Posts Tagged ‘Kiev’

Have I Got News For You and the Bias in BBC News Satire

December 17, 2016

As I said in the previous blog post, I’ve stopped watching Have I Got News For You, because I’m sick of its bias. This is partly because I’m fed up with the show constantly repeating the anti-Corbyn, anti-Labour line of the mainstream newspapers. I also think its because, after having read some of the alternative news outlets and organisations about various issues, like Counterpunch, Lobster and seen Abby Martin and Amy Goodson on RT and Democracy Now, as well as The Young Turks, Secular Talk, the Jimmy Dore Show and Sam Seder’s Majority Report, I’ve become acutely aware of how far the reporting of the corporate media, including the mendacious BBC, is from the real situation in Britain and other nations around the world.

I was particularly struck by it during an edition of Have I Got News For You a month or so ago. One of the guests that week is the new head of the Conservative part in Scotland. I can’t remember her name. I did, however, find her very smug, self-satisfied and sneering, as you’d expect from a Tory official. She was also introduced as being ‘openly gay’, as if it were part of the changes the Tories had made to make themselves more electable to the guid people north of the Border. The Tories have been fielding many openly gay candidates around the country for several years now, ever since Dave Cameron took over the party and very ostentatiously set about his modernisation policy. This was about trying to make the Conservatives look more left-wing than the Labour party, then under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which wasn’t exactly the most difficult task. Part of this involved them trying to break the image of the ‘nasty party’ by endorsing more female and minority candidates. This is presumably calculated to impress that part of the liberal middle class, who are worried about the lack of representation of women, ethnic minorities and gays in parliament, but only if they come from respectable upper and middle class backgrounds like themselves. If they’re working or lower middle class, then they had better know their place along with the rest of the proles, and not threaten the wonderful Thatcherite utopia the Tories and Blairites have created.

At one point, the Tory went off on a rant about how the Ukraine was under threat from Putin, as part of his campaign to annexe the whole country, beginning with the eastern part of the country and the Crimea, before taking over the Sudetenland and invading Poland. The view pushed very much by her was that the Russians are the aggressor, who need to be stopped at all costs from victimising the innocent Ukrainian regime.

It’s a tissue of lies. The Ukrainian regime is hardly innocent. It is stuffed full of Nazis from the Pravy Sektor, individuals and organisations that have adopted the full regalia and rituals of the SS auxiliaries that fought for the Nazis during the Second World War. These Ukrainians Nazis fully participated in the Holocaust and were responsible for some of the most horrific pogroms against Jews in the occupied Soviet territories during the War. These groups have shot at and savagely beaten left-wingers, including trade unionists. Just as the regime is intent on clamping down on independent journalists, who do not follow Kyiv’s ultranationalist line. This has included compiling and publishing a black list online of several hundred offending journalist, who have subsequently received death threats.

It is also a lie that the current regime is the product of spontaneous democratic demonstrations, like that of the Maidan Revolution. It isn’t. It is essentially the creation of a clique of very corrupt oligarchs, backed by quangos from America and the EU. The orange uniforms the protestors wore were handed out to them at a tent run by these semi-official US organisations.

And instead of being the aggressors, it is the Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, who are the victims. Simply looking online, you can find reports of these people being beaten and murdered by the Ukrainian army, and of the Ukrainian government sending troops in to prevent them from reaching polling stations. This is to stop them putting in their votes for the opposition. I realise that some of this is going to be Russian propaganda, but not all.

But this is very much not the image presented by the corporate media and the Beeb. Including Private Eye’s editor, Ian Hislop. Hislop cut into the woman’s spiel. However, instead of challenging her about the real situation in Ukraine, he instead decided to ask her questions about whether or not she had contradicted Boris Johnson.

This is an issue, especially if you like to see the Tories tear themselves apart. But it’s not the most important issue here.

Which is that the British people are being fed lies by their media, and the British, American and EU authorities to whip up hatred of the Russians and strengthen ties with a brutally intolerant and persecutory Nazi regime. There’s obviously a very good reason why the Beeb and the corporate media want to silence any mention of Nazism in Ukraine. Despite the vile antics of National Action, the sight of a real Nazi politico, like those in the Ukrainian rada, in full SS gear, giving the Nazi salute would appal the vast majority of people in this country, regardless of whichever side of the political spectrum they came from. Except, perhaps, the Tory right and parts of UKIP.

And so in the interests of furthering this international, corporatist agenda of incorporating the Ukraine into the web of western-orientated, free-trade governed countries, any reporting and discussion of just how murderous and undemocratic the Ukrainian regime is, is rigorously censored.

And this incident also showed how the Beeb’s political bias works, even in a show which proclaims itself as ‘irreverent’. In an interview a while ago at the Edinburgh television festival, the genuinely irreverent – amongst many other things – Scots comedian Frankie Boyle discussed political bias at the Beeb. Boyle, you will remember, had been a regular guest on Mock The Week, another news comedy show. This was more like What’s My Line, in that the guests were given subjects to joke about by the question master, Dara O’Brien. Boyle disappeared as some of his jokes were too extreme and dark for the Beeb, even if the show was broadcast after nine O’clock. Boyle commented that the Beeb’s idea of remaining impartial is simply to lampoon all of the parties. It does not, however, like criticism or jokes about particular issues. And so Boyle’s humour was too edgy for the Corporation.

He was also critical of Have I Got News For You and the cosy relationship the show has with the politicians it lambasts and lampoons. Boyle had been to Romania. While he was there, he watched a Romanian comedian on television, who was making jokes about the country’s government, members of which were in the audience. The comedian pointed them out, and the politicos and comedian exchanged quips and greetings. Boyle found it all far too cosy and complacent, and said so to his Romanian guide. The man defended the show, saying that Boyle had it in his own country. How so, asked the Scots comedian. ‘I’ve seen it. Have I Got News For You‘, replied his Romanian friend, who stated it was just like that.

And Boyle concurs that it is. He stated that if the show rips into a politico one week, the next week they’ll have him on the panel, laughing and joking with them. He gave the example of Boris Johnson, who was a regular guest on the show. He could have mentioned many others. Such as Cecil Parkinson, who father a love child with his secretary, Sarah Keays, and then did his best to prevent the story getting out and imposing legal restrictions on Keays and her disabled daughter that led to great hardship. I have to say, I don’t know many women, who find Parkinson at all attractive. Far from it. I think most women find him smarmy. And my mother and her friends described him as ‘the type of man you would not like to be caught behind the filing cabinet with’. But Parkinson’s charm certainly worked on Hislop. After he appeared on Have I Got News For You, the editor of Private Eye talked about he charmed all of them on the programme. Perhaps you have to meet him in person to feel it.

I’m very much aware that Frankie Boyle is very much a controversial figure. Some of his jokes are too dark and tasteless for most people. But in this case, he’s absolutely right. The BBC has a very pronounced bias, even on ‘satirical’ shows such as Have I Got News For You, where the presenters and guests very definitely keep away from certain topics, and keep their criticisms within the very narrow compass prescribed by the official media.

