The articles on this page reflect the personal opinions of John Andrews

To borrow a thought from Bertrand Russell: "We are born ignorant, not stupid. It's education that makes us stupid".

He might have added... and it's the media that maintains that condition.

Comment aims to shed a little light on a pretty dark world.





6 November 2014

CALM DOWN GREG

A typically excellent piece by Greg Palast recently exposed some more about the now almost routine cynicism of the US government.His article revealed how a piece of software is being used to carry out a huge purge of mainly non-white people from the US electoral role – apparently most non-white people in the US usually vote Democrat. Then just yesterday we learn that in the US mid-term elections the Republicans won control of Congress.

Greg Palast wrote with his usual mix of biting sarcasm and pent-up rage. Obviously the point he made is pretty important; but by the time I reached the end of the piece I felt like saying "Calm down Greg, surely you know that it really doesn't make a scrap of difference whether the Republicans or Democrats win any US election: it's exactly the same difference; it's a rigged system where no matter who appears to be running the country the real movers and shakers (the bankers, the media moguls, corporate CEOs, military/"security"/"intelligence" communities) are all entirely unaffected. The illusion of western democracy is just a piece of theatre to trick the plebs into thinking they're in charge. They're not, and never have been.

Excellent though Greg's piece is, it's also something of a distraction. It suggests that it matters whether someone votes Republican or Democrat. It doesn't, because what you get is the same old same old no matter which of them wins the day. A surprisingly large number of people actually know this, and the proof they know it can be seen in the number of people who either can't be bothered to vote at all, or who vote for third parties – more as a protest vote than for any realistic expectation they might win. But the larger that number becomes, the better the chance the cynical illusion of western democracy might get fixed.


10 October 2014

WHO WON THE WAR?

The downward spiral of British society that began shortly after Margaret Thatcher came to power, and accelerated about twenty years later with the arrival of Tony Blair at Downing Street, is possibly entering its closing phase. We have been slowly heading towards a fully-fledged police state for all those years, and the recent press releases describing Tory plans to outlaw political dissent, together with their intention to ignore the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act, should just about complete the job. We will then have arrived at a fascist state. Thirty five years of corrupt and evil government will finally have achieved what Hitler failed to do. That will make a rather said reflection on Britain's annual Remembrance Day celebrations.


3 September 2014

DISTRACTION WINS AGAIN

Last night I played Bridge, as I usually do on a Tuesday. My Bridge partner David is a well-read guy who has a pretty good idea how the world really works. As we finished a set of games and waited for the next set to arrive David started to discuss the news – as he likes to do when he gets the chance.

"Things are turning very nasty in Ukraine," he says to me.

I sigh and nod my head.

"Yip. It ain't good."

Now what's really going on in Ukraine is of course pretty much a mystery, as the British government and media between them will ensure that most Brits can't find out. However, I know David, like me, gets quite a lot of his information from foreign news suppliers such as Al Jazeera and Russia Today which, though obviously propaganda vehicles too, at least supply a different type of propaganda to the BBC. I also know that David is pretty clued up on his history, and will know a lot more than most about the back-story to Ukraine's current agony. But the two brief exchanges David and I had was the end of our discussion on the subject, because as soon as I gave my reply we were interrupted by the two women who were waiting with us at our table, one of whom started talking over us to her partner about the story that has totally dominated British "news" for the last couple of days: the story of Ashya King.

I have no intention of going into the details of that story. It's a combination of very sad, very wrong and very stupid, but it's a story that most certainly does not belong on national news as the most important news item of the day. At any one time there are probably tens of thousands of similar stories in Britain of very sad/ wrong/stupid – if not hundreds of thousands. To take one of these stories – almost as though it was exceptional – and turn it into headline news is even worse than sad, wrong and stupid; it's evil. Unfortunately, however, it's also entirely normal.

The Ashya King story has been used as distraction news – a common trick of the media; and the current events in Ukraine are flaming proof of that. The situation there is unbelievably ugly; and it's a situation that the British government will have been complicit in creating, since they've been meddling in affairs in that part of the world for about a hundred years – if not longer.

A civil war has been manufactured in Ukraine out of nothing; an irretrievable division created where almost none previously existed. The division is mostly the work of the United States – pretty much like the artificial division it created in Korea – and the US will have been aided and abetted by its chief European poodle, Britain, whose MI6 has been active in the area since the 1920s.

The outrageous civil war in Ukraine has the potential to go viral. Whether or not it will is in the hands of god, in the form of his present incarnation, President Obama.

Global war is the 1%'s standard solution-of-choice to irretrievable economic catastrophes. There's no easy way out, as far as they're concerned, of the current financial disaster they created. Might as well have a war. Of course there are sane and peaceful solutions to their economic holocaust – quite simple solutions in fact – but none that would permit the 1% to remain in charge; which means those solutions ain't going to happen anytime soon.

This should have been the conversation around our Bridge table last night, as it should be the conversation taking place in every pub, works canteen, schoolroom and living room in the country. But we're not all talking about that. We're dutifully conforming to the programming and chattering inanely about the sad, wrong, stupid story of poor little Ashya King. As far as mainstream media is concerned they can chalk up yet another victory for distraction news. No matter that in this year, our centenary celebration of war, we may be poised on the brink of the biggest man-made catastrophe of all time.

Well, no one could accuse the US government of not knowing how to party.


27 August 2014

HEARTS OF DARKNESS

(The full version of this article can be read HERE)

“He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision – he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath, ‘The horror! The horror!’”
“Heart of Darkness” – Joseph Conrad

Last Monday (18th August) Channel Four’s “Dispatches” screened a documentary by the independent film maker Evan Williams titled “Nigeria’s Hidden War”. Broadcast as it was, at 11 p.m. on a weekday night, it probably only attracted about six viewers. I recorded it.

It was truly horrific. Those of us who are familiar with Africa’s long history of agony would not have been too surprised by the content of Mr Williams’ film. Although the ruthless, heartless barbarism of the rich and powerful against the poor and weak can be seen in many (perhaps most) parts of the world there can be few places that exceed the evil extremism of the rich and powerful attained in Africa – an evil extremism magnified many times over by the perpetual darkness in which their activities are routinely kept.

The thing that made this programme so important was not so much the information it provided about the all-but-unknown horrors of life in one of Africa’s richest countries; the particular importance of Mr Williams’ film was the hard evidence it provided of the deep institutional cynicism of the foreign policies of western governments – especially the US and UK governments.

Whilst the white-skinned monsters that control Africa’s fate with the same ruthless efficiency as their colonial predecessors of yesteryear, together with their black-skinned “partners”, while they’re all allowed to continue their exploitation of a wonderful, beautiful continent, there can be no end to the horrors there. Although Africans, like all the rest of us, need to free themselves of rulers of all kinds, their need to do so is far more desperate.


9 August 2014

THE OLD BOYS CLUB

I often don’t write about the things that make me angry. Mostly that’s because I’ve written previously on something similar, and I don’t like repeating myself. Sometimes it’s because it’s very draining to spend time and energy trying to write relatively lucidly and without hysteria on something that almost no one will read and because I know it won’t make any difference what I think and say. So I think why bother?

The appalling genocide being perpetrated in Gaza at the moment is one such subject. The obscenity of it is so extreme, and writing about it so enrages me and depresses me at the same time, and I know that what I think and say is no different to what tens of millions of other people are thinking and saying, and that what we all think and say will make no difference anyway because the 1% of the 1% of the 1% who run the planet just don’t give a shit. So I’m almost tempted not to bother. Almost; until it occurs to me that I might have something slightly different to add.

It occurs to me that whilst most of us are rightly venting rage against the zionist occupiers of Palestine, we’re not venting enough rage against our very own governments. The hateful little land known as Israel would not be able to behave as it does were it not for the fact that it’s effectively a branch of the US government. So although the mass murderers employed by the zionists are obviously individually culpable and could and should be brought to justice for their crimes against humanity, they’re not the only ones who should be in the dock. The genocide taking place in Occupied Palestine is being approved by the US government, which means it’s also being approved by the governments of dozens of other lackey countries – such as the British government.

The fine and brave people who take to the streets to protest against this latest genocide are obviously right to do so, but I wonder about the main target for their protests. For although Israel should obviously be publicly vilified and opposed at every opportunity, so too should the powerful western governments whose support for that despicable country is so vital.

Here in Britain, for example, the main target of protest should be against the British government for its unwavering support for the US government’s unwavering support for the war criminals. It’s time the European governments realised who their real friends and enemies are. Their real friends are each other. Their real enemy, the only one that matters anyway, is the US government. Many of the brighter statesmen will know that, of course; they’ll know the difference between what’s in the best interests of their country and what’s in their own best interests, and they’ll do what they’re supposed to do: look after their own best interests. They’ll know that when their own country is inevitably bled dry and crushed by its subservience to a foreign empire they’ll be O.K; they will have long ensured that their share of the loot is tucked away safe and sound in some distant tax haven. That’s been the history of empire since its earliest days thousands of years ago.

So there’s nothing new in how the existing empire is operating. It’s been following the well-trod path of previous empires since the earliest days of its creation, and particularly since the end of WW2. But thanks to the Old Boys Club that knows no boundaries and whose imperial membership comprises the 1% of the 1% of the 1%, that fact is not widely understood. The only thing that matters to the club membership is huge personal wealth for club members, and if the club president decrees that members shall look the other way whilst war crimes and genocide is taking place in some distant desert, then that’s exactly what the membership will do.

So of course we should rage against the illegal occupiers of Palestine for their unspeakable crimes, but we should be raging more at the US government, which has the power to end the thing in a heartbeat; and at our own government for helping to prop up the empire at the expense of our own people.


20 July 2014

SHOTS IN THE DARK

One of Britain’s best-known purveyors of misinformation, The Times, had the following words splashed across the front page of its July 19 edition:

“MH17 lost after rebels shot down wrong jet”.

The story refers to the terrible tragedy of the mysterious crash of yet another Malaysia Airlines passenger plane two days earlier. The subheading of the story in the Times reads:

“World rounds on Russia for fomenting violence”.

The next ten pages of the paper were filled with the careful blend of fact and fiction which represents the state of the art of western propaganda.

There is so much misinformation contained in the fifteen words of that headline and subheading alone that you have to hand it to the Times; it really is very good at what it does.

The first thing to do is look at the evidence. What evidence does the Times supply to support its headlines?

In the absence of any evidence whatsoever from any reliable independent investigators at this early stage, let’s assume the plane was indeed shot down, instead of other possibilities for the crash – such as mechanical failure, or it being blown up by a bomb inside the plane. So if it was indeed shot down the first most obvious question is who did it?

At first glance the Times appears, as usual, very sure of itself: the “rebels” did it. But, using a trick the Times often employs, it soon backtracks on itself. By just the second paragraph of the accompanying front page article, it’s already hedging its bets: “The catastrophe MAY have involved the pro-Russian separatists” (my emphasis)

So it quickly becomes clear that the Times is offering no hard evidence at all for its own headline.

The next part of the headline, suggesting there was a “right” jet to be shot down, is equally short of verifiable evidence, because that revealing second paragraph tells us the “pro-Russian separatists” were “trying to hit a Ukrainian military transport plane that was in the skies at the same time”.

Once again, there is no evidence to support this. As we don’t know for sure that so-called “pro-Russian separatists” were responsible, how could we possibly know what they were trying to do? As for a Ukrainian military transport plane being “in the skies at the same time”... that may or may not be relevant. “The skies” are a big place.

The Times’ subheading, “World rounds on Russia for fomenting violence”, is equally short on hard evidence. By “the world” the Times appears to mean President Obama (“Putin has gone too far… says US”), and… the Australian prime minister who, allegedly, “led a chorus of western disdain for Russia’s attempt to distance itself from the cause of the crash.” Why western leaders need to be “led” by the Australian prime minister to express “disdain” is curious. Perhaps it’s because the Times presents us with pretty little else in the way of hard facts about any other western leader rushing to jump on the empire’s war wagon. As for the other fairly sizeable parts of the world – Asia, Africa, South America – the Times provides not a single shred of evidence in its ten pages of “news” about the tragedy of anyone from these continents “rounding on Russia”. Neither, it seems, did the official representative of world opinion, the United Nations, “round on Russia”. Instead we learn that the so-called “security council”, not exactly famous for its pacifism, “called for a ‘full, thorough and independent investigation into the tragedy’”. Even the British prime minister, who usually routinely obeys his master’s instructions, seemed to be very guarded in his opinion: “If, as seems possible, this was brought down then those responsible must be brought to account.” “If”? “as seems possible”? These are not the words of someone “rounding on Russia”. In other words, the evidence provided by The Times actually contradicts its own headlines (not for the first time) and would seem to suggest that the only people who are clearly “rounding on Russia” is Mr Obama, that awesome western leader the Australian prime minister, and the jingoistic Times newspaper (“Stand tall against the barbarians”). Hardly “the world” in my view.

The BBC also included considerable news-time to the words of the US president. It’s interesting that Britain’s mainstream media are as focussed as they are on the emperor. I mean, I haven’t seen a single news report about the reaction of the queen, our own de jure head of state – not that it would be relevant anyway, of course – but it’s still interesting that our so-called news is more attentive upon the words of a foreign head of state than our own. (And if a foreign head of state is going to act as spokesman for the British people why on Earth are we paying millions of pounds a year to Elizabeth Windsor?)

As more and more people slowly become aware of the deeply cynical and evil phenomenon known as false flag operations, more and more people are understanding the very considerable difficulty in knowing who for sure is behind horrific tragedies such as this latest disaster. I mean, it’s not that long ago when the US president was confidently telling the world that a terrible gas attack in Syria had been perpetrated by the Syrian government, and that they should be punished. Of course there was as little hard evidence then to support Obama’s outrageous claims as there is now. It could indeed have been eastern Ukrainians trying to hit a military plane last Thursday. But that is just one possibility. There is another, and that is that the plane was shot down by people pretending to be eastern Ukrainians. Who exactly those people might be and why they would do that is anyone’s guess.

As the civil war in Ukraine is largely the handiwork of the United States – given that the US government paid for and stage-managed the illegal coup d’état that triggered the war, the most obvious alternative possibility is that the shooters were on the US payroll. Another reasonable possibility is that the Israelis were responsible (which is basically the same thing). After all, the zionists are busily engaged in committing genocide in Gaza at the moment and it would be very convenient for them to have a major disaster story to deflect global attention away from them – not that very much attention is ever focussed on them anyway, and not that they give a damn even when it is. In fact, it’s an amazing coincidence that the zionist war machine mobilized itself outside of Gaza several days before the tragedy and then did very little… as though waiting for a signal to begin the latest round of war-crimes in which its currently engaged.

It’s also an amazing coincidence that this tragedy happened to another Malaysia Airlines jet, a mere couple of months after the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370. Given the number of airlines operating around the world, the odds of two such disasters happening to the same company in such a short space of time are pretty small.

It’s likely we’ll never know for sure who exactly is responsible for this latest outrage – unless a whistle-blower appears. But given the vicious persecution of whistle-blowers by our trusted leaders I won’t be holding my breath. However, if MH17 was indeed shot down, the most culpable perpetrators would be the US government, either directly or indirectly; because even if the shooters were not directly employed by one of the US government’s numerous gangs of dirty-tricks specialists, it was unquestionably the US government that caused the civil war in Ukraine in the first place. If they had not done that flight MH17 would most probably have reached its destination.

So Mr Obama can act the outraged emperor all he likes, and his mainstream media lackeys can fill our TV screens and ten pages of newsprint with hysterical jingoism all they like; but the game is up: more and more people are slowly learning the truth about how the world really works. If any government can be blamed for the tragedy of flight MH17, it’s the US government. The US government has assumed for itself the role of global emperor, so it and it alone bears the responsibility, directly or indirectly, for most of the terrible manmade tragedies that occur anywhere on the planet.


9 July 2014

NON-NEWS

The BBC, like every other establishment institution I can think of, is not fit for purpose.

In last night’s so-called “news”, a substantial part of the programme was given over, in way or another, to the subject of child-abuse. Now child-abuse is obviously very serious; no one questions that. However, BBC coverage of the subject surely has almost nothing to do with concern for small children and everything to do with creating material for what the BBC has always excelled at: distraction. Other events that were happening yesterday included the rapid descent of Ukraine into civil war, and the obscene crimes against humanity being perpetrated by Occupied Palestine against defenceless civilians in Gaza. Either of these subjects could and should have filled the BBC’s news programme.

To be fair, the crimes being perpetrated in Gaza did get a very brief airing. But as one would expect from the BBC, it was almost entirely from the point of view of the zionists. As one of the most powerful armies in the world pounded defenceless civilians, and tanks massed outside the concentration camp that is Gaza, we were told that the murders were being perpetrated in order to stop rocket attacks by Palestinians into Occupied Palestine. The BBC coverage showed footage of some of the destruction and misery perpetrated by the zionists in Gaza. We saw nothing, nothing at all, of any damage caused by the alleged rocket attacks from Gaza. We saw a zionist who said she was scared; we didn’t see any evidence of why she should be scared. Although we did see what appeared to be a rocket being fired into the sky from somewhere, we did not see who fired the rocket or where it landed. Given the known fondness of the “great” powers for false-flag events, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the rocket we saw was in fact fired by the zionists themselves, or their proxies. The fact that the rocket launch was caught so well on film suggested to me that the person doing the filming was ready and waiting for the launch; and given that so much of what the BBC provides in terms of “news” from Occupied Palestine is either provided or approved by the occupiers, the alleged rocket attack has all the hallmarks of a staged propaganda event.

As for the civil war brewing in Ukraine, where once again defenceless civilians are being butchered by a mighty military machine supported by the “great” western powers… nothing.

No doubt defenders of the BBC would argue that abuse of British children is far more important to British people than international crimes being committed by foreign countries. It’s a fair point, and I do not suggest the BBC should not mention the child-abuse at all. However, the international crimes are incredibly serious too and deserve proper investigation and reporting. Even if Britain has absolutely nothing to do with the crimes happening in Ukraine and Gaza which, given its long experience in international crime, is not necessarily a given, the British government should be taking a moral position on both events – and the BBC should be demanding they do so.

What we get instead is distraction.


11 June 2014

LIFE IN AN EARTHQUAKE ZONE

In about a week’s time (on the 16th June) an event is due to take place in London which, according to the Guardian, would be unique in “modern British legal history”. On that day a criminal trial is due to begin whose proceedings are expected to take place in absolute secrecy.

According to the Guardian, until last week it had “not even been possible to report the existence of the forthcoming trial against the two men, known only as AB and CD.” Then last week, “three appeal court judges lifted a gagging order allowing reporting of a hearing challenging the [plan for a secret trial]”.

At last week’s appeal court hearing, counsel for the crown, Richard Whittam, QC, “told the court the case involved clearly exceptional circumstances which had led to the "exceptional procedures" that had been approved by Mr Justice Nicol on 19 May.”

“The court was told that the crown has sought and obtained legal orders on the grounds of national security, arguing that if the trial were held in public the prosecution might not proceed with the case.” Mr Whittam said, “While the crown entirely supported open justice, the exceptional nature of the case made it necessary for the unprecedented procedures to be put in place.

"It is quite clear that there is jurisdiction for the defendants to be anonymous and there is jurisdiction for a court to sit in private. Whether or not it is appropriate to do so is evidence-dependent." The unprecedented secrecy of this case had been challenged by “The Guardian and other media organisations” in the person of “Anthony Hudson, representing the media”.

Mr Hudson said, "No order has ever been made which requires an entire criminal trial to be in private with the media excluded and the defendants unnamed. We submit that the orders made involve such a significant departure from the principle of open justice that they are inconsistent with the rule of law and democratic accountability." If this secret trial goes ahead, “The men will be tried by a jury but no report of the case will be made public and no members of the media or public will be given access to the court.”

We’re living in very strange times. It seems that hardly a day goes by without learning of some new horror about our own trusted leaders, or about the other supposed guardians of our supposedly great country. It feels like living in a permanent earthquake where the very ground beneath your feet is continually shaking and everything around you is crumbling and on the verge of collapse.

The state prosecutor, Richard Whittam, claims “the crown entirely supported open justice”. Why did he say that, at a time when he was clearly doing the very opposite thing? Of course it could be said he was just doing his job, obeying orders. That would explain his presence at this shameful event and the duties he was performing; but there was no compulsion on him to tell a lie, because very obviously the crown does not entirely support open justice or the crown would not be trying to make history by establishing the precedent of a secret court and providing it with the relatively respectable mantle of “British Justice”.

THERE IS NO SITUATION WHERE A TRIAL SHOULD TAKE PLACE IN SECRET!

The details about this planned kangaroo court are obviously sketchy. We’re told that,
“AB is charged with engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts between February 2012 and October 2013. He is further charged with CD of being in possession of documents or records containing information of the kind likely to be used by a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism. This relates to the pair's alleged possession of a document entitled "Bombmaking". CD is also charged with possession of an improperly obtained UK passport.”

There is nothing in this information that suggests a reason for why the proposed trial should be carried out in secret. Many, many people have been previously charged with acts of terrorism in open British courts, and their charges have often been based on far more substantial evidence than being in “possession of a document entitled "Bombmaking"; and the suggestion that CD being in “possession of an improperly obtained UK passport” deserves a secret trial is just jaw-droppingly surreal.

THERE IS NO SITUATION WHERE A TRIAL SHOULD TAKE PLACE IN SECRET!

I think that what’s happening here is an attempt to create a truly sinister precedent; and the crown prosecutor supports that view, for he said it’s “necessary for the unprecedented procedures to be put in place”. The fascists who have long been powerful forces in British politics have long resisted open justice; hence the occasional suspensions of habeas corpus, routine internment-without-trial in Northern Ireland, the fairly recent attempt to allow the police to detain people without charge for up to three months, and the long-established custom of dragging out judicial inquiries for years and even decades.

Justice is what ordinary people, properly informed, say it is. It is not what some one percenter sitting in secret, says it is.

The guardian and the media representative Mr Hudson made the point perfectly clearly: “national security could not be pursued without regard to the values of the society it was seeking to protect.” A mere seventy-odd years ago Winston Churchill, whom no one could mistake for being a pinko liberal of any kind, said these words: “The power of the executive to cast a man into prison, without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government...” (1)

So even Churchill might be appalled by what’s taking place under our very noses. Whether the secret trial actually happens or not, the fact this abominable event has gone even this far, together with the fact that it’s attracted almost no mainstream media attention, is simply horrific. It’s truly like living in an earthquake zone, or in the shadow of an active volcano.

Notes:
1. ‘Hegemony or Survival’ by Noam Chomsky p. 27


27 April 2014

False Flags

A talk by John on the subject of "false flag" events.


5 April 2014

Dominoes

One of the most widely used explanations for why the United States had to be involved in Vietnam during the 1960s/70s was that communism had to be stopped in its tracks, that if communists were allowed to “take over” Vietnam the rest of South East Asia would quickly follow. It was called the Domino Theory to suggest the image of how a row of domino tiles, placed on their edges and near to each other, could all be made to topple over by simply knocking the first one over onto the second. It was a pretty effective analogy and was widely used by most of the western media in the 1960s and 1970s to conjure up the horrors of jackbooted Russian soldiers invading our bedrooms – the so-called “Reds under the beds” image that was widely suggested at the time.

Today it’s quite popular for many left-leaning commentators to ridicule the Domino Theory and imply that no such movement ever existed. The usually excellent Abby Martin, for example, mentioned it about 15 minutes into her recent show on RT when she said the Domino Theory turned out to be “one giant sham”.

But it’s not strictly accurate. Anti-communist interventions by western countries most definitely did halt the spread of communism – at least for the time being (ideas never die) – and to suggest otherwise is misleading. However, like so many of these types of discussion, the difficulty lies in how language is used.

No hard evidence has ever been provided to show that Moscow intended to take over the world. So the suggestion implicit in the Domino Theory that some sinister Russian conspiracy lay behind the spread of communism around the world following the Russian Revolution is pure bunkum. What happened in reality was that ordinary people all around the world were deeply inspired by what the ordinary people of Russia had achieved for themselves, and wanted to copy the Russian model in their own countries where they too were being oppressed just as the Russian people had been oppressed prior to 1917. Communism did indeed spread like wildfire, and the 1% had been terrified of it from the moment of its birth; but it wasn’t being spread by Russian armies invading terrified countries, it was being spread by ordinary people all over the world freely choosing it in preference to the tyrannies with which they were all too familiar.

The war against communism lasted from 1918, when western armies first invaded Russia to 1991, when the Soviet Union committed suicide. Throughout that time the 1% who ruled the western world stopped at nothing to defeat their bitter enemy. From enforcing devastating economic sanctions, which still exist in Cuba and North Korea more than half a century later, to vicious military invasions – such as in Korea and Vietnam – to western sponsored military coups from Indonesia to Africa to Latin America, nothing was too much trouble for western elites in their vicious assault on a good idea.

When well-meaning people such as Abby Martin suggest that communism was not spreading at the time of the Vietnam War they propagate a mistake that serves western interests. Communism was unquestionably spreading in the 1970s, and although the US lost the war in Vietnam, it bought time for the multitude of other western-led anti-communist wars to gain traction all around the world. Abby Martin is perfectly right to imply that there was never any Moscow-led conspiracy to take over the world, but there was very definitely a widespread popular movement of ordinary people choosing to live their lives according to the Russian model.

So in a sense the western propagandists were correct. If left unchecked communism could well have spread from country to country in rapid succession, like a row of dominoes falling over; but the lie is about the driving force behind that movement. Western propagandists allege it was all a devious Russian plot, but the fact was it was ordinary people freely choosing for themselves an alternative model to the crushing tyrannies they were forced to endure.

The west did indeed defeat communism – for the time being. What the west cannot defeat, and never will defeat, is the idea of communism. That will not trouble the 1% overmuch, at the moment. The collapse of the Soviet Union has bought them many decades of security where they can return to their ruthless plundering ways untroubled by the real and significant existence of a better alternative. Communism was and is a perfectly workable economic model and the idea of it will never be eradicated as long as capitalism exists to prove what a good model communism is. This is not to say communism is perfect, and in my view better models exist; but it is considerably better than capitalism, and if communism had been left alone to evolve naturally almost certainly it would be in use today all around the world.

No discussion on Domino Theories could possibly be complete without looking at US foreign policy; for if ever a good example of the principle was wanted one need look no further than US military expansion around the globe, where ever since the earliest days of the US Empire over two hundred years ago the spread of US army outposts have insidiously helped to topple other nations all around the planet like… falling dominoes.


"Monsters" - 21.3.2014

A talk by John Andrews: "Monsters"


15 March 2014

“Mistakes” and “failure” – otherwise known as Foreign Policy

It’s quite common to see western foreign policy labelled as “mistaken” or a “failure”. A recent article by the respected writer and professor of economics Rodrigue Tremblay, for example, was titled “US Policy of Isolating Russia and Expanding NATO Is a Dismal Failure”; and the equally respected historian Mark Curtis wrote this, in "Secret Affairs":
“Anglo-American attempts to shape the Middle East in accordance with their interests have largely failed in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
It’s not unlike those well-meaning folk who sometimes talk about giving power “back to the people”. They don’t seem to realise that the people have never had any power – not officially anyway; the people actually have immense power but have never been allowed to organise themselves for long enough to use it in any coordinated and coherent way.

Perhaps it’s deemed acceptable for critics to explain western foreign policy in these terms, but in my view there’s one small problem with it: it isn’t true. The events which become labelled as “mistakes” or “failures” are neither mistaken or failures, they’re intentional and highly successful.

Take for example the following quote from the historian David Fromkin’s book “A peace to End All Peace”. Writing about events a hundred years ago, this gives a glimpse into how empire realy work and shows a little of the hard evidence of the possibility that “mistakes” and “failure” are anything but mistakes and failures and are in fact the deliberate intentions of empire:
“[A] memorandum from the Foreign Department of the Government of India, forwarded to the India Office with support from the governors of Aden , Bombay, and elsewhere, explained that, ‘What we want is not a United Arabia: but a weak and disunited Arabia, split up into little principalities so far as possible under our suzerainty – but incapable of coordinated action against us, forming a buffer against the Powers in the West.’”

Saying that western foreign policy is “mistaken” and a “failure” fails to recognise the real nature of western foreign policy. Our great trusted leaders are not interested in acting in the best interests of people living in foreign countries, and they never have been; they’re not even interested in acting in the best interests of their own people, let alone those living thousands of miles away. Calling these things mistakes and failures suggests previously held noble intentions, intentions which have sadly failed to materialise this time – intentions which in fact never existed.

Western foreign policy is all about pursuing the short-term interests of the 1%. It’s about making quick and vast profits for big business, and empire-building for spymasters and generals; and getting out and moving on before the balloon goes up and well-intentioned folk start talking about “mistakes” and “failures” and “lessons to be learnt” and “returning power to the people”.


21 February 2014

Dirty tricks in Ukraine?

It isn’t possible for any rational British or American citizen with a slight understanding of the real history of their own countries to view the terrible and tragic events unfolding in Ukraine and not ask an important question: what exactly is the real nature and extent of British and US involvement there? The answers might be provided decades hence when government documents are declassified; but that’s not going to be of much help to the suffering people of Ukraine.


9 February 2014

We go into the movie business!

It's about 2 months since my last note here - which I think is the longest gap between posts since this website started ten years ago.

The main reason for that is that we've branched out into the movie business! Can't beat a bit of growth now can we.

I got a new HD video camera for solstice with a view to posting some recordings onto You Tube for our School of Kindness project. Well, the first time I tried was at the beginning of January. The recording went O.K. and then I tried to upload it... CRASH! Our trusty ten year old, overworked and underpaid computer died. So we were computerless for a couple of weeks with one thing or another, and then it was another couple of weeks getting our stuff back in some sort of working order.

But we got there in the end, and our new movie venture can now be seen in all its spectacular glory here.

A good place for the uninitiated to begin is here.


7 December 2013

Superstar or Hot Air?

A couple of days ago Nelson Mandela died. I expect his nomination for sainthood cannot be far away, for he’s surely being treated that way for many years now. I could get more into the spirit of the thing if the man had actually done something useful since his release from Robben Island twenty three years ago; but as far as I can make out all he did was travel the world to appear on various TV shows and meet up with other world leaders so they could bathe in his reflected glory for a few minutes in order to try to get some political credibility to boost their pathetic opinion polls.

If you take a look at township life for hundreds of thousands of black South Africans in today’s South Africa I’m not sure what the difference is from the days of apartheid. I know Mandela did some good work on the streets before he was imprisoned and turned into a media superstar, but what else has he done? Just what the hell did Mandela actually do these last twenty three years to deserve all the hero-worship? What did he actually do with the messianic image that was crafted for him by the western media?


17 November 2013

The Case for Extinction

I’m used to feelings of rage and nausea whenever I open a “news” paper – which is something I usually do only once a week; and I only do it then because The Times’ Saturday edition has a good puzzles page, and it also provides the TV listings for the following week. I most certainly do not do it for what should be the main purpose of a newspaper – providing good information about the world around me. In fact I always put-off for as long as possible the moment when I actually open up the paper to see what it contains, which I always do from a sense of duty - having paid good money for the thing – rather than interest. I know that opening up those pages will always, always make me angry.

Yesterday, however, I think The Times managed to excel itself. Turning over the very first page the reader is confronted with on article on page two that explains how Britain is striding confidently towards one of the primary requirements of a fascist state: secret courts. The article, titled “Press and public to be barred from major terrorism trial”, relates how two men, both British citizens and identified only as AB and CD, face charges related to alleged terrorism. We’re told that,
“Prosecutors will apply for draconian orders at the Old Bailey next week excluding members of the press and the public from court... and banning reporting of some of the charges.”
The reason for the prosecution request is of course the tired old excuse - “strong operational reasons”. When AB and CD appeared last month at a City of Westminster court, District Judge Michael Snow allowed a request to keep the identities of the men secret claiming it was necessary to do so,
“to prevent the administration of justice from being damaged.”
Given the recent history of British policing, from the killing of defenceless Brazilian electricians and harmless passers-by such as Ian Tomlinson, to massive volumes of falsified documents (such as their reports of the Hillsborough tragedy), I would say the administration of justice is already damaged beyond repair. It can only be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch. If further proof of that claim was needed, the creation of secret courts is surely it.

If that article was not enough to turn the blood cold, immediately facing it on page three is arguably an even more revolting story – it certainly had a more nauseating effect on me than another almost-routine tale of the slide of country into fascism. Titled “TV huntress’s boast of lion killing brings roar of anger”. The story is about as repulsive as a story can be, but the fact that some headline writer saw it as a great opportunity to show of his/her skills at pun-writing somehow manages to expose the Times for the truly shabby rag it has become.

The story and the repugnant photograph that accompanies it appeared in many other places. It tells how some American TV nonentity, apparently “a pin-up for American hunters”, murdered a lion. The picture shows her wearing a muscle-man vest, squatting behind the poor magnificent animal, flashing her plastic grin and clutching a rifle. This horrible, horrible person is clearly proud of what she’s done. An extract from her diary reads,
“Incredible day in South Africa! Stalked inside of sixty yards of this beautiful male lion... what a hunt.”

What an outrage.

According to The Times, the lion was murdered on a private game reserve near the border with Zimbabwe. Not very far behind the unspeakable murderer herself in the repulsiveness stakes must be the people who run these “safari” operations. The Times says, “The reserves argue that the sums involved – which can be up to £50,000 per lion – are crucial for conservation projects to protect other animals.”

I first came across this argument quite a long time ago in Zimbabwe where some farmers had latched onto the idea of “farming” wild animals for rich and stupid foreigners to “hunt” and slaughter. In a country desperate for foreign exchange it was seen as a great way to obtain it. The scheme was marketed as a “conservation” project, and these farmers argued that instead of just killing these wonderful animals as a type of vermin – where they would soon be exterminated altogether – why not “conserve” the species by breeding them and charging stupid rich people loads of money to come and murder them?

Since then the idea has become quite popular, and apparently some of these “conservation” reserves effectively train some animals such as lions to partially trust humans, because reserve employees regularly feed them. The practice even has a name – “canned lions”. So when this creature says she “stalked” the lion it’s just possible that she was doing nothing more difficult (or dangerous) than stalking a tame dog. Furthermore, “the beautiful male lion” seems to have a pretty small mane, which suggests he’s not much more than a teenager.

The no-doubt high-powered rifle the murderer is holding in the photograph is equipped with a telescopic sight. It looks like it’s state of the art. She says she “stalked” within sixty yards of the lion. With the scope she was using she should have been able to see fleas moving around on his coat. Furthermore I should think there were at least two other guns at her side. In other words the poor animal had absolutely no chance. What a great heroine.

Of course there’s nothing original in the “canned lions”-type of business enterprise. Game birds such as pheasant and grouse have been bred in Britain for many decades so that thick rich white people, the cream of our society, can be charged a fortune to murder them and delude themselves into thinking they’re doing something rough tough and manly when all they’re actually doing is showing themselves to be fine examples of human excreta, and a deep embarrassment to the human species.

I have detested hunting most of my life – except when people do it to survive. Those who do what this American did are beneath contempt as far as I’m concerned – on a par with those who do animal experiments for a living. If she wanted to do something really brave she should have seen how close she could have got to the lion without her rifle, carrying nothing more deadly than a camera. That might have been impressive. What she did was nothing braver than what slaughtermen do all day long in abattoirs – and arguably not as honourable.

If the best argument that human beings can provide for preservation of the wonderful animals that are rapidly disappearing from the wild because of human overpopulation is to “conserve” them in prisons for human beings to gawp at, or so that unspeakable creatures like this American can pay big money to come along and murder them, the sooner they become extinct the better as far as I’m concerned.


11 November 2013

“Lest we forget...Victim X”

There can be few more sickening and obviously provable examples of the psychotic nature of British foreign policy than the recent court martial of three Royal Marines charged with murder.

This event concerns the slaughter of a defenceless Afghan by a Royal Marine who, going on the available evidence, was at least partially encouraged by two of his colleagues. The evidence takes the form of video and audio clips of the incident which if authentic – and there’s no reason to think they’re not - is damning. The murder is bad enough, obviously, but concealed in plain sight (which is often the best place to hide things) is another piece of evidence of something that’s an even more serious event and which, to the best of my knowledge is not being actioned or even investigated: hard incontrovertible evidence that the murder is not just another murder by another one of those frequently-occurring “anomalies” - or, in the words of deputy head of the Royal Marines Brigadier Dunham, “aberration” - but a war crime.

Immediately after the murder, the murderer, whose identity is allowed by the court to be kept secret, is heard to say:
“Obviously this doesn't go anywhere, fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention”.
Here we have hard incontrovertible evidence of a premeditated war crime. The fact that Marine A, as the court martial chose to label the murderer, knew that the Geneva Convention explicitly forbids such action is interesting; and the fact that he, together with his comrades, chose to casually ignore it, to treat it with contempt even, is even more interesting. How did he learn about the Geneva Convention? Is it something that all Marines are taught, or did he learn it through self-study, a desire to teach himself international law? And if all Marines are routinely taught about the Geneva Convention as part of their training, how are they taught it? How do they get to learn to treat it with such blatant contempt? How is it that someone can learn about such a serious crime but feel that it’s O.K. to ignore it? And Marine A was not alone in so thinking, because just prior to the murder he has a little chat with his mates about how they’re going to kill their victim. Marine B, a university graduate, says, “Take your pick how you shoot him”, and Marine C casually offers to do the job for him, to “put one in his head if you want”. Marine A, an experienced sergeant, was no “aberration”, and his two buddies were completely with him. These three people were not part of some uncontrolled rabble but part of a world-renowned, elite, ruthlessly efficient, highly trained and well-disciplined fighting machine. Almost certainly they were no “aberration” in the wider British army. Why did these people feel they could easily get away with committing not just a murder, but a war crime unless the incident was anything but an “aberration”? Does the remark that “obviously this doesn’t go anywhere” give us a clue? Does it suggest that the Marines’ “camaraderie”, which presumably is institutionalised as part of their training, surpasses international law? Why else would information about a war crime “obviously” not go anywhere?

We get to learn absolutely nothing about the victim. He’s simply airbrushed out of the story. We don’t even get to learn his name. One news report said the body cannot be found – so we can’t actually verify the claim that he was “already gravely injured”. The video image appears to show a small man cowering on the ground partially wrapped in a white cloth. He seems to be unarmed and the only weapons that are visible are those held by the Marines. In other words we have absolutely no information about the victim’s side of this outrageous incident. Who was he? What was he doing there? He just joins the millions of other unknown victims of British terror. For the purpose of this article I’ll call him “Victim X”.

The murderer and his accomplices clearly knew they were doing something wrong, as they discuss making sure they’re not being filmed by a British observation balloon – and presumably the helicopter too. And that’s another odd thing – the helicopter that supposedly wounded “Victim X”, what was its part in all this? According to the BBC report,
“The murder took place after a patrol base in Helmand Province came under attack from small arms fire from two insurgents... [“Victim X”] was seriously injured by gunfire from an Apache helicopter sent to provide air support”.
Two insurgents? Two? According to the Guardian the Marines comprised an eight man patrol. When I was in the army there would have been absolutely no chance of an eight man patrol calling for let alone receiving helicopter support for an attack by two insurgents using small arms fire, we would have been expected to look after ourselves – and against just two lightly-armed attackers we would have been perfectly able to do so. So why did this patrol of eight highly trained, well-equipped elite soldiers need helicopter support to deal with two lightly armed “insurgents”? Is that really the stuff of heroes? Where did this helicopter suddenly come from? It seems quite unlikely that two Afghan “insurgents” would have attacked eight heavily armed Marines by using small arms - especially if an Apache helicopter was within ear-shot. So what really happened there?

Another important unanswered question is how exactly did this incident come to light?

According to the BBC piece,
“Royal Military Police arrested the three Marines in October 2012 after video footage was found on a serviceman's laptop by civilian police in the UK.”
How exactly did civilian police come across the serviceman’s laptop? What was the footage doing on the laptop? Who was the serviceman in question?

According to the Independent,
“The video footage was recorded by the helmet camera that, contrary to regulations, Marine B was wearing.”
So the video images used in the court martial were apparently taken by Marine B’s helmet camera. Later on, back at base, we learn he supposedly tried to delete the images – obviously not very effectively. Was Marine B the only one to have a camera? Did the other two not have them, or were they just more successful at deleting their evidence? What about the Appache helicopter, and the British observation balloon we learn about in an earlier Guardian report? Helicopters routinely record their activities – as Wikileaks can verify, and presumably an observation balloon has recording equipment, so what do their records reveal? As far as we know these questions were not asked at the court martial.

Why was Marine B wearing a camera if they’re against regulations? Did his two colleagues not notice a camera attached to his helmet – especially the murderer, who we’re told was an experienced sergeant? Are we seriously expected to believe that whilst these three professional killers are casually discussing murdering “Victim X” none of them, not even the wearer of the camera, is conscious of the fact that their deliberations are being recorded for posterity? The murderer later says that he,
“had no idea Marine B was wearing the camera – and would have ordered him to remove it if he had noticed it.”
A sergeant in the Royal Marines with many years of military experience who doesn’t notice a camera in the hat of one of his two colleagues? It must have been a very small camera; but then this is the same person who later reported that he “thought the insurgent was already dead” – an “insurgent” who, as the still photos reveal, appears to be sitting defenceless on the ground, apparently alert and with his head up.

The Verdict

On the evidence that was made available to the media Marine A should be going to prison for a very, very long time; and his two “comrades” should not have expected a very much better outcome for themselves. Although Marine A has now been found guilty of murder, the length of time he will actually serve is yet to be decided. Marines B and C get to walk away scot-free.

If real justice actually existed the three Marines would not have been brought before a court martial comprising people who must surely have had the words “damage-limitation” pounding their brains through every minute of the proceedings.

If real justice actually existed the murderer and his cronies would have had to appear in an Afghan court before an Afghan judge and an Afghan jury and look into he eyes of “Victim X’s” mother and father, brothers and sisters, wife perhaps and children. And I can’t understand why that didn’t happen. After all, haven’t we just delivered freedom and democracy to Afghanistan? Are the Afghan people not now fully ready to manage their own affairs, including judging whether or not one of their own citizens is the victim of a war crime? Isn’t that why our armed forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan, because we’ve now sorted the place out and provided the Afghans with responsible government? Surely that means the Afghans are now the most competent people to determine whether members of a foreign army have committed a war crime on one of their own citizens in their own country? Surely that would produce a more just outcome than a “trial” provided by the colleagues of the murderer, a “trial” where the murderer’s identity is allowed to remain secret and where no one even bothered to find out who “Victim X” actually was, let alone find out what really happened to him, on behalf of him and his family?

