Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Reagan’

Secular Talk: Room Full of Republicans Cheer Single-Payer Healthcare

February 19, 2017

This is little clip from Secular Talk is going to frighten and annoy many Republicans and Libertarians. It shows very graphically how their attempts to scare Americans away from universal healthcare is increasingly being rejected even by those self-identified Conservatives, who constitute the party’s constituency.

The clip is of a question by a member of the audience, Jesca(?) Bohun, at a Republican town hall meeting in Tennessee. Bohun says she is a Christian, and believes that the rich have a duty to pull the poor up. She then talks about some of the problems of Obamacare, the ‘Affordable Care Act’ introduced by the last president, to make private health insurance affordable to all American citizens. Bohun makes the point that this insurance is still expensive and can be high risk. Also, the insurance companies are free to pull out of the scheme if they don’t like it. She gives as an example the case where Aetna, one of the insurers, pulled out of the scheme claiming it was due to expense. In actual fact, they pulled out because the federal authorities had prevented them from merging with another insurance company, Humana. The result was that Obamacare now did not cover those insured with Aetna. Bohun then went on to say that rather than try to fix what is wrong with Obamacare, ‘why don’t we have medicare for all?’

Medicare is the American healthcare safety net, where the state pays for the medical treatment of the poorest, who cannot afford private health insurance.

What’s the result of this proposal, which would have many Conservatives screaming ‘Communism!’ and shouting about left-wing brainwashing and ‘pinko Commie liberal faggots’? The people in the room cheer.

Kulinski makes the point that this shows how even Conservatives will adopt left-wing policies if they are carefully explained to them, like the minimum wage, regulating the banks, taxing the rich and single-payer healthcare. He makes the point that labels may not mean much to ordinary Americans, who don’t have Ph. D.s in political science. Thus there was the spectacle of some members of the Tea Party waving placards with the slogan ‘Keep Your Government off My Medicare’, without apparently realising that Medicare is a government programme. Kulinski goes on to state that Bernie Sanders found that he could win over Conservatives to his views talking in the Mid-West, if he explained the issues properly. Kulinski then goes on to say that this episode makes him optimistic that liberal attitudes and policies are winning over the majority of people in America. But it does not take away the duty of liberals to explain these issues clearly.

This is really amazing, considering the way the American Right has long demonised single-payer healthcare and, indeed, anything that looked even remotely like socialised medicine. We’ve had the right-wing televangelists like Pat Robertson rant on about it being ‘Communism’. Lyndon B. Johnson introduced Medicaid in the 1960s, the parallel programme to Medicare in which the state pays for the medical treatment of senior citizens, who cannot afford it. This provoked Ronald Reagan to make an utterly bonkers and malignant speech claiming it was a threat to the freedom Americans hoped to pass on to their children.

But it’s increasingly evident to a growing number of Americans that private medicine isn’t working, and that there is no alternative to state-financed medicine.

Actually, you have no idea how good it felt to right those words about a socialist policy. Maggie Thatcher was found of invoking ‘TINA’ for her policies, standing for ‘There Is No Alternative’. Well, if you want people to have decent medicine for all, There Is No Alternative than various forms of state provision.

This clip, and other occasions like it, will make the Tories and their paymasters in the private health industry even more dangerous. One of the reasons they came over here under Major, Blair and Cameron and tried to persuade them to privatise the NHS, is because they realised that the private healthcare market in America was becoming saturated. And so they want to muscle in on the NHS as a way of maximising the profits they might lose in the US.

And so far, out of all the European countries with a state medical system, our politicians seem to be the only ones stupid, mendacious and venal enough to allow these parasites in.

Get rid of the Tories and the Blairites, and support Jeremy Corbyn to renationalise the NHS.

Blum’s List of Country In Which US Has Interfered with their Elections

February 18, 2017

A few days ago I posted up a list of the nations in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower where the US had interfered in its politics to block the election of a left-wing or liberal candidate, have them overthrown, or colluding and gave material assistance to a Fascist dictator and their death squads. As well as outright invasions, such as that of Grenada and Panama under Reagan and Bush in the 1980s, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq under George Dubya.

Blum also has a list of countries, where the US has interfered with their domestic politics to pervert their elections. These include

The Philippines 1950s

Setting up by the CIA of a front organisation, the National Movement for Free Elections to promote its favoured politicians and policies, giving finance and other assistance to those candidates, disinformation, and drugging and plotting to assassinate their opponents.

Italy 1948-1970s

Long-running campaigns against the Communist party and to assist the conservative Christian Democrats.

Lebanon 1950s

CIA funding of President Camille Chamoun and other pro-American politicians; sabotaging of campaigns of politicos sceptical of American interference in their country.

Indonesia 1955

CIA donated a million dollars to Centrist Coalition to attack the electoral chances of President Sukarno and the Communist party.

British Guiana/Guyana 1953-64

Campaign to oust prime minister Cheddi Jagan, using general strikes, terrorism, disinformation and legal challenges by Britain.

Japan 1958-1970s

CIA funding of conservative Liberal Democratic Party against the Japanese Socialist Party, allowing the Liberal Democrats to stay in power continuously for 38 years.

Nepal 1959

CIA operation to help B.P. Koirala’s Nepali Congress Party to win the country’s first ever election.

Laos 1960

CIA arranged for massive fraudulent voting to ensure electoral victor of local dictator Phoumi Nosavan.

Brazil 1962

CIA and Agency for International Development funded politicos opposed to President Joao Goulart, as well as other dirty tricks against various other candidates.