Vox Political on Ian Hislop and the Beeb’s Anti-Corbyn Bias

December 17, 2016

Mike early today put up a post commenting on another example of the Beeb’s bias against Jeremy Corbyn, this time on last night’s Have I Got News For You. Hislop had made the comment, When you find yourself agreeing with Jeremy Corbyn, you know the country is in a mess.’

Mike states

If the BBC had any real interest in its stated commitment to political impartiality, one of the other panel members, or guest host Gary Lineker, would have jumped in to say that agreeing with Theresa May and the Tories is what put the country in a mess in the first place. But that didn’t happen.

And concludes

This man is the editor of Private Eye. Do you think he bothers to keep his political bias out of the magazine? Neither do I.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/17/hislops-jeremy-corbyn-jibe-what-happened-to-bbc-impartiality/

I don’t have to speculate if Hislop is keeping his own personal political bias out of Private Eye. I’ve stopped reading it because he blatantly hasn’t. There are plenty of stories attacking Corbyn and the ‘click-bait’ web site that supports him, The Canary, but absolutely none supporting the Labour leader. The satirical magazine has been running a feature, Focus on Fact, which is devoted to attacking him. This seems to come from embittered Blairites, as many of the stories in there seem to be about internal party disputes from the 1980s.

I’ve blogged before about how I’ve stopped reading the Eye because of this consistent bias against Corbyn, despite the excellent work the magazine has also done attacking privatisation, including that of the NHS. But it needs to remembered that Private Eye and its founders were very much part of the establishment. Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton, Auberon Waugh, Peter Cook and Ian Hislop himself are all very middle class, ex-public schoolboys. Auberon Waugh was notorious for his own extremely Tory and reactionary views, writing columns for the Torygraph sneering at the Greenham women and teachers, for example. His family were also connected to MI5, and he may have been one of the conduits for the intelligence agency’s attempt to smear Harold Wilson as a KGB agent in the 1970s, according to Lobster.

The Eye is not just biased about domestic politics. It has frequently run pieces about the Ukraine in its Letter from… column, which has unwaveringly presented the line that the current vile regime in Kyiv is entirely democratic and is under threat from Putin, the new Grand Duke of Moscow, who is trying to set himself up as the next Tsar of all the Russias and the true heir to Ivan the Terrible. There is no mention that the current Ukrainian regime includes neo-Nazis, determined to persecute genuinely independent journalists, and who have beaten and brutalised members of the Ukrainian left, just as the regime is genuinely responsible for persecuting ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

As for the BBC, I recently posted a piece about a book I found in Waterstones, The BBC and the Myth of Public Broadcasting, which makes the case that the BBC is extremely biased towards the corporate establishment and the Conservatives. This should surprise no-one on the left. Mike and several other left-wing blogs have published articles about the finding by academics at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities that the Beeb is more likely to favour Conservative MPs and managing directors and spokespeople for the stock exchange over Labour MPs and trade unionists. And the Corporation is also very culpably silent about the privatisation of the NHS.

Hislop’s comment last night is another example of this bias. It’s also the reason why I don’t buy Private Eye, and indeed, can no longer stand watching Have I Got News For You.

Counterpoint on the Washington Post’s Journalist Blacklist and the CIA, Eugenicist Nazis and Ukrainian Fascists

December 12, 2016

Last week the American radical news magazine, Counterpunch, carried a report analysing a piece by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post, falsely accusing about 200 journalists, websites and news organisations of being disseminators of Russian propaganda. This followed Hillary Clinton’s accusations that her defeat by Trump at the presidential elections was due to Russian hacking. There’s no evidence for this, and Clinton’s accusation and the smears in the Washington Post suggest that the blacklist was compiled and published as an attempt by the corporate mainstream media to close down its rivals, and by the Democratic Party as part of Killery’s campaign to blame anyone and everyone except her for her failure, and to force some kind of confrontation with Russia. Craig Timberg, the author of the piece, was a national security editor at the Post, and was unusually deferential to Eric Schmidt, the head of the world’s largest spying organisation. The Washington Post is closely involved with the American deep state. It’s proprietor, Jeff Bezos, is one of the three richest people in America. His main firm, Amazon, is a contractor to the CIA.

Last weekend Counterpunch also published a story tracing the apparent connections between the authors of the blacklist, a shadowy group calling itself PropOrNot – as in ‘Propaganda or Not’, and the CIA, Ukrainian Fascists, including their sympathisers in the Democrat Party, and the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a far right think tank, which specialised in defending colonialism, advocated eugenics and thought that America could win a nuclear war with the former Soviet Union.

The article’s author was Mark Ames, owned a satirical newspaper in Russia, which was closed down by the Kremlin on charges of ‘extremism’. Which in the modern Russian context means basically criticising or making fun of Tsar Putin. Ames took the hint, and returned to America. So whatever Timberg or PropOrNot may claim, Ames himself is not a supporter of Putin or traitor to his country.

Ames reveals that one of the news sites smeared was Truthdig, one of whose founders is the veteran newspaperman Robert Scheer. In the mid and late ’60s Scheer was an editor and journalist for Ramparts, a news magazine respected for its investigative journalism. Scheer and Ramparts drew the ire of the CIA when they exposed the agency’s funding of the National Student Association. The CIA then began an illegal campaign of spying on Scheer and his magazine, as they were convinced they were Soviet spies. They weren’t, and the CIA’s intense efforts failed to turn up anything on them. This was, however, just the beginning. The programme was expanded into MK-CHAOS, the CIA operation under which hundreds of thousands of Americans were under the agency’s surveillance. The programme lasted until 1974, when it was exposed by Seymour Hersh.

PropOrNot is anonymous, but there are some clues to the identities of the people behind it. One of its contributors on Twitter goes by the monicker “Ukrainian-American”. Even before PropOrNot was known, this user had revealed their ethnic identity in Tweets in Ukrainian, repeating Ukrainian far right slogans. A PropOrNot Tweet of November 17th, 2016, saluted the efforts of Ukrainian hackers in combating the Russians with the phrase “Heroiam Slavam” – ‘Glory to the Heroes’. This salute was adopted by the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists at their congress in Nazi-occupied Cracow in 1941. The OUN was a Fascist organisation, which fought for the Nazis as auxiliary SS regiments during Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Two months after the adoption of the slogan, the Nazis allowed the OUN to control Lvov for a brief period. This resulted a horrific pogrom in which thousands of Jews were tortured, raped and murdered.

The article then goes on to describe how the present Ukrainian regime, installed in the 2014 Maidan Revolution, has rehabilited the wartime Fascist and Nazi collaborators as national heroes, and the links many members of the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, have with Fascist organisations. Ames writes

Since the 2014 Maidan Revolution brought Ukrainian neo-fascists back into the highest rungs of power, Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators and wartime fascists have been rehabilitated as heroes, with major highways and roads named after them, and public commemorations. The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, Andriy Parubiy, founded Ukraine’s neo-Nazi “Social-National Party of Ukraine” and published a white supremacist manifesto, “View From the Right” featuring the parliament speaker in full neo-Nazi uniform in front of fascist flags with the Nazi Wolfsangel symbol. Ukraine’s powerful Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, sponsors several ultranationalist and neo-Nazi militia groups like the Azov Battalion, and last month he helped appoint another neo-Nazi, Vadym Troyan, as head of Ukraine’s National Police. (Earlier this year, when Troyan was still police chief of the capital Kiev, he was widely accused of having ordered an illegal surveillance operation on investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet just before his assassination by car bomb.)

