Posts Tagged ‘Lobbying’

Trump’s Climate Denial Is a Danger to Post-Brexit Britain

January 23, 2020

Yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting and commenting on Trump’s denunciation of Green activists at the Davos summit. He called them ‘prophets of doom’, who were trying to dominate, control and transform the lives of everyone in the world, and announced that he would not change his country’s high carbon economy. He would, though, sign up for planting, restoring and conserving a trillion trees.

This didn’t impress Greta Thunberg, who was also there. Mike quotes her as saying

“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour, and we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else,” she said.

“You say: ‘We won’t let you down. Don’t be so pessimistic.’ And then, silence.”

And she asked: “What will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing… climate chaos that you knowingly brought upon them? That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?”

Beeb wildlife presenter Chris Packham also made a speech about the climate emergency at the BAFTA’s, warning that unless we act to solve the environmental crisis, future generations may look on Trump, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Vladimir Putin and Australia’s Scott Morrison in the same way as mass murderers like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, because of the millions killed through climate change.

Mike also makes the point that while the world’s leaders are doing nothing about climate change, Boris is moving closer to a trade deal with Trump, one that will also make him deny the danger. Mike states that our clown of a prime minister has missed opportunities to make a difference, and asks if he will sell us down the river again for the sake of a few American dollars.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/01/22/trumps-prophets-of-doom-speech-suggests-the-uk-should-not-enter-trade-deal-with-him/

The answer is yes, yes, he will. And it’s for the same reasons Trump and the rest of the Republican party are denying climate change: powerful corporate interests. The Republicans received very generous campaign funding from big industrialists like the Koch brothers and the other heads of the fossil fuel industry. These big businessmen also sponsor fake grassroots organisations and biased scientific think thanks in order to lobby against and discredit climate research and laws to protect the environment. The results have been disastrous. Since he took power, Trump has gutted the environmental protection agency and forbidden it from publishing anything supporting climate change or environmental decline in America. Koch money has seen universities close down proper climate and environmental research and their replacement with laboratories and organisations funded by the brothers and others in the fossil future industry. These present as fact the false information they want the public to hear: that climate change isn’t occurring, and the coal and oil industries ain’t wrecking the landscape. But these industries are. There are a whole sections of the Louisiana swamps that is heavily polluted by oil. The oil pipeline through indigenous people’s land in Idaho that made the news a few years ago was opposed because the indigenous people of the area feared that there would be spillages that would pollute the water they use for drinking and which nourishes their wildlife. They were right to do so. There have been a large number of similar spillages, which have not garnered so much media attention, which have similarly contaminated vast acreages of land. And then there’s the whole fracking industry, and the damage that has also caused the water table in areas where it has been allowed.

These are the industries funding Trump’s campaign. They’re part of the reason why there were right-wing jokers all over the internet yesterday sniggering at Trump’s put down of Thunberg. Trump and his supporters really do believe that environmentalists are some kind of crazy apocalyptic cult with totalitarian aims. There’s a section of the American right that really does believe Green activists are real, literal Nazis, because the Nazis were also environmentally concerned. And the corporate interests sponsoring Trump are the same industries that want to get a piece of our economy and industries.

The Tories have already shown that they are little concerned about the environment. They have strongly promoted fracking in this country, and the book The Violence of Austerity contains a chapter detailing the Tories’ attacks on the environment and Green protest groups. David Cameron’s boast that his would be the greenest government ever vanished the moment his put his foot across the threshold of Number 10.

If Boris makes a Brexit trade deal with Trump, it will mean that our precious ‘green and pleasant land’ is under threat from highly polluting, environmentally destructive industries. It will mean further reductions in funding for renewable energy in favour of oil, gas and coal, attempts in this country to discredit and silence respectable, mainstream climate research and scientists in favour of corporate-sponsored pseudoscience. And there will be further laws and state violence against environmental protesters.

Trump’s climate denial is a threat to the British environment, industry, the health of its people, democracy and science. But Boris depends on him for any kind of successful trade deal.

He will sell out and wreck this country and its people for those dollars offered by Trump and his corporate backers.

The Beeb’s Biased Reporting of NHS Privatisation

January 2, 2020

The Corporation’s General Right-wing Bias

The BBC is infamous for its flagrant right-wing bias. Writers and experts like Barry and Savile Kushner in their Who Needs the Cuts, academics at the media research centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities, and ordinary left-wing bloggers like Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out time and again that the corporation massively prefers to have as commenters and guests on its show Conservative MPs and spokespeople for the financial sector on its news and political comment programmes, rather than Labour MPs and activists and trade unionists. The Corporation relentless pushed the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. But it has also promoted the privatisation of the NHS too through its biased reporting.

Biased Towards NHS Privatisation

Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis’ book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, has a chapter by Oliver Huitson, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, discussing the biased reporting of the NHS’s privatisation by the media in general. Here, however, I will just confine myself to describing the Corporation’s role. The Beeb was frequently silent and did not report vital pieces of information about successive privatisations, such as the involvement of private healthcare companies in demanding them and conflicts of interest. On occasion, this bias was actually worse than right-wing rags like the Daily Mail. Although these ardently supported the NHS’ privatisation, they frequently reported these cases while the Beeb did not. When the moves towards privatisation were reported, they were often given a positive spin. For example, the establishment of the Community Care Groups, groups of doctors who are supposed to commission medical services from the private sector as well as from within the NHS, and which are legally allowed to raise money from the private sector, were positively described by the Corporation as ‘giving doctors more control’.

Lack of Coverage of Private Healthcare Companies Role in Privatisation

David Cameron and Andrew Lansley did not include Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill in the Tories’ 2010 manifesto, because they didn’t believe they’d win the election if they did. But in all the two years of debate about the bill, the Beeb only twice reported doubts about the bill’s democratic mandate. (p.152). In October 2010, Mark Britnell was invited to join Cameron’s ‘kitchen cabinet’. Britnell had worked with the Labour government and was a former head of commissioning for the NHS. But he was also former head of health for the accountancy firm, KPMG, which profits greatly from government privatisation and outsourcing. He declared that the NHS would be shown ‘no mercy’ and would become a ‘state insurance provider, not a state deliverer’. But the BBC decided not to report all this until four days after others had broken the story. And when they did, it was only to explain a comment by Nick Clegg about how people are confused when they hear politicians stating how much they love the NHS while at the same time demanding its privatisation. (pp.153-4).

On 21 November 2011 Channel 4 News reported that they had obtained a document which showed clearly that GP commissioning was intended to create a market for private corporations to come in and take over NHS services. But This was only reported by the Groaniad and the Torygraph. The rest of the media, including the Beeb, ignored it. (pp. 156-7).

Lansley was also revealed to have received donations from Andrew Nash, chairman of Care UK, another private healthcare firm hoping to profit from NHS privatisation. But this also was not reported by the Corporation. (pp. 157-8).

