Posts Tagged ‘Michael Moore’

Before We Go to War with Iran, We Should Listen to Michael Moore and Neil Young

September 22, 2019

Yesterday I put up a piece commenting on Secular Talk’s video about the drone strikes on the Saudi oilfields. The host, Kyle Kulinski, stated that he believed the media would start lying and claim that these attacks were completely unprovoked. The reality is that they were committed by the Houthis in Yemen in retaliation for the genocidal war the Saudis are waging against their country. Kulinski also predicted that the media, including the Beeb, would tell us all that Iran, and only Iran, was responsible. He states that it’s possible that the Iranians have helped them, and that elements in Iran do support and celebrate it. But he fears a push for war, and doesn’t trust any of the actors – Trump, Netanyahu or the Saudis – to draw back.

I share his fears. And so, I believe, do very many other people. On my YouTube page the other day I found the video below from that old rocker, Neil Young. It’s of him playing ‘Rocking in the Free World’. I think its from the Michael Moore documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11. In it the Capped Crusader showed how George Dubya, the American-Saudi oil interests and the military industrial complex pushed for war in the Middle East following the terror attack on 9/11. Wars that they were very careful not to let their sons or daughters become physically involved, while actively recruiting the working class, and particularly the Black working class, to be their cannon fodder.

The film ends with Neil Young’s ‘Rocking in the Free World’.

I know people, who don’t like the song because they think it’s actually a celebration of the capitalist west. So did the late Radio 1 DJ John Peel. He chose it as one of his favourite tracks in an interview on Radio 4 I can remember listening to in the ’90s. He didn’t like it for the same reason, until he listened to it properly. It’s an angry, bitter song, and as flag-wavingly patriotic as Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’. They’re both about how America gives working people nothing but poverty while sending them to fight wars.

Consider the lyrics to Young’s song:

There are warning signs on the road ahead

Some people are saying that we’re better off dead….

That’s another kid,

Who’ll never go to school,

Never fall in love,

Never get to be cool….

We got a thousand points of light

for the homeless man.

We got a kinder, gentler machine gun ham. 

The tunes played over footage of demonstrations in America against Bush, Young and his band in concert, recruiting sergeants going round Black neighbourhoods, and the chaos, grief and warfare in Iraq and the Middle East.

The clip begins with Dubya stumbling his way through the saying ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ But he couldn’t remember it properly, and so ends with stating the saying’s message ‘Don’t get fooled again’. To which Moore adds, ‘For once, we agree’. Then into the song.

Moore’s absolutely right, as has been corroborated by the former Guardian journo, Greg Palast, in his book, Armed Madhouse. In it he provides copious proof that the Iraq invasion was started, not because Saddam Hussein backed Osama bin Laden, or to liberate the Iraqi people from his dictatorship, but because the Saudi and American oil interests wanted the Iraqi oil reserves. The multinationals wanted to get their grubby hands on Iraqi state enterprises, the Neocons wanted to remove another source of support for the Palestinians, and create the low tax, free market utopia of the kind they want to introduce in the US. The result was absolute chaos. Apart from the carnage of the war, the Iraqi economy was decimated under the impact of foreign imports. Iraqi domestic firms couldn’t compete and collapsed. There was 60 per cent unemployment.

This is what will happen to Iran if we get fooled by the right-wing political elite, the oil industry and the military-industrial complex. It won’t be to liberate the Iranian people from their despotic government, nor to defend an innocent Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are Wahhabis – militant Sunnis – who despise and fear the Shi’a. That’s why they invaded Yemen: the Shi’a Houthi had overthrown the Sunni government. A few years ago one high-ranking Saudi cleric, the Sharif of Mecca or Grand Mufti, declared that Shi’a Muslims were ‘heretics and worthy of death’. Iran supports the Shi’a nations in the Middle East, hence Saudi determination to destroy the country’s regime. Israel and its supporters here also wants the Iranian government overthrown, because they are intensely hostile to Israel, expressing their hate in genocidal language, and support the Palestinians. Western oil interests want to get their hands on the Iranian oil industry, because we used to own it before Prime Minister Mossadeq nationalised it briefly in the 1950s before we had him overthrown, and it was nationalised against during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Our multinationals want to seize Iranian industries, as under current Iranian legislation they cannot be invested in or owned by foreign companies. And this includes the 51 per cent of the economy held by the state or the bonyads, the Islamic charitable funds. In fact, Forbes was whining about how unfree Iranian industry was, meaning that westerners couldn’t get their mitts on it, a few years ago.

These are the forces pressing for war with Iran.

They fooled many people 18 years ago after 9/11. But not everyone. One million people in Britain marched against the invasion of Iraq, including our local priest. Since then, I’ve no doubt more people know how spurious the cause for war was. More people realise that the two chiefly responsible for the war, George Dubya Bush and Tony Blair, are liars and war criminals.

Don’t let them fool our people again!

Not one courageous squaddie should be sent to his or her death killing ordinary Iranians, just to make the oil industry and the multinationals rich!

 

 

 

Mark Kermode’s Review of Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’

November 4, 2018

Michael Moore is the ‘capped crusader’, the left-wing American film-maker responsible for a string of powerful documentaries, from his first film, Michael and Me, to Fahrenheit 9/11 about the War on Terror, Bowling for Columbine about the Columbine High School massacre, Sicko, on the pitfalls of America’s private healthcare system and Capitalism: A Love Story, which is very definitely not a celebration of American private enterprise. His latest film, which was released a few weeks ago, is Fahrenheit 11/9 about the rise of Donald Trump. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo are the film critics on BBC Radio 5. Here Kermode gives his view on Moore’s movie.

