Posts Tagged ‘Neoliberalism’

Oprah Winfrey: The Corporate Democrat’s Choice to be the Next Presidential Candidate

January 16, 2018

The corporatist, Clintonite wing of the Democrats has looked at the success of Donald Trump, and drawn precisely the wrong lesson from it. They concluded that after a millionaire reality TV star won the Republican nomination and then the presidency, what they had to do was field their own millionaire TV star as a candidate. And in this instance, they’ve decided that this candidate might be Oprah Winfrey. The idea’s gone over well too in the press on this side of the Atlantic. The ‘Opinion Matrix’ column in the ‘I’ newspaper quoted two newspapers raving about what a wonderful idea this would be.

In this clip from The Jimmy Dore Show, Dore and his co-host, Ron Placone, talk about why Oprah would be a terrible candidate. There’s a lot in there, but essentially the argument is very simple.

They quote a long article from the Guardian, one of the few newspapers, which doesn’t think it’s a good idea to choose Oprah. This points out that the problems afflicting ordinary working Americans come from the very nature of free market capitalism. People are becoming poorer and more insecure because of the destruction of what remained of the American welfare net, outsourcing, privatisation, low wages and job insecurity. All of these need to be tackled.

But this is precisely what Oprah will not do. She’s another neoliberal, who believes that it’s not the system that needs to be changed, but you. If you look inside yourself, you can improve your place in society, and rise up to be anything you want. It’s a reassuring message for some people, as it tells them that America is still the land of opportunity. Even though it isn’t, and hasn’t been for a very long time. Way back in the 1990s there was little difference between social mobility in the UK and the US. An article commenting on this in the Financial Times made this point, and argued that what gave American society its attractive power was the myth that it was, that ordinary people could still move up to be president, or a company director, or whatever. This is now no longer true, and in fact there’s greater social mobility in Europe.

This explains why Oprah’s so attractive to the corporate elites. She’s a black woman, so if she got the presidency, it would be a symbolically liberal gesture. Just like Killary and her team were arguing that the election of Clinton would be a victory for all women. Even though Clinton has done and would do nothing for America’s working people, and especially not women, who do the lowest paid work. It was all identity politics, with Killary claiming to be the outsider because she was a woman. Even though she’s in the pocket of Wall Street and other corporations, and as thoroughly corporate and corrupt as any of them. But if you didn’t back her, and instead chose Bernie, who actually stood for policies that will benefit America’s working people, you were automatically smeared as a ‘misogynist’. This included women voters, who, La Clinton declared, were only doing what their husbands and boyfriends told them.

The same’s going to be the case with Oprah Winfrey. It’s more identity politics, even though identity politics didn’t work with Clinton, and they probably won’t work with Oprah. Winfrey offers ordinary working Americans nothing, which is presumably why the corporate press in Britain was raving about what a good candidate she is. All the billionaires now owning papers, who don’t pay tax in this country, are presumably salivating at the thought of another president, who’ll do just what business leaders tell them.

As for what effect her presidency will have on Black Americans, you only have to look at Barack Obama to see that this prospects aren’t good. Despite all the racist screaming from the Republicans that Obama was an anti-White racist, who was planning to exterminate White Americans, Obama in many ways was a completely unremarkable, corporate politico. And he did precious little to solve the various problems facing Black communities in America. Oprah will be exactly the same, only the poverty will be worse. Economists have looked at the decline in the household wealth of working Americans. This has declined drastically. But the decline in White household wealth is nowhere as severe as that experienced by Black families. It’s been estimated that in a few years, their average household wealth will be $8.

Oprah has nothing to say to that. Absolutely nothing. Except that people should look inside themselves, believe in themselves, work hard and then magically their dreams will come true.

Except we live in a harsh, cruel neoliberal corporate hell, rather than the dream reality held out by corporate shills like Killary.

And domestic poverty isn’t the only reason why Oprah would be an awful president. She’s another hawk in foreign policy. In this clip from the Sam Seder’s Majority Report, they comment on a piece in her show where she promotes the invasion of Iraq, repeating the lie that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

Hussein didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. There was no connection between him and Osama bin Laden. It was a Likudnik and Neocon lie to invade Iraq, steal their oil and plunder their state industries. The result has been chaos and mass death, carried out not just by Sunni insurgents, but also by the mercenaries under General McChristal, who was running death squads against the Shi’a.

If Oprah gets in, there’ll be more wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, as the American military machine keeps demanding more conflict and more funding.

Now I’ve nothing against Oprah Winfrey personally. She’s glamorous, intelligent and a genial TV host. But that’s all she is. In terms of policies, she offers absolutely nothing to ordinary Americans, except more corporatism, bigger profits for the rich, and more poverty and exploitation for the poor, including and especially Black Americans. And as far as foreign policy goes, she’s a danger to world peace. The Iraq invasion destroyed one of the most successful secular states in the Middle East, where women were safe to hold jobs outside the home, into a sectarian bloodbath. All for the profit of multinational corporations.

But I don’t doubt that if ordinary Americans don’t vote for her, the Democrat propaganda machine will vilify them, just as they smeared everyone who voted for Bernie against Killary. If you don’t vote Oprah, they’ll scream, you’ll be a racist and a misogynist. And no doubt Blacks will be told that they’re all ‘Uncle Toms’ and ‘housen****ers doing what Massah tells them. All while the Black, female candidate doesn’t care a jot about doing anything practical to help working Americans with their real problems, but just promotes the neoliberal myth of American social mobility. While seeing that the corporate rich get even richer, of course.

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The Feminist Arguments against the Metoo Activism at the Golden Globes

January 15, 2018

Last Sunday, 7th January 2018, was the Golden Globes. This got on the news around the world, not just because of the coverage of which actors and films were given awards, but because the female actors wore black in solidarity with all the women, who had suffered sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation. This culminated in one of the leading actors at the ceremony announcing that Hollywood’s ladies would stand in solidarity with every woman, who had suffered such sexual abuse and assault, and that they would be dedicating a special fund to help poor women sue their abusers.

Coming after the scandals about Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes and others at Fox News, including its long running host, Bill O’Reilly, such an announcement is clearly well meant, and for many women facing the cost of having to drag their abuser, who is probably their boss, through the courts, the prospect of being able to get some money from a charity dedicated to helping them would surely be welcome. But not all women, and not all feminists, saw it quite like that.