Ames also argues that the Washington Post’s wretched article is modelled on a similar blacklist compiled by the Ukrainian secret state and associated hackers. The regime has been attempting to silence and intimidate independent and dissenting journos. It has set up a ‘Ministry of Truth’, which sounds straight out of Orwell, as well as a website, Myrotvorets, which means ‘Peacemaker’. This has the backing of the Ukrainian answer to the KGB, the SBU, Avakov, the head of the Interior Ministry, and his Nazi deputy, Anton Geraschenko. The website publishes the names and personal information of 4,500 journalists, including westerners and Ukrainians working for western media companies. Those so doxed for not obeying the government’s demands to publish only articles from the required ultra-nationalist viewpoint have suffered death threat, many of which ended with ‘Ukraini Slavam!’ ‘Glory to Ukraine’, the other Fascist salute adopted by the OUN at its 1941 congress.

One of the lobbyists working for the Democratic National Committee is Alexandra Chalupa, who is the head of the Democratic National Committee’s opposition research on Russia and on Trump, and founder and president of the Ukrainian lobby group “US United With Ukraine Coalition”. In October 2016, Yahoo named her one of the 16 most important people, who shaped this year’s election. It was Chalupa, who blamed Shrillary’s defeat on Russian hackers, and that Trump’s campaign was aided by the Kremlin. This was because Trump had appointed Paul Manafort as his campaign manager, who had ties to Putin. Chalupa worked with Michael Isikoff, a journalist with Yahoo News, to publicise her views on Russian influence on the election campaign. She has also hysterically accused Trump of treason, even requesting the Department of Justice and other official government departments to investigate Trump for this alleged crime.

Ames is very careful, however, to state that he is not arguing that Chalupa is one of those behind PropOrNot. Rather, he is using her to show how PropOrNot is part of a wider, venomously anti-Russian movement within the Democrat party. He states that in his opinion, it is a classic case of blowback. After the Second World War, the US supported Ukrainian Fascists, despite their collaboration with the Holocaust and the massacre of the country’s ethnic Polish population, because they were seen as useful agents and allies against the Russians. Now that policy is beginning to blow back into domestic American politics.

Timberg’s other source for his blacklist was the Foreign Policy Research Institute, citing its ‘fellow’, Clint Watts, and a report Watts wrote on how Russia was trying to destroy America’s democracy. The Institute was founded on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania by Robert Strausz-Hupe, who had fled Austria in the 1920s. It was funded by the Vick’s chemical company, which sponsored a large number of initiatives devoted to rolling back the New Deal. It was also clandestinely funded by the CIA. Strausz-Hupe’s collaborator was another Austrian émigré, Stefan Possony. Possony had been a member of the Fascist governments of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg, but fled in 1938 after the Nazi annexation. Possony was the co-author of nearly all of the institute’s publications until he moved to the Hoover Institute at Stanford in 1961. He also continued publishing in the FPRI’s Orbis magazine, and was one of the contributors to Mankind Quarterly. This was one of the leading proponents of pseudoscientific racism and eugenics. Possony also wrote books advocating the same vile policy with another White supremacist, Nathaniel Weyl.

Possony claimed that Black Africans, along with the peoples of the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia, were mentally inferior to Whites. He stated that giving them independence was high dangerous. Instead, they benefited from White rule, which was gradually improving them. Whites dedicated to overthrowing colonialism were derided as ‘fashionable dupes’ who would be responsible for a ‘White genocide’. Possony defended William Shockley’s theories on racial eugenics, which argued that spending money on welfare was wasteful, because non-White races were too inferior to improve their conditions. Possony also supported Reagan’s Star Wars programme, as he believed it gave America first strike capability, and thus would allow it to win a nuclear war with Russia.

Strausz-Hupe believed that America was losing the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, and demanded a series of reforms to strengthen the American propaganda machine and close the gap between Soviet and American propaganda. And when Kubrick’s Cold War black comedy, Doctor Strangelove, came out, he accused the great cineaste of either being a conscious Soviet propaganda agent, or a willing dupe.

Ames’ article concludes

Today, the Foreign Policy Research Institute proudly honors its founder Strausz-Hupe, and honors his legacy with blacklists of allegedly treasonous journalists and allegedly all-powerful Russian propaganda threatening our freedoms.

This is the world the Washington Post is bringing back to its front pages. And the timing is incredible—as if Bezos’ rag has taken upon itself to soften up the American media before Trump moves in for the kill. And it’s all being done in the name of fighting “fake news” …and fascism.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/09/the-anonymous-blacklist-promoted-by-the-washington-post-has-apparent-ties-to-ukrainian-fascism-and-cia-spying/

These are very disturbing and dangerous times for western democracy. Not only is it under threat from Trump and the Nazis and White Supremacists in his supporters, but it’s also under attack from the corporatist Democrats, the Clintonite wing, desperate to expand American military and industrial power throughout the world, and using Cold War-era McCarthyite rantings and persecution to stifle dissent at home. If we are to enjoy peace and genuine democracy, it means effectively combatting both of these threats.

William Blum on American Preparations for Nuclear War with Russia

November 9, 2016

William Blum in his Anti-Empire Report 146, posted a few days ago, has put up various thoughts on American foreign policy. Blum’s a veteran critic of American imperialism, and his observations on it in the latest Report cover a wide range of issues including Cuba, the bogus rationale for the Iraq invasion, Syria, China, Iran, the different countries America has attacked and whose governments it has tried to overthrow, the perilous position of Christians in the Middle East, thanks to America foreign policy, and democratisation as the pretext for invading and looting foreign nations. Along with his own comments, Blum also provides a series of very telling, pertinent quotes.

One of the issues Blum discusses is America’s confrontational stance towards Russia, and the very real danger that this will lead to a nuclear conflict between the two. This is shown in the following quotes.

“I don’t believe anyone will consciously launch World War III. The situation now is more like the eve of World War I, when great powers were armed and ready to go when an incident set things off. Ever since Gorbachev naively ended the Cold War, the hugely over-armed United States has been actively surrounding Russia with weapons systems, aggressive military exercises, NATO expansion. At the same time, in recent years the demonization of Vladimir Putin has reached war propaganda levels. Russians have every reason to believe that the United States is preparing for war against them, and are certain to take defensive measures. This mixture of excessive military preparations and propaganda against an “evil enemy” make it very easy for some trivial incident to blow it all up.” – Diana Johnstone, author of “Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton”

“War with Russia will be nuclear. Washington has prepared for it. Washington has abandoned the ABM treaty, created what it thinks is an ABM shield, and changed its war doctrine to permit US nuclear first strike. All of this is obviously directed at Russia, and the Russian government knows it. How long will Russia sit there waiting for Washington’s first strike?” – Paul Craig Roberts, 2014

On supposed Russian plans to invade Ukraine and seize Crimea, Blum makes the following observations

Crimea had never voluntarily left Russia. The USSR’s leader Nikita Khrushchev, a native of the region, had donated Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. Crimeans were always strongly opposed to that change and voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia after the US-induced Ukrainian coup in 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin refers to the Ukrainian army as “NATO’s foreign legion”, which does not pursue Ukraine’s national interests. The United States, however, insists on labeling the Russian action in Crimea as an invasion.