He begins by explaining that the title refers to the date on which Trump won the presidential and his opponent, Hillary Clinton, conceded defeat. It’s also a reference to his earlier film, Fahrenheit 9/11, and to Ray Bradbury’s SF classic, Fahrenheit 451, the temperature at which paper burns. Fahrenheit 9/11 became the highest grossing documentary film and won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. Kermode has his own reservations about Moore, in particular the grandstanding and stunts he plays in his movies. The film examines how the fruitcake, to use Kermode’s substitute term, we got to this point. Trump announced his intention to run for the Whitehouse because he was sick of Gwen Stefani earning more than him. Then his candidacy was taken seriously, and he got elected. In addition to talking about Trump himself, Moore also discusses his own peculiar relationship with Trump and his aides. He was given assistance with his earlier films by Bannon and Kushner, and met Trump himself on the Tonight Show. Trump said that he liked Michael and Me, but hoped Moore wouldn’t make a film about him. Moore actually went easy on him during that interview, because he’d been told to.

Moore also uses the film to criticize what he sees are the failings in the Democrats. They didn’t take Trump seriously. He talks specifically about the disgusting state of the water supply in Flint, Michigan, and how Obama, as he sees it, did nothing about it. This has led to the current crisis, where people are alienated from politics because they see everyone as part of the elite.

He does, however, see change coming from young people, who are refusing to put up with this. Kermode plays a clip from the film in which he talks to Michael Hepburn, a young Black Democratic candidate for Florida. Hepburn explains that the problem is the lack of will and backbone from the Democrats, and the fact that they’re taking money from the same sources as the Republicans. He states that the Democratic party should be recruiting extraordinary ordinary Americans, who get on the same bus as their constituents. Who have kids in the same public schools, and so know what it’s like when the teachers don’t get paid a real salary or lack resources.

A young woman explains that the definition of electoral insanity is electing the same guys over and over again and expecting things to be any different.

This is followed by a clip of a news programme explaining that for the first time, the Democrats in Michigan will have an all-female ticket. He talks to Rashida Talib, who is poised to become the first Muslim woman in Congress. She says ‘We are not ready to give up on the party, just ready to take it over and put some people in there that get it.’
‘Take it over?’ Moore asks.
‘Take it over, Michael. Take it over,’ she replies.

Kermode also says that the strongest voices are those of schoolchildren, including one piece where they talk about the revolution that is going on through social media. He finds it refreshing that someone is talking about social media in a positive way. He still finds Moore a problematic figure, and that the film doesn’t really ‘wrestle the problem to the ground’. However, it does offer a glimmer of hope through young people. This is what happens when people feel disenfranchised, and a younger generation who are fed up with not being represented. He goes on to say that there is a certain repetition of themes, because they’re close to Moore’s heart. He also says that he feels that Moore is sincere about this film. He says it’s impossible to say what impact the film will have. It’s nothing like the scale of Fahrenheit 9/11. He also believes the best film about Trump was You’ve Been Trumped, made long before the Orange Buffoon came to power and which was about him and the golf courses in Scotland. But it’s a sincere work, with less of the ‘stunty stuff’ which Kermode doesn’t like.

Update on Crimes of Empire Book

March 10, 2018

Last year I started work on a book about current western imperialism. How the US has interfered across the world to bring down democratically elected left-wing governments when they threatened American corporate power and put in place vicious, murderous right-wing dictatorships. All done in the name of protecting the world from the Communist threat, of course. The latest phase of this imperialism is George W. Bush’s and Tony Blair’s ‘War on Terror’, under which they invaded a country that was absolutely no threat to us – Iraq – just to loot its oilfields and state industries, all for the benefit of American multinationals, western big business and the Saudi oil industry. And the list goes on, through the continued occupation of Afghanistan, the funding of Islamist forces against Assad in Syria, and Obama’s and Killary’s staged, fake democratic revolution in Ukraine, which launched a government with real Nazis goose-stepping through the streets of Kiev, killing real leftists and chanting their very real hatred of Jews.

The book was suggested by ‘Florence’, one of the many great commenters on this blog, who was afraid of the lack of the understanding of the anti-imperial dimension to Socialist/ Labour party activism. She remembered the 1970s when many people became active in left-wing politics through campaigns against General Pinochet in Chile, for example. He was another real Fascist thug, who seized power in a CIA sponsored coup that overthrew the democratically elected Marxist president, Salvador Allende. The result was decades of Fascist terror, including horrific torture and rape, the internment and murder of radicals, and mass executions. Oh yes, and they stole left-wing activists’ children, to be brought up instead by good Fascist families. Pinochet was strongly influenced by the Chicago school of Milton Friedman and von Miles. The latter had explicitly turned away from democracy, because the masses would never accept his destruction of the welfare state, and state schooling, healthcare et. Pinochet was in power until the late 80s. And he ended up fleeing from justice to Britain, where he had a good friend in Maggie Thatcher. Pinochet is exactly the type of monster left-wingers in the ’70s and ’80s fought very had against, the memory of which might be lost unless more is done to show that monsters like Pinochet are still being installed and supported.

I’ve a few more things to do on the book before I send it off to Lulu. But I’ve worked out the chapters and their contents. Here’s the list:

Introduction and Florence’s request

General US/Western Interference

Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show Talks about US Crimes of Empire: Part 1:
Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show Talks about US Crimes of Empire: Part 2
Abby Martin on the Jimmy Dore Show Talks about the US Crimes of Empire: Part 3
Secular Talk on Seven Fascist Regimes supported by America
The Young Turks: CIA Overthrows Democracies, But Can’t Get Rid of Dictators
William Blum’s List of American Foreign Interventions: Part 1
William Blum’s List of American Foreign Inrterventions: Part 2
Blum’s List of Countries In which US Has Interfered with their Elections
Lee Camp: New Docs Show America Knew about Indonesia Genocide
American State Censored TV Programme on American Nerve Gas Atrocity in Laos.
William Blum on the naïve Trust of Countries invaded by US
William Blum on Right-Wing Coups in Greece
Democracy Now on Hillary Clinton and the Right-Wing Coup in Honduras
Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger
Democratic Socialist on the Von Mises’ Institutes Lies About the Pinochet Coup
RT’s Lee Camp on What the US Military Is Doing in Niger
TeleSur English: CIA Planned False Flag Attacks in Miami
Telsur English: US Planned to Use Biological Warfare Against Cuba
Telesur English: Venezuela Drops Petrodollars, Threatens US Global Power
Jimmy Dore: Taliban Have Surrendered Several Times, Each Time Refused by America
Jimmy Dore Show: Obama Rejected North Korea Nuclear Peace Deal in 2015
Jimmy Dore Show: US Begins Bombing in Somalia Again, Because Oil Found
William Blum on the Abortive Prosecution of NATO Leaders for War Crimes in Yugoslavia
Jimmy Dore on the Church Committee Hearings of 1975 into CIA Corruption
Jimmy Dore: Hillary Wanted to Rig Palestinian Elections
Alan Moore on CIA Atrocities in Central America: Brought to Light
Financial Times Review of Book on Origins of American Financial Imperialism
Michael Moore’s New Film against US Miltitarism and Imperialism
Bernie Sanders’ Speech Attacking US Coups of Foreign Governments