Roza Halibi in Counterpunch and the Sane Progressive on YouTube both put up pieces about it, criticising the move. Many women, including the French actress Catherine Deneuve, are critical of the #Metoo movement as they feel it demonises men. All men are now being viewed as sexual predators, real or potential. They also object to the way distasteful and unpleasant forms of sexual contact – like the boss with wandering hands – has been lumped in and conflated with far more serious forms of sexual abuse, like rape and women being told that if they don’t sleep with their boss, they’ll lose their jobs. Groping is unpleasant and humiliating, and it’s quite right that there should be a campaign to stop it. But it’s not at the same level as the other two.

They also found the stance of the individual actresses involved in the speech and this display of solidarity hypocritical. Weinstein’s behaviour was known for years by people within Hollywood, including Meryl Streep. And at the time they kept their mouths firmly shut. Some of this might have been because Weinstein was a powerful man, and no matter how respected and successful they were as ‘A’ list actors, he could have the power to destroy their careers, as he threatened numerous aspiring actresses if they wouldn’t sleep with him. But some of it no doubt was also the attitude of the time, to put up with it regardless.

But there’s also an attitude that the speeches against sexual harassment and exploitation were also a form of faux feminism, by rich, entitled women, who were trying to appropriate the protests by ordinary, middle and lower class women. Critics like the Sane Progressive and Halibi have argued that the successful protests always come from below. They are won by ordinary working people standing up for themselves and demanding further rights and change. They are not achieved by members of the upper classes deciding that they will charitably act as the saviours of the lower orders. The #Metoo activism at the Golden Globes represents very rich, entitled women trying to take control of a protest by their sisters lower down the social scale, and wrest it away from any meaningful challenge to a corrupt system as a whole.

The same critics have also made the point that the #Metoo activism has also acted as a diversion. Sexual abuse is only part of a whole series of problems corporate capitalism is inflicting on American society. This includes mass poverty and starvation, the further denial of rights to low paid workers, Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and destroy Medicare, the destruction of the environment, and the political paralysis caused by a corrupt party system taking money and its orders from wealthy donors in big business, rather than acting in the interests of ordinary citizens. All of these issues need tackling, but the leadership of the Democrat party has become, under the Clintons and Obama, as thoroughly corporatist as the Republicans, and has no interest in tackling these issues. That would harm the interests of their donors in big business. So they make symbolic liberal gestures. Like Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency last year. Her policies were more neoliberalism, corporate greed, and aggressive militarism. For ordinary Americans she offered nothing but more poverty and exploitation. But she claimed that, because she was female, she was somehow an outsider, and that a victory for her would thus be a victory for women. Even though, as the lowest paid group, women would have suffered the most from a Clinton presidency. If you didn’t vote for Clinton, you were automatically a misogynist. And if you were a woman, and didn’t vote for her, she and her followers denied it was because you had opinions of your own. Rather, you were just doing what your husband or boyfriend told you. So much for Clinton believing in women’s independence and their agency as human beings.

But this experience of a very rich, entitled woman trying to make herself appear liberal when she was anything but, has clearly coloured some left-wing and feminist attitudes in America towards other attempts by the rich to embrace or promote left-wing causes. Clinton’s liberalism was a fraud, and so some people are suspicious that the actresses stressing their commitment to rooting out sexual abuse are less than wholehearted in their determination to ending the general poverty, exploitation and other issues plaguing American society. And just as the corporate Democrats are desperate to take power away from the real radical left, like Bernie Sanders, so these ladies are trying to take power away from ordinary women, determined to solve the problem their own way. Because this challenges their position in society and their political influence as arbiters and spokespeople of the nation’s conscience.

Now I think the #metoo speeches were well meant, regardless of the possible hypocrisy of some of the actresses involved, and hopefully some women will benefit from the money available to sue their abusers. But the Guardian’s Marina Hyde a few years ago wrote a book, Celebrity: How Entertainers Took Over the World And Why We Need an Exit Strategy, pointing out numerous instances where Hollywood celebs decided to take over a cause, only to make the situation worse. There’s a very good case to be made against such Hollywood activism. And this problem may well become more acute, as more celebs decide to promote symbolic issues, while leaving the other problems affecting ordinary people untouched.

Torquemada: 2000 AD’s ‘Ultimate Fascist’ and a Prediction of the Rise of the Brextremists, Kippers and Trump

December 31, 2017

As you’ve probably gather from reading my previous posts about art robot Kevin O’Neill, I was and am a big fan of the ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip that ran in 2000 AD from 1980 through the 1990s. The villain of the piece was Torquemada, the former chief of the Tube police on an Earth thousands of years in the future. Outraged by the interbreeding between humans and their alien subjects, Torquemada overthrew the last, debauched emperor, founding an order of viciously genocidal knights, the Terminators. The construction of the linked White and Black Hole bypasses, giving Earth instant access to the Galaxy, also created terrible temporal catastrophes, resulting in creatures from even further into the future appearing in the present. These included the terrible gooney birds, giant predatory Concorde aircraft, which fed on the trains and anything else that travelled over Earth’s devastated surface. Torquemada and his Terminators blamed these disasters on aliens, killed human scientists and engineers, leading humanity into a new Dark Age. The Human race retreated underground, where the Terminators told them they would be safe from the terrible aliens threatening them. Terra was renamed ‘Termight’ – ‘Mighty Terra’, though Mills also gave it the name because the underground society resembled a massive termites’ nest. And Torquemada set up a corrupt, Fascistic, quasi-feudal society, which also included Orwellian elements from the classic 1984.

Pitched against Torquemada was the hero, Nemesis, an alien warlock. Horned and hooved, with magical powers, he resembled the Devil, and at one point, in conversation with his mad, cruel uncle Baal, he explicitly states that his powers are satanic. Nemesis is also the head of Credo, a human resistance movement dedicated to overthrowing Torquemada and restoring freedom and interspecies tolerance to Earth. Also resisting humanity’s aggressive expansion and extermination of other intelligent races were the Cabal, an alliance of various alien worlds.