Putin re Crimea/Ukraine: “Our western partners created the ‘Kosovo precedent’ with their own hands. In a situation absolutely the same as the one in Crimea they recognized Kosovo’s secession from Serbia legitimate while arguing that no permission from a country’s central authority for a unilateral declaration of independence is necessary… And the UN International Court of Justice agreed with those arguments. That’s what they said; that’s what they trumpeted all over the world and coerced everyone to accept – and now they are complaining about Crimea. Why is that?”

Paul Craig Roberts: “The absurdity of it all! Even a moron knows that if Russia is going to put tanks and troops into Ukraine, Russia will put in enough to do the job. The war would be over in a few days if not in a few hours. As Putin himself said some months ago, if the Russian military enters Ukraine, the news will not be the fate of Donetsk or Mauriupol, but the fall of Kiev and Lviv.”

Blum also states that the plans for regime change in Syria involve damaging Russian interests in the Middle East and its natural gas combine in favour of the Qatari gas pipeline:

A successful American regime change operation in Syria would cut across definite interests of the Russian state. These include the likely use of Syria as a new pipeline route to bring gas from Qatar to the European market, thereby undercutting Gazprom, Russia’s largest corporation and biggest exporter. Assad’s refusal to consider such a route played no small role in Qatar’s pouring billions of dollars in arms and funds into the Syrian civil war on behalf of anti-Assad forces.

He also quote Dick Cheney to show that absolutely all of this is based on American plans for world domination. Not humanitarianism, not democracy, but the simple goal of extending American power across the globe until it dominates the world completely.

“The Plan is for the United States to rule the world. The overt theme is unilateralism, but it is ultimately a story of domination. It calls for the United States to maintain its overwhelming superiority and prevent new rivals from rising up to challenge it on the world stage. It calls for dominion over friends and enemies alike. It says not that the United States must be more powerful, or most powerful, but that it must be absolutely powerful.” Vice-President Dick Cheney – West Point lecture, June 2002

Oh yes, and in many regards Obama is no better. In 2014 he told the UN that Russia was one of the three greatest threats to the world. The others were ISIS and the Ebola virus.

For more, go to https://williamblum.org/aer/read/146.

It’s clear from this that America’s leader are colossal warmongers, who are threatening to tip us all into nuclear Armageddon just purely from their own selfish nationalism and drive for power.

America and the Manufactured Revolution in Ukraine

September 8, 2016

I’ve put up several pieces commenting on how undemocratic the new, pro-Western regime in the Ukraine is. This came to power a couple of years or so ago, when the pro-Russian president, Yanukhovych, was ousted after a series of demonstrations in Kiev’s Maidan Square. Yanukhovych had just a signed a treaty for closer ties to the Russian Federation. So he was deposed, and fled to Russia. A new, pro-European government has been installed, which has signed treaties giving the country greater links with Europe and the US. The parapolitics magazine, Lobster, was sceptical from the start about the supposedly ‘democratic’ nature of the revolution. In several of their articles they suggested that Yanukhovych’s overthrow was less a grassroots insurgency, but a carefully orchestrated coup by the US through its various NGOs and associated companies, dedicated to spreading neoliberalism and ensuring the corporate takeover of nations around the world for American capitalism. George Galloway said something similar in one of the videos of his that I put up last week. He stated in one of his speeches that Britain and the Americans had also engineered the overthrow of a number of regimes through giving aid to dissident groups and using their resources to spread opposition to the regime.

The veteran critic of the American Empire, William Blum, has written a piece describing the using of its NGOs and business leaders to spread discontent in the Ukraine and engineering Yanukhovych’s overthrow in issue 16 of his Anti-Empire Report. This goes right down to the Orange clothes the protesters wore, which gave the protests the name the ‘Orange Revolution’. He writes

All the usual suspects were involved: the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Agency for International Development (AID), George Soros, Freedom House, et al.

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States has undertaken a relentless campaign to bring Moscow’s former republics and satellites into the fold of globalization and American military outposts, and in some cases to be part of highly-prized oil pipelines. In the early 1990s, the governments of Bulgaria and Albania were overthrown for not appearing to be suitable enough candidates for such honors. 2 In 1999, Yugoslavia was bombed for much the same reasons. Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Washington has used the weapons of political and economic subversion.

The standard operating procedure in a particular country has been to send in teams of specialists from US government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), American labor unions, or private organizations funded by American corporations and foundations; NED, AID, and the Open Society organizations of George Soros, American citizen and billionaire, are the leading examples. These teams go in with as much financial resources as needed and numerous carrots and sticks to wield; they hold conferences and seminars, hand out tons of material, and fund new NGOs, newspapers and other media, all to educate government employees and other selected portions of the population on the advantages and joys of privatizing and deregulating the economy, teaching them how to run a capitalist society, how to remake the country so that it’s appealing to foreign investors, how to fall happily into the embrace of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The American teams have been creating a new class of managers to manage a new market economy, as well as providing the capital and good ol’ American know-how for winning elections against the non-believers. They undertake to unite the opposition behind a single candidate to optimize the chance of unseating the government; they pass information and experience from one country to another; thus the Soros organization – which has offices throughout the former Soviet domain – had people from Serbia, who had been involved in the successful campaign to oust Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, share their experiences with people in Georgia who were seeking to oust Eduard Shevardnadze in 2003, and were likewise successful. This transfer of techniques, including an acclaimed video shown on Georgian independent television, was cited by participants in Georgia as playing a vital role in their toppling of Shevardnadze. 3 The demonstrations in Ukraine in protest of the flawed election and in favor of Yushchenko have laser lights, plasma screens, sophisticated sound systems, rock concerts, tents to camp in, and huge quantities of the orange clothing which has come to symbolize their protest movement; yet we are told that it’s all spontaneous by the Western media, which give the events extensive serious coverage. 4 Compare this to the coverage and treatment in the United States of those questioning the American election of last month.

He also points out that the new, pro-Western president, Yushchenko’s wife, Ekaterina, is an American. Galloway’s right, and I don’t think there can be any doubt that the Orange Revolution, far from being a democratic uprising, was very carefully and deliberately manipulated.

The article, and much other excellent deconstruction of the propaganda supporting the American Empire, can be read at: https://williamblum.org/aer/read/16

Secular Talk on Poor Americans Now Using Pet Antibiotics

September 7, 2016

This is a story from another side of the Pond, but it’s relevant because it shows the kind of horrific medical system that the Blairites and the Tories are introducing over here through the destruction of the NHS. In this piece from the atheist/ secularist news channel, Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski comments on a story in Raw Story from a report from a respected medical journal, The Journal of Antibiotics. A survey was done of 400 people in Houston, Texas, asking them how they obtained their antibiotics. These were people, who needed the drug, not those who did not. Kulinski is very clear to dispel this possible misunderstanding, as the overprescription of antibiotics is a separate issue. It’s responsible for the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which is a serious threat to health around the world.

