Posts Tagged ‘The Media’

William Blum on the American Demonization of Iran

February 8, 2017

I bought a copy today of William Blum’s book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything (London: Zed Books 2013). Blum’s a long term, extremely vociferous and very knowledgeable critic of American foreign policy and its allies. He’s been protesting against the country’s assassinations, coups and manufactured wars and other interventions since the Vietnam War, and his website, the Anti-Empire Report, is highly recommended for telling you what the media is not reporting about the global actions of America and its allies.

The book’s chapters deal with:
US foreign policy vs. the world; Terrorism; Iraq; Afghanistan; Iran; George W. Bush; Condoleezza Rice; Human rights, civil liberties and torture; WikiLeaks; Conspiracies; Yugoslavia; Libya; Latin America; Cuba; The Cold War and anti-Communism; the 1960s; Ideology and society; Our precious environment; The problem with capitalism; The media; Barack Obama; Patriotism; Dissent and resistance in America; Religion, Laughing despite the Empire; But what can we do?

It’s a treasure trove of information showing just how unpleasant American foreign policy is, and how the military-industrial complex running it has not only bombed, murdered and exploited people all over the world, it also lies shamelessly and constantly to its own people as well as the world at large. Nearly every page has a telling fact that flips the conventional, establishment narrative right on its head.

The chapter on Iran is a case in point. Blum cites White House aides, journos and diplomats to show that Iran’s nuclear programme was never a threat, despite the hysterical table-thumping by the odious Tzipi Livni and the rest of the thugs now running Israel. Far from it. Over a decade ago, the Iranians were even responsible for negotiating some of the peace deals in Afghanistan, and even approached Bush through the Swiss ambassador for a deal to improve relations with America, in which they promised to give major concessions. Blum writes

Shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran made another approach to Washington, via the Swiss ambassador, who sent a fax to the State Department. The Washington Post described it as ‘a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table – including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.’ The Bush administration ‘belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax’. Richard Haass, head of policy planning at the State Department at the time and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Iranian approach was swiftly rejected because in the administration ‘the bias was toward a policy of regime change.’

So there we have it. The Israelis know it, the Americans know it. Iran is not any kind of military threat. Before the invasion of Iraq I posed the question: What possible reason would Saddam Hussein have for attacking the United States or Israel other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? he had no reason, and neither do the Iranians. (p. 105).

James Dobbins, Bush’s representative to the Bonn conference in which the parties in the Middle East negotiated the political settlement for Afghanistan, states that it was the Iranians who made sure that democracy and the war on terrorism were included in the Afghan constitution, not the Americans. (pp.104-5). Now that’s very, very definitely something I haven’t heard report on the Beeb. Have you?

But what struck me as urgently important this week was this passage

Not long ago, Iraq and Iran were regarded by USrael as the most significant threats to Israeli Middle East hegemony. thus was born the myth of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the United States proceeded to turn Iraq into a basket case. The left Iran, and thus was born the myth of the Iranian Nuclear Threat. As it began to sink in that Iran was not really that much of a nuclear threat, or that this ‘threat’ was becoming too difficult to sell to the rest of the world, USrael decided that, at a minimum, it wanted regime change. The next step may be to block Iran’s lifeline – oil sales using the Strait of Hormuz. Ergo the recent US and EU naval buildup near the Persian Gulf, an act of war trying to goad Iran into firing the first shot. If Iran tries to counter this blockade it could be the signal for another US Basket Case, the fourth in a decade, with the devastated people of Libya and Afghanistan, along with Iraq, currently enjoying America’s unique gift of freedom and democracy. (Pp. 98-9, my emphasis).

The Americans have been gearing up for a war with Iran for the past decade. But this week Donald Trump’s advisers were banging their shoes on the table for war. An American warship had been fired upon by the Yemeni Houthi rebels. The Houthis are Shi’a, and so backed by Iran. At the same time, the Iranians test fired a ballistic missile that flew 500 miles before crashing. This was, assures Drumpf, a preparation for nuclear missiles. The Orange Generalissimo and his courtiers therefore started talking about a possible attack on Iran.

I’ve blogged earlier this week about how a war with Iran would be disastrous. It also wouldn’t be to liberate the Iranian people from a deeply authoritarian and repressive regime. It would be just another attempt by US-Saudi oil multinationals to grab their oil, just as America and Britain organised a coup against Mossadeq when he nationalised Anglo-Persian Oil in the 1950s.

Iran’s not a threat, and the Iranians were responsible for establishing clauses mandating democracy and denouncing terrorism in the Afghan constitution. This is all about finding a pretext for a new pack of lies to justify yet the invasion and looting of yet another country.

Economist Declares America ‘Not Full Democracy’

February 3, 2017

In this video, TYT Politic’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which states that America is no longer a ‘full democracy’. The magazine annual scores countries around the world according to a system of five categories. These are electoral pluralism and democracy, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture. Nations are ranked according to a descending scale from full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid democracy and authoritarian. To be considered a full democracy, a country must have a score of 8.00 and over. America has slipped from 8.05 to 7.98, making it a ‘flawed democracy’ along with France, Italy and Japan for the first time in its history.

Waldorf argues that although it’s tempting to blame this on Donald Trump, he’s only been present for about a week, and the decline in American democracy has been going on for much longer. Trump is a symptom, not a cause. He argues that the real cause is the influence of the rich and powerful in politics. He notes that other studies have concluded, in his words, that America ‘is an oligarchy with elections’. He makes the point that not all rich people are necessarily bad, and that many support the same policies he supports, such as LGBT equality. However, the system works so that the rich are able to buy adverts promoting their policies at the expense of those that favour working and middle class people. A study has found that legislation benefiting these groups, rather than the corporate donor elite, is only passed 18 per cent of the time. Pro-LGBT legislation was passed members of the elite as well as the majority of ordinary Americans supported it. However, when the corporate rich are hostile to particular legislation, like the minimum wage, there is far more difficulty getting it passed. Most Americans, including half of the Republican party, believe the minimum wage should be higher. However, the corporate rich are largely opposed to this, as it will damage profits. And so in certain areas, it is actually illegal for the state authorities to pass legislation raising the minimum wage.