The strip was possibly one of the weirdest 2000 AD had run, and was too weird for editor Kevin Gosnell, who hated it. But it was massively popular, at one point even rivalling the mighty Judge Dredd. Torquemada became British comics’ most popular villain, winning that category in the Eagle Award four years in a row. He was so popular that in the end I heard that they stopped submitting or accepting the character, in order to let others have a chance.

Torquemada speaks on the radio, in the strip that launched the character and Nemesis, ‘Going Underground’.

Looking back, I have mixed feelings about the strip. I still like it, but I’m not entirely comfortable with a hero, who has explicitly satanic characteristics, nor the villains, who are very much in the style of medieval Christian crusaders. Mills and O’Neill had had the misfortune to suffer brutal Roman Catholic education, and Mills states that where he grew up, everyone involved in the Roman Catholic establishment was corrupt. Everyone. They poured everything they hated about the bigotry and cruelty they had seen and experienced into the strip.

From a historians’ perspective, it’s not actually fair on the Roman Catholic church. Yes, medieval Christianity persecuted Jews, heretics and witches, and warred against Islam. But the great age of witch-hunting was in the 17th century, and cut across faith boundaries. Prof. Ronald Hutton, a History lecturer at Bristol Uni, who has studied the history of witchcraft and its modern revival – see his book Triumph of the Moon – has pointed out that the German Protestant states killed more witches than the Roman Catholics. And those accused of witchcraft in Italy had far better legal protection in the 16th century than those in Henry VIII’s England. You had a right to a lawyer and proper legal representation. If you couldn’t afford one, the court would appoint one for you. Torture was either outlawed, or very strictly regulated. There was a period of 50 years when the Holy Office was actually shut, because there were so few heretics and witches to hunt down.

As for the equation between medieval Roman Catholicism and Fascism, a graduate student, who taught medieval studies got annoyed at this glib stereotype. it kept being repeated by their students, and was historically wrong. This student came from a Protestant background, but was more or less a secular atheist, although one who appreciated the best of medieval Christian literature.

Underneath the personal experiences of Mills and O’Neill, the strip’s depiction of a future feudal society was also influenced by Protestant anti-Catholic polemic, and the theories of the 19th century French liberal, anti-Christian writer, Charles Michelet. It was Michelet, who first proposed that the witch-hunts were an attempt by patriarchal Christianity to wipe out an indigenous, matriarchal folk paganism. It’s a view that has strongly influenced feminist ecopaganism, although academic scholars like Hutton, and very many pagans have now rejected it as historically untrue.

The robes and masks worn by the Terminators recalled not only those worn by Spanish Catholic penitents during the Easter Day processions, but also the Klan, who are an Protestant organisation, which hates Roman Catholics as well Jews and Blacks.

There’s also the influence of John Wyndham’s classic SF novel, The Chrysalids. This is set in Labrador centuries in the future, after a nuclear war has devastated much of the world, except for a few isolated spots of civilisation. Society has regressed to that of 17th century Puritanism. The survivors are waging a war to restore and maintain the original form of their crops, animals and themselves. Mutants, including humans, are examined and destroyed at birth. As with the Terminators, their clothing is embroidered with religious symbols. In this case a cross. Just as Torquemada denounces aliens as ‘deviants’, so do the leaders of this puritanical regime describe human mutants. And like the pro-alien humans in Nemesis, a woman bearing a mutant child is suspected and punished for her perceived sexual deviancy.

In fact, the underlying anti-religious, anti-Christian elements in the strip didn’t bother me at the time. Mike and myself went to an Anglican church school here in Bristol, though the teaching staff also included people from other Christian denominations such as Methodism and Roman Catholicism. They had a real horror of sectarian bigotry and violence, sharpened by the war in Northern Ireland, and were keenly aware that Christians had done terrible things in the name of religion. I can remember hearing a poem on this subject, The Devil Carried a Crucifix, regularly being recited at school assembly, and the headmaster and school chaplain preaching explicitly against bigotry. At the same time, racial prejudice was also condemned. I can remember one poem, which denounced the colour bar in one of its lines, repeatedly turning up in the end of year services held at the church to which the school was attached.

I also have Roman Catholic relatives and neighbours, who were great people. They were committed to their face, but also bitterly opposed to sectarian bigotry and violence. And the Roman Catholic clergy serving my bit of Bristol were decent men and women, though some of those in other areas were much more sectarian. I’ve Protestant friends, who went on to study RE at a Roman Catholic college. Their experience was not Mills’ and O’Neill’s, though I also had relatives, who were estranged from the Church because they had suffered the same kind of strict, and violently repressive Roman Catholic education that they had.

But Torquemada and the Terminators were far from being a veiled comment on atrocities committed by medieval Roman Catholicism. Torquemada modelled himself on Tomas de Torquemada, the leader of the Spanish Inquisition, whose bloody work he so much admired. But he also explicitly styled himself as the supreme Fascist. By fostering humanity’s hatred of aliens, he hoped to unite the human race so that they didn’t fight each other over differences in colour. But the character was also supposed to be the reincarnation of every persecuting bigot in European and American history. In one story, Torquemada becomes seriously ill, breaking out in vast, festering boils, because Nemesis’ lost son, Thoth, has used the tunnels dug by the Tube engineers to channel away the destructive energies of the White and Black Hole bypasses, to travel backwards in time to kill Torquemada’s previous incarnations. These include Adolf Hitler, natch, one of the notoriously murderous American cavalry officers, responsible for the butchery of innocent indigenous Americans in the Indian Wars, and finally Torquemada himself. Torquemada therefore travelled back in time to confront his former incarnation, and save himself from Thoth.

This was followed by another story, in which Torquemada himself travelled forward to the 20th century. Infected with time energy, Torquemada caused temporal disruptions and catastrophes in the London of the present. He found himself a job as a rack-renting landlord, before founding a Fascist political party. Using Brits’ fears that these disasters were caused by aliens, he became a successful politician and was elected to Number 10.

And one of Torque’s previous incarnations, recovered by Brother Mikron, his pet superscientist, using advanced technological hypnotic regression, was very familiar to British readers with an awareness of the history of Fascism in their country.

Torquemada as Hitler, and very Mosley-esque British Far Right politician. From Prog 524, 30th May 1987.