Dominican Republic 1962

US ambassador John Bartlow Martin instructs the heads of the two major parties before general election that the loser would call on his supporters to support the winner, and that the winner would offer seats to the loser’s party. Also worked with the government to deport 125 people, including supporters of previous dictator Trujillo and Cuba.

Guatemala 1963

Overthrow of General Miguel Ydigoras, as they feared he was about to step down and call a general election, which would be won by previous reforming president and opponent of American foreign policy, Juan Jose Arevalo.

Bolivia 1966

Funding by CIA and Gulf Oil of campaign of president Rene Barrientos. The CIA also funded other rightwing parties.

Chile 1964-70

Interference in the 1964 and 1970s elections to prevent the election of Salvador Allende, democratic Marxist, to the presidency.

Portugal 1974-5

CIA funded moderates, including Mario Soares and the Socialist Party, and persuaded the other democratic socialist parties of Europe to fund them in order to block radical programme of generals, who had overthrown Fascist dictator Salazar.

Australia 1974-5

CIA funding of opposition parties and use of legal methods to arrange overthrow of prime minister Gough Whitlam because he opposed Vietnam War.

Jamaica 1976

Long CIA campaign, including economic destabilisation, industrial unrest, supplying armaments to his opponent and attempted assassination to prevent re-election of Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Panama 1984, 1989

CIA-funded campaigns first of all to support Noriega, and then against him in 1989, when the CIA also used secret radio and TV broadcasts.

Nicaragua 1984, 1990

1984: Attempt to discredit the Sandinista government by CIA. The opposition coalition was persuaded not to take part in the elections. Other opposition parties also encouraged to drop out; attempts to split Sandinistas once in power.

1990: Funding and partial organisation of opposition coalition, UNO, and its constituent groups by National Endowment for Democracy to prevent election of Sandinistas under Daniel Ortega; Nicaraguans also made aware that US intended to continue proxy war waged by Contras if they elected him.

Haiti 1987-88

CIA supported for selected candidates after end of Duvalier dictatorship. Country’s main trade union leader claimed US aid organisations were smearing left-wing candidates as Communists and trying to persuade rural people not to vote for them.

Bulgaria 1990-1, Albania 1991-2

Interference in both countries election to prevent re-election of Communists.

Russia 1996

Extensive backing and support to Yeltsin to defeat Communists.

Mongolia 1996

National Endowment for Democracy funded and helped form the opposition National Democratic Union, and drafted its platform, a Contract with the Mongolian Voter, based Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. The goal here was to accelerate the regime’s privatisation programme and create government favourable to the establishment of American corporations and intelligence agencies in the country.

Bosnia 1998

US turns country into ‘American protectorate’ by appointing Carlos Westendorp as high representative in 1995 Dayton Peace Accords. Before 1998 elections Westendorp removed 14 Bosnian Croatian candidates, claiming reporting by Croatian television biased. After election removes president of Bosnia Serb republic on grounds that he was causing instability.

In 2001 and 2005 high representative also removed one of the three joint presidents of the country. In 2005 high representative Paddy Ashdown, who sacked Dragan Covic.

Nicaragua 2001

US smears against Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega, accused of human rights violations and terrorism. US ambassador openly campaigned for Ortega’s opponent, Enrique Bolanos. US also pressurised Conservative party to withdraw from the elections so as not to split right-wing vote. There were also adds in the papers signed by Jeb Bush, claiming that Dubya supported Bolanos. Bolanos himself also stated that the Americans had told him that if Ortega won, they would cease all aid to the country.

Bolivia 2002

Extensive campaign against socialist candidate Evo Morales because he was against neoliberalism and big business, as well as the attempts to eradicate the coca plant, the source of cocaine.

US ambassador smeared him with accusations of connections to drug cartels and terrorism. US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere also said America could cut off aid if Morales elected. Meetings between US ambassador and officials and leading figures in rival parties to support Morales’ rival, Sanchez de Lozada.

Slovakia 2002

Warnings by US ambassador to the country and the US ambassador to NATO that if they elected Vladimir Meciar, former president running on anti-globalisation campaign, this would damage chances of their country entering EU and NATO. Also interference by National Endowment for Democracy against Meciar.

El Salvador 2004

Campaigning by US ambassador and three US Republican members of congress, including Thomas Tancredo of California, threatening cessations of aid and work permits for the countries’ people to work in America, in order to prevent election of FMLN candidate Schafik Handal and win victory of Tony Saca of the Arena party. FMLN former guerilla group. Handal stated he would withdraw Salvadorean troops from Iraq, re-examination privatisations and renew diplomatic contacts with Cuba. Arena extreme rightwing party, pro-US, free market, responsible for death squads and the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Afghanistan 2004

Pressure placed by US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, on political candidates to withdraw in favour of Washington’s preferred candidate, Hamid Karzai.

Palestine 2005-6

Massive pressure by the Americans to prevent the election of Hamas, including funding of the Palestinian Authority by the National Endowment for Democracy.

This last country is my own suggestion, not Blum’s.

Great Britain?

Go and read various articles in Lobster, which describe the way the US and its various front organisations collaborated with the right-wing of the Labour party to stop possible Communist influence. In the 1980s Reagan also created the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, alias BAP, to cultivate rising politicians of both the left and the right, and make them more favourable towards America and the Atlantic alliance. These included Tony Blair and Ed Balls, but you won’t read about it in the Times, because it’s editor was also a BAP alumnus.