If real justice existed our media would be asking all of these questions, and far more besides; and demanding answers from very high places.

If real justice actually existed it wouldn’t just be these three Marines appearing before a court, but all of the other responsible officers too, from the officer who would have been in direct control of that particular patrol right up to the very top-ranking officer of their brigade.

If real justice existed a public inquiry would be tasked with investigating the training of Royal Marines, looking particularly at the reason why these three highly trained, well-disciplined individuals were sure they could commit a war crime, and get away with it.

Almost certainly there was nothing exceptional about this particular war crime – except for the fact that this one happened to become public knowledge in a way that isn’t quite clear yet. But the inescapable fact is that it was a war crime, committed in cold blood, and the murderer knew exactly what he was doing. The Nuremberg Tribunal rightly indicted everyone involved in Nazi war crimes, from the lowliest Nazi murderer to the highest-ranking officers the court could get hold of to the propaganda machine that brainwashed ordinary Germans into mute acceptance of what their trusted leaders were doing in their name. If real justice existed exactly the same thing would have happened as a consequence of this war crime too.

But of course that hasn’t happened, because real justice doesn’t exist. Although Marine A has been found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment it remains to be seen just how many days behind bars he will actually serve. Even within 24 hours of the verdict The Times is screeching for clemency, quoting a general Thompson as saying that life imprisonment is “too harsh”, and that a five year sentence would be “more appropriate for a crime committed in the unique pressure of war”. I wonder if “Victim X’s” family and friends would agree with that view. I wonder if any ordinary Afghan would. I wonder, if the situation was reversed, if a British person was murdered in similar circumstances by some foreign invader, would General Thompson still consider that five years behind bars was long enough for their killer, due to “the unique pressure of war”. Or is what we’re seeing from General Thompson good old fashioned military camaraderie?

Think about the fact that Marines B and C walk away scot-free, to return to normal military duties. What does that mean, normal military duties? Presumably it means they get to return to the companionship of like-minded comrades and to continue preaching the messianic gospel of camaraderie, of which no greater god exists – not even international law. Presumably they’ll continue to strut around in their hallowed green berets, elite “heroes” of the great British war machine, reaping the adoration of small boys and a brainwashed public.

It seems that Marine A has been sacrificed as the fall-guy. Marines B and C get to survive to prove that camaraderie is the greatest god, greater than international law. Marine A did the actual killing and deserves every minute of jail-time he’ll get; but his comrades were complicit, and the fact that they’ve been acquitted and are “free to return to military service” is proof positive, to me, of the institutionalised evil that is the British armed forces, their political enablers and the mainstream media, none of whom seem particularly outraged that what we’re talking about here is a premeditated war crime, which is the most evil by-product of the most evil abomination in existence: war. This outrageous incident has all the feel to me of being anything but an “aberration”; it feels that it’s probably almost routine. The guilt of this appalling thing, for which the whole Royal Marines Brigade is accountable, top to bottom, together with the political establishment that sent Marine A to Afghanistan in the first place, together with a corrupt and complicit media, is being heaped on the shoulders of Marine A – in much the same way as the appalling travesty of Abu Ghraib was concentrated on Lynndie England; or how Lieutenant Calley was sacrificed for the My Lai massacre – whilst the really sinister villains, the top-ranking generals, politicians, arms-makers and media moguls close ranks and call for clemency for the war criminal they created.

So the fall-guys take one for the team, whilst the team carry on with business as usual, “free to return to military service”, free to provide the example of how to get away with murder. How could it possibly be anything else? If the enablers of British foreign policy were suddenly made accountable for their actions it would be the death-knell of British foreign policy; and whilst elitist policy makers continue to plague our country as they’ve done for a thousand years with policies whose only purpose is to plunder foreign lands, that simply isn’t going to happen.

And as for “Victim X” well, who gives a damn? And today, as we’re required to focus our attention on the sacred tomb of the unknown soldier, what about the billions of unknown, unremembered, defenceless victims of war whose ranks were recently swelled by “Victim X”; well, who gives a damn - so long as we continue to remember - and worship - the killers?


3 November 2013

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...

There are many reasons why we should feel rage, if not actual hatred, towards most of our trusted leaders. They have, after all, ruined our country and now, having realised that the ship is going down, they're presiding over the final plundering of whatever meagre pickings are left before the bandits finally ride out of town for the no-doubt sunnier climes of whichever tax-havens they’re using to stash their ill-gotten loot. But in addition to that there are also their unspeakably repulsive foreign policies which are more than enough to deserve every bit of bile we’re capable of flinging in their direction. There’s nothing new in this of course. The repulsive foreign policies of the British government are hundreds of years old, and to be fair those policies are not exceptional or unique to the rulers of these islands: variations of them are abundant in the histories of every empire that’s ever existed, including of course today’s global hegemon which has quickly learnt from history and adopted the principles with gusto and adapted twenty first century technology to advance the art of empire-building with true creative genius. So although these remarks are aimed mainly at British leaders, they’re equally true of many “great” leaders from several other countries.

For example, we can point to the fact that British armed forces, acting on the orders of great trusted leaders, have been directly responsible for murdering millions of defenceless innocents. That’s more than enough by its own self to damn for all time the creatures that issue those orders, and who still issue them today – in the holy name of plunder. But there’s more – much more.

Think about the process that takes place when a young Briton joins the armed forces, in the genuine belief he or she is doing something noble: how often do you hear these words emerging from their gullible young mouths: “I want to serve my queen and country”? Think about how that young mind is slowly contaminated to the point where he or she genuinely believes that murdering defenceless people is somehow a noble action that somehow serves queen and country. Think about how often we’re told by the tear-stained relatives of these young people, when one of them occasionally comes to grief, how much they “loved their job”... of murdering defenceless people. Think about how many young minds are so defiled. Think about how the rest of the British population is brainwashed into believing that the act of sending all these young people to distant countries (that have neither the means nor desire to do us any harm) in order to murder defenceless civilians there is somehow “heroic” and deserving of great patriotic parades and the showering of medals and honours. Think about how our trusted leaders oversee this institutionalised brainwashing of our entire population in general and all those young people in particular who genuinely believe they’re doing something noble, serving queen and country. But there’s more, much more.

Britain is one of the biggest arms-makers in the world. Like all the rest of British industry this too is in decline (thankfully in this case); but Britain is still a major player in this revolting trade. Throughout the country there are tens of thousands of British workers, many of whom are highly skilled technicians, engineers and scientists, who could be using their talents for the benefit of their fellow citizens but who choose instead to spend their entire working lives in creating machines whose sole purpose is to cause death, destruction and terrible injuries – seldom against people who would do us any harm, but which are used instead against defenceless innocents. Think about all the brainwashing of those workers who somehow manage to justify to themselves that working on machines that are going to kill defenceless people is O.K., providing the workers get a pay packet at the end of the week. Our trusted leaders not only permit this vile business to thrive, they actively promote it by encouraging as many third-world tyrants as possible to waste the economies of their countries by buying these revolting things.

Then there’s the catalogue of tricks and devices to manipulate the economies of weaker countries – such as imposing unwanted crippling loans, flooding third word economies with subsidised first world goods and imposing trade sanctions on those who would dare resist such “aid”.

So there are many many reasons to feel rage, if not hatred towards our trusted leaders. Compared with these many reasons the one I shall now mention is relatively trite, but it’s still pretty significant and important enough, I think, to qualify for inclusion in this list: the poisoning of our national prestige.

In the 1960s I was at school in Rhodesia. My best friend and next-door neighbour was a South African, and his family were South African. I was an English child with an English family. Although my friend’s parents were always pleasant enough to me there was nevertheless a certain reserved coolness which, as far as his grandmother was concerned, was more like thinly-veiled contempt. Not understanding the reasons I pretty much ignored it. My mother, on the other hand, returned the contempt and openly admitted her dislike of South Africans who, she often said with impatience, as though they were behaving like spoiled children, just couldn’t forget the Boer War. She would tell stories of the days when my parents lived in South Africa – the late 1940s and early 50s - and the open hostility they often met from South Africans. I didn’t comprehend what she meant, and as a child didn’t really care; and to be fair to her I don’t know if she ever knew enough South African history to understand. It was only later when I started to learn about the horrors inflicted upon the South Africans by the British army that it began to make sense – and once I understood I was overcome with a sense of shame that I was English and which, whenever I was in the company of South Africans, always made me feel like I should be apologising (at that time, as a young brainwashed racist - which is something else to hate my leaders for - I hadn’t yet learnt the full evils of apartheid). The point is that not even fifty years is long enough for a nation to forget those responsible for inflicting outrageous crimes upon it – such as the obscene concentration camps the British army used against the South African women and children during the Boer War – nor long enough for young people to cease being tainted by the crimes of their ancestors for which, although the young are obviously not responsible, they must still face the blame.

Whenever England plays almost any other country at any sport there is invariably more than just a little friendly rivalry involved, as so many countries have histories where animosity towards England is not only perfectly reasonable it’s fully deserved and justified. Take for example the always-moving "Fields of Athenry" whenever fifty thousand or more Irish voices raise the roof at England-Ireland rugby matches in Dublin, or when the Scots’ “Flower of Scotland” thunders around Murrayfield – both songs being deeply rooted in old English crimes. Part of the reason why these songs are still so moving and effective is because English government hasn’t significantly changed: it’s still run by exactly the same type of ruling elites that have plagued the 99% for a thousand years or more.

In other words there are few places in the world where an English person can go and not expect to be met with contempt, resentment and even open hostility – and usually with good reason. This is not to say that always happens of course – most people anywhere in the world are good people and are too polite to respond to strangers with anything other than courtesy and consideration – but in the case of English travellers abroad they should never feel too surprised if locals are not always delighted to see them.

So, to the long list of justifiable reasons for feeling rage and even hatred towards our trusted leaders, let’s not forget the fact that it will likely be at least fifty years before young British people can wander around any part of the Muslim world without meeting contempt, resentment, and even hatred – and with very good reason.


5 October 2013

That Light at the End of the Tunnel? It’s the Lamp Outside the Workhouse.

The Tory Party conference recently ended. I have a sensitive stomach so couldn’t watch very much of it without feeling a sudden wave of nausea sweeping over me. But it was pretty difficult to see any of the so-called “news” during that week without having to endure a few milliseconds of one or other of their grandees spewing forth their repulsive vile, before you had time to switch channel.

The bits I saw during these milliseconds was all the usual crap you expect from these people, who are indistinguishable from fascists except for the fact that fascists are more honest. At least you know where you stand with those who openly proclaim their fascism. Tories, on the other hand, nurture all the principles of fascism whilst pretending to be democrats. They’re like those scoundrels who stole the general election in 1997 by pretending to be Labour supporters, whilst all the while practising exactly the same principles as any Tory. These fascists who pretend to be democrats are infinitely more dangerous than those who are openly fascist because they lure otherwise decent people into supporting fascism in the mistaken belief it’s something else.

So all last week we were treated to clips of those patronising lectures from a succession of oily TV-friendly suits repeating the same lies as Thatcher three decades ago: There is No Alternative... to the relentless misery of fascist economic policies: the poor must be made more poor, and the rich must be helped to become even richer.

Lorraine and I were talking about it yesterday. She wondered how they can continue to get away with it. I tried to explain it, but it’s difficult unless you have some first-hand experience of the inside of these people’s heads. I do have a little of that experience – which I gained from living in racist Africa.

Being raised as a white child in colonial Africa half a century ago, as I was, was a bit like being raised as a child of the 1% in England today (or practically anywhere else in the world). You’re conditioned to think of yourself as special; that your needs are more important than the needs of the overwhelming majority, and that you should be in charge of things because you’re obviously special and because you’re automatically endowed with far greater wisdom and intelligence than the overwhelming majority of humanity around you. Of course it’s bollocks; but that’s how you’re conditioned, so that’s what you believe; and that’s exactly how the Camerons/Osbornes/Hagues... and all the rest of them are conditioned. Americans are conditioned to see themselves as “exceptional”, and hence above such trivial matters as international law.

But that’s only part of the problem.

A much bigger part of the problem is the fact that the 99% are conditioned to accept their mediocrity in the face of the exceptional 1%, to automatically accept the awesome knowledge and wisdom of these great lords and ladies of the universe and trust them to do everything in their considerable power to act in the best interests of the 99%. It is of course a con-job, a very ancient and hugely effective con-job.

A hundred years ago, when the great British lords and ladies of the day ruled so much of the Earth’s surface that the sun never set upon it, Britain’s poor were literally starving to death. The workhouse was the most gruesome spectre that haunted the lives of millions of people – the place where tens of thousands died in pain, poverty and loneliness. Whilst the 1% squandered millions on their own over-pampered useless lives they casually ignored the desperate suffering all around them; suffering for which they alone were responsible. No doubt many of them even found it funny.

There’s no difference between the 1% who presided over the workhouses of a hundred years ago and the 1% who ruled colonial Africa and the 1% who are today actively steering Britain towards a return of the workhouse. Under the stewardship of these people there can be no doubt that the only light at the end of the black economic tunnel into which they’re herding us is the lamp outside the workhouse door. They did it once before and they will certainly try to do it again.

It was the Russian Revolution that closed down the workhouses – not the sainted 1%. The Russians showed there was an Alternative, and huge numbers of the 99% saw it, and liked what they saw. The 1% shivered in terror, and realised they had to throw the 99% a bone, or be annihilated. So for over half of the twentieth century, up until the 1970s, social reform suddenly began to flourish around the world. Humanity briefly blossomed in some countries.

When Russia imploded in the 1980s the 1% re-emerged from their slimy underworld and, using their great champions Regan and Thatcher, began the relentless crushing of humanity to resume the supremacy the 1% have claimed as their exclusive right since the dawn of human history. Without the moral example of a working communist model the 1% can legitimately crow that there is no alternative. Indeed there isn’t; but that doesn’t mean there can’t be one.

In fact there are more than one. There are almost as many possible alternative economic models as there are groups of people to work them. The only absolute truth is the fact that the model we have, the model the 1% relentlessly impose on us with the aid of their political enablers, is a long black tunnel; and the only light at the end of it is the lamp outside the workhouse door.


3 September 2013

Doing the right thing – tales from a child’s copy book.

Last Friday morning, the day after the “debate” in the House of Commons about whether or not Britain should go to war in Syria, the BBC’s “Breakfast” news show featured two “experts” on the subject. One was Colonel Bob Stewart – now a Tory MP – and the other was Max Hastings, at one time editor of the right wing Daily Telegraph. Mr Hastings is possibly several degrees to the right of Col Stewart on the political spectrum, so when the BBC presented these two “experts” for a discussion on Syria it was effectively kicking into the long grass any illusions of “balanced” journalism, for the only balance on display here was between two shades of extreme right. Both of these “experts” were lamenting the fact that Britain is not yet going to war in Syria, and the only apparent difference between them was their view on how severely this decision not to commit mass murder in someone else’s country would damage Britain’s “reputation”. Given the fact that the country is awash with people strongly opposed to militarist adventures, why did the BBC make no attempt to represent any of those views on the subject?

During the interview with Messrs Stewart and Hastings, there was one particularly jaw-dropping comment that stood out amongst the many others made by these jingoistic Colonel Blimps. Colonel Stewart commented that in his view David Cameron had tried to do the right thing (by consulting parliament at all – truly jolly decent of him), when Hastings immediately commented something to the effect that doing the right thing was very commendable in a schoolboy but not in a prime minister!

Mr Hastings, with some pretensions of being an historian, was possibly recalling the words of another “great” warrior, Sir Garnet Wolseley, once the chief of the British army, and with whom Hastings would no doubtedly agree. For Wolseley said the following:

‘We are bred up to feel it a disgrace ever to succeed by falsehood… we will keep hammering along with the conviction that honesty is the best policy, and that truth always wins in the long run. These pretty little sentiments do well for a child’s copy book, but a man who acts on them had better sheath his sword forever.’

These words, together with Mr Hastings’ opinion, are worth considerable reflection, for a number of reasons. For we are indeed ‘bred up’ from the cradle to value ‘pretty little sentiments’ such as honesty, and doing the right thing – normal people call it morality and prize it highly – but which of us is ‘bred up’ to understand the cynical reality; and when are they so bred, and why, how and by whom?

As editor of the Telegraph for over ten years Hastings was once a leading opinion-former in this country, and the fact that the BBC is still providing a platform for his fascist thoughts at the same time as it shields him from being shot down by any of the millions representing the anti-war movement, indicates that he and his kind are still in control of public opinion-forming. That’s something that every democrat should be just a little concerned about.


25August 2013

Guarding the Guards

On Friday 23rd August The Independent published an article under the following headline:
“Exclusive: UK’s secret Mid-East internet surveillance base is revealed in Edward Snowden leaks.”

The article is about the reprehensible witch-hunting by the US and UK governments of Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee who committed the terrible sin of trying to let the world in general and the American people in particular learn about the outrageous spying on their own populations being perpetrated by most western governments. Ever since Snowden tried to tell the truth he has been targeted for termination – one way or another.

Friday’s article was the latest incident in this shameful saga which recently saw David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glen Greenwald, treated as a terrorist suspect – with the usual total non-existence of corroborating evidence to justify such treatment.

Our government is rapidly spiralling towards a situation where it regards the whole of our population as terrorist suspects. We are now all exposed to routine spying on all of our private communications, and may be disappeared at any time by state police on the pretext of “protecting national security”.

The inescapable truth of the situation in which Britain now finds itself is that the most dangerous enemy of the people is our very own government; and that what we most need now is protection from the state, not by it.


9 August 2013

A FreeDem Goes Green

About three months ago I joined the Green Party. Given that I have long expressed strong dislike for political parties this might seem a little strange. I have to say that this is very early days in our relationship and I don’t yet know if it will be an eternal friendship, or merely ships passing in the night.

Our introduction came shortly after the last local elections. Lorraine had been chatting to a friend of ours and asked him if he voted for me. He said he did, but only because a Green wasn’t standing.

Now like most people I’d heard of the Greens and, like most people knew they want to save the planet. I’ve always thought that’s all well and good, but what about Permanent War, global poverty, social injustice? Anyway, that casual remark to Lorraine made me take some time to actually do a bit of study about what the Greens actually stand for – apart from the obvious. What I discovered quite frankly blew me away.

The main policy document for the Green Party is called “Policies for a Sustainable Society”. There is so much of it that almost mirrors the People’s Constitution that it’s really quite spooky. I mean, they’re anti-war, and propose a non-hierarchical model of government based on direct democracy. They have a superb section on the rights of animals and they have economic policies promoting the use of public banking. They even have a policy advocating the writing of a written constitution. Then when I read the bit about their view that the planet is overpopulated well, that was it – where do I sign up? Talk about singing from the same hymn sheet.

As I said, this is very early days in our relationship. I don’t know if I’ll stand in the next elections as a Green – or even if they would want me to. I have a couple of concerns and we’ll have to see if these get resolved – for example, although the Greens promote the idea of a written constitution they don’t propose getting around to it until they’re actually in power. To my mind that’s almost like saying it ain’t ever going to get done. I’ve already flagged up the idea that the constitution should be written now, ready for the next general election, that it needs to be ready to go within days of a Green Party coming to power. We’ll see how that all plays out.

But for now it’s pretty interesting. I’ve had a couple of meetings with my fellow Greens and so far so good. We’ll see.


28 July 2013

Flight of Fancy

I checked the date. No, it definitely wasn’t April 1st, the day when we expect newspapers to have their little chuckle by inviting readers to spot those stories that are even more ridiculous than usual – which is not always an easy thing to do. Last Saturday, 27th July, we had The Times telling us all about a mid-air collision that was averted because of a pilot’s “lightning-fast” reactions.

The story went as follows:

Two fighter pilots were returning to base in Scotland. One of them was supposedly flying “at 500 mph only 250 ft above the ground”, when he saw a glider “only 500 yards away” – presumably immediately in front of him. The tale continued:

“[The pilot] reacted within a quarter of a second, and ‘bunted’, forcing his aircraft downwards and into a loop, before speeding away upside down.”

The paper provides us with a helpful diagram to explain more clearly this “bunting” manoeuvre. It appears to be very like a swimmer’s tumble-turn, used to reverse direction when racing.

Now then, 500 mph is about 730 feet per second, so the 500 yards in question would be covered by the jet in about two seconds. Mr Mike Wade, the gentleman who crafted this piece of “news”, did not appear to wonder why this war machine was flying a mere 250 feet above the ground, which is about the height of a 25 storey building. It could have flown very easily at tens of thousands of feet above the ground, but he tells us that for some reason this particular jet found it necessary to fly at a mere 250 feet – which is the altitude where one might quite reasonably expect to encounter amateur pilots of one kind or another, flying rather lower than they should. We are instead encouraged to marvel at the skill of the pilot, one of our many uniformed “heroes”. Mr Wade does not appear to wonder why this great pilot could not simply turn left or right, or even have flown underneath the glider. No, instead we are expected to believe that this marvel of aeronautical ability, travelling at 500 mph, reversed direction, turning his plane upside down in the process, and all within the space of a scant 250 feet, a manoeuvre that must have taken place in less than a third of a second. A truly incredible plane, and an even more incredible pilot to have survived to tell the story.

The final sentence of Mr Wade’s piece, which is supposedly the words of “an official investigation”, reads:
“The Tornado flight recording capability runs out after 3hr and the incident occurred 3hr 20 min into the sortie, so no visual record of the event exists.”

How convenient.

I’m sure there can’t be any question about the veracity of Mr Wade’s piece; after all it seems his story was the result of an “official investigation”. But one has to wonder if he and his editors actually bothered to check one or two of the given facts.

8 July 2013

The Crafting of a British Hero

Yesterday afternoon the British sporting public heaved a huge sigh of relief. A Brit finally won the men’s single at Wimbledon – the first to do so since 1936. The Brit in question was Andy Murray. There’s no question about his sporting prowess. He’s been at the top of his game for about a year now at a time when men’s tennis has been largely dominated by three other very fine sportsmen: Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Being at the top of any sport is a fine achievement, but being at the top when the quality of the competition is such as it has been in men’s tennis for the last few years is even more impressive.

Twenty six years ago Pat Cash won the men’s singles at Wimbledon. Overjoyed with his victory Cash immediately scrambled through spectators and clambered up into the players’ box where his family and support team had been watching. It had never been done before. That sort of thing just wasn’t British. But the spontaneity of Cash’s action was wonderful, and it made for first class television. Ever since then just about everyone who’s won Wimbledon has copied the act, so that now it’s quite routine. But yesterday when Murray won he didn’t immediately go scrambling up to the players’ box. He acknowledged the support of the crowd in general and then went and sat down heavily in his chair and started to take it all in. My first reaction was one of relief: at last, someone who’s got the strength of character to not conform to what has become a rather trite piece of theatre. When Cash did it in 1987 it was fantastic. It was new, it was controversial, but most of all it seemed completely spontaneous. If Murray had just stayed in his seat yesterday it would have been the perfect end to a perfect afternoon’s tennis. But he didn’t.

An official came over to him as he was having a drink and after a brief exchange of words it looked like Murray asked him if he had time to go and thank his team. The official seemed a little put out, but appeared to say something like well go on then, if you must, but hurry up. So Murray performed the now standard ritual of climbing up to the player’s box. He embraced Lendl, his coach, he shook hands or hugged the various people who occupied those seats – his father, girlfriend and the other unknown faces - and then he turned around and started to head back to the court. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes, because of all the people in the whole world who Andy Murray should be thanking he had forgotten to acknowledge the most important of them all – his mother.

Ever since Andy Murray first appeared on British TV screens, the one constant face that has always been watching him from somewhere in the crowd, no matter where in the world he was playing, was that of his mother, Judy Murray. I don’t think I have ever seen a match that Murray’s played where his mother was not there, nodding silent encouragement when he’s down, fist-pumping and shouting with joy at every tough rally he won. Over the last ten years her face has become as familiar to British sports fans as that of her son, yet at the moment of Murray’s supreme triumph yesterday, he appeared to ignore her.

For some reason or another Judy Murray wasn’t sitting with the others in the players’ box - but she was sitting just behind them, and about as close to the Murray team as she could be. Surely Murray knew that. Surely he knew where his mother was as she’s actually in camera-shot as Murray completes his visit to the players’ box. As he turned away from the players’ box to return to the court people nearby told him not to forget his mother, at which point he turns and finally goes to embrace her. But it was too late. The moment had passed, and what’s done is done. The whole thing had been witnessed by millions. In the post-match chat with Sue Barker, she tried to make a bit of a joke of the fact that he “almost forgot” his mother. To his credit Murray looked uncomfortable and quickly acknowledged his debt to her. Those few moments of theatre that followed his victory spoke volumes about the sort of person Murray must be. Surely he must have thought about the moment of victory in his dreams a million times before it finally happened. Surely he must have considered what he might do? Surely he must have known that if there was one person on the whole planet he absolutely must not fail to recognise and thank it was his mother? It was bad enough when Murray asked permission to do something that no one could have stopped Pat Cash from doing; but thanking just about everyone except his mother, before turning his back on her to head back to the court... He really should have just stayed in his chair.

The incident itself was bad enough, but by the time it was replayed on the BBC a mere couple of hours later, history had already been re-written. The crafting of a British hero was well under way. Of course some would say that it had been under way for some time. Some would point to the curious phenomenon of how the media often appear to describe English sports stars as English, but Scots sports stars are invariably British. When yesterday’s tennis appeared on the news there were the few obvious video-clips of the match itself, and then a clip of the traditional climb up to the players’ box, and the hugs and kisses with everyone there – and then a clip of him with his mother, with the embarrassing lapse edited out. Instead the newsreader described the moment as Murray thanking his closest supporters “especially his mother”. Not a word about how he completely forgot her altogether. We can’t have any suggestion that our latest sporting hero (yesterday’s match commentators were already trying out the cringe-making title “Sir” Andy Murray) might really be as spoilt and self-centred as his years of on-court and off-court behaviour have often indicated.

It is indeed wonderful that a Brit has finally won the men’s singles at Wimbledon, but I’m just a little disappointed that the Brit happens to be Andy Murray.

21 June 2013

Rough Justice

The BBC recently showed a short interview with Keir Starmer, the director of Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service. According to details about him on the CPS website, Mr Starmer is
“one of the country’s most gifted lawyers, and an expert in the field of human rights”.
We learn that in 2001 he was named Human Rights Lawyer of the Year, and appointed Queen’s Councillor the following year. In 2003 he became the Human Rights Adviser to the Policing Board in Northern Ireland. He assumed his current post as Britain’s most senior prosecutor in 2008, and is due to step down in October of this year.

In other words, Mr Starmer should know a bit about the law AND human rights, which have not always enjoyed a happy relationship with each other. But he said something that was deeply revealing during his BBC interview, something which, coming from someone in such a powerful position, was quite disturbing. It was a casual throwaway remark tacked onto the end of the more detailed professional answer he’d just supplied. It was something he didn’t even need to say. Sneeze and you might have missed it; but it was a remark which goes to the very heart of the most serious problems in Britain: justice or, to be more accurate, the lack of it.

The interview in question concerned a recent change to the legal system, called the Victim’s Right to Review (VRR). This had achieved quite a large amount of media attention (which is why it was mentioned on the BBC) and, according to Mr Starmer, is
“one of the most significant victim initiatives ever launched by the CPS.”
It refers to situations when the CPS decides not to prosecute someone, against the wishes of the person who feels they’ve been the victim of a crime. Mr Starmer tells us it
“provides victims with a straight-forward opportunity to ask the CPS to look again at a decision to not start, or to stop, a prosecution.”
So what all this fanfare, this “most significant victim initiative”, boils down to is that the CPS is now going to graciously permit the victim of a crime to “ask” someone in the CPS to reconsider a decision made by someone else in the CPS not to prosecute a probable criminal.

Gee thanks.

The first obvious problem is the fact that anyone who feels aggrieved by a CPS decision has to appeal to the CPS, not some independent third party. Self-policing is a routine practice in most government organisations and, as the world has learnt to its cost, the policing of other large institutions - such as the finance industry - is also effectively controlled “in-house”.

I used to work in a government department that administered state benefits. Many people who applied for those benefits were routinely refused them for one often trivial reason or another. I would often advise these people to appeal the decision. That appeal system was managed by the same department that paid the benefits, but decisions not to pay were often reversed on appeal. It often seemed to me like the appeal process was an informal, unwritten part of the claim procedure - like a final test that had to be passed before the state would pay people the benefits to which they were clearly entitled (as evidenced by the considerable number of appeals that succeeded). The fifty-odd pages of forms (at least) they had to fill in for the initial claim were not enough, it often seemed, one further test of their resolve had to be endured as they battled through more forms and suffered more delays in the appeals process. Given that most people never wanted to claim benefits in the first place this was often the straw that broke the camel’s back and they simply wouldn’t bother. Mission accomplished.

Later on in my civil service career I went through a long disciplinary dispute with my employer(for the sin of refusing to wear a tie at work), during which time my pay was cut. The disciplinary and appeals process was entirely internal, with senior managers within the department reviewing the decisions of their junior manager colleagues. Although my case was obviously legitimate, as proven in an eventual employment tribunal, none of the managers involved in my dispute had been capable of seeing that. It seemed that the only thing that mattered to them was supporting each other no matter what. Therefore I’m not much persuaded by Mr Starmer’s confidence in the ability of the CPS to properly police itself. In my view it will either create an appeals system similar to the one I used to work with, whereby perfectly legitimate claims are routinely rejected as a means of testing the claimant’s determination to pursue their cause, or an old boys’ club atmosphere will evolve where all that matters is sticking together.

But let’s get back to the tiny little remark that Mr Starmer made during his BBC interview - which provoked me to write this article.

During that interview Mr Starmer talked about the rights of victims of crime, and said, in response to Susanna Reid’s observation that a victim of a crime doesn’t have an automatic right to make a charge:
“No. There’s no right to a charge. Nobody has that, nor should they.”

Now then. Here we have this great expert in the field of human rights telling us that the victim of a crime does not have an automatic right to bring a charge against the person who committed the crime. That bit’s O.K because it’s a statement of fact, but the “nor should they” remark is something very different, and very revealing.

If an individual is prevented from directly accessing the legal system it means they can only do so through intermediaries. It wasn’t that long ago when British women had almost no legal standing, they were forbidden from doing almost anything for themselves, from voting to working to managing their own money – they had to hope a man would act for them – a father, brother, son or husband, and then hope for the best that the man would act in their best interests. It’s still like that today in far too many backward countries where some women can’t even see a doctor without a male chaperone present. No doubt there were plenty of Mr Starmers in eighteenth century England who thought it was perfectly right that women had no rights, just as there are plenty of Mr Starmers today in parts of the Middle East and Africa. No doubt they would all argue that women are incapable of exercising the rational judgement necessary to manage their own affairs. After all, it had always been like that, therefore it must be right. Presumably the reason behind Mr Starmer’s view that today’s victims of crime in Britain should not have the right to charge someone with a crime is for a similar reason; presumably he thinks that ordinary mortals are not capable of realising for themselves when they have been wronged, they need an “expert” such as Mr Starmer to decide that for them.

Of course, the thing has nothing at all to do with the patronising view that ordinary mortals cannot exercise rational judgement – an argument that’s been around since at least the time of Plato. It’s all to do with power, and who has the right to exercise it.

It used to be accepted that only kings had that right, then Magna Carta widened the franchise in England to include other rich men (Magna Carta’s rights did not include the poor). For the next seven hundred years women were kept from exercising any formal power (unless they were a monarch), just as non-white people were prevented from exercising any independent power wherever their countries had been occupied by colonial empire-builders. Presumably the given logic in all these cases would have been that women, poor and non-white people were all incapable of exercising rational judgement – the sort of judgement that only rich white men were capable of. Unfortunately that view is very resilient, and is still very much alive and well: observe the make-up of almost any large western institution, from an international bank to a national government - or a combination of both such as the infamous Bilderberg Group - and what you’ll see is an image largely dominated by well-nourished white faces. So from Plato to Mr Starmer the prevailing philosophy is that all power must be concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite of mainly rich white men - and their assorted flunkies. But in the world of those of us who really care about human rights, it’s the exact opposite: power, in the shape of exercising human rights, should be accessible to any human being.

Of course it isn’t surprising that the likes of Mr Starmer are running the Crown Prosecution Service. His little throwaway remark was probably unnoticed by the vast majority of viewers, so well-conditioned are we to meekly accepting both our own subservient status, as well as accepting the status of the likes of Mr Starmer and their right to not only think for us, but also to act in our best interests. It reminds me of Lord Reith, founder of the BBC, when he wrote:
“[T]hey [the government] know they can trust us not to be really impartial.” (1)

Like so many things related to the subject of ethics – seen from a human rights perspective – the basics are pretty simple: anyone can grasp them. Take for example the Golden Rule; thousands of years old, practised in some form or another all over the world, anyone can understand it: treat others as you would have others treat you in the same circumstances. Not only can anyone can understand it, the vast majority of humanity are very comfortable with using it on a daily basis - which is why it is so ancient and ubiquitous. So too with justice in society: it isn’t difficult to comprehend what real justice is. Real justice is what ordinary people, PROPERLY INFORMED, say it is. Although no society actually applies this principle in full (because no society is sufficiently free of elitist control), most western countries do use a very limited form of it in the shape of trial by jury.

Mr Starmers’ throwaway remark reveals that he isn’t really a champion of human rights but, unsurprisingly, just another stooge for elitist control. When the immensely powerful position of state prosecutor is in the hands of someone who believes the ordinary citizen should not have the right to decide for herself whether she has been wronged against, but must trust some “expert” to act for her, the government can rest assured that, just as the BBC can be relied upon to never be really impartial when the likes of Lord Reith are running it, so too can the government rest assured that the Crown Prosecution Service will never be really just when the likes of Mr Starmer are in charge.

Notes

1. “Your Britain” by Laura Beers p. 113


25 May 2013

Blowback

When I saw on TV the terrible event outside an army barracks in Woolwich last Wednesday one of the first thoughts that went through my head was the word “blowback”. I wonder how many of the millions of people who watched the news like I did also thought “blowback”, and I wonder how many really understand the importance of that word in the context of how it’s quite often used these days, as a sort of euphemism for the word “revenge”.

When I was little kid growing up in colonial Rhodesia, the English child of English parents, I sometimes experienced a distinct coldness, hostility even, from some of the people I met. These people were not black-skinned people but white-skinned, like me. Mostly they were quite old people, and always South Africans. As I grew a little older my parents would just shrug and dismiss it by explaining that it was because of the Boer War. They would tell me stories of how, in the 1940s and before I was born, when they lived and worked in South Africa, many of the people they came across just refused to speak to them. My mother was offended by it, and responded by treating South Africans with some contempt. This frequent hostility was one of the reasons why my folks left South Africa in the early 1950s and moved north to Rhodesia, which was still an English colony, and where a far larger proportion of white-skinned people were English. All this because of the Boer War? Something that had happened more than fifty years earlier?

As I grew older and learnt a bit about the Boer War in school I still didn’t properly understand what all the fuss was about. O.K. it was another boring war, just like all the others you had to endure in history lessons. In the Boer War the British won, the South Africans lost. By the time I left school I had come to expect sneering contempt or open hostility from older South Africans as normal, an attitude which had already been passed on to many younger South Africans of my age... talk about holding a grudge. Why couldn’t they just get over it?

Being a colonial country the history lessons I learnt in my school were history lessons taught from an English perspective. The exams we did at school were for an English examination board. So we learnt some of the truth; we learnt the relevant dates, the names of the main generals, the details of the more significant battles... and so on. I thought I was something of an expert on the subject of the Boer War, and the mark I eventually got in my history exams was pretty good. The South Africans were just sore losers. That’s all there was to it.

It was only years after I left school, and left Rhodesia, that I learnt about Roberts’ scorched-earth policies and his concentration camps. Somehow that stuff had been overlooked in my school history lessons. Suddenly I began to understand.

Today British armed forces are actively engaged, every single day, in acts which, if they were being perpetrated by other armies on British streets, would be called acts of terrorism. The British armed forces, all of whom the British people are brainwashed into seeing as “heroes” are behaving as terrorists and could, if there was any real justice in the world, be charged with war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. The fact that they cannot be so charged because there is no effective global system of justice does not extinguish the reality of what they are doing.

The terrible events of last Wednesday are only part of the phenomenon of blowback. Though undoubtedly shocking the scale of such acts is brief and tightly localised; the other side to blowback is much less horrific, but far more widespread and long-lasting. The other far bigger problem is that the terrorism being perpetrated today by British forces will not be forgotten, or forgiven, for at least half a century by hundreds of millions of people - exactly as the acts of terror perpetrated by their predecessors were not forgotten, or forgiven, in South Africa. Even if every British soldier was to return home tomorrow, and stay there, their actions will not be forgotten, or forgiven, for so far into the future that even in two generations time an unknowing British tourist venturing into the Middle East might be puzzled by the hostility of locals; and any British child who happens to be growing up in some Muslim country anywhere in the world can still expect to meet with open hostility and resentment, and wonder why.


5 May 2013

The 281 Who Did The Right Thing

I would like to thank the 281 electors in Grantham North Division who voted for me in last week’s council elections. Each one of you took time out of your day to visit a polling booth for the sole purpose of voting for me rather than any of the three other candidates competing for the right to represent the people of Grantham North. Although I won more votes in my previous election campaign, from a smaller pool of voters, it’s not possible to say how many of those voters picked me as their first choice candidate, because in that election voters were asked to pick two councillors from six candidates - so it’s possible that every vote I won then was a second-choice vote. But last Thursday precisely 281 people did the right thing and took time out of their day to vote only for me.

I never expected to win last week, and the result was not at all surprising. However, although most people would say that the Tories emerged victorious – again – that isn’t strictly true. The real winner last week, as in just about every election, was total apathy. According to the council, Grantham North division has about 7,300 registered voters. A total of 2,394 actually voted. That means about 4,900 – or about 67% - never voted at all. The Tory, who got 1,179 votes, was therefore supported by a mere 16% of the electorate. Of course that was still a lot more than me, with about 4%, but the real winner by a country mile – apathy – hasn’t been mentioned at all. In other words the Tory was beaten by about the same margin by apathy as I was by the Tory.

I compete in elections because we live in very dark times - the darkest since 1940 - and I want to try to help our country. The biggest single problem we the 99% face is misinformation. None of our media can be trusted to tell us the plain truth, let alone tell us the truth from a human perspective. Like Lloyd George said during the First World War:

“If the people really knew the truth [about the war] it would be stopped tomorrow.”

Which was very similar to what millionaire industrialist Henry Ford said about the economy:

“It is well that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning”

Our own trusted government is little more than a tool of Washington and Wall Street, which is without doubt the most evil power on Earth. That’s why the wealth of the 1% has been rapidly growing on both sides of the Atlantic for the last thirty years... whilst the 99% must endure growing unemployment, rising inflation, scrapping of the rights our parents and grandparents fought and died for, rising debt, loss of pensions and now, as Cyprus has shown, the open looting by our trusted leaders of private bank accounts. And for the last twenty-odd years the 1% have sent our young people off to far-away places to do things which, if the world court had any real power, would almost certainly be prosecuted as war crimes or crimes against humanity. And what do the media tell us? It’s all the fault of immigrants – desperate people whose lives have been so fucked-up by the 1% they have no choice but to leave their homes and families and friends to try to live and work like slaves in the very same countries that have ruined their countries, and where they’re treated with open racism and hatred...

whilst the tax-dodging too-big-to-prosecute 1% keep on laughing all the way to their off-shore banks.

So for the great 281 who supported my efforts to put an end to all these obvious wrongs, thank you; you did the right thing and should feel proud of yourselves.

love john
O O O


9 April 2013

I'm just a tiny, tiny bit sad today

So, Thatcher’s dead. I live in the town where she was born and raised. There are inevitably some who are in deep mourning today, and a few little bunches of flowers have appeared outside the corner shop that was her first family home. On the other hand, there’s also quite a bit of celebrating, and I was speaking to a woman today who said she just hopes that Cameron and Osborne and all the rest of them do the decent thing and jump onto her funeral pyre. Given the fact that her home town, once well-known for its heavy industry, is now largely silent because of Thatcher’s policies, you can see her point.

I must confess that a very tiny part of me is sad. Whilst she still breathed there was a miniscule theoretical possibility that she could be held to account for the vast crimes against humanity in general and the British people in particular that were committed by her government. I’m truly sad that even that miniscule theoretical possibility has been permanently snuffed out.

Three years into her reign a poll published in the Times revealed that she was the most unpopular British prime minister in history. And then things got worse.

She began by causing the deaths of a thousand people over a clump of wind-blown rocks 8,000 miles away from Britain, supposedly to defend the right of 2,000 people to call themselves British. It would have been cheaper for this supposed champion of democracy and devotee of Chicago-school economics to pay for those people to move lock, stock and barrel to the UK, accommodate them and give them all Income Support for the rest of their lives, than to wage a war and support a military garrison on the Malvinas to the end of time. But that little fact is always conveniently overlooked.

Thatcher’s foreign policies had one striking feature in common: her government’s support of murderous dictatorships was total; and the line-up of psychotic tyrants who enjoyed the backing of her government is quite impressive. There was Pol Pot, for example and the unspeakable Suharto in Indonesia. Everyone knows about the blood-soaked Pinochet whose evasion from justice was actively assisted by Thatcher’s government. Less well known about are the assortment of Middle-Eastern despots her government aided; but the daddy of them all, the most ruthless oppressor on the face of the Earth, the US government, was always Thatcher’s favourite; and she made significant contributions to its goal of world domination. It’s impossible to know how many tens, if not hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths were aided and abetted by Thatcher’s government.

Impressive though her foreign policies obviously were, they pale to insignificance compared with the treacherous actions of her government against the British people. Her mission from the outset was to kill-off the trade union movement which, for all its imperfections, was the only real champion the ordinary Briton had. Once that was done it was game over, lambs fattened and ready for slaughter. She proceeded to kill-off the main source of Britain’s wealth, our manufacturing base; and then rapidly sold off every bit of family silver she could get her hands on. In quick succession Britain’s essential publicly owned utilities were flogged at fire-sale prices: transport, water, electricity, communications, gas... all went under the hammer. Millions of jobs were trashed or scrapped altogether, and then she turned her attention to the last remaining protection the British people had: public services. Why did she do all this? Just so a tiny, tiny handful of obscenely wealthy people could become even more obscenely wealthy.

What a great legacy. You can see why people want to put up statues to her.

The economic wasteland that Britain is today is not all Thatcher’s fault: others followed her who could have put things right, but didn’t. Nevertheless, it was Thatcher who started the ball rolling.