In January 2011 the Mirror reported that the Tories had been given over £750,000 from donors with major connections to private healthcare  interests since David Cameron had become their chief in 2005. But this was also not mentioned by the Beeb. (pp. 158).

The Mirror also found that 40 members of the House of Lords had interests in NHS privatisation, while the Social Investigations blog suggested that it might be as high as 142. The BBC, along with several papers, did not mention this. (pp. 158-9).

Sonia Poulton, a writer for the Heil, stated on her blog that 31 Lords and 18 MPs have very lucrative interests in the health industry. But this was also ignored by the Beeb, along with the rest of the media with the exception of the Guardian. (p. 159).

The Tory MP, Nick de Bois, was a fervent support of the Tories’ NHS privatisation. He is a majority shareholder in Rapier Design Group, which purchased Hampton Medical Conferences, a number of whose clients were ‘partners’ in the National Association of Primary Care, another group lobbying the Tories for NHS privatisation. This was also not reported by the Beeb. (pp. 159-60).

The Beeb also chose not to report how Lord Carter of Coles, the chair of the Co-operation and Competition Panel charged with ensuring fair access to the NHS for private healthcare companies, was also receiving £799,000 per year as chairman of McKesson Information Solutions, part of the massive American McKesson healthcare company. (p. 160).

There were other links between politicos, think tanks, lobby groups and private healthcare companies. The health regulator, Monitor, is dominated by staff from McKinsey and KPMG. But this also isn’t mentioned by the press. (pp. 160-1).

Beeb Falsely Presents Pro-Privatisation Think Tanks as ‘Independent

The BBC, along with much of the rest of the media, have also been responsible for misrepresenting spokespeople for pro-privatisation lobby groups as disinterested experts, and the organisations for which they speak as just independent think tanks. This was how the Beeb described 2020health.org, whose chief executive, Julia Manning, was twice invited onto the air to discuss the NHS, and an entire article was given over to one of her wretched organisation’s reports. However, SpinWatch reported that its chairman, former Tory minister Tom Sackville, was also CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, representing of 100 private health insurance companies. Its advisory council includes representatives of AstraZeneca, NM Rothschild, the National Pharmaceutical Association, Nuffield private hospital group, and the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services. (p. 162).

Another lobby group whose deputy director, Nick Seddon, and other employees were invited onto the Beeb to discuss the proposals was Reform. Seddon was head of communications at Circle, the first private healthcare company to take over an NHS hospital. Seddon’s replacement at Circle was Christina Lineen, a former aide to Andrew Lansley. None of this was reported by the Beeb. Their corporate partners included companies like Citigroup, KPMG, GlaxoSmithKline and Serco. Huitson states ‘Through Seddon’s and other Reform Staffs’ appearances, the BBC may have facilitated private sector lobbying on a publicly funded platform without making relevant interests known’. (163).

Beeb Did Not Cover Protests and Opposition to Bill

Pages 164-5 also discusses the Beeb’s refusal, with few exceptions, to interview critics of Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill, the rightwing bias of panels discussing it and how the Beeb did not cover protests against it or its discussion in parliament. Huitson writes

At the BBC opportunities were frequently missed to provide expert opposition to the bill on a consistent basis. the RCGP’s Clare Gerada was largely the exception to this rule. Many of the most well-known and authoritative critics of the bill – the likes of professors Allyson Pollock or Colin Leys, doctors Jacky Davis and Wendy Savage from Keep Our NHS Public – never appeared on the BBC to discuss the plans. Davis recalls being invited to appear on the BBC a number of times but the item was cancelled on every occasion. ‘Balance’ is supposedly one of the BBC’s primary objectives yet appearing on the Today programme of 1 February 2012 to discuss the bill, for instance, were Shirley Williams (who voted in favour of the bill, however reluctantly), Nick Seddon of ‘independent’ Reform (pro-Bill), Steve Field (pro-Bill) and Chris Ham (pro-Bill). It’s difficult to see how that is not a breach of BBC guidelines and a disservice to the public. One of the fundamental duties of an open media is to ensure that coverage is not skewed towards those with the deepest pockets. And on that issue the media often performed poorly.

Further criticism of the BBC stems from its curious lack of NHS coverage during the climactic final month before the bill was passed in the House of Lords on 19 March. One such complaint came from blogger and Oxford Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology Dorothy Bishop, who wrote to the BBC to ask why it had failed to cover a number of NHS stories in March, including an anti-bill petition that had been brought to the House by Lord Owen, carrying 486,000 signatures of support. In reply, the BBC confirmed that the bill had been mentioned on the Today programme in March prior to the bill’s passing, though just once. Bishop replied:’So, if I have understood this right, during March, the Today programme covered the story once, in an early two-minute slot, before the bill was passed. Other items that morning included four minutes on a French theme park based on Napoleon, six minutes on international bagpipe day and eight minutes on Jubilee celebrations.’

Other BBC omissions include Andrew Lansley being heckled by angry medical staff at a hospital in Hampstead, as reported by both the Mail and Sky News. On 17 March a peaceful anti-bill march took place in central London. Those out protesting for their national health service found themselves kettled by riot police despite being one of the most harmless-looking crowds you’re ever likely to see. The protest and the shameful police response were completely ignored by the media, except for a brief mention on a Guardian blog. On social media numerous examples have been reported of protests and actions opposing the bill that were entirely absent from national coverage.

Then, on 19 March, the day of the final vote on the bill, the BBC ran not a single article on the event, despite this being one of the most bitterly opposed pieces of legislation in recent history – it was as if the vote was not taking place. The next day, with the bill passed, they ran a full seven articles on the story. Three days after the bill passed, Radio 4 broadcast The Report: ‘Simon Cox asks: why is NHS reform mired in controversy?’ Why this was not broadcast before the Lords’ vote is a mystery. 

When the Bill was passed, the bill scrolling across the BBC News’ screen ran ‘Bill which gives power to GPs passes’. (166). Huitson remarks that when the Beeb and the other news networks reported that the Bill gave power to GPs and allowed a greater role for the private sector, it was little more than regurgitating government press releases. (p. 168).

Beeb Bias Problem Due to Corporation’s Importance and Domination of Broadcast News

Huitson also comments on the specific failure of the Beeb to provide adequate coverage of NHS privatisation in its role as one of the great British public institutions, the dominant role it has in British news reporting. On pages 169-70 he writes

Campaigners may not expect more from the Sun but they certainly do from the BBC, given its status as an impartial public service broadcaster whose news gathering is supported directly by licence fee payers. The BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on television. Further, the BBC accounts for 40 per cent of online news read by the public, three times that of its closes competitor, the Mail. Quite simply, the BBC dominates UK news. The weight given to the BBC here is not purely down to its dominance, however, but also because, along with the NHS, the BBC remains one of our great public institutions, an entity that is supposedly above commercial pressures. Many of the stories ignored by the BBC were covered by the for-profit, right-wing press, as well as the Guardian and Channel 4, so the concern is not that the organisation failed to ‘campaign’ for the NHS, but that it failed to report facts that other outlets found newsworthy.