In the above page, Brother Mikron recovers Torquemada’s past incarnation as Hitler, but only after encountering a later incarnation, in which Torquemada was Sir Edwin Munday, the British prime minister, and leader of the New Empire Party. Munday/Torquemada goes off an a rant on public television, shouting

‘I’ll solve the youth problem! We’ll make our children respectable again! – with compulsory short back and sides! The return of National Service! Order and discipline’.

His name clearly recalls that of the far right, anti-immigration Monday Club in the Tory party, which was at the centre of continuing scandals during the 70s and 80s over the racism of some of its members, the most notorious of whom was Thatcher’s cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit. As a member of the aristocracy, Munday also draws on Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists and later Fascist movements.

Mosley unfurling his Fascist banner in the ’30s.

The rhetoric about youth is also very much that of the Tories around Maggie Thatcher, who really didn’t like long-haired liberals, hippies, punks and the other youth movements, who had sprung up at the time. They were calling for the return of National Service to stop the rise in youth crime and delinquency.

And this is now very much the attitude of the Kippers and Brextremists over here, who really do hanker after the old days of the British Empire, with all its pomp and authoritarianism. The last thing that incarnation of Torquemada says is

‘We’ll make our country great again!’

This is also based on the rhetoric of the Tories at the time, in which Thatcher was credited with turning around Britain’s decline and restoring her to her glory. In the general election that year, the Tory party election broadcasts showed old footage of Spitfires and Hurricanes racing around the sky shooting down Nazi planes, while an overexcited actor exclaimed ‘It’s great – to be great again!’

No, she didn’t make us great. She wrecked our economy and welfare state, and sold everything off to foreign firms, all the while ranting hypocritically about how she represented true British patriotism.

But it also recalls Trump’s rhetoric last year, during his election campaign. When he announced ‘We’ll make America great again!’ And he’s gone on to use the same neoliberalism as Reagan, Thatcher, and successive Democrat and New Labour leaders, backed with racist rhetoric and legislation supported by White supremacists.

Torquemada was one of 2000 AD’s greatest comments on sectarian bigotry and racism, with Torquemada as its very explicit symbol. Even after three decades, it’s central message about the nature of Fascism, imperialism and colonialism, and the western hankering for its return, remains acutely relevant.

Update on Planned Book on Western Support for Fascist Dictators

December 24, 2017

Okay, a few months ago, Florence, one of the many great commenters on this blog, suggested I should write a book detailing the West’s support for the Fascist dictators that have plagued this planet and its people since the Cold War, as part of the campaign against the Soviet Union and Communism. She felt this was important, as many people on the left came to their political consciousness through campaign against such monsters as General Pinochet, and the institutionalised racist oppression of apartheid in South Africa. That has vanished, but class apartheid still remains, as explained by John Pilger in a recent interview on RT, and is still very much alive and used against the Palestinians in Israel. Florence wrote

In the early 70s I volunteered to help type up translation transcriptions of reports from torture victims of the “Shit” of Iran, as Private eye called him. (It was as evidence for Amnesty.) Its not something you can ever forget. When the revolution happened, it was simply new bosses at the same slaughter houses. This is another lesson learned; the violence required by a state to terrorise its own people seeps into the culture, and remains for generations (maybe longer, its too early to tell in most of the cases you cover in this interesting and evocative piece). The violence of the state becomes symmetrical in the revolution in many countries, Iran, Iraq, etc. that follows such repression.

(For this reason I also worry that, for example, the almost visceral hatred of the disabled (and other poor) in the UK bred by the eugenics of neoliberalism for decades will not be so easily dislodged with a change in government. )
I see that the experience of having lived through those times is no longer part of the wider political education of the younger members of the left. In Labour the excesses of the neoliberals all but wiped out that generation and the links. I talk sometimes to our younger members in the Labour party and they are fascinated – but totally clueless. I do try to point them at this blog for this very reason. They are oblivious to who Pinochet was, why it mattered to us then and now, the refuge given to that butcher by Thatcher, the entire history of the Chicago school etc. The traditional passing in of this history, personal history too, through social groups in the Labour party has all but broken down.

As a suggestion, perhaps you could edit your blogs into a book we could use in discussion groups? You would help us be that collective memory board for the newer (not just younger) activists. It would help tease out the older members stories of their personal part in the struggles at home and abroad, but more than that your pieces on the collision of religious and political also show the rich complexities of life.

I’ve started work on the book, and collected a number of the posts together in a series of chapters. These will be on:

Introduction and Florence’s request

General US/Western Interference

Pinochet Coup in Chile

Real Reasons for Iraq War

Russia and Ukraine

Gaddafi and Libya

Syria

British Recruitment Nazis, Exploitation of Guyana, planned internment of radicals.

Fake News and Domestic Propaganda, HIGNFY, Andrew Neil

I’ve still got to put them in some kind of narrative order, to they make a kind of progressive sense to the reader, rather than being simply jumbled up higgledy-piggledy. Once that’s done, I shall see about putting a cover to it, and sending it to Lulu, if anyone’s interested. Incidentally, my book Privatisation: Killing the NHS, should still be available from them, if anyone’s interested. I don’t know how many copies of this book I’ll sale, but I hope it helps do something to bring down this horrific, murderous wave of neoliberalism imperialism released by George Dubya and Blair, and extended by their successors.

Ken Surin on How Privatisation Wrecked New Zealand’s Electricity Grid

December 14, 2017

Today’s Counterpunch has a very interesting piece by Ken Surin giving his selective impressions of New Zealand. Throughout the article he calls the country by its Maori name, Aotearoa, and part of the article is about the poverty and marginalisation that is particularly experienced by New Zealand’s indigenous people and Pacific Islanders. He begins the article with his reminiscences of on-pitch violence by the county police and county farmers’ teams when he played university rugby back in the ’60s. This has a tenuous connection to the rest of the article as two of his team mates came from the country. He then goes on to discuss the effects of neoliberalism on New Zealand. Reading his article, I got the impression that New Zealand did not suffer as much as other nations from the neoliberal agenda of privatisation, wage restraint, welfare cuts and rampant deregulation. But at the same time, he argues that it hasn’t done as much as it could either to stop and reverse it.