William Blum on the Police Bombing of Black Americans

February 9, 2017

I found this passage in William Blum’s America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy absolutely mind-blowing as it says so much about Reaganite and post-Reaganite America’s willingness to use deadly force, regardless of who gets killed, and the militarisation of the police.

In the chapter on human rights and torture, Blum discusses the continuing misuse of American drone strikes to assassinate terrorist leaders. These are notorious, as most of the victims so far have been civilians, including women and children. Blum mentions that Amnesty International has protested several times against their use. He makes the point that drones are only ever used against poor countries, like Yemen and Pakistan, and would never be used against America’s allies in the Developed world, like Britain. But bomb strikes have been used by the police in America against terrorists in poor Black neighbourhoods, with the resulting massive loss of innocent lives and destruction of people’s homes. He writes

Can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a house in Paris or London or Ottawa because they suspected that high-ranking al-Qaeda members were present there? Even if the US knew of their presence for an absolute fact, and was not just acting on speculation, as in the Predator cases mentioned above? Well, they most likely would not attack, but can we put anything past Swaggering-Superarrogant-Superpower-Cowboys-on-steroids? After all, they’ve already done it to their own – US drone attack killed two American citizens in Yemen in 2011, and on May 13, 1985, a bomb dropped by a police helicopter over Philadelphia, Pennsylvania burned down an entire block, some sixty homes destroyed, eleven dead, including several small children.. The police, the mayor’s office, and the FBI were all involved in this operation to evict an organization called MOVE from the house they lived in.

The victims in Philadelphia were all black of course. So let’s rephrase the question: can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a residential area of Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side of Manhattan? Stay tuned. (p. 127).

No, of course they wouldn’t.

But what in the name of Heaven is a police force doing with bombs? This whole affair reads like something from a dystopian SF novel. You know, something like Stephen King’s The Running Man, which was set in a Fascist America where the cops shoot people rioting to get bread. That one was filmed in the 1980s with Arnie. Or The Hunger Games. It does not sound like the actions of a responsible democracy based on ‘justice for all’.

I’m not disputing that sometimes it is necessary to use force against armed, violent criminals and terrorists. But I am absolutely amazed that the US police was militarised to the extent that the used bombs. As for the victims being Black, that explains so much about why so many Blacks in America hate the police, and the entire point behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

Is Trump Barely Able to Read?

February 6, 2017

My thanks to Joanna, one of the long-time commenters on this blog, for posting this in one of her comments.

In this piece from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and one of his producers, Pat, discuss the considerable evidence that Trump is functionally barely literate. There are clips of Mark Fisher, an American journalist, discussing how he asked Trump if he was preparing for the presidency by reading the biographies of the great American presidents. Trump said something about reading one about Nixon, and another, but Fisher himself doubted he had ever read a book from cover to cover. Trump also said that he had never read a biography, but regretted this. Visitors to Trump have remarked that there weren’t any books on his desk, or on the shelves at his home or indeed anywhere else. Jeffrey Schwartz, who ghost-wrote Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, stated that he didn’t believe Trump had ever read a book since he was in school. Washington insiders have said that The Donald actually has difficulty reading the documents and executive orders placed in front of him. He usually just scans the first page. Further evidence for this comes from clips from a court case, in which the opposition lawyer asks Drumpf to read a lease. Trump’s own lawyer objects to it, and Trump looks it over, remarks on its length, and then proceeds to give a summary of what’s on the page. Apparently, he doesn’t even send his tweets himself. He dictates them to a secretary in the next room, and she sends them for him. There’s also a clip with the writers from the comedy show, Saturday Night Live, in which they talk about how Trump had difficulty reading the scripts when he was guest host. And it’s also been said that the reason why Trump watches so much television, and gets so much of his information from it, is because he can’t or doesn’t read books and papers. There’s also a clip, which shows Trump very obviously not using a teleprompter at one of his rallies. Pakman argues that this isn’t because he’s particularly keen to speak ad lib. It’s because he has difficulty reading what’s on there.

Pakman’s producer, Pat, finally makes the point here that what’s shocking isn’t Trump’s inability to read, but his lack of intellectual curiosity. He doesn’t even send away for talking books, so he can hear things read to him.

This is truly astonishing. And frightening. People have been making jokes since forever and a day about the stupidity of politicians, but many have been people of real intellectual distinction. Churchill wrote his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. JFK apparently could write a sentence of Latin with one hand while writing a sentence in Greek with the other. Even Nixon was no intellectual slouch. He was crooked and a monstrous imperialist thug, whose regime was responsible for the deaths of untold millions in the Vietnam War and Fascist coups across the world, and he really wasn’t intellectually capable of being president. But he wasn’t thick either. Bill Clinton was far from stupid, though he was also responsible for some of the worst policies passed by an American president, such as gutting further what remained of the American welfare system after Reagan, quite apart from highly questionable foreign policy decisions.

On the other hand, there are a long line of chiefly Republican presidents, who have been suspected of being thick and incompetent. Like Ronald Reagan, even before the poor fellow was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Not The Nine O’clock News sang songs about his epic stupidity. There was a long-running sketch on Spitting Image, in which his aides go in search of his missing brain. Then in the early part of this century, he was followed into the Oval Office by George Dubya, who had been an illiterate drunk smashed out of his skull on recreational chemicals. Dubya at least gave up the booze and drugs, and was credited as reading. He still struck everyone as being so stupid, that when one person made up the rumour that he only had an IQ of 85, it was widely believed. And at one point it looked like America would get a female vice-president in the shape of Sarah Palin, who has a reputation for monumental stupidity. One American commenter described his candidacy for the presidency or vice-presidency to a ‘post turtle’. What’s a post turtle? He explained that if you go to the Deep South, ever so often on the roads you see a turtle stuck on a fence post. The turtle’s got no right to be there, doesn’t know how it got there, and you don’t know what moron put it there. And that summed up Palin’s bid for supreme power.

