Posts Tagged ‘The Financial Times’

Vox Political on Yvette Cooper Condemning Renationalisation

February 23, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political also has a piece from the Independent about Yvette Cooper. Apparently, she is set to make a speech attacking the nationalisation of industry as an old, discredited idea. It will not help modern workers, according to her, or those trying to ‘build an app’. Mike therefore asks if she’s deliberately trying to mislead people about the issue in defending ‘wasteful’ privatisation. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/23/is-yvette-cooper-deliberately-misleading-people-about-nationalisation/.

Now I agree with Mike that privatisation is wasteful. It also led, paradoxically, to a massive increase in bureaucracy. This expanded massively when the utility companies, including that for water, sewage and the environment, were sold off and separate regulatory bodies had to be set up. In order to try and keep to their promise that selling off Britain’s family silver would reduce bureaucracy, they had to cut down on the regulatory bodies so that they wouldn’t have so much power, and wouldn’t represent the interests of the consumers. And there was also the usual revolving doors between the civil service and the privatised utility companies, where the mandarins who were supposed to be watching them in the public interest did no such thing, and later got a job with them after they left Whitehall. I can remember reading report after report on this, fortnight after fortnight, in Private Eye in the ’90s. It was all part of the sleaze surrounding John Major’s administration.

I’ve also heard that, despite the impression given by privatisation that all aspects of energy generation, and its supply, and that of water and gas, the actual infrastructure remains the concern of the state. The private utility companies get to cream off the profits, but the actual maintenance of the national grid, pipes and so on remain the duty of the state, which bears the financial burden. Now I’ll have to check on this, but if it’s true, then privatisation really has been just a scam with minimal benefit to the consumers. Quite beyond the very obvious profiteering we’ve seen by the energy companies themselves.

Now let’s come to the example of the information technology industry she used. It won’t help workers developing an app, according to Cooper. Now, the free marketeers just love the computing and information technology. Look, they say, at the way a group of private individuals in the 1970s – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and others, built a whole industry from sheer private enterprise, all in the garages or spare time or whatever. The Financial Times had a go at this myth, as did Adam Curtis in his documentary, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. The Financial Times pointed out that the kids, who were able to create the modern computing industry, were able to do so not because of the free market, or because their part of California had excellent schools, or indeed any of that. They were able to get ahead and develop it because they were all already very wealthy, and could afford to develop their creations. And Adam Curtis in his documentary went and showed that the mathematical basis behind the suggestion that private enterprise gives better results through allowing people to co-operate independently and form a coherent strategy without a central planner was also baloney.

And if you want a real counter-example, then try France. The French computer industry was created in the 1970s through the efforts of the French state. And the French have been very successful in their efforts. So central planning, nationalisation and state investment can help create jobs in the high technology sector. Even in America, my guess is that much of the technology sector is supported by generous state subsidies, regardless of what Cooper believes or think she knows about the benefits of laissez faire industry.

Now I have to say, I think Cooper genuinely believes that private enterprise is superior to nationalised and state-owned industry. It’s a basic item of faith of the New Labour clique. And she also has a point about nationalisation not necessarily benefiting workers. Harry Gosling, the founder of the T&GWU with Ernest Bevin, made a speech in Bristol stating that nationalisation wouldn’t do so unless it involved a degree of worker’s control. And proper representation of the workforce in the workplace is what trade unions are for. It’s also what the Labour party was set up to do. Unfortunately, Blair, Broon and New Labour decided that they didn’t. Just before one of the two left office – I can’t remember which one – they passed a whole tranche of legislation actually weakening the unions. Moreover, on the government website telling you what rights you had under the law as a worker, there was also a secret section for employers that told them how they could circumvent all this. So there’s an element of hypocrisy there. Cooper’s against nationalisation, because it wouldn’t help the workers. But Blair wasn’t keen on organised Labour either. I can remember how he threatened to cut the ties between the unions and the Labour party.

And there’s more, much more to be said about this. I’ll blog about the foundation of the nationalised industries some other time. But for now, the opposite of what Cooper said is true: privatisation is discredited, and the privatisers of New Labour have also shown themselves unwilling to act for the poor or the working class either. It’s why UKIP took off so spectacularly. And while their leadership are privatisers on steroids, most of the grassroots members actually want the utilities nationalised. The Angry Yorkshireman wrote several pieces about this, all of which are worth reading.

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Secular Talk: Economic Policy Group Shows ‘Welfare Queens’ Have Little Factual Basis

February 7, 2016

This is another excellent political snippet from Secular Talk. In this video, Kyle Kulinski discusses the findings of the Economic Policy Institute, as reported in the International Business Times, that ‘welfare queens’ don’t really exist. ‘Welfare queens’ was the term given by Reagan to lazy, unemployed women, who didn’t want to work and just scrounged off welfare. The Institute’s study shows that most of the people on welfare are the working poor, people in work whose wages don’t cover their basic needs. The report states that

* 2/3 of all people on needs-based public assistance are either working, or have a family member who’s working.