This is about people, who genuinely need the drug. It investigated how people obtained it, when they could no longer afford it. About a quarter had saved up supplies of the drug. Another 12 per cent talked about getting it from friends or relatives. And 4 per cent took pet antibiotics. As Kulinski points out, animals metabolise drugs in a different way. This shows how desperate the poor are in America when they can’t afford healthcare.

Kulinski describes this disgusting state of affairs in justifiably strong language. He points out how its shows the twisted attitude of the country’s political elite, who have been bought by the corporations. Many Americans can’t afford medicines. The country’s infrastructure is falling apart. In some places there isn’t any clean water. But the country has spent $7 trillion on the Iraq War. It’ll be paying it off until 2053. $80 billion has spent bailing out the banks. $4 billion or so was given by the government to the oil company, ExxonMobil, to help with their research and development, despite the fact that this is one of the richest companies in America. He makes the point that America can afford to spend all this money on pork barrel projects for companies, and making wars on ‘Brown people’ who have never invaded us. But somehow it can’t afford to spend money on healthcare, despite the fact that singlepayer is actually cheaper than the insurance system already in place.

Nearly all of these criticisms can be directed at our parliament, and our politicos in New Labour and the Tories. Blair was all too eager to invade Iraq as George Dubya’s poodle. We’re sending our sons and daughters to fight and die in a country that never attacked us, despite all the spin and lies about how Hussein was in league with Bin Laden, and ready to launch weapons of mass destruction at 45 minutes notice. And Blair and the Tories are selling off our healthcare system, so it won’t be long before we have people in this country saving antibiotics, or using stuff that’s been prescribed for their dogs and cats. We’ve already seen 4.7 million of us forced into food poverty. That’s people, who don’t have enough to eat, or don’t know when or where their next meal’s coming from. But we have more than enough money to support the Iraq War, and for Cameron, May and Bomber Benn to talk about attacking Syria. We’ve more than enough money to spend on Trident, a weapon system we don’t need, which will set us back trillions. And despite the spin, the majority of jobs it’ll create are in America. And apparently we’ve got enough money to go threatening to start a war with Russia, despite the fact that Putin isn’t a threat, and the people being genuinely persecuted in Ukraine is the ethnic Russian minority.

Oh yes, and as someone who believes in socialism and the trade unions, I have difficulty in understanding why I should be called upon to support a war for a government that includes Nazis and brutally attacks trade unionists. That’s right – the coalition currently ruling the Ukraine includes the Nazis from the Pravy (Right) Sektor. When I say ‘Nazis’, I mean Nazis. The real thing. People who wear the insignia and regalia of the auxiliary SS units and nationalist organisations that collaborated with the invading Nazis during the Great Patriotic War. Unreconstructed anti-Semites, who revere the memory of those responsible for the Holocaust and the pogroms against Jewish Ukrainians. During the ‘democratic’ demonstration that ousted Yanukhovych from power in Maidan Square in Kyiv, a group of these attacked a group of trade unionists, throwing several of them out of the upper floors of one of the buildings into which they’d fled. Red Ken in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, condemned the way the West had recruited Nazis, including participants in the Holocaust, as part of the global campaign against Communism. And he’s right. We shouldn’t have recruited them and given them sanctuary, and we shouldn’t be supporting a bunch of Nazi collaborators now.

This is what British and American politics has degenerated into. We’re bankrupting ourselves for wars against people, who’ve done us no harm, while denying our own people healthcare, food and clean water. All for corporate profit.

Global Research on US and EU Sponsored Fascist Regime in Ukraine

April 10, 2016

Okay, I’m afraid I haven’t done much blogging this week. That’s partly due to my having picked up some kind of germ that was going round. It left you feeling completely drained of energy, and feeling that you were almost going to come down with a bout of diarrhoea and sickness. Mercifully, I didn’t. A lot of people in our area have had it, and all except one or two have managed to have avoid getting diarrhoea. It’s nasty, but it also seems to be over in a couple of days.

This is about something else that’s nasty, but unfortunately hasn’t been over in a couple of days. I’ve been blogging a lot about the resurgence of Fascism in eastern Europe, including Ukraine. One of the pieces I put up was about the Pravy Sektor – the infamous ‘Right Sector’ group of Ukrainian extreme Right-wing groups, including ‘Svoboda’, whose name means ‘Freedom’, but are probably more accurately described by their old monicker, the Social Nationalist Movement. Yep, they’re a bunch of Nazis. And the current Ukrainian regime includes them as one of its coalition partners, and seems very happy indeed with the extreme violence, intimidation and brutality it metes out, especially to ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

This is another video presenting the case that the regime change, the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Maidan Square in 2013, which overthrew President Yanukovych, wasn’t entirely a popular revolution, but a carefully orchestrated piece of geopolitics by the US and EU to install a client regime as the Ukrainian government. Yanukovych had committed the cardinal sin of signing a treaty providing for closer relations, both political and commercial, with Putin’s Russia. This could not be tolerated by the governments in Washington and Brussels, and so Yanukovych was toppled, fleeing to Russia with Putin.

This is at times a very hard video to watch. It’s not short, at about 1 hour 25 minutes long, and shows scenes of very graphic violence. Many of these will be familiar from some of the other videos I’ve posted up, such as the masked, uniformed figures of Svoboda and their Nazi regalia – the Wolfsangel SS Rune on their sleeves for example – marching amongst the crowd. It shows them holding torchlight marches – almost exactly like those staged in the Third Reich by the Nazis – chanting the names of Stepan Bandera and another Nationalist hero, along with cries of ‘Death to the Communists’ and ‘Death to the Russians’. At one point the marchers are shown chanting a slogan about sticking Russian heads on spikes.

There’s also footage of the snipers from Svoboda shooting and killing unarmed demonstrators in Maidan Square, in an atrocity that was falsely ascribed by Obama and the Western media to Yanukovych. It also shows the attack on the trade union headquarters by Svoboda thugs, in which something like 45 people were burned alive, while others were beaten, and thrown out of the building’s windows. As they fell, their attackers joked about how ‘Negroes are falling!’ The documentary also includes an interview from Russian television, RT, with a young woman, who was one of the survivors of the attack. She was part of a peace camp, and she and the others were chased into the building by the storm troopers. Other victims included people in unarmed demonstrations, shot and killed by retreating state security forces.

Some of the victims were dissenting journalists and politicians. There’s a clip of one of the senior journos in one of the Ukrainian papers being roughed up by the minister for looking after the country’s ethnic minorities, at the head of another mob of thugs. He was angry as the newsman had published photos of the stormtroopers beating up civilians. One opposition politician was pelted with eggs, and savagely beaten. His attackers even attacked the ambulance crew that came to help him. There are also scenes from inside the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament. An opposition politico takes the chair to voice extremely trenchant criticism of the government and its policies. Immediately, other politicos and officials start running to the lectern to force him.

In many of these attacks, the police either do nothing, or are actively involved. There are scenes showing senior police officers in very chummy conversation with the masked and uniformed Nazis surrounding them about beating and murdering protestors.