And now we have Donald Trump, a sexist, misogynist, islamophobic Fascist, a narcissistic megalomaniac, who seems unable to read or comprehend the documents put in front of him.

He is massively unfit for office, and the fact that he’s in it points to a deeply troubling strand of anti-intellectualism in the Republican Party. The late comedian Bill Hicks used to joke that there was a streak of anti-intellectualism in America, and that it began the same year Reagan was elected. He had a point. Reagan got into power by presenting the image of a down-home ordinary bloke, offering his folksy wisdom in place of the complicated and simply wrong ideas offered by those affecting to be cleverer than the rest of us. And this is a powerfully attractive approach. No-one likes the feeling that they’re being condescended to by someone impressed with their own intelligence, or being treated with contempt. And the right, both in America and in Britain, try to capitalise on this anti-intellectualism. You think of all the times the Tories have tried to persuade the public that you don’t need to know about fancy economic theories to understand the economy, just commonsense household management. Left-wing economists have tried to point out that, in fact, you do need to understand economics as it is definitely not like balancing a household budget. But still they carry on, using the metaphor of household budgeting to justifying cutting services and privatising the NHS.

And now Trump, who appears to be barely literate, is in the White House. Pakman points out that it seems that Trump spoke at the level of a fourth grade schoolboy, not because he was trying to talk to ordinary Americans at their level, but because his reading level is that of a fourth grade schoolboy. It’s been said that politician is the one job that doesn’t require qualifications. Well, intelligence doesn’t guarantee that someone will make the right decisions. But in a complex world, in which power relationships between countries are so delicate that a misstep could start an international incident or even another war, we do need intellectual ability in our leaders and their advisers. We need politicos, who have the ability to obtain the knowledge of world affairs they need, not just from the broadcast news, but from foreign policy documents, even simply from reading the papers.

Trump seems incapable of this, and it puts us all in danger. He really does need to go.

Trump Opens Black History Month, But Doesn’t Know Who Frederick Douglass Was

February 4, 2017

I think this month over in the US is Black History Month, which is when teachers, historians and educationalists try to bring to mainstream attention the numerous Black figures, who have contributed to the shaping of modern America. Trump went on TV to announce it this week, and paid tribute to great figures of the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movement Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. However, he didn’t seem to know quite who Douglass was. He described him as someone, who has done great work, and is increasingly being recognised. Which makes it sound as though Drumpf thought he was an historian of the Black contribution to America. Douglass wasn’t. He was one of the major figures of the 19th century Abolitionist movement. His autobiography is one of the classics of Abolitionist and Black American literature. One of his most controversial and inspiring speeches was ‘What To The Slave Is the Fourth of July?’, in which he pointed out how hollow and meaningless the rhetoric surrounding Independence Day, with its talk of resisting tyrants and slavery, for America’s Black people, who were still held in servitude.

In this clip from The Young Turks, John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s apparent ignorance. They give him due credit for recognising the contribution of the above Black leaders, and the millions of other Black people in business and politics, which Trump also mentions. They make the point that his apparent ignorance shows the need for Black History Month, as Douglass was an obscure figure until Black scholars rediscovered him. They take issue with the opposition some people have to the Month. Some object to it on the grounds that a separate period for Black history shouldn’t be necessary, and historically marginalised figures like Tubman, Parks, Douglass, MLK et al should be incorporated in general history. They don’t dispute this. They do attack the claim that there simply shouldn’t be Black history month, or there should also be a White History Month, on the grounds that White history is taught every year, throughout the year, from January to December. And they point out too that teaching Black history is necessary, as some schools in very right-wing states have deliberately removed Black leaders and figures like MLK from the curriculum, in order to teach right-wing political figures like Phyllis Schlafly. In an earlier video, The Young Turks reported, if I recall correctly, how the schoolboard in Arizona had stopped teaching the pupils there about slavery, and replaced that part of the school curriculum with Reagan’s speeches. Which very much bears out their point. As for Phyllis Schlafly, she was a Conservative activist, who was anti-feminist and very much anti-UN.

Trump in his speech also takes the time to correct the rumour that he does not treasure the bust of Martin Luther King and had it removed from his office. This, he says, is wrong. He states that it is his most treasured object. This is interesting, as it shows how MLK has been ‘whitewashed’ so that even a Conservative like Trump can approve of him. Those, who’ve studied MLK and his work have pointed out that the man was much more radical than is commonly recognised. He’s seen now simply as standing up for Black equality and racial reconciliation between White and Black. Which is true. But he also bitterly hated capitalism for its exploitation of the poor, whether Black or White, denounced the US’ attacks on Cuba and was very firmly opposed to the Vietnam War, for exactly the same reasons Mohammed Ali did. I dare say Trump would have been shocked to know any of that. It definitely wouldn’t have made MLK one of his favourite Black leaders, as the great man would have despised everything that Drumpf, and indeed recent American presidents, including Obama, stand for regarding the bombing and wars in the Middle East.

Trump also pays due to tribute to his Black staff members and co-workers, especially for taking him into areas, he didn’t know anything about and had not visited before. Iadarola and Kasparian give Trump credit for not going on about the problems of Black inner city ghettoes, which is the prism through which Drumpf usually views the Black community. They also note at one point, Trump characteristically turns it around so that he is, once again, talking about himself and his campaigning, rather than the issue at hand.