* About half of all recipients of public assistance are working full time.

The report states outright that indolence and laziness aren’t pushing up the welfare bills. Low pay is. And the reports goes on to say that massive bonuses and pay is awarded to corporate executives, it’s appropriate to ask whether corporations are passing their societal responsibilities to tax payers.

* Nearly half of all workers in the forestry, fishing and hunting sectors receive help of some kind.

* This is also true of a 1/3 of those in retail, recreation, entertainment, accommodation and food sector.

Kulinski makes the point that the solution is to the raise the minimum wage. He states that many Republicans actually do want the minimum wage to be raised. He attacks the Republicans, who want to close down welfare programmes, arguing that this would make America Somalia, and force people to starve. He also makes it very clear that he has no time for hypocritical Republicans, who say they love Jesus, but don’t want to put Christ’s concern for the poor and excluded into effect. If America were to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, $45 billion in taxes would be saved. Kulinski points out that this is because workers, when they can’t make enough to live on, turn to the state safety net, which is provided by the taxpayer. Thus, if you pay people a living wage, the Republicans could cut the welfare bill, including Medicaid. All you have to do is make Walmart pay their workers more. He argues that Walmart would be able to afford the extra $2 an hour paid to people, and that the cost passed on to the public would at most be 8c more. This would not stop people going to Walmart.

Kulinski concludes that the system now works by making a miniscule percentage extremely rich, who then give crumbs to everyone else. They have to go on welfare to make ends meet, but the corporations have bought congress, so it looks in the other direction. Kulinski states in very forthright terms that this must go.

The show also has some of the cartoons showing the hypocritical attitude towards poor women. When they’re pregnant, the Republicans are desperate not to let them abort the child. When they have the child, the Republicans are hurling abuse and stating they should never have got pregnant in the first place. And there’s a cartoon of a fat cat businessman on a mountain of money accusing a starving worker of being greedy.

This study really should surprise no one. It’s been that way for about twenty years. At the end of the 1990s the Financial Times, then a Liberal newspaper, stated that the vast majority of the poor across the Developed World were working. This is the case for America, Australasia and Europe. They reviewed a programme on the radio about poverty in New Zealand, which showed the problems working people in the land of the Kiwi and the All Blacks had keeping body and soul together. Same as hard-workin’ folks in the Appalachians. And there has been report after report, study after study, showing it in Britain.

And it’s fairly clear that, despite the vilification of people on welfare as benefit frauds and scroungers, aIDS, Cameron and Osbo are very aware of this. No, ‘aIDS’ isn’t a spelling mistake. I’ve decided to call the ‘Gentleman Ranker’ aIDS, because like that foul disease he’s determined to kill people, and spread his vile poison throughout society. But back to the main point. IDS and the others have passed regulations stipulating that if you’re receiving benefit for low pay, you get a phone from your ‘Job Coach’ encouraging you to get a better paid job. In order to cut the welfare bill, of course. It’s a tacit acknowledgement that they know the majority of the poor in this country are working, and aren’t being paid a proper, living wage. But they really don’t want to admit that, as the free market is supposed to make sure that everyone gets what they deserve, in a rising tide that lifts all boats due to trickle down economics. This was rubbish when Reagan and Thatcher spouted it. Hunter S. Thompson had a go at it in Generation of Swine. But they’re still going on as if it were all true, thirty years later.

There’s only one sure way to tackle in work poverty, and that is to demand the minimum wage be raised. And to vote out the people, who are blocking this. Like AIDS Ian Duncan Smith.

Tory Ex-Cabinet Ministers Given Jobs in the Industries They Supervised

January 12, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political reported a piece in yesterday’s Mirror, that five former members of Cameron’s cabinet had found jobs in the very industries that it was their business to supervise. See his article http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/11/gravy-train-scandal-as-ex-ministers-join-payroll-of-industries-they-used-to-oversee/

Mike rightly points out that Private Eye has an occasional column about this, ‘Revolving Doors’. It’s a fine old Tory tradition, though one which Bliar and New Labour also took up with enthusiasm. Before Blair took power, however, it was a real scandal under John Major. Then there was a series of scandals of cabinet ministers and senior civil servants taking up jobs in the very industries that they had helped to privatise. This was attacked in the British press as ‘sleaze’.

On the other side of the Channel, the French have very strict rules against such conduct. There are laws against it. I think one of them, which has been proposed by the Eye, is that there should be a two year wait before a cabinet minister or senior civil servant can take up such a post. The reason businesses take on former ministers and mandarins is to get hold of their address book of useful contacts. While this has gone on in just about all area of politics and the economy, some of the most blatant examples have been with former defence ministers getting jobs with arms companies. A two year wait for such posts would vastly cut down on this, as by that time their diaries and lists of friends and associates would be well out of date. There’d be absolutely no reason for firms to hire them.