From this side of the Pacific, one of the most interesting pieces of the article is his description of the way privatisation wrecked the New Zealand electricity network when it was introduced, leading to a power outage, or outages, lasting five weeks.

Aucklanders of a certain age remember the Great Power Outage, symptomatic of their country’s dalliance with neoliberalism, that lasted for 5 weeks from late February 1998.

New Zealand’s electric industry had been deregulated, and the company running Auckland’s grid, Mercury Energy, had been formed in 1992. Mercury promptly downsized its workforce from 1,411 to 600, and skimped on cable maintenance to boost profits. At the time of the Great Power Outage, Mercury Energy was also busy trying to take over another electric utility, again to enhance revenues.

One of several assessments of the handling of the Outage by Mercury Energy and the city’s administration described their response, somewhat charitably, as “ad hoc”. They predicated their responses throughout the crisis on best-case scenarios, and were flummoxed when none materialized.

Practical preparation for worst-case scenarios costs money— duh! – and thus erodes profit margins.

Auckland’s electricity was/is supplied by 4 poorly maintained mega-cables (there have been five serious outages since the 1998 crisis), which failed in quick succession.

Traffic lights stopped working, ventilation systems broke down in the southern hemisphere summer, people were trapped for hours in elevators, food rotted in supermarkets, hospitals had to cancel operations, emergency services were put under extreme pressure, workers had to hike up 20 floors in high-rise buildings to get to their offices, and giant generators had to be flown in from Australia to tide the city over while the mega-cables were repaired over the course of the 5 weeks.

Harsh jokes were made about Auckland’s Third World electricity grid. One example: what did Aucklanders use before candles and oil lamps? Answer: electricity.

The mayor, whose city was becoming a laughing stock, and whose competence was questioned as the crisis dragged on, lost his bid for reelection soon afterwards, while Mercury’s CEO died of a heart attack at his desk.

Neoliberalism can be death-dealing, even for its beneficiaries and overseers.

See: https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/14/selective-impressions-of-the-new-zealand-aotearoa-conjuncture/

And other economists have pointed out that neoliberalism has been no more successful elsewhere. The American author of Zombie Economics, a Harvard economist, has pointed out that privatisation has not brought in the investment the electricity industry has needed, and resulted in worse performance than when they were state owned.

The Tories and corporate apologists for private industry like to go on about how terrible the British nationalised industries were in trying to put people off voting for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, who have promised to renationalise electricity and the railway network. A few days ago the I newspaper in their selection of quotes from elsewhere in the press had a paragraph from the Spectator’s Karren Bradey banging on about this, before stating that Corbyn was a ‘Communist’ who was hanging on to an outmoded theory because of ‘weird beliefs’. Which I would say is, with the exception of the term ‘Communist’, a fair description of most Conservatives and other cultists for the free market. They are indeed continuing to support a grotty, failed ideology long past its sell-by date for their own weird reasons. This is an effective rebuttal to their claims.

He also describes how the introduction of neoliberalism into New Zealand wrecked the economy, and created more poverty while cutting taxes for the rich:

The New Zealand economy duly tanked– shrinking by 1% between 1985 and 1992, while productivity stagnated at below 1% between 1984 and 1993, and inflation remained at around 9% a year. Foreign debt quadrupled, and the country’s credit rating was downgraded twice. Taxes were cut for top earners (from 66% to 33%), while benefits were reduced by up to 30% for the poorest families. The number of poor grew by around 35% between 1989 and 1992.

This is exactly what we’ve experienced in this country during these seven years of Tory rule. And New Zealand and Britain aren’t going to be the only nations who’ve suffered these effects. They’re general, right across the globe. Neoliberalism is responsible for these problems. Except if you’re Theresa May and the Tories, who’ll bleat constantly about how all it’s all due to the last, ‘high-spending’ Labour government.

Rubbish. Neoliberalism is an utter and complete failure. It’s promoted by the Tories as it makes the rich even richer while keeping the rest of us poor and desperate. It’s time it was ended and a proper Labour government under Corbyn was elected.

Martin Odoni: Lack of Brexit Impact Assessments Means Government Should Go

December 7, 2017

There were calls last week for David Davis to reveal the 60 or so impact assessments on Brexit, that the government had compiled and was supposed to be suppressing. Davis himself was facing accusations of contempt of parliament for refusing to release them. Now he has revealed that, actually, there aren’t any. Mike over at Vox Political has put up a short piece from Martin Odoni over the Critique Archives, who makes the obvious point: the government is seriously negligent, and should go. The members of every opposition party in parliament should unite and demand their resignation. He makes the point that the referendum was conducted so that Cameron could get the Tory right on board, and that in the 2 1/2 years since it is absolutely disgraceful that the Tories simply haven’t bothered to work out how Brexit would affect Britain.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/07/if-there-are-no-brexit-impact-assessments-the-entire-tory-government-is-grossly-negligent-and-must-go/

I can’t agree more. Every day brings fresh news of how Brexit is damaging Britain’s economy and world status. Today there was a piece on the news reporting that universities are finding it difficult to recruit foreign graduates, thanks to Brexit. We have lost three regulatory bodies to Europe in the past week. Mike has also reported that Britain’s scientists will also losing funding due Brexit, as they will no longer be quite so much a part of the European science infrastructure.

At the same time the Tory right is trying to strip the human rights and workers’ rights legislation out of British law, to make it even easier to fire and exploit British workers. And British businesses are wondering how well they will fare without access to the single market.

Brexit is a mess. And you could tell it was going to be a mess, from the way the Maybot mechanically intoned ‘Brexit means Brexit’ whenever anyone asked her what Brexit meant, all the while staring at the interlocutor as if they, not she, were the stupid one. The Tories have no plan, only slogans and lies. In this case, we’ve seen Michael Gove pop up again and again to give his spiel about how wonderful everything will be after Brexit. As has Young Master Jacob Rees-Mogg. Gove was on the One Show Last Night in an article about the crisis hitting the British fishing industry. And guess what – he said that Britain would once again have the largest, or one of the largest fishing fleets in the world, after Brexit.