Iran

The Pro-Israel Billionaires Pushing Trump towards Confrontation with Iran
Telesur English on the Similarities between Trump’s Action on Venezuela and the 1953 Coup in Iran
Redacted Tonight on How Trump Is Lying to Us About Iran and North Korea
American Comedian Lee Camp on the Real Reason Iran’s Been Put ‘On Notice’
William Blum on the Demonisation of Iran,
The Israel Lobby, Liam Fox and the Planned Bombing of Iran
Jimmy Dore: NBC Attacks Obama, Clinton, Silent about Reagan’s Treachery with Iran
Secular Talk: Candidate for Trump’s Secretary of State Wants War with Iran

Real Reasons for Iraq War

Comedian Bill Hicks on Gulf War I and George Bush Senior
The Case for Prosecuting Blair as War Criminal for Iraq Invasion
Spokesman Pamphlets on Blair, the ‘Dodgy Dossier’ and the Iraq Invasion
George Galloway and Peter Hitchens on Blair and the Iraq War
Vox Political: Youssef El-Gingihy on Western Imperialism in Iraq
An Iraqi Woman Describes the State of her Country before Bush and Blair’s Invasion
Counterpunch Article on the History of British Imperial Domination in Iraq.
Owen Jones on the Chilcot Report, the Iraq War and Tony Blair
Vox Political on Those, Who Believed Blair’s Lies about Iraq
1920s Iraqi Poem on the New Constitution and Order Imposed by and for Britain, Not Iraqis
Private Eye on the Western Firms Seeking to Grasp the Iraqi Oil Fields
The Young Turks on Report Showing Iraq Invasion Based on Lies
Brainwash Update on Lawlessness, Murder and Assassination by American Mercenaries Blackwater in Iraq
Young Turks’ Item on Pentagon Censoring Internal Reports Showing War Not Working in Iraq and Syria

Gaddafi and Libya

Telesur English on the Chaos Caused by the Death of Gaddafy
Colonel Gaddafy Predicted He Would Be Killed for his Opposition to Capitalism
The Death Toll from Italian Colonialism: Why Johnson’s Comments about Libyan Corpses Is Not Funny

Russia and Ukraine

HIGNFY Spreads More Lies about Russian Interference in American Election
BBC 2 Programme Next Week on British Forces in Ukraine and Estonia
Despite the Jokes, HIGNFY Is Fake News
Putin and Trump, and Bill Clinton’s Interference in Russian Elections for Yeltsin
Counterpunch Article Claiming US Spy Agencies Trying to Engineer War with Russia
Have I Got News For You and the Bias in BBC News Satire
William Blum on American Preparations for Nuclear War with Russia
More Military Tension between NATO and Russia; Pat Mills Right in ABC Warriors
Seamas Milne on the Dangers of Conservative Propaganda in the History of Communism
Counterpunch on Putin’s Non-Existent Threat to the Baltic States
Counterpunch on NATO’s Preparations for War with Russia

Syria

Syrian Uprising Directed by Saudi Prince and Other Foreign Governments
RT on House of Lord’s Opposition to £200 million Going to Syrian Opposition
Counterpunch on Saudi Arabia’s Influence on British Foreign Affairs
Jimmy Dore: Pentagon-Backed Rebels Fight CIA-Backed Rebels in Syria
Jimmy Dore Show: Putin Refutes Western Media Lies about Syrian Gas Attack
Secular Talk on Lack of Media Outrage for Syrian Rebels Massacring 126 Civilians
Jimmy Dore on Media Censorship of the War in Syria
Canadian Journalist Exposes BBC Lies over Syria
Boris Johnson Slapped Down By May for Telling Truth about Saudi Militarism
Deep State Lies about Terrorist Threat Produced Syria and Russia
Why Are the Tories Demanding Assad’s Overthrow?
More on the Real Reason behind Western Intervention in Syria
Jimmy Dore on the Real Reason for the Civil War and Western Military Attacks on Syria
Counterpunch on American Foreign Policy and Regime Change in Syria
More on US Military Funding of al-Qaeda and Islamist Militants
Syria Chemical Weapons Attacks Were ‘False Flag’ Operations Intended to Draw America into Civil War
Counterpunch on British Spies’ Recruitment of Islamist Fighters against Syria
What’s the Real Reason We’re Bombing Syria?
ISIS Is the Saudis’ Private Army for Control of the Oil Fields
Peter Hitchens Spearing BBC Anti-Russian Propaganda over Syria
Redacted Tonight: Mainstream Media Pushing War in Syria Hiding Connections to Arms Companies

Ukraine

BBC 2 Programme Next Week on British Forces in Ukraine and Estonia
America and the Manufactured Revolution in Ukraine
Global Research on US and EU Sponsored Fascist Regime in Ukraine
Counterpunch on the Washington Post’s Journalist Blacklist and the CIA, Eugenicist Nazis and Ukrainian Fascists
US State Department Supporting Fascism and Puppet Government in Ukraine
Private Eye on Britain’s Arms Sales to both Russia and Ukraine
Lobster on the Ukraine as Monsanto Trojan Horse
NATO and the Economic Exploitation of Eastern Europe

As you can see, it’s really a collection of articles from this blog, but I hope it will give people an idea of what’s really going on in the world in the name of democracy and freedom, and help get a few more people on to the streets, writing to their MPs or otherwise involved in combatting western corporate militarism and imperialism.

