Posts Tagged ‘Privatisation’

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.

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Times Accuses RT of Exploiting Grenfell Fire

December 13, 2017

More scaremongering from the right-wing press. This time it isn’t the tabloids, but the august Times. In this clip from RT, the station reports how the Times has accused them of exploiting the Grenfell fire to foment a class war, as well as misreporting some of the facts about the £10 million cladding. This provoked an angry response from George Galloway. Galloway states that this was a fire that killed 71 poor people in the richest borough in Britain. They died because the cladding used to coat the building also used arsenic, so that if people didn’t burn in the fire, they were poisoned. Galloway himself lives and works in the borough, and is a governor of one of the schools. Every day he sees the results of the fire, and indeed, smells it. He rightly describes it as ‘beyond offensive’ and ‘obscene’ to claim that people are angry about it because of Vladimir Putin.

He’s absolutely right. You only have to read Mike’s comments about the fire to realise that people were talking about it, and expressing their anger without reference to RT. Vladimir Putin has nothing to do with the anger people feel about the incident, and the way the Tories are constantly lying and fiddling around with the inquiry to avoid incriminating themselves and their fellows on the council.

But the British media and Conservative establishment is just following what Killary and the Americans are doing, and trying to blame RT and alternative media generally for their own failures. RT is a threat because an increasing audience is turning away from the Conservative press and media, and tuning into it, both here and in America. This is because the network is covering the issues that the mainstream media doesn’t like to show too much – the poverty, homelessness, debts and the crisis in healthcare caused by decades of Thatcherism/Reaganism, privatisation and welfare cuts. I’m not denying that the mainstream media don’t cover these, but they don’t do so in as much detail, nor tackle these issues from a left-wing perspective. And they really, really don’t want to tackle the unjust, illegal imperialist wars we’re fighting in the Middle East.

Once upon a time, when it was edited by Harold Evans in the ’70s, the Times was a genuinely respected newspaper. Then it was bought up, against the advice of people who knew better, by Murdoch. And it’s been a right-wing propaganda rag ever since. A friend of mine buys it, and whenever I’ve looked inside there’s always been at least one piece written by an entitled, upper-middle class windbag rubbishing Corbyn. ‘Cause he represents a real threat to Murdoch and the rest of the corporate elite causing mass poverty so they can enjoy more tax cuts and power over their workforce. The Times readership has fallen dramatically, to the point where, if it was a normal paper, it would have been wound up. But as it’s Britain’s ‘paper of record’, Murdoch keeps it going as it allows him a place at the table with Britain’s great and good in government.

And so it, and the rest of the press and mainstream media, feel threatened by RT and other alternative news outlets. Thus they try to combat them by spreading lies and smears about evil, subversive Russian influence. It’s not Russia that’s tearing this country apart, as Chunky Mark observed in his video on the Heil attacking social media. It’s them. And if you want a deeper view of what’s really going on in Britain, then you’re better off watching some of the material on RT than reading the Times, Torygraph or other right-wing news sheets, or watching the Beeb with its very blatant, pro-Tory bias.

As for ‘class war’, the best quote about that comes from Stanley Baldwin during the General Strike: it’s class war, and we started it. But you ain’t going to hear such a frank admission from this government or its shills in the media.

Jimmy Dore Show: Obama and Killary Back Trump’s Embassy Move to Jerusalem

December 9, 2017

More geopolitical arrogance and stupidity, but this time it’s from the Democrats.

A few days ago Trump caused astonishment and outrage around the world by announcing that he was planning to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As The Young Turks have explained, this is immensely controversial as Jerusalem is also a holy city to the world’s Muslims and Christians, who will resent all of the holy sites being under Israeli control. However, it’s done to support the Likudniks and other Israeli right-winger, who want Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. And it’s also strongly supported by the Christian Zionist right in America, who are looking forward to the restoration of Israel, and an apocalyptic war between Good and Evil, seen as America, Israel and Christianity versus Islam, which will lead to Christ’s Second Coming. Jerusalem is also claimed by the Palestinians. It was taken from them by the Israelis, but the city still has a large Arab population.

In this piece from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Steffi Zamorano and Ron Placone, discuss Trump’s decision, and how its being supported by key leaders of the Democrats: specifically Chuck Shumer, the leader of the Democrats in Congress, Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The clip begins with a series of quotes from Arab and other Middle Eastern leaders condemning the move. These include Manuel Hassassian, the leader of the Palestinian delegation, who describes it as an attack on the Palestinians, and also the Middle East’s Muslims and Christians. El-Sisi, the current military strongman ruling Egypt, also condemns it, as does Erdogan, the Islamist president of Turkey. Erodogan states that he was almost going to cut off diplomatic relations with Israel in retaliation. As Dore points out, Turkey’s America’s ally.

