part of Trump’s war on intelligence, which the orange buffoon insists doesn’t exist. Trump claims that the story that he is at odds with the espionage agencies is a falsehood created by the press. In fact, he is just against certain leaders, but values the work of the junior staff. Pakman and his team point out that Trump’s apparent downgrading of senior members of the Council – the head of the joint chiefs and national intelligence director, would send a signal to the junior members of those organisations that Trump definitely does not value them.

This looks like pretty much the same stupid manoeuvre George Dubya made with his selection of the top senior officers commanding the ‘war on terror’. One of the Conservative critics of Bush and the Neocons, a senior female officer connected to the Pentagon, was a fierce critic of Shrub’s maladministration of the wars in the Middle East. Shrub and the Neocons valued adherence to the ideological ‘party line’ far more than practical military experience, tactical knowledge and knowledge of the region. The upper ranks of the organisation handling the invasion of Iraq was overwhelmingly staffed by Bush’s fellow Neocons at the expense of experienced, knowledgeable military officers. Bush selected for membership of the commanding organisations personnel, who told him exactly what he wanted to hear. And he wanted to hear that the war would be over very quickly, and that the liar and fantasist, Ahmed Chalebi, would be welcomed back to Iraq as a national hero by a people grateful to the Americans for their liberation from Saddam Hussein.

Those officers, who told Bush the opposite were sacked. Shrub dismissed General Zilli, one of the senior officers in the section of the Pentagon dealing with the Middle East, because Zilli told him – rightly – that any invasion of Iraq would result in years of more war. This didn’t fit the Neocon view of the Middle East, and so Zilli lost his job. Despite being 100 per cent right.

Now Trump is doing exactly the same. He’s shown he values ideological adherence over military and foreign policy experience and knowledge. This is made worse by Bannon’s own White supremacist views. Well, contrary to whatever stupid, racist nonsense Trump and Bannon believe, the peoples of the Middle East are not stupid or less intelligent than Americans or Westerners. Nor can the resistance to the western occupation be put down simply to some kind of innate evil within the Middle Eastern psychology, or to their supposed envy of the political and personal freedoms enjoyed by the peoples of the West.

For many of the peoples of Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, opposition to America and her allies doesn’t necessarily come from Islam. It comes from the fact that we’ve invaded their countries, and are killing their compatriots and coreligionists, and members of their families – through bombings and drone strikes. Yes, ISIS and its backers in the Saudi government are responsible for much of the terrorism and resistance to the West in the region. But other causes are simply the natural urge of ordinary people the world over to hate and resist invaders. But this vital point is going to be missed with Trump’s appointment of Bannon to this important position. If, of course, Trump ever seriously considered it at all.

I’m afraid that the result of this will be more senseless war, just as Shrub’s valuing of Neocon political views over genuine military and cultural understanding has meant that the allied occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan has lasted over a decade. It will lead to more needless civilian deaths, and even more of our servicemen and -women losing their lives, for no good reason. These wars haven’t been launched to build democracy in the Middle East. Bush launched them in order steal Iraq’s oil and its state industries after they were privatised. Syria is being bombed for much the same reason – to ensure the passage of an oil pipeline for the profit of the oil companies and countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, which Assad does not want passing through his country.

Bannon’s appointment as a permanent member of the National Security Council will make this debacle worse, and prolong further a war that has already gone on for far too long.

Trump Puts Iran ‘On Notice’

February 4, 2017

It seems that Drumpf is gearing up to start another war, this time with Iran. Yesterday the Trumpists’ National Security advisor, Michael Flynn, stated that they were putting Iran ‘on notice’ following an attack by Houthi rebels on a Saudi warship and the Iranians’ testing of a ballistic missile. The Houthis are supported by Iran. Under UN resolution 2231, Iran is barred from developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The missle launched by Iranians was not capable of carrying such a weapon. The rocket flew 500 miles before crashing. Iran has tested ballistic missiles before, and while they are observing the letter of the resolution, Obama’s administration condemned them for violating the convention’s spirit. This was because the results from these tests could be used to construct a missile that would be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The former Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, said that ‘this is not the first time an inexperienced person has threatened Iran … The American government will understand that threatening Iran is useless. Iran does not need permission from any country to defend itself.’ He also stated that the weapon was not covered by the nuclear accords, and that they would not use missiles produced in Iran to attack another country.