Waldorf also mentions the various countries that the report states comprise each particular category of its democratic index. North Korea, unsurprisingly, is an authoritarian regime, along with Syria. Morocco is one of the ‘hybrid’ regimes. The most democratic country, however, is Norway, followed by the other Scandinavian countries and Ireland. Britain is ranked the 16th most democratic country.

Waldorf notes that America is not alone in its slide towards authoritarianism. The report states that half of the 167 countries surveyed have seen a decline in the quality of their democracy. Waldorf states that this is due to neoliberalism. As more services are privatised, it sets up a vicious cycle which sees more right-wing politicians elected, who privatise more services in order to stop government from working.

Waldorf also suggests a number of ways in which American political culture and democracy could be restored. These include getting the money out of politics, more political parties, restoring section 5 of the voting rights act, making registration to vote compulsory and making voting easier. He also recommends ending the corporate nature of the media, where anchors sitting in a studio earn $20 million a year for reading the news, but have absolutely nothing in common with their lower or middle class viewers, and do not represent their interests.

This study and its analysis by the TYT’s man exactly describes the crisis in American democracy and its causes. A study a few years ago by, I think, Harvard political scientists concluded that America was an elected oligarchy, in which both parties served the corporate elite rather than the common man and woman. He’s also right about the way many ordinary people are alienated from political life, because the policies embraced by their elected representatives actively hurt them in favour of the corporate elite. The Harvard study noted that approval ratings of Congress really only polled a maximum of 25 per cent, and very often much less, down to the low teens, because Americans justifiably felt their politicians were ignoring them.

I am, however, surprised at Britain having a relatively high rating, even if we are only the 16th most democratic country according to the survey. Successive governments since Thatcher have followed America in legislating for the benefit of rich corporations. John Major’s administration was notorious for its corporate sleaze, while Blair did everything he could to increase the dominance of leaders of industry over the machinery of government, appointing managing directors like David Sainsbury to important government posts.

I also take issue with Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn being described as ‘populists’. Populism usually denotes right-wing demagogues, who offer their followers a false democracy, pretending to represent working class interests while at the same time standing for a range of policies, including racism, which harm their working class followers. The examples are Trump and the Republicans in the US, and the Tories and UKIP over here. Corbyn and Sanders aren’t populists, because they genuinely represent the working and lower middle classes hurt by neoliberalism. They also aren’t at all racist. In fact, both are quite definitely anti-racism and discrimination, despite the smears of the Israel lobby. What they do represent is a threat to the corporate domination of the established left-wing parties, such as the Clintonite Democrats in America and the Blairites in the Labour party over here. And thus Sanders and Corbyn are smeared as ‘populists’ by the neoliberal elite determined to misrepresent itself as occupying the moderate centre ground, when they are as responsible as the right-wing parties for establishing the power of the major corporations at the expense of the electorate.

On both sides of the Atlantic, people need to wake up to the decline in the quality of democracy caused by neoliberalism and corporate power, and fight back. We need to curb corporate donations and the appointment of managing directors to political office, so that our governments represent us, not big business.

Jimmy Dore on a Healthcare Rally on Hollywood Boulevard

January 19, 2017

According to polls, over half of Americans now want a single-payer healthcare system. One fifth of Americans would be unable to afford private healthcare insurance without Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But Donald Trump wants to repeal Obamacare and privatise Medicare and Medicaid, the state healthcare system that exists to pay for the medical treatment of those Americans too poor to afford private health insurance.

In this clip from the Jimmy Dore Show, the comedian goes to Hollywood Boulevard, where protestors are holding a demonstration, ‘Our First Stand’, demanding single-payer healthcare, and talks to some of the people there. The demonstration’s on both sides of the street outside the famous Chinese Theatre, and the protestors are a mixture of Asian Americans and Whites. One of the ladies he talks too is an Asian woman, who tells him how her husband has a congenital heart condition. Thanks to this, before the passing of Obamacare, they found it extremely difficult to get health insurance. Now she and he are frightened that Trump’s threatened repeal with leave him without it, as well as millions of other Americans, who are similarly affected. She is also concerned and upset that Congress just doesn’t seem to understand the needs and wishes of ordinary Americans like her.

He also talks to a White woman, who agrees with him that none of this would probably have happened if Hillary Clinton had won. Trump’s victory has galvanised people to protest. But like the young man Dore talks to at the beginning of the clip, she recognises that the corporatist Democrats are part of the problem. She was one of Bernie Sanders’ supporters, and she is aware and angered by the way his campaign for the presidency was blocked and defeated not by the Republicans, but by Killary and the section of the Democrat party that care more about winning big donations from the big corporations and representing them, than working for Mr and Mrs. Average Joe and Josie.

The crowd has placards saying ‘Medicare for All’, and one guy has a sign emblazoned with ‘F*ck Big Pharma’. It’s a slogan with which Dore fully approves, and he stands next to it to show his support and get it on camera. The crowd are all shouting slogans like ‘Healthcare is a right, not a privilege’.

This isn’t just an American issue. We’re faced with the same kind of situation in Britain and particularly in England. The Tories and New Labour have been trying to privatise the health service gradually since Thatcher won the general election in 1979. 55 out of 166 local health authorities now have problems finding beds, thanks to funding cuts imposed by Jeremy Hunt and his mistress, Theresa May. More and more vital NHS services are being rationed and contracted out to private healthcare providers. People are suffering because of cancelled operations, difficulties reaching the doctor, and long waiting lists.

All manufactured to give private healthcare providers access to a lucrative market that has previously been tied to the state.

And if Thatcher, Major, Blair, Cameron and May get their way, we will have the same problems over here. Private healthcare is massively expensive and very inefficient, whatever tripe the Tories, BUPA, Virgin Healthcare or Circle Health try to tell you. In America, up to 40 per cent of a company’s budget may go on administration. Pretty much like it was in the private hospitals in this country before the NHS. Private healthcare only works for those who are fit. For everyone else, especially those with congenital conditions, like the husband of the lady in the above video, it’s exorbitantly expensive. Private hospitals are smaller than state, and the private healthcare industry in Britain depends massively on state support.