Jimmy Dore and Abby Martin Discuss Whether Rachel Maddow Is A Danger to Journalism: Part 2

November 19, 2017

This is the second part of my article about the segment from the Jimmy Dore Show in which the comedian talks to Abby Martin, the uncompromising investigative reporter and presenter of The Empire Files, now on TeleSur English, but formerly on RT.

Dore and Martin talk about the accusations of misogyny that were thrown against anyone who dared not to vote for Killary. Martin jokes that she didn’t, and has been denounced as ‘treacherous’ because of this. She then describes how the Clinton camp tried to explain away the masses of women, who didn’t vote for Killary. Oh, they didn’t vote for her, because their boyfriends told them not to. She makes it clear that this explain also denigrates women because it denies them their own agency.

Martin and Dore talk about how someone can be right about the issues, but wrong on strategy. Bernie Sanders is one of these. He’s right politically, but wrong in continuing to support the Democrats. Martin points out that this happened a few years ago to Michael Moore with Ralph Nader, who ran as a third party candidate in a presidential election. Moore was originally a staunch supporter of Nader, attacking the corrupt Democrat establishment. Now he’s part of that establishment, and has been on his knees pleading with Nader not to run.

Martin then talks about the fear running through Black and Latino communities. Martin states that she doesn’t know about all of it, because she belongs to a more privileged group. But she has Mexican friends, who are now in hiding. Black people are being assaulted. She describes this as a mass psychosis. Undocumented immigrants are afraid of ICE and being deported. She states that this anti-immigrant hysteria has happened before, but it’s been ramped up by Trump. She doesn’t really believe very much in the view that the Deep State is deeply opposed to Trump. She just thinks that they hate him because he reveals the true reasons for the wars now being fought. As when he blandly stated that we should take their oil from those nations America is fighting. But she states that some wars are planned, and believes that if Gore had won, then Saddam Hussein would still have been overthrown. It’s questionable whether this would have been through a war, however.

She also goes on to make the point that many wars aren’t planned, and the current situation is very dangerous. For example, Iran never had a nuclear weapons programme, despite Trump putting them ‘on notice’ and imposing sanctions. She describes these sanctions – against Iran, against Maduro in Venezuela and against North Korea as an act of war. Dore reminds her that North Korea had actually stopped its nuclear weapons programme, in return for America not conducting war games on their borders. But Obama rejected this. And they resumed their nuclear programme when Bush declared they were part of the ‘Axis of Evil’.

Martin then goes on to discuss her investigative work amongst the towns devastated by Hurricane Harvey. One of these was Houston. It’s a town dominated by Big Oil, with absolutely no zoning laws whatsoever so people are living right next to big, highly polluting industrial complexes. They even built a school next to a chemical plant. The plant exploded, but under the counterterrorism laws the company doesn’t have to reveal what chemicals were released into the environment. At the same time, the oil companies don’t have to pay fines during start-ups, shut-downs or disasters. So they can pollute as much as they want, as they won’t have to pay for it.

She also talks about another town she visited, Lakewood, where weeks after Harvey people were left living in their gutted homes. They didn’t see any volunteers, no FEMA officials or anyone from the government. She states that this was an act of pure class war, as these areas were Black and Latino. Back to Houston, she remarks on how, in the aftermath of the hurricane, it was only the business districts and the affluent areas that were up and running within a few hours of the disaster. Volunteers were told not to go into the rougher neighbourhoods, as they would get shot. She and Dore make the point that everyone calls looting was, in the circumstances, just survival.

And Big Oil hides the extent of the problems it causes in these communities, because it owns schools and hospital wings. Thus it’s impossible to study cancer properly, because everything’s compartmentalised. And the doctors and scientists studying it can’t call out who’s responsible, because they’ll then lose their funding. Everyone in those towns works for the industry.

This is clearly an American programme, discussing American issues, but it also reflects the situation over here in Britain to a considerable extent. Journalism in Britain has also been corrupted by the merger of the newspaper companies into big industrial conglomerates, whose proprietors then decide what line their papers should follow and suppress awkward content. And just as Bernie Sanders was reviled by the Clintonite camp of the Democrats, and cheated of his nomination, so the so-called left-wing media over here demonised Jeremy Corbyn. They also lionised, and are still praising Killary to the rafters, and accused anyone, who didn’t support her as a ‘misogynist’. Just like they accused Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters.

The mainstream media over here is also corrupt. The BBC is overwhelmingly staffed at its management levels by very middle class, public school educated White men. It’s leading journalists, most notably ‘Goebbels’ Nick Robbinson and Laura ‘Arnalda Mussolini’ Kuenssberg, are arch-Tories, who show their contempt for their audience by scarcely hiding their bias against Corbyn and the Labour party.

The establishment over here is also trying to destroy alternative media sources. We’ve seen the same lies about Russian propaganda levelled at RT by the Theresa May and the Tories. The same algorithms, that have been developed to lead people on the internet away from alternative news sites and the demonetisation campaigns against ‘controversial’ material on YouTube – all set up in the guise of protecting us from ‘fake news’ – are hitting alternative news blogs and vlogs over here.

And you can see the same kind of problems that America is experiencing through the acquisition of schools and hospitals by Big Oil happening over here. Academics have already complained about the way science departments have been shorn of their independence ever since Maggie Thatcher decided that they should work more closely with industry, to the point where many scientists feel that they are just working for their industrial sponsors and partners. So far the media over here has been free of some of the attempts of the media to pour scorn on climate change and discredit climate science, with the obvious exceptions of the Heil and some of the journos on the Telegraph or Times. But you can also see that coming too, especially if the government goes ahead with privatising the NHS and handing schools over to private academy chains, whose heads have their own bias towards promoting business.