The BBC’#s archive of TV and radio coverage is neither available for the public to research nor technically practical to research, but there are a number of reasons for confidence that their online content is highly indicative of their broader output. First, BBC online is a fully integrated part of the main newsroom rather than a separate operation. Consequently, TV and radio coverage that can be examined is largely indistinguishable from the related online content, as demonstrated in the examples given above. During the debate of Lansley’s bill, the BBC TV and radio were both subject to multiple complaints, the figures for which the BBC has declined to release.

Beeb’s Reporting of NHS Privatisation as Biased as Coverage of Miners’ Strike

He also compares the Beeb’s coverage of the bill, along with that of the rest of the media, to its similarly biased reporting of the miners’ strike.

The overall media coverage of the health bill brings to mind a quote from BBC radio correspondent Nicholas Jones, on the BBC’s coverage of the miners’ strike: ‘stories that gave prominence to the position of the National Union of Miners could simply be omitted, shortened or submerged into another report.’ (pp. 172-3).

Conclusion

The Beeb does produce some excellent programmes. I really enjoyed last night’s Dr. Who, for example. But the right-wing bias of its news reporting is now so extreme that in many cases it is fair to say that it is now a propaganda outlet for the Tory party and big business. It’s utterly indefensible, and in my view it will only be reformed if and when the newsroom and its managers are sacked in its entirety. In the meantime, Boris and the rest of the Tories are clamouring for its privatisation. Godfrey Bloom, one of the more prominent Kippers, has also put up a post or two in the past couple of days demanding precisely that.

If the Beeb was genuinely impartial, it would have defenders on the Left. But it is rapidly losing them thanks to its bias. And to the Tories, that’s also going to be a plus.

Thanks to the Beeb’s own Tory bias, it’s going to find it very hard to combat their privatisation.

And in the meantime they will have helped destroy the most valued of British institutions, the NHS, and free, universal healthcare to Britain’s citizens.

Private Eye on New Labour’s Support for Private Sponsorship at Party Conference

September 18, 2018

New Labour’s desperation to obtain and please donors and sponsors from private industry is clearly displayed in this old snippet from Private Eye’s edition for Friday, 2nd October 1998. Entitled ‘The Lobby Party Conference’, it runs

Clear proof of Labour’s commitment to cash-for-access comes in a memorandum from party organizer Chris Lane to “all MPs and MEPs in the South-East Region and any staff or guests accompanying you to party conference in Blackpool.”

Lane urges the MPs: “Please make a priority in your conference diaries for Thursday evening for a reception sponsored by Seeboard PLC. This is a generously-sponsored event, on condition that we enable the company to maintain contact with regional MPs and MEPs.” In other words: come and talk to the bosses of privatized Seeboard which supplies electricity to the south-east, or the party doesn’t get the sponsoring money. If that’s not cash for access, what is?

The reception was due to take place at Yates Wine Lodge, Blackpool, on 1 October. The subject of pay awards for the fat cats of the electricity industry was not high on the agenda. (p. 5).

Lane’s letter is a very clear example of the corporativism that has corrupted politics both in this country and America, where private companies donate and sponsor the political parties and individual politicians. The result is that those parties and politicos, once in power, work for their donors and not for their constituents. It’s why less than 20 per cent of Americans feel their government works for them. And a few years ago, Harvard University published a report that concluded that because of this, America was no longer a functioning democracy but an oligarchy.

You can read how far Blair took the policy in George Monbiot’s Captive State, which describes how Blair’s New Labour passed legislation that enriched the corporate donors at the expense of public services and small businesses, like farmers and local shops. And Blair also rewarded the donors by giving them or their senior management positions in government.

But this cosy relationship between private industry and the Labour party is threatened by Jeremy Corbyn and his policies of reviving the traditional Labour policy of a mixed economy, strong welfare state, workers’ rights, strong unions and a proper, nationalized NHS.

Blair’s policy was to court private industry and Tory voters at the expense of ignoring the wishes of ordinary party members and Labour’s traditional, working class electorate. He and the rest of his coterie arrogantly assumed that the working class would continue voting for them because there was nowhere else they could go. The result was widespread disaffection with New Labour. Many members left the party, and the number of people voting for Labour actually went down. The party won elections because even more people were sick and tired of the Tories.

This has been massively reversed under Jeremy Corbyn. Millions have joined the Labour party since he became its leader, and its now the largest Socialist party in western Europe.

Which is why the Tories, the Blairites, the Israel lobby and the mainstream media are so desperate to destroy Corbyn’s leadership and even the party itself. It’s why Corbyn and his supporters have been and are being smeared as Trotskyites, Stalinists, Communists and the Hard Left as well as anti-Semites. It’s why the Blairites in parliament have tried coups, and threatened to split the party. And why Blair crawled out of whatever vile hole he’s been living in since he left office ten years ago to warn that the Hard Left had taken over the Labour party, and that ‘moderates’ – meaning far right Thatcherite entryists like himself – should leave and join a new, ‘centrist’ party. Which sounded very much like ‘Unite for Change’, which seems set up to carry on the old, corporatist politics of Blair’s New Labour.

Frightened May Holds Out Possibility of Undoing Tory Reforms of NHS

May 29, 2018

For all the repeated smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party as a nest of vicious anti-Semites and Trotskyites, the Labour leader clearly has the Tories worried. Last week Tweezer made a couple of pronouncements about the NHS, which showed more than a hint of desperation in one, and a fair amount of the usual Tory deceit and double standards in the other.

According to the I, Tweezer had made a speech in which she discussed the possibility of trying to improve the NHS by going back and repealing some of the Tories’ own recent legislation. The article, which I think was published in Wednesday’s edition of the newspaper, but I could be wrong, stated that she was specifically considering repealing part of the 2012 Social Care Act. This is a nasty piece of legislation, which actually needs to be repealed. It was passed when Andrew Lansley was Dave Cameron’s Health Secretary. The verbiage within the Act is long and confused, and deliberately so. Critics of the Act, like Raymond Tallis, one of the authors of the book NHS SOS, have pointed out that the Act no longer makes the Health Secretary responsible for ensuring that everyone has access to NHS healthcare. The Act gives the responsibility for providing healthcare to the Care Commissioning Groups, but these are only required to provide healthcare for those enrolled with them, not for the people in a given area generally. It has been one of the major steps in the Tories’ ongoing programme of privatising the NHS. For more information on this, see Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, NHS SOS (OneWorld 2013).

The fact that Tweezer was prepared to hold out the possibility of repealing, even partly, her predecessors’ NHS legislation suggests to me that Corbyn’s promise to renationalise the NHS has got her and her party seriously rattled. It shows that this policy, like much else in the Labour programme, is actually extremely popular. And so Tweezer is doing what she had done elsewhere with dangerously popular Labour policies in the past. She’s going to try to make it look as if the Tories are going to do something similar. Like when Labour talks about renationalising part of the electricity grid, the Tories immediately start going on about how they’ll cap energy prices.