There are demonstrations in this country against the Tory privatisation of the NHS. But we also need to bear in mind that, just like the corporate wing of the Democrats worked to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign, so the Blairites in the Labour party, led by John Mann, Hilary Benn and the rest of them, have tried to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership with the connivance of the mainstream media. Corbyn has made it clear he intends to renationalise the NHS, in contrast to the Blairites, who have tried so hard to privatise it.

Support Corbyn.

Clear out the Blairites.

To save the NHS, May and Hunt must resign.

Pro-NHS Political Comment in Paul McAuley’s ‘Something Coming Through’

December 27, 2016

something-coming-pic

One of the books I’ve been reading this Christmas is Paul McAuley’s Something Coming Through (London: Gollancz 2015). McAuley’s a former scientist as well as an SF writer. Apart from novels, he also reviewed books and contributed short stories to the veteran British SF magazine, Interzone. He was one of the writers who created the gene punk genre, sometimes also called ‘ribofunk’. This was the genetic engineering counterpart to Cyberpunk, where, instead of using computers, individuals, criminals and corporations used genetic engineering to redesign new forms of life, or spread invasive memes throughout the population to control the way people thought. Back in the 1990s he was one of the guests on the BBC Radio 3 series, Grave New Worlds, in which computer scientists, writers and artists talked about the transhuman condition. This was back when everyone was talking about cyborgisation, and the potential of contemporary technology to produce new varieties of humanity. Apart from McAuley, the guests also included J.G. Ballard and the performance artist Stelarc, who has personally explored the implications of cybernetics for the human body in a series of performances. In one of these he had a mechanical third arm, operated through electrical signals picked up through the stomach muscles. He also gave a modern music performance, in which he was wired up to the internet via galvanic stimulators. A search engine then went about finding images of body parts on the Net. When it found one, that part of the body was electronically stimulated so that it moved. There were also booths in three cities around the world, where participants could also press buttons to move Stelarc via electric impulses. Apart from Kevin Warwick, the professor of robotics at Warwick university, is the person who’s come the closest to being Star Trek’s Borg.

McAuley’s Something Coming Through and its sequel, Into Everywhere, follow the fictional universe he created in a series of magazine short stories about the alien Jackaroo and their impact on humanity. Following a short period of warfare, including the destruction of part of London with a nuclear bomb by terrorists, the Jackaroo turned up and declared that they wish to help. These aliens bring with them 15 artificial wormholes, which act as gateways to 15 worlds, which the Jackaroo give to humanity. Humanity isn’t the only race that the aliens have helped, and the worlds they give to humanity are covered with the ruins and artefacts of previous alien civilisations, now vanished. The Jackaroo themselves are never seen. They interact with humanity through avatars, artificial beings that look like human men. These have golden skin and features modelled on a number of contemporary celebrities. They’re also bald, wear shades, and dress in black track suits. Their motives for helping humanity are unclear. They claim they just want to help, and that it is up to humanity themselves how they use the worlds they have given them. But they are widely suspected of having their own agenda, and despite the protestations of non-interference they are suspected of subtly manipulating humanity.

Accompanying the Jackaroo are the !cho, another alien race, who are equally mysterious. They move about the world in opaque tanks supported on three skeletal legs. Nobody has ever managed to open one up, or scan the tanks using X-rays or ultrasound. It is, however, widely believed that the !cho are sentient colonies of shrimp. Their motives, and their relationship with the Jackaroo, are also unknown.

Something Coming Through follows the adventures of Chloe Millar, a researcher for a company, Disruption Theory, in London, and Vic Gayle, a cop on Mangala, one of the Jackaroo gift worlds. The objects and ruins left from the Jackaroo’s previous client civilisations can be highly dangerous. Some of them are still active, despite the many thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of years of abandonment and decay. These can infect humans with memes, algorithms that alter psychology and behaviour. The strongest, most intact of these become eidolons, artificial entities that can take possession of their human hosts. Disruption Theory is a company specialising in researching the effects of these memes as they break out to infect people in Britain. This often takes the form of small sects, whose leaders speak in tongues, uttering nonsense as they try to put in human terms the alien concepts running their consciousness. Millar, the heroine, is investigating a couple of orphaned Pakistani children, who have apparently been infected by an eidolon from one of the gift worlds. Out on Mangala, Vic Gayle is also investigating the murder of a man, who has recently arrived aboard one of the Jackaroo’s shuttles.

Unlike much SF, the book doesn’t indicate how far in the future the story’s set. This is, however, very much a world not too far from the early 21st century of the present. The political structures are much the same, with the exception that the gift worlds are under the control of the UN. People still work in recognisable jobs, and shop and purchase the same brands of clothing. Complicating relations with the Jackaroo is a British politician, Robin Mountjoy and the Human Decency League. The League objects to contact with the Jackaroo as a danger to the dignity of the human race. Their leader, Robin Mountjoy, is described as being ‘in his mid-fifties, a burly man with thinning blond hair and a florid complexion, dressed in an off-the-peg suit. Although he was a multimillionaire, having made his fortune constructing and servicing displaced-persons camps, his PR painted him as a bluff, no-nonsense man of the people whose common sense cut through the incestuous old boys’ networks of the Westminster village’. (p. 51). The League isn’t strong enough to form a government of its own, and so has gone into a coalition with the Conservatives. While Mountjoy is clearly fictional, he does seem to be inspired by Nigel Farage and UKIP, with Britain attempting to gain independence from smooth talking mysterious aliens rather than the EU.

One of the other characters is Adam Nevers, a cop with the Technology Control Unit. This is the branch of the British police tasked with protecting the country from dangerous alien technology. Nevers is described as coming from the entitled upper ranks of society, who go straight from university into high ranking jobs. Which looks to me very much like a comment on the privileged upbringing and expectations of absolute deference and entitlement from certain members of the British upper classes.