If you’re interested in following up Frederick Douglass’ life and work, his autobiography most certainly has been republished. I think it’s in print both individually, as a part of anthologies of American slave writings. There are very many history of slavery and the slave trade. One that’s particularly useful for American history is Harry Harmer’s, The Longman Companion to Slavery, Emancipation and Civil Rights (Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd 2002). This has separate chapters on slavery in different regions and periods, such as in South America, North America and so on. It also presents the most important points as bulleted facts, and as its title says, continues the story into the Civil Rights period.

A Fitting SF Book For Trump’s Attitude to Mexicans?

January 22, 2017

fritz-leiber-pic

Fritz Leiber

Looking around one of the charity bookshops in Cheltenham on Friday, I picked up a copy of the novel A Spectre Is Haunting Texas (London: Granada 1971) by the great Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror novelist, Fritz Leiber. Leiber’s probably best known for his series of Fantasy novels featuring Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. David Pringle, the former editor of the British SF/Fantasy magazine, Interzone, named Leiber’s You’re All Alone as one of the 100 greatest fantasy novels in his book of the same title way back in the 1990s. That novel is about a man, who gets caught up in parallel society of people, who live outside ordinary humans’ perceptions, very much like the denizens of London Below in Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel and TV series, Neverwhere.

spectre-texas-cover

I’ve wanted to get hold of a copy for some time, ever since the Scottish space scientist and science writer, Duncan Lunan, briefly mentioned it in his book on the colonisation of the Solar System, Man and the Planets. It was that night, after I’d gone to bed, that I realised how weirdly fitting the book is now that Donald Trump is president of the USA. Here’s the blurb:

El Esqueleto!

Christopher Corckett la Cruz (or ‘Scully’) is an actor, an extrovert and a ladies’ man. To most of the inhabitants of post-World War III he looks outlandish, even sinister. To their women he looks very comely. Earth looks equally odd to Scully. Hormone treatment has turned Texans into giants and their Mex slaves into unhappy dwarfs.

To the Mexes, Scully is a Sign, a Talisman, a Leader. To Scully the Mexes are a Cause. The time is ripe for revolution…

It wouldn’t surprise me if some Hispanic Americans didn’t find the book’s politics offensive or condescending. In fairness, the book was published in 1969, when attitudes to race were extremely different, and its heart is in the right place.

And the future the book describes could, terrifyingly, become all too real. The Washington military and intelligence establishment seems all too keen to start some kind of altercation with Russia, egged on by the Democrats, desperate to deflect attention away from the sleazy contents of the material published by WikiLeaks on the shady business dealings and corporate funding of their leaders. Trump wants to end immigration from Mexico by building the wall. He also wants to repatriate 11 million undocumented immigrants. But he’s not the most extreme of the Repugs. One of the most bizarre and reactionary suggestions for stopping immigration from Latin America I’ve come across from the party of Ronald Reagan and George ‘Dubya’ Bush was that illegal immigrants from Mexico should be forced into state servitude for a period of seven years. You know, like slavery.

There’s a nasty movement amongst the Republican extreme right, led by the Von Mises Institute and other corporate think tanks, to try to rewrite the American Civil War. Apparently, the issue wasn’t about slavery. It was about tariff reform. I’m not an expert on American history, but I very much doubt it. And so, I think, would just about every respectable history of the War between the States. Lincoln only reluctantly freed the slaves. There’s a quote from him, in which he said that if he could maintain the unity of the US by keeping slavery, he would. I think by that he meant that if keeping slavery would prevent the break up of the US, then he’d make that decision. And when you consider the horrific carnage that the war brought about, you can easily understand why. Nevertheless, he couldn’t avoid civil war, and freed America’s enslaved. And thus he rightly became one of America’s greatest politicians.

Now right-wing extremists in the Republicans are trying to reverse Lincoln’s achievements, and obscure the causes of the Civil War in an attempt to make a suitably inspiring, sanitised history for those raised on Reagan, von Hayek, and the Fascist enablers of the Chicago school, like Milton Friedman.

Leiber’s title seems to me to be taken from the Communist Manifesto. This opens with the line ‘A spectre is haunting Europe’, before going to claim that it’s the spectre of revolution or Communism. It was rushed out in 1848, the year of revolutions, when all over Europe working people and occupied nations rose up against their class and imperial overlords.

We don’t need violent revolution, and the horror and mass death that comes with it. But we do need strong, left-wing movements to defend and protect ordinary people from increasingly predatory and exploitative political and industrial elites.

And perhaps the whole world now need an El Esqueleto to protect them from Trump.

Lobster: Maggie Thatcher Regretted Cutting Taxes

January 19, 2017

I found this extremely interesting snippet in Robin Ramsay’s ‘News from the Bridge’ section in the latest issue of the parapolitics magazine, Lobster, for Summer 2017. According to Frank Field, shortly after she retired, someone asked her what she most regretted. The Iron Lady answered that it was cutting taxes. She said she believed that it would result in a more giving society. This had not materialised.

He writes

I watch our politicians and, even though I know that as politicians they’re interested in power first and the truth second (or fifth, or not at all15), and have been conditioned to listen to polls and focus groups for their professed views, I find myself unable to suppress the thought: I wonder what they are really thinking? Take Margaret Thatcher: what did she really think she was doing when she fronted the creation of the grossly unequal society we now have? Frank Field MP gave us a striking insight into her thinking recently. Just after
she retired she was asked, ‘“What was your greatest disappointment in
government?” Back shot Mrs T: “I cut taxes because I thought we would get a giving society. And we haven’t.”