This, however, is too much like good sense and genuine, disinterested government, for the politicos and apparatchiks at Westminster and Whitehall, and so it stands absolutely no chance of being introduced over here. I suspect if someone were to suggest it, they would be taken aside by the latest incarnation of Sir Humphrey Appleby, and quietly told that what they were doing was ‘courageous’. Or they’d try some other way to circumvent and undermine it.

The French, meanwhile, were spectacularly unimpressed with what they saw as our failure to take the matters as seriously as it should. One French minister interviewed by the Financial Times stated quite clearly that simply calling it ‘sleaze’ misrepresented its true importance. ‘What you call ‘sleaze’, he said, ‘we call corruption’.

So let’s call it like they do in la Belle France: Five Tory ministers have corruptly taken up jobs in the industries they supervised while in government.

Yasmin Alibhai-Browne on the Saudi’s Empire of Terror

October 2, 2015

Okay, I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging much in the past few months. As I’ve explained before, the re-election of the Tories left me profoundly depressed and dispirited with the state of politics in this country, and the mindset of the British people. I’ve also been trying to write a book on the British Empire and slavery. That’s also taken up a lot of my time.

However, I’ve come across a few items, which I think really deserve to be blogged about. One of them is about Cameron supposedly performing a lewd act with the head of a dead pig. There’s so much going on with that story that I intend to devote a whole post about it. But first there’s this piece, by Yasmin Alibhai-Browne, on the evils of the Saudi Regime.

Alibhai-Brown’s one of the journos on the Independent. She’s of Ugandan Asian heritage, and is married to a White British man. She writes mostly, though not exclusively, about racial issues, as well as women, and, of course, Islam and the position of Muslims in modern British society. I’ve got a lot of respect for her, as she will tackle difficult issues that many others won’t touch. She has, for example, covered anti-White racism as well as the more familiar variety inflicted on ethnic minorities. This was in the first few years of this century, when the statistics showed that more Whites were the victims of race hate crime than Blacks or Asians. I admired her for that, as she showed that you can tackle that issue without having any sympathy with the Fascist Right or the racial reactionaries of the Tory party.

Last Sunday, the 27th September, she put up this article about the pernicious influence of the Saudis. She wrote:

Iran is seriously mistrusted by Israel and America. North Korea protects its nuclear secrets and is ruled by an erratic, vicious man. Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions alarm democratic nations. The newest peril, Isis, the wild child of Islamists, has shocked the whole world. But top of this list should be Saudi Arabia – degenerate, malignant, pitiless, powerful and as dangerous as any of those listed above.

The state systematically transmits its sick form of Islam across the globe, instigates and funds hatreds, while crushing human freedoms and aspiration. But the West genuflects to its rulers. Last week Saudi Arabia was appointed chair of the UN Human Rights Council, a choice welcomed by Washington. Mark Toner, a spokesperson for the State Department, said: “We talk about human rights concerns with them. As to this leadership role, we hope that it is an occasion for them to look into human rights around the world and also within their own borders.”

US ‘welcomes’ UN putting Saudi Arabia in charge of human rights panel

The jaw simply drops. Saudi Arabia executes one person every two days. Ali Mohammed al-Nimr is soon to be beheaded then crucified for taking part in pro-democracy protests during the Arab Spring. He was a teenager then. Raif Badawi, a blogger who dared to call for democracy, was sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes. Last week, 769 faithful Muslim believers were killed in Mecca where they had gone on the Hajj. Initially, the rulers said it was “God’s will” and then they blamed the dead. Mecca was once a place of simplicity and spirituality. Today the avaricious Saudis have bulldozed historical sites and turned it into the Las Vegas of Islam – with hotels, skyscrapers and malls to spend, spend, spend. The poor can no longer afford to go there. Numbers should be controlled to ensure safety – but that would be ruinous for profits. Ziauddin Sardar’s poignant book Mecca: The Sacred City, describes the desecration of Islam’s holiest site.

Even more seriously, the pernicious Saudi influence is spreading fast and freely. King Salman has offered to build 200 mosques in Germany for recently arrived refugees, many of whom are Muslims. He offered no money for resettlement or basic needs, but Wahhabi mosques, the Trojan horses of the secret Saudi crusade. Several Islamic schools are also sites of Wahhabism, now a global brand. It makes hearts and minds small and suspicious, turns Muslim against Muslim, and undermines modernists.

She’s absolutely right about the destruction of historic Mecca, including the buildings, monuments and homes of Muhammad and his companions – the holiest figures in Islam. The Independent has published a number of pictures showing how the city has been effectively gutted in a frenzy of building and modernisation. This has been ostensibly to provide more accommodation and greater access for the millions, who go to the city every year on the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. But it also shows the Saudis’ deep lack of concern, even contempt, for their country’s ancient monuments. Much of the radical Islamism now threatening the world is Saudi in inspiration. considering the destruction the Saudis have inflicted on Islam’s holiest city, I’m not remotely surprised that ISIS have been so keen to destroy ancient monuments they consider to be ‘against Islam’. And that’s a highly elastic phrase, which also means genuinely Muslim monuments, but from a sect or interpretation of Islam they hate or mistrust.