Dore also points out that the move is against America’s best interests and only serves Israel. And Israel is beholden to America. Last year, Congress voted to give it $38 billion of military aid. This is a country that has single-payer healthcare. But Americans can’t have it, because it’s too expensive. The money has to go to Israel to keep their military awash with cash. On the other hand, if America didn’t support Israel, what other country would stand up for them? No-one.

But you expect the Democrats would be different. But they’re not. Chuck Schumer has said that he was pressing Trump to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and took the president to task for his indecision. There’s also a clip from Barak Obama, in which he declares Jerusalem to be the indivisible capital of Israel, and supports moving the American embassy there. If you look at the signs around the podium, it’s clear that he’s speaking at an AIPAC gathering. AIPAC is the main, pro-Israel lobby group in the US. And then there’s a quote from Hillary Clinton, from all the way back in 1999, in which she states she wants the American embassy moved to Jerusalem.

This shows very clearly that the corporatist, Clintonite Democrats as corrupt, arrogant and dangerous on this issue as Trump and the Republicans. But followers of Dore’s show probably won’t be particularly surprised by this. Dore has made a number of videos pointing out the corruption and imperialist agenda of the corporate Democrats, including Killary and Obama. Obama carried on the privatisation and welfare cuts of Bush and the Republicans. He also expanded the wars in the Middle East from two to seven. But he got away with it because he cloaked it all in vague, progressive rhetoric. All that stuff about ‘hope and change’. Dore doesn’t mention it, but race was also a factor. Obama was America’s first Black president, and his election was hailed as a breakthrough for Black people. When he was elected there were celebrations in Africa, and the Nobel Committee gave him a peace prize. Just like they did to Kissinger. But despite the stupid, vicious rhetoric from lunatic Republicans about how Obama hated Whites, and was planning to kill them all in concentration camps, Obama was solidly Conservative in his policies, and did precious little for Blacks. Poor Whites have seen their incomes and life expectancy drop, and Black life expectancy has risen. This has resulted in the racist fringe shouting about ‘White genocide’, and mobilised them in support of Trump. But Black income has dropped even further than poor White, and it’s been projected that in a few decades the average Black family will have absolutely zero wealth.

As for Hillary Clinton, she has shown herself to be every bit as militaristic, imperialist and hawkish as the male politicians and generals that surround her. She fully supported the Iraq invasion, and when Obama was in office was ramping up tensions with China and Russia. Susan Sarandon has commented on interviews that if she’d won the election, America could well have been at war by now. I think Sarandon’s right. As for the reason’s for the new Cold War against Putin and Russia, some of this is an attempt by Clinton to deflect attention from the way she and her coterie stole the presidential nomination away from Bernie, and her massive ties to Wall Street. But it’s also been suggested that it’s also rage by American capitalism against Putin, for making Russia economically independent after they had poured so much money into the privatisation of the economy under Yeltsin.

It’s glaringly obvious to just about everyone how massively stupidly dangerous the current Cold War with Russia, because of the potential for it to develop into a real war. And there were NATO generals predicting that it would. One of them even published a book claiming that by May this year (2017) we would be at war with Russia. Such a conflict could easily become a nuclear war, resulting in the destruction of all life on our beautiful, fragile world.

Mercifully, we aren’t at war with Russia. But the fact that Obama and Hillary were keen to stoke tensions with Putin shows how dangerous they are. Just as their support for Trump moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.

Obama, Hillary and Schumer are unfit for office. Their support for America’s imperialist wars, the new Cold War and the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem are a positive threat to world peace. And the Arab and Muslim leaders who denounced the move are right: it shows absolute contempt and disregard for the feelings of Arabs and Muslims.

It’s been shown that much of the support for terrorist campaign against the West in the Middle East comes from anger at the repeated western military interference in the affairs of the Middle East – the invasions and the overthrow of Middle Eastern leaders, when they are perceived as an obstacle to western political or commercial interests. The Iraq invasion is one example, but so too is the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq, the last democratically elected prime minister of Iran. He was overthrown because he dared to nationalise the Iranian oil industry.

Trump’s decision has sparked riots and protests throughout the Middle East. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it also doesn’t serve to provoke another wave of terrorism directed against us. But I very much doubt that Trump, Killary, Obama and the other major political figures will comment on the way western imperialism is stirring up anti-western sentiment in the Middle East. Instead we’ll just have more discussion about the nature of Islamism – which is indeed part of the problem. And the islamophobic right will start ranting about how it’s all due to something intrinsic in Islam itself, and that Muslims hate us because of our freedoms.