If we take this seriously, she apparently thought charitable giving would replace some of the state’s functions. This is consistent with the anti-state prejudices of the group with which she was allied in the 1970s – Keith Joseph, Alfred Sherman, the Institute for Economic Affairs et al. Another interpretation would be that, having decided to cut taxes to win elections, she rationalised the reduction in state spending with the thought. ‘Oh, well, people will give more to charity.’ Either way, it shows that Mrs T had no understanding of the
society in which she lived and the great tide of possessive individualism17 she was encouraging. But we knew that already, I guess.

See the section ‘Oh, Really?’ at http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster73/lob73-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

Assuming that this is genuine, and not Thatcher trying to make herself look genuinely caring and self-aware when the opposite was the case, this undermines somewhat the central myth of Thatcherism. The Tories have consistently attacked the welfare state on the grounds that it discourages private charity. I remember Thatcher and the Tory press prating on about how the retreat of welfare provision would strengthen private charity, as private individuals and charities stepped in to fill the vacuum left by the state. Reagan and the Republicans spouted the same nonsense over the other side of the Pond, followed by Bill Clinton. There’s footage of the former governor of Arkansas telling one Conservative group that ‘we know that there isn’t a government programme for every need or social problem’ or words to that effect, before going on to praise the effectiveness of private charity in tackling poverty and deprivation. And it’s true that American religious Conservatives are personally more generous than secular liberals. But the left has pointed out that private charity is inadequate for tackling poverty, unemployment, and issues like disability and poor health. You need state provision.

Now it seems, despite all the rubbish talked about Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ or May’s ‘shared society’, all this Thatcherite talk about private charity was rubbish, and known to be so by the woman who uttered it, after she tried it and it didn’t work. This has to be an embarrassment to a party for whom Maggie can do no wrong, and which is still preaching her discredited bilge nearly forty years after she came to power.

Get May and the Tories out now! Before they can wreck the NHS still further.

American Politico Tulsi Gabbard Wants the US to Stop Arming Terrorists

December 18, 2016

This is another very interesting piece from The Jimmy Dore Show. In this video, Dore discusses the demand by Democrat politician Tulsi Gabbard, that the US stop providing arms and military support to the terrorists who oppose it. Dore reminds his audience that the terrorists responsible for 9/11 were all Saudis, and that the Saudis are funding Islamist terrorists, like ISIS, in Syria to overthrow President Assad. The Americans are also in Syria trying to overthrow Assad, and we are supporting the Saudis. ‘So,’ he asks rhetorically, ‘are fighting with ISIS now?’

The answer is obviously ‘Yes’. And Congresswoman Gabbard wants to stop it. She’s the representative for a constituency in Hawaii, and has proposed the ‘Stop Arming Terrorist Act’ to halt arms sales by America to its enemies. In her speech to Congress, Gabbard states that it is illegal for US citizens to aid their country’s enemies. But this is precisely what the American state itself is doing. The legislation she proposes to stop this would prevent the US government from using taxpayers’ money to provide funding, weapons, training and intelligence services to Islamist organisations such as the Levant Front, Fursan al-Ha, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and countries that are providing support, whether direct or indirect, to these terrorists.

She states that this would prevent the US from funding terrorists in the same way that Congress passed the Boland Amendment in the 1980s to prevent America from funding the CIA-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Dore states that this was why Oliver North was sent to jail, because he was caught violating that amendment. The US government was also allowing the Contra rebels to export cocaine to the US as part of their war against the Sandinistas. Dore makes the point that Gabbard’s proposed legislation means the US cannot provide funds to Saudi Arabia, as that country funds Islamist terrorism. This, Dore states, is why it won’t pass.

The decision on which groups and individuals are to be considered terrorists would be made by the Director of National Intelligence, who would determine which people and organisations are linked or co-operating with al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or ISIS. He or she would also be responsible for deciding which countries were providing assistance to those terrorist groups. The list would have to be updated every six months in consultation with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The Director of National Intelligence would also be required to brief congress on their decisions.

Dore also reminds his viewers that the reason why America is backing Saudi Arabia, an oppressive theocracy, rather than supporting democracy in the Middle East is because of the oil industry. Mossadeq, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, wanted to export democracy. But he nationalised the oil industry, and so was overthrown by the Americans. Because democracy in the Middle East was too close to Communism. Hence the preference for anti-democratic theocracies like Saudi Arabia. They also won’t tell you the truth about why America’s in Syria. They’re not there to spread democracy, but for the fossil fuel.

Dore thinks that the legislation will not get through, as Paul Ryan – presumably the Speaker of the House, will not bring it to a vote. As for spreading democracy, they don’t even have it in America. Dore’s team notes that Hillary Clinton got 2 1/2 million votes more than Donald Trump, but did not win the election. Dore follows this up with the statistic that in 40 per cent of American elections, the presidency went to the loser. He and his team end by joking that they wish somebody would invade them – like Canada – and spread democracy.

Dore and his team are absolutely right. Saudi Arabia is backed by the US and its allies following a pact made in the 1920s, in which Saudi Arabia would allow American and the rest to exploit their oil reserves, in return for which they would defend the country militarily. Which means that America is giving aid and succour to the country, whose government collaborated with the 9/11 terrorists, of whom 17 of the 19 involved in the plot were Saudis.