As well as banning non-Muslim religions, other Islamic sects are also banned in Saudi Arabia. The Shi’a live in marginalised villages without gas, electricity or running water. They are not allowed to build or worship in their own mosques, and their religious literature, including their version of the Qu’ran, is illegal. When copies are found, they are confiscated and destroyed. A few years ago the Grand Mufti declared them heretics, who were worthy of death. Some of the destruction they have caused seems to be directed against the Shi’a. A few Saturdays ago the Independent’s sister paper, the ‘I’, carried a story about the Saudis’ bulldozing the homes occupied by Muhammad and his followers. While these are naturally of considerable veneration to Muslims generally, the Shi’a in particular venerate them and travel to them when making the pilgrimage.

As for the Saudi’s fixation with secular money-making, it’s pretty much been the case in that part of the Islamic world since the Middle Ages. Mecca became extremely rich on the money spent by the pilgrims flocking there, and much of the poetry written during the Middle Ages was extremely secular. It wasn’t about the delights of paradise, or the beatific vision of God’s face awaiting the faithful in paradise, or about religious devotion to Muhammad, his companions and the Qu’ran. No, it was about the delights of getting drunk on wine, and having a great time with the slave girls.

I’ve read accounts of interviews from moderate Muslims around the world, who have lamented how the religion in their countries has become increasingly intolerant and violent due to the influence of preachers, who have gone to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to study. And moderate Muslims over here have voiced the same concerns. There was also a piece published nearly a decade ago in the Saturday edition of the Financial Times by the imam, who received Salman Rushdie back into the faith after he emerged from hiding. I’m afraid I really can’t remember the imam’s name, except that his first name is Zakariya, if I remember correctly. This scholar has written extensively about Islam in Britain, as well as inscriptions in Arabic dating from the 17th century and found in churchyards in Yorkshire. This particular imam wanted the British government to invest in a British Islamic seminary. There was at the time a shortage of imams to serve in British mosques. This allowed some of the fire-breathing bigots from outside Britain to jump the queue at immigration, and spread their message of hate to Brits over here.

And I’m afraid the situation is only going to get worse. According to an article I read back in the ’90s in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, foreign governments sponsor and support mosques in the West to promote their own national influence. That means that the 200 mosques the Saudis intend to build in Germany will reflect the hard-line attitudes of Saudi Arabia, rather than a more liberal, Western form of Islam that the moderates look forward to. As it stands, there has already been friction and accusations of separatism in Germany directed against some of the Turkish Muslim organisations. In the ’80s or ’90s there was a controversy within the German labour unions against some of the Turkish labour organisations. The Germans alleged that despite their talk of integration, the Turkish groups were pursuing a separatist agenda. A German-Turkish writer has also described how, when he was a child, he had ethnic German, non-Muslim friends until one of the Turkish Muslim scholars told their community that they shouldn’t have anything to do with them. Politicians and activists across Europe are worried about the growth of parallel communities, which attempt to cut themselves off as far as possible from outsiders, whether, White, Black, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, secular or whatever. One Islamic community leader on a programme about racial problems in contemporary Britain, spoke about his fears for the development of Muslim communities, whose citizens would only know other Muslims. His views were echoed by the representatives from the other faiths – Judaism and Christianity, who also appeared on the programme. They were similarly worried that their peoples would also grow up in sealed communities interacting only with members of their own faith.

All this is likely to get worse if the Saudis are allowed to proceed unchecked. And, quite simply, I don’t think there is the political will to prevent it. Alibhai-Brown points out later in the article how close the royal family is personally to the Saudis. There’s also the awkward fact that they dominate the oil economy. They can throw their weight around now, because of the way they learnt they can wreck the global economy by raising or dropping the price of oil, as they did during the energy crisis of the 1970s. All they have to do is drop their prices, and the Texas oil industry – or Venezuelan, for that matter, is decimated. And the profits to be made from their oil company, Aramco, are just too massive to be resisted by Western industrialists and politicians. And so it seems that the Saudis can spread global terror and religious hatred with impunity.

The whole article can be read at: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/the-evil-empire-of-saudi-arabia-is-the-west-s-real-enemy-a6669531.html. Go and read it.

I don’t think what she said about there having been no coverage of the iniquities of the Saudi regime is completely accurate, however. A little while ago there was a documentary on Channel 4 about radical and extremist Islam, which included some of the viciously anti-Semitic and anti-Western teaching coming out of Saudi mosques and madrassas. That provoked a critical article about the Saudis in parts of the press. I think the Daily Mail ran a piece. But it shows how seriously that kind of journalism is taken in that it appeared on Channel 4, which was already set up as the alternative cultural channel to BBC 2, the Beeb’s alternative channel for more serious culture.