The Young Turks on Slave Labour in the American Prison System

September 16, 2016

I’ve already put up several pieces about how a wave of strikes are spreading across the American prison system by convicts fed up of being used as cheap, slave labour for big business. In this short piece by The Young Turks’ Hassan Piker, he begins with a quotation from Dostoevsky that a country’s state of civilisation can be gauged from its prisons. And Dostoevsky had personal experience of which he spoke. He was sent to a Siberian prison in which he was bound hand and foot. Piker gives the statistics on the immense size of the American prison population, and how the number of convicts on work programmes for outside corporations. Those companies involved include McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret and Walmart. Defenders of the programme say it teaches the cons valuable skills. But Piker points out that they have no union representation, and are paid 23 cents a day, much less than the minimum wage. Piker points out that the prisoner making shirts for McDonald’s is making even less than the person wearing it. Freedom for Alabama, one of the groups involved in the protests, states that this is a form of slavery, as defined and protected in the American Constitution. This outlaws slavery and forced labour, except for the convicted of a crime. Despite the abolition of slavery, this still effectively exists in American prisons, with inmates subjected to various degrading and painful punishments, including the investigation of their bodies ‘as if we are animals’. He points out that the whip has been replaced by pepper spray, but apart from that nothing has changed. The strikes are taking place nearly 35 years after a similar strike by prison workers in 1971. The strikers are aiming not just to improve their conditions, but also to bring down the entire corporate system that has massive boosted the American prison system. Piker comes down firmly on the side of the strikers, but states that many people may not listen to them because of who they are.

The size of the corporate prison system and its corruption of American justice is a major problem over there, and is also an increasing problem on this side of the Atlantic. At the heart of it is the private management of prisons. The companies running them frequently have contacts with politicians and judges in their states. They donate to politicians’ election funds, and put pressure on them to pass harsher legislation on crime. At the same time, the may also have judges on their payroll, whom they also persuade to pass tougher sentences on criminals to send them to prison. Where they can be used as cheap labour for the corporate profit of the prison and the contracting outside company. Michael Moore, the Capped Crusader, in his film, Capitalism: A Love Story, covers the case of a young girl, who was given a custodial sentence to an adult prison for truanting from school. The presiding judge in her case was on the payroll of the local prison company.

Private prisons have been introduced over here. I think they might have been introduced under John Major’s Conservative administration. They certainly were under Tony Blair’s, who was very cosy with Wackenhut, one of the leading American private prison firms. Mike ran an article a few weeks ago pointing out that British prisons were also using convicts as slave labour for their firms’ profits, and that this was perverting British justice in exactly the same way the system was over the other side of the Pond. The strikes are led by the syndicalist union, the Industrial Workers of the World, and have spread to 40 prisons in 25 states. The incarcerated workers have a point, despite the crimes for they personally have been committed. The system should be stopped, both in America and over here.

I.W.W. Issue Nationwide Call for Prison Strike in America

September 10, 2016

Yesterday, Counterpunch published the call from the I.W.W. Incarcerated Workers’ Organisation Committee calling for a nationwide strike in American prisons against slavery. This is the use of prisoners as unpaid labourers for private companies. The I.W.W. is the syndicalist trade unions, nicknamed the ‘Wobblies’, which was at the forefront of American working class radicalism in the early 20th century. It still exists to day, and has a branch in Bristol, which meets at one of the radical bookshops in Bristol’s Old Market. The call begins

This is a Call to Action Against Slavery in America

In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.

On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.

In the 1970s the US prison system was crumbling. In Walpole, San Quentin, Soledad, Angola and many other prisons, people were standing up, fighting and taking ownership of their lives and bodies back from the plantation prisons. For the last six years we have remembered and renewed that struggle. In the interim, the prisoner population has ballooned and technologies of control and confinement have developed into the most sophisticated and repressive in world history. The prisons have become more dependent on slavery and torture to maintain their stability.

Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.

Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won’t be anymore. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.

This is a call for a nation-wide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on September 9th, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.

The prisoners go on to state that they need popular support on the outside. They describe the impact the slave system in American prisons has on the wider community. Ordinary citizens are arrested and sentenced to prison for the specific purpose of providing unfree labour for these private companies. They also talk about the ‘extra-judicial executions’ of Black Americans, naming a few of the victims. This is related to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, which protests against the complete disregard some members of the American police have for the value of human life in shooting Blacks, regardless of the severity of the crime, or even if there is any crime at all. Several of the victims have been innocent.

To achieve this goal, we need support from people on the outside. A prison is an easy-lockdown environment, a place of control and confinement where repression is built into every stone wall and chain link, every gesture and routine. When we stand up to these authorities, they come down on us, and the only protection we have is solidarity from the outside. Mass incarceration, whether in private or state-run facilities is a scheme where slave catchers patrol our neighborhoods and monitor our lives. It requires mass criminalization. Our tribulations on the inside are a tool used to control our families and communities on the outside. Certain Americans live every day under not only the threat of extra-judicial execution—as protests surrounding the deaths of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and so many others have drawn long overdue attention to—but also under the threat of capture, of being thrown into these plantations, shackled and forced to work.

Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school to prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls. When we abolish slavery, they’ll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves.

I’m quite aware that criminals in the prison system are hardly innocent victims, and that many are guilty of the most vile offences. But in this case, they have a point: they are being used as slave labour for private profit, and this is affecting the wider community. In America, the private prison corporations donate money to the political parties and for the election of judges, so that they will run on a platform of being tough on crime. The local political candidates are effectively bribed to pass laws introducing harsher penalties, and judges are effectively bribed to pass longer sentences. There’s a case in one of Michael Moore’s films, Capitalism: A Love Story, we he discusses the case of a teenage schoolgirl sent to jail for truancy, because the beak was connected to the local prison company, which wanted more slave labour.

Nor is this iniquitous system confined to America. Mike put up a piece several weeks ago, discussing the highly exploitative conditions in private prisons, in which prisoners are used as unfree labour for British companies. Mike made the point that we cannot close our eyes to such exploitation in this country, and claim that it doesn’t happen here. It does. Of course criminals should be punished, but it’s one of the fundamental cornerstones of the concept of justice that the punishment should fit the crime. The exploitation of prisoners as unpaid workers goes directly against this. As a punishment, it’s only an excuse for their exploitation for the profit of big business.