Actually, I doubt very much that Tweezer has any intention of revising Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, or about restoring the NHS to proper public ownership. The Tories have been trying to sell off the NHS and support private medicine since Maggie Thatcher back in the 1980s. But if Tweezer did repeal part of the 2012 Act, my guess is that it would only be to make it much worse. In the same way that Cameron announced he was going to clean up the lobbying industry and make it more transparent, and then passed legislation that actually made it far less so. This gave more power to the big lobbying firms, while making the kind of lobbying done by small groups like charities much more difficult. You can see something similar being done by the Tories with their proposed NHS legislation.

And then there was the report last week, which stated very clearly that due to the terrible underfunding of the past nine years or so, the NHS would need an extra tax of £2,000 to be paid by everyone in the UK. Or so Tweezer and the Tories claimed. Mike dealt with that projection in a post yesterday, where he noted that the Tories have been reducing the tax burden on the rich. He went on to quote Peter Stefanovic, a blogger deeply concerned with the crisis in NHS care and funding created by the Tories. Stefanovic said

“Or alternatively the Government could tax those earning over £80,000 a little more, scrap tax breaks for the very rich, stop PFI deals bleeding the NHS dry & companies like Boots accused of charging NHS over £3,000 for a £93 cancer pain-relieving mouthwash.”

Mike makes the point that with the increasing privatisation of the NHS, the call for more taxes to be spent on it is in fact a demand for more to be given to private healthcare providers, who are delivering less.

Mike concluded with the words:

These people are trying to make fools of us. They are to be challenged. Let them explain why they think the poor should be taxed more when we all have less, thanks to Tory policies.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/27/lets-kill-this-talk-about-more-tax-for-the-nhs-right-now/

I also wondered if there also wasn’t a piece of subtle, ‘Nudge Unit’ type psychology also at work in the statement that we’d all have to stump anything from £1,200 to £2,000. This is a lot of money for those on very low incomes. And the Tories see themselves very much as the party of low taxation. Hence their attacks on ‘high spending’ Labour and claims that their tax reforms allow working people to keep more of their money. Though even this is a lie. The Tories have actually moved the tax burden from the rich on to the poor, and made the poor very much poorer through removing vital parts of the welfare safety net. My guess is that they’re hoping that some people at least will see that figure, and vote against increasing spending for the NHS on the grounds that they won’t be able to afford it. It also seems to me that they’ll probably try asserting that Labour will increase everyone’s tax burden by that amount when the Labour party starts fighting on the platform of NHS reform.

And with frightened working class voters rejecting an increase in taxation to pay for the NHS, they’ll go on to claim that the NHS, as a state-funded institution, is simply unaffordable and so needs further privatisation. Or to be sold off altogether.

This is how nasty, duplicitous and deceitful the Tories are. And I can remember when the Tories under Thatcher were similarly claiming that the NHS was unaffordable in the 1980s. Just like the Tory right claimed it was unaffordable back in the 1950s.

In fact, a report published in 1979 made it very clear that the NHS could very easily continue to be funded by increased taxation. And that taxation should be levelled on the rich, not the poor. But this is exactly what the Tories don’t want. They don’t want people to have access to free healthcare, and they really don’t want the rich taxed. And so they’re going to do everything they can to run down the NHS and tell the rest of us that it’s too expensive. Even though this country’s expenditure on healthcare is lower than that of many other countries in Europe, and far lower than the American’s expenditure on their massively inefficient and grossly unjust private healthcare system.

If we want to save the NHS, we have to reject May’s lies, and vote in Corbyn and a proper Labour government.

Counterpunch on Covert Israeli Influence in British Politics

November 26, 2017

Friday’s Counterpunch also carried an important article by Brian Cloughley on secret Israeli influence on the British government. He begins by discussing the massive influence of the Israeli lobbying organisation, AIPAC, on American foreign policy, citing two journals the Foreign Policy Journal and Global Research, before turning to Britain and Priti Patel’s meeting with high-level Israeli officials. All while she was on holiday, of course. As you do. She was accompanied on her visit by Lord Polak, a member of the House of Lords. Polak was there with her when she met Netanyahu and when she went to New York. His trip over the Pond was paid for by the Israeli consulting firm, ISHRA. and before she went, Patel also had a meeting with the Israeli Minister for Public Security in the House of Commons. Which went undisclosed.

Cloughley also criticises the House of Lords, which is unelected, and very definitely undemocratic, serving to cap social mobility. At over 800 members, it’s the biggest governmental assembly in the world, with the exception of China. But it lumbers on, because there’s a lot of money there, and it serves as a way to honour failed politicians and political donors. Before he joined the House of Lords, Polak was the head of the Conservative Friends of Israel. The CFI, according to the Financial Times, 80 per cent of the parliamentary Tory party are members. It has given £377,994 to the Tories since 2004. The CFI holds an annual dinner in London. At the last one in December, Theresa May spoke about how she was very pleased that there were 200 legislators present, and that the CFI had taken 34 of the 75 Conservative MPs elected in 2015 to Israel.

Polak is chair of TWC Associates, another lobbying firm, whose clients include Israeli defence companies, including Elbit Systems, which specialises in defence electronics. TWC and Elbit were caught in a political scandal in 2012 when Lieutenant-General Richard Applegate boasted to two undercover Sunday Times reporters of its enormous influence through the Conservative Friends of Israel. He also makes the point that Theresa May has jumped on Hillary Clinton’s tactic of attacking Russia as a way of deflecting attention away from her failures and scandals. In this case, it was the embarrassing revelations about Priti Patel and her visit to Israel.

The article concludes

The British public will never know what Patel, Polak and all the other agents of influence were scheming to achieve, or what sinister fandangos they may get up to in the future, but we can be certain that the Britain-Israel alliance will continue to prosper. The United States has “the best Congress AIPAC can buy,” and Britain’s legislators are right up there with their transatlantic colleagues. They have no scruples and no shame, but seem to have plenty of cash.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/11/24/the-influence-of-israel-on-britain/

Lembit Opik Goes through the Papers on RT: Loss of International Agencies, Cruelty to Animals and Tory Austerity Deaths

November 22, 2017

This is another great piece from RT. It’s their version of that section on the British mainstream news shows, like Andrew Marr and the morning news, where they go through the papers with a guest commenting on stories of interest. In this piece from RT’s Going Underground, main man Afshin Rattansi’s guest is Lembit Opik, the former Lib Dem MP for one of the Welsh constituencies. Opik lost his seat at the election some time ago. Before then he was jocularly known as ‘the Minister for Asteroids’ by Private Eye, because his grandfather was an astronomer from one of the Baltic Countries, and Opik himself took very seriously the threat of asteroid Armageddon in the 1990. I can remember meeting him at a talk on ‘Asteroid Impacts’ one year at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, where he and the other panellists, including Duncan Steele, an Australian astronomer who now teaches over here urged the world’s governments to set up an early warning system to defend Earth from such catastrophes.