Trump also made a statement attacking Obama’s agreement with Iran, in which frozen assets were returned to the country in return for the regime abandoning any effort to development nuclear weapons. I think the monies returned to Iran was about $180 million. Trump declared that until Obama gave them the money, the country was on its last legs. There’s no evidence for that, and Drumpf misrepresents the payment as some kind of gift. And like his Republican predecessors, Drumpf also seems to want to scrap the nuclear deal with Iran. Despite the fact that it is preventing Iran from developing nuclear arms, and international monitoring agencies have confirmed that Iran is abiding by the agreement.

In the video, John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian also state why an invasion of Iran would be a bad idea. They make the point that the Iraq invasion and consequent occupation has been bad enough, but Iran would be much more difficult as it has a larger army and is better armed and equipped.

There are also a number of other points that could be made here. Firstly, any invasion of Iran would not only face difficulties presented by confronting a much better armed country, but would also cause the same ethnic blood bath that broke out in Iraq. 51 per cent of the Iranian population speak Farsi, but the country is also a mosaic of other tribes, including Arabs in Khuzestan, Kurds, Baluchis and various nomadic tribes speaking languages related to Turkish. Many of these have also waged war in the recent past for their independence. The Kurds have been fighting for their independence since the reign of the Shah, and several of the Turkish tribes rose up in revolt in the 1970s after the Iranian regime confiscated their tribal lands as part of a programme of land redistribution.

It’s hardly known in the west, but there is also a massive, growing underground Christian church in Iran similar to underground church in China. Apostasy from Islam is forbidden, and converts to Christianity imprisoned and persecuted. It has got to the point that the Iranian regime is posting armed soldiers around the ethnic Armenian churches, so that Iranians don’t sneak in to participate in their worship. If America invades Iran, this already persecuted minority will suffer even worse harassment and victimisation as they will be identified with the invaders. And the same will be true of the Bahai’is. They see themselves as a separate religion, which has grown out of Islam, in the same way that Christianity developed from Judaism. Mainstream Islam, at least in Iran, sees them as a heresy, and they have been savagely persecuted. Because Baha’ullah, one of the religion’s founders, was imprisoned in Haifa, which is now in Israel, there’s a conspiracy theory grown up about the Bahai’is, which accuses them of being spies and saboteurs working for Israel. It’s rubbish, but this hasn’t stopped tens of thousands of Bahai’is being killed in pogroms. Any American invasion of Iran will see these people suffer even worse persecution.

Iadarola and Kasparian also make the point that Trump’s belligerence also threatens to miss a golden opportunity to turn the country into an ally. They make the point that it’s a young country, with a burgeoning middle class, who want western consumer products. It should be possible to draw Iran into the international community, and neutralise any threat they may pose simply through friendly relations. But Trump is taking the much easier route, of turning it into another North Korea, isolated from the rest of the world.

The peoples of the Middle East have suffered too much. The last thing they, and indeed the rest of the world need, is another wretched, stupid war of aggression. And let’s forget the rhetoric about Iran being a ‘rogue state’ and part of the ‘Axis of evil’ as George Dubya put it. The Iranian theocracy is brutal. But it is still more liberal than many of the other countries around it, like Saudi Arabia. There is a democratic component to their constitution, which there is certainly isn’t in the Wahhabi kingdom. And I’ve also heard that if the Iranians were developing nuclear weapons, it wouldn’t be to use against Europe, but to defend themselves against the Saudis.

If America were to invade Iran, it wouldn’t be to spread democracy. That would be another lie, the same that has been used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The reality would be that it would be another attempt by the Neocon political and economic elite to loot another Middle Eastern country, and steal its oil and industries. While the Saudis would back it in their campaign to advance their kind of repressive Sunni Islam against Iranian Shi’a.