Schumer, Obama and Hillary’s support for Trump’s decision serve yet again to show how corrupt the corporate Democrats are. They have to go. A growing number of Americans want a third party, which will really represent American working people. And the Democrat elite’s support for the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem is further evidence that a third party is needed, if the Democrat party can’t be reformed and the Clintonites and corporatists cleaned out.

Hammond Blames the Disabled for Fall in Productivity

December 7, 2017

This is another outrageous statement. But it really doesn’t come as a surprise, as it was mouthed by the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, a poisonous incompetent amongst a government of poisonous incompetents.

When Hammond was asked about the fall in British productivity, he responded by blaming it on the inclusion of various marginal groups in the workforce, such as the disabled. Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece commenting on this stupid, insensitive and mendacious reply. He points out that if productivity has fallen, it might have something to do with a lack of motivation coming from insultingly low pay, poor nutrition, overwork, tiredness and anxiety due to zero hours contracts to care about profits or productivity.

He also points out that, thanks to May’s government fully supporting poor wages and precarity, employers now find it cheaper to employ people under these wretched conditions than invest in new equipment.

Mike also points out that Hammond’s comments follow the usual Tory line of blaming and demonising the disabled. But this doesn’t mean that they’re coming for them to throw them in the gas ovens just yet. No, they’re just content to let the stress of dealing with the benefit system either worsen their mental health, or force them to commit suicide. All while denying that people are being driven to take their own lives by the stress of their benefit reforms.

This is despite suicide notes left behind by those who have committed suicide, explicitly saying that this is why they have been reduced to taking their own lives.

And Mike also rightly notes how DWP staff are asking people with suicidal tendencies why they haven’t taken their own lives. Which sounds like a question from the infamous ‘Nudge’ Unit, the psychological manipulation department set up to manoeuvre people’s thinking so that they come to the decision the authorities want.

Mike also quotes Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, who has condemned Hammond’s comments, pointing out that disabled people are paying the price for the government’s failed austerity policy. This has included scrapping the schemes to get disabled people into the workforce. She states that we should be doing more to get disabled people into work, and definitely not denigrate their contributions. She went on to demand an apology from Hammond.

Abrahams also points out the contradiction that’s also hidden in Hammond’s statement. He states that there are more disabled people in the workforce, which we should be proud of, but the Tories have actually cut the programmes to get the disabled into work, as well as scrapping their manifesto pledge to halve the gap between the employment rates for disabled and able people.

You can’t have it both ways, so one way or another, Hammond is clearly lying.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/07/chancellor-blames-fall-in-uk-productivity-on-disabled-people-in-the-workforce/

Hammond’s comment is disgusting, but it is more or less standard Tory replies. The Tories’ entire economic strategy is to prolong the deficit crisis as long as possible, so they have an excuse for cutting welfare benefits, privatising whatever remains of the state sector, including education, and removing workers’ rights. All to create a cowed, beaten workforce that will accept starvation wages, for the benefit of ultra-rich profiteers, including the banksters, hedge fund managers and multinational corporations that are currently keeping their wretched party afloat.

At the same time, they desperately need a scapegoat. Usually this function is filled by the unions, who provide them with an excuse for taking away more workers’ rights while at the same time trying to dismember the Labour party by attacking its foundations in the trade union movement. But as no-one’s currently on strike, they can’t do it.

So Spreadsheet Phil has to blame the disabled.

As with everything else the Tories utter, a few moment’s thought can show that the reality may be the very opposite of what they’re saying. Let’s examine Hammond’s statement that the fall in productivity is due to too many disabled people in the workforce. Quite apart from the fact that, as Mike has pointed out, the Tories have actually cut initiatives to stop disabled people finding work, you can find reasons how disabled people in the workforce may actually be a boost to productivity.

Firstly, there’s the obvious point that just because a person suffers from one type of disability does not mean that they are totally incapable of work. One of the blokes I met years ago was a computer whizzkid, who was totally paralysed from the neck down. But he was very, very good at his job, and was earning a very high salary for his skill. Which he clearly earned and deserved. Despite the problems of dealing with this gent’s handicap, his firm clearly found it well worth their while to employ him. And he wasn’t the only one. I’ve heard of other, physically disabled people with mobility problems, who have also pursued successful careers in computing. Clearly, these peeps are anything but unproductive individuals.