As Christine Keeler said all those years ago, well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Many people voted for Brexit because they were genuinely sick and tired of the neoliberal policies forced upon Britain and the other European countries by the EU. This was quite apart from the nationalist and racist fears stoked by UKIP about foreign, and specifically Muslim, immigration.

In fact, Brexit has been promoted by the financial sector and its Tory cheerleaders so that Britain can become another offshore tax haven. It’s part of a very long-standing Tory policy going right back to Maggie Thatcher, that has seen the financial sector given priority over manufacturing. The attitude became official policy under Blair, when it was announced that we shouldn’t try to restore our manufacturing industries, and should concentrate on the financial sector and servicing the American economy.

It’s a profoundly mistaken attitude. Ha-Joon Chang in his books on capitalism states very clearly that manufacturing is still vitally important for the British economy. If it occupies less of the economy, it’s because it hasn’t grown as much as the financial sector. But it’s still the basis of our economy.
But I doubt that will cut much ice with Tory grandees like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who makes his money through investments, rather than actually running a business that actually makes something.

And so the British economy is being wrecked, British businesses are looking at ruin, and British workers looking at precarity and unemployment, because the government in this issue is guided by tax-dodging bankers.

The Tories have been colossally negligent to the point of treating the British public with absolute contempt. Mike and Mr Odoni are absolutely right.

They should resign. Now.

Sam Seder Sacked from MSNBC due to Mike Cernovich’s Smears

December 6, 2017

This is disgusting, but the person causing the outrage and nausea isn’t, or shouldn’t be, Sam Seder.

Sam Seder’s Majority Report is one of the American alternative news shows, whose clips I watch regularly. He’s a genuine liberal, supporting single-payer healthcare and a very trenchant critic of American Conservatism and Fascism. He’s also very critical of Israel and its abuse and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. And like others, who have spoken out about this issue, he’s also suffered the smears and accusations of being ‘anti-Semitic’. Despite the fact that Seder is, by his own admission, very Jewish ‘the most Jewish person you know’. This is almost par for the course. In my posts about the Israel lobby and the anti-Semitism smears, I’ve pointed out again and again how those accused of anti-Semitism because of their principled stance against the massacre and brutalisation of the Palestinians are very frequently self-respecting Jews, both secular and Torah-observant. Indeed, Tony Greenstein and other Jewish activists have stated that the Israel lobby particularly attacks Jews. It wouldn’t surprise me the least if this were true. It’s because Netanyahu and the Likudniks and other racists in the ruling coalition claim to speak for the Jewish people as a whole. And so independent Jews critical of Israel are a threat, because they show this to be a lie.

Apart from his own show, Seder was also a contributor to MSNBC. He has now lost that job, thanks to a Tweet he made back in 2009 sarcastically commenting on others’ defence of Roman Polanski. Polanski has been in exile in Europe ever since he raped a 13 year old girl at a party sometime in the late 1960s. Back in 2009 there were moves to have him extradited and tried for his crime in the US. Seder was annoyed by the attitude of other liberals, who tried to defend Polanski on the grounds of his stature as a great film director. So he sent out a Tweet with the sarcastic comment that he hoped that if his daughter got raped, it would be by someone with a great mise-en-scene. Seder has made it very clear that this was sarcasm, and has previously read out a statement on his show, complete with the other Tweets he posted in that sequence, that make it very clear that he certainly does not approve of rape or the sexual abuse of children.

However, this has not stopped Mike Cernovich, a right-wing troll, claiming that this Tweet shows that Seder does, and so he’s been sacked from MSNBC. There are a number of posts about this from other members of the American alternative news media, like The Young Turks, the David Pakman Show, and so on. In this clip, Seder describes just who Cernovich is. He states that the only person, who agrees with Cernovich’s view is David Duke, and that isn’t an accident. Of course not. Duke was the leader of the Klan in Louisiana, and those who’ve interviewed him, like Cenk Uygur, have described him as the most anti-Semitic person you could meet. Cernovich himself also seems to be very well-disposed to the Nazi right, retweeting all the nonsense about how diversity equals White genocide and so on.

In this clip below, Seder states that Cernovich may actually have done him a favour, as before he got the job with MSNBC he was more angry in his presentation, and rather more entertaining. He also states that he intends to make a documentary about Cernovich, so that the next time Cernovich goes after someone, they can put it up to show what kind of a person he is.

Here’s an earlier video put up by Seder, which explains the Tweet and the circumstances around it, placing it in its proper context.

I’m disgusted by this, as it shows how the right is using the public’s horror of child sexual abuse to smear and close down their critics. Looking at the second video, in which Seder responds to the smear by Cernovich and Sebastian Gorka, it seems to me that this is an attempt by the Republicans to divert attention away from Roy Moore. Moore’s the Republican Senator for Alabama, who has been very credibly accused of a series of sexual assaults, tantamount to attempted rape, on underage girls. So has Cernovich. As Seder points out in the first video, Cernovich was accused of attempting to rape a girl, but managed to bargain it down to battery. So Cernovich has got absolutely no business accusing anyone of sexual abuse.

It also appears that Sebastian Gorka is also involved in this sordid campaign. Gorka was briefly a member of Trump’s cabinet, and likes to style himself as an expert on terrorism. He’s also another individual with extreme right-wing views. He wears the medal of the Vitezi Rend, a right-wing chivalric order founded by the Hungarian dictator, Admiral Horthy, who was responsible for the country’s collusion with the Nazis during World War II and the deportation of its Jewish citizens. Gorka himself has been very active in extreme right-wing Hungarian politics, and was one of the founders of various Fascist, ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic groups and networks. Not that this has stopped him from being welcomed by Netanyahu. He turned up the other year at the Herzliya Conference in Israel, the annual jamboree for the country’s military. As Tony Greenstein pointed out, this was another example of the way Zionists will ally themselves very easily with genuine racists and anti-Semites, when its convenient.

Seder and his co-host, Michael Brooks, who is also Jewish, have had a great time spoofing Gorka and his pretensions. Much of this has been very silly imitations of Gorka’s accent. Gorka spent several years in Britain, and so has a weird accent that’s a mixture of upper-class educated American, BBC British and Hungarian. All mixed in with his own weird diction. This smear by Cernovich and Gorka shows that Seder has drawn blood with his satire and commentary on Conservative political and moral corruption. Especially with those two clowns.