This is also a regime, which doesn’t even bother to hide its Nazi sympathies. Another piece of footage shows members of the government at one of the national monuments making speeches praising Bandera, the Nazis and Hitler himself. They’re greeted in their turn by angry shouts and chants from a pro-Soviet crowd just behind the barrier. There’s also a leaked phone conversation from the Ukrainian politicians and Oligarch’s wife, Yulia Timoshenko, to another government official describing what she’d like to do ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians: nuke them, and then kill them all.

So what’s the US and EU’s response to the beatings, mass murder and repression? Active collusion with the regime, and smooth denials to the international press and Congress that there is any kind of ethnic cleansing being done by the regime. Or that if there is, is all the fault of the Russkies under Putin. There’s that notorious phone call between Victoria Nuland and another state department official, effectively fixing who she wants in the Ukrainian cabinet. One of the members she explicitly mentions, Oleh Tiahnybok, is the head of Svoboda. There’s also the phone call between the Estonian minister, Urmas Paet to Baroness Ashcroft about the shooting of unarmed civilians by Svoboda snipers, in which Ashcroft sounds distinctly uncomfortable. This is not stuff she really wanted to hear. And the lies go all the way to the top. It’s not just Nuland in the state department, nor Psaki, a Whitehouse spokeswoman, but also John Kerry and Obama. All of whom tell the press, and some critical US congressmen, that Ukraine is a free, democratic country that’s not oppressing anyone.

This is demonstrably untrue. The video also shows footage of Ukrainian troops entering Russian-speaking towns in the east of the country, firing on and killing unarmed civilians. There are also shown occupying a polling station to prevent the local people voting for independence. Again, when the local people march to claim their right to vote, they open fire. One young lad is horribly shot in the leg. This scene is cut with Kerry telling the ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate that no-one was being prevented from voting, the elections were completely fair, and that the reason why turn-out was so low is that nobody turned out to vote. Again, that’s another lie, as the video shows a massive turn out of Russian-Ukrainians of all ages, taking the opportunity to vote for a federal Ukrainian. This is something else that’s anathema to the Ukrainian puppet regime and its masters in Washington. Obama and Kerry stand in front of the microphones and cameras claiming that the polls by the people in the eastern part of the country demanding their own separatist, autonomous enclave, lack democratic support. Of course, the video argues that the opposite is the case. It is the American-installed regime that lacks the democratic mandate.

The Fascist regime and Obama also try to claim that the demands for a separate Russian-speaking enclave in the Donbas region is due to the machinations of Putin. It isn’t. They claim that these were only made after the Ukrainian government sent the troops into the Russian-speaking areas to intimidate them. Obama, Kerry and Nuland also claim that the reason Crimea voted to join with Russia was due to the intimidation of the Russian forces there. In fact, the voting in the Crimea was much fairer and far less rigged, due to the presence of the Russians as observers.

One of the other tactics the Ukrainian regime has also tried to use to smear its enemies is accusations of anti-Semitism. The Donbas separatists were supposed to be going to pass a law demanding Jews register with the authorities. There is, horrifically, much anti-Semitism in Russia, just as there is in the rest of the former eastern bloc. But this was a lie, and soon had to be dropped as too many people knew it was.

As for the Russians, Putin is, it seems, this time the maligned one. Rather than seeking to overthrow a democratic regime or dismember a rival, and disobedient nation, the opposite is true. He’s been forced to act because a democratically elected regime was overthrown at the behest of an outside power – Washington, and the oppression of his own ethnic group by the resulting Fascist regime. And Putin has every right to do so under international law. Putin’s a nasty piece of work himself, but this time, he’s the victim, not the aggressor.

And it’s not just Russians, who are the victims. some of the groups beaten and shot at by the goose-steppers are, it is claimed, just severely normal Ukrainians. And one fact both Washington and Kiev want to cover up is that many of the original Maidan protestors don’t want the ruling president. They wanted to throw out Yanukovych, but they are very definitely not supporters of his successors.

The video lastly claims the reason Washington has set up this puppet regime, and is attempting to demonise Putin, is because Putin has defied America’s attempts to become the only world super-power, and is successfully competing with the Land of the Free in what it sees as a ‘multi-polar’ world – one in which there are various competing powers, not all subject to American domination. And so here there are shots of Putin with other world leaders, including those of Iran.

Here’s the video:

The video is by a group calling itself Global Research, based in Quebec, Canada. It’s an interesting video which presents a compelling case. I think some scepticism is necessary in the way it presents Putin. He’s not ‘whiter-than-white’ innocent. His regime itself is extremely authoritarian, and it has also responded to critics and dissenting journalists with violence and murder. The same for many of the regimes with whom he is shown doing business. But this time, it really does seem that he is not responsible for the current outbreak of ethnic violence and repression. It’s the fault of the governing elites in Washington and Brussels, safe and comfortable thousands of miles away from the horror they’ve unleashed further east.

Adam Curtis and Brooker’s 2014 Wipe: Putin and the Postmodern Politics of Control through Confusion

January 26, 2015

Charley Brooker

Charley Brooker: Master of the Baleful Gaze of Criticism

‘Confuse your enemy and you confuse yourself!’

-General ‘Mad Bloody Butcher’ Cheeseman, The Fall of the Mausoleum Club, (Radio 4, 1985).

I found Charley Brooker’s review of last year, Newswipe 2014, over on Youtube. Assisted by Philomena Cunk and Barry Shitpeas, Brooker casts his jaundiced eye over last years’ events, and inveighs against the horrors and stupidity therein, both of themselves and in the media, that reported them. Brooker’s comments are masterpieces of highly inventive scorn and outrage. Cunk and Shitpeas, for their parts, are highly intelligent people, who satirise the news by posing as complete morons for whom even a relatively straightforward film like ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ is beyond their comprehension.

Brookers’ angry nihilism, in which he sees recent events and the latest offerings of the world’s celebrity-obsessed media as proof that we live in an absurd, pointless universe, wherein human civilisation is a bad joke about to collapse, and Cunk and Shitpeas’ faux naïve and inane comments are amusing enough. What lifts the show into another dimension entirely is a short film by Adam Curtis, on the way politicians are using the feelings of helplessness created by the terrible events replayed across our TV screens as an instrument of control.

Curtis is the director of the superb documentaries The Living Dead, The Century of the Self, The Power of Nightmares, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, and How We Lost Our Dreams of Freedom. These explored how politicians used and abused theories of history, psychology, game theory and simplified models of human behaviour based on computer models, to boost their own power, while depriving the people they claim to represent of the power to change their destinies and better their lives. In this film, he explores how politicians, both those in Putin’s Russia and in Britain, have created an absurd, meaningless view of contemporary events in order to maintain their power by keeping their peoples deliberately confused and off-balance.

Tserkov, and the Politics of Spectacle and Subversion

This tactic was invented in Russia by Vladimir Putin’s advisor, Vladislav Tserkov, who has spent 15 years aiding Russia’s elected tsar. Tserkov was an avant-garde artist, and important elements from Conceptual art into Russian politics. The Soviet Regime has staged and promoted a series of gatherings and spectacles as part of its campaign to mobilise Russian support. But he has also gone further, giving funding to groups directly opposed to his master and each other, from Neo-Nazi stormtroopers to Human Rights activists. He has also deliberately let everyone know he has done this. This has produced a radical destabilisation of the opposition, as it is no longer clear what is authentic and genuine, and what is carefully staged propaganda. The result is an enervating feeling of defeat.