Disabled people also act to stimulate innovation. I blogged a little while ago about how the robotics department at the University of the West of England in Bristol had set up a company to manufacture and sell their artificial hands, which are designed specifically for children. Never mind the hype and bullsh*t about self-driving cars: this is precisely the type of robotics we need. This technology is making it possible for disabled children and their parents to have more normal, better lives. It is positively enabling them, giving them the ability to do things that they otherwise couldn’t do, or would find more difficult. The technology is brilliant, and I’m sure will have other applications as well. And its effect on the children is liberating and empowering. If adults with similar disabilities also have access to improved artificial limbs, then you can expect that their productivity will also improve, as well as simply quality of life.

And this can be said of almost any technical innovation that improves the lives of disabled people, and gives them more independence and freedom, if only a little.

Then there’s the fact that disabled people, like everyone else, contribute to the economy. They have to eat, pay bills and the rent or mortgage. Getting disabled people into proper paid employment, rather than just subsisting on whatever benefits the DWP deigns to throw their way, means that they have surplus cash to spend. Which means that their purchasing power also pumps more money into the economy, and encourages manufacturers to produce more.

And the disabled have also contributed to British culture. Remember Evelyn Glennie, a drummer with one of our orchestras? She’s actually deaf, but that hasn’t prevented her from excelling at her instrument. And those of us, who were kids in the 1970s will remember the brilliant madness that was Vision On. This was a show for deaf children, so that the dialogue was signed as well as spoken. Much of it was silent, accompanied only by music. Among those on the show were Sylvester McCoy as a mad professor, a couple of young animators, who went on to form Aardman Animations, and the artistic genius that was Tony Hart. It also launched the career of another star, at least down here in Bristol: Morph, the mischievous plasticene man, who acted as a kind of comic foil to Hart’s artistic endeavours. The show brought joy to millions of kids, both deaf and hearing, and part of its legacy has been Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts and the other films to come out of Aardman. Vision On is remarkable because, by taking the job seriously and doing it well, it became more than a programme aimed at children with a particular type of disability, and was a massive source of TV creativity.

This makes me wonder about the possible potential out there for other programmes aimed at or with a disable audience, that could also do the same today.

But this is all too much for their Tories. Their whole philosophy is based around grinding their social inferiors down, and then blaming them for their poverty.

But this also shows how desperate the Tories are getting, and how they’re running out of plausible excuses.

Once upon a time, they would simply have blamed British workers, claiming that we’re too lazy, work shorter hours and go on strike more than our French or German competitors. But they can’t do that, as it’s notorious that we work far longer hours than them. In fact, the Germans even make jokes about how we work ourselves into the ground, but nothing in this country still works properly. So that excuse simply won’t do. You still hear though, occasionally, from the odd CEO windbag, who feels like giving the rest of us the benefit of his decades of ignorance. But it’s very definitely not true, and Hammond knows it. Thus he’s been reduced to blaming the disabled.

I’m sick of him, sick of this government, and sick of their lies and bullying – of the disabled and of ordinary working people. Debbie Abrahams is right: Hammond should apologise. And then I want him and his vile government cleaned out like the parasites they are.

Prager University Tries to Argue the Alt-Right Is Left-Wing through Semantics

December 4, 2017

This is another great little video from Kevin Logan. This time he’s attacking Prager University, which, as he points out, isn’t actually a university, but a right-wing propaganda site on the Net. It pumps out Christian fundamentalist, militaristic, neocon, reactionary propaganda.

They’re one of the various groups on the American right, who’ve tried to discredit Socialism by claiming that the Nazis were also socialists, because they had the word in their name. I’ve already put up several pieces about that, reblogging material showing that Hitler deliberately put the term ‘Socialist’ in the party’s name as a provocation to the genuinely socialist left. The Nazis, of course, were very definitely anti-Socialist, and the decision to adopt the word ‘socialist’ was strongly opposed by many in the early party, including its founder, Anton Drexler. Going further back, the nationalist intellectuals in the 1920s, who began publishing books about how the First World War was an ennobling experience, and who looked forward to a coming Reich, did indeed talk about ‘socialism’, but they made it clear that they were talking about the integration of the individual into society, in which people would work for the good of the great whole. They called it the ‘socialisation of men’, which they carefully distinguished from the socialisation of property and industry.

Apart from rounding up genuine socialists, communists and trade unionists as ‘Marxist Socialists’, along with other left-wing radicals, the Nazis also strongly supported free enterprise. They privatised a number of state enterprises during the Third Reich, and hailed the business elite as the biologically superior type of human, who had won their right to rule through the forces of Darwinian selection in the business world.

They were not at all socialist.

Now Prager U tries the same trick with the Alt-Right. The argument runs that because the ‘Alt’ stands for ‘Alternative’, it is therefore different from traditional American Conservativism, and so has more in common with the left. This is another lie. As Kevin Logan here states, the Alt-Right are just an even more poisonous version of Conservatism, and have nothing in common with the left.