Despite the horror and violence of the situation in the Middle East at the moment, I believe that there are still opportunities awaiting us to bring about peace and tolerance. But these will be blocked if we allow the Saudis to continue preaching intolerance. The world’s peoples – Muslim and non-Muslim – deserve better.

Private Eye on the Non-Dom Press Barons of Fleet Street

April 22, 2015

Ed Miliband’s announcement a few weeks ago that he would end non-dom tax status was greeted with howls of derision from the right-wing Tory press. The Evening Standard, Torygraph and the Heil all claimed that if the various millionaires resident in Britain, who weren’t paying their taxes here, were forced to do so, then they would all leave en masse.

As Private Eye pointed out in last week’s issue, these paper’s stance has hardly been disinterested. Their owners are all non-doms. Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian oligarch, who owns the Evening Standard, last year dodged the Eye’s questions on where he pays his tax. The weirdo Barclay brothers, the owners of the Torygraph, are tax exiles in Monaco and the Channel Islands. And the Mail’s Viscount Rothermere is another one. He inherited his non-dom tax status from his father, despite not living abroad and building something that can only be described as a stately home in the south of England.

Sky also decided to join in the criticism, while obviously not mentioning that its owner, Rupert Murdoch, also doesn’t pay tax in Britain. Neither in fact, does Dirty Rupe’s papers, the Sun and the Times, which the Eye revealed a few years ago to be registered abroad for the purposes of corporation tax. So much for the true-blue British patriotism of these papers.

The Eye refuted all this criticism by printing the views of Jolyon Maugham, a QC who has advised both Labour and the Tories on tax policies. Maugham pointed to the similar criticisms levelled at Labour by the papers when the party first started levying taxes on non-doms in 2008. Then the Mail predicted a massive stock market crash, and it, the Telegraph and the British Banking Association all warned that Britain’s millionaires were considering leaving the country. In fact, the opposite was true. By the end of 2014, according to the Eye, about 54 per cent of property sales in Kensington were to foreign purchasers. At the moment, there are 115,000 non-doms in London, because the capital is still an extremely attractive place for millionaires.

The article also points out that the Financial Times also supports the ending of non-dom tax status. They suggest, however, the paper didn’t come out and make its opposition to the tax status earlier because until 2013, it was partly owned by Dame Marjorie Scardino, who would have been entitled to non-dom tax status on her London flat.

Readers of Johnny Void’s blog will know about the problems created in London by the presence of the global super-rich, and the way they are pushing ordinary working and lower-middle class Londoners out of the city. In a post I reblogged here a few days ago, Mr Void described the appalling destruction of London’s working class and counter- or alternative cultural heritage. Like the historic Black Cap gay bar, Soho, Tin Pan alley, parts of Camden market, and the relocation of St Martin’s school of art. It does seem that the capital’s real, living heritage that has grown up over decades and centuries, is being gutted in order to leave the capital another sterile, homogenous global environment for the planet’s super rich.

This has to be resisted – not just in London, but all over England and the UK. It’s part of a general process throughout Britain where gentrification and the desire to please and attract the wealthy from across the world is destroying working class communities, and the places they live, work, shop and relax across the UK.

The problem isn’t that if Ed ends the non-dom tax bracket, there’ll be an exodus of oligarchs and multi-millionaires, as the Week put on its cover last Friday. The problem is the opposite – that if the power and cupidity of the super-rich isn’t curtailed, they’ll price the poor out of their homes altogether. It’s most acute in London, but if it isn’t stopped, it’ll come to somewhere near you very quickly.

Vox Political on Peter Oborne’s Resignation Article in Open Democracy

February 19, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this article on Peter Oborne’s resignation, entitled Oborne’s resignation article lifts the lid on Torygraph corruption. This reports on Oborne’s article giving his reasons for resigning from the Torygraph, including extracts from the article. While the newspaper’s cover-up of tax avoidance and money-laundering was the immediate reason Oborne took the step of walking out, this was only one of a number of instances where the newspapers content had been grotesquely distorted to suit the interests of the advertisers. Other examples include a puff-piece about Cunard’s Queen Mary II; extremely minimal news coverage given to the pro-democracy protests in China, with another puff piece by the Chinese government urging the British people not to let events in Hong Kong ruin the relationship between the two countries; further puff-pieces about the wonders of Tesco, while the false accounting scandal at the company was, like Hong Kong, barely mentioned.

The virtual black-out on any adverse news about HSBC, including its investigation by the Swiss authorities, began two years ago in 2013. Quite simply, the bank was a such a major advertiser, that journalists were told that they simply couldn’t afford to lose the account. And so they did everything they could to appease it.

Oborne further makes the point that the Telegraph is only one case of the corruption of British journalism in general. He attacks the way the newspapers, with the honourable exception of the Guardian, were silent during the phone-hacking scandal, regardless of whether or not they were involved.