Tserkov has even found a way to profit from the terrible civil war now raging in Ukraine. Last year he published a short story about how politicians could practise what he called ‘non-linear warfare’. In this, the gaol is not to win the war, but to use it to spread further confusion. The aim is to create a situation in which no-one really knows who the enemy is, or why they are fighting.

Cameron’s Absurd Government and the Politics of Despair

Curtis goes further, and argues that a similar condition is present in this country. Although not deliberate, the confusion created by politicians’ contradictory policies and actions has had the same result. He identifies Cameron as the British counterpart of Tserkov’s shape-shifting, non-linear politician, and gives the following examples of his government’s contradictions and confusion:

* Aging deejays are prosecuted for their historic crimes, but not the bankers, whose actions have created the current global economic mess.

* We are told that President Assad is evil. However, his Islamist enemies are worse, so we end up bombing them, thus helping Assad.

* George Osborne says that the economy is booming, but wages are going down.

* Gidiot says that they are cutting the national debt, but the deficit has actually increased.

*The government is pursuing a policy of austerity, taking money out of the economy. They are, however, putting it back in through ‘quantitative easing’.

Quantitative easing is the massive subsidy and bail-outs the taxpayer is giving the banks. It amounts to £24,000
per family. This has not gone to the poor, but to the richest five per cent. It is the biggest transfer of wealth, and could be a real scandal, but nobody knows anything.

Because there is no effective counter-narrative offered to the above policies, the public similarly feels defeated, disempower. The response is ‘Oh dear’.

But, says Curtis, that’s exactly what they want you to think.

Baudrillard

Tserkov’s Co-Option of the Society of the Spectacle

From here, it looks like Tserkov took hold of the Society of the Spectacle, and adopted it as a deliberate policy. The Society of the Spectacle was a theory developed in the 1960s by Baudrillard, the French postmodern philosopher. Baudrillard believed that capitalism survived ideological attack, by taking over its opponents weapons and then re-presenting them as spectacles. The forms had been preserved, but their ideological power had been drained and discarded. Way back in the ’90s, one of the small press magazines devoted to the weird and bizarre gave the Glastonbury Festival as an example. When it started, it was very definitely a fringe, countercultural event. It’s very existence was a challenge to mainstream culture. Now it is very much a part of that same mainstream culture. Instead of seeing the bands for free, you are now charged tens, sometimes hundreds of pounds for a ticket.

The former Soviet Union, like all totalitarian regimes, had a deliberate policy of staging fake demonstrations and events in support of the regime. There’s an old story from a very public school teacher, who organised a trip for her girls to the former USSR. One of the planned outings for the day was disrupted by a noisy Soviet peace demonstration. The headmistress duly complained to the authorities, who reassured her, ‘Do not worry, ma’am. This spontaneous display of the people’s anger will end at 2.00 pm precisely’.

Subverting Situationism

Where Tserkov differs is that he has gone beyond this, using the ideas of Situationism and turning them back on themselves. The Situationists were hippy anarchists, who organised a series of spectacles to subvert mainstream, ‘straight’ society. Malcolm McLaren, the founder of the Sex Pistols, claimed to have been a Situationist, but this was just a bit of self-aggrandising hype on his part. The tactic hasn’t gone away with punk and the hippies. It’s still used by contemporary anarchists to use comedy, humour and spectacle to satirise and subvert capitalism and its organs of oppression and control. Tserkov has learned from this, and turned it against the opposition, using the very methods of liberation from capitalism and the state as weapons for their preservation and extension.

Non-Linear War, Vietnam, ‘ Nomad’ and ‘Deathlok the Demolisher’

As for Tserkov’s theories of non-linear war, you can trace these back to the feelings of disempowerment and confusion in 1970s in America created by Vietnam and Watergate. The Vietnam War presented ordinary, patriotic and freedom-loving Americans with terrible reports of their country’s atrocities against another people, all in the name of freedom. Despite the unequal status between the two countries, the war dragged on for decades, and the American public saw the friends and relatives killed, and many of those that returned home stricken with terrible physical and psychological injuries. This result was a feeling of anomie and despair. The nation’s self-confidence took a further blow with Watergate, when even the supreme leadership were shown to be corrupt.

Captain America Forswears his Country

That feeling of alienation and national disenchantment found expression in the comic strips of the day. American comics began to explore political issues, including racism, feminism and the abuse of the media to aid in crime and foment hate. It was perhaps expressed most forcefully by the actions of that most patriotic superhero, Captain America. The Captain is a symbol of everything good and noble in American society. In the strip, he had been created as a super-soldier to fight the forces of evil in the shape of the Third Reich, a storyline followed in the recent film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Faced with his country’s corruption, the Captain changed his name and costume to become ‘Nomad’, a superhero without a country.

Deathlok

Deathlok: Robocop against an Anonymous Enemy

Post-Vietnam disillusionment and confusion found further expression in another Marvel strip, Deathlok the Demolisher. Deathlok was a cyborg created from the mechanical reanimation of an American army officer. The strip was set in a future America devastated by a terrible war, in which whole cities have been abandoned. To fight the war, the government has taken to creating cyborg soldiers, vicious killing machines like Deathlok, which are engineered to enjoy killing and maiming. A battle with a rival cyborg destroys the mechanisms controlling Deathlok, allowing the human side to reassert itself, and the man inside to go on a quest to recover his humanity. In flavour, the strip very much resembled Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop, with its cyborg hero, robotic killing machines and a city devastated by crime and political neglect. Unlike Robocop, which came out later, the strip made it deliberately unclear what the point of the War was, or even who soldiers like Deathlok had been created to fight. The suggestion was that it had all somehow been staged by the government, to divide, terrorise and rule.

There are no cyborgs slugging it out on the streets of Moscow or Kiev, but the depiction of ‘non-linear war’ looks exactly like the shattered America in Deathlok.

Tory Lies Drawing

Shifty Cameron, Austerity and the Enrichment of the already Wealthy

As for Cameron, he is indeed a protean, shape-shifting politicians, adopting guises only to abandon them when he got into power. Remember when he said that ‘this would be the greenest government ever?’ It didn’t take long for that to go once he got his foot through the front door of No. 10, along with his promises about the health service and the abandonment of the market economy so proclaimed by his mentor, Philip Blond, in his book, Red Tory.

The transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich is not confusing by any means. It’s been a feature of American politics for decades, where the government has pursued a policy of austerity for the poor, and subsidies and tax breaks for the rich. It’s only confusing because the extremes of poverty and wealth created by the banking crisis has thrown into very acute relief.

Assad, Islamism and the Paradoxes of the Modern Middle East

As for Assad, this is the product of Western politicians genuinely not understanding the politics of the Middle East. They pursued idealistic goals that ran in direct contradiction to the perceived good of the nations to which they were applied. Assad and his counterparts in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya were dictators, who held power through terror and brutality. Western governments see themselves as defenders of democracy and freedom, and so felt bound to support the popular revolts that broke out in the Middle East during the ‘Arab Spring’. Yet however undemocratic these regimes were, they were also secular, Westernising regimes that ostensibly promoted liberal policies of religious tolerance and personal freedom and relative gender equality to an extent which the Islamic and Islamist regimes that sought to replace them did not. The result has been the volte-face from seeking to oust Assad, to trying to combat his enemies in order to preserve his secular, Ba’ath regime.