Philip Hammond Wants to Turn Britain into Neoliberal Tax Haven for the Rich

January 19, 2017

This is more evidence of the Tories’ obsession with turning Britain into ‘America junior’. On Sunday Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece about the current chancellor, Philip Hammond’s interview with the German newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, in which he said that if Britain could not gain access to European markets after Brexit, it would allow the country to turn away from the European political and economic model. Instead of following the ‘European-style’ social model, with high taxation and regulation, Britain would become ‘something different’.

Mike called this Tory stupidity and arrogance at its worst, and he’s right. Britain cannot win a trade war with Europe. Europe constitutes more than half of the market for Britain’s exports. And every time Theresa May opens her trap about Brexit, investors take fright and the pound plummets to a new level. Mike’s article quotes Jeremy Corbyn as saying that he expected the majority of MPs to be worried about Hammond’s ideas. And he’s right. Mike predicts that Hammond’s idea would result in massive unemployment, as exclusion from the European market means that demands for our products would fall. Furthermore, the low taxation Hammond so glowingly looks forward to would mean that the state would receive less. Mike doesn’t point out what that means, but it’s fairly obvious: state expenditure would immediately slashed, meaning even more welfare cuts, the further rationing and privatisation of the NHS and the education system.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/15/seriously-philip-hammond-youd-cripple-our-economy-for-some-anti-eu-sabre-rattling/

Of course, this is precisely what the Tories have wanted ever since Thatcher. They want to make Britain more like the USA, with its private healthcare system and minimal welfare provision. It’s an economy which has traditionally been based on low taxes, although under Bush the people of America actually started paying nearly the same amount in tax as the people in this country because of the vast military expenditure. At least, that’s what I was told by American friends. However, Bush made a series of tax cuts, followed by Obama with more promised by Trump, which will deprive the poor of even further employment protection and welfare benefits in favour of massive tax cuts for the rich. Just like Cameron and May have done and are doing for the Tories.

Hammond’s moronic idea is not original either. It’s just a continuation of Cameron’s attempts to stop the EU extending its financial regulations over Britain, so that London could become the centre of the global fraud that constitutes offshore banking.

It also shows the absolute ignorance and contempt of Thatcherite economists for the manufacturing industry. Thatcher’s cabinet was dominated by people from the financial sector, as was Blair’s, Broon’s, and, I assume, Cameron’s and May’s. There was one cabinet member, whose background was in manufacturing, who tried to point out to Thatcher that her pursuit of a strong pound would harm British manufacturing industry, as it would make our products more expensive than our foreign competitors. But she couldn’t understand this basic economic fact. As for Tony Blair, he rejected the manufacturing sector, as it was economic dogma during his tenure of No. 10 that the financial sector would become the major industry in the UK. We were supposed to be a ‘post-industrial economy’. Deanne Julius, one of the experts at the Bank of England, and a former officer with one of the big American banks, actually said that we should give up manufacturing and concentrate on the service sector. Manufacturing industry, she believed, should be left to the Americans.

Ha-Joon Chang has pointed out in his books how wrong this attitude is. Britain is still very dependent on its manufacturing industries. These are less significant than they were, because they have not grown as much as the financial and service sectors, but are still very important parts of our economy. If this part of our economy contracts even further, it will be disastrous for the British economy as a whole.

Not that you will hear that from the Blairites or the Tories. New Labour was very keen not to be seen as the party of high state regulation. During the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ in the late ’80s, Broon and Mo Mowlam went round the City reassuring the bankers that New Labour would adopt a ‘light touch’ attitude to regulating the financial sector.

And we can all see how well that paid off, with the great financial crash of 2008. We’re still paying for that. Not the bankers, not the big industrialists, but the ordinary people of Britain, who are seeing are tax bills go up, our welfare benefits and employment rights taken away, and the NHS sold off to private contractors, all to give the 1 per cent even more tax breaks.

And last Sunday, Philip Hammond told the German press he wanted more of the same, but much worse.