He makes the excellent point that this has extremely serious implications for democracy. Newspapers aren’t just entertainment, and they aren’t their to appease big corporations and rich men. ‘Newspapers have a constitution duty to tell their readers the truth’.

Mike himself is a trained journalist, and as he says, has personal experience of this. He walked out on two jobs because of management interference in the contents of the newspapers he was with to suit their advertisers.

The article begins

Peter Oborne has written an enlightening article on OpenDemocracy, covering his concerns about the Daily Telegraph’s editorial enthrallment to its advertising department and the effect on its news coverage.

Passages like the following are particularly disturbing:

The reporting of HSBC is part of a wider problem. On 10 May last year the Telegraph ran a long feature on Cunard’s Queen Mary II liner on the news review page. This episode looked to many like a plug for an advertiser on a page normally dedicated to serious news analysis. I again checked and certainly Telegraph competitors did not view Cunard’s liner as a major news story. Cunard is an important Telegraph advertiser.

The paper’s comment on last year’s protests in Hong Kong was bizarre. One would have expected the Telegraph of all papers to have taken a keen interest and adopted a robust position. Yet (in sharp contrast to competitors like the Times) I could not find a single leader on the subject.

At the start of December the Financial Times, the Times and the Guardian all wrote powerful leaders on the refusal by the Chinese government to allow a committee of British MPs into Hong Kong. The Telegraph remained silent. I can think of few subjects which anger and concern Telegraph readers more.

On 15 September the Telegraph published a commentary by the Chinese ambassador, just before the lucrative China Watch supplement. The headline of the ambassador’s article was beyond parody: ‘Let’s not allow Hong Kong to come between us’. On 17 September there was a four-page fashion pull-out in the middle of the news run, granted more coverage than the Scottish referendum. The Tesco false accounting story on 23 September was covered only in the business section. By contrast it was the splash, inside spread and leader in the Mail. Not that the Telegraph is short of Tesco coverage. Tesco pledging £10m to fight cancer, an inside peak at Tesco’s £35m jet and ‘Meet the cat that has lived in Tesco for 4 years’ were all deemed newsworthy.

The article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/18/obornes-resignation-article-lifts-the-lid-on-torygraph-corruption/.

The Guardian and Observer haven’t exactly been as entirely blameless or free of such contagion as Oborne describes. In the 1990s and 2000s they often featured in the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column for running the same kind of puff-pieces Oborne describes. Frequently, these were articles extolling the virtues of extremely authoritarian countries, like Indonesia, which at that time was pursuing its brutal occupation of East Timor through terror and genocide, and similarly harshly suppressing and persecuting political dissidents. Nevertheless, it should be said that Groaniad and Absurder still published articles criticising such regimes.

And Murdoch’s might empire also has form in this. Australia’s Minister for Public Enlightenment was personally horrified by the Tianamen Square massacre. Nevertheless, Murdoch was keen to expand his global empire into the Chung Kuo. Thus when Chris Patten tried to publish his book describing his experiences and perspectives as the last British governor of Hong Kong, it was turned down by HarperCollins. The publisher was owned by Murdoch, who didn’t want to upset the Chinese, and so lose his chance of subjecting the citizens of the Middle Kingdom to the same kind of moronic bilge he inflicts on the rest of the population.

The corruption of the British press goes back decades. The Torygraph and HSBC are merely the most extreme and recent example. Let’s hope this prompts people to strike back and demand a genuinely free and informative press.

UKIP’s Alliance with the Extreme Right in the European Parliament

May 17, 2014

NigelFarage

I reblogged earlier today Mike’s piece on Farage’s grilling by LBC radio’s James O’Brien, in which he was asked some uncomfortable questions about racism and homophobia within the party, and Farage’s own comments about feeling uncomfortable in a railway carriage in which the was the person speaking English. He was also asked another awkward question about the party’s association with the parties of extreme Right, despite UKIP itself boasting of being a non-racist, non-sectarian party, which refuses to admit members of the BNP. Mike wrote

There was an implication that Farage, who has banned former members of the BNP from joining UKIP in an effort to protect the party from adverse publicity, has himself associated with the far-right organisation; and a question over the far-right parties with which UKIP sits in the European Parliament. Farage said UKIP would not sit with people who didn’t have a reasonable point of view but O’Brien flagged up a member of the group who had said the ideas of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, Islamophobe, Anti-Semite and anti-feminist, were “in defence of Western civilisation”.

Farage’s paper-thin defence was that the European political discourse was very different to the UK, (again) an admission that his party had encountered problems with “one or two members”, and a reference to problems in other parties (the Conservatives, on this occasion)

O’Brien leapt on this: “Your defence so far is that you’re no different from any other political party and yet your unique selling point … is that you are different.”