There was never any real chance that Thatcher would have to account for her crimes, but I am truly sad that the miniscule theoretical possibility that she could have been brought to justice is now gone forever.


7 April 2013

North Korea - "grimly amusing"

The headline on the front page of yesterday’s Times read,
North Korea sets deadline for Western diplomats”.

Although relatively understated by the more normal standards of Times propaganda, it is nevertheless misleading. A deadline refers to a point in time when some sort of action must be completed. This does not really appear to have been the case in North Korea, as the body of the article itself confirms.

As the Times sees itself as a “serious” newspaper providing “proper” news it seldom goes in for the more obvious hysterical propaganda so loved by the tabloid press. One of the Times’ specialities is disseminating misleading information through the headlines of its articles. Knowing full well that most people do not read a newspaper from cover to cover but merely scan the headlines, the editors would know full well that the impression most people have of the world is obtained through headlines. So whilst an article might often be fairly accurate, its headline very often isn’t. Yesterday’s was yet another case in point.

The article in question provides the following quotation:

“[T]he North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed a number of embassies... that they would be unable to guarantee the safety of embassies... in [North Korea] in the event of a conflict... [and that the Korean government] invited the embassies... to inform them by April 10 what assistance they would require from the [government] should they wish to be evacuated.”

Now then, it’s almost impossible to read the headline for this article without thinking it’s about a provocative action by North Korea – especially if we remember that westerners have endured many decades of deeply anti-Korean rhetoric. Yet what the article itself describes is the Korean government “inviting” the staff of foreign embassies to let the Koreans know what assistance the government could provide “should they wish to be evacuated” – which sounds helpful and supportive, rather than provocative.

On the scale of misleading information we normally expect to see in the Times this is a relatively insignificant example – although the internet version of the story comes complete with a photograph of massed ranks of Korean soldiers giving a clenched fist salute – which obviously emphasises the provocative force of the headline. But a more accurate headline might have read something like “North Korea offers assistance to Western diplomats”. Now why did the experts at the Times prefer to use the phrase “sets deadline” rather than “offers assistance”?

Another quite interesting feature of this story is the fact that the quite unprovocative quote was supposedly supplied by the British Foreign Office. In other words the transition from an unprovocative story about North Korea offering assistance to western diplomats to a provocative account about the setting of deadlines must have been made in the offices of the Times. Why might it do that?

On page 36 of yesterday’s paper the quality of propaganda conforms more to the type that connoisseurs of the art would rightly expect from the Times. In a section described as “Analysis” – presumably to give the appearance of intellectual gravitas – the unpretentiously titled Richard Lloyd Parry writes:

“[I]t is reasonable to feel depressed by the intractability of this 60-year old conflict, and even grimly amused by the extravagant aggression of North Korean propaganda... North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, and his lieutenants are not madmen, but well-practised blackmailers. The verbal conniptions of recent weeks... are carefully calculated to increase the pressure gradually in pursuit of their goals [which are]... Mostly, it is handouts of cash and food aid [Mr Kim -sic] wants to be paid to shut up.”

Such is the calibre of “analysis” of the situation in North Korea provided by an institution that considers itself a premier league news provider.

Leaving aside some of the highly offensive if not libellous language used, there is not one word about the part played by the US government in the “intractability of this 60-year old conflict”; not one word of the crushing economic sanctions that have been viciously enforced by the US and its stooges throughout the whole of that period; not a word of the intractable refusal of the US government to agree a formal peace treaty with North Korea to finally conclude the Korean War; not one word of the diplomatic activity by the US State Department which continually disrupts the efforts by the governments of North and South Korea to re-unite a country that the US split-up, a country that had previously been united for over a thousand years. Mr Lloyd Parry provides not one word of any of this in his “analysis” to help keep us “grimly amused”.

I’m no expert on Korea; but I know a good deal more about the situation there than the likes of Mr Lloyd Parry and the editors of the Times choose to relate. The question is, why is the Times being so disingenuous?


18 March 2013

A lesson in morality.

The editorial page of last Saturday’s Times led with the following headline: “Arm the Rebels”.

Editorials seldom have the name of the writer attached to them, which is possibly very useful in the case of this particular article. The piece refers to the suggestion that the British government is poised to begin (officially) supplying military hardware to the militants who are at war with the Syrian government. The article insists that the government get on with doing so... and that, my friends, is incitement to break international law. Chapter one of the UN Charter (an international law), article two, paragraph 4 reads:
“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

No resolution demanding the overthrow of President Assad has been passed by the general assembly of the United Nations – nor even its cynical “security” council. The UK is a founder member of the United Nations and it really ought not to be breaking its own laws: what sort of example is that to be setting to the plebs? Of course lawyers would argue that the law does not specifically forbid the provision of military hardware to militant anti-government extremists. However, such an action could be said to be an “other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations” – one of which is clearly stated in article one paragraph one as “to maintain peace and security”.

The Times editorial opens its argument with a subheading that reads:
“It is no longer strategically or morally tenable to stand by while Iran and Russia ship weapons to the Assad regime for use against Syrian rebels and civilians.”

As with so many articles in The Times, the content fails to deliver what is promised in the heading. We see not one word of evidence to justify the use of the word “strategically”. Why is the situation in Syria of any “strategic” importance to the interests of sixty million people in a country 3,000 miles away, with no significant economic or diplomatic links? The Times gives no answer.

As for morality, well... what can you say? Here we are being lectured on morality by someone who is openly calling for our government to break international law; and a quick glance at Britain’s “allies” in its disgraceful adventure in Syria is instructive. The anti-Assad militants are said to be resourced extensively from icons of freedom and democracy such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia which, by the way, just happened to be carrying out some routine executions of some men convicted of theft (some of whom were just juveniles when the crimes were committed) during a chummy visit by Prince Charles. But the morality of making allies of dictatorial tyrants who routinely murder their own country’s children doesn’t seem overly to trouble The Times. Who said satire was dead?

As for the argument about standing by “while Iran and Russia ship weapons to the Assad regime”... there’s one small flaw in that point. The Assad “regime” happens to be the legitimate government of Syria. It’s perfectly within its rights to buy whatever it likes from whomever it likes – cynical trade sanctions notwithstanding, obviously.

You have to wonder what the Times leader-writer would say if there were armed extremists from foreign lands running wild around Britain, murdering, raping and looting; and some foreign country with a sizeable interest in selling military hardware and a known fondness for looting distant lands demanded the right to supply those extremists with their wares on the grounds that the British government, whilst trying to do its job to protect its people, was using some military equipment known to be supplied from the United States. Would The Times also support the right of that country to supply those extremists, I wonder, for the sake of morality.

The Times is no stranger to the courtroom. Its legal experts will know, just as our trusted political leaders who’re supporting the outrageous events in Syria know, that having a law is one thing, enforcing it is something quite different. You can quite literally get away with murder if no one is able to stop you or call you to account; and you can break international laws with just as much impunity, if the world’s only superpower says it’s O.K. But that doesn’t make the thing right, does it. Still, what could I possibly know about morality; I’m sure The Times knows much more about the subject than I do.


15 March 2013

Two Cheers for Democracy

It was recently reported that a referendum on the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands resulted in an unsurprising outcome: all but three of the islanders voted to remain “British” (referendum). It was not reported how many of the islanders were actually born in Britain or have any other legitimate claim to call themselves British.

It was equally unsurprising to learn that the British government supports the claim of the islanders. What is less clear is why; and who was behind the holding of this referendum, and why it was held.

Possibly the only bit of good to come out of the event known as the Falklands War was the superb example it provided of the cynicism of government in general and of the British government in particular. On 14th April 1982, twelve days after the war had started, Margaret Thatcher was voted the worst prime minister in British history, according to a poll in The Times – due no doubt to the three years of odious domestic policies by her government (Thatcher poll - see page 21 ). By the end of the war, a mere couple of months later, and following the British victory, her fortunes had reversed and her popularity at the polls had more than doubled (“Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein – p.138).

Not that Thatcher was the only politician to use the Malvinas as a distraction from her disastrous domestic policies. In Argentina General Galtieri, plagued by union unrest as a consequence of how he was handling the country’s dire economic situation (to which Britain actively contributed) saw an opportunity to divert the anger of his people towards the British. As everyone knows, he lost the war he started; Thatcher won. The price of their distraction politics: Galtieri’s instant political demise; and a further eight long, long years of Thatcher’s reign and, oh yes, I almost forgot, about a thousand dead soldiers and several thousand devastated families.

So the recent referendum in the Malvinas is moderately interesting. What’s it all about? Our trusted leaders would tell us it’s all about democracy and respecting the rights of the islanders to self-determination. Their concern would be truly touching... if it could be believed. But there are a few difficulties:

1. If we’re so concerned about respecting the rights of distant islanders to be British, if that’s what they want, what about the Chagos Islanders? The Chagossians have at least as much right to call themselves British as the people living in the Malvinas, but somehow their decades-long campaign to be allowed to return to the island paradise from which they were forcibly evicted in order to turn it into a monstrous US military base, is routinely rejected by the British government – despite various British court rulings in favour of the Chagossians (Chagossians). Fortunately (for Whitehall) the Chagossians happen to have brown skins, the people living in Malvinas are mostly white. Admittedly this is only a minor point, as the British government is truly colour blind in some matters and has a long and impressive history of brutality against its own white-skinned people too; but nevertheless, British TV audiences probably identify more with the distress of white-skinned people than the misery of those with dark skins which, after all, is pretty routine – its’ all very sad, obviously, but... ho hum, let’s watch football instead.

2. It costs the British taxpayer at least £61m a year to keep a military garrison on the Malvinas (there are other costs to the taxpayer too, such as maintaining a governor and his staff). That means that with a population of a mere 2,800 people, almost £22,000 a year is being spent on each occupant of the Malvinas. (costs) If these people have such a desperate desire to be British, it would make far more economic sense, in these times of “austerity”, to move them all to England, accommodate them, and pay each and every one of them an Income Support allowance. Possibly some of them would prefer to work and not claim Income Support – reducing the cost even more.

Another factor that’s excluded from our trusted leaders’ touching concern for democracy is that it’s reported that vast oil reserves may exist in the immediate vicinity of the Malvinas. It’s also overlooked that the islands are very conveniently located for the South Atlantic shipping lanes, and are an ideal base for the Royal Navy, experts in the shameful art of sanctions enforcement. The Malvinas are also extremely useful relative to the Antarctic – where the next great land-grabs are well and truly underway. These points are moderately well known, but it would be nice if our trusted leaders openly acknowledged their importance. It would be nice if, when asked about it by the toothless representatives of the corporate media, our trusted leaders openly admitted they want the Malvinas for its strategic importance to our “defence” forces, and because the place might be sitting on top of massive oil reserves their corporate bosses want to control. But no, they never say that, they tell us instead they’re supporting the democratic wishes of Malvinas Islanders to determine their own future (providing, obviously, they make the right choice). Well I say two cheers for democracy.


28 February 2013

The beginning of the return of British fascism?

Late yesterday afternoon I caught a snippet of quite interesting information on Radio 4. I'd just switched it on and heard the last few words of some guy who appeared to be trying to advocate the benefits of a one-party state. He was softly-spoken and gave the impression of being an academic, appearing to use the quiet voice of learned reason.

There are also one or two programmes on TV at the moment – “Bob Servant – Independent”, and something last week titled “Black Mirror” by the rather average Charlie Brooker. Bob Servant certainly appears to be ridiculing the notion of democracy, and the write-up of Brooker’s programme gave exactly the same impression (I didn’t manage to see it).

Coincidentally, a couple of weeks ago one of the items in the so-called “news” concerned a judge who was presiding in the trial of Vicky Price. The trial itself was pretty unimportant, but what was important was the fact that the judge made an attack on the jury system which, together with the subsequent media comment, suggested that ordinary people are incompetent to decide what is justice. The very opposite is in fact the case – ONLY ordinary people, properly informed, are competent to decide what is justice.

This series of sniping criticisms of democracy, from the indirect smearing of the comedy shows to the direct assault by the person on the radio yesterday afternoon, is interesting. Of course it could all be coincidental, but on the other hand it may not be. Britain has never pledged itself to real democracy, having always leaned towards fascism. Extreme right-wing organisations, well-financed and well-organised, are never very far beneath the surface of British political life; so there are reasonable grounds for any real democrat to be slightly concerned about this apparent shift in wind direction.


17 February 2013

Blade runners and whistleblowers

The widely-seen TV show that mostly comprises distraction, dissimulation and outright lies, laughably known as “The News”, is currently almost wholly occupied by the following two items of major national and international importance:

1. The South African athlete Oscar Pistorius was arrested yesterday and charged with the murder of his girlfriend.

2. Horse meat has been found in various meat products sold in the UK as beef.

These two items of “news”, which have taken me scant seconds to write, and you even scanter seconds to read, are currently deemed by the main “news” providers in the nation to be of such seismic importance they have all but completely dominated the half hour slots provided for the purpose of informing the nation about the major events happening at home and abroad.

Whilst both stories do indeed have some interest neither of them should be filling up as much precious news-time as they are doing. There are many, many other more important issues that should be brought to the attention of the nation – but then keeping such information quiet has long been the real purpose of the so-called “news”.

Our media are now true artists at this particular skill, none more so than the BBC and The Times newspaper.

Take the BBC for example. It often provides very interesting pieces of information – but is very careful not to provide them where most people are likely to notice them. The organisation has a good website where all sorts of real information can be found – and there’s the main trick: they can be found; i.e. they must be looked for. So too some of its news-related programmes, such as “Today” on Radio 4 and the 7 o’clock news on BBC4, both of which attract only minority audiences. But the BBC can, in all honesty, say that it has covered most events which people really ought to know about. The fact that it provides news of these events where almost nobody ever looks is beside the point.

A couple of days ago, for example, Radio 4’s John Humphreys spoke with Stephen Dorrell Radio 4. Mr Dorrell is a Tory MP who chairs the Health Select Committee. He was on the radio as a result of a piece of news that could and should have replaced either of the two stories that were occupying the nation’s attention: a gagged whistleblower had spat out his gag and spoken up about the way he was treated by his former employers – in contravention of a law called the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA).

To be fair, the story did have a very brief airing after the more pressing information about an alleged South African murderer and horse meat showing up in beef burgers.

At one point in the Radio 4 show John Humphreys asked Mr Dorrell how many of these gagging orders were still current. Mr Dorrell said he did not know. He did know that whistleblowers have been consistently persecuted since the PIDA was made law, fifteen years ago, but appeared to know nothing about the scale of the problem. This from the chair of the Health Select Committee. Mr Humphreys kindly let the subject pass. I most certainly would not have done.

Then Mr Dorrell said something very interesting. Mr Humphreys had just used the word “corruption”, almost apologetically, in reference to how the NHS was being managed. Mr Dorrell, who could easily have ignored the comment, instead replied that “corrupt” was not too strong a word to use.

Why was that remark not leading the nation’s so called “news” programmes last night? Why was the nation not being told that the chair of the parliamentary Health Select Committee believes that our corporate-run NHS is corrupt? Why was the nation not learning about Britain’s growing military presence in Africa, or what it’s really up to in the Middle East? Why does the nation never hear the six o’clock news reporting the almost daily suicide bombings that are still going on in Iraq, which our “heroes” helped to “liberate”? Oh... silly me: some supermarket or another is selling horsemeat; and a South African runner appears to have murdered his girlfriend. Those stories are obviously more important.


19 January 2013

Terrorists and Teenagers

Today’s headline on the front page of The Times (19th January edition) reads: “Fears grow for Britons trapped in desert siege”. The story is about an apparent attack by armed militants, said by the Times to be “Al-Qaeda-linked”. According to the media, the militants attacked a huge gas plant, Tigantourine, owned by BP, in a distant and isolated part of Southern Algeria. They are said to have made hostages out of some of the workers at the plant (numbers range from thirty to seven), some of whom are thought to be British.

The Times, with its usual imperialist arrogance, describes this part of Algeria as the “new Afghanistan – a lawless terrain where terrorist groups are free to launch attacks against Western targets at will”. If anyone was wondering what was to become of all the troops that are due to be pulled out of Afghanistan in the next year or so they don’t need to look much further than Africa – an almost limitless continent of opportunities, as all the colonialist empires of yesteryear could quickly confirm. It is extraordinarily difficult to obtain good information about anything at all when supposedly respectable and trustworthy newspapers such as The Times produce editorial comment such as this from today’s edition: “The killing of Osama bin Laden by American forces in 2011 was right and welcome.” Right and welcome? How can anyone criticise “lawless terrorist groups” in one breath then turn around and call the cold-blooded murder of someone by the biggest terrorist organisation on the planet “right and welcome”?

Anyway, I digress.

Unsurprisingly I couldn’t find anything in the paper about these supposed “terrorists” – apart from them being “al-Qaeda-linked” and setting “impossible demands, including a prisoner swap for two Islamist extremists jailed in the US”. One wonders that if asking for a prisoner swap of two prisoners is an “impossible demand” what might The Times consider a possible demand to be?

The location of this incident is interesting. Why did the militants pick it? Just to get some hostages for a prisoner swap? Unlikely. Algeria is no stranger to extreme violence, and Algerians have been waging revolutionary war of one shade or another for over half a century. If they merely wanted to kidnap a bunch of foreign hostages they could have done so just as easily in Algiers, possibly easier. But no, they chose a huge foreign-owned gas plant. In the absence of any proper information to the contrary from The Times, I’m guessing the attack had a little more motive than a desire to free two prisoners from US custody.

It turns out that Tigantourine is far from being the only plant of its kind in the area. There are loads of them. I don’t know, but I’m guessing that having giant foreign corporations stealing precious resources from under the noses of the people to whom it belongs might just be causing a little local peevishness, and the view of the Times that these plants are “Western targets” is unlikely to improve western understanding of what’s really going on there.

*

The BBC recently screened two documentaries titled "Growing up Poor". The first programme was about three teenage girls struggling to survive on the pitiful state welfare system, and the second film focussed on three teenage boys in similar circumstances. The locations were all over Britain – London, Glasgow, Birmingham. Whilst it’s true enough that these cases were fairly exceptional – most teenagers do not have as little adult support as those shown in the programme – it’s equally true that for those who are in the position of the young people shown in these films state support is wholly – even criminally – negligent.

These young people had no obvious natural problems. They seemed reasonably intelligent and reasonably fit and well. The biggest problem they face is their misfortune in being born to mothers who have not been able to provide the same material support as mothers from more affluent backgrounds. The misfortunes of their early childhoods are sad enough, but the fact that now as they approach adulthood help from the state is all but non-existent is simply unacceptable.

These kids did not want state handouts. One of them put off claiming the paltry Jobseeker’s Allowance for as long as he possibly could. The blatantly obvious truth was there’s simply no half-decent work for them. We saw one of the lasses doing “work experience”. For the six months of the state-sponsored scheme she worked 30 hours a week for the £55 she could have had by staying at home and claiming benefit. At the end of the scheme the employer sacked her (possibly for another “work experience” slave). One of the lads, a bright personable young chap hoping to go to university some day to study computing, was over the moon when he landed a job working outside some nightclub handing out fliers to passers-by. Every flier that gets returned to the club, he told the camera, earnt him 25p. Just think, if a mere 36,000 of them found their way back he could pay the £9,000 his first year of college tuition would cost.

Towards the end of the second film we followed one of the lads as he made his way towards the army recruiting office. One of the girls had been thinking of doing the same. It was the only option these kids were left with for finding some kind of permanent shelter and something that paid them a bit of money they could spend enjoying themselves.

These were not sad films. They were films that should provoke rage. If the government can find enough money to train an endless stream of desperate kids to become killers and canon fodder it could also find enough money to train them to be engineers and farmers, bus drivers, doctors and artists instead. The fact that government deliberately chooses to turn kids into murderers rather than poets is one of the clearest indicators of the depravity practised daily by our trusted leaders.


13 December 2012

85% Guilty

Yesterday (12th December) a report by Desmond de Silva QC into the murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane was made public. It concluded that there is “significant doubt as to whether Patrick Finucane would have been murdered by the UDA in February 1989 had it not been for the different strands of involvement of elements of the state.” Mr de Silva “found there was no “overarching” British state conspiracy to murder Mr Finucane” in spite of the fact that “a series of positive actions by employees of the state actively furthered and facilitated his murder and that in the aftermath of the murder there was a relentless attempt to defeat the ends of justice”. (1)

Well call me pedantic, but if “series of positive actions by employees of the state actively furthered and facilitated his murder”, together with the fact “that in the aftermath of the murder there was a relentless attempt to defeat the ends of justice” is not an “overarching” state conspiracy you really have to wonder what is. Furthermore, the report states that "the security service assessed that 85 per cent of the UDA's 'intelligence' originated from sources within the security forces". (2) In other words, the UDA, a terrorist organisation, obtained a vast amount of the information that helped it carry out its murderous campaigns from the British government – but there is “no ‘overarching’ British state conspiracy”? In one sense I suppose you have to agree with Mr de Silva. Indeed there is no conspiracy: this sort of behaviour by the British government is entirely normal. It’s the sort of thing it’s been doing for about a thousand years. That’s why it operates in secrecy most of the time, and that’s why vast amounts of its documents are kept locked away from the public gaze for many decades.

Geraldine Finucane, Patrick’s widow, was interviewed by the BBC today. (3) Her quiet, dignified bearing is deeply impressive. She doesn’t think very highly of Mr de Silva’s handiwork, and believes it is a “sham”, a “whitewash” and a “confidence trick”, and that “Yet another British government has engineered a suppression of the truth behind the murder of my husband.” (4) She is almost certainly right. She has always demanded a public inquiry. Although she doesn’t give me the impression of someone who truly believes this would result in real justice for the brutal murder of her husband, she’s absolutely right to continue fighting for a public inquiry on the grounds that it’s right to maintain the pressure on government to fully account for its actions.

In this morning’s BBC TV interview Mrs Finucane was asked about the point of view that if a public inquiry into her husband’s murder were acceded to it would “open the floodgates” of other similar calls for public inquiries – the questioner suggesting the cost would be too prohibitive. Mrs Finucane dodged the trap beautifully stressing that she was only calling for real justice for her husband. However, the question actually exposes the reality of the situation. Without doubt there must surely be many other cases which are equally deserving of public attention. Whenever our government imposes some new restriction on our ever-dwindling freedoms it routinely explains itself by saying that if people have nothing to hide they need not fear anything. A similar response could have been used by Mrs Finucane (although she was right not to do so – better to leave that sort of thing to people like me). If the government has nothing to hide it shouldn’t fear a public inquiry should it? Nor should it fear any floodgates opening, surely? As for the cost – well it’s only the equivalent of a couple of cruise missiles, or a day or two of illegally occupying someone else’s country.

These exceptionally rare glimpses into how our government routinely conducts itself are deeply precious. They are exceptional not because of the rarity of such conduct, but because of the rarity of such conduct being discovered and exposed into the dazzling light of day. The largely overlooked comment by de Silva that 85% of the information used by a known terrorist organisation was supplied to it by the British government is one such exceptionally rare glimpse into the routine workings of Britain’s so-called “security” services. It’s a rare piece of real news. It will, without doubt, soon disappear behind far more important issues, such as royal babies and unproven allegations about the sex lives of dead TV stars.

Notes:
1. Irish Times

2. Channel 4

3. BBC

4. ibid Irish Times


28 November 2012

A Carnivore Becomes Vegan (-light)

I think most of us are born with a predisposition to prefer eating meat to vegetables, or vice versa. In my experience it seems that little boys prefer eating meat whilst little girls prefer munching green stuff.

I was certainly born a carnivore. My childhood battles at the dinner table were always over my complete refusal to eat vegetables – even tomatoes were a non-starter, and I remember spending a whole Sunday morning sitting stubbornly at the breakfast table because I wouldn’t eat the fried tomatoes my dad had cooked for breakfast. Potatoes, bread and fruit were the closest I ever got to liking vegetable matter. It was only in my teen-age years that I would very reluctantly tolerate half a spoon of green peas on my plate – but only to please my mom, and only if covered in red or brown sauce; I never actually liked the things.

A few years later I would sometimes eat a bit of salad, and graduated slowly to a few green beans and carrots. But once again, it was only to please my mom. I never liked them. Whereas I always loved meat – could never get enough of the stuff. So when I say I’m a natural carnivore, I really do mean it.

But my guilt over the fact that animals were murdered in order to feed me also started when I was quite young – late teens probably. So for about thirty years I just looked the other way. It wasn’t very difficult to justify the situation to myself: what was the alternative? Eat vegetables? Forget about it.

Then about ten years ago my partner Lorraine (now wife) moved in. She’s a lifelong, and natural, vegetarian. Her childhood battles at the dinner table were always over eating meat, which she always disliked. But give her a plateful of broccoli and sprouts and she was happy as Larry. Lorraine always had it a lot easier than me though, because she could sneak the meat off her plate into the waiting jaws of the family dog who learnt very quickly to hang-out by her chair. Our dogs were never going to help me out with unwanted cabbage and cauli.

A lifelong carnivore living with a lifelong vegetarian might not seem like a perfect marriage, especially when it’s the carnivore who does most of the cooking. However, my increasing guilt about being a carnivore always meant I respected the fact that Lorraine could manage so well without eating meat at all. Good trick if you can do it, I thought. But preparing her meals forced me to learn how to cook tasty and nutritious food that didn’t contain any animal parts; and it was a really interesting voyage of discovery – which I’m still enjoying. For the first few years I simply cooked two different meals. We’d have the same carbohydrates, but different proteins. It worked just fine, but my trips to the butcher were becoming harder and harder for me to justify to myself.

It was politics that tipped me over the edge.

For the last ten years my radicalisation has been slowly accelerating. A couple of years ago as I began to realise that I was natural anarchist I also began to realise that I could no longer continue eating meat. It had to stop. About a year ago, just before Christmas, I made my last trip to the butcher. I haven’t been back since.

Right from the beginning of my conversion I decided I was never going to be hair-shirt about the thing. If I really, really fancied a piece of meat, I was going to eat it, and I wouldn’t beat myself up about it. I figured that even if I reduced by half the amount of meat I was eating it had to be an improvement. And I think for me that was the key move, giving myself a way back. I think also the fact that I was doing it for ethical reasons rather than health reasons also helped: my ethical views are not likely to change in such a way that I start thinking it’s quite O.K. for animals to be murdered in order to feed me, whereas I’ve always been a bit cavalier about my health and was never going to be concerned enough about it to stop eating meat for any length of time.

As it turns out I haven’t eaten meat at home all year and, more importantly, haven’t wanted to. It’s been amazingly easy. I have sometimes eaten meat when we go out. Most places cater very poorly for non-meat eaters. Lorraine is O.K because she’s perfectly happy with a plate of vegetables or a bowl of salad – but I’d sooner not eat at all: I still don’t like eating vegetables and am not likely to start now. So because the deal I made with myself says I don’t have to be hair-shirt I just choose some meat dish, and thoroughly enjoy it.

As my education about preparing meals without meat slowly develops I’ve been looking into the vegan options, which also interests Lorraine; because the fact is that the ethics of how our dairy products and eggs are produced is also quite unacceptable. So these days most of our meals are actually vegan; and the amazing thing is they taste pretty good. But that essential caveat applies: we won’t be hair-shirt about the thing. If we fancy a piece of cheese, or cream or a couple of eggs, we’ll have them and not beat ourselves up. As a result of that we’ve managed to eliminate animal products from most of our diet, most of the time – which, especially for me, is a huge improvement.

Like so many things it comes down to education, and how we’re brainwashed. We’re conditioned into eating animal products, and simply don’t learn how to prepare good, tasty nutritious meals that have no body parts in them. If someone had said to me a few years back that I would soon be a vegan (albeit vegan-light) I would have laughed in their face. But as I slowly discover more and more about how to prepare good vegan food I just wish I’d learnt how to do it many, many years ago.


25 November 2012

On War

I was talking to my friend David last night about the First World War... as you do. David is not a stupid person: he teaches computing; but history is probably not his strong suit.

Our conversation had been prompted by an article of mine where I referred to the soldiers of that obscene slaughter as fools. I had also suggested in that article that the most of today’s young soldiers are also fools. Now I know the word “fool” is a little strong. A fool is someone who, given good information, nevertheless proceeds to make a stupid decision. That does not apply to most soldiers, who are rarely given good information. However, I had used the word quite deliberately, as a sort of antidote to another widely used word often applied to soldiers: “heroes”. I use the word “fools” instead to try to stimulate thought, to try to encourage people to think about things.

Anyway, it had obviously made David think a little bit because he had asked me what would have happened if our soldiers had not gone off to fight. I was a little perplexed and answered that there wouldn’t have been a war. He replied that would have led to Britain being invaded. Well, that might eventually have been the case – no one can say for sure - but on 4th August 1914, when Britain decided to join in the chain-reaction that had started a few days earlier, there was no immediate danger of Britain being invaded. But even if we pursue that possibility – of a subsequent German invasion – which is far from certain as Germany had its vulnerable eastern front to defend against Russia, it has to be said that Britain, with her dominant navy, should have stood a much better chance of defending an island fortress - at a time that preceded air power - than fighting a war on foreign land hundreds of miles away from home. And in any case, given that Britain was already being ruled by a German family – the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas (the royal family only changed their name to Windsor in 1917 when their German identity became a bit of an embarrassment), it can be argued that the British people were not only tricked into fighting a completely unnecessary war, they were tricked into fighting a completely unnecessary civil war.

Even to this day not many people understand what the First World War was all about – especially those whose knowledge doesn’t go any further than basic schoolroom history lessons. They might say it was all about mutual defence treaties that had to be honoured, but not many know the true reasons for why it was fought: power and profit. It’s quite possible that were it not for another quite unwanted and unplanned event that happened at the same time – the Russian Revolution – even fewer people would know the truth.

When the Bolsheviks defeated czarist Russia they discovered the top secret agreements made between Russia and the European powers for how the world was to be carved up once Germany was crushed. The treaties were dynamite, detailing, for example, how France would have a free hand in Western Europe providing Russia was gifted Poland; and showing how England had betrayed its Arab allies in the Middle East with the Sykes-Picot agreement with France. The Bolsheviks made the documents public, and Morgan Phillips Price, a Russian-speaking journalist working for the Manchester Guardian in Russia saw them and, recognising the explosive implications, wrote a report about them for his paper which was published in November 1917 – a year before the war ended. But the story was pretty much spiked by the rest of the British press, ensuring that the British people would remain, then as now, in gloomy ignorance. The Times, recognised then as now as a leading opinion-former in the country decided
“not to inconvenience the British, French and Italian governments, and to maintain silence about the Secret Treaties... As the governments themselves were bound by the Treaties to be silent, The Times decided it could only follow their example.”(1)

Deliberately keeping people in ignorance of the truth is not now, nor ever has been, confined only to the general public. Indeed the existence of Permanent War depends very much on also deliberately misinforming those in positions of power, sometimes very considerable power. One of the best examples of this, from the same time period as the Secret Treaties, is provided by the little-known story of Brigadier-General George William St George Grogan VC, CB, CMG, DSO & Bar.

Now General Grogan was military aristocracy. He was the eldest son of Brigadier General Grogan senior, of the Black Watch; and being a holder of the Victoria Cross suggests he was no shrinking violet either. Yet this man, a half colonel at the time, was temporarily stripped of his command – essentially because he disobeyed an order. Ordinary soldiers were routinely being murdered by firing squads of their own colleagues at this time for disobeying orders, at the rate of three a fortnight - but Grogan would, later on, be promoted.

Grogan got himself involved in the deeply cynical and little-understood allied invasion of Russia that immediately followed the Bolshevik revolution. After an incident whose details are vague Grogan was, according to historian John Swettenham, “relieved of his command and sent back to England.” Relieving a senior officer of a battle-front command – a VC to boot – is not something to be undertaken lightly, and one would love to know what really transpired. Grogan himself wrote the following account which was published shortly afterwards in the Daily Express:
“I volunteered for service with the North Russian Relief Force in the sincere belief that relief was urgently needed in order to make possible the withdrawal of low category troops, in the last stages of exhaustion, due to the fierce fighting amid the rigours of an Arctic winter...
“Immediately on arrival... I received the impression that the policy of the authorities was not what it was stated to be...troops... which we were told had been sent out purely for defensive purposes were being used for offensive purposes on a large scale and far into the interior...”
(2)

How might such an eminent and senior officer be so confused about his mission? Bear in mind this is taking place in 1919, after the armistice, when to say that Britain was “war weary” might be rather understating the case. However, there was an almost secret war still being waged in Russia, a war for which the public had no appetite. So a story was manufactured that British troops were trapped there and desperately needed to be saved. Swettenham, who was definitely no pinko-liberal, casts a little light on the subject.
“Churchill [then Minister of War], fully cognizant of the threat posed by Communism for the future, left the [Paris] Peace Conference determined to do alone whatever could be done to crush the Soviets while a little time still remained. On March 3, 1919, he deliberately painted the picture in North Russia blacker than it really was, sounding a warning that it might be necessary to send reinforcements to that theatre to ensure the safe withdrawal of the tired troops. Newspapers took up the call, silencing for the present public agitation to ‘bring the boys back home’. A call then went out from the War Office for volunteers, and the response was tremendous. Eight thousand men were accepted to be formed into two brigades equipped with the latest equipment.” (3)

Grogan must have been one of the 8,000. So even the high and mighty are susceptible to the lies of our trusted leaders, and the fact that this was indeed one of Churchill’s many lies is born out by the words of the wonderfully-named General Ironside, commanding officer of the North Russian theatre at the time who wrote that far from feeling trapped...
“With [our] superior flotilla on the [Dvina] river I did not believe that anything could stop us from getting out.” (4)

But Churchill, the arch-warmonger, simply didn’t want him to get out. He wanted more war, terrified as he and the rest of his class were, and still are, about any possibility of global economic justice breaking out.

War has only ever been about plunder and profits for the super-rich. Although the evidence of this is quite considerable, it is never how the case is presented to the general public who are simply expected to do the dying and, which is even worse, the killing. Wars of invasion are always dressed-up as some great religious or patriotic cause; and they are also written-up that way in the history books afterwards (by the winners needless to say). And so the great lie perpetuates itself. If the truth is ever found at all, it is usually too late, as the tragic young poet Wilfred Owen observed in arguably his finest work:

“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.”
(5)

Poets are always careful with the language they use. So Owen’s use of the word “lie” was no mistake. He’d learnt the truth the hard way.

Lloyd George, who was prime minister during the First World War, also knew the truth perfectly well, for he said, in a private conversation to the editor of the Guardian CP Scott:
“If people really knew [the truth about the war it] would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know, and can’t know. The correspondents don’t write and the censorship would not pass the truth.” (6)

The way that history records wars is vitally important, because this is how children learn about war. Take for example the Second World War, about which most people are quite familiar. If most people were asked what started the war, they would probably answer Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Thus everyone learns that the war started on 3rd September 1939. But that isn’t true. It was indeed declared a war by Britain on that day, and Britain did indeed do so declare because of Hitler’s invasion of Poland. But that wasn’t what started the war. The war was actually started 20 years earlier when the so-called Paris Peace Conference drafted the infamous document known as the Treaty of Versailles, a villainous piece of work that made World War Two an inevitability – it was merely a question of when it would begin.

John Maynard Keynes was arguably the greatest economist who ever lived – and certainly the greatest since Adam Smith. Keynes was at the Paris conference and, because of the vicious reparations demanded of Germany in the full knowledge of her inability to pay, often referred to the treaty as “evil”. He had a foreboding of its consequences even before the ink was dry on the paper, and wrote:
“If the European Civil War is to end with France and Italy abusing their momentary victorious power to destroy Germany and Austria-Hungary now prostrate, they invite their own destruction also.” (7)

Then as now, the plunderers cared not a jot for the long-term consequences of their actions. All that matters to them, then as now, is fast profits - let tomorrow take care of itself. Not many children learn in their history classes that if the treaty that ended World War One had been a sensible and humane agreement World War Two almost certainly would not have transpired, and no one would have heard of Adolf Hitler. Not many children learn in their schoolrooms that fighting wars in other people’s countries is now, and always has been, about profit and plunder. Children could be taught this, for the evidence is abundant and easy to find, but they aren’t. They’re taught instead of the supposed glory of war, the supposed “great” kings and queens who start them, the supposed “great” generals who manage the battles, and the spectacular rewards of their successes.

Everyone in Britain is familiar with the so-called “stately homes” that appear in most parts of the country. We are all encouraged to admire them and fawn at the feet of their aristocratic owners, but few people are ever taught about how these places were originally paid for. Take for just one example, the daddy of them all, Blenheim Palace, family home of the Churchills.

Blenheim Palace was built from John Churchill’s cut from victory at the Battle of Blenheim, which took place in Southern Germany. Churchill was the first Duke of Marlborough. The battle was fought over the succession to the Spanish throne. In other words, by rights it was something that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with England. But what was effectively a mercenary army was assembled with Churchill at its head. Over 2,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded there. The good duke himself got Blenheim Palace. Much of the early tradition of lying war propaganda can be seen in old paintings. A perfectly ludicrous example exists depicting the Duke of Marlborough supposedly leading a cavalry charge at the battle. There is little verifiable evidence of generals ever leading attacks from the front. They are invariably to be found safe and sound far away from the action. A far more likely scenario would be to see the good general on a distant hilltop sipping wine and munching on a joint of venison with his closest friends whilst his troops fought for their lives a good mile or so away.

Until quite recently it was widely known and accepted that wars were fought for profit and plunder. Many of the actions of the royal navy were quite indistinguishable from the actions of common pirates, and the vessels of other countries were always weighed-up for their “prize” potential. Some of the proceeds of the so-called “prizes” were distributed to the whole crew, although the distribution was far from equal, obviously. Sizeable cuts of prizes would always be paid to admirals, some of whom were shore-based and had nothing more dangerous to do than survive London social life. The captains of ships often did quite well from the prizes, their junior officers less-so. The ordinary crewmen, many of whom were pressed into service of course, did get some crumbs from the table, but nothing like their officers.

The tradition of prizes probably started in the army. The crusades, of course, were all about looting the Holy Land, so John Churchill was simply continuing a well-established custom. Just after Blenheim Palace was built the emerging British Empire was poised on the brink of its most significant period of plunder – in India. Robert Clive, a plunderer of extraordinary ability, was just cutting his teeth as an artillery officer. One of his earliest successes was at the Battle of Gheria, on the west coast of India. If British school children learn about this incident at all they probably learn of it as an attack on a pirate stronghold. The fact that the inhabitants of Gheria were trying to defend their own homes from attack by foreign invaders is entirely overlooked. But as far as British history is concerned, it’s the natives of Gheria who were the pirates.

Historian John Keay relates the following little snippet about the battle:
“Before setting out from Bombay, Admiral Watson [who was overall commander for the battle] summoned a meeting of the English commanders to thrash out the question of prize money. A scale was agreed on by which Watson himself would receive a twelfth of the proceeds, his rear-admiral half of that, Clive and the captains of the Royal ships rather less...[after the battle the] English got down to the serious business – plunder [which was] less than expected but sufficient for several small fortunes, Watson’s share being about £10,000 [at least half a million in today’s money] and Clive’s about £5,000.” (8)

By the time of the First World War the tradition of soldiers blatantly carving up the spoils for themselves had all but disappeared, and looting by soldiers was no longer openly encouraged. However, the most insidious profiteers of war – the bankers and merchants – were still doing as well as ever. Major General Smedley Butler, one of the very few high-establishment people to write about it, had quite a bit to say on the subject in his explosive condemnation of war titled “War is a Racket”. For example he says:
‘In the World War a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War...’
‘Take our friend the du Ponts…the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 was $6,000,000 a year. Now let’s look at their average yearly profits during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty eight million dollars a year profit, we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times’.


And he gives a good explantion of the central role of bankers in war:
‘Who provides the profits...? We all pay them – in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the banker...[The ordinary soldier] was made to buy Liberty Bonds at $100 and then we bought them back – when they came back from the war and couldn’t find work – at $84 and $86. And the soldiers bought about $2,000,000,000 worth of those bonds!’(9)

And remember that was in 1918 when a billion dollars was quite a lot of money.

It would be tempting for those who don’t understand the real nature of war, and the trusted leaders who continually perpetuate them, to dismiss these things as anomalies of the past. We couldn’t possibly behave that way today, they might think. They would of course be wrong. The primary purpose of war never changes. Once again the evidence is not difficult to find. The Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein, for example, in her superb book “Shock Doctrine” wrote the following about Bush’s illegal war in Iraq:
‘”It’s the best 18 months we ever had,” said Carlyle’s chief investment officer, Bill Conway, referring to the first eighteen months of the war in Iraq. “We made money and we made it fast.” The war in Iraq, already clearly a disaster, translated into a record-breaking $6.6 BILLION payout to Carlyle’s select investors.’ (10)

She continues:
‘Some $8.8billion…is often referred to as “Iraq’s missing billions” because it disappeared into US-controlled Iraqi ministries in 2004, virtually without trace…In Iraq there was not a single governmental function that was considered so “core” that it could not be handed to a contractor, preferably one who provided the Republican Party with financial contributions or Christian foot soldiers during election campaigns.’ (11)

If anything war has become even more cynical today than it was yesteryear when soldiers would meet before a battle to calmly discuss how they would split-up the spoils. Take for example the common practice of our heroic armies and air forces when they deliberately destroy civilian infrastructure - things like water treatment plants, power stations, bridges and so on. Why might they do that? We are of course told that these things are of strategic importance to the enemy – or some such rubbish. The fact that these “enemies” are always completely incapable of defending themselves by the time our heroes get around to pulverising infrastructure is conveniently overlooked. So why do our heroes do it? The wonderful Indian writer Arundhati Roy suggests one possible explanation:
‘Bechtel has been awarded a 680 million dollar reconstruction contract in Iraq. According to the Centre for Responsive Politics, Bechtel contributed 1.3 million dollars towards the 1990-2000 Republican Campaign.’ (12)

When people wonder why big business donates huge sums of money to political parties this might offer a clue. A 1.3 million dollar cost that produces a $680m payday is pretty good business in anyone’s book. Investigative journalist Dahr Jamail might agree, for he wrote:
‘Halliburton’s overall contracts for LOGCAP and oil infrastructure rebuilding have totalled about $20 billion in Iraq...LOGCAP is a Logistics Civil Augmentation Program with the US Army...which is Halliburton’s largest government contract.’ (13)

Halliburton’s chairman and CEO was of course the infamous Dick Cheney, who was also Bush’s vice president at the time of the Iraq war.