Apart from the social and psychological disruption caused by alien contact, this is also a world wear the NHS has finally been privatised. McAuley shows the practical impact this has people’s lives. Without the safety net of state healthcare, people are dependent on their employers to help pay their medical bills, or borrowing money from friends. In his acknowledgements, as well as the many other people who helped him with the book, McAuley also thanks ‘the NHS for life support’. (p. 375). Which suggests that he’s also suffered a period of illness, and is very much aware how much he and everyone else in the country needs the NHS.

I liked the book for its convincing portrayal of the world after sort-of personal contact with an alien civilisation, and the frontier societies that have emerged as Mangala and the other gift worlds have been settled and colonised. I was also fascinated by McAuley’s description of the alien life-forms, and the archaeological exploration of the remains of the planets’ previous civilisations for the technological advances these artifacts offer. I was also drawn to it as it offered a different take on the old SF trope of alien contact. The appearance of the Jackaroo is described as an ‘invasion’, but it’s not really that. The aliens have a ‘hands off’ approach. They haven’t conquered the Earth militarily, and political power is still exercised through traditional human institutions and parties, like the UN and the Tories. Nor are they more or less at our technological level, like many of the alien races in Star Trek, for example. We don’t form an interplanetary federation with them, as they are clearly extremely far in advance of humanity, which is very much the junior partner in this relationship.

It’s not really a political book, and really doesn’t make any overt party political statements. With the exception that rightwing xenophobes would probably form a party like UKIP to join the Conservatives against pernicious alien influence, just like the Kippers under Farage came very much from the right wing, Eurosceptic section of the Tories. But its comments on the class nature of British society does bring a wry smile, and its advocacy of the NHS is very welcome. It doesn’t preach, but simply shows the fear the characters have of sickness or injury in its absence.

And with all too real terrestrial morons like Daniel Hannan, Jeremy Hunt, Dave Cameron, Theresa May, Tony Blair, Alan Milburn and the rest of the right-wing politicos, who have done and still are doing their best to undermine the health service, such comments are badly needed throughout the British media.

Trump and Putin Revive Nuclear Arms Race

December 24, 2016

Yesterday, Mike put up another piece commenting on statements by the American president-elect and Vladimir Putin that they want to strengthen their countries’ nuclear arsenals. Trump had made a tweet on Thursday saying “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

Trump did so the same day that Putin issued his own statement, declaring that “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems.”

Mike makes the point that the threat of nuclear Armageddon will not make the world more secure. It will not make rogue states like North Korea abandon their nuclear programmes. Instead, Mike urged us to listen to George Takei, whose family personally experienced the horror of the atomic bomb in Japan in World War II.

Star Trek’s Mr Sulu tweeted “Trump wants to expand our nuclear arsenal. I think of my aunt and baby cousin, found burnt in a ditch in Hiroshima. These weapons must go.”

Absolutely. I can remember the very large, and vocal demonstrations against nuclear weapons in Japan during the new Cold War of the 1980s. The Japanese had every good reason to demand the reduction and abandonment of the world’s nuclear arsenals: their country had experienced the terrible carnage produced by these horrific weapons.

Mike also reports that back in May, Trump also stated that he would support South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia acquiring nuclear weapons for their own protection.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/23/why-are-trump-and-putin-suddenly-keen-to-revive-the-cold-war/

Mike’s also reported that Trump has followed up his idiotic tweet by making his intentions clear in an interview with Mika Brzezinski, one of the presenters on MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme. He said, ‘Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all’.

Mike makes the point that his comments risk needlessly inflaming tensions with Russia, pointing out that what is currently repeated in the western media about eastern Europe and the Middle East is propaganda designed to manipulate public opinion. He also argues that Putin could adopt the opposite approach, and concentrate on saving precious money and resources through the same policy, that has been considered by Labour Jeremy Corbyn. This means killing or otherwise neutralising terrorists’ leaders through surgical strikes, leaving them without effective military direction.

He also points out that technological weapons are also increasingly susceptible to infiltration and sabotage.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/24/while-trump-spends-all-his-money-on-nuclear-weapons-what-will-the-russians-do/

Trump’s determination to ramp up America’s nuclear arsenal is bizarre, given his previous statements during his presidential campaign in which he deliberately gave the impression that he would be scaling down America’s military intervention around the globe. However, on examination this does seem very much in line with Trump’s determination to go back on every single one of his election promises, with the exception of repealing Obamacare.

Remember the noise he was making about going to Washington to ‘drain the swamp’, and would stop the corporate domination and corruption of Congress? That’s gone. After attacking Hillary for being a fully paid-up stooge for Wall Street, Trump has himself gone and appointed Wall Street bankers – including one from Goldman Sachs – to his cabinet. In fact, if anything, he’s increased the amount of corporate corruption. He’s allowed his daughter, Ivanka, to stay with him during negotiations with heads of government in either Japan or China, despite the fact that Ivanka Trump is also a businesswoman, who could use the information from these interviews to gain a clear economic advantage. And his sons have been raising money for their father by selling tickets to the extremely and not-quite-so filthy rich for them to attend dinners with him and go on hunting trips. All Trump’s talk about tackling corporate power has been a lie. Instead, it’s very much business as usual.

And it appears to be very much the same here. Counterpunch has published several articles over the past couple of months discussing how Barack Obama has been talking to senior military staff in Washington. He has already started to expand America’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons. He has also considered the possible use of low-megaton ‘battle field’ nukes in a limited nuclear war in Europe. The American comedian Jimmy Dore has several times ripped into Obama on his internet show, bitterly attacking the false image of the soon to be ex-president as some kind of dove and peacemaker. Far from stopping wars, Obama has carried on George Dubya’s brutal military policies in the Middle East, from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, as well as Libya and Somalia. And so this new policy, announced by Trump, really isn’t new at all. It is, as Max Headroom used to say, merely ‘more… of the same’. The difference here is that Max was a fictional character with a satirical edge talking about pop music. The pilot for his series, 20 Minutes into the Future, showed a decaying Britain with massive poverty and homelessness, dominated by ruthless and unscrupulous media corporations. It’s a dystopian vision that is still very relevant today, even if the human brain is far too complicated to be successfully mapped and modelled electronically to produce an AI like Max.