This shows his and May’s attitude to Britain’s working people. They are to be forced into even more precarity, with fewer opportunities for employment and massive poverty. Because Hammond wants to make his bankster friends in the City even richer.

And defend the NHS. May and Hunt should resign. Now.

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: Israeli Embassy also Conspired to Oust NUS President

January 11, 2017

Al-Jazeera’s sting of Shai Masot, the chief political officer at the Israeli embassy, continues to get some extremely embarrassing skeletons out of the closets. As Mike states in his article, the worms are all coming out of the woodwork now.

As part of their investigation into the covert influence of the Israeli embassy, the news channel sent one of the their undercover reporters, ‘Robin’, to pose as a pro-Israel activist seeking the embassy’s advice on how to combat the BDS movement. This is the campaign which urges people to boycott, divest and sanction Israeli companies and products from the occupied Palestinian territories. The journo secretly recorded Masot and Maria Strizzolo, an aid to the current head of education, Halfont, talking about ‘taking down’ the Tory MP, Alan Duncan. Duncan’s a fierce opponent of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and their illegal settlements there. Hence the hostility to him by the Israelis.

‘Robin’ also recorded himself talking to the vice president of the National Union of Students, Richard Brooks, who was introduced by Masot as the head of Young Labour Friends of Israel. Brooks states that he had accepted a trip to Israel, organised by the Union of Jewish Students. He and ‘Robin’ then talk about removing from office the head of the NUS, Malia Bouattia. Mike asks in his article whether the Union of Jewish Students is also to be considered an Israeli embassy front organisation.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/11/revealed-nus-official-colluded-with-israeli-embassy-to-oust-student-leader-middle-east-eye/

Actually, it’s a good question. The Union’s pro-Israel stance, and it’s influence in the Labour won’t surprise readers of the parapolitical website and journal, Lobster, which has covered it and its connections to the Blairites. It’s also questionable how representative of Jewish students the Union actually is. I recall that polls have stated that 75 per cent of British Jews have said that Israel was important to their identity. But that still leaves 25 per cent of British Jews, who have little or no interest or feelings of connection to the country. Where does the Union’s Zionism leave them? Many of those smeared as anti-Semites in the Labour party were Jews, or those of Jewish heritage, like Jackie Walker, whose partner is Jewish, and who has sent her daughter to a Jewish school. She and they were smeared because they dared to criticise Israel and thus, according to the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by Netanyahu and his Zionist collaborators, were anti-Semites. Even when they opposed racism and anti-Semitism.

Even those 75 per cent of Jews, for whom Israel is important to their identity, may not be safe from these allegations. The campaign against the construction of the illegal settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes includes Israelis, and foreign Jews of Israeli heritage. Rabbis have laid down in front of bulldozers and of the two parties that exist in Israel to defend and represent Palestinians, one is open to Israelis as well as Arabs. Most American Jews, according to polls cited in the chapter on modern Israel in The Modern Middle East, edited by Albert Hourani, believe in a two-state solution. One of the people critical of George Dubya and the Neocons featured in the book Bushwhacked!, which is a very critical treatment of the policies of the former US president, is an American Jewish businessman, who really does put his money where his mouth is and gives equally to Israeli and Palestinian causes. Netanyahu and the rest of his ghastly right-wing coalition have made it extremely clear they have no interest in a two-state solution, no matter how they may piously invoke it. With a leadership keen to see the Palestinians further robbed of their land and expelled, the Jewish student who opposes these policies is therefore in a potentially precarious situation. Their views are likely to make them extremely unwelcome to the Union’s leadership.

This is a potentially very dangerous situation. The all too genuine anti-Semites of National Action, an explicitly Nazi ‘youth’ organisation, have stated that they intend to recruit on university campuses. I can’t see them being very successful, myself. Universities are keen to present themselves as centres of anti-racism and diversity, and student politics has traditionally been concerned with these issues. Some of us can still remember the case in the 1980s when one member of the NF or similar Fascist party, Patrick Harrington, had it made it very clear to him by his fellow students that he was definitely not welcome on campus. They pointedly turned their backs on him. And Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremist organisation, reported that one of the leaders of National Action had had to leave Leeds University because of his vile political views.