The strike has spread to something like 24 states and 40 prisons all over America, according to a report on Democracy Now! Over on this side of the pond, we need to start thinking about how we can stop the exploitation of prisoners for corporate profit over here.

Vox Political on Chilcot’s Damning Verdict on Blair, and What His Readers Think

July 7, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has reblogged a piece from the Guardian by Owen Jones, laying out how damning the Chilcot report is of Tony Blair and his decision to lead the country into war. Owen Jones is a fine journalist, who clearly and accurately explains the issues. I’ve read and quoted from his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, which is very good, and has rightly received great praise. He also has another book out The Establishment: Who They Are and How They Get Away with it. I’ve been thinking about that one, but have avoided buying it so far on the grounds that it might make me too furious.

Mike also asks what his readers think of the Iraq War. He asks

Do any of you believe the war was justified, as Ann Clwyd still does (apparently)? Have any of you come to believe that? Did you support the war and turn away? Do you think Saddam Hussein had to go, no matter the cost? Do you think the war contributed to the rise of new terrorist groups like Daesh – sometimes called Islamic State – as laid out in the ‘cycle of international stupidity’ (above)? Do you think it didn’t? Do you think Blair wanted a war because they put national politicians on the international stage? Do you think he improved or diminished the UK’s international standing? Do you think the UK has gained from the war, or suffered as a result?

The Issues, Arguments and Demos against the War at its Very Beginning

Okay, at the rest of alienating the many great readers of this blog, I’ll come clean. Back when it first broke out, I did support the war. I can’t be a hypocrite and claim that I didn’t. This was despite many other people around me knowing so much better, and myself having read so much that was against the war. For example, one of the 1.5 million or so people, who marched against the war was my local parish priest. One of my friends was very firmly against the war. I was aware from reading the papers and Lobster that the dodgy dossier was fake, and a piece of propaganda. I also knew from watching Bremner, Bird and Fortune that there was absolutely no connection between Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath regime, which was Arab nationalist, and the militant Islamism of Osama bin Laden, and that absolutely no love was lost between the two. And as the war dragged on, I was aware from reading Private Eye how so much of it was driven by corporate greed. The Eye ran a piece reporting on how Bush had passed legislation, which gave American biotech companies the rights to the country’s biodiversity. The Fertile Crescent in the Middle East in Turkey, Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt and what is now Israel, as well as Arabia and Iran, was the location for the very first western civilisations. Iraq, Syria and Turkey, I believe, were the very first centres where humans settled down and started domesticating wheat. The ancient grains that supported these primitive communities, like emmer and so on, still exist in abundance in these countries, along with other crops and plants that aren’t grown in the west. They represent a potentially lucrative field for the biotech companies. And so the American biotech corporations took out corporate ownership, meaning that your average Iraqi peasant farmer could be prosecuted for infringing their corporate copyright, if he dared to continue growing the crops he and his forefathers and mothers had done, all the way back to Utnapishtim, Noah and the Flood and beyond. More legal chicanery meant that American corporations could seize Iraqi assets and industries for damages, even if these damages were purely speculative or had not actually occurred. It’s grossly unjust, and aptly illustrates how predatory, rapacious and wicked these multinationals are.

And then there were the hundreds of thousands killed by Islamist militants, Iraqi insurgents, and the bodies of our squaddies coming back in coffins, along with a line of the maimed and mentally scarred.

All this should have been a clear demonstration of how wrong the war was. And it is a clear demonstration of its fundamental wrongness.

Hopes for Democratic Iraq Despite Falsity of Pretext

But I initially supported the war due to a number of factors. Partly it was from the recognition that Saddam Hussein was a brutal thug. We had been amply told how brutal he was around Gulf War I, and in the ten years afterwards he had brutally suppressed further rebellions – gassing the Kurds and murdering the Shi’a. In the aftermath of the invasion, UN human rights teams found the remains of his victims in vast, mass graves. The Financial Times also ran a piece on the massive corruption and brutal suppression of internal dissent within his regime. So it seemed that even if the reason for going to war was wrong, nevertheless it was justified because of the sheer brutality of his regime, and the possibility that a better government, freer and more humane, would emerge afterwards.

That hasn’t happened. Quite the reverse. There is democracy, but the country is sharply riven by ethnic and religious conflict. The American army, rather than acting as liberators, has treated the Iraqi people with contempt, and have aided the Shi’a death squads in their murders and assassinations of Sunnis.

Unwillingness to Criticise Blair and Labour

Some of my support for the war was also based in a persistent, uncritical support for Blair and the Labour party. Many of the war’s critics, at least in the West Country, were Tories. The Spectator was a case in point. It was, at least originally, very much against the war. So much so that one of my left-wing friends began buying it. I was highly suspicious of the Tory opposition to the war, as I thought it was opportunist and driven largely by party politics. When in power, the Tories had been fervently in favour of war and military action, from the Falklands, to Gulf War I and beyond. Given their record, I was reluctant – and still am very reluctant – to believe that they really believed that the war was wrong. I thought they were motivate purely from party interests. That still strikes me as pretty much the case, although I will make an allowance for the right-wing Tory journo, Peter Hitchens. Reading Hitchens, it struck me that his opposition to the war was a matter of genuine principle. He has an abiding hatred of Blair, whom he refers to as ‘the Blair creature’ for sending so many courageous men and women to their deaths. He’s also very much a Tory maverick, who has been censured several times by his bosses at the Mail for what he has said about David Cameron. ‘Mr Slippery’ was one such epithet. Now Hitchen’s doesn’t respect him for liberal reasons. He despises him for his liberal attitudes to sexual morality, including gay marriage. But to be fair to the man, he is independent and prepared to rebel and criticise those from his side of the political spectrum, often bitterly.