Here, Opik picks out the stories from the papers about how Britain has lost its position as the seat, or with a member on, three international regulatory agencies as a result of Brexit. We no longer have a candidate sitting at the International Court of Justice. The European Medical Agency will go to Amsterdam, and the European Banking Authority will go to Paris. Opik makes the point that all these agencies are leaving Britain, as there’s no point in them being here if we’re not in the EU.

There’s a bit of lively, spirited disagreement between Opik and Rattansi, which doesn’t seem to be entirely serious. And in fact, the tone of their conversation makes me wonder if they didn’t have quite a good lunch with liquid refreshment. Rattansi is something of a ‘Leave’ supporter, and says in reply that they can go. We don’t want them. And perhaps if the International Court of Justice actually worked, we could prosecute some of those responsible for war crimes.

Opik’s next story is about a ruling by the Tories that animals don’t feel pain, and have no emotions. Which he points out will amaze anyone, who’s ever had a dog or seen one howl. He and Rattansi then comment about how this is all about the Tories trying to make it easier for themselves to go fox hunting, and for Trump and his children to kill more animals.

Opik then goes on to a funnier story, which nevertheless has a serious point. Documents released to Greenpeace under the Freedom of Information Act have shown that Britain lobbied Brazil over obtaining the rights for Shell and BP to drill for oil in more of the Brazilian rainforest. This is a serious issue. What makes it funny is that the government tried to redact the information. However, they got it wrong, and instead of blacking out the embarrassing pieces of information, they highlighted them instead in yellow marker. Which they then sent to Greenpeace’s head of operations. Opik then goes on to make the very serious point that this is information, that the government was trying to hide from us.

The last story is from the Independent. It’s about the finding by one of the peer-reviewed British medical journals that the Tories’ austerity policy is responsible for 120,000 deaths, in what has been described as ‘economic murder’. Opik’s sceptical of this claim, as he says he’s seen stats misused like this before. Rattansi counters in reply by saying that it does come from a peer-reviewed medical journal. Opik does, however, accept that Tory austerity policies have harmed some people, but is sceptical whether its 120,000.

These reports show that Britain is losing its influence on the world stage as a result of voting to leave the European Union. There’s even the possibility that we will lose our place on the UN Security Council if Scotland breaks away. It’s also interesting to hear Rattansi remind Opik that David Davis, the Tory MP, claimed that Britain wouldn’t lose her position as the base for various international agencies and ruling bodies if we left the EU. This is another failed prediction from the Tories. Or another lie, if you prefer.

As for the Conservatives ruling that animals don’t feel pain, the Independent states that this is ‘anti-science’. Absolutely. I think anyone, who has ever kept a pet knows that animals do feel pain, and do have emotions. Or at least, creatures like birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. My guess is that they’ve passed this ruling not just as a way of making the return of fox hunting easier, but as part of an attack on a whole range of animal rights legislation, which they probably see as a burden on farming and industry. Like whatever legislation there is protecting the wellbeing of farm animals or regulating vivisection. And it is very definitely an ‘anti-science’ ruling. It seems that new discoveries are being made regularly showing how animal cognition and mental abilities are much more sophisticated than we previously believed. For example, crows are able to make and use tools. They’ll use sticks to open tin cans, for example. This amazed scientists when they first discovered it, as tool use was previously considered to be confined to primates. And in yesterday’s I there was a report on the finding by scientists that sheep can recognise human faces. And yes, the I has also carried several stories over the years about how scientists have found that dogs really do have emotions. When I read these, my reaction was ‘No sh*t, Sherlock!’ It’s very obvious that dogs do have emotions. But not, apparently, to the baying anti-science morons in the Tory party.

Mike put up the story about medical researchers finding that Tory policies have killed 120,000 people in the UK. I don’t entirely blame Opik for being sceptical, as there have been similar claims made that have been vastly inflated. However I don’t doubt that this is true in this case. We have over a hundred thousand people forced to use food banks, and millions of people living in ‘food insecure’ households, where they don’t know when they’ll eat again. Even if poverty and starvation do not directly cause their deaths, they are a contributing cause by leaving them vulnerable to other factors, such as disease or long-term illness, hypothermia and so on. And there are at least 700 people, who have been directly killed by the Tories’ austerity. These people died of starvation, or diabetic comas when they could not afford to keep their insulin in a fridge, or in despair took their own lives. They’ve been commemorated and their cases recorded by Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Mike at Vox Political, and the great peeps at DPAC.

Many of these poor souls actually left notes behind saying that they were killing themselves because they couldn’t afford to live.

But the DWP has refused to accept it, and blithely carries on repeating the lie that there’s no link between their deaths and austerity. And certainly not with the murderous sanctions system introduced by David Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith.

Rattansi was right about the failure of the International Court of Justice to prosecute the war criminals, who led us into the Iraq invasion and other wars in the Middle East. But nevertheless, there was an attempt to have Bush, Blair and their fellow butchers and liars hauled before international justice for their crimes against humanity. A group of British, Greek and Canadian lawyers and activists tried to bring a prosecution, and the lawyer in charge of looking into the case was, at least initially, interested. Then American exceptionalism won out once again, and the US placed pressure on the court to throw out the case.

Being tried for war crimes is just something that happens to other, lesser nations, you see.

If there were any true, international justice, Blair and the rest of New Labour and Bush’s vile neocons would find themselves in the dock, like the other genocides and mass-murderers who’ve been punished. And I’d just love to see Cameron, Smith, Damian Green, Esther McVie and Theresa May join them for their ‘chequebook genocide’ against the disabled.

But unfortunately that ain’t going to happen. However, we can at least get them out before they kill many more people.

RT Forced to Register as Foreign Agent, But AIPAC and John Podesta Go Free

November 21, 2017

This is another very interesting piece from RT America’s Lee Camp. Camp is a comedian and the presenter of Redacted Tonight, a satirical show that uses comedy to take a deep, critical look at American politics and current affairs. In this piece, Camp shows the double standards behind the recent decision to force RT America to register as a foreign agent under FARA, while the real foreign lobbying groups of the type the Act was set up to regulate, AIPAC and John Podesta’s lobbying organisation, are allowed to get away free.

FARA was set up in the 1930s to force lobbyists working for Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and imperial Japan to register with the American treasury, so they could have their government sponsors identified, and would have to reveal their sources of incomes.

Camp then states that AIPAC is Israel’s foreign lobby arm in the US. This shouldn’t be controversial: it’s exactly how AIPAC describes itself, as Camp shows with the masthead from their webpage. It says ‘America’s Pro-Israel lobby’. He then produces a quote about how AIPAC is the most powerful lobbying organisation in America, or at least, more powerful than other very well-organised and funded groups like the gun lobby.