And where does all the money come from to pay $680m to the likes of Bechtel or Halliburton’s twenty billion? In a word: taxpayers. The taxpayer picks up the first part of the bill by paying for the so-called “heroes” of our so-called “defence forces” as well as the monstrously expensive weaponry and munitions they use to devastate other people’s countries. And after all the death and destruction is over the taxpayers of the ruined countries are saddled with ruinous debts to rebuild their homelands. But instead of those victims having the freedom to make their own arrangements for reconstruction they’re compelled to use the banks and construction companies of the same countries that destroyed them, companies such as Bechtel and Halliburton who routinely bribe the politicians who start the wars in the first place. That’s what happened to Germany after both world wars, and to Korea, and to Vietnam, both of whom had to pay the Americans for the privilege of obliterating their once beautiful countries. North Korea, incidentally, who declined to pay the shakedown money, were punished with ruinous economic sanctions which exist to this day sixty years later as an example of what happens to anyone who refuses to play the game.

Most people trust leaders, albeit to varying degrees. Even if they sometimes criticise or moan about them most people don’t think their own leaders are capable of deliberately lying to them, or deceiving them in some other way. It’s true that junior leaders, or leaders with minimal responsibility are more likely to be good and decent people – although that isn’t a given as many are highly ambitious and will do absolutely anything for personal advancement. The further removed a leader is from the decisions she makes somehow corrupts them, so that a direct relationship develops between the amount of power wielded and the untrustworthiness of the person: the more power a person acquires, the more untrustworthy they become. Of course these powerful people always justify the things they do by saying they act in the public interest, but the evidence seldom supports them. Whole books are written on the subject, and the evidence is quite abundant.

The fine American journalist Izzy Stone wrote:
“Every government is run by liars, and nothing they say should be believed.” (14)
And the biography of his life by Myra MacPherson is accurately titled “All Governments Lie”.

It was a sentiment shared by Martha Gelhorn, an equally fine American journalist with about six decades of experience to call upon. She said:
“Never believe governments, not any of them, not a word they say; keep an untrusting eye on all they do.” (15)

It’s a widely recognised truth by those of us who understand the real nature of war. Herman Göring, who knew a thing or two about the subject, observed that,
“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country.” (16)

Even someone who’s frequently voted as the greatest Briton of all time, Winston Churchill, concurred, for he said:
“In wartime truth is so precious that she must always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” (17)

Given that our country has been more or less permanently engaged in some war somewhere or another for hundreds of years, Churchill’s words explain how our trusted leaders routinely try to justify their reasons for permanently lying to us.

Seymour Hersch, the legendary investigative journalist who broke the story about the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War interviewed one of the marines involved in the slaughter. He was a young man named Paul Medlow, who was not much different to any other US marine. Medlow came from a poor family in the backwoods of Indiana. Just before he interviewed Medlow Seymour Hersch spoke with the boy’s mother, who would have to spend the rest of her life living with what her son had done. She said to Hersch:
“I gave them a good boy. They sent me back a murderer.” (18)

That statement pretty well sums up the depth of the cynicism of war, the obscene breach of trust routinely practised by our trusted leaders. It could have been echoed by Annie Souls fifty years earlier who gave five of her sons to the “Great” war, the “war to end all war”, and never saw any of them alive again. Annie Souls learnt the lesson too late, but learn it she certainly did, for she refused for the rest of her life to stand whenever the national anthem was played.

It is indeed a little harsh for me to say that soldiers are fools. As General Grogan showed even the mightiest of them are capable of being tricked by their own trusted leaders. I don’t blame soldiers for not understanding the real nature of war - because no one ever tells them; and none of them could believe the incredible depth of cynicism of which their own trusted leaders are capable. Soldiers are merely lied to, brainwashed and ordered to obey, to do what they’re told no matter what. So if my use of one provocative little word serves to encourage people to think about the sheer bloody evil of war, if it helps to dissuade just one young person from being tricked into being turned into a murderer by those he and his family trust to look after him, if it encourages just one soldier to think about what they’re really doing, and to stop doing it, then it will have served its purpose - and I make no apology for that.


Notes
1. “The First Casualty” by Phillip Knightly p.150
2. “Allied Intervention in Russia 1918-1919” by John Swettenham p.224
3. “ p.223
4. “ p.223
5. “Dulce et decorum est” by Wilfred Owen
6. “The First Casualty” by Phillip Knightly p.109
7. “Essays in Persuasion” by J M Keynes p.5
8. “The Honourable Company” by John Keay pp 268 – 70
9. “War is a Racket” by Smedley Butler pp 23 – 36
10. “Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein p 317
11. “ p. 345
12. “Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire” by Arundhati Roy p. 125
13. “Beyond the Green Zone” by Dahr Jamail p. 37
14. “The First Casualty” by Phillip Knightly p.373
15. “Tell me no Lies” by John Pilger p.1
16. “Nuremberg Diary” by Gustave Gilbert p. 278
17. “Bodyguard of Lies” by Anthony Cave Brown – prologue
18. Seymour Hersch Hersch link


17 November 2012

“Pillar of Defence” – Yet Another False Flag?

It’s all but impossible for the vast majority of us to know what’s really happening in the concentration camp of Gaza at the moment: none of the world’s media can be relied upon to report the truth. It would seem that Hamas is indeed behind some recent rocket attacks against various places in occupied Palestine, but who’s behind Hamas? Given that the whole world knows that Osama Bin laden and Al Qaeda were originally made in the USA would it be very extraordinary to discover, in a hundred years time that Hamas had a similar provenance?

The reason the question is not quite as bizarre as it would first appear to the uninitiated is quite simple: an attack by the feeble and impoverished inmates of Gaza Concentration Camp on one of the most ruthless, unaccountable and mightiest armies on Earth is tantamount to committing suicide. Although committing suicide is a fairly common tactic by some of these poor and desperate people, inviting the mass murders of thousands of their defenceless families and friends by pitiless foreign invaders is not such a very common tactic. So why do it?

In the almost total absence of reliable information there is another very puzzling fact – the timing of the alleged Hamas attack.

It would seem that this attack was not some spur-of-the-moment impulse. Some reports suggest that quite a large number of rockets have been fired – a Times article refers to at least 87. If the arrival of these rockets in Gaza was unknown to the Illegal Occupiers of Palestine (possible but unlikely) it would have taken some time to acquire the quantity through the tightly restricted means available to Gaza’s inmates. Such precious weapons would not be used on the whim of some small local group – especially in such numbers. This must have been a planned operation, and planned operations require timing. Why would this be timed just a few days after an American presidential election? If you were going to commit mass suicide for a political reason and wanted to ensure maximum publicity – and surely that’s exactly what you would want – why do so at the most convenient time for an American president? Why not do it a week or two before the elections when the issue would surely be front and centre of the world’s media?

It’s impossible to know if the people of Gaza support this attack. On the one hand they must obviously know what the consequences will be; but on the other hand they might also think that to invite extermination by their most hated enemy after a last-ditch show of defiance is a much better option than the horrific inhuman suffering that enemy imposes on them day after day after day. But the timing of it puzzles me. If I were going to do it there’s no way I would do it at a time that couldn’t possibly be better for an American president.

So what is the point of the Hamas action? At this moment in time it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever – viewed from the possible perspective of a Gazan inmate; so what else could be behind it?

Of course it’s possible there’s absolutely no sense to it. It’s possible that the attack was ordered by someone who is completely barking mad – but an equally likely possibility is that it’s yet another false flag operation ordered by people with fairly close links to Mossad and/or CIA. History knows it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened, and the whole thing makes far more sense viewed from the perspective of the US and Illegal Occupiers of Palestine.

Mayhem in the Middle East is very much the order of the day, and has been for at least three decades. Without doubt the CIA, Mossad and MI6 will have been very busy throughout this time – but it will probably be at least fifty years before anyone learns just how busy. Everyone knows that Iran is the big prize at the end of it all, and there is a growing sense of doom that the time is fast approaching. The Illegal Occupiers of Palestine have made no secret of the fact that they cannot wait to get stuck-in to crushing Iran. Although the possibility of revolution in Gaza is relatively small, it would be decidedly inconvenient if such a thing happened just as you had started a major war a thousand miles away from home. From a purely military point of view, wouldn’t it make sense to eliminate the possibility of minor tactical nuisances when it was easy to do so rather than wait for a time when it would be rather more tiresome? Better to remove the possibility of revolutions at home before going off to fight unpopular wars in distant countries was a lesson the Russian royal family, for example, never learnt in time. But if you do squidge possible revolutions by committing a small genocide or two, and sacrificing one or two of your own spare civilians – necessary collateral damage of course - make sure you don’t upset your biggest bestest friend by getting your timing wrong.

We will of course have to wait to see how this latest potential genocide unfolds. But if we were to examine it from a purely qui-bono perspective it seems to me that the alleged Hamas attack might benefit the empire considerably more than it could possibly benefit the people of Gaza.


7 November 2012

Lest we forget... 2012

In a couple of days time, on 11th November, we’ll celebrate once again the holy cause of war. “Remembrance Sunday”, symbolised by a red poppy, was originally intended as a commemoration of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers whose lives were sacrificed or ruined in arguably the most grotesquely cynical slaughter of all time, otherwise known as the First World War. Many of those poor young fools went willingly and quite cheerfully to their deaths with the words of the lying propagandists ringing loudly in their ears. They sincerely believed they were off to fight the “War To End All War”.

Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most highly decorated senior officers in the US at that time clearly understood the real nature of war. He wrote:

“War is a racket. It always has been… Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

And he said:

“I spent 33 years... being a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short I was a racketeer for capitalism.”

At the end of the “Great” war, by which time the British Empire had somehow grown by 14% and the Middle East’s oilfields had miraculously appeared under western control, some of the survivors of the trenches returned and the cynical reality of it all hit home. Many would see out the rest of their lives in impoverished tight-lipped bitterness; and Annie Souls, who lost all five of her sons to the blood-fest, refused for the rest of her days to stand whenever the national anthem was played.

And that was when war was relatively honest. How many of today’s generals would be as forthright as General Butler was, given they must know the truth just as well as he did?

In the First World War over 90% of the casualties were soldiers. In today’s so-called “wars” that our so-called heroes are ordered to wage thousands of miles away from homes that are in absolutely no danger of foreign attack, about 90% of the victims are defenceless civilians; and even those victims who are “enemy” soldiers are all but incapable of defending themselves. What’s heroic about that? Bomber pilots can and do slaughter hundreds of defenceless civilians at a time. Helicopter gunship crews can and do butcher obviously unarmed civilians one at a time, some of whom are children, and think it’s “nice”. The sailors of our mighty warships, who are all as safe as if they were at home, if not safer, assist in preventing life-saving medicines and other essential goods from reaching desperate defenceless civilians (prior to and during the Iraq war about half a million children were killed this way). There’s almost no danger to all these “heroes” who operate these various killing machines. What’s so brave about this work they do, work we’re often told they love doing, work that should by rights keep them from ever again sleeping well at night?

Conflating modern “wars” - genocide is a more accurate name - with some of the very real heroics of the First World War (misguided as those heroics were) is not to honour the poor young fools of that holocaust but to besmirch their names and ridicule the cause they believed they were fighting for. Equating the actions and conditions of the truly brave young people of World War One with those who sit in climate-controlled comfort today whilst they casually kill defenceless civilians is to plumb new depths of cynical hypocrisy. Surely those tragic victims of the “Great” war, if they had the chance, would plead with today’s young fools to ignore today’s relentless lying propaganda, which is little different to the lying propaganda of a hundred years ago, and treat the warmongers with the contempt they deserve. Surely they would plead with today’s young people to stay at home and direct their energies to campaigning in their own streets for social justice for themselves and their families and friends, because it’s in our own austere jobless streets where the really heroic struggles need to be waged.

I will never again wear a red poppy – which has come to symbolise the very opposite of what it was originally intended for. I wear instead a white poppy at this time of year. The white poppy is for Peace and a permanent end to Permanent War.


4 November 2012

Is the IMF about to become truly useful?

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is arguably the single most powerful economic institution in the world. It can and does make and break the economies of nations. It was originally created just after World War Two with the apparently noble intention of helping to bring economic order to a planet riven by global holocaust. But that isn't quite what happened.

So it isn't often that you actually notice anything useful emerging from the IMF. Apart from the original concept of it, which had some merit, it's actually pretty to difficult to think of anything at all done by the IMF that's ever truly benefited humanity. So when two IMF economists, Jaromir Benes and Michael Kumhof produced a paper in August titled “The Chicago Plan Revisited”(1), which has the potential to do exactly that – benefit humanity – the world really ought to sit up and take notice.

It's important to state at the outset that the Chicago Plan referred to has nothing whatsoever to do with the deservedly much discredited so-called “Chicago Model” which has wreaked so much havoc around the globe since its heyday in the 1970s. The Chicago Plan was a much earlier piece of work championed in the 1930s by Henry Simons and Irving Fisher, amongst others. Had it been adopted then, the history of the twentieth century would be very different. Possibly, just possibly, World War Two might not have happened. If “Chicago Plan Revisited” were to be taken seriously by the powers that be, World War Three might possibly be prevented. It is that significant.

Although the IMF paper is written by economists, much of it is perfectly readable by any literate person – and these readable bits should very definitely be read by anyone who is able to do so (the pseudo-maths bits can easily be skipped over without missing anything important).

Sadly a lot of people are needlessly intimidated (or instantly bored) by economics - much the same way as some people immediately react on hearing the word “maths”. Although economics is frequently dressed up as maths (in order to try and give its often bizarre notions some credibility) it's very important to understand that it isn't in fact nearly as respectable and honest as real maths; so first, a few basic truths about the subject.

I’ll begin with a few relevant quotes by Professor Steve Keen, who has been teaching economics for over 30 years, and who was one of the very few voices sounding alarm bells about the impending collapse of the world’s economy in 2005. Although all manner of so-called “experts” are making that particular claim these days, Keen has the published work to prove it. His view of his own subject is this:

“[A]s a means to understand the behaviour of a complex market economy, the so-called science of economics is a melange of myths that make the ancient Ptolemaic earth-centric view of the solar system look positively sophisticated in comparison.” (2)

It's pretty easy for anyone who knows a bit about maths to write a mathematical formula or equation – almost as easy as writing a sentence in your native tongue; and just as putting together some words in a sentence doesn't necessarily mean the sentence is true, so to with formulae and equations. They look mighty impressive – especially to non-mathematicians – but they aren't necessarily true. You could probably write formulae and equations about lots of bible stories, for example, (such as doing a calculation for the age of the Earth, perhaps), and insert them into a new modern version of the bible, but the reality is that your formulae and equations will all be false and meaningless because they would be based on fantasies and outright lies. So too with a lot of the mathematics associated with economics.

Steve Keen acknowledges that his rather unique views about his subject have a lot to do with the good fortune he had as a young man to be taught by someone who could think for himself, and who strongly encouraged his students to do the same. This gave Keen the confidence to evolve opinions such as this one:

“As Kirman commented, economic theory has seen off many attacks, not because it is strong enough to withstand them, but because it is strong enough to ignore them. Part of that strength has come from the irrelevance of economics. You don’t need an accurate theory of economics to build an economy in the same sense that you need an accurate theory of propulsion to build a rocket.” (3)

The Kirman referred to is Alan Kirman, a mathematical economist, who once wrote a paper titled: “The intrinsic limits of modern economic theory: the emperor has no clothes.”(4)

Keen voices a very similar opinion:

“There is one striking fact about this whole literature [of economics], and that is that there is not one single empirical fact in it.” (5)

It’s a point he makes several times over, suggesting at one point the similarity between economics and religion:

“[A] frequent refrain in this book [is] that neoclassical economics is far more a belief system than it is a science.” (6)

The economics that Keen’s book debunks is neoclassical capitalism. If socialism had been given a chance to develop it’s quite probable that it too could be debunked just as easily. Given the direction it was heading under the stewardship of the likes of Stalin or Mao, it didn’t have a great start in life – which is not to say it isn’t a viable economic system. But so too is capitalism. The key problem is the nature of the human beings in charge.

So, here’s key fact number one:

None of the well-known economic theories, such as capitalism and socialism, has any sound scientific basis upon which it should be trusted more than any other.

Here’s key fact number two:

None of the people in charge of the world’s economy act in the interests of the 99%. From Thatcher to Stalin the only interests these people have ever served are those of the 1%, and until such time as people such as these are permanently excluded from having any significant political power, the only interests they will ever serve are those of the 1%.

Unsurprisingly, few of the so-called experts acknowledge key fact number two. Although it’s something that’s been known since the beginning of human civilisation by every anarchist who’s ever drawn breath, it is seldom admitted by anyone else. But very occasionally a chink of light will be revealed by a Person of Standing. Sadly, however, it’s always a very brief light, and often just a dim little glow at that, appearing briefly way out on the distant orbits of popular consciousness, such as this, for example, by the ex-French president Nicolas Sarkozy, referring to an excellent piece of work by some pretty well-known economic heavyweights:

“All over the world people believe they’re being lied to, that the figures are false, that they’re being manipulated...
In the comments on the commission’s work that Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen and Jean-Paul Fitoussi sent me, I noted this sentence:
'One of the reasons that most people may perceive themselves as being worse off even though the average GDP is increasing is because they are indeed worse off’.”
(7)

I offer these two key facts for consideration. They might not seem like much, but if one thinks about them for a few minutes the implications are pretty seismic – the ground really begins to move.

I mean, consider for example that last sentence by M Sarkozy. Now GDP, Gross Domestic Product, is used as THE core measurement of a nation's economic health; it’s an acronym that even the least economically-literate in western countries have possibly heard uttered – even if they’re not exactly sure what it means. But here we have a major study revealing the fact that as far as the 99% are concerned it is a completely bogus measurement.

So what else are we told by our trusted leaders and their assorted “experts” that's also completely and utterly bogus?

It’s not the purpose of this essay to try to answer that question. This essay is about one or two essential facts of economics. Given then that a) none of the existing main economic philosophies has any empirical substance, and b) given that none of our leaders and their carefully chosen “experts” may be trusted to act in the interests of the 99%, what can we, the 99%, do?

In short... go back to the drawing board, back to a place where we can take a look at the first principles of economics, which actually needs us to look at the first principles of society in general.

Modern democracy is a fairly new thing – when viewed on the time-scale of human civilisation as a whole. It shouldn't surprise us that it's still far from perfect: most new ideas have teething problems – especially when those ideas are contrary to the vested interests of the Powers-That-Be. It can be argued that this age of modern democracy began with the foundation of the USA, which was the first country (in modern times) to draft a constitution where some principles of democracy were established. That constitution wasn't perfect and, imperfect as it was, it was already being opposed by a sizeable section of the new nation's emerging 1% for being far too liberal.

One of the most prominent voices of the day was that of Tom Paine. Although he had no direct involvement in the drafting of the constitution, he was much respected by some of those who did (a copy of that original constitution still hangs up in the room at the White Heart Inn in Lewes, Suffolk, where Tom Paine and his Headstrong Club used to meet). Tom Paine wrote many, many wise words. Amongst some of the wisest were these:

“Let it be heard and let man learn to feel that the true greatness of a nation is founded on principles of humanity.” (8)

It's patently obvious to anyone who's ever studied any history from the perspective of the 99% that none of the powerful nations of the world, all of whom no doubt consider themselves “great”, were founded on principles of humanity. Whilst they frequently portray themselves that way - as veritable champions of humanity - the reality is very different.

Switzerland is arguably the most democratic country in the world today. Although it too is far from perfect, quality of life for its citizens is extremely high, and it hasn't been to war in two hundred years – even when completely surrounded by war, twice. It's curious how this tiny landlocked country with very little in the way of natural resources can be as successful as it is. No doubt the fact that it's one of the planet's leading off-shore banking centres may have something to do with it, but banks do not control the Swiss government (well, not as much as they do in the other so-called democracies), the Swiss people run Switzerland, in a very real sense; and it's interesting to note that the closing words of the preamble to the Swiss constitution are as follows:

“...the strength of a people is measured by the well-being of its weakest members.” (9)

Surely then, given that one of the greatest popular philosophers of all time, Tom Paine, and that arguably the most successful democracy on the planet, Switzerland, both argue for the importance of humanity in the constitution of a country, that's a fairly good place to start: we need global societies founded on humanity – not the fake cynical type of humanity peddled by the agents of the 1%, but REAL humanity, serving the 99%.

So, starting from that position, how do you design an economic model, founded on humanity, that serves the 99%?

Well it needn't be that difficult, given that it must surely be what the 99% would choose to have, if they were given that choice, in preference to a model that serves the 1%.

One of the most important duties of government is to provide security – economic security as much as physical security. So what would be the essential components of economic security? Surely it must be that all citizens have physical security, sufficient nourishing food, and enough water to drink and keep themselves clean. They must have safe and comfortable shelter and warm and comfortable clothing. These are the absolute minimum standards that should be available to every human being anywhere on Earth. The fact that they're not is utterly shameful, and a massive indictment of the cynicism of the powerful nations who could, if they chose to do so, easily ensure these things were provided.

For richer first world countries even more should be considered as essential components of economic security. Of course in an ideal world there wouldn't be such thing as a first world country, but we're a little way off the ideal world and must first deal with reality, and that reality is that this first world/third world economic divide very definitely exists. So for first world nations who for the most part already enjoy the bare basics of economic security described above, it's perfectly reasonable to raise the bar, to require more in terms of bare basics – not at the expense of the third world (which is pretty much the existing situation), but in addition to raising their bar too.

So, in addition to the bare basics for economic security outlined above, first world nations should be expecting their governments to deliver, to a high standard: real justice for all; free education; free health care; inexpensive, efficient public transport; inexpensive, good and reliable communications; inexpensive energy – and arguably the most important service in this list: a government-owned bank.

The fact that these things would seem to be impossible to provide is not because of any sound economic reason, it's because we're conditioned to believing it would be impossible – too Utopian. But if society was organised in such a way that, as Paine suggested, it was founded on humanity instead of criminality and oppression, these ideals, and more, would become entirely normal and people would look back on the days when they were not normal with disbelief and pity for those who had to live in such barbaric times.

An essential part of the conditioning we're subjected to, and which leads us to think such humane society cannot be possible, is our misunderstanding about money. After all, the first question that's bound to flash through the mind of anyone reading these words is “how do you pay for it?” Our confusion on this subject is due to a fine and very clever piece of misinformation. To put it in a nutshell, this particular piece of misinformation can be summarised in the word “borrowing”.

Most people understand that if we borrow something from someone else, that someone actually has in their possession the thing we are borrowing. But where banks are concerned the word has an altogether different meaning; and it's a very important difference. The interpretation of the word “borrowing” that banks and governments use recognises the fact that banks don't actually have the money that governments supposedly borrow from them. This is key fact number three:

Governments don't “borrow” money from banks, banks agree to create money out of cyberspace for governments to use in return for a guarantee by governments to extract taxes from working people to “repay” this counterfeit money – plus an interest charge.

Here's key fact number four:

There's absolutely nothing to stop governments from creating whatever money they need in order to run public services in exactly the same way as banks do. Abraham Lincoln did it very successfully throughout the American Civil War, and was poised to make it the foundation of the US monetary system – but was murdered before he could do so.

Which is where we return to the quite remarkable paper recently produced by the IMF economists Jaromir Benes and Michael Kumhof. For, to put it in a nutshell, allowing governments to take full control of money supply is exactly what they suggest. The fact that this is an IMF paper (although the IMF clearly states that the paper does not represent IMF policy) is hugely significant, because the IMF is the one organisation that's capable of making it reality.

The quite awesome implications of this paper are that money supply could, for the first time in history, eventually come under the direct control of publicly accountable governments not, as at present, under the direct control of a deeply cynical, secretive and unaccountable private banking system. Public debt could disappear, quite literally, overnight. Permanent War could disappear within one generation – maybe sooner.

Very few people have dared to make such a seismic proposal. Almost unknown writers such as Ellen Brown excepted, virtually no one has been brave enough to put their heads above the parapet with such a brazen suggestion. The action of two IMF economists stepping forward to add their voices to the cause of ending the stranglehold of the private banking system on the world economy is brave and deeply laudable. The IMF is, as far as the 99% are concerned, a rightfully discredited institution. If it were to put some real weight behind this work of its own economists it would go a very long way to re-inventing itself as a truly worthwhile body.

Notes:
1. IMF
2. “Debunking Economics” by Steve Keen p. xiii
3. Ibid p. 4
4. Ibid p. 66
5. Ibid p. 67
6. Ibid p. 101
7. “Mis-measuring our lives” by Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi p viii & xi
8. “Prospects on the Rubicon” - by Tom Paine
9. Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation - Preamble


23 October 2012

The Ghost-busters

An interesting witch-hunt has been amusing Britain's so-called “news” providers for the last few weeks: the persecution of the long-dead BBC TV personality Jimmy Savile. It is alleged that Mr Savile was, to quote The Times last Saturday (October 20), “one of the most prolific sex offenders the [NSPCC]* had ever encountered”.

The Times appears to be hugely relishing the BBC's discomfort over the story, and a leading editorial refers to the organisation's “blithe response to the enquiries from The Times”, and it was “nothing close to good enough” that a BBC press officer would not respond immediately to the newspaper but would “get back to us in the morning”. The Times believed that that reply “suggests an almost absurd lack of grip”.

I'm sure The Times' posture has absolutely nothing to do with the recent media war about phone-hacking, which the BBC appeared to be spearheading and which mostly involved Rupert Murdoch publications. The fact that Mr Murdoch also owns The Times is surely pure coincidence.

But back to the more important issue – the fact that this witch-hunt against a ghost has taken up hours and hours of what might otherwise have been useful news time, and filled many many pages of all the national newspapers.

Society deems, quite properly, that the greatest abominations of all are serious crimes against children. Whilst there can be absolutely no question about the validity of that position, there's plenty of room to question how the completely natural revulsion provoked in people by a serious crime against a child is actually used by our trusted leaders to manipulate public opinion.

For many centuries alleged crimes against children have been trumped-up by trusted authorities whenever they want to inflame public opinion against some particular minority group. Jews, gypsies and black people, for example, have from time to time all been routinely accused by trusted authorities all over the world for stealing children for every deviant reason from selling them into slavery to satanic sacrifices. In the First World War, when the power of the media to misinform on a massive scale truly came of age, Germans were routinely accused of all manner of obscenities against children in order to help condition the minds of an otherwise sceptical public to the vital necessity for patriotic sacrifice. Often-times the trusted authorities have been (and still are) parents of children who would use the spectre of Jews, gypsies, black people or some other minority group, to terrify mischievous offspring into obedience – and plant the first seeds for lifetimes of racial prejudice.

Yet the brain-washing of children by these same trusted authorities is never deemed a crime.

It's quite normal to see young teenagers wandering around the streets of my home town dressed in military-style clothing. It's clearly some sort of uniform, because they always dress exactly the same: camouflage trousers, black top, black boots. They look about school-leaving age, but too young to be serving in the armed forces. It's quite impossible to imagine what they do that actually needs the wearing of heavy-duty boots, let alone camouflage trousers. These young people always look proud to be wearing their pseudo military uniforms, because you never see them with their shirts untucked, or their boot laces undone – the way their younger school-uniform-clad contemporaries usually dress; and they sort of march when they walk rather than slouch around dragging their feet. The subliminal brainwashing is unmistakeable: military attire is way cooler than school uniform. It's something younger school-children might aspire to copy, and for some of those wearing these uniforms there must surely be a temptation to continue wearing them when they leave school, by joining one of the real military services perhaps.

What happens to the trusted adults who encourage children to behave like this, to dress-up in the manner of people some of whom could and should be charged with war crimes? And what happens to the trusted adults who turn children into investment bankers, CEOs, tax lawyers and accountants? What happens to the trusted adults who turn children into the slaughterers of animals, or into the sub-human creatures who conduct pseudo-scientific experiments on animals? What happens to the trusted adults who peddle saccharine versions of history to children, or who sell to children all manner of myths about supernatural entities or unproven tales about gods and devils, and call it truth? What happens to all the trusted people who have committed these brainwashing crimes against children for many, many years; and who continue to do so right now?

Nothing. The people who commit these crimes against children not only lead full and blameless lives, but encourage children to perpetuate the lies and misinformation to other children, and so the cycle of ignorance continues generation after generation.

Rather than confronting these institutionalised crimes against children it makes far more sense to simply persecute some dead guy who's incapable of defending himself against charges of crimes which, if they contained any substance, must surely have come to light throughout the several decades when they're supposed to have occurred. Salacious gossip involving high-profile celebrities – especially where profitable law-suits might result – never usually escapes media attention... so where was The Times and its fellow “news” providers during the thirty-odd years when it was all supposed to be taking place?

Not entirely unrelated to the Jimmy Savile non-story is another non-story that adorns the front page of the same edition of The Times. It appears under the headline “Police get their man as Mitchell quits at last”. Talk about mountains out of molehills...

The basics of this non-story is that a fairly prominent MP, Andrew Mitchell, allegedly had a verbal altercation with the police. It seems that Mr Mitchell might have been rather rude. Apparently he soon apologised for his behaviour, and his apology was accepted by the police. It sounds as though it was an incident which was too trivial to bother relating to anyone other than the immediate friends and family of those concerned – who might have been forgiven for stifling yawns of disinterest. But no; that would be way too sensible.

Apparently what happened next was that the Police Federation became involved – that fine organisation that often vigorously defends the servants of our militarised-police state whenever some vicious civilian dares to confront the robocops in any way. The media and opposition politicians were informed, and within hours a full-blown witch-hunt was under way. For the next couple of weeks this non-story has competed with the Jimmy Savile non-story to divert the nation's collective attention away from any real news – such as the growing trauma of the world economy say, or the steady march towards yet another war in the Middle East.

Eventually the inevitable happened, and Mr Mitchell resigned his fairly prominent role as chief whip for the Tory party.

I have no particular sympathy for Mr Mitchell. The function of a whip in a supposed democracy is quite despicable. No politician with any sense of decency should touch the job with a barge-pole; but the role of the media in this non-story is every bit as despicable. There can be absolutely no justification for building-up this non-event such that it features on the front page of what is supposed to be the nation's most respectable newspaper. I can only imagine one possible explanation – real, truthful explanation that is, rather than the fanciful nonsense that would no doubt be peddled by those responsible; and that explanation is this: the media never like to miss an opportunity to remind politicians all about media power. Any chance of forcing an MP out of his job for some trite reason seems just too tempting for the purveyors of our so-called “news” to ignore. These same fine and prestigious champions of public morality seem not to notice when MPs authorise our armed forces to commit war crimes, or pass laws to legitimise massive financial fraud; and enact other laws which further oppress society's weak, poor and defenceless. But just let some salacious gossip about a long-dead TV celebrity appear, or learn about a rather mediocre MP having a pathetic little spat with a robocop, and all of a sudden our mighty and noble media machines suddenly discover the meaning of right and wrong.

Who said satire was dead?

But we must look for positives wherever we can; and the one truly great thing about all this non-news is that it has at least limited the hours and hours of non-news we would otherwise have had to endure concerning the ludicrous farce also known as the American presidential elections.

* NSPCC – National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children


12 October 2012

Trick or Treat?

There are two pieces of so-called “news” at the moment that are doing a first-rate job of serving their primary function - distracting people away from the many other important things they should be learning about. One of those “news” items concerns a rather sad old man who died over a year ago, and the other is about some Royal Marines who allegedly murdered someone in Afghanistan.

First, a bit of relevant background...

I come from two lines of fairly tough women. My dad’s mum (who died about 70 years ago), used to run a working-men’s club in a tough part of Birmingham where cops had to walk around in pairs on Friday nights. When my dad was seven his dad died, and when she wasn’t personally chucking out drunken bums from her club, his mum brought him up single-handed. I have a photograph of her that appeared in a newspaper. It shows her shaking hands with some guy wearing like a Masonic sash around his neck. My dad told me it was the day she became the first ever woman to be admitted into the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (whatever that was – I was never interested enough to ask). But the photo shows a woman standing erect, staring slightly down at her new buffalo friend, almost sneering at him. She has the sort of face you wouldn’t want to take liberties with; and my mum, who never got on with her, told me she once beat-up my dad with a frying pan for something or another – after he was married. If you saw the photograph you could well believe it.

My mum was the sweetest person you could wish to know: kind, gentle, patient; but when she said “no”, she meant no. She hardly ever lost her temper (my dad did that often enough for both of them), but when the line in the sand was crossed her dark brown eyes would flash with menace and you just knew it was game over. She left home to start working for a living when she was 14 – the normal school-leaving age at that time – and never went back, except for holidays or between jobs. During the six years of the Second World War, when my dad was away from home almost the whole time, she worked in a factory near London, making ailerons for Hurricane fighter planes. During the Blitz she never once used the underground shelters, dreading the stifling claustrophobia of them more than Göring’s bombers.

I remember having a conversation with my mum many years ago on the subject of some new law preventing women from being sexually harassed in the workplace. She didn’t understand why the law was necessary, and was pretty contemptuous of women who “made a fuss” about that sort of thing. She said she never had any problems with men that a smack in the mouth couldn’t sort out. She wasn’t a violent person, and couldn’t have been nasty if she tried; but there was a band of steel running through her, and only an idiot would make the mistake of trying to push her too far.

All of which brings me around to the story that has been leading the nearly all of the nation’s so-called “news” for about a week, that the long-dead TV personality Sir Jimmy Savile allegedly spent much of his life sexually harassing women. According to Channel 4 News there are 11 police forces investigating 25 cases of alleged abuse going back over forty years of the star’s career.

Now then, I can see why this story might have justified filling a ten second slot at the end of the so-called “news” when it first broke. But all we actually have is a story about some allegations which the police are investigating. Why this stuff has taken up hours and hours of prime so-called “news” time is something people really should be questioning more closely than whether or not any alleged crimes by Jimmy Savile actually took place. The other difficulty I’ve got with this piece of so-called “news” is the age-old problem of judging past events using today’s values.

Jimmy Savile was about 12 years younger than my mum, and almost 20 years younger than my dad. He would have been brought up in an environment when the groping of women by men was almost normal. Men of his generation, and my dad’s, thought they were real operators if they could get away with rubbing-up against some attractive woman. I remember seeing my dad do it on several occasions. He thought he was being a real lady-killer. I thought he just looked ridiculous. In many parts of Europe a pretty girl couldn’t walk the streets without being pinched and patted by complete strangers. Up until just a couple of years ago some girls might have felt just a little disappointed if they passed a building site, or were passed in the street by a lorry, and didn’t hear wolf-whistles and the lewd wisecracks. Of course we’re all very properly aghast at that sort of behaviour today - but it wasn’t that long ago when it was all completely normal. If the normal actions of yesteryear are now to be tried by today’s thought-police, half the male population of the country had better start looking over their shoulders for the boys in blue.

Whatever the truth is about some sad old man who can no longer defend himself, or be punished for any wrongdoing, the truly sensational story that’s being completely overlooked is why this stuff is filling up valuable news-time.

The story leading today’s so-called “news”, however, for a change, is about seven Royal Marines who have apparently been arrested on suspicion of murder. I find this a particularly disturbing story.

According to the BBC,the report comes from the Ministry of Defence (read War Department), and claims that the “incident followed an ‘engagement with an insurgent’ and no civilians were involved”.

I suppose I should feel truly touched that the War Department is so concerned about human life that it’s investigating the possibility of “an insurgent” being murdered by some of their very own “heroes”: what a fine, honest, upstanding organisation they must be. Well call me a cynic, but I just don’t buy it.

I mean, here we have an organisation that over the last few years has cheerfully taken part in murdering hundreds of thousands of people – including defenceless civilian people – from the countless incidents of “collateral damage” caused by its war-planes to the deaths of at least half a million children caused by the trade sanctions policed by its warships. As far as I know none of these murders has ever been investigated. Why is it that the War Department is suddenly so concerned about the possible murder of one particular Afghan – a supposed “insurgent” at that?

One other little snippet of so called “news” that flittered across the TV screen last night featured David Cameron, our very fine Prime Minister. Dave is clearly someone with a sense of history, and wants to make sure that no one misses the fact that in just over a year’s time it will be the one hundredth anniversary to celebrate the start of World War One. He called for everyone to be involved in commemorating the centenary of the “war to end all wars”. The irony of the Permanent War his government is so keen to perpetuate seems to completely escape him – but what can you expect from someone who apparently didn’t know what Magna Carta means... something which should be as significant to a British politician as the blood in his veins? I wonder if the War Department has already started their preparations...


28 September 2012

Rough Justice

Last Saturday (22nd September) The Times printed a leading story about the appearance in court of Dale Cregan, who is accused of the murder of two police officers. The full-page story showed a drawing by a court artist of a quite diminutive man closely surrounded by seven burly policemen, all of whom are clad in body armour and two of whom are holding automatic rifles as if expecting little Mr Cregan to instantly transmogrify into the Incredible Hulk. Below this picture was a photograph of another of these policemen, who is so heavily armed that he would not be out of place on the front line of some major war-zone.

The story also led the TV news of the day. We were treated to images of a motorcade of racing police cars, sirens blaring, accompanying the prison van that presumably contained little Mr Cregan, presumably quite well restrained inside.

The story goes that last Tuesday (18th) Mr Cregan murdered two women police officers in a gun and grenade attack after calling the police to a house, supposedly for some sort of assistance. Later the same day he is reported to have given himself up to the police.

Coincidentally, it’s about a year since the young Londoner Mark Duggan was gunned down by the police – an incident that led to major rioting in Britain; and the person who killed him recently appeared at an inquiry into the incident, which is still ongoing. Curiously enough there were no screaming sirens announcing the arrival of this person at the inquiry, no heavily armed police escort accompanying him. We have no courtroom artist’s impressions of this person, whose identity is unknown to the public, and who gave his story whilst hiding behind a screen. A few days earlier one of the killer’s colleagues appeared at the inquiry. There were no screaming sirens announcing his arrival either. Instead he strolled casually into the building, one hand in the pocket of his smart brown suit, the other holding the hand of the woman who accompanied him. He looked quietly confident; and why shouldn’t he?

In the last twenty years or so no police officer has been convicted of any crime in connection with the deaths of over 1400 people with whom they were somehow involved. In the recent inquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper seller who, whilst walking home with his hands in his pockets, was assaulted by one PC Simon Harwood, PC Harwood was, almost inevitably, absolved of any wrongdoing. Had the incident not been captured by a passing tourist’s mobile phone, it’s highly doubtful it would have even gone as far as an inquiry.

Of course ever since the brutal murder in London of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 by a gang of our militarised police, none of whom was ever charged with a crime, the concept of justice is well and truly exposed for the shabby illusion it has long been – and that’s without considering the massive frauds by the suited banksters, lawyers, accountants, and their political accomplices - not one of whom is ever likely to serve any serious jail time – frauds which have already cost British taxpayers hundreds of billions of pounds and are likely to continue doing so for some decades to come. No screaming sirens announcing the arrival of any of these villains at a court of law.

If Mr Cregan did what the media say he did, he gets no sympathy from me: it was a terrible, inexcusable thing to do. However, like so many things, it’s very difficult to know what the full story is – let alone where the truth really lies.

However, there was just enough in The Times’ story to make me wonder what Mr Cregan might have to say about it all. According to that fine newspaper,
“In court, Cregan was surrounded by police officers in the glass dock and was watched from the public gallery by family members of his other two alleged murder victims, David Short and his son, Mark. He was charged with the murder of Mark Short, 23, who was shot in the neck as he played pool at the Cotton Tree Inn in Droylsden, Greater Manchester, on May 25. He is also accused of the attempted murder that night of Michael Belcher, Ryan Pridding and John Short. Cregan is accused of then killing David Short, 46, in a simultaneous gun and grenade attack at his home in Clayton, Greater Manchester on August 10, and the attempted murder of Sharon Hark that same day.”

At first glance that seems a fairly strange run of events. But several other newspapers shed a little more light than The Times was prepared to do, revealing a possible gang war scenario. The Daily Mirror, for example, ran a story on the 21st September headlined,
“Enough is enough”: Police chief vows to end gang wars that led to Manchester shootings.”

That raises a couple of rather obvious questions doesn’t it? If the police chief is capable of ending a gang war now (and why should he not be able to?), why didn’t he do so four months ago, say, following the murder of 23 year old Mark Short; or four years ago even? Why have the police been unable to put their hands on Mr Cregan until he gave himself up – in spite of all the latest in surveillance technology, and the army of various anti-terrorist personnel (if Mr Cregan’s alleged actions with firearms and grenades do not qualify him as a terrorist it’s hard to say what would)? Surely if the police had simply done their job months ago, or years ago, they might not be mourning the deaths of two of their colleagues.

It couldn’t possibly be, could it, that keeping inner city gang wars permanently on the boil is as much meat and drink to police chiefs and their budgets, as stoking the fires of regional wars in distant deserts is meat and drink to the War Department, “Intelligence” services and Big Business; and that the very rare murder of a PC or two is no more than the necessary price that must be paid – just as the occasional killing of British servicemen in illegal and immoral foreign adventures is a necessary price to pay for the holy purposes of generals, spooks and their vile City allies?


3 September 2012

Letters to my MP

For many years most of my writing has usually been what might be described as “anti-establishment”. Very little of it has been considered suitable for mainstream publication. Mostly I wrote to newspapers. Sometimes editors would print heavily edited versions of my articles; and then, six years ago I had a bit of a breakthrough. The editor of our local newspaper, the Grantham Journal – which is owned by a huge media company (Johnston Press) - offered me a regular weekly column. I was going be paid for writing! And providing I wrote nothing that was obviously libellous, he wouldn’t even edit what I said! To say I was staggered doesn’t quite do justice to what I felt.

That happy arrangement lasted for about a year, until that editor moved on and a new boy took over. My column was terminated within a couple of weeks.

I continued sending letters to the paper, but the editing deteriorated to such an extent that sometimes there was just no similarity at all between what I wrote and what was printed, and I began to suspect that the paper was deliberately trying to ridicule me. So a few months ago I gave up, and haven’t written to them since.

The main reason I wrote to newspapers in the first place was to try and communicate information I think is important to people who are not getting it – because the mainstream media won’t supply it. So obviously, with one extraordinary exception, mainstream media and I were never likely to see eye to eye for any length of time.

Shortly after I decided that writing to the local paper was not only a total waste of time it was also possibly doing me a bit of harm (as I compete in local elections the paper’s selective editing of my words weren’t doing me any favours). So I thought I’d switch my attention to our local MP, Mr Stephen Phillips. Mr Phillips is a Tory. Apparently he’s a lawyer and was also once a soldier. I decided to start writing to Mr Phillips not because I thought it would make a scrap of difference to our political decision-makers, but in order to show Mr Phillips that not everyone on his patch is taken-in by government and corporate media propaganda.