I think Dore’s right, and doubt very much that this bill will pass. But even if it’s many years too late, at least somebody in America in authority has woken up to the fact that America is funding its enemies, people responsible for appalling atrocities like the Contras in Nicaragua. There’s not even a remote chance of that happening in Britain. Since its foundation in the 1980s, Robin Ramsey’s Lobster has been arguing that British intelligence is far out of control. It smeared Harold Wilson as a Communist, and ran assassination squads in Northern Ireland. The Blair government were remarkably uninterested in the problem of reining it in, or even in reading the files the agencies compiled on them personally when they were student radicals. Indeed, they wanted to carry on Major’s expansion of the surveillance state, just as May is doing now.

In fact this legislation would be just as unwelcome over this side of the pond, as Cameron and May have been giving material aid to the same terrorist groups, for exactly the same reason, and our government and corrupt corporate media, including the BBC, has also been falsely claiming that they’re freedom fighters. And the Tories have been just as keen to sell the Saudis weapons, with David Cameron waxing lyrical the other year at all the ‘wonderful kit’ being produced at a weapons factory up North.

Jesus in the Food Bank Queue

December 9, 2016

I’ve been attending the Advent course run by one of the ministers at our local church. The theme is hospitality in the Bible and the early church, and the obligation this lays upon modern Christians to live and work for the poor, the marginalised and strangers. Last night one of the texts studied was Christ’s words ‘For as you do to the least of them, you do to me’. Christ made clear that the people, who will be saved at the Last Judgement, will be those who fed, clothed and tended Him when He was in need. By which He meant the poor, the hungry, the sick and the outcast.

He talked about how he had visited a church in Washington D.C. He pointed out that not all of the city is like the White House and the government buildings. Beyond this well-kept, affluent area is are districts of the most desperate poverty. The church he’d visited had maintained a food line for the area’s poor. He stated that these were people, who were forced to use it to make ends meet until their next paycheque came. He was particularly impressed by one of the women serving at this food bank. Every morning she prayed to serve Jesus when she saw him again in the queue that day. She didn’t mean she literally saw Him, but as He was present in the poor peeps, who turned up for their food. It was a powerful, modern application of Christ’s teaching.

He also produced quotations from the Early Church Fathers about the Christian duty to work for the poor, even when personal charity was being undermined somewhat by the institutional charity – hospitals, hostels, orphanages and monasteries of the late Roman Empire after Constantine’s conversion. Hippolytus, for example, advised that every citizen, who was able should build a guest chamber on to their house. And one of the other Church Fathers described one of the hospitals as a city for the poor, by which they could meet the rich as equals.

These are very strong, challenging demands for Christians to practise the charity taught in the Bible, and to seek out, identify with and support ‘the fatherless, the widow and the foreigner’, and bring to their feasts ‘the poor, the lame and the blind’.

Unfortunately, Contemporary neoliberal politics since Thatcher and Reagan has demanded that the institutional care provided by the state should be cut back, with disastrous results. They believed that this would strengthen the Church by forcing people to fall back on private charity. Hence we now have the spectacle of various charities actively seeking out government contracts, and fully supporting the hideous policies of sanctioning and marginalisation that are forcing more people into poverty, misery, starvation and, in extreme cases, death. And the charities themselves are under threat. The figures provided by the Trussell Trust of the numbers of people using their food banks have been attacked by the Tories for the simply reason that they give the lie to their propaganda that austerity – meaning benefit cuts and wage freezes – have somehow made people better off.

I fully support the charities and their workers, who do genuinely work for the poor. One of the most acute accounts of what it is like to work at the sharp end trying to aid those pushed into need by the government’s policies comes from the blogs and vlogs of people working in food banks. I’ve reblogged some of these. But private charity isn’t enough. We need the support of the state, and active welfare policies to empower the poor, disabled and marginalised, including the working class.

As for Theresa May, and her claims to be guided by her Christian faith, before she does so, she should meditate very much on how Our Lord is present in the poor. She may well do so. But I’ve seen no evidence of her doing anything genuinely to alleviate poverty.

Scottish Economist Mark Blyth’s on Neoliberal Economic Cause of Trump and Global Fascism

December 3, 2016

Mike early today put up a piece about a speech by Jeremy Corbyn, in which the Labour leader correctly described the extreme right-wing parties and their leaders as ‘parasites’, feeding off the despair and poverty that had been created through Conservative economic policies. They blamed their economic problems on immigrants, racial minorities and the poorest and weakest members of society. What was needed was for centre-left parties to reject the political establishment, and devise policies that would help people take power for themselves.

The report cited by Mike quoted Corbyn as saying:

“They are political parasites feeding off people’s concerns and worsening conditions, blaming the most vulnerable for society’s ills instead of offering a way for taking back real control of our lives [from] the elites who serve their own interests.

“But unless progressive parties and movements break with a failed economic and political establishment, it is the siren voices of the populist far right that will fill the gap.””

Mike makes the point that this effectively damns New Labour and its legacy. Blair’s espousal of neoliberal, Thatcherite economics allowed the country’s remaining state assets to be sold off by the Tories and Lib Dems, and made the country ready for the rise of far right politicians such as Theresa May and Nigel Farage.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/03/far-right-politicians-and-their-supporters-are-parasites-says-corbyn-calling-for-rejection-of-the-establishment/

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the only person making this point. Over a week ago Michael Brooks, filling in for Sam Seder as the anchor on the left-wing internet news show The Majority Report, discusses the economic causes behind the rise of racist authoritarianism around the world. And it is global. Trump has been elected the next president of the United State, Marine Le Pen’s Front National is leading the polls in France, the neo-Fascist Fidesz party is in power in Hungary, and Brexit in England is part of this pattern.