As for the reason behind this dangerous policy, Counterpunch also published a piece describing Hillary Clinton’s vision of America’s role in the world. She seemed to be intent on expanding America’s military power to the utmost. She and the rest of the hawks talked about ‘full spectrum domination’, which means that America is the superior, dominant military superpower with the ability to bomb everyone else back into submission. At the same time, her domestic policies were aimed at keeping the working class as poor and as desperate as possible, so that she could sell American products cheaply to the emerging east Asian market.

It’s also been argued that America spends so much on the military because it is the only way that the American state can stimulate the country’s economy. Leftwing commenters and political analysts have argued that the experience of the Second World War after the Great Depression taught the American industrial and political class that America needed state intervention to create prosperity. This is, however, the Keynsian economic position, which is vehemently rejected by the Republicans and Libertarians as ‘socialism’ or even ‘Communism’. The only way the American state can effectively intervene in the American economy in a manner that is ideologically acceptable, is by doing what the Nazis and Fascists did in Germany and Italy, and invest massively in a re-armament programme. And like the Fascist states, the state has to use its armed forces to maintain its investments and public support for the rearmament programme. This was part of the reason for the outbreak of the Second World War.

As for Trump’s statement that he is prepared to allow South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons, this is grossly irresponsible. Especially in the case of Saudi Arabia. In the case of Japan, it unacceptable for the same reason that the country has difficulty launching its own spacecraft. In the 1980s Japan developed its own rocket launcher to carry its satellites and probes into space. One of these probes was amongst the small flotilla of spacecraft that met Halley’s Comet in 1986. From what I’ve read, the country has only used its launcher a few times because of fears that it would be taken as a missile attack by the Chinese. The same would be true of South Korea. Political scientists and foreign policy analysts have argued very strongly against threatening China, as they respond by passing on nuclear technology and armaments to other nations, such as Pakistan.

And I cannot imagine anything more stupid, more calculated to result a nuclear holocaust, than giving atomic weapons to Saudi Arabia. This is a militant theocracy that has sponsored horrific terror campaigns throughout the Middle East and against America itself. Elements within the Saudi aristocracy and political elite, including its intelligence minister and possibly, if I remember correctly, the current king, sponsored al-Qaeda and ISIS. Terrorist organisations like them, who use suicide bombers and deliberately target civilians, simply cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. But that is what would happen if Trump allowed Saudi Arabia to acquire them.

Trump’s renewal of the nuclear arms race is therefore simply a continuation of Bush’s, Obama’s and Hillary’s arms policies. And it’s insane. During the Cold War of the last century, there were at least three instances where NATO and the former Warsaw Pact were on the edge of full-scale nuclear war. We escaped some of these by the skin of our teeth. This time, we may not be so lucky.

Vox Political: Snoopers’ Charter Allows State to Lie When Evidence Gather through Spying

December 7, 2016

I’ve also written several pieces over the past few days talking about the slow death of democracy and freedom in America. Obama has taken over and made permanent all the infringements on Americans’ constitutional freedoms set up by George Dubya Bush, the Democrats and corporate media have taken to smearing leading left-wing journos and website as disseminators of Russian propaganda, and a Conservative student group is compiling a black list of left-wing college professors.

But civil liberties and the rule of law are also under attack here as well. Tony Blair also tried to set up secret courts in Britain when he was prime minister. David Cameron and Nick Clegg also passed legislation establishing them, and expanding the powers of the British surveillance state. Theresa May is determined to do the same with her Investigatory Powers Bill.

Mike today has put up a piece commenting on the way the May’s ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ demands that the prosecution lie in court to avoid revealing that the evidence has been gathered through spying. Section 56 of her wretched Act makes it an offence not only to reveal that the evidence was obtained by lying, but also that spying is, was and/or will be going on. This includes a clause meaning that the legislation also acts retrospectively. In other words, you can be charged and convicted of doing this before this pernicious piece of legislation was ever passed.

This means that the state can lie to secure a conviction. And there seems to be little way to defend against it. Mike has suggested that there is a possible way out, if the defence can show that the evidence could not have obtained it in the normal ways, but crucially does not state that it was obtained through spying. But Mike states that this is no more than a suggestion, and asks his readers for their opinions.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/07/if-the-snoopers-charter-allows-the-state-to-lie-in-court-how-can-the-innocent-foil-it/

The whole issue of secret courts is profoundly anti-democratic and a real and present danger to civil liberties. Under the legislation introduced by the Conservatives and their Lib-Dem enablers, Cameron and Clegg, a court case may be held in secret if a public trial is believed to constitute a threat to national security. The accused may not see the evidence against them, nor the identity of their accuser, again, all to safeguard ‘national security’. Now you may not even be told that you have been spied on.

I’ve pointed out before that this is exactly like the judicial system set up by the totalitarian states of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, and also Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Iraqi legal system contained a series of secret clauses, whose disclosure to the public was a crime. Thus someone under Saddam’s regime could be charged with a series of offences he was not aware he had committed, and could not legally be made aware.

Franz Kafka, the great Czech writer, described all this in his novels The Trial and The Castle. These are about people hauled through convoluted court proceedings, tried and executed, without being told what crime they have committed or indeed anything much about the supposed offence. These are praised by the connoisseurs of great literature and historians, because they prophesy the gross miscarriages of justice at the heart of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. I think Kafka was probably less serious about his novels’ intentions. If I remember correctly, he had been a clerk for an insurance company, handling sickness claims, and his books are satires on convoluted bureaucracy. I think he even described them as long jokes. But dry, and ironic in style of the Middle European sense of humour.