I must have written to him about a dozen or so times now. To his credit he usually replies within a week. I don’t personally know Mr Phillips so at first I read his replies fairly closely in order to get a bit of a feel for what sort of Tory he is. I happen to believe that not all politicians are corrupt and evil, and I was prepared to give Mr Phillips the benefit of the doubt until I knew him a little better. Let’s just say that I don’t particularly pay any attention to his replies any more – but I continue writing to him anyway.

I think it’s possibly quite a useful exercise, and I wish more people would do it. Like I say, it’s not very likely to change how these people vote – they’ll continue to obey the orders of the “whips”. But hopefully it will make them a little more uneasy when they blindly follow the orders of party headquarters; it must tell them that not all voters are ignorant and uninformed – despite the best efforts of their complicit media machine. Furthermore, it takes away from them the defence that they didn’t know any better. I know my MP knows about the evil his government is doing - because I’m telling him, and he will never be able to use ignorance of the truth as a defence for his subservience to the Tory whips.

I’ve always been much impressed by the superb website Media Lens. David Edwards, one of the owners of the site, is something of an expert in Buddhism, and a powerful ethic of peace and non-violence resonates through all his work. Edwards always advocates the use of good manners in corresponding with people, and I think he’s absolutely right. Like the principle of non-violent resistance, it’s an immensely powerful technique.

Here, for example, is a copy of my latest epistle to Mr Phillips:

Dear Mr Phillips,

I hope you’re well.

I’m wondering what exactly is the role of the British government in the shameful western intervention that’s currently happening in Syria. It was reported last week that the British government and France are preparing to defy the present UN Security Council position of the non-intervention of foreign forces in that unfortunate country. Can you assure me that this is not the case, and that Britain will not defy the UN?

I know of course that there is precedent for Britain ignoring the United Nations (on behalf of or with the approval of the US, no doubt) – as in the illegal military action by British forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and the disgraceful interpretation of Resolution 1973 concerning Libya, for example – but the precedent of previous illegality can never justify perpetrating a new illegality. Many of the mostly decent people in our armed forces who were and are involved in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are technically guilty of war crimes and or crimes against humanity, as you must well know, and the fact that their guilt was sanctioned by the UK government suggests the government shares that guilt and the responsibility for betraying the trust of our armed forces, few of whom sign-up with the desire or intention to become monstrous war criminals. I know there’s no such thing as a truly independent international court of justice, let alone the ability of such a court to bring real criminals to trial – but if there was such a thing, you must know as well as a vast number of other people that a sizeable quantity of Britons would be slated to appear there.

No doubt the warmongers in the government would try to justify themselves by claiming the Syrian government is a poor government, and needs to be replaced. If that argument was sincere, and being made on behalf of Syria’s 99%, I could almost accept it (even though regime-change imposed by external force is also illegal under the UN Charter) – but of course such an argument by these people is not sincere, as the lawless banditry and horrendous chaos that now prevails in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – the previous recipients of their fake concern for good government – can confirm.

The US has opposed the authority of the UN for at least 36 years (when Daniel Moynihan said as much in a cable to Kissinger) – whenever it suited that country to do so. This obviously emasculated the UN as a disinterested arbiter of global justice and set the precedent for other countries to behave in the same way. This frequent flouting of the rulings of the UN General Assembly by the US and its closest lackeys has no doubt contributed to the rising power and influence of the Non-Aligned Movement, 120 of whose members have just held a very successful meeting in Teheran. Perhaps this polarisation of the world is deliberately desired and intended by our war-loving leadership, but it’s quite impossible that such a thing could be in the best interests of the global 99% in general, and Britain’s 99% in particular.

It’s bad enough that our government behaves with such flagrant disregard for international law, for wholly cynical reasons, but can you assure me on a personal level Mr Stephens, that you as an individual member of that government and someone with specialist knowledge of the subject, will not support any flouting by Britain of international law, or the authority of the UN General Assembly? Can you assure me on a personal level that you will not support British intervention in Syria, or in the Empire’s ultimate objective of provoking war with Iran - without the specific authority of the UN to do so?

No matter how the PR “experts” spin it, the murder of innocent defenceless civilians by British forces is still the murder of innocent defenceless civilians by British forces. It’s not only morally reprehensible, obviously, it is illegal. Such actions are war crimes and or crimes against humanity – and the whole world knows it. It must not be condoned.

Further to my last letter concerning the government’s appalling action over Julian Assange. It was recently reported that the government’s position is that it’s bound to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden. It is not at all so bound. Mr Assange has been granted political asylum in Ecuador and international law, which trumps extradition requests, requires him to be afforded safe passage to that country. Our government’s role-model, the US government, has long ignored far more legitimate extradition requests (by a host of South American countries for example); and in 1998 when Spain sought the extradition of the Chilean torturer and mass murderer Augusto Pinochet from England the British government refused, and allowed him safe passage back to Chile. More recently, just this year, when the Chinese dissident Chen Guancheng sought asylum in the US from the US embassy in Beijing he was allowed safe passage through Chinese territory, from the embassy to the airport, and onwards to the US. So if such a repressive and authoritarian government as China is supposed to have can behave in such an honourable way, why can’t the British government do so? It seems to me that the simplest solution to this dilemma would be for Sweden to drop its ridiculous extradition request – which is obviously politically motivated – and Britain should concentrate its diplomatic efforts on helping the Swedish government to realise that. But in the absence of that happening anytime soon, Mr Assange must be allowed safe passage to Ecuador.


Yours sincerely,

John Andrews

Conclusion

Those of us who try to fight for the 99% have few weapons at our disposal. If just one person writes to our elected political representatives, showing that we’re on to them, it’s better than nothing. But if more and more people do it, saying basically the same thing, it will inevitably make it a little harder for those representatives to blindly follow party orders; it will work away on the vestiges of their consciences, and it will remove the hiding place of ignorance: they will not ever be able to say “I didn’t know any better” – because we’re telling them. If nothing else, it can’t do any harm.



24 August 2012

Safe and Sound

What should be the first duty of a government?

Surely it must be to provide for the security and freedom of its people? If it isn’t that what else could it be? I shall define the main words I’ve just used shortly (government, security and freedom), but I would just like to begin by making some other relevant points.

Firstly, when I use the words security and freedom in the context of duties of government, I intend that they should be considered jointly and together – of equal importance. It cannot be, in my view, that security is more important than freedom, or vice versa. Consider, for example, a prisoner locked up in solitary confinement. If we assume his captors are relatively humane we could argue he is perfectly secure – but he is obviously not free. How many people would choose to live like that? Conversely we could imagine a ship-wrecked sailor say, surviving on an otherwise uninhabited desert island. She would be perfectly free, but quite possibly very insecure (if food or water was scarce, say, or if she was seriously injured, or if deadly animals or insects shared the island with her). Once again, it’s not likely that many people would choose to have her freedom. Therefore surely a good government must strive to provide security and freedom.

Secondly, could there be anything else that’s more important for government to do? I’ve thought about this quite a lot, and I really don’t think so; and I might be able to prove this when I discuss definitions shortly.

Thirdly, I think it’s true to say that most people would agree that a good government should not need to favour any one group of people above any other. But if it did have to make such a choice surely most people would say it should favour the disadvantaged. Surely, you would think, the one group to whom a good government should not provide preferential treatment would be the group comprising the richest and most powerful people in the land – people who are more than capable of obtaining almost anything they want anytime they want.

But what does the planet actually have? It has an overwhelming majority of governments that have always routinely provided preferential treatment to the richest and most powerful people (a group superbly caricatured by the Occupy Movement as the 1%), at the expense of the most vulnerable people – in other words, the very opposite of good government. Governments do this by creating laws that shackle all the rest of us, the 99%, to the control of the 1%; and by permitting the 1% to be excused from obeying any inconvenient laws themselves. As Henry Kissinger once remarked,
“The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”
Laws such as paying taxes, for example, are routinely ignored by the very rich as the New York heiress and tax fraudster Leona Helmsley would no doubt have agreed when she said,
“We don’t pay taxes. It’s the little people who pay taxes.”
Helmsley was exceptional only in that her arrogance exposed her criminality and she was actually tried and convicted for tax evasion in 1989. The overwhelming majority of the 1% are seldom stupid enough to get caught like that.

Returning to my initial suggestion that the first duty of government should be to provide people with security and freedom, let’s consider the key words a little more closely.

The provision of freedom should not be a very difficult thing for a government to do. After all, the vast majority of people, like all living creatures, want to be free; so what could be so hard about legislating for something people want anyway? The complications arise partly from how we express our freedom, and partly from how that expression impacts on others. For example, if I live in a small flat say, and want to express my freedom by playing very loud music late at night, I would probably be ignoring the feelings of my neighbours who probably want to sleep. It’s surely unreasonable for me to behave that way on the grounds that I have every right to express my freedom any way I like.

Of course there’s nothing original about this subject. It’s been debated for many thousands of years; and for many thousands of years a perfectly reasonable solution has been widely practised by many societies all around the world. It’s a very simple solution commonly known as the Golden Rule, which states that we should treat others as we would expect others to treat us in the same circumstances. There’s nothing hard about that, and the vast majority of people instantly recognise it as a natural etiquette. Surely then the way government allows us to express our freedom should simply resonate with the Golden Rule, a principle that’s widely popular and possibly as old as civilisation itself: we should be free to do as we please – providing we don’t restrict the freedom of others. It would seem there couldn’t be anything especially hard about a government basing its constitutional position on the subject of freedom on the Golden Rule. But that isn’t what happens.

We have instead governments that pander to the freedom of the 1% at the expense of the freedom of the 99%. We have governments comprising people who have either never heard of the Golden Rule, or who have heard of it but choose to ignore it. There is much evidence to prove this – such as the freedom given to the 1% to ignore laws that are rigorously enforced on the 99%; and the freedom of the 1% to move anywhere they like without bothering with the barriers, borders or “security” checks the 99% must endure.

Which brings me to that other word I should explain more fully, since it’s the other component of good government: security.

Most First World governments are actually pretty keen to provide us with “security” – so much so they spy on nearly everything we do. Our streets are covered with spy cameras and there are efforts to pass laws so that every telephone call we make can be recorded, together with every e-mail or text message we send. Our trusted governments use hundreds of heavily armed police to break up gatherings of defenceless peaceful protesters, and they send tens of thousands of even more heavily armed troops to distant parts of the planet to murder defenceless civilians who are completely incapable of causing us any harm even if they wanted to. They allow a massive foreign army to establish permanent bases for its troops on our land. All this, we’re told, is for our “security”, to protect “our interests”. Like almost everything else our government tells us, it’s a monstrous, cynical lie.

So what should real security look like, as provided by a good government? Like most things that would be truly in the people’s interests, it wouldn’t be very difficult to do.

Firstly, we should be kept safe from the invasion of foreign armies, and safe from the efforts of foreign armies to control our economy by using blockades to enforce trade sanctions. Given there are now long-standing international laws that make armed invasions illegal, and given that most ordinary people have absolutely no desire to wage physical or economic war on other countries, this shouldn’t be a very difficult thing for a government to do. The fact that what we actually have is Permanent War, and that our armies routinely interfere with the economies of other countries, is just one huge piece of the evidence of corrupt government, one huge piece of evidence for why our system of government must be changed.

(An important aside: I have to point out that “war” is an inaccurate word here. All war is an abomination, of course, but to use it in the context of what our governments actually do is to dignify their action. What our governments actually do is commit mass murder, so when I use the expression Permanent War, what I actually mean is Permanent Mass Murder).

Secondly, we should be kept safe from the criminal actions of our fellow citizens. Human society will probably always contain a very tiny minority of potentially dangerous people – people who see nothing wrong in being violent to others, or stealing or damaging the property of others. Contrary to what many might expect, the very worst of these people are not gangster, hoodie slum-dwellers; the worst of the criminal class wear expensive suits and are trusted to run the world. Of the other criminal types - those most people would consider criminals – it must be stressed that such people are a very tiny minority of the population, and if the other conditions of a truly secure society that are described below were provided, that number would be even smaller. So a small number of laws to protect the ordinary citizen from the wilful mischief of a tiny handful of others, together with the means to enforce those laws, would be quite enough to provide this second element of security.

But the term “security”, as far as good government is concerned and its duty to provide it, has an even broader meaning. For people to feel secure they must not only feel physically secure, they need also to feel economically secure. There would be little comfort in feeling safe from physical attack but unsure where your next meal was coming from, say - or where you might find comfortable and safe shelter tonight. But as with everything else modern governments do, economic security is provided mainly for the 1%; the 99% must often make their own arrangements. Once again the evidence for this is abundant.

Every effort is made by governments to ensure the 1% may keep every penny of their often ill-gotten gains, whilst the 99% are expected to pay with their labour and the taxes on their paltry earnings for the state-subsidized fortunes of the 1%. The supply of money, the very life-blood of the economy, is wholly entrusted to the 1% to manage. The 99% are prohibited by vicious laws from organising and combining the only resource they have – their labour – in order to protect their interests, whilst every effort is made to ensure the 1% may combine their forces in the shape of trans-national cartels and monopolies. In short, economic security for the 99% is the very last thing our existing governments want to provide – or so their actions suggest. If viewed through the eyes of the 1%, whose wishes our existing governments serve, that position is entirely logical: if the 99% felt economically secure it would be all but impossible for the 1% to control them through their proxies – our own trusted governments.

If physical security was a given, the provision of real economic security for the 99% would not be difficult. It requires just a few essential conditions for a happy life:
1. People must have sufficient nourishing food and potable water. 2. They must have good clothing and secure and comfortable shelter. 3. They must have reliable energy supplies and good communications. 4. They must have the essentials to keep themselves clean and healthy, and have quick and easy access to essential medical care. 5. They must have good education.

It is not beyond the wit of good government to guarantee these things to people, it is simply beyond their desire to do so. The 1% would not approve.

Of course the immediate response of the 1% would be about cost. Who should pay for such an outrage as allowing the 99% to have economic security?

Well the people would pay, obviously – with their labour; but instead of wasting the fruits of their labour on the 1% their labour would be used to the benefit of the 99%. People should use some of their labour to provide the country with essential physical security, and to provide the five essentials for economic security. But no one should have to work more than twenty hours a week say, in order to benefit from the first duty of government. That would allow people plenty of time for other things – to study say, or just to relax with family and friends - or to work more, if they chose, in order to earn money to pay for luxuries.

Socialism requires that most of the economy is in the control of the state. But this isn’t necessary. The two main aspects of the economy that are necessary for the state to control is firstly to ensure that the physical and economic security of the people is guaranteed, and secondly to ensure that the state is in full control of the money supply (which is NOT the existing situation). There are of course other aspects of the economy the state also needs to control (such as capital flight, tax and tariff regulations, consumer and employment protection etc), but I suggest the two main issues for the state are to ensure that people have physical and economic security, and that the state has direct control of the money supply. In other words it’s the responsibility of the state to guarantee the basic essentials for a citizen to enjoy a reasonably happy life – in exchange for a modest amount of the citizen’s labour. This leaves room for luxuries to be provided by private enterprise. If some people want to spend some of their time creating luxuries, or labouring in order to pay for them, they should be able to do so – providing they are not forced or coerced into providing their labour for this reason.

This economic principle is the principle of ENOUGH and MORE. Simply stated it suggests that the duty of government is to ensure that the people have ENOUGH to provide themselves with the five essentials of a happy life - in return for a modest amount of their labour; and that MORE may be supplied by private enterprise to those who want it and are quite happy to work more than others in order to have it.

The weakness of socialism as an economic philosophy is its inability to separate out these two different aspects of supply and demand – socialism requires state control of all production, when this simply isn’t necessary. As far as the economy is concerned, the state’s main role should be to ensure that people have ENOUGH of the five essentials shown above, without having to work like slaves for it. If people want MORE than ENOUGH, and there will always be some, they should have enough free time to put in the extra work in order to have it. Private enterprise should be excluded from providing ENOUGH, as that’s the duty of the state, but should be free to supply MORE for those who want it. The state should be in sole control of supplying necessities, private enterprise should be allowed to supply luxuries.

It’s almost self-evident that such a radical re-organisation of our economy would automatically require the disconnection of the 1% from controlling the political decision-making process – as they do now; and arguably the single most important disconnection to effect is that of the 1%’s control of our money supply – an important lubricant of commerce. This would not be difficult. It simply requires government to take full control of the issuing of money – which is completely different from the present arrangement where the supply of money is wholly in the hands of the 1% (or to be a little more accurate, the 0.000001% of the 1%).

The final word I should discuss is “government”. Nearly every First World government is directly derived from some ruling elitist class – the 1%. The 99% who pay for this misgovernment with their taxes, labour and enterprise are routinely excluded from any significant role in the decision-making process, and any benefits they might get are mean and grudgingly made. Government is deemed far too important for little people to be involved with. Little people must just pay for it and do as they’re told. Unsurprisingly then, government decisions nearly always favour the 1% at the expense of the 99%.

Right-wing extremists argue otherwise, of course, citing substantial welfare budgets; but they conveniently forget to mention that welfare payments actually subsidize big business by allowing big business to keep the workforce in slave-like conditions. Ironically it’s something the right-wing extremists have in common with anarchists: they both talk about abolishing government.

But good government could be so beneficial to society it can be argued that it’s essential. Unfortunately what we have is bad government. In fact it’s so bad it’s almost possible to accept the anarchist and loony-right-wing position that no government at all would indeed be better.

So what would a good government look like? Once again, it isn’t difficult to imagine, if we accept the points already discussed: it simply requires government to be directly controlled by the 99%. In fact it should be directly controlled by 100% of the citizenry – properly informed. In other words ALL citizens should be able to take part, if they want to, in ALL government decision-making, and ALL citizens should supply a modest amount of their labour in providing public services.

There’s nothing especially revolutionary about this. Many countries have conscripted citizens in their armies and civil defence forces, and rely on voluntary organisations for providing countless other public services. The concept simply needs to be extended to all public services – especially those providing physical and economic security. Every citizen should not only be prepared to provide some modest amount of her labour to some essential public service, but should be happy to do so – recognising the vital importance to their own self-interests of having good public services. This duty should never be onerous: part-time hours of no more than twenty hours a week say, or full-time commitments of three or four months a year, say – in return for which public service the citizen is guaranteed physical and economic security, because her fellow citizens are directly helping to provide it.

Of course it’s very easy to write about how easy all this could be; and in theory it really could be that easy. The difficulty lies not in any rational philosophical argument. The difficulty is because the 1%, who are currently the de-facto power of the planet, would be strenuously, even violently opposed to such change – for the very obvious reason that power and wealth would no longer be theirs to control. Even if the 99% of one country were to try to shake-off the grip of their ruling 1% they would struggle, because the 1% of other countries would quickly rally to the defence of their class. This has happened in most popular rebellions from the French Revolution to the Russian Revolution. If the rest of Europe had allowed the early French revolutionaries to get on with their new vision The Terror would never have happened. But they couldn’t leave the French alone, the example of freedom for the 99% was too terrifying and had to be crushed. So too in Russia immediately following the Bolshevik revolution – the 1% of Europe and America were too shocked at the prospect of the 99% managing their own lives, and they never left Russia in peace to get on with it in case their example influenced the rest of the world (which it did anyway to some extent - in spite of the virulent opposition of the 1%).

This essay has been about trying to make clear what the first duty of a good government should be. It’s an important question because many people are now realising that what we actually have is surprisingly bad government, government which will never be improved by quadrennial substitutions of Tweedledum for Tweedledee – who are always required by the 1% to maintain our existing appalling system of government. Therefore we must first imagine what a good system of government would look like, and then set about creating it.

The first duty of good government must surely be to provide for the security and freedom of its people. If it isn’t that what else could it possibly be? Surely it’s more sensible for government to require the 1% to submit to the provision of freedom and security for the 99% than to persevere with the existing arrangement, which requires the 99% to sacrifice their freedom and security in order to gift it to the 1%? The theory of good government is surprisingly easy – but the 1% will always oppose it.


20 July 2012

Real Democracy Matters To Me.

Real democracy matters to me. I’ve written a 450 page book on the subject, and in the last eight years I’ve competed in four local elections in an effort to introduce it to England, for the first time ever. Real democracy matters to me.

So two weeks ago, when I had to overturn a democratically-made decision, it stuck in my throat a little bit. But that’s exactly what I did. Here’s what happened.

I’m the secretary of our local social club. Until recently it was a working men’s club with the same traditions and attitudes of similar institutions all over Britain. Up until I became involved with it a couple of years back it still forbade “lady” members from being “full” members, and from voting in general meetings, and from standing for election to the committee. I changed that. Real democracy matters to me.

I was elected secretary about a year ago (no one else wanted the job... neither did I, but that’s another story). Secretaries are significant people in British working-class organisations. I made it very clear at our first committee meeting that I would not remain part of the committee unless it conformed to a proper democratic decision-making process (well, as proper as the club rules permitted). I also informed the club’s employed steward that I refused to be his “boss” – that he worked for the committee, not me. In spite of that, tradition dies hard: the club steward – who had been the backbone of the club for over 20 years – still considered me his “boss”, and some old members of the ten person committee still expect “top table” (chairman, secretary, treasurer) to make the decisions.

Grantham Pigeon-racing Club is a small group who base themselves at our club. Pigeon-racing has deep traditional roots in British working-class culture; so although I’m not personally interested in it, and pretty much ignore the pigeon-racers’ infrequent gatherings, I quite like the club’s connection with the pastime.

A couple of weeks ago we had a normal monthly committee meeting. One of the issues brought up was that the pigeon-racers were using the club’s large function room when they met in order to do whatever it is they do to prepare their birds for a race, as they need quite a lot of enclosed space. This was thought to be a “health and safety” risk, and it was proposed to ban the pigeon-racers from using the club building. The person proposing the change can be loud and given to semi-hysterical outbursts. He banged on and on about the “health and safety” concern, without offering anything in the way of concrete proof for his argument. But “health and safety” is the cattle-prodder for many debates, and triggers alarm bells in most authorities as visions of law suits and damages claims instantly flash through their minds. Although I opposed the motion, and voted against banning the pigeon-racers, the rest of the committee supported the move... with immediate effect.

I duly wrote a letter to the secretary of the pigeon-racers’ club (who also happens to be our club steward), telling him of the committee’s decision.

Two days later he comes to see me, visibly quite upset. He explains that there are only two more race meetings this season, one of which was just two weeks away. The second and last meeting is scheduled for September. He goes on to explain that it’s really short notice for them to arrange an alternative venue for the meet in two weeks time. I can see his point. I’m also very aware of a back-story: some of the committee have long carried some personal vendetta against the club steward and have tried to push him out of his job – possibly for deeply cynical reasons. But that’s another story.

So I overturned the committee’s democratically-made decision, and told him to continue with his meeting in two week’s time, but I also told him I couldn’t justify allowing the meeting in September to proceed – by which time they could make alternative arrangements if necessary. I said I would raise the subject again at the next committee meeting (August), to see what they have to say about it.

A couple of days ago we had an extraordinary committee meeting about a completely unrelated subject. At the end of that meeting the would-be racing-pigeon banner announces that he wants to complain about the fact that I overturned a committee decision. I’m totally on the defensive, because he’s obviously right, and real democracy matters to me. But I’m unrepentant, and still perfectly content that I did the right thing. Why? For these reasons:

Firstly, for real democracy to work as it should, good and proper information needs to be available to the decision-makers. When we had the committee meeting which banned the pigeon-racers, good and proper information was not available. We did not know (and still don’t know) what the alleged “health and safety” concerns were, nor how plausible they might have been. Neither did we know that the pigeon-racers only had two more meetings, one of which was just two weeks away, and about the inconvenience of finding another venue for it at such short notice.

Secondly, no decision should ever be set in concrete. There must always be a certain flexibility to interpret or change the decision according to new information or changing circumstances – which is why we have an appeals system in law.

Thirdly, any decision must always be carried out with as much humanity as possible for those adversely affected by it.

Fourthly, if you believe a decision is wrong and inhumane, you should refuse to obey it – no matter how it’s made.

I believe in real democracy because I don’t know of any better way of making decisions that affect groups of people. But that isn’t to say it’s always perfect.


18 July 2012

A Quite Interesting Tale About Brigadier-General George William St George Grogan VC, CB, CMG, DSO & Bar

I’ve recently finished reading “Allied Intervention in Russia 1918 – 1919” by John Swettenham, an account of how the “allies” tried to kill-off the Bolshevik revolution before anyone could find out if it might possibly be a good idea. The book was published in 1967, and Mr Swettenham was very obviously no lefty. It would be interesting to see how a left-wing historian would tell this story – such as Hobsbawm, say, or Newsinger.

Nevertheless, Mr Swettenham did make a short passing reference to an incident that particularly caught my eye, an incident involving the Scottish World War 1 hero Brigadier-General George William St George Grogan VC, CB, CMG, DSO & Bar. Now the thing that immediately piqued my curiosity was the fact that I’d never heard of General Grogan. Whilst I do not pretend to be an expert on the “heroes” of the “Great” War, I have studied the subject a little bit, and was surprised to read about such a high-ranking person from that time, a VC to boot, that I’d never heard of. So I did a little digging.

There isn’t very much on the internet about General Grogan. The Wikipedia entry is only about 150 words or so, most of which is given over to the incident which led to his VC. However, there is quite a bit more about the man on the website of the Worcestershire Regiment, with which he was obviously closely connected: http://www.worcestershireregiment.com/wr.php?main=inc/o_grogan

Here we learn that he was the eldest son of a high-ranking career soldier, in whose footsteps he immediately trod as soon as he left school. In other words, he was military aristocracy. The whole article reads like a fairly typical war hero-type story. But the bit that’s particularly relevant to this article is the period relating to General Grogan’s activities in 1919. About this the regimental website tells us:
“After the Armistice he was selected for service in north Russia, assuming command of the 1st Brigade of the Relief Force which went out under Lord Rawlinson to accomplish the evacuation of the Archangel and Murmansk fronts.”

One sentence – but note that bit about the reason for him going to Russia.

Back to Mr Swettenham, who has a fascinating little piece of gossip to tell, which seems to have been forgotten in the otherwise quite comprehensive official regimental record. Grogan arrived in Archangel on May 26th 1919. According to Mr Swettenham,

“On the 20th June, Grogan launched a limited offensive using one battalion of Hampshires in conjunction with [White] Russian troops [against the Reds]... The Russian attack was a success and the whole offensive would have been more so if the Hampshires had participated. The reason for their not doing so lies with the C.O. and becomes clear from a letter written by him later (after he had been relieved of his command and sent back to England) and published in the London Daily Express.

'I volunteered for service with the North Russian Relief Force in the sincere belief that relief was urgently needed in order to make possible the withdrawal of low category troops, in the last stages of exhaustion, due to the fierce fighting amid the rigours of an Arctic winter...

'Immediately on arrival... I received the impression that the policy of the authorities was not what it was stated to be...troops... which we were told had been sent out purely for defensive purposes were being used for offensive purposes on a large scale and far into the interior...'


For that reason, he held back his battalion.” (1)

Well... Highly respected World War 1 battalion commander, a VC, “relieved of his command” because the policy of the authorities “was not what it was stated to be”???

Mr Swettenham tells us why the good general might have had this impression. Three months before Grogan arrived in Russia,
“Churchill [then Minister of War], fully cognizant of the threat posed by Communism for the future, left the [Paris] Peace Conference determined to do alone whatever could be done to crush the Soviets while a little time still remained. On March 3, 1919, he deliberately painted the picture in North Russia blacker than it really was, sounding a warning that it might be necessary to send reinforcements to that theatre to ensure the safe withdrawal of the tired troops. Newspapers took up the call, silencing for the present public agitation to ‘bring the boys back home’. A call then went out from the War Office for volunteers, and the response was tremendous. Eight thousand men were accepted to be formed into two brigades equipped with the latest equipment.” (2)

But Swettenham points out the British officer commanding the North Russian theatre, General Ironside, had “had no qualms” about the planned withdrawal of British troops:
“[Ironside’s] lines were much the same as when winter had started and White Russian strength was growing. ‘With a superior flotilla on the [Dvina] river I did not believe that anything could stop us from getting out.’ There seemed little doubt that the new force was to be put into North Russia as soon as ice conditions would permit for a last throw against the Bolsheviks.” (3)

So what we seem to have here is the story of a fine career soldier, decorated for his personal bravery with the highest award a British soldier can receive, sent home in disgrace for refusing to obey a dishonourable order that would not only needlessly endanger the lives of his own troops, but also needlessly take the lives of others to whom the field of battle had already been conceded. It was possibly the finest and bravest act of General Grogan’s career – and it’s all but entirely airbrushed out of history.

No wonder I’d never heard of him.

1. “Allied Intervention in Russia 1918-1919” by John Swettenham p.224
2. “ p.223
3. “ p.223


8 July 2012

Siege Mentality

On 4th April 1967 Martin Luther King gave a speech at the Riverside Church in New York. It was titled “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence”. In that speech he referred to his recent meetings with young gang members in American ghettoes angered by the terminal social injustice that surrounded them every day of their lives. King said the following:
“Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”

That was 1967. The Vietnam holocaust had another 8 terrible years to run. The hundreds of thousands became millions. Today, forty five years on, the millions have become tens of millions – maybe even hundreds of millions. The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is still the US government.

A few days ago, on the 1st July, Jonathan Marcus, the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent produced a report titled “Why US oil sanctions hurt Iran more than EU’s (sic)”. The article appeared on the BBC website and possibly on some of its other more obscure news reports. But as far as I know Mr Marcus’ piece never featured on any of the main BBC news bulletins, which is a little unfortunate because this topic is directly related to what will lead, in the not-too-distant-future, to young British people needlessly dying once again and, which is even worse, having young British people cause hundreds of thousands more to tremble under their violence, once again.

The reason for Mr Marcus’ article was that on that day, the 1st July, a new range of sanctions against Iran, imposed by EU countries, came into effect.

Wars between countries have always been about plunder. Wars have usually been the main means by which one set of grasping elites have plundered the wealth of other sets of grasping elites. If that was all there was to it – elites plundering each other – we could shrug our shoulders and let them get on with it, perhaps even enjoy the spectacle from the sidelines; but of course that isn’t all there is to it: we the ordinary people, the 99%, always have to endure 99% of the suffering, whilst the 1% who cause the wars always profit very handsomely.

Trade sanctions are an act of war. The main driver of trade sanctions today, and ever since it assumed its new role as global imperial power, has been the United States. A publication for the US-based Institute for International Economics titled “Economic Sanctions Reconsidered” showed that in 116 cases of trade sanctions, the UN, supposedly the centre of world governance, had imposed them on just 8 occasions. The UK was the second most prolific user of trade sanctions having done so 11 times; but far in front of all the competition, which is where it likes to be, was the United States, our supposed champions of “free trade”, who had enforced trade sanctions a whopping 67 times.

Today we’re encouraged to believe that imposing sanctions against Iran is necessary because Iran might produce nuclear weapons – even though there isn’t a shred of hard evidence to justify that view. So what might the real reasons be?

Back to Mr Marcus.

In his article Mr Marcus notes that:
“What makes the reach of the EU sanctions even greater, is that no European company will now be allowed to provide any financial or insurance services to assist in the selling or transportation of Iranian oil and petroleum products.
This means that many shipping lines whose tankers' insurance is brokered in London will either have to seek alternative arrangements or cease carrying Iranian petroleum exports or crude altogether. This all comes on the back of a range of US measures [which began in 1980] which have sought to persuade the largest customers for Iranian oil in Asia to reduce their purchases.”


Observe the use of that word “persuade”. For Mr Marcus goes on to say that:
“The teeth in the US sanctions effort is the threat of measures against the financial institutions of any country perceived by Washington as not to be taking sufficient steps to reduce its dependence on Iranian oil.
This has prompted a rush to find alternative suppliers for at least part of their Iranian imports.
Accordingly the US has issued waivers to some 20 countries who have been reducing their purchases of Iranian crude, absolving them from financial sanctions, including most recently China and Singapore.”


There are some who don’t or can’t believe that the United States behaves exactly the same as every other tyrannical empire that has ever existed. You can understand their confusion. After all, the US has always loudly professed itself to be the intrepid enemy of imperial tyranny, the champions of freedom, democracy and free trade; so they couldn’t possibly be something which they continually tell us they hate – could they? But quite apart from the fact that the US has military bases in almost every country on the planet, some of which are larger than most countries’ armies, what further evidence could be required for the existence of yet another plundering empire than this issue of imperial waivers to countries such as China and Singapore, “absolving them from financial sanctions”? Who ever elected the US president to position of global emperor, empowered to start wars wherever he chooses, often against democratic governments; and to “absolve” mighty economies from financial sanctions? Is that not a relevant question to put to our champions of democracy and free trade? Interestingly, one of the main European countries that has long resisted US pressure to reduce its Iranian oil imports is Greece because, according to professor Paul Stevens, a senior research fellow at Chatham House, Greece receives “very favourable terms on its Iranian crude which no other supplier is likely to match”.

Two years ago the Greek economy was not significantly worse than many other world economies, but curiously enough it was that country that was initially targeted by US credit agencies for the opening salvoes in the imperial war against the Euro, which continues to this day. It’s a lesson that’s unlikely to be lost on any other country that continues to choose Iranian oil in preference to a US proxy supplier (such as Italy, for example, Europe’s second largest importer of Iranian oil after Greece), as the empire “persuades” others to share its views on “free trade”. This “persuasion” of the financial and insurance services is a very convincing argument - in the same way that a gun held to one’s head can be quite persuasive - for it means that shipping companies might not find insurers for cargoes of Iranian oil, and merchants might not find banks prepared to handle trade deals with Teheran.

The EU’s action to support the isolation of a major competitor in the supply of the planet’s primary source of fuel is of course wonderful news for the empire, as it consolidates its position as monopoly supplier. Quite apart from Iran’s vast oil reserves, that country also occupies a very important strategic location in Asia, as a quick glance of a map of the region could quickly verify; and there will be no rest for the Iranian people until our champions of freedom and democracy - and free trade of course - are once again in full control of both – as they were thirty three years ago when Iran was being ruled by the tyrannical US proxy, Shah Reza Pahlavi.

Trade sanctions against Iraq, in which British armed forces were complicit in enforcing, are believed to have killed at least half a million Iraqi children, and who knows how many others – and that was before our armed forces then joined the empire in their illegal military invasion in 2003. If the deliberate killing of half a million children by a foreign country isn’t an act of war, indeed a war crime, then what is? If half a million British children were killed by a foreign country would we not consider it a war crime?

Trade sanctions are simply the modern name of an ancient tactic of war – the siege. Defenceless civilians - the elderly, the sick, women and kids - have always been the main victims of sieges. So when our government begins once again to actively support and enforce yet another siege against yet another sovereign country that does us no harm, to cause once again hundreds of thousands to tremble under our violence, surely it deserves a little public debate.


31 May 2012

He who pays the piper calls the tune

On 26th May The Times printed a short piece written by Michael Savage, one of their political correspondents. It was titled “Tories dropped me, despite donation.” It’s an article about someone called Vincent Tchenguiz who, The Times tells us, is a “Mayfair property magnate” who had donated £120,000 to David Cameron’s party.

We learn that Mr Tchenguiz “was held along with his brother, Robert, for 12 hours in March last year and questioned about allegations related to loans they secured [from Kaupthing Bank, which collapsed in 2008].”

It would seem that being held was upsetting for Mt Tchenguiz. The Times reports him saying this about his ordeal: “Politicians disappear. I would have expected something. At least a phone call to find out what was happening. They are afraid to get involved in a case like this. At least you would expect someone to ask a few questions: how? why? where?”

But why should Mr Tchenguiz expect politicians to ask a few questions? Because he had donated £120,000 to David Cameron’s party perhaps? Although the paper reports that he said “he had never been looking for anything in return for the money”, it also tells us “that he would not comment on whether he would continue to donate to the Tories”.

Many people still believe in the basic trustworthiness of our political system. Although they are often agitated about stories of MPs fiddling a few thousand pounds here and there in their expense accounts, no one seems to question the very system itself whereby hundreds of millions of pounds are routinely funnelled into the coffers of political parties. When this occurs in certain Third World countries media hacks are quick to label the practice as “corruption”, but no one seems to concern themselves when it takes place here in Britain, or the United States where truly vast sums of money are “donated” to politicians. No doubt most of these fine philanthropists, if asked, would respond in a similar way to Mr Tchenguiz and tell us that they too would not be looking for anything in return for the money.

There are many things seriously wrong with our political system. However, the simplest way to make a significant change towards putting things right would be to stop the blatantly corrupt practice of allowing rich individuals and organisations to donate small fortunes to political parties. The fact that this obviously simple remedy is not applied helps to prove that our political system is run by and for the rich and powerful. Until we have a political system entirely funded by the taxpayer we are unlikely to see a system that truly benefits the taxpayer.

29 April 2012

Although I haven’t written anything fresh on this page since the end of March, the basic message that caused the creation of this website in 2004, and has inspired my writing since then, is still unchanged. My commitment to making the world a happy place for all living things is possibly even stronger today, and increasing in strength and commitment, with each new outrage perpetrated by the fascist empire and its British puppet government. All of the entries below provide ample evidence and justification for this view. If that isn’t enough to persuade the ignorant to see the light, then they are destined to remain in darkness and, which is worse, pass on their ignorance to the young. There’s no point in repeating myself any longer or saying any more on the subject. The time for more direct action has arrived.

COME THE REVOLUTION!

John Andrews

22 March 2012

Your Money or Your Life

Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, read his annual budget speech in parliament. As a piece of purely political theatre it is surely exceeded only by the ludicrous annual Opening of Parliament – the ritual costume pantomime whose only real benefit is routinely lost with every repeat performance: that in spite of all the pretensions and illusions of our so-called democracy, real power in Britain is pretty much exactly the same as it was a thousand years ago.

The annual farce of the chancellor’s budget has little of the pageantry of the yearly visit by the monarch, but given the fact that the nation’s media seem unable to find anything else to talk about when it happens, it is of course always useful as a distraction from the many other events the people should be hearing about. We should be hearing more about what our country’s intentions are in the impending war with Iran, for example; or finding out why exactly our government is sabre rattling around the Falkland/Malvinas islands – again; or what exactly is behind the government initiative to export teaching jobs to Indian call-centres. But no; our trusted media spend hours and hours distracting our attention with their supposed analyses of the chancellor’s budget. Well we all know what the implications of the chancellor’s budget will be. We don’t need the media to waste our time telling us. They’re exactly the same implications as they’ve been for at least the last thirty years:

The rich are going to get richer, and the poor are going to get poorer. And until we have significant political reform that will be exactly the same budget story, year after year, until there’s absolutely nothing left to plunder – by which time the plunderers will have packed up and left to enjoy their ill-gotten gains in their various treasure islands and other off-shore tax-havens, exactly as has happened to every other dying empire since the dawn of “civilisation”.

I think parliament should start a new annual custom to precede the chancellor’s budget. Rather than the present naff pantomime where the world’s press collect outside the door of 11 Downing Street to film a dull-looking little businessman leaving home with a tatty red box, we should instead see a masked highwayman striding arrogantly out his door, mount a shining black steed and gallop off towards parliament, black cape billowing behind him, pistol waving in the air as he cries out through the streets of London, “Your money or your life”.

4 March 2012

The Minimum Wage and the Trade Union Movement

I never trusted the minimum wage when it was re-introduced in Britain at the close of the last millennium. I didn’t know why I didn’t trust it; I just didn’t trust it. Perhaps a lot of it was because of the rapidly emerging anarchist in me, the person who had finally understood that our trusted government is never to be trusted – ever – about anything; that if perchance our government does do something that’s truly in the interests of the people it’s either a mistake, which will soon be remedied, or there’s some deeply cynical motive behind it which will also be re-adjusted once it’s served its purpose. So I never knew why the government of that great champion of human rights, Tony Blair, decided to introduce a National Minimum Wage, but I was quietly confident it wasn’t out of any sincere sympathy for the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. The fact that the US had also been using the minimum wage as an economic tool for some decades did nothing to persuade me to think otherwise; if that bastion of worker exploitation used a minimum wage structure, there just had to be something fishy about it.

Most people are not trained economists, and the few who are are trained in the gentle art of capitalist economics. Capitalism, according to Keynes (who knew a bit about the subject),
“...is the astounding belief that the wickedest of men will do the wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone”.
So given that capitalism is undeniably today’s ruling economic philosophy, it automatically follows that if the average person is hoping for economic justice from her economic masters she’s living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

I guess the first time I started to figure out the rules of the game was a couple of years back when I began to understand the inflation scam. Inflation is the rate at which prices increase, and we’re conditioned to think of it as a mortal sin. When inflation is out of control, as it has been several times in history (Germany say, in the 1930s; or Zimbabwe at the dawn of the new millennium), it is indeed pretty bad news. However, it turns out that inflation itself is nowhere near as bad as the way it’s deliberately manipulated by our trusted rulers.

If inflation was measured by the rise in prices of essential things, like food and water, say, and housing and energy, it could be quite a useful tool; but it isn’t. For it turns out that in the UK, for example, the prices whose changes are measured, and which then determine the rate of inflation, are carefully selected from a “basket” of goods and services comprising about 180,000 items. Furthermore, the “basket” used in one year seldom, if ever, has exactly the same things in it as the “basket” used the following year; and even if it ever did contain the same items other variable devices are used (such as “weighting” - whereby the relative importance of goods is supposedly adjusted for) one fact is certain: it’s quite impossible to accurately compare the price changes of the “basket” used in one year with the “basket” used the following year.

(Note the cynicism of the very word “basket”. It suggests our weekly shopping, which suggests something we not only need, but should trust. The reality is completely different.)

Information about inflation is quite easy to obtain on the internet. What isn’t quite so easy to find out is who exactly makes the key decisions. Having unsuccessfully tried numerous links I decided to just ask someone who should know the answer, and I e-mailed the Office for National Statistics. I simply asked “...which organisation gets to decide each year things like what exactly comprises the basket of goods, and the relative weightings?”. After a while I got back quite an interesting answer.

The very first sentence of the answer reads, “We - The Office For National Statistics - make all the decisions”. When I read that my first reaction was surprise, closely followed by a bit of disappointment, because if it was true it meant one of my little pet theories was incorrect, and I couldn’t really write this essay. But... the answer then continued:

“We consult with the Bank Of England and the Treasury on our decisions, but it is entirely up to us what goes into the basket. We are bound by certain Eurostat directives, of course. For example on Owner Occupied Housing. We plan to introduce this to the CPI, and have been guided by Eurostat as to which section of the COICOP classifications to use. And we have been liaising with the Bank and treasury about the changes, and possible impact on the top level data”.

So the ONS “consults” and liaises with the Bank of England, and The Treasury, and is “bound” by European directives... but the ONS makes all the decisions?