Nevertheless, National Action still wants to recruit on universities. Matthew Collins in his book, Hate, which describes his inglorious career amongst the Far Right, has a chilling passage where he describes the chaos and intimidation one of the Fascist groups to which he belonged inflicted on one of the London unis when someone arranged for them to meet there. And back in the 1980s I did hear stories of Fascist gangs coming on to university grounds in some of the northern unis to pick fights with the Muslim students. Clearly, Jewish students do need to be protected from potential attack. But the extreme Zionist bias of the Union of Jewish Students suggest that any non- or anti-Zionism students will not be welcome in it, or the protection it could potentially offer.

Barack Obama and the Corporatist Democrats Attack Free Speech

December 5, 2016

It’s very clear that in the next few years under Trump, the treasured freedoms enshrined in the US Constitution and the civil rights women and people of colour have fought so hard for are going to come under sustained attack. In many ways, Trump will just be continuing the rise of an exclusive nationalism and an all-pervasive surveillance state that began under George Dubya as he launched his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Unfortunately, it seems that the corporatist wing of the Democrat party, led by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, also wants to close down Americans’ freedom of speech and information by singling out dissenting journalists, news organisations and demanding a greater role for the state in telling you what information you should believe on the Web.

There were a couple of very important articles about threat to freedom of thought in last weekend’s Counterpunch. This followed an article on Thanksgiving by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post that claimed, on the authority of a group of media researchers, Propornot, that there were about 200 or so journalists, magazines, websites and organisations disseminating fake news intended to serve the Russians’ nefarious interests. Renee Parsons in her article discusses how the 200 websites identified by Timberg as outlets for Russian propaganda don’t actually show any evidence that they are acting on false information provided by Russian state media outlets like RT or Sputnik. And a careful reading of Timberg’s article also shows that, actually, RT and Sputnik haven’t invented any stories either. What they have done instead is identify items that the rest of the media ignored or paid little attention to, and made them more prominent. Or, to put it another way, they scooped the rest of the media.

As for Propornot itself, the organisation’s website states that it is “Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service, Since 2016!” And the only person identified with it is the satirist and comedian Samantha Bee, who is the anchor on the news comedy show Full Frontal. Propornot are frightening, as they call on Barack Obama and Congress to investigate how the Russians manipulated information sources to upset the American political process. Which shows that it’s a body of Clintonian Democrats desperately trying to find suitable media scapegoats with the new, anti-Russian McCarthyism for her defeat by Donald Trump.

The site is even more malign, in that it appeals to the American public to identify not only those individuals and organisers echoing Russian propaganda, but also ‘sympathisers’. She states

If there is any doubt whether the Timberg article and Propornot itself is a partisan effort, the YYY implication is that anyone “echoing a Russian propaganda line” such as those who speak “how wonderful, powerful, innocent and righteous Russia and Russia’s friends are: Putin, Donald Trump, al-Bashar Assad, Syria, Iran, China, radical political parties” will be considered tools of Russia as compared with those who speak “how terrible, weak, aggressive, and corrupt the opponents of Russia are: the US, Obama, HRC, the EU, Angela Merkel, NATO, Ukraine, Jewish people, US allies, MSM and Democrats” will be considered enemies of the State. Anyone with such information is encouraged to ‘come tell us at Propornot about it.”

This came nearly two months after Obama made a speech to a political organisation about the internet, in which he made it clear that he wanted to set up some kind of official body to manage what they trust on the Web. She states

During a visit to the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh on October 13th, the President, known for his smooth, glib reassurances so successful at placating the public, suggested that “we are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to” and that “democracy requires citizens to be able to sift through lies and distortions” and further that “those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world.” The President continued that “there has to be some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests.”