But there is nothing remotely funny or joking about this piece of legislation. This is the corporate establishment using brutally authoritarian methods to hang on to its power and suppress dissent. All the while telling us that it’s all for our own good, because of the threat of Islamist terrorism. After politicians like Theresa May, Cameron and Clegg have finished, I shall be surprised if we have any freedom left for ISIS or al-Qaeda to destroy.

Video of Richard Spencer’s Nazi Speech at Alt-Right Conference

November 22, 2016

This is a clip from The Atlantic, and it’s one of the most chilling portraits of a political meeting in a democratic country. I’ve already blogged about how Richard Spencer, the leader and self-declared father of the Alt-Right, made a Nazi speech at their conference this weekend, which was greeted with cries of ‘Hail Trump’ and the Nazi salute. This is a three minute clip from Spencer’s speech, which was a half hour long. And it’s frightening and disgraceful.

Spencer opens with the shout of ‘Hail Trump! Hail our people!’ He then goes to complain about how White people are exploited and marginalised in America today. He attacks the liberal media, which he calls by the term the Nazis coined, Lugenpresse – lying press, and particularly the liberal political commentator, John Oliver. He then describes how to be White is to be an inventor, conqueror, and explorer, makes comments about how Whites are ‘children of the sun’, claims that Whites don’t exploit anyone, and that Blacks and other ethnic minorities benefit from White rule. He states that until a generation ago, America was an ‘all White country’, and makes it clear that America is for Whites, founded by Whites for Whites.

His speech ends to applause, and a few more Nazi salutes and cries.

Nearly all of Spencer’s speech is rubbish. Yes, America was founded by White people for White people, and until a generation ago Whites were in the majority. This is rapidly changing due to non-White immigration and the higher birthrate among certain non-White communities. Whites certainly have explored, invented and conquered. But so have many other civilisations. If you want a corrective to his views, all you need to his crack open a book on the history of inventions to see just how many basic devices we take for granted were invented either by the Chinese, the Arabs, Persians or came from India. There are also a number of excellent books on Black inventors. One I’ve read, which I found in my local library, is Black Pioneers of Science and Invention. Among other fascinating pieces of information is the explanation of who the ‘McCoy’, in the phrase ‘It’s the real McCoy!’, was. Yes, he was a Black engineer working in the American navy, whose success at producing machines became proverbial.

And we Whites have exploited and marginalised non-Whites. All you need to do to read about this is look at any book on the history of slavery and the slave trade, and the exploitation of Black Americans under segregation and Jim Crow. And the continuing poverty and marginalisation of Black communities. even now, forty years after the Civil Rights movements. Ditto with Native Americans. I know much less about this, but here the classic text on the genocide of the Amerindians is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. And Whites still enjoy a privileged position in American society, although this is declining.

If this were any other Nazi gathering, it could be ignored. Whatever racism there is in American society, explicitly Nazi organisations are very definitely at the margins. They’re a menace, because they do attack and murder innocent people of colour and leftists and anti-racists. That shouldn’t be downplayed. But for many people they’re also so grotesque as to be also figures of ridicule. Think of all the jokes about the Klan and the way John Landis’ The Blues Brothers sent up the Nazi fringe as the American Socialist White People’s Party.

This is frightening, because through Steven Bannon, they’ve got in the White House and Donald Trump’s ear. Already the right-wing media and the blogosphere is out, trying to tell us that the attacks on Trump are all wrong, and that the liberal media are lying and that Trump and his supporters are merely the innocent victims of intolerant leftists. I admit, some of Trump supporters do seem to have been physically attacked simply for their views. That’s wrong, and I don’t condone it.

But this video shows how vile and dangerous the people Trump’s mixing with are. And they have to be stopped, before they don their jackboots are start hurting more innocents with their lies, violence and brutality.

just to take the taste of Spencer and his vile speech out of our metaphorical mouths, here’s the clip from the Blues Brothers where they drive the Nazis off the road.

Reichwing Watch: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America

November 16, 2016

This is another excellent video from Reichwing Watch. Entitled Peasants for Plutocracy: How the Billionaires Brainwashed America, it’s about how wealthy industrialists, like the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, created modern Libertarianism and a stream of fake grassroots ‘astroturf’ organisations, in order to attack and roll back Roosevelt’s New Deal and the limited welfare state it introduced. And one of the many fake populist organisations the Koch brothers have set up is the Tea Party movement, despite the Kochs publicly distancing themselves from it.

The documentary begins with footage from an old black and white American Cold War propaganda movie, showing earnest young people from the middle decades of the last century discussing the nature of capitalism. It then moves on to Noam Chomsky’s own, very different perspective on an economy founded on private enterprise. Chomsky states that there has never been a purely capitalist economy. Were one to be established, it would very soon collapse, and so what we have now is state capitalism, with the state playing a very large role in keeping capitalism viable. He states that the alternative to this system is the one believed in by 19th century workers, in that the people, who worked in the mills should own the mills. He also states that they also believed that wage labour was little different from slavery, except in that it was temporary. This belief was so widespread that it was even accepted by the Republican party. The alternative to capitalism is genuinely democratic self-management. This conflicts with the existing power structure, which therefore does everything it can to make it seem unthinkable.

Libertarianism was founded in America in 1946/7 by an executive from the Chamber of Commerce in the form of the Foundation for Economic Education. This was basically a gigantic business lobby, financed by the heads of Fortune 500 companies, who also sat on its board. It’s goal was to destroy Roosevelt’s New Deal. Vice-President Wallace in an op-ed column in the New York Times stated that while its members posed as super-patriots, they wanted to roll back freedom and capture both state and economic power. The video also quotes Milton Friedman, the great advocate of Monetarism and free market economics, on capitalism as the system which offers the worst service at the highest possible profit. To be a good businessman, you have to be as mean and rotten as you can. And this view of capitalism goes back to Adam Smith. There is a clip of Mark Ames, the author of Going Postal, answering a question on why the media is so incurious about the true origins of Libertarianism. He states that they aren’t curious for the same reason the American media didn’t inquire into the true nature of the non-existent WMDs. It shows just how much propaganda and corruption there is in the American media.