This is just part of a long-running strategy the Republicans have been running for a few years now, in which they’re trying to deny the rampant and very obvious racism in their own ranks, and project it back on to the Democrats and those further left. In the case of the Democrats, this party was indeed the more right-wing of the two originally, and was the party of the Klan. But this was before Lyndon Johnson won over the Black vote by introducing Medicare, Medicaid and other welfare programmes. However, the Republicans have used this to try to argue that ‘progressive’ are responsible for racism, because of the racist history of parts of the Democrat party. Even though this was before Johnson’s reforms of the late ’60s.

Daniel McAdams: NeoCons Hate RT Because Criticism of American Imperialism so Compelling

December 1, 2017

This is another little piece from RT America discussing Congress’ withdrawal of their press accreditation. In this snippet, their anchorman talks to Daniel McAdam, of the Ron Paul Institute. Ron Paul is the leading Libertarian in Congress, so presumably this is a thinktank founded by him to support his ideology. In which case, it’s very definitely not socialist, and in fact very anti-. But Libertarians can also be fierce critics of American imperialism and radically opposed to the NeoCons.

Here McAdams states that the removal of RT America’s accreditation following reassurances that the demand for the network to register under FARA as a foreign agent would not impede the network in anyway is just part of the way Congress operates. He compares it to the ‘sense of Congress’ motions. These are always presented as non-binding. It’s just Congress’ opinion. But they provide the basis for further action.

McAdams goes on to say that the NeoCons hate RT because it gives good, patriotic Americans, like himself, a platform to criticise American foreign policy. And he states that they can’t tolerate this, because the arguments against American imperialism are so compelling.

The anchor then asks him what message this sends the world about free speech in America. McAdams states that he’s been to Washington several times, and met the staff at RT. He states their young, hardworking, perhaps a trifle idealistic. But this measure sends the message to young journalists that the government will persecute you and try to control what news people watch. He compares it to the worst periods of totalitarianism in the last century, when governments had the audacity to consider that their perfect systems were too fragile to allow free speech.

The anchorman ends by thanking McAdams for his time and his comments about RT’s staff, but gently chides him for missing out one quality: guts. It takes guts to tell the truth.

Yes, it does. Chris Hedges, one of the radical journalists, who has his own show on RT, got sacked from the New York Times because he dared tell the truth about the carnage the Iraq invasion would cause. Phil Donohue was forced off his show because he did the same, and the network, CNN, then came out with a totally bullsh*t story about how he was sacked because of low ratings. He wasn’t. In fact, his show was the highest rated the network had. And you can find a long list of others.

As for RT’s staff, Abby Martin, who used to work for RT, states that the staff at RT America are leftists and socialists, who are there because it is the only network that provides a space for their beliefs. They’re not working there because they’re admirers of Putin.

And Jimmy Dore has pointed out very sarcastically that it’s vast, growing poverty, the lack of free healthcare, the destruction of America’s welfare net, the privatisations and the massive profiteering by the corporate elite, that’s causing discontent in America. It ain’t propaganda from Putin that’s causing people to demonstrate, or join protest groups like Black Lives Matter.

But RT’s a convenient scapegoat. It, and the other radical or alternative news networks are being singled out because the elite can’t argue against what these news programmes are showing. So all they can do is lie and try to close these networks down.

And once they’ve done it to those broadcasters on the margins – like Al-Jazeera, RT, Press TV, The Young Turks, Jimmy Dore Show, the Real News, Democracy Now! and so many others, they’ll move into the mainstream.

This is how the colossal propaganda machines of Goebbels in the Nazi Germany and Mussolini in Italy started. And they all used the same excuse: they were protecting the citizens of their country from ‘fake news’ spread by the regimes’ enemies.

Welcome to the beginning of Corporate Newspeak. It’s Goebbels’ Ministry of Public Enlightenment, brought to you by the Republicans and Clintonite Democrats, with the assistance of Google and funded by the Koch Brothers.

James Dyson: Not a Hero of Science, Just a Greedy Exploiter

November 29, 2017

James Dyson, the inventor of that vacuum cleaner, was ono the news again the other day. At least, he was in the Bristol region. Because of his invention’s success, he’s celebrated in the local news here in this part of the West Country as some kind of great scientific hero, leading Britain forward in technological innovation and business acumen. The local news was all over him when he opened a plant to make his vacuums near Bath. They were all over him again when a special site or facility opened down in the old part of the railway station at Temple Meads in Bristol, which was supposed to help bring businessmen together so that they could make deals. He was one of the businessmen, who was called upon to say how wonderful and good for the city it all was.