Statistics is a fairly straightforward science. You count, measure and record things. Apart from obtaining the relevant information in order to properly do that there isn’t really a great need for much consulting, liaising and bondage to foreign institutions. In other words, there shouldn’t be any greater need to consult with the Bank of England and The Treasury than there is to consult with the NHS say, or the Jobcentre.

My suspicions settled down and I carried on typing.

Because what all this means, surely, is that inflation is a very long way from being the cold scientific fact we’re encouraged to believe it is. It’s actually a tool which is capable of cynical manipulation in a multitude of ways to produce particular political and economic outcomes.

Once it’s understood how it’s possible to fiddle the level of inflation to produce any required result, the minimum wage scam starts to become clear. The British government has for a long time directly linked annual benefit and pension increases to the rate of inflation. In 2009 I showed how the rate of inflation for our home that year was 5 times higher than the official 4.4% figure given by the government. This needed no devious trickery on my part. I simply compared the price rises of our essentials - things we’d actually needed such as water, energy and food bills - rather than the unspecified items the ONS said we needed... in consultation with the Bank of England, Treasury and Eurostat - obviously.

Although the minimum wage isn’t officially linked to the rate of inflation, it hasn’t drifted very far away from it either - especially over the last few years, when it’s actually been less than the rate of inflation. It might not be so bad if everyone’s pay was similarly managed, but that, needless to say, is not the case. The minimum wage affects the poorest and most vulnerable sector of society, almost as much as those who have to rely on state benefits or pensions. At the other end of the scale, however, top executives have never had to trouble themselves with what the rate of inflation or the minimum wage is doing.

If we look at the last numbers from the last decade for the rate of inflation and the rate of increase of the minimum wage (the Low Pay Commission was my source), we find that inflation averaged about 2.17% whilst the increase in minimum wage averaged about 4.49% - but note that minimum wage increases have been below the rate of inflation for the last three years. The minimum wage has increased about 64% from its level at the turn of the millennium.

But if we turn to the numbers for the other side of the coin, top executives, we find an altogether different situation. My source for this was the High Pay Commission whose latest report showed that over the last three decades the rate of increase of executive pay has been, on average, 955% per decade. 64% plays 955%. And we're all in it together?

The Role of the Trade Union Movement

It’s difficult to understand the role of the trade union movement in all this. The recent history of the story in Britain is curious, to say the least.

Up until the mid 80s wages in Britain had been regulated to some extent by a variety of more or less independent wage councils. Although life wasn’t a bed of roses for the poorest paid in the country, it wasn’t too bad either; and their condition was further eased by a pretty good welfare state. But times were a-changing. Thatcher was in charge, and had been crushing unions wherever she could, from the miners to steel-workers and car-workers. In 1986 her government passed the Wages Act, which began to limit the power of wage councils, and by 1993 they were abolished altogether. One of the reasons given for this was that it was supposedly what the unions wanted because, it was claimed, it gave them more power in wage negotiations with employers... and the desires of the unions suddenly mattered to a government that had been doing everything in its power to kill-off the TU movement since 1979?

In 1998 Thatcher had long gone and the next great champion of human rights Tony Blair was running things. His government introduced the National Minimum Wage, with the support of the TU movement... the same movement that had supposedly supported the abolition of wage councils a few years earlier so that it would have more power in wage negotiations?

The working class have, by and large, always trusted and supported the TU movement (who else could they turn to?)... but the steady stream of past TU leaders who, upon parting company with their comrades and brothers, have bent their steps towards the comfortable accommodation at the House of Lords – the traditional retirement home for friends of the government - should give pause for thought to anyone.

So no doubt the TU movement occasionally criticise the obscene payments gifted to top executives – along with the rest of the working world – but why have we heard less from them about the way the minimum wage is clearly being used as a cynical tool of control?

Perhaps it’s because most union members are paid better than the minimum wage. The minimum wage applies primarily, in the UK, to agency workers and other types of wage slaves who, almost traditionally, have little or no union representation – such as care workers, shop workers, couriers and the hotel and catering trade. Perhaps the TU movement thinks it only needs to concern itself with the relatively well-off unionised worker. If so, I think that’s a seriously short-sighted view.

It seems to me that the world is accelerating rapidly away from the relatively sane economic principles of Adam Smith towards kleptocratic fascism, partly because the TU movement, which is comfortably the most powerful force that could counter this headlong race towards calamity, is providing absolutely no economic counter-argument. Our lords and masters preach “There Is No Alternative” to belt-tightening and austerity (which they obviously ignore for themselves) and the TU movement does nothing - apart from occasionally organising a few protests which have no obvious purpose or direction other than making a noise. What’s needed now, more desperately than at any time since Marx and Lenin strode the planet, is a new economic model, a new economic direction which the working class – all 99% of it – can turn to; a direction that will lead to the long-term survival of the 99%, and our planet. Such models exist – but they need the power of the TU movement to get behind them.

More than 200 years ago Tom Paine wrote the following:
“Several laws are in existence for regulating and limiting workmen’s wages. Why not leave them to make their own bargains as the lawmakers are to let their farms and houses? Personal labour is all the property they have. Why is that little, and the little freedom they enjoy, to be infringed?”

A fairly simple starting point would be for the TU movement to promote the scrapping of the minimum wage. The minimum wage serves employers, not workers. In today’s employer-dominated economy it simply wouldn’t exist otherwise. Our trusted leaders do nothing that really serves the interests of the 99% - except by mistake or for cynical ulterior motives. Having a minimum wage, together with the plentiful supply of desperate or oppressed people who can do no better than accept it, enables employers to gradually drag down the wages of all other employees. If an employer had always to be mindful of the possibility of losing his lowest paid workers because someone else is paying more, he would be more motivated to pay a living wage. That’s how it was in the UK before the minimum wage came in, and factory and warehouse jobs, for example, were relatively well-paid. That was a time when the country had probably achieved the zenith of the economic revolution that had first started in earnest a hundred and fifty years earlier, with the Chartist movement. The arrival on the world stage of the Terrible Twins, Thatcher and Reagan, began to reverse the process a generation ago, turning the planet towards the abyss upon which we now stand poised.

Of course scrapping the minimum wage is not the only issue that needs to be addressed in any economic recovery. There are very many other factors too, such as repairing the welfare state such that people are not forced to choose between slavery or starvation; reform of the entire education system such that people are taught useful skills that will enable them to work for themselves and think for themselves instead of trusting leaders – of any description. Pirate banksters need to be eliminated, capital flight controlled, useful jobs created, the vile practice of using refugees and prisoners as slaves eliminated... the list goes on. But the point of this essay is firstly to question the submissive position of the trade union movement in the economic rape of society, perpetrated by our own trusted leaders; and then to suggest a simple but good and powerful cause that might serve as a turning point, a pivot around which the descent into fascism may be halted and then reversed; and a new economic model that serves the 99% created.

It’s difficult to adequately express the outrage at the injustice that the numbers prove. Not only is there the obscene handouts being received by top executives, that far exceeds not only the supposed rate of inflation but also any real use those people might provide to society - there’s also the deliberate victimisation of the poorest sectors of our community, depressing their earnings below not only the actual rate of inflation, but the manipulated rate too.

Our existing economic system isn’t a difficult thing to fix. There are many models which would serve to provide more social justice. It simply requires a reasonably honest government to do what those who elect it expect it to do: protect the interests of the 99%. Instead we’re burdened, year after year, election after election, by governments who do the exact opposite: protect the interests of the 1%. Radical reform is long, long overdue.


30 January 2012

The case against statues in general, and statues of Margaret Thatcher in particular

Statues should never be erected in public places unless they commemorate someone who made a great contribution to the arts or sciences (such as Beethoven say, or Newton), or someone who tried to make the world a better place (Ghandi, or Martin Luther King). They should be things that celebrate the best in human nature. Margaret Thatcher simply does not qualify on any of those grounds. My opposition to having a statue of her in Grantham is based mostly on hard fact, not opinion – although it’s pretty difficult for anyone to be in possession of the facts about her reign, and not also have a very negative opinion.

On 14th April 1982, when Thatcher had been in power for almost three years, The Times published a Gallup poll saying the public thought she was the worst prime minister in British history. If she had done the honourable thing then, and resigned, it would have been reasonable for the people of Grantham to chip in for a small plaque to an embarrassing reminder of an historical anomaly. I might even have contributed. But she didn’t do the honourable thing; she stayed on, and things got worse – very much worse, until eventually even her closest friends had to throw her out. Her trail of calamity and destruction began in earnest within weeks of that Gallup poll.

• On 2nd April Thatcher’s government arranged for the unnecessary killing of over 900 people on some isolated islands thousands of miles away from England. It’s difficult to divine any explanation for this other than to provide her with a public relations coup that would enable her to tighten her stranglehold around British throats for another 8 agonising years. Thirty years later the British people still supply 1,200 soldiers “to protect” 2,600 foreign islanders in a dispute that is still not resolved, and never will be until the islands become independent or part of their nearest large neighbour – Argentina. If that handful of islanders were so desperate to be British it would have been infinitely cheaper to just move them to England and pay them Income Support - and the pointless deaths of 900 people would also have been averted.

• The grotesque Chilean dictator, General Pinochet, must have been something of a personal favourite of Thatcher’s, for she took tea with him when he was being hunted down for crimes ranging from obscene human rights violations to tax evasion and embezzlement; and her government went out of its way to provide him with sanctuary (which they called “house arrest”).

Other shameful actions of Thatcher’s government included:

• support for Indonesia’s monstrous Suharto and the biggest per capita genocide in modern history, perpetrated in East Timor;

• support for US foreign policy in Latin America when hundreds of thousands of defenceless civilians were being butchered by US-backed terrorists;

• Abdication of responsibility to the Chagos Islanders, who were as British as the Falkland Islanders, and who were savagely evicted from their idyllic home in the sixties, on the wishes of the US war machine. The Chargossians never gave up their struggle to return home, but Thatcher’s government wasn’t interested in helping those British islanders;

• Allowing the supply of barbaric war materials to Saddam Hussein, which were used on countless defenceless civilians.

Shameful domestic policies included:

• selling off the family silver. Most of Britain’s publicly owned utilities – water, transport, communications and power were all sold off under Thatcher so that today they’re mostly owned by foreign corporations who charge us four times as much as we would be paying had they remained in our possession; and the rip-off profits are flown out to fat-cat taxhavens instead of being recycled into our economy;

• killing off British manufacturing – the primary source of the nation’s wealth. By executing the trade union movement Thatcher enabled the corporate bosses who bankrolled her party to asset-strip the country and ship British jobs to foreign sweatshops whilst flying the profits off to fat-cat taxhavens - instead of recycling them into our economy;

• killing off one of the very few truly great achievements of a thousand years of British history – the welfare state. The fire-sale of public utilities began to be extended on Thatcher’s watch to all other public services, and led to the truly abhorrent “Private Finance Initiative”.

But it might be argued that the crowning achievement of her reign of terror was the so-called “Big Bang”. This was the event that effectively handed over the government of our country to “The City”. It was the event which enabled the plundering of the 99% to move into top gear, and triggered the slide of the world’s economy to the brink of the precipice upon which we stand today.

These are just some of the more serious disasters directly attributable to Thatcher’s government. They are the historical record, not bigoted opinion. Thatcher had 11 years-worth of opportunities to make the world a better place, yet I can’t think of a single thing she did that had that effect, or just genuinely showed that intention. This was not a person who exemplified the best in human nature.


15 January 2012

Letter to My MPs
(Copy of a letter sent to the MPs Nick Boles and Stephen Phillips on 5th January 2012, and copied to the Grantham Journal, which duly ignored it.)

I’m very concerned about the escalation of tension, again, in the Persian Gulf. This escalation is driven largely by the US and its vile little proxy in the region – Israel. However, as recent history shows a very great enthusiasm for the British government to involve itself in events which could only be seen as war crimes by any objective person, it’s very clear that every effort should be made to ensure our country does not embroil itself in the much-desired US/Israeli destruction of Iran.

Very few of the really important events in the Middle East are making it into our mainstream news. It’s difficult to see any explanation for this other than a deliberate intention to keep the British people in ignorance in order to trick them once again into accepting yet another obscene and inexcusable war.

Nothing but chaos and terror exists wherever the current empire goes, always routinely supported by the British government, which often sends British forces off to die and, which is even worse, kill and maim defenceless civilians in industrial quantities in distant countries that pose absolutely no threat to Britain – on the orders of foreign generals serving foreign corporations. For example, our government has assisted in turning Afghanistan into an utterly lawless nightmare of a country; Iraq is now little better, and just yesterday 72 more innocents were blown up in this land we helped “liberate” – another event deemed too irrelevant for the BBC to mention in its main “news”. The recent war crimes committed in Libya, where British forces were once again involved, included the cold-blooded murder of the head of state, who just a year ago was officially considered our “friend”.

As for the economy... our government’s villainous economic policy (socialise cost; privatise profit), together with its passionate support of “The City” has lumbered the British people with the biggest private debt on the planet, plundered vital national assets such as our water, transport and power companies, decimated millions of jobs, ruined our public services, and facilitated vast tax evasion for the pleasure of the 1% of the 1%.

You will of course know full well there is very widespread, and growing, disaffection with almost everything our government has done for the last thirty years (irrespective of which party is pretending to be in charge); actions which, at best, could only be described as bungling incompetence. Our bankrupt economy is more than sufficient evidence for this. However, allying our armed forces ever more closely with an outrageous marauding empire, whose crimes against humanity accumulate by the day, is arguably even more serious. I hope you’ll be aware of these considerations whenever you’re called upon to vote in parliament on any related issue, and that you also take a direct interest in any relevant actions of our ambassador at the United Nations. Vitally important decisions such as imposing further trade and diplomatic sanctions on Iran must not be supported when there is no significant danger to Britain. Sanctions are an act of war in which British forces have long specialised, and prior to the destruction of Iraq helped to kill at least half a million children there. As for the impending direct war with Iran, Britain must not get involved – except in doing all it can to prevent it. I hope you will do everything in your power to support those of us who strongly oppose yet another obscene war.

(The current straw poll on this website asks the question "Should Britain join in America's planned war with Iran?". As of this date 84.62% of responses say "No".)


1 January 2012

The Magic of Hollywood

The great John Pilger has often written about the powerful propaganda services that have been provided over the years by Hollywood film studios. He’s cited such “classic” movies as “The Green Berets”, “Apocalypse Now” and “The Deerhunter” to prove his point.

Of course Hollywood was far from being the first to use popular entertainment as an effective means of brainwashing an otherwise uninformed population. British film studios, for example, churned out a considerable number of movies during the Second World War for exactly the same purpose, and a number of actors such as Richard Todd, Alec Guinness and John Mills established handsome careers for themselves by starring in many of them. When we look at these movies today the blatant propaganda messages are so numerous and obvious it’s difficult to see any other purpose for making them.

Although many people are vaguely aware that these old films served a powerful and effective brainwashing function, how many look at far more modern movies and wonder if they are very much different, and if they too are providing exactly the same propaganda service?

Lorraine and I recently watched “An Officer and a Gentleman” on TV. Although it’s hardly a recent film, being made thirty years ago, it doesn’t yet have the feel of being very old either; and although I saw it a couple of times just after it was made, I hadn’t seen it for quite a while, and it was interesting how much of it’s inherently propaganda nature we picked up on this time, having not really noticed it when I first saw it.

The film starts with a fairly standard routine. Richard Gere’s character plays Zack Mayo, the young street-wise rebel who joins the navy as an officer candidate because, as Mayo touchingly reveals during one of the many inevitable confrontations between him and Sergeant Foley, the steely-eyed drill instructor played by Louis Gossett Jr., he has nowhere else to go. Much of the film is then given over to the rigours of Mayo’s basic training, which is sufficiently true-to-life to be plausible (I too was once an officer cadet). Meanwhile, across a picturesque bay, Debra Winger plays the part of Paula Pokrifki. Paula is white “trailer-trash” who works in a factory that makes paper bags. The viewer is encouraged to think that her work in almost Dickensian conditions is truly hateful and that the only “American Dream” that exists for the women who toil away there is to eventually escape by marrying one of the officer candidates at Mayo’s training camp.

It’s all entirely predictable stuff: Mayo qualifies as a naval pilot officer and on the day he graduates he appears on his spotlessly clean motorcycle at Paula’s factory, like a knight in shining armour, and quite literally carries her off into the sunset, presumably to live happily ever after.

As I said, it’s some years since I last saw the movie, and today I understand a lot better how the world really works. Although the film we watched the other night was exactly the same film I last saw several years ago, I saw it much better, which is to say that I noticed a host of things I would obviously have seen before, but which didn’t register – at a conscious level anyway.

For example, very early on in the film we’re treated to a scene where Sergeant Foley first meets Mayo and his fellow trainees. There follows the usual barrage of shouting, intimidation and witty insults by Foley that are entirely standard fare in these scenes. Although the action is obviously taking place between fictional characters, and the audience is only participating as observers, most of the audience will undoubtedly identify with the recruits – not the drill instructor, and will feel themselves to be on the receiving end of the tongue lashing. During this scene the recruits (and we the audience) are told in no uncertain terms that the Foley’s purpose is to weed out all the “weak” recruits, so that only the “best” of us will eventually survive the training to make it through as officers. Amongst the numerous indicators of “weakness” that Foley says he’s looking for is any signs of compassion for killing defenceless people. Although there’s only the briefest remark about this obvious weakness, which I certainly don’t remember from seeing the movie before, it’s definitely there, and no doubt working in much the same way as subliminal advertising does.

There are several scenes where the recruits (and we the audience), are indoctrinated about the importance of teamwork, about supporting our fellows no matter what, through thick and thin; and we have a touching scene towards the end where Mayo, who’s supposed to be something of an individualist, sacrifices his own moment of glory (by breaking the school’s assault course record) in order to help a struggling fellow recruit to finally overcome one of the obstacles that’s consistently defeated her throughout the training course. Apart from a few scenes where the teamwork mantra is directly expressed in various dialogue exchanges, there are also numerous scenes of the recruits jogging around the place as a squad, singing. The singing takes the form of Mayo leading by chanting a line or two which is then repeated by the whole squad of recruits. Some of the lines are harmlessly amusing; but mixed up with the harmlessly amusing chants are phrases such as “napalm sticks to kids”. So in the end we the audience finish up along with Mayo totally committed to the virtues of comradeship (a key requirement in all armies), and subliminally inured to such obvious signs of feeble-mindedness as feeling compassion for killing defenceless people, or napalm sticking to kids.

But for me one of the more subtle moments of outrageous propaganda, which I bet few people pick up on, is that scene right at the end where Mayo, resplendent in his shining white naval officer’s uniform, whisks Paula away from the hell of her life in a factory. If I were making the movie I would have it exactly the other way around. I would have Debra Winger turning up at Richard Gere’s passing out parade to rescue him. I would have her saving him from the hell of a life murdering defenceless civilians and dropping napalm on kids, in order to be with her doing the far more honest work of making paper bags.


23 December 2011

Work - It's Just Not Good For You

Last week I finished work. Again. I was doing a couple of months of wage-slavery at GBS (a local book warehouse) – to help Lorraine pay the bills which, in winter, are a little worse than the rest of the year. It was only ever intended to be temporary work for a couple of months because a) our finances are not yet so desperate that I need to do any wage-slavery at all, and b) Lorraine says she prefers me to stay at home and do what I want to do: try to make the world a happier place.

I can’t say I enjoyed those two months of wage-slavery – but it was O.K.: I didn’t hate it either. Doing labouring work in a book warehouse is pretty close to good honest work, and its quite hard physical work – which I enjoy – and you’re kept busy most of the time – which I vastly prefer to the enforced idleness, or pretending to look busy, which are the essential basic skills of modern management. Also I worked with some good people, which is nearly always the case: most people are good people. Most of my fellow slaves were, like me, employed by an agency – not directly by the warehouse. Twenty years ago employment agencies were almost unheard of, except for “high fliers”, office workers or truck drivers; and warehouses such as GBS would directly employ their workers themselves. Not any more. Today employment agencies all but control the labour market; they are the twenty first century equivalent of the slave traders of yesteryear.

One particularly interesting observation I have to make about my brief period of slavery is this: It effectively terminated my proper work: reading, thinking and writing. I know I could have continued doing my proper work at night and at weekends, when I wasn’t at the warehouse, but I was either too tired or just wanted to spend the time with Lorraine instead. Now here’s the interesting thing about this: I have a pretty good idea about how the world really works, and know that in order to keep on learning I have to make the effort of looking in pretty obscure places – I know I can’t trust the usual sources or learn from the TV or newspapers. But while I was doing warehouse work, I couldn’t easily make the time to keep on learning, let alone trying to educate others through my reading, thinking and writing. Now if I can’t do this – keep myself properly informed – knowing full well how much I need to, what chance the average citizen, who doesn’t even know that she doesn’t know?

The early Romans pioneered the trick of occupying the minds of the people with meaningless mass entertainments, a trick that’s echoed today on countless football fields and perpetual TV game shows. Whilst the attention of the people is diverted with spectacular but mind-numbing and pointless trivia, it cannot be turned to learning about and examining the actions of their trusted leaders.

So too with education, which has nearly always been an exclusive privilege of the rich. Today our leaders provide the illusion of education for all, but the reality is very different. Most young people can just about learn enough to accept their lot of a lifetime of wage-slavery. Others may stay longer in education and learn a little more: that to avoid a lifetime of wage-slavery for themselves they must ensure there’s always an endless supply of others to serve as wage-slaves, who must of course always be tightly controlled by the better educated; and to help reinforce this vital lesson the better educated may begin their careers with eye-watering debts tied around their necks like the proverbial millstones.

So I’m delighted to be back doing what I need to do: trying to make the world a happier place, by reading, thinking and writing.


22 December 2011

Trade Secrets

Most governments do as little as possible to serve the people who pay for them. Although there’s nothing new in this it’s something that continually needs to be restated because of the very considerable number of ignorant souls who believe otherwise.

Now before going any further, a brief aside on that word “ignorant” might be useful. Ignorant is not the same as stupid. Ignorance simply means lack of knowledge and understanding. Few people are truly stupid, but all of us are ignorant about all sorts of things; and as far as the true nature of government is concerned most people really are quite ignorant. However, it’s very important to point out that this particular ignorance is not the fault of those who have it; indeed, it’s quite remarkable, given the power of the relentless propaganda machine that carefully maintains that ignorance, how some people nevertheless do eventually manage to see the light.

The proof of this ages-old government malfeasance is abundant – but, quite naturally, is seldom openly discussed in such terms by those we trust to guide us. When government wrongdoing does occasionally break through into the public consciousness it’s invariably dismissed as an “aberration”, a “mistake”, from which “lessons will be learnt”. The crucial lesson to be learnt – that our trusted leaders cannot in fact be trusted – is never properly learnt, and the same old corruption grinds remorselessly on. Two hundred years ago, when it was more widely recognised than it is today, it was in fact called Old Corruption.

Contrary to expectations, not all the evidence of this routine corruption and malfeasance is deeply buried; it’s often quite openly displayed which, as any conjurer will tell you, is sometimes the best way to conceal things. In fact hardly a day goes by when some example of it fails to present itself – if one knows how to see it.

For example, not many people would think the front page of The Times newspaper is a very good place to hide something; yet on 17th December a not untypical example of government evil was concealed through the subtle device of exposing it to the world in Britain’s leading newspaper’s leading news story of the day. The headline read: “Keep Cabinet secret”; and the story opens with these words:

“Freedom of information laws should be amended to keep Cabinet splits out of the public eye, the outgoing head of the civil service has said.
Sir Gus O’Donnell told The Times that the Cabinet Room should be a “safe place” where ministers can express doubts without worrying that sensitive discussions could be exposed. He voiced concerns that unless new curbs were put in place, civil servants may feel pressurised into “fudging” official records in order to play down dissent.”


One or two other priceless gems appear in the article. We also learn that Sir Gus believes the Freedom of Information Act poses “dangers... to the workings of Whitehall”, and possibly the most priceless little nugget is that Sir Gus considers himself a “massive believer in transparency.”

Now some might think it’s ludicrous to suggest that the leading article of The Times could be concealing government evil – but perhaps that’s only because we’re automatically conditioned to accept that anything appearing in such a venerated place must obviously be serving our interests. However, all that’s required is just to imagine what would be the reaction if the exact same story were to appear on the front page of an equivalent publication in some hapless country we’re being programmed to despise – Iran, say. Consider what would be the reaction of our media if the Teheran Times suddenly announced that the Iranian government (which meets in public) had decided that henceforth it would be meeting in secret.

Secrets are needed only by those who have something to hide. Whilst it’s perfectly reasonable for individual citizens to keep their private lives as private as possible, if they choose to do so, the case for governments keeping their activities secret is considerably harder to justify. One can of course create hypothetical scenarios for dialectic purposes, but it’s very much harder to identify real examples from the past where government secrecy has really served the public interest. So why should such a powerful figure as the good Sir Gus be so convinced that Britain, which already has in place some of the most brutal legislation in the world to keep people quiet, needs yet more secrecy laws?

We are, of course, unlikely ever to learn the truthful answer to that question - no doubt it’s a secret; but in the complete absence of any evidence whatsoever to justify Sir Gus’ views, together with no obvious reason for why The Times chose to publish this story on its front page, we can only guess and speculate. However, we can and should discuss the subject in general terms.

Perhaps the single most important issue to debate is that of public trust – for if it could be shown that our leaders always act in the public interest then it might reasonably be argued that those leaders should keep all the secrets they like. Indeed if it could just be shown they act for the public good most of the time a reasonable case for secrecy might be made. However, this cannot be shown with any degree of certainty. In fact the vast weight of history indicates the exact opposite: that the only people trusted leaders have ever served are themselves and the very tight circles of similarly self-interested supporters who surround them.

Of course this characteristic of leadership is not unique to British leaders, but all leaders in general. This is not an original observation. Others with considerable expertise in the subject have expressed similar views. Consider Martha Gelhorn, for example, a foreign correspondent with over six decades of experience in dealing with various governments around the world. “Never believe governments,” she said, “Not any of them, not a word they say; keep an untrusting eye on everything they do.”

We are routinely lied to and deceived by our own government and the media we mistakenly trust to keep them honest. A day never passes without some form of proof of this. As I write these words, for example, the leading story of our so-called “news” is about the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Two reports I heard of this event, via the BBC and Channel 4 who, as much-respected news providers who supposedly don’t trade in sleazy tabloid-style journalism, suggested that Kim Jong-il was some sort of deranged despot who had presided over a terrified brainwashed people. The words “paranoid” and “isolationist” were both used to describe his government. Now I don’t profess to understand North Korean history or politics much better than the next person, but there was one very important fact that I do know about, that was not even hinted at during the BBC or Channel 4 reports, and that fact is this: for the last sixty years North Korea has had to endure brutal trade sanctions that were imposed on it by the United States at the end of the Korean War. Whilst the BBC and Channel 4 and the rest of the world’s trusted media pour ridicule on that tragic country and its recently deceased leader, not a single one of them invites their viewers to wonder what condition their own countries might be in if they too had had to endure sixty years of ruinous trade embargoes.

So given the very high degree of deceit and treachery our own trusted leaders already routinely practice upon us it could reasonably be asked what difference it could make to allow them to keep their activities secret. Possibly very little. However, it’s the principle of the thing that matters. At the beginning of this essay I used the word “ignorant”. If we allow government to keep their decision-making process entirely secret we automatically give them the right to keep us ignorant. Government belongs to we the people; we pay for it with our taxes, our labour and our enterprise. We own it; but the only way we can ever be absolutely sure it’s actually behaving as we might want and expect is if its activities are wholly open and transparent. Sir Gus O’Donnell’s odious attempts to increase government secrecy should be strongly resisted by every honest citizen.


14 November 2011

Lest We Forget, 2011

Yesterday the country had its annual ritual celebrating the joy of war. It’s difficult to say for sure if the nation’s sanguine delight in the shedding of blood on epic scales is greater than it was last year, but it certainly felt that way to this particular observer.

The red poppy was originally conceived as a symbol to remember the senseless slaughter of World War One, a slaughter that was sold to tens of millions of British people at the time as “The War To End All War”. In other words, those millions of young people and their foolish older, “wiser” comrades endured the most horrific mass stupidity of all time believing the words of their trusted leaders that they were fighting so that no one would ever have to go to war again. What an obscene betrayal has been visited on those massed ranks of tragic young victims, whose wasted young lives are now more obviously wasted than they ever were! For what we now have is Permanent War, and the day and the symbol that was originally conceived to commemorate the cause for which so many suffered and died, the cause of Permanent Peace, has now been turned into a celebration of Permanent War.

For the last two weeks no one has appeared on BBC TV without wearing a little red poppy, and it’s impossible to believe that some were not ordered to do so; because in spite of the relentless propaganda, most people walking around the street were not so attired; so either the BBC only allowed those wearing red poppies to grace its TV screens, or they instructed anyone who was going to appear on air to put one on. Yet the BBC was curiously silent about the original purpose of the red poppy, and what that purpose has now become. Indeed, it often recently mentioned that the poppy symbolises the dead of all wars - a typical example of the re-writing of history, something at which the BBC excels.

That other leading organ of elitist propaganda, The Times newspaper, sported on the front page of its Saturday edition (12th November) a photograph of an attractive young lady in mourning. She wears the service medals of her husband who was recently killed in Afghanistan; and a large red poppy. The meaning is unmistakeable. Gone completely is the original purpose of the red poppy – commemoration of the dead of World War One, together with the cause they died for, The War To End All War - to be replaced with the dead of today’s great cause: Permanent War.


22 October 2011

“We came; we saw; he died. Ha ha ha ha.”

Two days ago Colonel Gaddafi, the long-time leader of Libya, was murdered. I have not yet come across a single news report describing this event as anything other than a “killing”. This outcome for Colonel Gaddafi became inevitable from the moment NATO bombers first attacked his home in Tripoli, supposedly in accordance with their UN mandate.

The grotesque Hilary Clinton, when asked about it during a TV interview for CBS smiled demurely and answered “We came; we saw; he died,” and then giggled like the psychopathic monster she clearly is. I mean, how could the second most powerful person in the world, who supposedly represents the gold standard of international political morality, take such obvious pleasure in the cold-blooded murder of a head of state? Her reaction in that interview, together with the complete absence of any critical media response to it, was truly terrifying. It represents a further gigantic slide down the precipice towards global tyranny. Saddam Hussein was similarly dispatched by the Empire, but a mere five years ago there was still enough concern about world opinion that at least the appearance of judicial process was maintained, and a kangaroo court provided the appropriate figleaf for the imperial murder. The cold-blooded and unnecessary slaughter of Osama Bin Laden was arguably the first sign of this real and deadly paradigm shift, this sudden complete disregard for even pretending to respect international law. It’s now official: there’s only one law: the Empire’s law.

As usual, the complicity of the media in this outrage is absolute. Take the Daily Mail website, for example, which included the above-mentioned video clip. Absolutely nothing is mentioned in the accompanying article about the complete disregard for legal process. The facts seem indisputable: Gaddafi was captured alive, and then shot dead by his captors. There were further reports that his two sons received exactly the same treatment; but the Daily Mail, just like the BBC and pretty much every other media outlet I’ve seen, is unperturbed.

There’s little doubt that Gaddafi had his fair share of innocents’ blood on his hands – just like Saddam and Osama before him; but does that mean he had no right to judicial process? Does the fact that these people denied such privileges to countless forgotten innocents mean that that is how they too should be treated? If so, does it not also follow that all those leaders of the so-called “coalition of the willing”, all of whom have the blood of many more innocents on their hands than Saddam, Osama and Gadaffi combined, could also be rightly dispatched by any lynch-mob capable of getting near them?

What is quite interesting about the article on the Daily Mail’s website is the comments from readers that follow it. A sizeable number recognise that an outrage was committed. Ordinary people know the difference between right and wrong, even when powerful imperial heads of state and their media lapdogs clearly don’t.


16 October 2011

We Are The 99%

I was talking to David, my Bridge partner, the other day. David’s no fool; he graduated university in the days when that was not a very common thing to do; he’s well travelled and widely read; he also knows better than most how the world really works. Yet when we spoke last week he seemed genuinely mystified over the almost total British news-blackout concerning the surging Occupy Wall Street movement that’s currently sweeping through the United States.

You can understand his confusion. Our normal so-called news is pretty obsessed with what happens in Wall Street – so much so that there’s hardly ever a national news broadcast that doesn’t include a few words about what’s happening in the US stock exchange. So it might seem, to the uninitiated, a bit strange when those same news programmes don’t say a word about the fact that Wall Street itself has been besieged by angry American protesters for the best part of the last month.

Many of the protesters refer to themselves as the 99%, a very good description; because they are, like you and me, part of the 99% of the Earth’s population who are disenfranchised from deciding how the world works. The 1% who do so decide also control about 50% of the planet’s wealth; and they include amongst their number those who pay for the election campaigns of politicians - and those who control the content of our so-called news.

It would be nice to think that this time the people will have their day, that political justice will finally result from the OWS movement. But there’s a fearsomely long way to go, and the 1% are immensely powerful and hugely experienced in dealing with protest in such a way that they never lose their grip around the throat of the 99% for very long. However, there is a small difference this time, and that is the slowly-growing awareness by the 99% of their real disenfranchisement and growing impoverisation.


13 October 2011

The Great Game Continues

It’s pretty difficult for anyone with a slight sense of history not to believe that many of the troubles currently plaguing Europe, North Africa and the Middle East are made in America. At the very least, surely those troubles are kept supplied by Washington with just sufficient fuel to keep them nicely burning? I have no hard evidence of this; but the last global empire certainly indulged in similar intrigues, amusingly remembered in history as the Great Game; so why should we think the present empire behaves very differently? And given the very real and abundant hard evidence of the first half-century of the New Empire’s hegemony of the planet there’s even less reason to think the Great Game is a thing of the past.

Let’s kick-off with the so-called “Arab Spring” – the romantic-sounding label given by the world’s media to the massive popular uprisings that occurred throughout much of North Africa earlier this year. Now the truth about this story is of course well-hidden. However, some of the hard facts are these:

1. The so-called “axis of evil” was publicly proclaimed by the United States within a few months of the destruction of the World Trade Centre. In other words the countries that comprise this “axis”, which just happens to focus on this region (with the exception of North Korea), was very openly identified as enemies of the New Empire.

2. The first North African country to have a moderately successful revolution this year was Tunisia, followed almost immediately by Egypt. Now very little has happened in North Africa since 1956 that has not been manufactured, approved, or at least overlooked, by Washington, often through its imperial bridgehead to the Middle East, and beyond, Israel. !956 was the year that the New Empire officially overthrew the Old Empire in the region, over the so-called “Suez Crisis”. Egypt has long been a powerful force in this part of the world, and ever since the demise of Nasser in 1970 the Egyptian regime’s ties to Washington have been getting stronger and stronger, such that by the start of this year the Mubarak government was celebrating about three decades of dutiful subordination, and the Egyptian army was being substantially equipped by the US, and was having its senior officers trained there. It was of course a mutually beneficial arrangement with Egypt providing to the US authorities, amongst other things, the services of its highly professional torturers.

3. Controlling the armies of target countries, through equipment supplies and personnel training, is a standard operating tactic of the New Empire – a tactic which has been much used for the last six decades all around the planet, from Latin America, to Indonesia, to the Middle East.

In other words, it’s all but impossible to believe that the inaction of the Egyptian Army in response to the popular uprising there came as a total surprise to Washington. Furthermore, although Mubarak was successfully removed from power almost six months ago, apparently by the people, it’s interesting to note that no truly independent and democratic state has even started to appear in Egypt, and that the de facto power on the ground happens to be the Egyptian army.

Then of course came the slaughter in Libya. Although a very superficial view of events there might suggest the US had nothing to do with it, that the all-important aerial bombardments (contrary to UN mandate 1973 which supposedly authorised them) were an entirely European operation; but once again this view simply defies credibility.

Of course no one with half an ounce of working brain tissue seriously thinks that the Libyan slaughter was carried out in order to set the Libyan people free from an allegedly oppressive tyrant – who just six months earlier was being openly courted by most European countries. Most people now understand that many of the recent crimes against humanity are done so that the United States may seize primary control of the world’s oil reserves – that it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with protecting the freedom and democracy of the people living in these tragic countries. But in the case of Libya, that’s probably only part of the full explanation.

There has been considerable speculation that the Gaddafi government was a leading force in an effort to unify Africa, to draw its many disparate nations closer together for mutual defence and economic development, so the continent could be independent of the so-called “aid” programmes imposed by western governments. Libya had allegedly begun a partnership with Nigeria to create a gold-based currency that would have enabled Africa to cut its dependency on the western banking system. Now no self-respecting empire is likely to tolerate that sort of behaviour from a region whose supply of natural resources, minerals and slaves is as vitally rich and important as Africa’s – not to mention the vital strategic significance of its geography to an imperial military machine.

Then there’s the subject of Africom. Africom stands for Africa Command. The New Empire has its military based all over the world – in just about every country. This vast array of US army bases is organised under six regional command centres – such as USsouthcom (for South America) and UScentcom (for the Middle East). These command centres are all physically located in the region they control... except for Africa. Africom doesn’t have an African base – yet; It’s currently located in Germany. It will be interesting to see if it moves home soon – to Libya, say – something Gadaffi would certainly never have accepted - except over his dead body.

So much for North Africa. Much closer to home there’s the economic meltdown that suggests the Euro, presently on life-support - has all but expired. Speculation is growing that Germany, the key lynchpin of the Euro, has already started re-printing Deutschmarks.

This particular story started over a year ago when the media announced that Greece’s economy was on the verge of collapse. The media came by this interesting tale courtesy of one or two credit rating agencies, who had decided, by some mystical means, that Greece had become too risky for investors. These were the selfsame agencies that had, just a couple of years earlier, cheerfully assured everyone that hundreds of billions of dollars worth of utterly fictitious stock market derivatives were worth the highest AAA security rating that these wonderful agencies were capable of awarding.

Now one of the most widely used measurements of a country’s economic position is the ratio between its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its national debt; and it’s generally considered wise that national debt should not exceed GDP. Because Greece’s debt was exceeding its GDP, by about 130%, the alarm bells were sounded. Almost immediately it was noticed that Portugal’s economy was in a similar condition, then Ireland, Spain and Italy. Panic quickly swept through the European markets. Bailouts by Germany and France worth eye-watering sums of money were discussed and then effected. But the question on everyone’s lips was, is this the end of the Euro?

Unsurprisingly, the voices of the very few doubters and we cynics could not be heard against the roar of the mass media-generated hysteria. But our questions cannot be easily dismissed. If the ratio between GDP was so absolutely crucial, why was it being ignored in Japan, where a national debt measuring 200% of GDP has long been considered normal? And what about the United States itself? Shortly after World War Two the US national debt exceeded its GDP, and this preceded the most prosperous period of US history.

It’s worth looking at the credit ratings agencies that are almost single-handedly responsible for triggering the situation that has suddenly taken the Euro from a place of considerable stability to the brink of annihilation. These agencies are all American. They’re supposed to be independent, staffed by people whose salaries are the same no matter what results the agency produces. However, they’re very poorly paid relative to the sharks that infest the investment banking world, and it would be ludicrous to suggest that agency staffers are immune to the attractions of life alongside of their investment banking cousins – especially in a country whose only measurement of success is in dollar bills. Of course there’s no known direct link between investment banks and credit agencies. However, it’s not unknown for agency staffers to move into investment banking, and hugely enhanced bonus payments.

Why should investment banks give a hoot about the stability of the Euro? Well there are several reasons. Firstly, there are seriously large bundles of money to be made in nervous money markets, but what is possibly far more important, and relevant to this discussion, is the threat posed to the US dollar by any other strong and stable currency.

The US dollar has been the world’s fiat currency since the end of the Second World War. This means that the US provides the currency which most of the world needs in order to trade with other countries. Whenever a country wants US dollars it must obtain them from the US, trading something of real value to the Americans – such as oil. But whenever the US wants its own dollars all it needs to do is switch on its printing presses. Such is the power of controlling the world’s fiat currency. You can sort of understand why such a power might not like it if someone else comes along with a currency that’s just as stable – or more so. And at the dawn of the new millennium, when the Euro was going from strength to strength, it was being considered by several nations – especially those not overly enamoured with US foreign policy - as an alternative to the mighty dollar. No self-respecting emperor is likely to put up with that sort of behaviour for very long.

Of course I can’t prove that the US has deliberately tried to destroy the Euro because the Euro was presenting too much of a threat to the dollar. But it makes sense that it might try to do so, and if it did try to attack the Euro surely the best strategy to adopt would be to attack those Euro-countries which seem to have the weakest economies.

The Roman lawyer Cicero famously cited the principle of qui bono? (who benefits?) for trying to discover a well-hidden truth. If we were to use this principle for the demise of the Euro, it’s pretty difficult to look anywhere other than Washington. It might be argued that there are certain fanatical and very powerful right wing groups within Europe who might also take delight in the Euro’s destruction – for basically the same reason as American investment banks: to turn a quick and vast personal profit. However, there is absolutely no political advantage for Europe to shred its own currency – especially given the indisputable and growing might of the American empire. The only other contender is China, and its extremely powerful renminbi; but the Chinese economy is more tightly controlled by its politicians than Europe or America, and it seems even less likely that Beijing would take any pleasure in seeing the demise of the moderating influence of the Euro upon their greatest adversary. So the principal suspect for the attack on Europe’s currency must be Washington, for no one else obtains anywhere near the same political and financial benefits as Washington, and the investment banking fraternity who control the US government.

It might be very reassuring for some to imagine that Uncle Sam is our true champion of freedom and democracy, and will ensure no harm ever comes to us by selflessly striving to look after and protect our interests – which is pretty much the same as how many people used to view the British Empire in its plundering heyday. But then some people obtain a lot of comfort from believing in good fairies too.


18 August 2011

Grantham Honours a Rebel

It seems vastly counter-intuitive that the arch-Tory town of Grantham, forever blighted in the pages of history for sending forth into the world one Margaret Hilda Thatcher, should commemorate one of England’s finest rebels; but on the 17th August 2011 that’s exactly what it did.

Yesterday a blue plaque was unveiled in the George Centre to commemorate Grantham’s connection with Tom Paine, arguably the finest Englishman who ever drew breath. The connection is fairly tenuous. Tom Paine was an excise officer here from 1762 to 1764 – so not his finest moments. He lodged at the George Inn in the High Street, which became the George Hotel until its current sad transformation into the George Shopping Centre was effected almost twenty years ago.

Paine was a strident, outspoken opponent of state power. He narrowly escaped the hangman’s noose in England where his writing was considered seditious, libellous and traitorous; was an active supporter of the American War of Independence, and then popped over to France where he actively supported the French Revolution, and only narrowly escaped the guillotine.