And I hope that this smear won’t deter him or his supporters around the world, and he’ll continue skewering the Republicans, Corporatist Democrats and the neoliberal elites, who are plunging the working people of America and the rest of the world into poverty for a long, long time to come.

The fact that Cernovich and Gorka have gone this low shows that the alternative news media is having an effect. So support them. And make the mainstream media and the racist right afraid. Very afraid.

Congress Revokes RT America’s Press Accreditation

December 1, 2017

The campaign to close down RT America continues. In this piece, the Russian funded network reports on the removal of their press accreditation by the Congressional committee responsible for the press gallery. They have been instructed to hand in their press accreditation and then leave the capitol.

Basically, they’re banned from Congress.

The speakers on the clip point out that this gives the lie to the assurance RT was given a week or so ago, when they were told they had to register as foreign agents, that this would not interfere with their business. They also briefly comment on the lack of support from the professional organisations, that are supposed to be defending press freedom and journalists in America. The presenters note that this came from the Democrats and the Clinton camp trying to divert attention from Killary’s corruption, but it has snowballed, so that now there isn’t anything too wild that can’t be said about RT. For example, the head of NBC declared that RT was like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

They also make the point that very many other countries also have state-funded broadcasters in America. Like the Beeb. Does this mean that the BBC will also have to register as a foreign agent, or have their accreditation revoked?

The presenter then talks about this latest attack on RT with Lionel, of Lionel Media. Lionel remarks on the sheer hysteria behind this move. He also points out that it’s having the opposite effect. Whereas a few years ago he had a hard time telling anyone, who RT was, now everyone knows about it, because it’s constantly being pushed in front of people as a kind of media ‘forbidden fruit’.

The radical journalist, Chris Hedges, once remarked that if you’re a journalist, and the people in power don’t hate you, then you’re not doing your job. Hedges himself certainly did do his job, and suffered from it. He lost his job at the New York Times because he opposed the Iraq War. It’s why he, and very many other journalists, are at RT.

Abby Martin, who presents the Empire Files on TeleSur English, was also at RT. She has said in an interview on the Jimmy Dore Show that she never said anything in praise of Putin, but was there simply because there was nowhere else to go. And that was true of very many of the broadcaster’s staff. RT had many leftists and Socialists working for it, not because they were fans of Putin, but because it was the only network that allowed them to express their opinions.

She also made the point that she saw the attack on RT coming way back in 2007 when the Conservative establishment and the news media began attacking Al-Jazeera as foreign propaganda.

This isn’t about foreign propaganda. This is about clamping down on free speech. The Republicans and Corporatist, Clintonite Democrats hate RT because it covers the issues that the mainstream media doesn’t, and shows the bitter reality of neoliberal policies in America: the rising mass poverty, the misery and deaths caused by lack of affordable healthcare, the massive political corruption caused by corporate political funding, the destruction of America’s beautiful natural environment through fracking and the oil industry; racism and Black Lives Matter, and the horrors and atrocities committed by American imperialism.

It’s because RT covers these issues, that Congress wants to close it down. And as Martin and Dore point out, once they’ve finished with RT, they’ll go after the other news media, even the mainstream networks.

Donald Trump has said several times that he’d like to suspend the broadcasting license of those networks that criticise him, like MSNBC. Congress’ removal of RT’s press accreditation just brought that highly illiberal, dystopian possibility just a bit closer.

Susan Sarandon Attacked and Abused for Criticising Hillary

November 29, 2017

This comes from The Hollywood Reporter, and discusses an interview in the Groaniad on the 27th November 2017 with the actress Susan Sarandon. Sarandon’s no fan of Hillary Clinton, and very publicly said on interviews and talk shows that they she preferred Bernie Sanders. She criticised Killary for not backing the $15 minimum wage, for taking money from the fracking companies, and for supporting the privatisation and the wars, the costs of which have been used to deny Americans proper, affordable healthcare.

In the interview with the Guardian, she states that, had Hillary won, we would probably be at war now, and points to all the highly dodgy stuff Obama did, that people are only just finding out about.

She also talked about how she suffered terrible, misogynistic abuse from people on the left, who personally blamed her for Killary losing to the orange Fascist. She said that she had people telling her that they hoped she had her crotch grabbed, or that she was raped, as well as other abuse and death threats.

I think actually Sarandon may well be right, and that had Killary won she may well have pitched us all into another war. She’s a die-hard Russophobe, and was ramping up tensions with Putin and China before she decided that the best way to divert attention from her corruption and that of the DNC was to blame Russian hackers for WikiLeaks getting hold of the incriminating documents.

What also makes this interesting is the misogynistic abuse she received for not backing Hillary. Hillary was trying to position herself as a feminist everywoman, and that somehow a victory for her would somehow be a victory for every woman in America. If not on planet Earth. This was despite the fact that she stood for the very policies that hurt the poor, and particularly women. Like the lack of free healthcare. Women tend to work in the lowest-paid jobs, and so are particularly affected by the neoliberal policies enthusiastically embraced by the Clintons, which have made poverty worse.

However, anyone, who refused to vote for Clinton was automatically vilified as ‘sexist’ and ‘misogynist’ by Killary and her supporters. They falsely claimed that there was a group of Bernie’s supporters, the Bernie Bros, who were subjecting Killary and her gang to sexist abuse. That was a lie. And the New Labour gang over here tried to do the same with our version of Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn. There were endless articles in the Guardian and the I trying to claim that it would be sexist to vote for Corbyn, because he was Old Labour. And so represented the return of male-dominated trade unions. There was even one ludicrous letter published in one of the papers, which tried to claim that Corbyn and Bernie had to be sexist and homophobic, because they dressed in old fashioned, baggy-style clothes. That one got into ‘Pseud’s Corner’ in Private Eye. The pundits of the Graon and the I were bitterly disappointed by the lack of a female candidate in the Labour leadership elections, who stood any chance of winning. Their favourites were women like Rachel Reed, neoliberal entryists, who stood four-square behind Blair’s policies of privatisation and destroying the welfare state. These are policies that, like those in Clinton’s America, have made conditions much worse for the poor and women in particular, for exactly the same reasons. But that didn’t matter, because they were women, and so somehow voting for them was supposed to be a great feminist victory. Even if they did nothing for ordinary women, and everything for big business.