One of Mike’s commenters, HStorm, pointed out the hypocrisy in Farage’s attitude:

‘Farage’s paper-thin defence was that the European political discourse was very different to the UK, (again) an admission that his party had encountered problems with “one or two members”, and a reference to problems in other parties (the Conservatives, on this occasion)’

I find it amusing that an anti-European separatist, who is uncomfortable sitting on a train on which people dare to speak in other languages, should pontificate in the name of how political discourse is carried out in other parts of Europe. Surely if he prefers the notion that freedom-of-speech-equals-no-consequences-for-irresponsible-speech then he should live in precisely those countries that, he says, practise that manner of discourse. And yet he wants the UK to distance itself from them?

Why do so few people spot this enormous paradox in his position?

Farage’s comments about political discourse being different in other parts of Europe, thus allowing his party to join the same bloc as extreme Nationalist parties like the Danish People’s Party and the True Finns is also wrong and weak. It’s true to say that many of the other European countries don’t have the same culture of political correctness that there is in Britain. A Danish friend of mine told me that in Scandinavia non-Whites are regarded with a suspicion and hostility that he felt didn’t exist to the same extent in Britain. The Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown ten years ago described in her column the personal hostility she encountered as an Asian when she and her family went on holiday in France. I’ve also heard from others how the shops in some areas, like the south of France, will refuse to serve Arabs. Having said that, Alibhai-Brown has also written about how she and her family were treated well with no hint of racism when they went on another holiday across La Manche. And in the 1980s there was a national anti-racist movement amongst the young, when White youths showed solidarity with the Arab compatriots under a slogan, which translated as ‘Don’t Touch My Buddy’. This was initially directed against nightclubs, which refused to admit Arabs.

Yet even in those countries, where it has been alleged that racism is more widespread than in Britain, the extreme Right is still very definitely not respectable. The Financial Times also described in one of its columns how the Germans also don’t share the Anglo-American culture of political correctness. Nevertheless, there are naturally very strong laws in Germany against Nazism. At least one Neo-Nazi party, the NPD, was banned for a time in the 1970s under the Basic Law as an anti-democratic force for an article it published in its newspaper celebrating Hitler’s birthday. One of the more amusing ways Germans have taken to express their very strong hatred of the new, extreme Right is through mass demonstrations taking the mick out of them. Paul Merton covered one of these in his travel programme a few years ago journeying through the land of Kant, Goethe, and Wagner.

This is the anti-apple movement, the members of which were shown gathering outside one of the Neo-Nazi parties’ HQs in Berlin. There the protestors held up placards showing apples with the ‘banned’ symbol stamped across them, and shouted slogans about deporting apples, like ‘Sudfruchte Raus!’ – ‘Southern Fruits Out!’. The protest was organised by the politics professor at the University, who was very definitely no kind of Nazi. I found out later that the head of one of the Neo-Nazi organisations named had the element, ‘Apfel’, ‘apple’, and I have the impression that foreign immigrants of African ancestry are referred to as ‘southerners’. Hence the slogans about southern fruit. It’s a way of parodying the Neo-Nazis own racism and xenophobia, while turning into a very pointed attack on their Fuhrer.

Put simply, the growing popularity on the continent of parties like the True Finns, the Danish People’s Party, or the Front National in France doesn’t make them any more respectable in their countries, let alone over here. As an ostensibly anti-racist party, UKIP certainly is under no obligation to sit with them or form blocs with them in the European parliament.

British Shell Companies and the Attacks on Liberal Journalism in the Ukraine

January 16, 2014

ukraine

Private Eye has long been extremely critical of the shell companies and the British tax legislation and accountancy firms that support them. These are companies that largely exist in name only, which are used as an accountancy trick to allow corporations to avoid paying tax in Britain by falsely claiming that they are resident, or owned by companies in foreign tax havens. It dates back to Blair and New Labour, but as with everything corrupt that benefits big business, it’s been taken over by the Coalition. Now, according to the Eye’s Christmas edition, these companies have been used for something even more pernicious and sinister: the attack on liberal journalism itself on the Ukraine. The Eye’s article ‘Tricking Kiev’ reports how a network of shell companies was used by the American-Ukrainian businessman, Alexander Altman, to wrest control of Ukrainian news agency, TVi, from its rightful owner, Konstantin Kagalovsky, a Russian businessman based in Britain.

The Eye says:

‘The battle in the Ukraine between pro-European reformers and the friends of Russia’s Vladimir Putin is partly a fight for control of the media.

Luckily for the oligarchs, they can rely on the acquiescence of TVi. Once a source of investigative journalism, it is now a feeble wreck thanks to a massive fraud perpetrated with the help of Britain’s lax corporate regulations.

As Eye 1344 reported, American-Ukrainian “businessman” Alexander Altman walked into TVi in April, and astonished its journalists by saying that he was now their boss. He locked out its owner, the British-based-based Russian businessman Konstantin Kagalovsky, and ordered reporters to stop causing trouble on pain of dismissal.

In a withering judgment at the High Court in London last week, Mr Justice Turner said there had been a “coup” at TVi, accomplished by “using forged documents comprising fake powers of attorney, board resolutions and board minutes”.