He also plays a piece from former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, describing how, before she had even taken up her seat in Congress, AIPAC sent her a document they wanted her to sign pledging her support. She replied that before she would, she’d have to read about the issues first. She then states that she learned that the operatives for the Israel lobby control women’s organisations, environmental organisations, peace organisations. Every aspect of the political process is controlled by people associated with the Israel lobby.

Camp then goes on to describe how $705 million was given to Israel by America in the latest military budget. And AIPAC has solidly been behind, and indeed urging America on in its wars in the Middle East. AIPAC pushed for the Iraq invasion. They pushed for the war in Syria. They also met with a Democrat party thinktank, the Centre for American Progress, to suppress rumours by their own journalists that AIPAC is pushing for war with Iran.

AIPAC also flexes its clout at the UN. Here there’s a clip of US ambassador Nicky Haley, speaking at an AIPAC gathering, talking about how they got the UN to withdraw a report that made the ‘outrageous’ – but entirely correct claim – that Israel is an apartheid state. And then the UN Secretary General resigned. She also shows how she’s absolutely fine with people wanting to impose sanctions on North Korea and Syria, but really doesn’t see why they should be imposed on Israel.

Camp then points out that AIPAC are actively trying to make it illegal to promote the boycott of Israel, a move that is supported by around 50 senators.

He then goes on to describe the origins of AIPAC. It was set up by a former member of the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, who then worked for the American Zionist Council. In 1962 the AZC was ordered by Robert Kennedy to register under FARA and open up their financial records. In December the AZC’s president, Rabbi Irving Miller, asked for a delay. In January the following year, 1963, AIPAC was founded. Then in March the AZC’s lawyers claimed that the Council should not have to register. They then continued to delay and stonewall sending in the required paperwork. The efforts to force AIPAC to register seem to have ended with the deaths of JFK and Robert Kennedy. Basically, AIPAC never got round to registering. In 1967 AIPAC applied for federal tax exemption. This was granted and backdated to 1953. In 1986 the lobbyist then began creating political action groups, in direct contravention of its tax-exempt status.

Camp explains that AIPAC’s purpose is pro-Israeli propaganda, termed ‘hasbara’, a word which literally means ‘explanation’. This is to get America to ignore Israel’s war crimes. Which, as Camp points out, doesn’t mean that all Israelis are terrible people. America commits war crimes, and he likes some Americans. AIPAC is responsible for trying smear those who criticise and protest against Israel as anti-Semites. But despite their best efforts, a growing number of young and older people around the world are standing up for the Palestinians. For the first time a bill for Palestinian human rights has been introduced into Congress. It was introduced by Representative Betty McCollum, and seeks to prevent the US from funding the detention and prosecution of children in Israel’s military courts. And of course, AIPAC are trying to crush it.

Camp makes the obvious point that if FARA was set up to control and regulate foreign lobbyists, then AIPAC is precisely the type of foreign lobbyist it is set up to regulate.

He then moves on to talk about John Podesta and the lobbying organisation he set up with his brother, Tony. John Podesta was one of Hillary Clinton’s aides. It should have registered with FARA, but didn’t, when it was lobbying on behalf of the Russian-owned company, Uranium One, from whom it collected $180,000 in fees in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

Camp then goes on to point out that this all shows that the decision to force RT to register as a foreign agent is entirely political. It’s a way to further suppress and marginalise dissenting voices like Chris Hedges and Jesse Ventura, and reinforce the stories about Russian interference. This is a story concocted by the Democratic National Convention so that it doesn’t have to look at its own corruption. The oligarchy running the country know that they don’t have the solutions to working peoples’ problems, and so are forced to resort to trying to push dissent further to the margins, and force people into an even smaller space of acceptable opinion.

Camp then points out that RT has not broadcast Russian propaganda. It has covered the Dakota pipeline, police brutality and Camp himself covered electoral fraud last year. It has even won an Emmy award for its coverage of the Occupy movement. He ends by stating that it looks like propaganda only if you buy into the corporate bullsh*t coming from CNN.

I’m not sure, but I wonder if Cynthia McKinnon was the Black, Green party politico, who lost her seat because she wouldn’t kowtow to AIPAC. When she refused to follow their line, they smeared her as an anti-Semite, and poured their funding into her political rivals, so that she would lose the election.

AIPAC are a nasty, bullying organisation that is utterly ruthless in trying to shut down any criticism or dissent about Israel. But it certainly does not speak for the majority of Jewish Americans. According to polls, American Jews tend to be politically liberal, and traditionally have been utterly indifferent to Israel. They were always far more keen to build lives for themselves as equal and respected citizens of the US. Just as they have been in Britain and very many other countries. Hence the determination of Zionist groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to give the false impression that hatred of Jews in Europe is at the same level as Germany just before the Nazi seizure of power. And that all Muslims, or nearly all Muslims, are also bitter anti-Semites and a threat to western democracy.

However, as Camp points out, an increasing number of people are becoming more critical of Israel, including young Jewish Americans. Many of them have become even more hostile to the country after going there on the ‘heritage’ tours that the country sponsors amongst American Jews to gain their allegiance and goodwill. The Jews, who have been so alienated from Israel, include those, who have been victims of anti-Semitism. Clearly the experience of being a victim of prejudice and abuse is not leading Jewish American young people to wish to support the abusive Israeli state.

Chris Hedges: RT Target Because Gives Platform to Anti-Imperialist, Anti-Capitalist Critics

November 15, 2017

Yesterday, RT America was forced to register as a foreign agent under FARA, the Foreign Agents’ Registration Act, a piece of legislation that dates from the 1930s, and which was set up to regulate foreign lobbyists and propaganda outlets.

The move has been condemned by Alexandra Ellerbeck, the North American co-ordinator of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

Compelling RT to register under FARA is a bad idea. This is a shift in how the law has been applied in recent decades, so we have little information about how its reporting requirements might affect individual journalists. We’re uncomfortable with governments deciding what constitutes journalism or propaganda.

The presenter then interviews Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and dissident, Chris Hedges, the presenter of RT America’s On Contact. Hedges states that the head of American national intelligence said that RT was a threat, not because it broadcast Russian propaganda, but because it gave a platform to anti-imperial, anti-capitalist voices, and covered issues and movements that the country’s elites would rather not be covered, such as the Occupy movement, Black Lives Matter, and fracking.

As for the question whether Americans should have a choice in their media, Hedges states that it would be true, if America had a functioning media which actually did its job and covered dissent. But it doesn’t. The media has been taken over by corporate interests, including the most retrograde of those in the form of the Koch brothers.

He also points out that this move is a major threat to press and political freedom generally. The elites, which he describes as kleptocrats, are resorting to censorship because they now realise that they have no arguments to support neoliberalism. They are desperate to suppress the reporting of the growing inequality, which has produced such an uprising in both the Democrat and Republican parties. And so they are trying to suppress the reporting of the growing poverty in America as foreign propaganda, and claim that the increasing dissent and discontent is due to foreign interference.