His best-known book is “Rights of Man”, which has never been out of print. His last book, “Age of Reason”, is arguably even more important, annihilating, as it brilliantly does, the bible. Both are very readable and should be compulsory in every school in the country.

Here are a couple of the great man’s quotes, which are every bit as fresh and true today as they were when he wrote them:

“Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.” (Common Sense p. 19)

“Change of Ministers amounts to nothing. One goes out, another comes in and still the same measures, vices and extravagances are pursued. It signifies not who is minister. The defect lies in the system.” (Rights of Man p. 315)

“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind and monopolise power and profit.” (Age of Reason p.7)

About thirty people attended yesterday’s unveiling of the blue plaque. The two main VIPs were the head honcho of the Rotary Club (which apparently commissioned the plaque) and some young woman from the American embassy. The plaque was hidden until the unveiling by a US flag – which, if Paine knew what that country was to become would not have pleased him. The presence of the American official yesterday probably explained the large contingent of chain-wearing dignitaries from the local council who also turned out.

As I stood and watched them all I smiled as I wondered how many of them knew the first thing about the man they were commemorating. I suspect not many.


10 August 2011
Britain's Burning

It would be a mistake to assign a political motive to the violence, looting and arson that has exploded in various British cities over the last few nights. It’s quite possible that not a single one of the arsonists, muggers and looters burnt, mugged or robbed anyone because she thought that was the best way to achieve political reform and social justice. However, it would be equally mistaken to deny that the rioting is a direct consequence of the actions of Britain’s politicians.

We’re told that the trouble began last Saturday night 6th August. According to a BBC report (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14434318), about 300 people gathered outside a police station that night and “demanded justice”. Their protest quickly spiralled out of control.

The justice the crowd were demanding followed the killing by police of a young black man, Mark Duggan. Details of the killing are sketchy, to say the least; but according to the first report issued by the “Independent” Police Complaints Commission there is no evidence to suggest that Mr Duggan shot at the police. However, a starter’s pistol that had been converted to fire live rounds was supposedly discovered near his body.

Although it seems that Mr Duggan had been involved with local gangs, his family and friends strongly refute the suggestion that he is likely to have become involved in a shoot-out with armed police; and according to the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/08/mark-duggan-profile-tottenham-shooting), although he had previously been held on remand, he had never before been convicted of any crime. The inquest into the shooting is scheduled for December; but if numerous previous inquests into the actions of the police are anything to go by (Stephen Lawrence, Jean Charles De Menezes, Bloody Sunday, Guildford Four, Birmingham Six...., for example), anyone expecting justice would be well advised not to hold their breath.

The media coverage of the current urban unrest is unsurprisingly one-sided. Our TV screens have shown hours of coverage of those whose property has been damaged, stolen or destroyed. Many of these people are understandably angry and scared. Many others have been shrill in their demands for tougher policing, and there have been calls to use the army. All of our trusted leaders are unsurprisingly unanimous in their condemnation of the rioters, and their support of the police. We’ve heard stiff-lipped politicians and steely-eyed chief constables angrily asserting there cannot be any possible justification for the violence, and firmly promising the full retribution of the law. In the media’s ceaseless desire to provide “balanced” reporting, we’ve even seen numerous young people, many of whom are black, stridently condemning the trouble – although one or two have alluded to police oppression. We’ve seen dozens of angst-ridden commentators with puzzled frowns asking “why do they do it?” (which reminded me of George W Bush famously asking “why do they hate us?” in his apparent bewilderment at the Moslem world’s dissatisfaction with the outrages perpetrated against it by Bush’s government).

I don’t presume to speak for a single rioter. No doubt there are some who are opportunist small-time criminals. However, if one tries to take a reasonably objective view of today’s political landscape in Britain it’s pretty difficult not to believe that most of the responsibility for the rioting lies in exactly the same place as with all civil unrest of this kind since the beginning of “civilisation” – our trusted leaders.

1. Over the last thirty-odd years our trusted leaders have killed-off British manufacturing – the primary source of the nation’s wealth. They have also colluded with international banksters, trans-national corporations and foreign governments to sell-off Britain’s publicly owned infrastructure: energy and water supplies, communications and transport. Then they sold off essential public services such as health and education. They indebted the nation’s future generation to the tune of hundreds of billions (possibly trillions) of pounds with their nefarious Private Finance Initiatives. Throughout all this a very tiny handful of people have become unbelievably wealthy, whilst the vast majority of Britons have seen their wages decline, or watch their jobs disappear altogether. When they can find employment (which is not an easy thing to do) the vast majority of young Britons must now work longer hours for less money and in worse conditions than their parents did. They cannot hope to retire at the same age as their grandparents did, and they cannot hope to receive as good a pension as their grandparents had.

There might be cause for a young person to feel a little discontent with that situation.

2. Britain looks more and more like a police state than it has done since the Civil War. The police who, until not very long ago took pride in walking the streets carrying nothing more dangerous than a short truncheon and a pair of handcuffs – even when the nation was at war, now strut around in suits of armour with a small arsenal of various lethal weapons at their fingertips. They can, and do, imprison people without charge for up to two weeks. It’s impossible for people to use an airport without being subjected to rigorous, intrusive, and perfectly ridiculous, “security” checks (a direct consequence of our trusted leaders’ repulsive foreign policies); and we routinely send our young people off to distant countries dressed up as soldiers of one kind or another where they are ordered to commit acts which, if any form of real international justice existed, would undoubtedly be condemned as war crimes.

There might be cause for a young person to feel a little discontent with that situation.

3. Then, of course there is the killing of Mr Duggan itself – the supposed trigger of the current unrest. Directly pertinent to the police state which Britain has become, the killing of this young man is indicative of the total impunity with which the police believe they can act. Violent police raids are a routine daily occurrence in underprivileged neighbourhoods throughout the UK. The raids are nearly always destructive, and terrifying, and often prove utterly fruitless. And numerous completely innocent people have been killed or wounded by the police, with the subsequent “inquiries” routinely exonerating the perpetrators.

There might be cause for a young person to feel a little discontent with that situation.

Whilst it’s most probable that none of these factors are consciously passing through the mind of some young person as he loots a store or sets fire to it, it’s equally probable that at least one of these reasons explain the daily living conditions of that young person. So far we haven’t seen a lot of rioting in the streets of South Kensington or Chelsea say, or any of the leafy suburbs or gated communities where the sons and daughters of politicians, banksters, corporate executives, lawyers and company accountants while away their comfortable lives. No doubt they’re too busy studying to become the next generation of trusted leaders.

However, there might be cause for some young people to feel a little discontent with that situation.


27 July 2011
All the Hallmarks of Al Qaeda

The first news to emerge from Norway last Friday was about massive explosions in the heart of Oslo. The TV images showed a large government building, about ten stories high, with all its windows blown out, and all the mess in the street below that such an event would inevitably cause. Like everyone else I watched and wondered who was responsible.

There was none of the now-familiar signs of similar explosions we’re used to from various parts of the Middle East. There was no sign of the typical car bomb, for example, no signs or reports of any form of suicide bomber. In other words it was nothing like the bombings that are still routine in many parts of the Moslem world.

And then came the ‘experts’. In between the images of devastation the TV news channels presented a succession of various ‘experts’ in terrorist attacks. One after the other they said ‘this has all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda attack’, or words to that effect. I saw only one so-called ‘expert’ who had the wisdom to qualify his opinion (which was the same as all the other ‘experts’) by pointing out that the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, which also destroyed a government building, was carried out by a lone right-wing extremist.

I’m definitely no expert, and although I supposed that the Oslo bombing was probably Al Qaeda, I was very puzzled by the lack of similarity between it and the ‘routine’ bombings in Baghdad, say. So why didn’t that lack of similarity also strike the so-called ‘experts’? Why were so many of them so quick and eager to point to Al Qaeda without commenting on that very obvious lack of similarity?

Now of course the whole world knows that the Norwegian atrocities were, like the Oklahoma bombing, carried out by yet another right-wing lunatic. Already the story is moving out of the daily news – which would undoubtedly not be the case if it had been an Al Qaeda attack. If it had been Al Qaeda we could guarantee that there would be nothing else on our so-called ‘news’ programmes for several days, if not weeks; and the entire world would be in lock-down. There would be armed goons charging around the place harassing the general public for weeks to come – all in the national interest, obviously. But it was a right-wing nutter instead; so that’s all very sad, but basically o.k. then, we needn’t go overboard about it; it was a one-off, an ‘aberration’. It had nothing at all to do with the world’s vast right-wing media system peddling the kind of crap this twisted fuck has allegedly regurgitated in some fifteen hundred page manifesto; nothing to do with the endless brainwashing ordinary people must endure from the cradle to the grave.

It goes without saying, of course, that no one is pointing out the similarity between Mr Breivik’s warped views and our utterly dominant right wing media; and no one is commenting on how very wrong all the so-called ‘experts’ were; and no one will breathe a word when they all reappear on our TV screens to share with us the benefit of their ‘expert’ wisdom.


25 July 2011
Those Magnificent Men and their (F)lying Machines

Apparently newspaper owners and editors up and down the country are scratching their heads and wondering why newspaper sales have plummeted. No doubt some comfort themselves, and each other, by blaming the internet. They would be partly right – but probably not for the reasons they might give. It’s difficult to know how many of them will learn the important lessons of the recent furore that revealed some of the deceit, bribery and corruption that is standard practice behind much of our so-called ‘news’.

Some might think the scandal is confined to the national papers. Not a bit of it. The Guardian’s George Monbiot reported (see Monbiot.com 9.11.09 ‘Champions of the Overdog’) that Sir Ray Tindle, who once controlled about 230 newspapers, including such giants as the Totnes Times, ordered his editors at the outbreak of the Iraq War in 2003 “to ensure that nothing appears in your newspapers which attacks the decision to conduct the war”.

Most British newspapers have always supported war, and continue to do so to this day. It’s because war is very good for business, which matters far more to the Rupert Murdochs and Ray Tindles of this world than the shattered bodies of innocent and defenceless civilians (who are seldom even counted – let alone reported).

A piece of typically shabby war-loving propaganda appeared last Friday (22nd July) in the Grantham Journal. An article bearing the title “Airman Rob is helping to defend the skies over Libya” displayed a nice photograph of a pleasantly harmless-looking chap who, apart from the fact he’s wearing military uniform, could be mistaken for an accountant, or a banker. The article tells us about ‘Airman Rob’s many important duties, such as supporting construction and catering “and even medical services.” Ahhh – he sounds a bit like a social worker really, or a comic-book superhero. But curiously enough, helping to overthrow foreign governments, dispatch tens of thousands of defenceless civilians to eternity, and plunder whoever’s left behind – which is the real purpose of ‘Airman Rob’s employers – doesn’t get a mention.

The words “helping to defend the skies over Libya” in the title are almost too ridiculous to comment on; “helping to steal Libyan oil”, although only part of the story, would at least have been more accurate.

No doubt ‘Airman Rob’ is a thoroughly decent chap with a loving family and human weaknesses just like all the rest of us; and is quite possibly as oblivious of the cynicism of his work as Nazi concentration camp guards were seventy years ago – a natural consequence of enduring similar brainwashing; but what is the media’s excuse? What is the media’s excuse for calling the plundering and murder of innocent civilians thousands of miles away from Britain ‘defending the skies’?

A friend of mine who once worked at the Grantham Journal told me that it was editorial policy that all articles appearing in the paper should be written for ‘Earlsfield Man’ (Earlsfield is the part of Grantham with the highest social deprivation). It’s the sort of thing I could imagine Rupert Murdoch or Ray Tindle saying. It’s a line of thinking that proposes that the newspaper in general and its articles in particular should be composed in such a way as to appeal to the dullest mind. Well a surprising number of these dull minds know exactly what’s going on in spite of the best propaganda efforts of the media. So if more and more people are turning to foreign internet sites and the likes of Al Jazeera and Russia Today for their news it’s hardly surprising. Although these sources are of course also rich in propaganda at least they tell us some of the hard truths about our own government – truths our own media should be supplying.


3 July 2011
Of Pots and Kettles

The last part of the editorial on page two of The Times (2nd July 2011) was titled “Unfree to Choose”, and carried a sub-title which read: “China’s record shows that capitalism without democracy lends itself to corruption.”

Like most newspapers, The Times seems pretty indifferent about its function as a propaganda tool. Presumably it feels its ancient support of plutocracy is obviously too noble to question - let alone justify. Presumably, like most newspapers, it assumes its readers are either too well-conditioned to wonder about the possibility of being deceived; or perhaps it thinks they’re just too ignorant to notice.

Consider the editorial’s sub-title once again: “China’s record shows that capitalism without democracy lends itself to corruption.”

The patronising tone of that sentence suggests several things, most of which are untrue. Firstly it suggests that Britain is some sort of icon of perfection in the subjects of capitalism and democracy, which of course it is not. Then it suggests that Britain is not itself corrupt, which of course it is. And of course, the fact that the planet’s leading exponent of capitalism and so-called democracy, the United States, is also the single most corrupt nation on Earth is not indicated anywhere at all in the article.

On page forty one of the same edition of The Times appears an article about the ongoing economic rape of Africa. A short piece tells the story of one Philippe Heilberg. We learn that Mr Heilberg was “a former commodity broker”, so presumably knows a thing or two about the many wonders of capitalism. A little photograph of Mr Heilberg wearing a silly red hat appears at the bottom of the page. Behind him stand two sinister-looking military types, one of whom is armed, and who, we’re told are “fighters” of one General Matip. The article tells us how Mr Heilberg, together with General Matip’s son Paulino, “signed a deal to lease 1 million acres of oil-rich land in Sudan in 2009. A follow-up deal reportedly doubled his holdings.” Mr Heilberg heads something called Jarch Management which is based in New York (the high alter of capitalism and democracy), and has on its board “former US ambassadors and spies. Its Advisory Board is a who’s who of Sudan’s warlords.” A refreshingly honest quote by Mr Heilberg appears about halfway through the article: “This is Africa,” he told Rolling Stone magazine. “The whole place is like one big mafia. I’m like a mafia head.”

Quite so.

It’s very convenient that The Times provides such a blatant example of its hypocritical propaganda in the same edition: it saves people like me the trouble of pointing out the many, many further examples of the links between the planet’s leading exponents of so-called capitalism and democracy, and the ancient custom of corruption. Africa hasn’t been free of the vice-like grip of the west’s so-called democracies for hundreds of years, and many of the puppet leaders installed by those western so-called democracies, monsters such as Mobutu, Abacha and Mugabe have plundered billions of dollars worth of their own impoverished people’s assets for many decades; and Africa is far from being the only example of the virtues of western-imposed so-called democracy and capitalism. From Indonesia to Brazil, via India and the Phillipines, the catalogue of corruption, aided and abetted by the west’s so-called democracies, is long and impressive.

Much of this corruption is facilitated within walking distance of The Times’ head office. “The City”, as it calls itself, is home to possibly the largest collection on the planet of people such as Mr Heilberg, specialists in the murky world of commodity trading, and other gentle arts such as off-shore finance, a euphemism if ever there was one, for the gangsterism to which Mr Heilberg openly confesses.

Given that Britain styles itself as a leading exponent of democracy, whilst nurturing and protecting some of the planet’s richest gangsters, I don’t think there’s much room for The Times to be preaching to China about its record on corruption.


6 June 2011
Help for Heroes

Never let it be said that I fail to notice a significant anniversary.

“Hero” is a very over-worked word. It should refer to someone who has done something of extraordinary bravery, someone who put their own life at very considerable risk, to help others. The best examples of real heroes are usually found in the emergency services: firemen, lifeboatmen etc, or ordinary civilians suddenly caught up in someone else’s life-threatening situation and who instantly respond by putting their own lives at risk in order to help. Such people deserve to be called heroes. However, it’s a word we are conditioned automatically to associate with our armed forces, as part of the relentless propaganda to coerce public acceptance of illegal wars.

There have been very few times in our history where the word “hero” truly applies to someone in the military. The Battle of Britain was one such time, the Battle of Hastings another. The Second World War produced a few real military heroes; the First World War almost none, as it was arguably the most cynical act of imperial plunder in British history, and the most of the real heroes from that time were those who refused to take part in it.

The modern military have produced almost no real heroes. There has been no need for them to do so for seventy years, yet we are relentlessly coerced to think of those who have slaughtered defenceless civilians, in their hundreds of thousands, directly or indirectly, as “heroes” – and all so that obscenely rich people may become even richer. We put children in a uniform, send them off to distant parts of the world to help an evil foreign empire kill helpless poor people, and are then expected to see these brutalised young people as “heroes”. It is cynicism of quite breathtaking proportions.


10 May 2011
Local Election Results 2011

Last week local elections were held throughout most of the country. I competed for the fourth time. Victory in elections is by far the preferred method of introducing Free Democracy through the People's Constitution. Whilst I can't say with any real conviction that I fully trust Britain's electoral process, it is possibly reliable and I shall give it the benefit of the doubt until I have evidence to the contrary.

I was pleased with my campaign. For the first time I tried knocking on people's doors to speak to them. Previously I have always found that a daunting prospect, but this time I felt I was ready. My several years of reading has prepared me, and strengthened me. What was once little more than a hunch has now grown into absolute conviction: our government is corrupt; it must be changed. Free Democracy is not perfect, but it's considerably better than what we have.

The poll was held last Thursday (May 5). The winner, by an overwhelming majority, was Apathy. I contested Greyfriars Ward in Grantham, which has about 3,000 names on the electoral role. About 1,000 of these people actually voted. Therefore I declare Apathy the undisputed champion. Even the completely fatuous non-issue of a referendum on the "Alternative Vote", together with the considerable media attention that went with it, only 43% of the regional electorate bothered to turn out. Another victory for Apathy.

This is not ironic comment. I’m truly impressed, because it confirms one of my core assumptions about the Average Voter: she isn’t stupid. In spite of The System (certainly not because of it), most people know our government is corrupt, that for the most part it simply doesn’t matter whether you vote for Tweedledum or Tweedledee. Just as Tom Paine said more than two hundred years ago: “Change of ministers amounts to nothing. One goes out, another comes in, and still the same measures, vices, and extravagance are pursued... The defect lies in the system. The foundation and the superstructure of the government is bad.” (Rights of Man) The business of government has changed very little, and Mr Paine’s words are every bit as true today as they were when he wrote them.

305 people voted for me last Thursday, which was just fantastic. 305 Greyfriars residents, about a third of those who voted, were fully supportive of my firm anti-war position and my efforts to reform our corrupt system of government. Taken with yet another victory for Apathy, the message is unmistakable.

I came fairly close to being elected. If a mere 80 people had voted for me instead of Ian Stokes I would have won his seat. Given the radical nature of my campaign, my relative anonymity and tiny budget (my whole campaign only cost me £140), I did pretty well. Whilst I won't entirely believe the system can be trusted to introduce Free Democracy until I'm actually elected, I still think it's a real possibility.


4 May 2011
Murder Most Strange

A couple of days ago the western media was galvanised into coordinated action by the apparent killing of Osama Bin Laden by US “special” forces. It was the front page story of every major newspaper and completely dominated all the TV and radio “news” programmes. It seems that he was gunned down in a large building within rifle-shot of a military training establishment in Abbottabad, a city in northern Pakistan. According to Wikipedia, Abbottabad is “well-known throughout Pakistan for its... military establishments.” According to most of the western media the Pakistani authorities had absolutely no idea Bin Laden was staying within a comfortable walk of a large army base. Nor did they know anything about the US raid deep inside its territory, until after it happened.

The whole spectacle was supposedly filmed by the US forces doing the killing, and relayed live to an operations room, presumably somewhere in Washington, where president Obama and secretary of state Clinton watched as though they were at the movies. All they needed was popcorn and coke.

Apparently as soon as Bin Laden was murdered his body was whisked away and dumped into the sea. This, we’re told, was out of respect for Islamic custom, which says that bodies must be buried within 24 hours of death. Ahhhhh.

The story is strange, to say the least, for several reasons; but what I found the strangest thing of all was the bit of “news” on TV last night which showed Obama and Clinton supposedly watching the action in that operations room.

Now we’re told there have been many US attempts to assassinate Bin Laden. I won’t discuss the fact that assassination is obviously illegal in international law, and the law of every civilised country in the world, including Pakistan (everyone knows that international law, and law in general, is irrelevant to the US government – unless it serves its purposes). But I wonder if the US president and the secretary of state have sat together and watched every one of those previous presumably failed attempts on live TV – and been filmed themselves whilst doing so.

I wonder about that.

I can sort of understand that Obama and Clinton might watch such a murder taking place. What I find strange is that they should be filmed watching it, and that film should then be circulated to the international media. What’s that about?

Robert Fisk, the Independent’s specialist on the Middle East, wrote a short piece yesterday about the murder and suggested the possibility that the murdered man might be a Bin Laden double – without personally supporting the suggestion. But his final sentence was quite interesting; it reads: “Of course, if we are all wrong and it was a double, we're going to be treated to yet another videotape from the real Bin Laden – and President Barack Obama will lose the next election.”

Quite so.

All of this provided the BBC with the perfect excuse not to report another story that could be found if one looked around a bit (like on the Guardian’s website). It was a report that one of Colonel Gaddafi’s sons and an unspecified number of grandchildren had been murdered in a NATO airstrike. The Guardian suggested the story might not be true because it originated from the Libyan authorities.

It’s a pity the Guradian doesn’t qualify other reports it cheerfully publishes from British and US authorities with the same degree of scepticism.

Whilst it has to be said you would think that if the story was true the Libyan authorities would not shrink away from showing the bodies of the alleged victims, the reason for the BBC’s reticence in informing the nation about the actions of its “war heroes” is still pretty obvious: UN Resolution 1973, which authorises NATO intervention in defence of Libyan civilians, is stretched pretty thin to justify an air-strike against a civilian home which was doing absolutely nothing to endanger the lives of other Libyan civilians.

Assassinations and the attempted murder of heads of state to force regime change (illegal in international law) are a pretty strange way to champion the virtues of “freedom” and “democracy”.


2 May 2011
Conversation With Mike

I was at work on Saturday, the day after Prince William married Kate Someone Or Another. It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say I was disinterested in the Royal Wedding – I was a little too angry with the blanket media coverage, and a little too disappointed (but not surprised) at the number of ordinary people who have not yet seen the light about the obscenity of monarchy, to say I was disinterested.

I was working with Jean, Luke and Mike, who’s a guy I like and respect for his genuinely good heart. The Big Day quite naturally got a mention (not by me). Mike said, almost apologetically, that he didn’t watch it, and that his wife (who had sat glued to the TV all day long) was quite cross with him for not doing so. That started a bit of a conversation about monarchy generally. Mike and Jean, who aren’t young, both indicated their general support for kings and queens – but were being fairly muted about it – when Mike mentioned the fact that some dissident Irish Republican movement recently said, allegedly, that when the queen visits Ireland it wants her arrested and charged with war crimes. Mike mentioned this as an example of sheer stupidity, and to show his loyalty to Her Holy Graciousness. Jean quickly agreed with him. I thought about it for a second or two, and as I hadn’t yet said anything, decided it was time to do so.

“So Mike,” I said, “Exactly what bit of that Irish comment do you disagree with?”

Poor old Mike looked at me as though I had two heads. His stunned expression showed that he wasn’t sure if I was joking, or if he was working with some crazy person. I continued.

“I mean, there must be something there that you disagree with, what is it? Is it that you think the queen shouldn’t be arrested, or that she shouldn’t be charged with war crimes?”

“Well it’s just... just... stupid,” he spluttered, still not sure if I was joking.

“What about Iraq?” I asked. “That was an illegal war that British soldiers took part in. The queen is head of state; should she not be accountable for her soldiers killing people in an illegal war?”

I don’t know if the Irish Republicans were referring to the Iraq War (assuming they even said anything at all about arresting the queen) – goodness knows there are enough other possibilities.

“But she’s not really,” said Mike; “She’s just a figurehead.”

“She’s head of state, Mike,” I persisted.

The conversation fizzled out there as someone turned up wanting food and we both got on with our jobs. But hopefully it might make Mike think a little and, more importantly, Luke, who’s just a young chap.

We seem to have absolutely no trouble demanding accountability from other heads of state for the actions of their governments – such as Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi – so why do people find it so outlandish to expect that the queen, as head of the British state, should be similarly accountable?

That’s called a rhetorical question. I know the answer really: laws are for little people, and little heads of state. Rich elites and big heads of state are obviously well above and beyond the law.

That doesn't mean it's right though, does it?


9 April 2011
War Story

For the last few weeks our so-called “news” has been utterly dominated by the latest official war-crime – in Libya. This particular war-crime is supposedly authorised by UN Security Council Resolution 1973. The so-called “news” coverage about it has fully conformed to the propaganda requirements of empire and has been marketed and sold as being in the best interests of the Libyan people. It has nothing whatsoever to do with oil. So far, so normal. But for the last two days the BBC has suddenly gone completely silent on the subject. That must mean there’s nothing worth reporting, you might think.

However, one of Russia’s propaganda machines, Russia Today, found an interesting little tale that must have escaped the attention of the good people of the BBC. Apparently a convoy of rebel tanks were destroyed two days ago by NATO air strikes, killing up to forty civilians and rebels in the process – the very people NATO is supposedly protecting and supporting.

Twenty four hours after the strike the BBC’s website reported that NATO has apologised for “mistakenly” hitting a column of rebel tanks near the eastern town of Ajdabiya, and admitted to “at least 13” rebel fighters being killed. The article went on to report that: “The rebels hit in the air strike had been moving a group of tanks, armoured vehicles and rocket launchers near the front line between the towns of Ajdabiya and Brega in more than 30 transporters.” According to the BBC website, the official NATO response to the attack was that “NATO will continue to uphold the UN mandate and strike forces that can potentially cause harm to the civilian population of Libya."

Now there are several interesting things about this story.

Firstly of course, is the question as to why this incident was not covered in Britain’s main “news” programmes, given the fact that events in Libya have so completely dominated the so-called “news” for the last month. Why is this “mistake” by NATO bombers that kills between 13 and 40 of the people we’re supposed to be protecting and supporting not deemed newsworthy by the nation’s leading “news” provider?

Then there’s the so-called “mistake” itself. You can sort of understand it when one bomb misses its target for one reason or another; or when in the heat of battle soldiers shoot their own people in so-called “friendly fire” incidents – these things might possibly be genuine mistakes. But here we’re told that a convoy of 30 transporters was attacked, a convoy that was known to be the good guys - because the BBC filmed it setting out on its journey. And it was clearly a sustained attack over a fairly prolonged period of time because the BBC website also mentioned that an ambulance that had reached the scene, which was obviously some time afterwards, was itself attacked by NATO whilst trying to rescue people. This was the second such “mistake” in a week, as NATO struck another rebel convoy on the previous Friday and killed 13 civilians.

The next interesting thing about this story is the fact that the rebels have 30 transporters full of “tanks, armoured vehicles and rocket launchers”, and that much of this incident was reported at a news conference presided over by one General Abdelfatah Yunis. This is interesting stuff because for the last couple of weeks Ben Brown, one of the BBC’s reporters in Libya, has been relentlessly telling us how poorly equipped and how poorly led the rebels are, that they’re mostly individual bands of people with no military experience using aging handguns. Yet here we have 30 transporters of tanks, armoured vehicles and rocket launchers... and a general – just about the most senior rank there is in any army.

Then there’s the wording of the “official response” – that bit about “upholding the UN mandate” to strike “forces that can potentially cause harm to the civilian population of Libya”. It’s that little word “potentially” that troubles me here - because if you read Resolution 1973 and can find it anywhere there, you’re a better man than me Gunga Din. In other words, the UN mandate that we’re so keen to uphold has been entirely re-engineered by the addition of that one word, to suit some other unstated purpose.

But there’s one fairly good piece of news about all this: the end of empire must be nigh. Fifty years ago the people were pretty much totally reliant on the BBC for news about the world. What the BBC said, or left unsaid, was absolutely believed to be in the best interests of the nation. The internet has changed that forever.

Today we can instantly learn from other sources pieces of news the BBC conceals from us... and wonder why it’s concealed. We can instantly read for ourselves important pieces of fact such as United Nations resolutions, compare it with what we’re told on the BBC... and wonder why they’re different. And once this doubt about the authenticity of our most trusted source of information is established, the old blind faith in its reliability and honesty of purpose can never be restored. And once empire can no longer fool the people, its days are numbered.


30 March 2011
Shameless

The “news” in all of the mainstream media is about the “civil war” in Libya. If there were armed insurgents in any western country busily trying to overthrow their own government they would be called terrorists, and no punishment would be deemed too severe for them. But in Libya they are “anti-Gaddafi rebels” and all of our media are occupied in convincing us they deserve our sympathy and support. Perhaps they do, but that is not the point here; for the “anti-Gaddafi rebels” are heavily supported by the mighty armed forces of NATO in their efforts to overthrow their government, which is a flagrant violation of international law.

A couple of weeks ago the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1973. Although there had been absolutely no obvious reason why it needed to do so, the Security Council made it lawful for US and European forces to attack the Libyan army – IF the Libyan army was attacking civilians. Almost immediately after the resolution was passed French warplanes destroyed three Libyan battle tanks... that were NOT engaging civilian targets. So the precedent was set. Resolution 1973 was to be used as a licence for war – which is NOT the given purpose of that resolution.

This morning’s news on the BBC put a lot of emphasis on the fact that the anti-Gaddafi rebels are poorly armed, and poorly organised... or so the BBC tells us. The point was made over and over again. As the BBC is the British government’s foremost propaganda organ it’s always worthwhile considering why a particular story is being told. Of course you can make up just about any conspiracy theory you like in that situation, and I’m the first to acknowledge that I have absolutely no evidence to support the following line of questioning:

Is this a prelude to formalising the appearance of British armed forces in Libya? Of course I have absolutely no doubt they’re already there – in the formidable shape of the honest citizens of the SAS for example – but as Resolution 1973 specifically outlaws the presence of foreign troops in Libya it would be a little embarrassing if things went wrong and British soldiers started turning up on Al Jazeera dead or captured in the streets of Tripoli. Making the anti-Gaddafi rebels appear sad and incompetent could be just the ticket to preparing the great British public for such an eventuality – turning the dead or captured individuals concerned into overnight heroes for fighting for the poor oppressed underdogs. This morning’s BBC “news” did not remind us, of course, that poorly equipped peasants defeated the largest army on the planet in Vietnam; and that poorly equipped, disorganised peasants have yet to be subdued in Afghanistan or Iraq despite twenty years of the combined efforts of western military might to do so.

Since the passing of Resolution 1973, and as the western public have been slowly accustomed to yet another slaughter being inflicted in their name, our trusted leaders have been uniting in demanding the removal of Colonel Gaddafi (which is illegal in international law), and that he be charged for crimes against humanity! This from the very same people who have the innocent blood of at least one and a half million Iraqi and Afghan civilians still fresh on their hands; and who always seem to be looking the other way when the awesome Israeli army unleashes hell on the defenceless citizens of Gaza! Where are their “no-fly zones” then, their pity for poorly armed rebels, and their calls for charges of crimes against humanity?

Have they absolutely no shame?


25 March 2011
Two Cheers for Democracy

Parliament recently debated whether they should support UN Resolution 1973, which basically gave the green light for British forces to attack Libya if it felt so inclined. It was of course a rigged debate, like just about every other parliamentary debate (and the one that passed Resolution 1973). However, the scale of the British parliamentary rigging was quite impressive. 557 MPs voted to support the resolution, with just 12 voting against.

I tried half-heartedly to discover how my own MP voted – what with the wonders of the internet and so on it shouldn’t be too difficult. But no, I couldn’t find out. I say it was half-hearted because a) I’m sure I could find out if I really wanted to, and b) he’s a Tory, and his boss is supposedly running the country, so I know how he will have voted. I was actually more interested in seeing who were the 12 souls who voted against, but apart from learning that a Mr Jeremy Corbyn (Lab North Islington) was one of them, I couldn’t find that out either.

Almost within minutes of Resolution 1973 being passed French warplanes attacked and destroyed three Libyan tanks. We weren’t told how many Libyans this killed. That attack established two precedents for the latest adventure: firstly that it was perfectly O.K. to attack any Libyan military target; and secondly, that we needn’t bother with details about human casualties – like counting them for example. And then within a day or two of that first attack one of Gaddafi’s palaces was blitzed, establishing another precedent: Gaddafi himself was a legitimate target. But here’s an interesting thing: Resolution 1973 does NOT give the authority for random attacks against the Libyan military, and the UN Charter specifically outlaws the use of UN forces to compel regime change – which was obviously the intention of the attack on Gaddafi’s house. Although Resolution 1973 is generous enough to the warmongers, it only allows them to “protect civilians and civilian populated areas... under threat of attack” (my emphasis).

Now we have seen no evidence whatsoever that the Libyan army has “threatened to attack” civilians since Resolution 1973 was passed. Although I’m absolutely sure they wouldn’t hesitate to do so if Gaddafi’s regime was seriously threatened, and if the warmongers weren’t poised to pounce, that’s not the point. The point is, as far as we know from our carefully managed media sources, Gaddafi’s military is not attacking its own civilians. It has been fighting armed insurgents – just as any other army would do in similar circumstances anywhere else in the world – but there’s no irrefutable evidence that it’s been attacking civilians. Therefore there’s no justification for the massive bombardment of Libya that’s currently underway. However, our carefully managed media has told us that ever since the latest “coalition of the willing’s” warplanes have been in action hundreds of people have been killed. More vaguely counted “collateral damage”; more innocents slaughtered supposedly to protect civilians who hadn’t been in any obvious danger until the “coalition of the willing” turned up for work..

Because a mere six weeks ago Colonel Gaddafi and his government were perfectly acceptable members of “the international community”, enjoying normal trading and cultural links with the rest of the world. However, almost overnight we observed an amazing turnaround from our trusted leaders. Suddenly it was decided that Gaddafi was a menace to his own people, that a “no fly zone” over Libya was desperately needed. We were even fretting that it was already too late – but we saw not a shred of evidence for these claims. At exactly the same time as other Middle Eastern states were violently suppressing their own populations (like Yemen and Bahrain for example) our trusted leaders judged that the most pressing need for a “no fly zone” was in a country where no such suppression was taking place.

This touching concern for the welfare of civilians would all be well and good – if it was sincere. But such tender interest has never, NEVER been expressed for the civilians of Gaza, whose tragic condition must rate amongst the most desperate anywhere on Earth. Never, NEVER has a “no fly zone” been proposed to protect Palestinians from their murderous oppressors.

Whilst British people are being told they must have their public services scrapped and their pensions savaged because there’s no money to pay for them, that There Is No Alternative, we learn there’s no problem at all finding money for our armed forces to carry out yet more war crimes – in the holy name of oil... sorry, I mean “democracy”, obviously. So let’s hear it once more for “democracy”: hip, hip ...


1 March 2011
Hot Air

Every couple of weeks the Media Studies department at Lincoln University put on a talk by some visiting expert from the media. Last night the talk was by David Hayward and Kevin Marsh, both of the BBC College of Journalism, and Mike Smith, representing the International Communications Forum. It was a small audience of about twenty souls, comprising students, lecturers and odds-and-sods like Lorraine and me.

David Hayward is the head of the journalism programme for the BBC College of Journalism and Kevin Marsh is Executive Editor at the BBC College of Journalism. I went along because I was interested in seeing what sort of stuff these pillars of the media establishment were peddling to tomorrow’s journalists, and because I wanted to ask them a question. I wanted to ask them a question not because I don’t know the answer, but to make sure these guys knew they haven’t got us all fooled, and hopefully to sow a seed or two of doubt in the minds of any young listeners who might have been taken in.

Mr Smith got the ball rolling with a short talk about the ethics of journalism and a bit about the ICF. Touching stuff which, to my cynical mind, served only to highlight the blatant hypocrisy of what we were about to hear.

It was a fairly convincing performance by the men from the Beeb. The image they presented was a sort of combination of the steely-eyed world-weary specialist, and nice-bloke-from-the-pub. Of course they didn’t say anything controversial. Nevertheless, what they did say was insidious enough in a sort of mummy-knows-best kind of way.

Mr Hayward, the nice-bloke-from-the-pub, wanted to talk on the subject of leaks and stings. His basic position was that leaks and stings in general, and WikiLeaks in particular, are bad for journalism. Hr Hayward was rightly concerned about veracity: who the source was, what exactly they witnessed, where and when – and their motive for telling the story. Mr Hayward appeared to suggest that leaked material or material obtained through ‘stings’ could not be relied upon to satisfy any of these legitimate concerns.

Mr Marsh, as ‘Executive Editor’ of the BBC College of Journalism, clearly wields some clout and exuded that very-important-person-type aura. He continued the theme of ethical journalism and the tireless search for truth. Referring particularly to WikiLeaks, he suggested that people seemed to think that just because a thing was secret it was therefore true.

There were several times when I wanted to interrupt these guys midstream, like here, when I wanted to call out “A bit like our ‘news’ then: I heard it on the ‘news’, or read it in the paper, so it must be true?” Or whenever WikiLeaks was being slagged off (which was quite often) when I wanted to point out that in an ideal world WikiLeaks would be completely irrelevant. Or later when Mr Marsh suggested that leaked stories were often considered “news”worthy because they played to public fears. That was when I wanted to shout out “And who is it that generates those fears?”

Mr Marsh was clearly no fan of WikiLeaks, and appeared quietly satisfied that Julian Assange seems to have been nailed by the long arm of US “justice”. He went on to discredit the principle of “news” obtained through stings by journalists, and leaks, suggesting it devalued the noble standards of his profession.

After he finished, questions were invited from the audience. There was a bit of a silence, so I went first. I said that it was indeed reasonable to discuss whether information from stings and leaks was good journalism, but, I pointed out, there was another issue relevant to the subject that hadn’t been mentioned. After all, I said, it’s not the journalist or reporter who decides if their story is going to lead the six o’ clock “news”, or make the front page of the “news”paper.

I didn’t want to appear too hysterical so didn’t spell out that these things are decided at a very much higher level than the reporter who filed the story – and often for very cynical reasons. I’m sure the panel of speakers knew exactly what I meant, because my remark was met with a sort of silence rather than a confident rebuttal, and then a mumbled acknowledgment that of course there was some editorial influence. Then Mr Smith chipped in, almost apologetically, with the view that there was an old principle in journalism which said “If it bleeds it leads.” I immediately answered that that depends on who bleeds, pointing out that it was true enough to say that British casualties of war do indeed usually lead, but never the victims of the British military.

Mr Marsh leapt to the defence of the Beeb by saying that the Beeb had been much criticised for reporting in the early days of the Iraq war when a bunker in Baghdad had been bombed, whose victims were predominantly civilian. Oh well that’s all right then. The Beeb reports on one incident of civilian death eight years ago and that no doubt provides sufficient “balance” for its reporting of an illegal war where at least a million defenceless civilians were killed (but I didn’t say that at the time).

The talk went pretty much as I expected, which is a bit of a result because it’s always nice to have your prejudices confirmed by events.


16 February 2011
We're ALL In It Together - 2

The usually excellent Monbiot has brought to our attention yet another fascinating snippet of information: our trusted leaders in government are poised to make it far simpler for multi-national corporations to plunder British taxpayers’ pockets. Writing for the Guardian, and also posted on his website, Monbiot’s piece tells us of yet another iniquitous piece of legislation our trusted leaders are about to pass – and which, unsurprisingly, seems to have escaped the notice of the mainstream media.
http://www.monbiot.com/2011/02/07/a-corporate-coup-detat/

The new law, called the Finance Bill 2011, http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/financebill2011_draft_leg_overview.PDF will, amongst other things, provide for British-based companies with overseas operations to forego the tiresome business of having to pay any Corporation Tax on their foreign investments. As it stands at the moment, these companies must pay the difference between whatever the tax is due in the overseas country, and the modest 28% wholly British businesses must pay – for now (this same draft legislation includes proposals to reduce Corporation Tax each year for the next four years).

So say you had a business registered in London, Pirates-R-Us say, with a lucrative little operation in the well-known resort of Treasure Island. The annoying authorities on Treasure Island insist on you shelling out 10% corporation tax; but that’s the least of your problems because the British government requires you to cough up an additional 18% to bring you into line with other British businesses. But all that’s about to change.

There are eighteen sub-sections to that bit of the Finance Bill concerning Corporation Tax. On page 70, in the sub-section “Taxation of Foreign Branches” and under the heading “Proposed revisions”, we can read:

“The legislation will... allow a company to make an irrevocable election for all its foreign branches, located anywhere in the world, to be exempt from UK CT [Corporation Tax] on their profits.”

Now at the end of each sub-section is a table titled “Summary of Impacts”, which makes for moderately interesting reading in its very own right. The first part of the table is titled “Exchequer Impact”, and is supposed to indicate how the proposed changes will impact the public purse (we don’t learn how these numbers have been derived). However, page 70 tells us the new law is expected to have a “steady state cost [to the government presumably] of £100 million a year,” and that the “primary benefit of this proposal will arise in two sectors: banking..... and general insurance.” Another bit of the table is headed “Impact on Individuals and Households”. Quite a few of these summary tables have a one line entry for this that reads: “The proposal is for CT, and does not impact on individuals or households.”

Whilst a mere £100 million a year loss to the nation is indeed smaller than other “steady state costs” listed in “Exchequer Impact” (such as the proposed “Reduction in the Small Profits Rate of Corporation Tax” for example, which is projected to be running at about a £1.4 billion a year loss by 2014 – see page 57 of the Finance Bill), it’s difficult to believe that this annual drain on the Treasury will have no “impact on individuals and households”. I mean, I think most individuals and households, if given the choice, would far rather see a couple of billion pounds a year going into public services than into the offshore bank accounts of company executives who are not exactly short of a bob or two.

But that’s not all.

According to Monbiot, not content with saving multi-billion pound organisations the inconvenience of paying tax on foreign earnings, our government also permits these people to claim the cost of those overseas operations as a tax deduction on their domestic earnings.

Monbiot concludes his piece, as always, with a comprehensive list of the sources he’s used, two of which should come as no surprise to anyone who understands how government really works. They’re lists of “representatives from businesses” who helped the civil servants draft the new bill by providing “strategic oversight [to] the development of corporate tax policy”.
http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/corporate_tax_reform.htm
http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/consult_cfc_reform.htm

Nearly all the names that appear on these lists are either employees of banks, insurance companies or some other corporation. So one of the questions that keeps me up at night is this: with all these “experts” representing the business community to help the civil servants draft this no-doubt wonderful new legislation, who was representing the interests of the “individuals and households”? Who was it exactly who predicts with such confidence, and so often, that “The proposal is for CT, and does not impact on individuals or households”?