The documentary then moves on to the Tea Party, the radical anti-tax movement, whose members deliberately hark back to the Boston Tea Party to the point of dressing up in 18th century costume. This section begins with clips of Fox News praising the Tea Party. This is then followed by Noam Chomsky on how people dread filling out their annual tax returns because they’ve been taught to see taxation as the state stealing their money. This is true in dictatorships. But in true democracy, it should be viewed differently, as the people at last being able to put into practice the plan in which everyone was involved in formulating. However, this frightens big business more than social security as it involves a functioning democracy. As a result, there is a concerted, and very successful campaign, to get people to fear big government.

The idea of the Tea Party was first aired by the CNBC reporter Rick Santilli in an on-air rant. Most of the Party’s members are normal, middle class Americans with little personal involvement in political campaigning. It is also officially a bi-partisan movement against government waste. But the real nature of the Tea Party was shown in the 2010 Tea Party Declaration of Independence, which stated that the Party’s aims were small government and a free market economy. In fact, the movement was effectively founded by the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch. Back in the 1980s, David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s vice-president. The Libertarian Party’s 1980 platform stated that they intended to abolish just about every regulatory body and the welfare system. They intended to abolish the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Authority, Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Labor Relations Board, the FBI, CIA, Federal Reserve, Social Security, Welfare, the public (state) schools, and taxation. They abandoned this tactic, however, after pouring $2 million of their money into it, only to get one per cent of the vote. So in 1984 they founded the first of their wretched astroturf organisation, Citizens for a Sound Economy. The name was meant to make it appear to be a grassroots movement. However, their 1998 financial statement shows that it was funded entirely by wealthy businessmen like the Kochs. In 2004 the CSE split into two – Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity. The AFP holds an annual convention in Arlington, Virginia, attended by some of its 800,000 members. It was the AFP and the Kochs who were the real organising force behind the Tea Party. Within hours of Santilli’s rant, he had been given a list of 1/2 million names by the Kochs. Although the Koch’s have publicly distanced themselves from the Tea Party, the clip for this section of the documentary shows numerous delegates at the convention standing up to declare how they had organised Tea Parties in their states. But it isn’t only the AFP that does this. Freedom Works, which has nothing to do with the Kochs, also funds and organises the Tea Parties.

Mark Crispin Miller, an expert on propaganda, analysing these astroturf organisations makes the point that for propaganda to be effective, it must not seem like propaganda. It must seem to come either from a respected, neutral source, or from the people themselves. Hence the creation of these fake astroturf organisations.

After its foundation in the late 1940s, modern Libertarianism was forged in the late 1960s and ’70s by Charles Koch and Murray Rothbard. Libertarianism had previously been the ideology of the John Birch Society, a group harking back to the 19th century. Koch and Rothbard married this economic extreme liberalism, with the political liberalism of the hippy counterculture. They realised that the hippies hated the state, objecting to the police, drug laws, CIA and the Vietnam war. Ayn Rand, who is now credited as one of the great founders of Libertarianism for her extreme capitalist beliefs, despised them. The film has a photo of her, next to a long quote in which she describes Libertarianism as a mixture of capitalism and anarchism ‘worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two different bandwagons… I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect.’

The documentary also goes on to show the very selective attitude towards drugs and democracy held by the two best-known American Libertarian politicos, Ron and Rand Paul. Despite the Libertarians’ supposedly pro-marijuana stance, the Pauls aren’t actually in favour of legalising it or any other drugs. They’re just in favour of devolving the authority to ban it to the individual states. If the federal government sends you to prison for weed, that, to them, is despotism. If its the individual state, it’s liberty.

And there’s a very telling place piece of footage where Ron Paul talks calmly about what a threat democracy is. He states clearly that democracy is dangerous, because it means mob rule, and privileges the majority over the minority. At this point the video breaks the conversation to show a caption pointing out that the Constitution was framed by a small group of wealthy plutocrats, not ‘we the people’. This is then followed by an American government film showing a sliding scale for societies showing their positions between the poles of democracy to despotism, which is equated with minority rule. The video shows another political scientist explaining that government and elites have always feared democracy, because when the people make their voices heard, they make the wrong decisions. Hence they are keen to create what Walter Lipmann in the 1920s called ‘manufacturing consent’. Real decisions are made by the elites. The people themselves are only allowed to participate as consumers. They are granted methods, which allow them to ratify the decisions of their masters, but denied the ability to inform themselves, organise and act for themselves.

While Libertarianism is far more popular in America than it is over here, this is another video that’s very relevant to British politics. There are Libertarians over here, who’ve adopted the extreme free-market views of von Hayek and his fellows. One of the Torygraph columnists was particularly vocal in his support for their doctrines. Modern Tory ideology has also taken over much from them. Margaret Thatcher was chiefly backed by the Libertarians in the Tory party, such as the National Association For Freedom, which understandably changed its name to the Freedom Foundation. The illegal rave culture of the late 1980s and 1990s, for example, operated out of part of Tory Central Office, just as Maggie Thatcher and John Major were trying to ban it and criminalise ‘music with a repetitive beat’. Virginian Bottomley appeared in the Mail on Sunday back in the early 1990s raving about how wonderful it would be to replace the police force with private security firms, hired by neighbourhoods themselves. That’s another Libertarian policy. It comes straight from Murray Rothbard. Rothbard also wanted to privatise the courts, arguing that justice would still operate, as communities would voluntarily submit to the fairest court as an impartial and non-coercive way of maintain the peace and keeping down crime. The speaker in this part of the video describes Koch and Rothbard as ‘cretins’. Of course, it’s a colossally stupid idea, which not even the Tory party wanted to back. Mind you, that’s probably because they’re all in favour of authoritarianism and state power when its wielded by the elite.

I’ve no doubt most of the Libertarians in this country also believe that they’re participating in some kind of grassroots, countercultural movement, unaware that this is all about the corporate elite trying to seize more power for themselves, undermine genuine democracy, and keep the masses poor, denied welfare support, state education, and, in Britain, destroying the NHS, the system of state healthcare that has kept this country healthy for nearly 70 years.