The Corrosive Effect of Endemic Political Corruption

My opposition to the war was also dulled by the sheer corruption that had been revealed over the last few decades. John Major’s long administration was notorious for its ‘sleaze’, as ministers and senior civil servants did dirty deals with business and media tycoons. Those mandarins and government officials in charge of privatising Britain’s industries, then promptly left government only to take up positions on the boards of those now private companies. Corporations with a minister or two in their back pocket won massive government contracts, no matter how incompetent they were. And Capita was so often in Private Eye, that the Eye even then was referring to it as ‘Crapita’. Eventually my moral sense was just worn down by it all. The corporate plunder of Iraq just seemed like another case of ‘business as usual’. And if the Tories are just as culpable as Blair and his allies, then there’s no reason to criticise Blair.

The Books and Film that Changed my Attitude to the War

What changed my attitude to the Iraq War was finally seeing Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 on Channel 4, and reading Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse, and the Counterpunch book End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, as well as Bushwhacked, a book which exposes the lies and sheer right-wing corruption of George W. Bush’s administration. Palast’s book is particularly devastating, as it shows how the war was solely motivated by corporate greed and the desire of the Neocons to toy with the Iraqi economy in the hope of creating the low tax, free trade utopia they believe in, with precious little thought for the rights and dignity of the Iraqi people themselves. End Times is a series of article cataloguing the mendacity of the American media in selling the war, US politicians for promoting it, and the US army for the possible murder of critical journalists. Other books worth reading on the immorality and stupidity of the Iraq War include Confronting the New Conservativism. This is a series of articles attacking George W. Bush and the Neocons. Much of them come from a broadly left-wing perspective, but there are one or two from traditional Conservatives, such as female colonel in the Pentagon, who notes that Shrub and his coterie knew nothing about the Middle East, and despised the army staff, who did. They had no idea what they were doing, and sacked any commander, who dared to contradict their stupid and asinine ideology.

And so my attitude to war has changed. And I think there are some vital lessons that need to be applied to the broader political culture, if we are to stop others making the same mistakes as I did when I supported the war.

Lessons Learned

Firstly, when it comes to issues like the invasion of Iraq, it’s not a matter of ‘my party, right or wrong’. The Tories might be opposing the war out of opportunism, but that doesn’t mean that supporters of the Labour party are traitors or somehow betraying the party by recognising that it was immoral, and that some of the Tories, who denounced it did have a point.

Secondly, the cynical attitude that all parties are corrupt, so it doesn’t matter if you turn a blind eye to Labour’s corruption, is also wrong and misplaced. Corruption has to be fought, no matter where it occurs. You almost expect it in the Tory party, which has always had a very cosy attitude towards business. It has much less place on the Left, which should be about defending human rights and those of the weak.

Blair: Liar and War Criminal

And so I fully support the Chilcot report, and Jeremy Corbyn’s denunciations of Blair. He was a war criminal, and surely should have known better never to have become embroiled in the Iraq invasion. I’ve heard the excuse that he joined the war only reluctantly and was a restraining force on George Dubya. It’s a lie. He was eager to join the invasion and get whatever he thought Britain could from the spoils. And the result has been 13 years of war, the destruction and occupation of an entire nation, and the spread of further chaos and bloodshed throughout the Middle East.

Michael Moore’s New Film against US Militarism and Imperialism

June 8, 2016

I don’t know if you’ve seen the posters already, but the Capped Crusader, Michael Moore, has a new film premiering here on Friday. It’s entitled ‘Where To Invade Next’, with slogan ‘Prepare to be Liberated’. Here’s the poster.

Moore Invade Film Pic

I don’t know anything about it, but my guess from simply looking at the poster, is that it’s about America’s wars in the Middle East, and the country’s long history of invading other countries to ‘liberate’ them, which in practice means the exact opposite: installing pliant right-wing dictators to keep the masses down and protect US corporate interests. Like the invasion of the Guatemala that overthrew President Alfredo Benz after he nationalised the banana plantations, which were owned by the US company, United Fruit. The invasion was sold to the American people as a necessary military action to free the country from Communism. Benz, however, was democratic Socialist, not a Communist, and the regime which replaced him was an extreme right-wing military dictatorship, which reduced the peasants on the plantations to virtual slavery. And that’s just one example from a long history of invasion and plunder going back to the 19th century and the war with Spain which gave the US, for a time, the Philippines and Cuba.

Everything Moore does is worth watching, and Moore has rightly won awards for films such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. This one should no be no exception. I don’t go to the cinema all that often, but I’ll try and see if this is playing near me.

Vox Political on the Government’s Privatisation of the Prisons

May 19, 2016

Mike yesterday also put up a piece on Vox Political from the Canary, reporting that the government is planning a stealth privatisation of the prison system. They’re to be transformed into independent ‘reform prisons’, which can set their own wages and conditions for staff and inmates. It’s very much like the government’s stealth privatisation of the schools by transforming them into academies, especially as it’s being done by Michael Gove, the same person, who masterminded the school programme.

The Canary reported:

In the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, the government announced its new prison and courts reform bill. At the heart of the bill is the creation of several new “autonomous reform prisons” which, says the government:

“will give unprecedented freedoms to prison governors, including financial and legal freedoms, such as how the prison budget is spent and whether to opt-out of national contracts; and operational freedoms over education, the prison regime, family visits, and partnerships to provide prison work and rehabilitation services.”

It’s hardly necessary to say that business opportunities and profits also loom large in the Tory plans:

And, as with academies, the prison reforms will open up commercial opportunities for those in charge of them. Prison governors will have “unprecedented operational and financial autonomy”, says David Cameron. They will be given “total discretion over how to spend” their budgets. They will be able to “opt-out of national contracts and choose their own suppliers”. And, just to be clear, “we’ll ensure there is a strong role for businesses and charities in the operation of these Reform Prisons”.

There are a number of privately-run prisons in America, and these have been the subject of a number of scandals. As for-profit institutions, they do exploit prison labour, and lobby lawmakers and judges in their states to pass harsh anti-crime legislation and punishments, which will maximise the number sent to prisons. It’s very much like the old Stalinist system, where the gulags – the forced labour camps to which dissidents were sent – were used to industrialise the USSR. Local industry leaders gave the NKVD a list of the types of workers they needed, and the forerunner of the KGB then came round and arrested a few imperialist/Trotskyist/Fascist running dogs. Exactly the same is going to happen here.