Time to Reject Failed Neo-Liberalism

All of this has had a disempowering effect, because the parties have moved so close together, that there is little apparent difference between them. They are still attempting to apply discredited economic and foreign policies, while hiding their failures.

It’s long past the time when this situation changed, and politicians began thinking out of the Neo-Liberal box.

British Shell Companies and the Attacks on Liberal Journalism in the Ukraine

January 16, 2014

ukraine

Private Eye has long been extremely critical of the shell companies and the British tax legislation and accountancy firms that support them. These are companies that largely exist in name only, which are used as an accountancy trick to allow corporations to avoid paying tax in Britain by falsely claiming that they are resident, or owned by companies in foreign tax havens. It dates back to Blair and New Labour, but as with everything corrupt that benefits big business, it’s been taken over by the Coalition. Now, according to the Eye’s Christmas edition, these companies have been used for something even more pernicious and sinister: the attack on liberal journalism itself on the Ukraine. The Eye’s article ‘Tricking Kiev’ reports how a network of shell companies was used by the American-Ukrainian businessman, Alexander Altman, to wrest control of Ukrainian news agency, TVi, from its rightful owner, Konstantin Kagalovsky, a Russian businessman based in Britain.

The Eye says:

‘The battle in the Ukraine between pro-European reformers and the friends of Russia’s Vladimir Putin is partly a fight for control of the media.

Luckily for the oligarchs, they can rely on the acquiescence of TVi. Once a source of investigative journalism, it is now a feeble wreck thanks to a massive fraud perpetrated with the help of Britain’s lax corporate regulations.

As Eye 1344 reported, American-Ukrainian “businessman” Alexander Altman walked into TVi in April, and astonished its journalists by saying that he was now their boss. He locked out its owner, the British-based-based Russian businessman Konstantin Kagalovsky, and ordered reporters to stop causing trouble on pain of dismissal.

In a withering judgment at the High Court in London last week, Mr Justice Turner said there had been a “coup” at TVi, accomplished by “using forged documents comprising fake powers of attorney, board resolutions and board minutes”.

TVi’s baffled owner found that control had passed to a British firm called Balmore he had never heard of. No one could blame him for his ignorance. Balmore was an off-the-shelf firm, which Mr Justice Turner said “was in the precarious position of having beern served with a notice that it was to be struck off the company register for failing to submit an annual return”.

On the day Altman moved against liberal journalists in Kiev, Balmore’s annual return was prepared and filed electronically to Companies House in Britain.

The rightful owners’ lawyers secured an injunction in the summer saying that Altman must disclose information on how TVi had gone from Balmore into a maze of British shell companies. Robert Dougans, Kagolovsky’s solicitor, said Altman had refused to comply and was thus guilty of contempt of court. Even Altman’s London lawyers, Kerman & Co appeared to suspect that something unprofessional and unethical may have been going down. Internal emails, revealed to the court, show Sebastian Devlin, an associate lawyer at the firm, warning partner Carl Robinson that he saw a “real risk” in complying with Altman’s wishes. As the judge drily noted, Robinson was “unable to proffer any clear Explanation” on what Altman had asked Turner that had so worried his colleague.

Throughout the contempt case, Altman said he was the victim of a “set up”. He got out of bed one morning and found that he was associated with mysterious British companies. The judge was having none of it. If Altman were an innocent victim, “he would have made far more strenuous efforts to find out what had happened”. He “knew full well “why the companies had been formed. He was their “controlling mind”, who had retained Kerman & Co and handed them boxes of corporate documents.

The judge found Altman guilty of contempt, and will sentence him next year.

Robert Dougan, the victorious solicitor, told the Eye that despite the judgement there was still no guarantee that the Ukrainian courts would hand TVi back. “One of the reasons why people are on the streets in Kiev is because shady operators in and out of government can commit frauds and no one does anything about it.” As in so many other frauds, the fraudsters turn to “light touch” Britain for help. Dougans explained how he had found out for himself how light that touch was. “I decided to test our controls by registering my cat as a company director,” he said. “No one tried to stop me.”

(Private Eye, 21 December – 9 January 2014, p. 33).

This is a serious attack on the nascent free press in the new, post-Soviet state. The Ukraine is one of the oldest of the Russian states. As the kingdom of Kiev, tt was founded in the early Middle Ages by Varangian Vikings, who intermarried with and adopted the culture of the indigenous Slav population. Under its king, Oleg, in the 9th century it established relations with the Byzantine Empire. Oleg marched to Constantinople at the head of an army and after sacking its suburbs and nailed his shield to the city’s wall. As well as extracting tribute, he also demanded a number of agreements establishing trade between the Empire and Kievan Russia. The Byzantine Emperor acceded to his demands, and Oleg married a Byzantine princess. Later in the century, sometime after 988, the Kievan king, Vladimir the Great, converted to Christianity. This marked the beginning of the Orthodox Church in Russia, as well as the beginning of the Russian view that they are the ‘Third Rome’, after the Eternal City itself, and Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine or eastern Roman Empire.

The country takes its name from the Ukrainian word ‘Krai’, which means a border area. During the Middle Ages it was part of the Republic of Poland, before being conquered and incorporated into Russia. The Ukraine has produced some of the greatest Russian authors, including Nikolai Gogol and Mikhail Bulgakov, the author of the White Guard and the Master and Margarita.

One of my father’s workmates was Ukrainian, who finally moved back his native country to be with his family after the fall of Communism. One of my friends has also lived and worked in the former Eastern Bloc. A few years ago he holidayed in Kiev, and really loved the place. When he came back he proudly showed me the various sights he’d seen. Back in the 1990s there was some pessimism about the new, post-Soviet nation’s future. There has been considerable friction between the western Ukraine, which is largely rural and Roman Catholic, and the industrialised, Orthodox east, which has a large Russian population. Some observers and commenters feared that the country would degenerate into ethnic conflict and possible civil war, along with the emergence of anti-Semitism. While the country is clearly divided over the question of its ties to either the EU or Putin’s Russia, large scale conflict has been avoided. Indeed, the Financial Times was so impressed with the new state that in an article about it, the newspaper described it as almost a magical place, straight from a fairy-tale. The question of whether the country has closer ties to Russia or the EU is, of course, an issue for the Ukrainians themselves to decide. To do so, and to strengthen their democracy, they need a genuinely liberal, free press able investigate corruption and dodgy political dealing. Unfortunately, the extremely lax corporate legislation over here has meant that this is being stifled to serve very powerful, corporate interests.

The use of this legislation to attack Ukrainian free journalism also poses a threat to the free press in the rest of the world, including this country. Globalisation has meant that the world is now interconnected, and once international big business feels it can get away with something in one country, it will try and use the same tactic elsewhere. We cannot afford to see this as merely a problem for a far away country, tucked away in the former USSR. If it is allowed to succeed in the Ukraine, then it will eventually come here.