Libertarians do see themselves as anarchists, though anarcho-individualists, rather than collectivists like the anarcho-syndicalists or Communists. They aren’t. This is purely about expanding corporate power at the expense of the state and the ordinary citizens it protects and who it is supposed to represent and legislate for. And it in practice it is just as brutal as the authoritarianism it claims to oppose. In the 1980s the Freedom Association became notorious on the left because of its support for the death squads in Central America, also supported by that other Libertarian hero, Ronald Reagan.

Libertarianism is a brutal lie. It represents freedom only for the rich. For the rest of us, it means precisely the opposite.

Lobster on a Report into BICOM, and Bias at the Beeb

September 27, 2016

BICOM

Lobster 66 also carried news of the publication of a report into one of the most important parts of the Israel lobby, BICOM in Robin Ramsay’s ‘View from the Bridge Column’. He wrote

The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre: Giving peace a chance? by Tom Mills, David Miller, Tom Griffin and Hilary Aked is a study of BICOM, its creation and influence in British politics. Among its chapters are ‘The second intifada and the establishment of BICOM’, ‘BICOM and British Zionism’, ‘BICOM strategy, elite networks and the media’ and ‘The Fox-Werritty scandal and the decline of democracy’. If you are only going to read one chapter, make it chapter five, ‘BICOM strategy, elite networks and the media’, which describes in great detail BICOM’s (largely successful) campaigns to get the British media to follow a pro-Israel line. This 96 page report can be downloaded as a PDF file.

Ramsay notes that the report is available online at: http://www.dropbox.com/s/rgb5yn4vjt2q74r/Giving%20Peace%20a%20Chance%3F-Spinwatch-2013.pdf

Aunty’s In a Bind

Further on in the column, Ramsay discusses two reports into political bias at the Beeb. One of them, The Today Programme and the Banking Crisis, concluded that the coverage given to economic issues by Radio 4’s current affairs programme, Today, was dominated by spokesmen from the City, and they were the only commenters, whose views were taken seriously. Ramsay notes that a copy of the study itself cost $25 (sic – perhaps he means pounds). However, Nick Shaxson had put a detailed summary of it, ‘Is the BBC Afraid of the City of London’, on his blog at

Ramsay also reports that a study of the BBC’s bias in reporting the privatisation of the NHS had also been published. This stated

In the two years building up to the government’s NHS reform bill, the BBC appears to have categorically failed to uphold its remit of impartiality, parroting government spin as uncontested fact, whilst reporting only a narrow,
shallow view of opposition to the bill. In addition, key news appears to have been censored.

This study was at http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/oliver-huitson/how-bbcbetrayed-
nhs-exclusive-report-on-two-years-of-censorship-anddistorti.

The BBC’s refusal to cover or criticise the government’s privatisation of the NHS is one of the issues Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis criticise in their back, NHS-SOS, which discusses how a whole series of British institutions, which claim to provide a check on government, like the press, and the medical profession itself, failed to protect it and instead were cowed by government pressure.

Media Attacks on Anti-Nuclear Protests: The Same Now as in the ’80s

September 11, 2016

bending-reality-pic

Some things never change. The current attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, with the Blairites doing their level best to engineer expulsions or a split in the Labour party, in many ways are almost like a re-run of the attacks on the Labour party under Michael Foot in the 1980s, and the mass defection of the Labour Right to form the SDP. On Friday I managed to pick up a copy of another book published in the 1980s, which critically examined the media bias against a variety of left-wing issues and causes, in one of the secondhand shops in Cheltenham. This was Bending Reality: The State of the Media, edited by James Curran, Jake Ecclestone, Giles Oakley and Alan Richardson (London: Pluto Press and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom 1986). The has the following chapters in its three sections devoted to ‘Whose Reality?’, ‘The Politics of the Media’ and ‘Campaigning for Press Freedom’. They are

1. Media power and class power;
2. In whose image?
3. Sexual stereotyping in the media?
4. Racism in broadcasting
5. Portraying the peace movement
6. British broadcasting and Ireland
7. Living with the media – A landscape of lies, and Union World
8. The media and the state.
9. The different approaches to media reform
10. Selling the paper? Socialism and cultural diversity
11. Reconstructing broadcasting
12. Pornography annoys.
13. Campaigning against pornography.
14. The new communications revolution.
15. Media freedom and the CPBF
16. The aims of the campaign
17. Right of Reply
18. Freedom of information.
19. Media bias and future policy.
This last chapter is particularly interesting, as it’s by Tony Benn.

I was particular struck by how little difference there is between the today’s attacks on Corbyn and those against the Left in the 1980s by the chapter on the campaign against the peace movement, written by Richard Kebble. Kebble amongst his other points, Kebble points out how scepticism towards nuclear weapons was widespread throughout society, including a sizable chunk of the Tories. It wasn’t confined to Labour, but the media and Tory leadership nevertheless acted as though it were. He also argued that the difference between multilateralism and unilateral disarmament was actually blurred but this was also ignored by the media in its campaign to present a simplified message to the public. The media also presented Michael Foot’s decision to abandon nuclear weapons as a policy that would leave Britain defenceless. He also states very clearly that a quote, used by the Navy as part of its recruiting campaign about the threat of the Russian Navy was a lie.

All this is being repeated with Corbyn stance against Trident. Some of the verbiage used has changed a little, but the overall stance and argument is so close that you could easily believe that the last thirty years have been merely a dream, and that Corbyn and Foot are the same person, despite the difference in appearance and name. Corbyn is being hysterically attacked for not supporting Trident. The Groaniad accused him of not being willing to defend a NATO partner, if it was attacked by Russia – a lie which Mike exposed on his blog. And the media lied to use about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the political establishment now seems to be sabre-rattling once more about a renewed threat from Russia. It’s almost as though the Fall of Communism and the Soviet Empire never happened. We were lied to then. We’re being lied to now. This screams that the mendacity of the British press and media hasn’t changed one bit in the last thirty years.