And then last night, or the night before, he was on the news again. He has decided to open his own, private university specialising in engineering. Boris Johnson’s brother, who’s as blond as Boris is, but slimmer and possibly not as thick, appeared to tell the world how wonderful this was going to be also.

I’m not impressed. Not by Dyson, and certainly not by his grotty political beliefs and sordid profiteering.

Dyson is not someone I feel anyone should look up to. His support for his home country, and the Bristol-Bath region, merely seems to be one of convenience. After he had set up the factory near Bath, he closed it down and moved it to Indonesia. He then declared that he did so because there wasn’t enough space at the existing site to expand, and the council was deliberately blocking him from doing so.

I find that unconvincing. It might be that the council were stopping him from expanding on that site, but that should not stop him going elsewhere in the region or the country. There are other suitable sites, if not around Bath, then certainly in the rest of England and Britain. There are places in the north of England, for example, which are crying out for entrepreneurs to come there and set up plants.

But Dyson didn’t want that. The simple truth is, he moved his plant to Indonesia because he could pay the workers there much less than those in Britain.

And he doesn’t even bother hiding his contempt for Britain’s workers. Mike put up a piece a little while ago commenting on a speech Dyson made, in which he looked forward to British workers having more of their rights in the workplace stripped away after Brexit. This would be good for British firms, and make us more competitive.

On it’s own, it most certainly won’t. Despite destroying workers’ rights and reducing the mass of employees in Britain to poverty, productivity has very definitely not risen under the Tories, and we’ve just been knocked out of the five richest countries in the world. But Dyson, and the rest of the extremely rich, are going to love those policies anyway, because it gives them more power to intimidate, bully and exploit their workforce.

As for him setting up his wretched engineering university, I fail to see the need. Both Bristol Uni and the University of the West of England have excellent engineering departments. In fact, UWE is a world leader in robotics. One of their great inventions, which was on the news a little while ago, was a new type of artificial hand for use by children. It was superb engineering, which, unlike the driverless car, will actually improve people’s lives.

As for business acumen and entrepreneurial ability, I got the distinct impression that Bath was trying very hard to cover that. Walking through Temple Meads station you go past a number of adverts for the MBA at one of Bath’s unis.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these institutions. It’s just that, like the various businessmen, who decide they’d quite like to run an academy school, Dyson has decided that they’re not running things quite how he thinks they should be run. Hence he’s decided to set up this wretched engineering university.

Not only is it a vanity project on his behalf, it’s also another attack on state education. Ever since Maggie Thatcher, the Tories and then Blair’s New Labour have been privatising education, including the universities. This isn’t the first private centre of higher education. That came a few years ago with a new College of the Humanities, or some such, set up with the aid of the philosopher A.C. Grayling.

I’m also profoundly unimpressed by the underlying attitude to the state held by businessmen like Dyson. They usually appear launching some grand new commercial venture, loudly declaring how very much better private enterprise is over the state. Then, when everything goes wrong, they come crying and whining back to the taxpayer demanding a bail-out. And when they get that, they still don’t shut up, but continue moaning that their great, new business vision failed because the government was insufficiently pro-business. They also hate the welfare state, because it actually helps the poor. Not only do businessmen like Dyson moan that current labour laws and wages make business in Britain uneconomical, they also tend to believe that things should be made harder for the poor, in order to encourage them to find a job and ‘do well’. You used to hear a lot about this from the Tories under Thatcher. It’s still the policy in the DWP. It’s why benefit claimants, who are actually in work, are harassed by the ‘job coaches’ in the Job Centres. This is to motivate them to get another, better paying job. Even though there aren’t any around, and aren’t likely to be, given the government’s policies of freezing pay.

In short, James Dyson is certainly not my idea of a hero, either of science or industry. He’s a bog-standard, exploitative businessman, of the same stripe that gets in the news for paying his workers less than the minimum wage while he makes a colossal profit. And I’m heartily sick and tired of the news in my part of the West Country fawning over him.

I’ve never bought one of his vacuum cleaners, and really don’t intend to. Because I don’t think Britain, including my little bit of it, can afford the cost.

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.

Counterpunch Article Urging Peace with Iran

November 25, 2017

Counterpunch published a very interesting article by Jonathan Power on the first day of this month, November 2017, on their website. He argued that it was high time the West stopped trying to bully Iran and overthrow their government. He made the point that if you asked most Iranians privately how they felt about America, they would quietly state that they were favourably disposed towards them.