The President’s statement does not adequately capture what democracy requires of its citizens and reads more like what George Orwell epitomized as ‘political speech’ deliberately meant to confuse and demean citizen awareness. What Obama failed to acknowledge is that every American has a right, an obligation as an engaged citizen to determine for themselves what is a lie, distortion or truth; that ‘fake news’ is in the eye of the beholder and what a citizen believes and what they do not believe is their business and requires no justification to the government or anyone else. Most importantly, it was the President’s obligation to say that with a tremendous divergence of opinion on the www, some of it wacky, some of it conspiratorial, some of it incredibly incisive and intelligent and important – all of it is protected by the First Amendment.

To briefly parse the President’s words, most of which are painfully obvious,

suggestions of a “curating function” as in some official government entity assigned for the purpose of “protecting” (“ added) the public interest and “some sort of way…sort through information that passes some truthiness test” are presented in the President’s usual folksy, innocuous dialectic used to serve the public pablum while a further shredding of their Constitutional rights slips by under their nose.

She states that this is a further attack on American’s Constitutional freedoms by Obama. Despite his election promises, Obama has not ended surveillance without warrant, restored habeas corpus and the prohibition against detention without trial, torture, and excessive secrecy of government branches. Moreover, the Constitution also explicitly forbids presidents from starting wars without the approval of Congress. This has also been violated by successive administrations, and Obama hasn’t restored this Constitutional provision either.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/02/obama-and-propornot/

Further information on Timberg and his witch-hunt is provided in the same issue by Pam and Russ Martens. They discuss the possible reasons for this article, including that discussed by Parsons, and first put forward by Max Blumenthal of AlterNet, that it’s the Democrats trying to blame the Russians for Killary losing the election. Other theories are that the mainstream media is also trying to ensure its survival in the age of the internet and alternative media by smearing its new media competitors. Glen Ford, the editor of the Black Agenda Report, one of the organisations smeared as a Russian propaganda outlet, has suggested that the corporatist Democrats are very close to Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, and that had Hillary won the election, she would also have launched a similar attack on alternative news sources on the Net. The Martens also state that during his career, Timberg was the National Security deputy editor for the Washington Post, before taking up his current position as the paper’s technology editor. He has also made speeches about the facial recognition technology used for law enforcement, and interviewed the executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, on the information revealed on the NSA’s programme of mass surveillance. This latter interview was done at the Cato Institute, a right-wing think tank, that was secretly part-owned for several decades by the Koch brothers.

The Martens themselves believe that this latest McCarthyite smear is an attack on the news organisations that ran stories from the WikiLeaks materials exposing the massive corporate corruption in the Democrat party. Both the Washington Post and New York Times did report that information from WikiLeaks revealed that a Citigroup executive, had made the decisions on who Obama should hire as key personnel during his first term. Citigroup was one of the massive banks that had to be bailed out during the 2008 crash. And both the Washington Post and New York Times editorial boards supported Killary’s presidential campaign.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/02/timbergs-tale-washington-post-reporter-spreads-blacklist-of-independent-journalist-sites/

Fortunately, Timberg’s article has met with widespread derision and ridicule, with many of the commenters on the online version of the article criticising it as a piece of shoddy, McCarthyite journalism. Regardless of the precise motives for the attack – and the various theories put forward above aren’t mutually exclusive – it’s clear that the Clintonite wing of the Democrats are just as keen as the Republicans to subvert the Constitution for their own backers in big business and the surveillance state. Obama and Clinton have shown that they are determined to maintain the infringements on the Constitution introduced by George Dubya, and, indeed, expand them to smear their own enemies.

And unfortunately, this mindset appears to be spreading to the Blairites over here. Mike last week reported that Tom Watson had made a rant, attacking websites producing false information. By which he meant the pro-Corbyn site, The Canary. Tony Blair modelled New Labour on Bill Clinton’s New Democrats. Watson’s comments seem to show that the Blairites in the Labour party also want to crack down on British websites that don’t follow the required New Labour line. Just as Blair himself used to organise ‘negative briefings’ against ministers, who were deemed ‘off-message’.

If America and Britain are to have healthy, functioning democracies, where the people genuinely have power and not a narrow clique of politicos acting for the benefit of the corporate elite, it will mean purging the Democrats in the US of the Clintonites, and the Blairites in the Labour party over here, as well as defeating the Republicans and Conservatives.