The stories about misogyny and sexist abuse from Sanders’ and Corbyn’s supporters were just lies. But I’ve no doubt that the sexist and misogynist abuse Sarandon got from Killary’s was very real. And I doubt she was the only one. Abby Martin, the very professional, incisive presenter of the Empire Files on TeleSur English, has also said in an interview that she was called a ‘traitor’ by Killary’s supporters, because she refused to vote for her. I think like Sarandon she ended up voting for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. The Killary camp also tried to explain away Hillary not winning the votes of masses of America’s women by saying that they were told not to vote for her by their boyfriends. Which Martin points out also denies women their agency. I also think it’s massively unlikely. There may well be women, who vote according to the wishes of their husbands or boyfriends. But there are also an awful lot of independent women, who won’t and don’t. And my guess is that the latter are in the majority. Also, there’s another sexist slur in there: that men were opposed to Hillary simply because of her gender, and not because of the issues. That’s true of some, no doubt, especially in the more Conservative parts of America. But I’ve also no doubt that many men didn’t vote for Killary because of her corrupt policies and her personal greed and sense of entitlement.

This piece therefore shows another dimension to Hillary and her supporters. Not only are they corrupt warmongers, who favour the rich against the poor, but they’re also hypocrites, subjecting their own opponents to the very misogynist abuse they falsely claim that they have been subject to.

RT Report on Food Bank Donations Placed Outside Downing Street in Protest against Universal Credit

November 22, 2017

This is another excellent piece of reporting from RT, and shows why we need the Russian-owned station to provide us with the news that the mainstream channels won’t give us.

In this short segment, RT’s Laura Smith covers a protest by the People’s Assembly against the planned roll-out of Universal Credit to even more areas. The organisation has stacked some of the food donated to it outside Downing Street to call attention to the way Universal Credit is forcing more people into poverty. UC is supposed to make the benefit system simpler by rolling six benefits into one, but delays can mean that it is up to six weeks before claimants receive any money.

Smith also interviews the spokesman for the People’s Assembly, Sam Fairbairn, who states that the extension of UC across even more parts of the UK will throw an extra 30,000 people into poverty, while the clip also shows headlines predicting that as many as half a million people more could be forced to use food banks. The organisation has chosen today to make the protest as Philip Hammond will announce his new budget tomorrow. Fairbairn states that the existence of such poverty is not acceptable in Britain, one of the richest countries in the world. He states that the government should either get rid of Universal Credit, or get out.

Mike over at Vox Political has also covered this, and included RT’s video. He remarks that he hasn’t found anything about the protest in the mainstream press, with the exception of the Metro. He also jokes that he’s not sure that the Tories will understand the message. Theresa May will probably take it as meaning that the food can be used for the next time she goes for a banquet with Murdoch or Dacre.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/11/21/food-bank-donations-dumped-at-downing-street-door-in-budget-protest/

Universal Credit was, of course, the big idea of Ian Duncan Smith, who boasted that it would be the greatest strategy to raise people out of poverty since William Wilberforce ended the slave trade in the British Empire. Which shows the sheer, colossal vanity of the man.

And I don’t believe for a single minute that the problems with Universal Credit and the various snags and delays in paying it to those claiming it are remotely accidental. The Tories have said time and again that they believe in making the process of claiming benefits as painful and humiliating as possible in order to force people off welfare and into work. Or rather, just off welfare. The neoliberal and Monetarist economics they follow demand a ‘reserve army’ of the unemployed to keep wages down by making sure that jobs are actually in short supply. Thus we have something like 4 million jobless, but for the sake of his political career the Tories have to lie about the figures being much less. This explains why Philip Hammond appeared on TV on Sunday to claim that Britain ‘had no jobless’.

I am also not remotely surprised that none of the mainstream media, with the exception of the Metro, are covering this. The right-wing media really wouldn’t want to, as they’re probably acutely aware how weak and fragile May’s position actually is. For all the Tories’ criticism of her leadership, they have no desire to see her fall just yet, and take the rest of the current Tory government with her.

As for the BBC, the Corporation has consistently tried to avoid reporting on protests against the Conservative governments. It even managed to ignore one, that occurred right outside its front door when David Cameron was in power a couple of years ago. This was a protest by a crowd of several tens of thousands. But it didn’t appear on the broadcast news. It was, however, mentioned on the Beeb’s news website, so they could claim that they had covered it.

As I’ve mentioned many times previously, the Beeb’s management is very solidly composed of White, public-school, Oxbridge educated men, and there is a very strong Conservative bias at the Corporation. You only have to consider the very anti-Labour bias of ‘Goebbels’ Nick Robinson and ‘Arnalda Mussolini’ Kuenssberg. Years ago Private Eye reviewed Robin Day’s autobiography, Grand Inquisitor. Day was, or had been, the corporation’s main political interviewer. The Eye remarked that while Day was keen to present himself as a fearless journalist holding the government and civil servants to account, in reality his instincts were to side with the government and authority against criticism and protest. The BBC is the state broadcaster, and it sees itself very much as one of the country’s great, central institutions. While it’s supposed to be impartial, it does have an institutional bias towards established authority. And it’s refusal to cover anti-government protests properly seems to indicate that this bias is such that it seems to look upon such protests as something close to subversion. Any act of mutiny against established authority, which should not be indulged, but ignored or suppressed as quickly as possible.

RT is under concerted attack in America, where the current ruling elites are bitterly hostile because of the way it covers domestic discontent, and poverty and injustice within America itself. It’s also being used by Killary’s team as a convenient scapegoat for her failure to gain the American presidency against Trump. And so Republicans and corporatist Democrats are claiming that the protests and demonstrations that have taken place across America, including movements like Black Lives Matter and the Take The Knee protest by NFL players, aren’t genuine, authentic demonstrations of popular anger, but all stirred up by RT, which just disseminates propaganda for Putin.

It’s absolute nonsense, but the Tories and Theresa May have tried to copy the Americans and have made the same accusations over here.

This shows why we need RT to cover the demonstrations and issues that the mainstream media and the state broadcaster would prefer to ignore.