Now America risks this goodwill through Trump throwing out the peace deal that Obama had brokered with the Mullahs. Power notes that the experience of the Iran-Iraq war and its horrors has left deep scars on everyone in the country over forty. Saddam Hussein was used as a proxy for America to avenge its deep humiliation felt by the overthrow of Shah and the hostage crisis during the Islamic Revolution. But Power goes onto make the point that the Iranian regime is very dubious about the morality of nuclear weapons and other, equally immoral forms of warfare. For example, one of the first things the Ayatollah Khomeini did was to stop the Shah’s nuclear programme. They only took it up recently because of the threat of American/ Saudi invasion. And the current ‘Supreme Leader’, Ayatollah Khameini, has said that nuclear weapons are immoral and un-Islamic.

He also states that while Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons, the Iranians themselves never did. He acknowledges that the Iranians’ foreign policy is destabilising, and in many cases destructive, but it essentially one of self-defence. They are also keen to protect the Shi’a minority in Iraq, who were oppressed by the Sunnis to which the secular Saddam Hussein nominally belonged.

He writes

Trump knows no Iranian history. When the Iranian revolution happened in 1979, the Shah was overthrown and the fundamentalist Islamic Shi’a regime of Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, one of the first things the new regime did was to close down the Shah’s nuclear weapons’ research program. (Ironically, it had had technical help from the US.) It was only after Iraq attacked Iran that the program was resuscitated.

Underneath the Iranian skin of anyone over 40 lies the memory of the Iran-Iraq war.

Whatever warm feelings the Iranian man and woman in the street might have for the West today can easily be undercut by any suggestion that the US and UK, in particular, might be reverting to those confrontational days when they covertly aided with sophisticated weapons President Saddam Hussein’s eight-year war with Iran. (It lasted from 1980 until 1988.)

The Reagan Administration escorted Kuwaiti oil tankers through the Persian Gulf to Iraq. It also initiated an arms embargo against Iran.

It was a terrible war, more akin to the trench warfare of World War 1 than any other, with opposing troops bogged down for years on end, fighting over a few hundred metres of ground. Iraq used chemical weapons on a large scale. The death toll was horrendous – estimates range from 170,000 to 750,000.

For its part, Iran refused to use chemical weapons in retaliation.

Its present-day Supreme Ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has made a point of reminding us of this, explaining that using such a weapon of mass destruction would have gone against Islamic teaching. At the same time, he has long pointed out that this is the key reason for Iran not building nuclear weapons.

It is this war that has determined the larger part if not most of Iran’s foreign policy. “What Gulf Arab officials term ‘Iran meddling in Arab affairs’ is to Iran an essential part of an ‘aggressive defence’ of its national security”, write professors Ariane Tabatabai of Georgetown University and Annie Samuel of the University Tennessee in a recent article in Harvard’s quarterly, “International Security”.

He concludes that if the hostility with Iran continues to increase, we will lose any goodwill the Iranian may have towards us. It’s time to make peace with them.

The whole article is worth reading, and is at:
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/11/01/time-to-make-up-with-iran/

America and Israel want another war with Iran. This won’t be about protecting the West, curbing ruthless dictators and freeing their people. This is just going to be ‘Iraq II’ – Western capitalist looting and pillage redux. It’s going to be because Israel wants to destroy a hostile nation, and the Neocons and American and Saudi oil interests want to seize their oil fields, privatise their state industries, and sell them off to American multinationals.

And the result will be more carnage, homelessness, refugees and ethnic and sectarian warfare.

Brought to you by Trump. And aided, no doubt, by that giggling warmonger, Hillary Clinton, who never met a war she didn’t like.

Lenin’s Speech Denouncing Anti-Semitism

November 22, 2017

I found this fascinating little clip of a speech by Lenin, the founder of Soviet Communism, on Maoist Rebel News, presented by Jason Unruhe. I am very definitely not a Maoist, as I think it’s undeniable that he was one of the most murderous tyrants of the 20th century. About 60 million Chinese died in the purges and mass starvation created by the ‘Cultural Revolution’, and countless precious art treasures and other monuments from the country’s rich, ancient past, were destroyed.

Nevertheless, this piece is interesting and important as it shows how the Bolsheviks took seriously the threat of anti-Semitism, and were keen to stamp it out. Unruhe made the video in response to an appearance by Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars on Mark Levin’s radio show. Harrison owns the pawn shop featured in the show. It’s an American programme, but it’s also shown over here on one of the satellite/cable channels. I tried watching it once, when it was on the History Channel, in the vague hope that it might actually be interesting. It wasn’t. The programme largely consisted of the crew musing over various artifacts – in this case, a couple of pistols left over from the Old West – and speculating about how much they were worth. It reminded me a little of the Beeb’s antiques’ programmes, with the exception that the people looking at the antiques didn’t actually seem to know very much about them, apart from the very basics.