This is going on at the same time that Google and other internet companies have developed algorithms to take searchers away from left-wing and dissenting news sites.

He notes that the organisations that are charged with protecting the freedom of the press have largely ignored this issue and have not objected to RT America’s registration under FARA. But he warns that this will only be the beginning of a greater assault on press and media freedom.

Once the elites have finished suppressing marginal, alternative media and journalists that they have pushed to the sidelines, such as himself, they will move on to the mainstream media.

This isn’t just about RT America. The British government and Theresa May has also started baying about how Russia is interfering in British politics. Here the main issue seems to be Brexit at the moment. May seems to be trying to use the Russians as a scapegoat for her own failure to secure any kind of deal with the EU.

Other alternative news programmes, that have nothing to do with Russia, are also being hit by Google’s algorithms. These are shows like The Young Turks, the David Pakman Show, Sam Seder’s Majority Report, and Democracy Now! And left-wing British bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political have also suffered problems with some of their material mysteriously vanishing from Facebook, or people finding it difficult to log on. One of the commenters to this site posted that she had had difficulty getting on to Mike’s page in response to an article I put up about how I found it impossible to get onto Mike’s site on Saturday, when he wrote a reply demolishing the claims of a Tory councillor that Journalists’ reporting of the immense harm done by the government’s policies to the disabled was ‘inflammatory nonsense’.

John Kampfner wrote a book about ten years or so ago, Freedom for Sale, about how governments all over the world, including Blair’s, were cracking down on freedom of speech. He considered it part of a deal they had made with their peoples. They would give them prosperity, but the other side of the bargain was that they would not tolerate any criticism. Now, ten or so years later, that bargain has gone. These governments are not bringing prosperity. Quite the opposite. Poverty has expanded massively under the Tories. But they are continuing to clamp down on freedom of speech and the press.

All in the name of protecting us from the Russians. Or terrorists like ISIS. Or anyone else they can use as a handy pretext for regulating and narrowing media freedom even more.

Priti Patel and the Shady World of Right-Wing Lobbyists and Thinktanks

November 9, 2017

Hat tip to Michelle, one of the great commenters on this blog, for letting me know about this article.

Priti Patel has finally done the decent thing, and resigned following the revelation of her highly secretive visit to Israel, where she met met leading politicians, while telling everyone she was just on a holiday. Part of the reason behind Patel’s little trip seems to have been to get the British government to divert some of the money it gives for international aid to Israel, so it can spend it on the IDF’s continuing occupation of the Golan Heights. This is territory which Israel nicked from the Syrians during the Six Day War.

Israel is already massively supported by Britain, the US and the EU, where it is treated almost as a member, despite not having formal membership. The IDF is one of the main instruments of the country’s brutal repression and ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Arab people, the Palestinians. During its independence campaign in 1948, the Israeli armed forces were responsible for a series of massacres, rapes and beatings against the Palestinians. The most notorious of these was Deir Yassin. But that was only one massacre out of many. Very many. Israeli soldiers killed people sheltering in a mosque, shot and threw handgrenades at women and children, and in one horrendous incident killed a group of Palestinians, who were coming towards them to offer them rice in the hope of getting some mercy. The IDF today enforces the brutal apartheid regime against the Palestinians, including the fouling of cisterns and wells to make the water undrinkable, and the demolition of houses and seizure of property by Israeli colonists.

I have no desire whatsoever to see my government give aid money to the IDF. And I very much doubt I’m alone.

This isn’t about anti-Semitism. I am very much aware that there is and always has been a very strong Jewish opposition to the ethnic cleansing and terror, which not only includes American and European Jews, but also Israelis such Ilan Pappe and human rights organisations such as BT’salem. Anyone, who dares to criticise Israel, is smeared and abused as an anti-Semite. But many anti-Zionist Jews, or simply Jews critical of the occupation of the West Bank and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, feel that they are particularly singled out for abuse and vilification. Tony Greenstein, a veteran anti-Zionist and anti-Fascist campaigner, has quoted in his blog the left-wing comedian, Alexei Sayle. Sayle, the son of Jewish Communists, has said that it seems to him that the majority of people smeared as anti-Semites in the Labour Party were Jews.

Returning to Patel, an article by Adam Ramsay on the Open Democracy site, reveals that she has very extensive links to some very shady right-wing lobbying groups and thinktanks.

Before she was elected MP in 2010, Patel worked for the PR form Weber Shandwick, whose clients included British American Tobacco. Not only does the company produce a highly addictive and lethal drug, it also has links to the dictatorship in Myanmar and child labour. The article notes that some of the PR company’s employees were uncomfortable dealing with BAT. Not so Patel. She was perfectly relaxed.

BAT in their turn fund the right-wing think tanks the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs. In 2002, while Patel was working there, Weber Shandwick merged with the Israeli lobbyists Rimon Cohen, whose clients include the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, the illegal Migron settlement on the West Bank, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Whom Patel coincidentally met on her jaunt.

Weber Shandwick’s clients also included Bahrein, and just months after her election, the Bahreini’s flew her there to meet some of their ministers. This is a Gulf kingdom widely criticised for human rights abuses. In 2012 she went on another trip, this time to the United Arab Emirates, as part of the All Party Group, which went there. She made two return trips in 2013 and 2014. The first time she went with the World Consulting and Research Corporation, based in New Delhi. This outfit describe themselves as a brand equity and management organisation. The second trip was courtesy of Sun Mark Ltd., who are regular donors to her office. Weber Shandwick also added the Dubai firm Promoseven to its list of clients about the same time it merged with Rimon Cohen.

In 2014 she also attended a meeting in Washington, courtesy of the right-wing, and highly secretive British think tank, the Henry Jackson Society. The meeting was organised by AIPAC, the very powerful Israeli lobbying organisation in the US, about security in the Middle East. As for the Henry Jackson Society, they are so secretive about the source of their funds that they withdrew it from two parliamentary groups, rather than reveal where it comes from. Earlier this year the Charity Commission announced they were investigating it following allegations that it was being paid by the Japanese government to spread anti-Chinese propaganda.

Patel’s holiday to Israel also seems to have been sponsored by Stuart Polak, the former head and honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel. In 2009 Peter Oborne wrote a piece about the extensive influence the CFI has in the Tory party. Ramsay also notes that trips to Israel funded by the CFI and similar groups are the most consistent entry in the MPs’ and MSPs’ register of foreign interests.

The article concludes

Much has been written about the weakness of the current Conservative government, as exhibited by this scandal, Boris Johnson’s blunders, and last week’s resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon amid allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour. But here is the problem. When governments are falling apart, special interest groups run riot. Flagrant abuses usually happen at times when minor abuses are normalised. What other powerful lobby groups are pushing ministers around? How did it get to the point that Patel thought she’d get away with this?