The scandal has been covered by Michael Moore in his film, Capitalism: A Love Story, where he reports on the case of a teenage girl, who was sentenced to prison for what was basically just truancy. The judge, who sentenced her was in the pay of one of the private prison corporations.

And in America, the prisoners themselves have begun to strike back against what they see as their exploitation.

In the piece below from RT, their anchor talks to Jim Del Duca of the Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee about a strike by inmates in a Texas prison against their exploitation. Del Duca explains that the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, did not do so for prisons. They see themselves very much as America’s new slaves. They’re paid 5 cents an hour for their work. This is not for the taxpayer, and the money saved does not go back to the state. Rather, it goes to the private corporations, who use prison labour. These include a wide range of industries, including construction, and the defence industry. Del Duca points out that the defence industry receives vast amounts of government funding and is immensely profitable. For the prisoners themselves, conditions are very different. Del Duca discusses the problem of overcrowding and increasing numbers of prisoners being crammed into gaols that simply weren’t built to hold that number. He also says that phone calls to family are immensely expensive, and if a prisoner wants to make a phone call for medical aid, this will cost him $100.

Finally, they discuss how members of the public can help the striking prisoners. Del Duca and his fellows are members of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies, a documentary on whom I posted up on this blog not so long ago. People can support the strike by joining the union, getting in touch with the striking workers, or simply refusing to buy goods produced by prison slave labour.

I have to say I find the prospect of prisoners going on strike bizarre and faintly comical, like something from some of the comedies of the 1970s commenting on strikes and industrial unrest in that decade. But there are serious issues here about the humane treatment of prisoners, the balance between punishment and rehabilitation, and simply not getting profit through slave labour.

Back in the 1920s the radical playwright and author, Antonin Artaud issued a manifesto for the Surrealists. In it, he urged the people to rise up, and open up the prisons and the lunatic asylums. This is going way too far, and the last thing anyone wants is more thugs, rapists, murderers, muggers, fraudsters and thieves running around. We’ve got far too many of those in the House of Commons as it is. But when faced with the grim exploitation of for-profit private prisons, you can see his point.

Private Eye on the Magistrates’ Partnership with the Private Prisons Companies

April 27, 2016

One of the biggest scandals in America is the relationship between the private prisons companies and legal authorities and local governments. The private prison companies lobby the state legislatures to pass harsher laws, and the judiciary to increase custodial sentencing, all to boost their profits. One of the cases highlighted by Michael Moore in his film, Capitalism: A Love Story, is the case of a troubled teenage girl, who was sent to a private jail by a judge, who was in receipt of monies donated by one of the private prison companies.

According to this last fortnight’s Private Eye, the same has been happening in England. They report that the Magistrate’s Association has been attempting to open a profit-making arm in conjunction with the outsourcing companies that run prisons. After having been criticised for the scheme, the Association is trying to fold it into the Probation Institute, but leaving this corrupt relationship intact.

Here’s the article:

Magistrates

Bendy Beaks

Who is the Magistrates’ Association trying to kid?

Last year it was criticised for getting into bed with the very same private punishment companies which now carry out the sentences imposed by … magistrates. It had set up a commercial wing, the MA Education and Research Network, as part of an “income generation strategy”. Alas, three of its funding partners were the French multinational Sodexo, US import MCT Novo, and Working Links – all of which, thanks to former justice secretary Chris Grayling, now profit from carrying out court punishments.

The move troubled some at the top of the MA as well as its rank and file; and after the Eye highlighted concerns over conflicts of interest, sources told the Eye that there were plans to close the network. But when asked if it would therefore return members’ money used as seed funding, MA communications director Jason Hughes said, on 4 December last year: “There are no plans to close down the network. Your question regarding seed funding is therefore redundant.”

But the Eye has now been leaked minutes from an MA board meeting held two days earlier, on 2nd December, showing a weaselly plan to distance the MA from the scheme. In the minutes, chief executive Chris Brace said the board had decided to dissolve the network and that it would be “incorporated” into the Probation Institute. Among the reasons cited were negative publicity, allegations about compromising justice and judicial independence, and the amount of time spent on “reputational management”.

Troubled members of the MA should know what this means. As Hughes now explains: “The network was incorporated into the Probation Institute; it therefore exists (not closed) with a different ownership and governance structure – however, the objectives are maintained. The legal vehicle by which it was subsidiary of the Magistrates Association has been dissolved, as per the minutes. The [seed] funding … has been allocated to setting up the new initiative and into research about the treatment of women in the criminal justice system.” (Readers may recall that “women in the justice system” were hastily added to its initial research plans after the Eye questioned why its first year was to be focused on “technology” – an obvious commercial interest.)

The Probation Institute website declares that this “new joint Probation and Judicial Matters Professional Network … will include magistrates, probation and … rehabilitation practitioners” – ie, Sodexo et al. The venture is “an evolution of the work that has already taken place within the association’s Education and Research Network”, and aims at “identifying priority areas of research which the two organisations should promote, and to facilitate and encourage contributions from funder”. New name, new legal governance – same old tricks?

If the MA hope this would head off criticism, it hasn’t. Frances Crook, of the Howard league, said: “Taking substantial sums of money from companies delivering sentences calls into question the independence and integrity of the Magistrates Association. Now would be the time to repay the money and be honest with its members about this unfortunate relationship.” (Private Eye, 15th – 28th April, 39).

The relationship between the Magistrates Association and the private prisons industry would have confirmed to anarchists like Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Malatesta not only the basic injustice of the state, but also its links to exploitative capitalism. With a fund-raising network like that, you can understand why the Surrealists, in the first issue of their magazine, demanded that the prisons should be opened and the convicts released. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s a recipe for terrible miscarriages of justice and bring the British legal system into severe disrepute.