TVi’s baffled owner found that control had passed to a British firm called Balmore he had never heard of. No one could blame him for his ignorance. Balmore was an off-the-shelf firm, which Mr Justice Turner said “was in the precarious position of having beern served with a notice that it was to be struck off the company register for failing to submit an annual return”.

On the day Altman moved against liberal journalists in Kiev, Balmore’s annual return was prepared and filed electronically to Companies House in Britain.

The rightful owners’ lawyers secured an injunction in the summer saying that Altman must disclose information on how TVi had gone from Balmore into a maze of British shell companies. Robert Dougans, Kagolovsky’s solicitor, said Altman had refused to comply and was thus guilty of contempt of court. Even Altman’s London lawyers, Kerman & Co appeared to suspect that something unprofessional and unethical may have been going down. Internal emails, revealed to the court, show Sebastian Devlin, an associate lawyer at the firm, warning partner Carl Robinson that he saw a “real risk” in complying with Altman’s wishes. As the judge drily noted, Robinson was “unable to proffer any clear Explanation” on what Altman had asked Turner that had so worried his colleague.

Throughout the contempt case, Altman said he was the victim of a “set up”. He got out of bed one morning and found that he was associated with mysterious British companies. The judge was having none of it. If Altman were an innocent victim, “he would have made far more strenuous efforts to find out what had happened”. He “knew full well “why the companies had been formed. He was their “controlling mind”, who had retained Kerman & Co and handed them boxes of corporate documents.

The judge found Altman guilty of contempt, and will sentence him next year.

Robert Dougan, the victorious solicitor, told the Eye that despite the judgement there was still no guarantee that the Ukrainian courts would hand TVi back. “One of the reasons why people are on the streets in Kiev is because shady operators in and out of government can commit frauds and no one does anything about it.” As in so many other frauds, the fraudsters turn to “light touch” Britain for help. Dougans explained how he had found out for himself how light that touch was. “I decided to test our controls by registering my cat as a company director,” he said. “No one tried to stop me.”

(Private Eye, 21 December – 9 January 2014, p. 33).

This is a serious attack on the nascent free press in the new, post-Soviet state. The Ukraine is one of the oldest of the Russian states. As the kingdom of Kiev, tt was founded in the early Middle Ages by Varangian Vikings, who intermarried with and adopted the culture of the indigenous Slav population. Under its king, Oleg, in the 9th century it established relations with the Byzantine Empire. Oleg marched to Constantinople at the head of an army and after sacking its suburbs and nailed his shield to the city’s wall. As well as extracting tribute, he also demanded a number of agreements establishing trade between the Empire and Kievan Russia. The Byzantine Emperor acceded to his demands, and Oleg married a Byzantine princess. Later in the century, sometime after 988, the Kievan king, Vladimir the Great, converted to Christianity. This marked the beginning of the Orthodox Church in Russia, as well as the beginning of the Russian view that they are the ‘Third Rome’, after the Eternal City itself, and Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine or eastern Roman Empire.

The country takes its name from the Ukrainian word ‘Krai’, which means a border area. During the Middle Ages it was part of the Republic of Poland, before being conquered and incorporated into Russia. The Ukraine has produced some of the greatest Russian authors, including Nikolai Gogol and Mikhail Bulgakov, the author of the White Guard and the Master and Margarita.

One of my father’s workmates was Ukrainian, who finally moved back his native country to be with his family after the fall of Communism. One of my friends has also lived and worked in the former Eastern Bloc. A few years ago he holidayed in Kiev, and really loved the place. When he came back he proudly showed me the various sights he’d seen. Back in the 1990s there was some pessimism about the new, post-Soviet nation’s future. There has been considerable friction between the western Ukraine, which is largely rural and Roman Catholic, and the industrialised, Orthodox east, which has a large Russian population. Some observers and commenters feared that the country would degenerate into ethnic conflict and possible civil war, along with the emergence of anti-Semitism. While the country is clearly divided over the question of its ties to either the EU or Putin’s Russia, large scale conflict has been avoided. Indeed, the Financial Times was so impressed with the new state that in an article about it, the newspaper described it as almost a magical place, straight from a fairy-tale. The question of whether the country has closer ties to Russia or the EU is, of course, an issue for the Ukrainians themselves to decide. To do so, and to strengthen their democracy, they need a genuinely liberal, free press able investigate corruption and dodgy political dealing. Unfortunately, the extremely lax corporate legislation over here has meant that this is being stifled to serve very powerful, corporate interests.

The use of this legislation to attack Ukrainian free journalism also poses a threat to the free press in the rest of the world, including this country. Globalisation has meant that the world is now interconnected, and once international big business feels it can get away with something in one country, it will try and use the same tactic elsewhere. We cannot afford to see this as merely a problem for a far away country, tucked away in the former USSR. If it is allowed to succeed in the Ukraine, then it will eventually come here.