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/we-cant-ignore-patels-background-in-britains-lobbying-industry

It’s a good question, though you’d have to work extremely hard to find out. The Labour MP Colin Challen wrote a piece years ago in Lobster reporting that half of Tory funding remains mysterious. As for the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs, they’re extreme right-wing think tanks that provided much of the ideology of the New Right during Thatcher’s grotty rise to power and period in office. They want to privatise everything, including the NHS and schools, as well as social security. I know. I’ve got the IEA’s pamphlets about the last two. The IEA also produced another pamphlet addressing a question vital to today’s women: Liberating Women – From Feminism. Which has been the line the Daily Mail’s taken almost since it was founded.

Mike yesterday put up a piece commenting on the strange verbiage of Patel’s resignation letter, and the reply from Theresa May. Both contained passages stressing that Patel was usually open and transparent about her business. Mike commented that neither of these letters actually looked like they’d been written by the two.

Mike comments that neither May nor Patel have acted transparently and openly, and we still don’t know what Downing Street’s role in this whole affair may have been. The Jewish Chronicle suggests it’s rather more than May and Patel are telling.

He concludes

This matter has demonstrated that Theresa May’s government has no interest in transparency and openness. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The minority Prime Minister will be hoping that it will go away, following the resignation of the offending minister.

It won’t.

We need to know exactly what happened, when it was arranged, with whom, who knew about it, who was there at the time, what was said about it afterwards and to whom, and whether all the information has been made public. My guess that it hasn’t.

Recent events involving Boris Johnson have shown that ministers cannot expect to be able to lie to us and expect us to accept it. We need the facts.

And if Theresa May can’t provide the answers, it won’t be one of her ministers who’ll need to resign.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/11/08/priti-patel-resigns-resigns-doesnt-theresa-may-have-the-guts-to-sack-anyone/

And Patel’s trip to Israel is just one secretive lobbying trip, paid by some very shady people, of many.

It’s time this government was forced out, and some real transparency put in place.

American Historian Nancy Maclean on James McGill Buchanan and the Libertarian Attack on Democracy

July 27, 2017

This is another very interesting clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report. He talks by phone to Nancy Maclean, the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, who explains the origins of Libertarianism in the thought of James McGill Buchanan and the threat this now poses to American democracy through the Koch brothers. Buchanan was one of the founders of Public Choice Economics. This exists in both left- and right-wing versions, and in Buchanan’s case, it’s extremely right-wing. Buchanan took an attitude towards the American constitution similar to Calhoun, one of the figures in early American political history, who was strongly opposed by Madison. Calhoun divided society into ‘makers’ and ‘takers’. The ‘makers’ were the rich, while the ‘takers’ were the poor. Buchanan expanded on this distinction to found the Virginia School of Political Economy. This considered that no constitution in the world, including the American, adequately protected property rights. As Maclean herself points out, this is a ridiculous statement when applied to America, whose constitution protects private property to a higher degree than those of other nations. Buchanan then became political active trying to change this.

Central to the Virginia’s school’s thinking was the doctrine that it was immoral to tax the rich to benefit the poor. Buchanan, and the other Libertarians around him, were firmly opposed to progressive taxation and the embryonic American welfare state. It is this opposition to progressive economic and social policies that has strongly influenced the Republican party’s current attempts to destroy Obamacare.

This led to the foundation of the Montpellerin Group, a think tank which was one of the founding organizations of Libertarianism in the 1970s. Its members included von Hayek, von Mises, and the founder of Monetarism, Milton Friedman, as well as Charles Koch. They also realized that they would be a minority, and so looked for ways to assist non-democratic regimes so seize power, like General Pinochet in Chile.

The Kochs are oil billionaires, who have been major figures in the Libertarian party, and have given lavishly to a number of extreme right-wing organisations in America working to destroy the American welfare state and undermine the Constitution. Two of these are the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, but Maclean states that there 15 of these in all. Maclean states that the Libertarians present themselves as Madisonians, determined to return the Constitution to its original form and protect it against the progressives and liberals they feel have hijacked and corrupted it. She points out instead that their views are those of Calhoun, rather than Madison. Madison and the other Founding Fathers were extremely Conservative themselves, and determined to protect private property as much as possible. She acknowledges that the Constitution as it is, with its four veto clauses, is a Conservative document. But Madison was a determined opponent of Calhoun, and stated that if Calhoun was successful, it would be the end of freedom in America.

I’ve put up several pieces from Reichwing Watch over the past few days, showing that Libertarianism, far from being a form of Anarchism, as its supporters claim, is actually a form of extreme right-wing politics similar to, and increasingly declaring itself to be, at least according to spokesmen like That Guy T a form of Fascism. This adds a little information to show that it has always been Fascistic. Buddy Hell over at Guy Debord’s Cat has pointed out that Pinochet and his regime was Monetarist, strongly influenced by von Mises, and that Milton Friedman frequently visited the country to see how the thug was implementing his economic policies. This shows that the connections between Pinochet and the Chicago school weren’t coincidental. Friedman and his cohorts didn’t visit Chile, because Pinochet just happened to be a Monetarist and wanted their assistance. They visited Chile because they had rejected democratic government and were actively assisting Pinochet to achieve power in order to help the rich exploit and brutalise the poor.

And this isn’t an issue that’s just confined to America. Libertarianism has also been a very strong influence on the Tory party since the days of Maggie Thatcher. She was deeply impressed by von Hayek, and turned up at a political meeting in the ’70s with his book, The Road to Serfdom. A young man had been speaking before her, recommending a more middle of the road policy in line with the post-War consensus. Instead Thatcher slapped von Hayek’s wretched screed on the table and announced, ‘This is what we all believe now.’ There was always a section of the Tory party that despised the welfare state, and they have become the dominant section of the party since Thatcher. It was Thatcher, who talked explicitly of dismantling the welfare state, including the NHS, which she wished to privatize. It is these policies, that are still being carried through nearly forty years later.

And these ideological links and the threat they pose to the NHS are likely to become fixed through the free trade agreements that the Tories are desperate to conclude with Donald Trump. The break up of the welfare state and the gradual privatization of the NHS is being done partly for the benefit of American private healthcare and state outsourcing companies. Private Eye revealed that the work capability tests were introduced by Peter Lilley and the Tories through the influence of the American insurance fraudster, Unum, an influence that continued when Tony Blair and New Labour came into power in 1997. The magazine also revealed that Blair was being lobbied by a number of American firms, including Wackenhut, which, amongst other things, runs private prisons. Any deal the Tories make with Trump’s administration is likely to cement the privatization of the remains of the NHS and the wider state sector into international law.

If we wish to defend the NHS and what’s left of the welfare state, and create a better, fairer society, we need to make sure such privatization does not become enshrined in any trade treaties, either with America or the European Union, and combat Libertarianism and its attack on the poor and weak as the underlying ideological cause.