Mark Blyth, a Scottish political economist and professor of international political economy at Brown University gave a speech at the university’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs which laid bare the roots of the origins of these illiberal, Fascistic movements in the massive poverty and social inequality created by neoliberal economics. Brooks plays a clip from his speech, and then adds his own comments afterwards.

Blyth states that from 1945 to 1975, the world’s governments were concentrating on full employment. He states that there is an economic law called the Lucas Critique, which states that in any economic policy, someone will try to game it to serve their ends. And in the case of the strategy of creating full employment, both unions and employers tried to game the system, with the result that inflation increased massively. This principally hurt the creditor class – the financial sector – who decided to hit back by liberating the banks from government control and creating an integrated global economy. This included globalising labour, so that they could not demand fair wages. If they did so, their jobs could be closed down and moved overseas. He also makes the point that the international trade agreements concluded during this period have been made with little regard for the interests of ordinary people themselves. You can see this in the Trans-Pacific trade agreement. If you look this up on the web, you will find a 700 page document negotiated between governments and major corporations, but with little input from civil society. Ditto for the treaties of the European Union. People have realised that for the past thirty years from 1985 onwards, massive amounts of money has been made, but these have all been passed upwards to an infinitesimally small number of people.

The result is massive poverty. He makes the point to his audience at the uni that they don’t have to go very far to see the consequences. All they have to do is go to north-west Providence, in Rhode Island. There they can see the stores offering to cash cheques on demand, or selling or fixing goods cheaply. People are fed up, and use every opportunity to show it. This was demonstrated with Brexit in England and Wales, and in the Constitutional Referendum in Italy.

And there is also a macro-economic underpinning to these movements here. Successive governments have targeted inflation, and Blyth states that he can see no reason why the Lucas Critique should not also apply here. We now have a situation in which 3 trillion euros have been dumped into the money supply through quantitative easing, and it has not caused inflation. This has caused other problems. When banks have been bailed out and taken over by governments, so that they have been dumped on the public, the creditors fight even harder to get their money back. This can be seen in the case of Germany versus the rest of the Eurozone. This has set up a conflict between creditors versus debtors. On the left, it’s produced Podemos in Spain. On the right, it’s created the Front National in France. Trump’s part of this trend. Misogyny and racism are part of the mixture that has thrust him to power, but if you look at areas like America’s rust belt, you also see that part of it is also economic.

Brooks adds that this is true, and like Corbyn, he makes the point that if there is no serious left-wing response which deals with an economic system that has been created to serve a tiny elite, it will open the door to the ugly things that are also present in the system.

In America, this is White Supremacism. He states that it’s in America’s DNA. The country was founded on genocide, slavery, apartheid and racism, of which there are different kinds, including discrimination against Asians and Hispanics. It is a profoundly racist country. The situation has also been made worse through the misalignment in the Democrat Party. There is a split between those who want social liberation, and those who want to reign in the corporate interests and break up the big cartels. This wasn’t quite so pronounced twenty years ago under Bill Clinton, who was willing to use racial demagoguery. Brooks states that the only way to tackle the rise of racism in America is to combine the two goals of creating greater opportunities for women and minorities, and attacking the power of the big corporations. The Third Way, neoliberal nonsense is unable to do this. The age of neoliberalism is over. The reign of neo-Fascism is now in.

Blyth, Brooks and Jeremy Corbyn are all exactly right. But you won’t hear it from the establishment press, or the Beeb, or any of the mainstream news outlets, which are there to serve corporate interests. And those interests want to prop up neoliberalism as long as possible. Hence we have the supposedly liberal press – the Guardian and Independent, viciously attacking Jeremy Corbyn and demanding his removal in favour of a safe Blairite leader. There’s a piece in today’s I newspaper by Janet Street-Porter asking why Ed Balls can’t be leader of the Labour party. She makes the point that he’s a fellow of Harvard University, and so intelligent. Balls academic qualifications aren’t in question here. All of the New Labour clique were well educated men and women, and the majority of them had spent periods studying in America. That’s the problem. They are the products of the British-American Project For the Successor Generation, a Reaganite programme set up to influence rising politicians in the 1980s so that they followed the Atlanticist line. And you can see the effects in the case of Tony Blair. When he started out, he was for unilateral nuclear disarmament. They he spent four weeks in America as a guest of the think tanks involved in the programme, and came back a convinced supporter of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. And Balls was an integral part of New Labour, and the Thatcherite/ Reaganite policies it pursued.

And that’s exactly what Janet Street-Porter and the other, supposedly left-wing hacks want: Thatcherism, but under a left-wing guise, which is essentially no different from that of the Tories.

It’s why Tony Blair has also returned, and is talking about his plans to set up an institute to promote ‘centrist’ politics next year. His politics aren’t centrist, as Mike’s pointed out: they’re far right, neo-liberal. They punish the poor, the ill, the unemployed and disabled for the profit and big businessmen like David Sainsbury. I’ve no doubt Blair is genuinely afraid of the rise in racism across the Continent. But he’s also terrified of the re-emergence of genuine socialism and of ordinary citizens taking back power from the corporations and the bankers. Hence his stupid and misguided plans for the institute. He hasn’t realised that his policies are part of the long chain of causes of the present political crisis, going all the way back to Thatcher. His institute isn’t going to solve the problem of racism and authoritarianism across Europe. It’s going to make it worse. If it ever gets going, of course.