On Levin’s show, Harrison went off and laid into Barack Obama. Obama was ‘anti-business’ and blamed the Jews and intelligentsia for everything, just like Lenin. Well, no. Barack Obama is not at all like Lenin. Barack Obama is very definitely not ‘anti-business’, even remotely. As the Jimmy Dore Show and other alternative news shows have pointed out, ad nauseam, Obama is a bog-standard corporatist politician. He tried to privatise the public schools by turning them into Charter Schools, the American equivalent of British academy schools. Even Obamacare is private enterprise. It was originally dreamed up by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and promoted by Newt Gingrich, an arch-Republican. The last time I looked, America was still very much a private enterprise economy. Obama has even said that he considers himself to be a ‘moderate Republican’.

But such accusations are almost par for the course for the bonkers end of the Republican party. There have even been right-wing Christian radio hosts declaring that he was a mass-murderer, who was secretly planning to kill even more people than Mao and Stalin. And this is apart from all the hysterical screaming that he was a Communist-Nazi-crypto-Islamist terrorist intent on bringing about the fall of America and western civilisation.

He also spent eight years in power, and has now departed. Nobody was assassinated, or rounded up in cattle trucks to be deported to death camps. Or incarcerated in FEMA, which would be the modern equivalent, if you believe Alex Jones. But the rhetoric shows the sheer, blind hysteria that gripped some of these maniacs whenever Obama was mentioned.

Unruhe points out that it is factually incorrect that Lenin blamed the Jews for the problems of the nascent Soviet Union. He states that the Soviet leader spent a year touring the former Russian Empire, denouncing anti-Semitism and Jew hatred. How is this known? Because there are recordings of him. He then plays one. It’s clearly from a gramophone recording, complete with crackles and scratches, but it is subtitled in English. My Russian really isn’t very good at all, but from what little I can catch, the translation is accurate, and it states what Lenin is actually saying.

Lenin states that it is the capitalists, the landowners and the tsars, who were trying to stir up hatred against the Jews, as a way of dividing the working people of all nations and getting them to hate each other. He states that it is a medieval, feudal superstition, that exists only when workers and peasants are kept in slavery by the landlords. He says that most Jews are workers, and therefore our brothers. He acknowledges that amongst the Jews there are capitalists, the bourgeois and kulaks, just as there are all of these amongst Russians. He states that this hatred against the Jews is being stirred up by the capitalists to divert attention away from who really is exploiting working people: capital!

He cries out several times ‘Shame upon the tsars’ for stoking hatred against the Jews, for stirring up pogroms, massacres and persecution.

Unruhe points out in his introduction to the speech that it was actually Lenin’s opponents, the tsars, who were anti-Semitic. This is solid, established fact. Nicholas II was viciously anti-Semitic himself, and believed firmly in the ‘Blood Libel’ – the poisonous myth that Jews killed Christian children and used their blood to make the matzo bread for Passover. One of the issues that discredited Nicholas II’s rule was his repeated attempt to prosecute a Jew, Beilis, on this charge, despite the most anti-Semitic of his ministers telling him that it was stupid and ridiculous.

And in opposition to the workers’ and revolutionary movements, there were the Black Hundreds. These were groups of extreme right-wing supporters of the traditional order, who were viciously anti-Semitic.

It’s obviously glaringly true that Lenin was ‘anti-business’. But saying that makes it appear as though it was just a matter of prejudice. It wasn’t. Russia’s working people and peasants at the time laboured in appalling conditions, with many on literal ‘starvation wages’. And although the serfs had been freed in the 1860s by Alexander I, their lords and masters still treated their workers as unfree slaves. There were cases where factory masters told their workers ‘We own you!’ Hence before the Bolshevik coup there were hundreds of strikes and peasant revolts up and down the Russian Empire. You can easily see why before Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power, there was a revolution that overthrew the Tsar, and the workers began electing left-wing parties like the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Trudoviks and Socialist Revolutionaries on to the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ soviets they set up to represent their own interests against the power of the capitalists.

As for the capitalists and business using anti-Semitism to divide working people of all nations, anti-Semitism in the West has been rightly discredited and regarded with loathing by the majority of people since the defeat of Nazism. But the right has used racism to try and attack the left and organised Labour. You can see it in the way the Tories have tried to stir up nationalist sentiment against Muslims and other ‘unassimilable’ immigrants, quite apart from the fearmongering about workers coming from elsewhere in the EU and eastern Europe.

I’m not a fan of Lenin. He created a very authoritarian system, which eventually led to the murderous tyranny of Stalin. But he was no anti-Semite, and his speech still remains a very relevant commentary on the political uses of racial hatred.