Appearing several times throughout this draft bill we see that the reason for its existence is to “simplify” the tax system. We also read an entire section on the fascinating subject of “Anti-avoidance” – no doubt to reflect the government’s deep concern for those naughty little accountants who earn their keep by saving their masters the trouble of paying anything to a government that seldom fails to miss an opportunity to bend over for those same masters and smile invitingly over its shoulder. Although my life is fortunately not so sad that I’ve actually read the Finance Bill 2011 from cover to cover, I must say the overall impression I have is that the government has done a fairly good job of “simplifying” and “Anti-avoidance.” It’s whittled away at those tiresome laws to such an extent that accountants will no longer have to trouble themselves with the effort of avoiding them. Tax avoidance for these guys will no longer be illegal because there won’t be any legal requirement to pay any tax at all. Mission accomplished.

* * *

Not entirely unrelated to all this were two other pieces of “news” that have made the BBC’s six o’ clock show recently. The first was about some young Air Force cadets who have been told that they are being “let go” and will not be able to complete their training course (on how to plunder the taxpayer’s pockets on totally unnecessary and illegal wars for a foreign empire). The second piece of “news” was about thirty other long serving servicemen who have been told they too will be “let go” – in a year’s time. Both of these situations are, of course, because of the government’s cuts in public spending.

What we were not told, of course, was how many of these people would have lost those jobs as a completely normal part of military life. (I mean, when I was an army cadet doing my training it was part of the process to start with about thirty trainees, fully expecting to finish the course with about ten. It was completely normal for trainees to be kicked off the course in the sacred cause of “pursuit of excellence”.) Neither were we told how many of the other servicemen were due to end their contracts fairly soon anyway.

All of this was, no doubt, another cynical manoeuvre intended to rally public support for “our heroes”, and public opposition for cuts to “defence”. The government could have just as easily (and more usefully) sacked a couple of dozen generals who do nothing more dangerous than idle their time away in their London clubs, and saved itself even more money – but that wouldn’t cause anywhere near as much public outrage against “defence” spending cuts as the gradual removal of ordinary service personnel who may have been on their way out anyway.

But then we’re All In It Together aren’t we? Of course we are.


1 February 2011
We're ALL In It Together

Fernando Torres, a footballer, moved home yesterday. He moved from Liverpool Football Club to Chelsea Football Club, a distance of about 200 miles. For this no doubt considerable inconvenience to Mr Torres it’s reported that Chelsea paid £50m. The story has made the national ‘news’ in England because it’s the first time the £50m barrier has been broken for a transfer fee in the domestic football market.

In 1979, Andy Gray (recently in the headlines for what must be the most ludicrous non-story of the year) achieved similar notoriety. He moved home from Aston Villa to Wolverhampton Wanderers (a far more manageable 7 or 8 miles) for what was then the highest transfer fee ever paid between British football clubs - £1.5m.

In 1979 factory work was a fairly well paid job in England. In Grantham for example, where I live, there were several sizeable factories employing significant numbers of people. They were factories that made highly engineered products requiring people with considerable skill to make them. The town has a proud engineering history (though we’ll draw a veil over the fact that it produced the first battlefield tanks, and remained an arms maker into the 1980’s). Workers normally worked a standard forty hour week with weekend work paid at overtime rates. Now I don’t know what the average wage was for a general operative back then, and it isn’t easy to find out, but if I said about £3 an hour I’m probably slightly overestimating.

Today all of those big factories have now died (murdered would be a slightly more accurate description); but there are a few small engineering firms doing quite well in the town (green shoots of recovery and all that). I don’t know what general operatives are paid there these days, and I can’t be bothered to find out; but if I said it was about £7 an hour I would probably be exaggerating (given that the minimum wage is currently £5.91, and modern employers are not famous for paying much more than absolutely necessary).

Now then, 1979 was quite a significant year for something else; for that was the year that a grocer’s daughter became the first female Prime Minister of Britain. And Thatcherism was born. “We’re all in it together” could have been a catch phrase her army of propagandists might have employed as she rolled up her sleeves and set about decimating the bedrock of the British economy – its industry.

Today’s equivalent of Andy Gray costs his employer more than thirty times what would have been paid in 1979. If a factory worker’s wages had increased at a similar rate she would be on about £100 an hour.

Of course we’re all in it together. I never doubted it for a minute.


3 January 2011
Water Torture

The first time I heard that there was a problem with Northern Ireland’s water supply was, I think, on the six o’ clock “news” on New Year’s Eve. I was half asleep and half watching the BBC’s 24 hour “news” channel where, I’m sure they said, the water shortage was a result of Belfast’s main reservoir running dry. Although it had apparently been a problem for about a week, this was the first time it had made the “news”. How very odd, I thought: how could one of the wettest places in Europe run out of water. Just as the story ended my wife came into the room and I told her about it. She too thought it was odd, so I changed channels so she could watch it for herself on BBC One, the Beeb’s main channel, where their “news” was just starting up. This time there’s no mention of dry reservoirs; we’re told instead that the water shortage was due to water pipes bursting as the long spell of recent freezing weather thawed. Exactly the same story, told by exactly the same “news” provider, but with an entirely different cause.

The following morning that leading organ of British printed propaganda, The Times, ran an article about it on page 14. At the time I didn’t know that Northern Ireland was just about the last part of Britain whose water supply has not been privatised... but I started to wonder. I didn’t have long to wait. The story has been in the “news” ever since and the recurring theme, in The Times and on TV, is that Northern Ireland Water is a public company, whilst most of the mainland’s water supply is provided by private corporations.

Curiously missing from all these national “news” reports, however, is any information about how the rest of the mainland’s water supply has been coping after enduring very similar weather conditions. So it’s obviously quite difficult to know how the rest of Britain is managing for water, and one could be forgiven for assuming there simply isn’t a problem with the nation’s wonderful privatised water supply as the national “news” hasn’t anything to say about it. But my local “news” provider, which covers the East Midlands, has been reporting plenty of burst water pipes and an “unprecedented” number of calls from the public on the subject. So contrary to the way the national “news” providers are spinning the story, it would seem that Northern Ireland’s burst water pipes have nothing to do with the fact that the supplier is a public company rather than a private one; and their water problems, like the rest of the country, are pretty much down to the fact that Britain has just experienced the coldest December in a hundred years.

Headlines are a very important part of the propagandist’s craft, and the story provided by last Saturday’s Times appeared beneath a fine example of the art: “UK taxpayers’ money goes down the drain in subsidy for failing Ulster water company”.

The article proceeds to suggest that households in Northern Ireland pay an average of just £80 a year for their water services, whilst households on the mainland pay around £350. This is because, we’re told, British taxpayers must subsidize Northern Ireland’s water to the tune of £10 per household. In case The Times readers struggle with simple arithmetic, the paper reinforces the point by telling us that Northern Ireland customers pay: “a quarter of the typical water bill that the rest of the UK pays.” Clearly we’re supposed to be outraged and offended by our hard-earned taxes “going down the drain” and wonder why the Irish should get away with such cheap water bills. Well this reader is indeed outraged and offended – but wonders instead why customers on the mainland must pay FOUR TIMES as much for their water as Northern Ireland consumers when, if my home county is anything to go by, the service appears to be about the same.

The Times and the BBC “news” are of course produced by elites for elites, and it’s very obvious that Northern Ireland is being softened up to accept the privatisation of its water supply, so that the good people of that country can savour the benefits of paying FOUR TIMES as much for basically the same service as the one they’re getting now. A letter in that same edition of The Times by someone rejoicing in the name Lord Baker of Dorking, who proudly tells us he was intimately involved in the mainland’s water privatisation under Thatcher, advises Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, “to privatise the operation in Northern Ireland so they can go to the markets for their capital requirements [because] Governments can only go to the taxpayer.”

No, Mr Baker, capital does not magically appear at “the markets” it comes from exactly the same place as governments find it: the taxpayer. It might have a different name, like Water Bill, but it’s still the taxpayer who pays it.

The suggestion that privatised utilities are better than public utilities is of course total bunkum – but absolutely central to the Chicago-school economic model that rules the world. The private organisation that provides water services to my English home is owned mostly by Australian and Canadian corporations, with a mere 15% of its shares held by a British company. This means the business end of the profits made on me spending FOUR TIMES as much for my water as some of my fellow Brits flies away to different parts of the globe instead of being reinvested in our own water services.

Not entirely unrelated to this story was a short discussion I heard on Al Jazeera the other night. I’ve long had my doubts about which side Al Jazeera is batting for, and their studio guest on this occasion did nothing to reassure me, being as he was from the Washington-based Cato Institute, a right wing “think-tank” that promotes itself as “dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace” (at least it has a sense of humour). The subject was Latin America and how remarkably well the economies of Latin American countries are looking at present. I had a sense of foreboding before the Cato-man even opened his mouth. Sitting back smugly in his chair he suggested to Al Jazeera’s viewers that this was a direct result of the stringent-though-much-criticised economic policies imposed on the continent in the eighties and nineties. In the absence of any “balancing” studio guest at Al Jazeera I thought I’d add the words of John Perkins which flashed instantly through my mind:

“Thanks to the biased “sciences” of forecasting, econometrics and statistics, if you bomb a city and then rebuild it, the data shows a huge spike in economic growth.”

Much of the rest of the world is bracing itself for its dose of economic shock treatment this year. I’m predicting the “huge spike” in economic growth will start appearing when the next round of US/UK elections kick off in about two years time, when no doubt we shall all be treated to endless lectures on the far-sighted wisdom of our economic leaders for their savaging of public services in 2011.


20 December 2010
Chinese Whispers

There was one quite interesting article in last Saturday’s Times. Although it was relatively easy to find interesting (not needing the usual mandatory peering between lines for truth), it was nevertheless relegated to the bottom of page 57, on the Money pages, where it is almost guaranteed to attract no one’s attention.

It’s a piece written by Patrick Hosking, the Investment Editor for The Times. Titled “My theory on the origin of the bank-stock panic”, it tells the remarkable story of a conversation between Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, and some fairly heavyweight Americans including Robert Kimmett, the Deputy Secretary of the US Treasury, and Robin Tuttle, the US Ambassador to Britain. The conversation took place on or before March 17, 2008, and seems to have come to light through the exposure by WikiLeaks of US diplomatic messages.

On the 17th March Mr Tuttle reported to his controllers that Mr King had told him that “he was certain that the UK banks would need fresh injections of capital [and that] he was trying to orchestrate an international bailout.”

Now, the really interesting thing about this story is that two days later, on the 19th March, bank stocks collapsed. As Patrick Hosking points out, referring to the State Department’s communication system:

“As we now know, these super-sensitive cables were not confined to a few key recipients but were in fact available to vast numbers of American officials, troops and other public sector workers – two million of them, it is said.”

I would never suggest any wrongdoing on the part of any of these honourable gentlemen, but it would seem very odd if Mr King assumed his conversation would not be reported, and that he was unaware of the porous nature of State Department signals. Twenty four hours advance warning of almost any political change is a very long time in the open banditry of international stock markets. Advance notice of possible government bailouts of major banks would probably attract the interest of most stock market traders.

I could not possibly conclude this little note any better than Patrick Hosking closed his article. The timing between Mr King’s conversation with the great and the good of the US establishment, and the collapse of bank shares, was indeed “a bit of a coincidence.”


14 December 2010
RESIST

Resist the spending cuts.

Our country is being stolen underneath our very noses – a bit like it was stolen from our forefathers during the Industrial Revolution through the iniquitous enclosure laws. This time our public services, the property of the taxpayer, are being killed off in order that unaccountable private corporations (many of which are not even British corporations) may be gifted public money.

The press should be in the vanguard of the resistance; and so far they have failed us. Hugo Black, one of the judges who presided over the case of the Pentagon Papers (the WikiLeaks of its day) wrote: “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfil its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors... The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

Of course Britain doesn’t even have a constitution, let alone any amendments to it, but we are supposed to be a democracy, which was the main point of Mr Black’s remark.

The theft of our country by savage spending cuts during the worst depression in seventy years must be resisted, and the press should be leading the way.


11 December 2010
There oughta be a law!

You know how the school bully invariably begins his attack by shoving his victim sharply in the chest, or simply prodding him a few times with his finger? Usually the shove or prod is accompanied with a barrage of barely articulate verbal abuse or, in the case of the slightly more intellectual bully, ‘humorous’ jibes. The idea is to provoke the victim enough to try to take a swing, whereupon the bully feels completely justified in pummelling his (always weaker) victim into the ground, the bully’s excuse being that he was merely defending himself from a vicious overreaction by the victim to some harmless fun. The beauty of the technique is that the bully will invariably have one of those moms who is not only completely incapable of believing that any wrongdoing could possibly be the fault of her precious little darling, but indeed sees in him a tragic victim of society who desperately needs his mommy to fight his corner – a duty to which she cleaves with a slavering, evangelical passion.

Well governments have also long practised the gentle art of bullying, using pretty much the same model as the classroom thug.

Take the First World War say. By 1914 the imperial powers were simply itching for a fight. They had all been tooling up for at least ten years, and when a useful idiot called Gavrilo Princip provided the prod in Germany’s chest, it was slaughter time. Mom came along afterwards in the shape of the Treaty of Versailles absolving her little darlings from all responsibility, and ensuring that nasty Germany had a sound spanking for daring to overreact to the trap the European powers had been setting for her to stumble into for half a generation.

Sometimes the shove in the chest isn’t witnessed by anyone who matters, and we only have the outraged bully’s word for the fact that it actually happened at all. For example, when the USS Maddox was allegedly attacked by North Vietnam, mom was so outraged she sent the rest of her kids to slaughter millions of defenceless peasants for the next eleven years. No matter that Maddox had no business being in the Gulf of Tonkin, or the fact that the so-called attack was largely fictitious.

Although the bully’s attacks are often premeditated, they sometimes occur in response to some quite unplanned event, and he simply takes advantage of a fortuitous opportunity dropping into his lap – like when an oriental air force wipes out half your navy as it gently snoozes in Hawaiian sunshine say, or when someone flies a passenger jet into a building. Of course there will always be those who suggest these types of event are not quite as unexpected as the bully claims; but so long as the bully has his adoring mom, any hard evidence of wrongdoing on his part is unlikely to see the light of day anytime soon.

I’ve been puzzled by the fuss over WikiLeaks since the website first caught the world’s attention. Julien Assange, the Australian founder of the website who quickly achieved international stardom, was recently arrested in London and is expected to be extradited to Sweden where he is supposed to face charges of a sex crime – which may or may not be fabricated. In addition to the apparent desire of the Swedish authorities to speak to him, Mr Assange is also thought to have upset the United States government, which has been playing the part of outraged victim since WikiLeaks first emerged.

On the face of it you might think the US government has every reason to feel peeved. After all, the only revelations by WikiLeaks that seem to attract the interest of the world’s media are those relating to that government; which is a little odd, isn’t it? I mean, are the only whistle-blowers in the world based in the US? Does the British government, for example, not have any dirty little secrets it would rather we didn’t find out about – or no one with the balls to send them to Mr Assange? I just find it very odd that the British media is wholly obsessed with WikiLeaks’ revelations about the US government. When you bear in mind that our media never usually breathes a word about anything likely to upset Uncle Sam (we never heard about last year’s military coup in Honduras, for example), you have to admit its quite strange that almost half of our ‘news’ broadcasts are suddenly given over to ‘leaks’ that supposedly embarrass Washington.

On the same day that Mr Assange was arrested by British police the BBC’s Newsnight was, like all the other ‘news’ programmes, obsessed with the story. One of the interviewees was one Michael Mukasey, who was the last US attorney general under George W Bush. Kirsty Wark asked him an interesting question. If Mr Assange were extradited to the US, she asked, under what law would the government seek to charge him? Mr Mukasey seemed uncomfortable, and after a bit of squirming mumbled something about the Espionage Act and legislation that had been in place since the First World War.

Was this a bit of a clue?

Almost forty years ago the writer David Wise published ‘The Politics of Lying – Government Deception, Secrecy and Power.’ Its subject matter is as fresh and relevant today as it was then, especially Chapter 7 – ‘Secrecy, National Security and the Press.’

The subject of publishing official documents is something of a thorny one to Washington. On the one hand the government has long practised the “official leak” of official papers when it suits its purposes (usually to embarrass or pressurise some politician). It has also routinely allowed ex-presidents to help themselves to official archives, casually declassifying as they go if there is some document that might aid the sale of their memoirs. If the government seeks to punish officials for unofficially leaking documents that ex-presidents could use at will if they wanted to, something of a constitutional dilemma is created because, as David Wise points out:

“If [the government] acts to penalize unauthorized disclosures, the press becomes the captive of the official leak. By applying sanctions to officials who divulge embarrassing news, the government increases its power to shape and distort information, to control the levers of truth. Only sanitized, processed and approved information reaches the public.”

The subject of official secrets has long troubled Washington. Given the fact that the US has that troublesome First Amendment to its constitution promising a free press, justifying secret documents becomes quite problematic. Britain has no such problems. First of all it doesn’t have a constitution at all, and it has certainly never been silly enough to promise a free press to anyone (but in a wonderful display of its unrivalled hypocrisy, has long proclaimed itself to be the very home of free speech). In addition, it has an impressive array of legislation to prevent talking out of school such as its Official Secrets Act, to which every public servant must swear allegiance on the first day of their employment, and such excellent libel laws that London is internationally acknowledged as the libel capital of the world.

David Wise tells us that the CIA proposed its own version of the Official Secrets Act way back in 1966, complaining that:

“The espionage laws provide a ‘startling lack of protection’ for intelligence secrets [and that] ‘No legislation has yet been enacted to cover the new problems arising out of the chronic cold war status of international relations.’”

The US congress has proven to be quite resistant to the desire of the “intelligence” community to muzzle people. Hence, it would seem, Mr Mukasey’s present dilemma about what law Mr Assange might be prosecuted by. Fairly close to the heart of the matter is the issue of “national security”, and who should define it. If it can be shown beyond reasonable doubt that publishing a particular document would be directly responsible for loss of life, for example, then it can be argued that document should not see the light of day; and if it does then those responsible should be significantly punished. But although it would seem the US government has a veritable myriad of security classifications for its numerous documents, what it does not seem to have is a nice meaty law like the British Official Secrets Act with which to terrorise ordinary officials, pretty much like the Brits can do to theirs.

Then there’s the internet itself of course. Almost since the day it was invented there have been grumblings from the “intelligence” community about the catastrophic spread of information. And they were right. Almost immediately people who had been in blissful ignorance about how the world really works started to see lights coming on all over the place. That would have to stop.

If it could be shown that the WikiLeaks disclosures directly resulted in loss of life somewhere it would significantly increase the chances of the “intelligence” community finally securing the legislation they have so desired for so long. A couple of days ago the ‘news’ concerning WikiLeaks focussed its attention on the vast assortment of places around the planet that are apparently “vital to the national security of the United States”. In case the point wasn’t obvious enough, the ‘news’ reader went on to spell out how very useful that particular disclosure would be to any terrorist who might be looking for something to do. Although it would indeed be a remarkable coincidence if any of the “vital interests” so helpfully listed by WikiLeaks were attacked anytime soon, we should never forget the lesson provided by USS Maddox. Although the finger-prodding of the US congress by the bully of the ruling elite would probably be enough to get the hapless victim to take a swing. It would almost certainly produce the swingeing legislation necessary to muzzle the internet, as well as drafting its very own Official Secrets Act to deal with transgressors.

David Wise concludes his excellent chapter on secrecy and national security with a nice little quote by Robert Kennedy:

“There is always a tendency in government to confuse secrecy with security. [Disclosure] may be uncomfortable, but it is not the purpose of democracy to ensure the comfort of its leaders.”

Fine words, but as Mr Assange’s story plays out in the months ahead it’ll be interesting to see how much of the US congress still holds to those values.


23 November 2010
Irish Mist?

Hull and East Riding News reported yesterday that plans to improve social housing in Hull were to be scrapped following a central government decision to scrap funding for the project. The scheme, which had been underway since last summer and already cost about £1m, was relying on £150m of government funding.

The decision to cut the funding was a product of the much trumpeted ‘spending review’. The proposed project in Hull would have created 700 new homes and provided local employment for some years to come at a time when it is desperately needed. Hull is of course just one example of many similar stories from all around the country. “We must cut spending,” we have been told almost daily for about the last year, “There Is No Alternative.”

However, amidst all this essential belt tightening we’re supposed to be doing, the government casually announced yesterday that it intends to loan the Irish government £7 billion! It can’t afford £150m for its own people, but has no trouble at all finding over forty times that amount for another country! (A country which, incidentally, has said repeatedly it doesn’t want any bail-out packages.) But bailing out Ireland, we’re told by our trusted leaders, is somehow more in the UK’s interest than providing employment and housing for its own people!


16 November 2010
Free and Easy

Aung San Su Kyi was released from prison on Saturday. She has been locked up in Burma for fifteen of the last twenty one years. Few people on the face of the planet know the full story behind her release – why the military junta who ruthlessly control that desperate country have decided to free her; and under what terms.

At more or less the same time an elderly British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, were released from captivity. They had been held for ransom for over a year by Somali pirates.

Both were rare items of good news that received a fair amount of media attention. Both concealed far more than they revealed. The issue of Somali pirates is a deep one. The desperation of their country, together with the role of the western powers in keeping it that way, is of course completely ignored by mainstream western media. All we are told is how all civilian shipping within hundreds of miles of the Somali coast is at risk from attack by villainous cutthroats. We’re never told why. However, immediately after the Chandlers’ release they were taken by military convoy into Mogadishu for a press conference. When the recently released Chilean miners were paraded before the world’s press, together with the Chilean president milking the publicity for all he was worth, not a word of complaint was heard; but the BBC expressed western outrage that the Chandlers should be so treated by the Somali government, who must have been every bit as instrumental in their release as the Chilean government was in freeing the miners. I wonder how much of the BBC’s sensitivity was down to the fact that rare film of life in downtown Mogadishu was briefly flashed across the world’s TV screens, showing how that ancient city now resembles the aftermath of a shell-shocked war-zone, with bullet-riddled buildings and bombed out streets. I wonder if the caring souls of the BBC, so concerned about the welfare of the Chandlers, were also slightly concerned that people might look at the images of that obviously desperate country and start wondering why.

That was the good news from the weekend. More normal stories reflecting the deep cynicism of those who rule could still be found where they normally are – tucked away on the edges of the middle pages of the paper. For example, there was a typically short piece on page 43 of the Times titled ‘Tax havens targeted’. It’s about a hundred words long and tells us that the honest citizens of the Treasury are talking with three offshore tax-havens with a view ‘to claw back £10 billion from wealthy tax dodgers’.

The tax-havens targeted are in Lichtenstein and Switzerland. We are not told why the Treasury is particularly interested in these sovereign countries, when there are so many others that should be more productive. I mean, there are plenty of other more promising places for the taxman to get his teeth into – if he really wanted to. Such as the Channel Islands, for example, or the Isle of Man, or British Virgin Islands – all of which have much closer ties to Whitehall than either Lichtenstein or Switzerland.

The Times piece closes with the words: ‘The Treasury would not name the three havens it is targeting, saying it would give those with money there a chance to remove it.’ So the point of the exercise is what exactly? And where does the Treasury think the money might be moved to? Channel Islands perhaps? Or Isle of Man, or British Virgin Islands? And why should the tax dodgers move it anyway? As the paper itself points out, tax avoidance is not a crime. Tax evasion is, but not tax avoidance. So that’s O.K then.... isn’t it?


26 October 2010
The Sheer Bloody Evil of Government

It’s sometimes tempting not to bother; not to bother writing once more about the sheer bloody evil of government. After all, the truly desperate are always desperate, no matter which shade of government is theoretically in charge. The majority of society, i.e. the middle class, the petit-bourgeois those-who-would-be-elite... all the people who could really make a difference if they could get their noses out the trough for long enough to listen to a little reason, are almost unreachable – so its tempting to think ‘leave ‘em to it; let ‘em stew in the vile broth that is, after all, a direct product of their own greed, or ignorance, or indifference.

But that’s just the frustration talking. Sanity and humanity soon return... because, of those three qualities, greed, ignorance and indifference, it’s ignorance that’s the biggest problem. Most people simply don’t know what the problem is; and given the absolute dominance by our controllers of the information we receive, from the cradle to the grave, that’s hardly surprising. Most people are not naturally disposed to inflicting suffering on others; they have to be trained to do it, slowly, by degrees. Most people are naturally good people, and once given good and humane information, usually make good and humane decisions – and that, in a nutshell, is why our controllers ensure we never have good and humane information.

Which is why most people fail to understand why the cuts being imposed on public sector spending by European governments are so very wrong. Most seem to think that because their governments tell them the cuts are absolutely necessary, that There Is No Alternative and that We Are All In This Together, that it must be the right thing to do. After all, out trusted leaders always act in our best interests, don’t they? That’s why we trust them. And that the majority of us do trust them is obvious – otherwise why do so many keep on turning out at elections?

But it isn’t difficult to show why repairing our ruined economies by cutting public spending is so very wrong.

1. First and Foremost, The Banks Did It.

Although this is arguably the most emotive reason, it is nevertheless true and compelling, and needs to be stated.

The massive public debt which government cuts are supposed to redress was caused by investment bankers acting in league with government regulators (or de-regulators to be a little more accurate). Although quite a number of people have pointed out this glaring fact, as though expecting that some account should be made of it, our trusted leaders continue to look the other way and insist that the people must pay the banksters debt, not the banksters themselves. There Is No Alternative. Although Britain’s chancellor, George Osborne, recently imposed a new levy on banks, that levy is a derisory 0.04% of profits, an amount so trivial that you have to wonder if he did it deliberately to inflame public rage, or if his aristocratic arrogance is so well-refined that he simply doesn’t care – the Osborne equivalent of ‘let them eat cake’, something he can snigger about over pink gins at the club with the rest of his taxes-are-for-little-people mates.

Demanding savage cuts to public services whilst requiring a mere 0.04% compensation from the banksters who plundered the economy in the first place is not just wrong, it’s evil.

2. Cutting Public Spending

Then there is the issue itself. Is the cutting of public spending really necessary, and if so, what is the best way to do it?

a. Anticipating that these cuts were imminent about a year ago, I wrote to the leader of our local council. I explained that I could show her how to make significant savings to her budget without any noticeable loss of service provision to the public. It wouldn’t be difficult. I used to work in the public sector: I know. I wrote not because I really expected her to take me up on my offer, but because you have to go through the hoops: you have to provide an alternative model in order that they can never say later on There Is No Alternative. I also did it for another reason: I believe in public services being delivered by local governments controlled by elected officials. I do not believe in public services being delivered by anonymous, unelected, and very distant corporate boardrooms. Whilst I know very well there is huge waste and inefficiency in the public sector, I also know very well that public services are best delivered by the public sector – not corporations.

Existing public services are mostly staffed by a grossly inflated management bureaucracy and a barely sufficient workforce. Whilst the workers (those who look the public in the eye) are fairly paid for the work they do, managers (who generally avoid the public like the plague) are overpaid many times over for the little value they provide. Once this simple fact is clearly understood a solution is obvious: reduce the cost of management.

I proposed to our council leader that she re-model the management of our council on a sort of co-operative system, where decision-making is done by the workers themselves agreeing changes by majority consensus. The model has been used successfully for centuries (if not millennia) all over the world; there’s nothing new about it, and its effectiveness is beyond dispute.

It took her some time to respond, but when she did, she did so on the phone (not in writing) replying that my model would mean that people would have to work ‘out-of-grade’ which, because it contravened some pay and conditions guide, obviously meant it couldn’t happen. Well obviously.

However, I learn through my sources, that that selfsame council is now embarking upon an exercise where the workers’ pay is to be cut... by re-defining their pay grades. It would seem that when it suits our controllers to do so, workers having their duties and grades changed isn’t quite as difficult to achieve as I was led to believe.

b. It was quite interesting to look at the specific areas of public spending our good chancellor intends to butcher. Anything that provides essential support to struggling people, from social housing to welfare payments to pensions, is for the axe. Government departments that provide absolutely no value to the people, such as overseas ‘aid’ and the good chancellor’s own Cabinet Office, and a multitude of obscure QUANGOs escape with only minor damage, or completely unscathed.

The ‘ring-fencing’ of overseas ‘aid’ is moderately interesting. It creates the impression that no matter what, Britain will honour its commitments to helping poor people overseas. Ahhhh... But if charity begins at home, why should our trusted leaders be far more concerned with ‘ring-fencing’ overseas aid than ‘ring-fencing’ aid for our own poor people? As with most things to do with government, first impressions can often be... a little misleading, shall we say.

‘Aid’ is another one of those words which means exactly the opposite of what our trusted leaders would have us believe. Adhering closely to the Orwellian model, the word ‘aid’, when issuing from the mouths of our trusted leaders, actually means ‘exploitation’. Overseas ‘aid’ takes various forms from the supplying of armaments to military dictatorships to the dumping of excess cereal production by wealthy, and heavily subsidized, western agricultural corporations upon struggling third world economies, to channelling charitable donations that people make in good faith into international banking corporations ‘to manage’. Once that little fact is understood it becomes a bit more obvious as to why overseas ‘aid’ must be ‘ring-fenced’.

c. Qui Bono? Who really benefits from cuts to public spending? In a word, corporations.

Cutting public services to the most vulnerable creates ‘opportunities’ for corporations to fill the vacuum thus created. The taxpayer still pays of course, with various corporations being gifted contracts by government to supply the services for which government itself was recently directly responsible; but there are all sorts of benefits to having those services supplied by some anonymous boardroom, such as:

i. Accountability. As government no longer directly supplies the service it can ignore the quality of it; indeed, it can even pretend to sympathise with outraged recipients of said service and, if necessary and/or expedient to party interests, find a different provider. (However, this can sometimes result in an even more severe financial burden to the taxpayer as corporations employ seriously expensive lawyers to ensure that when this sort of thing happens, very lumpy law suits follow.)
ii. Juice. Elections are paid for by wealthy corporations, which are legally mandated to maximise profits. In other words, they don’t spend a penny unless they expect to get ten pennies back... at least. The only way of ensuring that electioneering juice keeps flowing is to ensure the corporations are getting their pound of flesh in return.

The public, inevitably, are worse off. Not only must they pay new corporate service providers indirectly with their taxes, they must invariably pay the provider an additional amount for whatever service they receive. But that is not the only way the public is stuffed – far from it.

One advantage to public services being supplied by public servants is that whatever the cost of that service in wages and salaries, that money tends to stay in the country by being taxed and spent in local businesses and services – the famous ‘trickle-down effect’. Once a corporation gets involved, however, all that changes. The lowliest workers who must now provide the service a fairly well-paid civil servant once did must do it for much less pay. There will be fewer of those workers working longer hours and in more insecure conditions. In short, there is less money reaching local economies from the pockets of workers, because there are fewer workers being paid less. Meanwhile, at the top of the shitheap, a tiny handful of obscenely well-paid individuals will be doing everything in their power to ensure the corporation’s money is not taxed, and that their personal fortunes might be spent in any part of the world: the ‘trickle-up’ effect.

The sheer bloody evil of the system we call government manifests itself in many ways, but that system has to be understood before any of the evil can be seen. It’s a bit like watching a magician: magicians can make you believe all sorts of amazing things – until you know how the trick works, at which point you wonder how anyone could believe such nonsense. There is absolutely no benefit to the general public from cuts to public services. The only people who benefit are the same tiny handful of people who always benefit: the very rich. Not for the first time in human history, it seems that only the French are awake in Europe.


11 October 2010

Ken Clarke Reintroduces Slave Trade to Britain

On 5th October 2010 Ken Clarke, the British ‘Justice’ Secretary, announced that prisoners are to be made to work a forty hour week. (British prisoners are not currently forced to work.) They may be paid a minimum wage for the work they do, but must give up some (unspecified) portion of it to victims of crime and/or charities.

So far, I haven’t heard a single dissenting voice from the nation’s media, nor the trade union movement – which does not surprise me.

Clarke’s new policy is of course being dressed up as being in the best interests of prisoners and society. It is supposed to alleviate boredom, encourage prisoners to get used to hard work, teach transferable job skills, blah, blah, blah.... But just like everything government does, the initiative relies upon an ancient and very successful controlling illusion: that government always acts in our best interests. It doesn’t of course, and never has. It acts in the interests of the tiny handful of plutocrats who truly pull the strings.

As is normally the case with politicians’ speeches, it seems that Clarke’s performance was rich in oratory and poor in detail. But let’s take a little look at Clarke’s proposal in as dispassionate a way as I can muster.

1. The Practical Argument

British prisons are notoriously overcrowded places with very little spare space in or around them. Where exactly is all this work going to be carried out? Are the scarce recreational and educational facilities that currently exist in prisons, such as exercise areas and classrooms, to be transformed into places where people are to be forced to do something they might not want to do? And what provision will be made for the subsequent loss of those facilities i.e. how would prisoners get any exercise at all, or learn the few useful skills they can currently acquire, once those meagre facilities are converted into sweatshops?

How exactly is this new regime to be administered? Many prisons currently require prisoners to be locked up in their cells for nearly all of the day – no doubt as the most cost-effective means of administering the system. How exactly is that regime to be changed so that people no longer need to be so confined?

2. The Ethical Argument

Ethics is of course largely irrelevant to our government (the one and only morality it acknowledges is subservience to the plutocrats who rule us); but that doesn’t mean the morality of forcing people to work should not be examined – quite the contrary: if our trusted leaders ignore it, along with the nation’s media and supposed champions of the worker – the trade union movement – then obviously someone else must do the job.

Our labour is intimately connected to our freedom, and it is one of the very few things we can significantly control – albeit not easily, for most of us. Many people spend most of their waking hours working, so it stands to reason that the more control we have over the conditions under which we work the more freedom we are able to exercise. Prisoners obviously have no freedom. If Mr Clarke was suggesting that prisoners should be free to choose whether to work or not – i.e. they would not be discriminated against in any sense if they didn’t so choose – I wouldn’t be writing this article: I wouldn’t need to. But that is not what he is saying. He said prisoners will be made to work.

There’s a perfectly good word for prisoners who are made to work: SLAVES. For most people, the ethical argument begins and ends in that simple fact.

3. The Economic Argument

Since it became an unofficial American state, our government does very little unless it produces a profit somewhere along the line for the plutocrats. On the face of it, converting prisoners into slaves makes no economic sense. We might think the fundamental premise behind ‘making prisoners work’, is that there is work for them to do – otherwise work is obviously being created just for the sake of creating jobs, something which is supposedly anathema to the New Capitalists who rule the planet. The fact is, however, that there’s little enough work available for non-prisoners, let alone those who must be made to do it. So one might reasonably wonder where all these jobs are that must be so plentiful they can fully occupy the nation’s sizeable prison population.

The one clue given appeared in a BBC report which suggests Clarke intends somehow to convert factories into prisons – as happens in some other great democracies such as Brazil for example, or China. That might explain how the work will be produced, but does it produce a sound economic argument?

As I said Clarke’s speech was typically light in detail, so we’re left on our own to try to join the dots.

If existing factories (which are presumably in already in working order) are to be converted into secure prisons, existing prisons will... do what? Perhaps they’re to be used just to provide sleeping accommodation for the slaves, who are to be transported each day between prison and factory? And this is in the nation’s and the factories’ economic interests?

I am of course being slightly ironic. England has a great history of exploiting slave labour. It became a wealthy country by using two different but related tactics. Firstly it made things in factories (at home as well as abroad) where the conditions for workers were arguably the worst in recorded history. Secondly it used its laws, reinforced by its naval and military might, to ensure the products of those factories dominated the domestic market, and had free access to foreign markets – usually to the total exclusion of anyone else.

After the Second World War, English imperial control took a nosedive, which meant that markets for its products (foreign and domestic) collapsed. The government could have resisted much of the subsequent demise of manufacturing by taking a more aggressive stance on imports; but no, not while huge profits could be made by exploiting virtually free (and union-light) Asian labour. Directors of factories made huge fortunes for themselves by killing off British industry and switching operations to Central and Eastern Asia. It was of course short-sighted, but who cares? It’s all about filling your boots today – fuck the future.

So today England now finds itself in a position where it simply cannot compete with India and the Far East – unless it can somehow re-create a slave labour force which is even cheaper to run than Asian sweatshops are. It has no chance, of course – even under prison conditions. It will inevitably cost more to produce something in a British prison than it does to produce it in Asia. It will also cost the government far more to administer a slave labour prison factory in anything vaguely like a humane manner than it would cost it simply to run a prison. So what on earth can be the economic sense behind such an idiotic proposal?

Catherine Austin Fitts, the one time director of a Wall St investment bank, and a Federal Housing Commissioner during the reign of George I, explains on her website exactly how American corporations profit from the prison business – it’s a truly obscene little story. (see http://www.dunwalke.com/9_Cornell_Corrections.htm ) Given that the British government is basically a department of the United States government, which is itself joined at the hip with Wall St., it comes as no surprise to learn that our so-called ‘Justice’ minister (who is no stranger to the inner workings of the British Treasury) intends to copy our American role model.

The economic argument turns out to be a very simple one. It basically boils down to the same old story: more taxpayer pounds diverted into the bottomless pockets of corporations. American prison corporations worship ‘growth’ just like any other corporation, and the way they grow is by increasing their volume of prisoners – with the willing assistance of the state. What these prison-factories actually produce is irrelevant. Clarke’s proposal means that British prisoners themselves are to be exploited, exactly as American prisoners are, just like any other commodity; but at public expense, for private profit. An obvious implication is that the numbers of prisoners must inevitably be made to increase, for maximum ‘growth’ – the raison d’etre of all corporations.

Clarke’s speech was all but ignored by the media through the use of one of their more common tactics: ‘distraction news’. If it weren’t for the fact that I just happened to hear the briefest of mentions about Clarke’s new policy whilst listening to a fringe rock music radio station I wouldn’t have known anything at all about it. Because on the very same day as the return of slavery was publicly announced the Tories also informed a largely indifferent nation that child benefit would no longer be payable to rich families, and this was the non-event that the nation’s media locked on instead, successfully diverting our attention away from Clarke telling us about a far more serious outrage.

There’s absolutely nothing to commend Clarke’s proposal. His existing American role model proves without doubt that forcing prisoners to work as slaves in no way improves their later employment prospects. Instead of our taxes being used to improve prison conditions, to rehabilitate and help provide meaningful work to people once they leave prison, they are used instead to enrich corporate directors.

All this from someone rejoicing in the title Minister for ‘Justice’?


25 August 2010

The leading stories of the main ‘news’ bulletins produced by BBCTV for public consumption, the 6 o’ clock and 10 o’ clock programmes, are seldom worth watching. Most of the time they are non-stories – i.e. stories designed to divert public attention away from things the public really ought to know about. Sometimes the headlines will be nothing more than overt propaganda promoting some government initiative (or that of the government’s controllers in Washington – the British Brainwashing Corporation is, after all, a government department). Sometimes, however, the story that’s chosen to lead the ‘news’ is worth thinking about – not necessarily for the story itself, but why it’s been selected for its leading role. Take last night’s (24.8.10) headline story for example.

Last night the ‘news’ led with a story that in 1972 the Roman Catholic church conspired with the British government to transfer a priest, Fr James Chesney, from his church in Claudy, Northern Ireland, south into the Republic. A bomb had recently killed nine people in Claudy, and the suggestion is that Fr Chesney had something to do with it.

Now, all the main players are long dead and buried, and almost certainly the real truth behind that particular atrocity will never be known. So whilst it would indeed be interesting to learn the full story, the fact is we’re unlikely ever to do so.

The question is, why did the Beeb choose to lead its so-called ‘news’ with something that happened almost forty years ago? The story was brought into the light of day as a result, we’re told, of a report released by the Northern Ireland ombudsman. But reports by civil servants are being churned out daily, so why does this one, about a forty year old incident, which has attracted zero national ‘news’ coverage in recent times, and was dead ‘news’ within twenty four hours, suddenly deserve such prime-time prominence? Its effectiveness as distraction ‘news’, a primary purpose of the BBC, goes without saying, but why was that particular story chosen from what must have been several hundred alternatives?

I’ve long found the timing of Northern Ireland’s most recent peace agreement interesting. That tragic little region provided employment and profits for Britain’s police-military-industrial-intelligence communities for the best part of thirty years leading up to the new millennium. Throughout all that time peace was a castle in the air, Irish mist on a warm summer morning. Peace? Never in our time. We’ll never surrender. We’ll never talk to terrorists. Then all of a sudden, almost overnight, implacable enemies were suddenly making a government together. The timing was fascinating: war in the Middle East was inevitable – having all your armed forces tied up in the backwaters of Northern Ireland must have been seriously inconvenient.

Today, Britain’s police-military-industrial-intelligence communities find themselves no longer useful in the main region that has occupied their attention for the last ten years. Iraq is now a peaceful, stable democracy (lol); and the public are getting seriously pissed off with the number of bodybags returning from Afghanistan. There are promising signs of a new ‘cold war’ building up, and no doubt we’ll be off to play in Iran fairly soon, but what are the boys going to do with themselves in the meantime?

Perhaps in thirty, forty or fifty years time, when the documents about the curious timing of Northern Ireland’s tortured ‘Peace Process’, which for now must be bolted behind closed doors... ‘in the nation’s interest’... are finally declassified, some of the truth might emerge. Perhaps a dusty ombudsman will write a report, and some junior mandarin in the British Brainwashing Corporation might think it makes a great piece of distraction ‘news’. But I wonder how many people will pause to think about the given proof of government conspiracies thirty, forty or fifty years earlier, and ask themselves...’I wonder what are the bastards up to today?’


22 August 2010

Last Friday the Grantham Journal reported on its front page the story of an armed police raid in the town’s Oxford Street, the purpose of which was supposedly to ‘search for guns’. The first few words of the article were important: ‘Residents were left terrified....’

The accompanying photograph shows five heavily armed black-clad ‘Robocops’ and an unmarked white van parked strategically in the middle of the road. The Journal article records DS Jon Shield saying: ‘We know an armed response can be a frightening scene’, confirmed by an Oxford Street neighbour remarking: ‘It’s scary’ – and with those words we have the real story in a nutshell: the first purpose of these ‘raids’ is to frighten people, to ensure that ‘Residents were left terrified’.

Unsurprisingly, we learn that ‘no guns were found’.

A couple of weeks ago James Naughtie made a very interesting slip of the tongue during an interview on Radio 4. He said something like ‘...what used to be called the War on Terror – but we’re not supposed to call it that anymore are we?.’ I wonder how many other people, like me, didn’t know that the famous ‘War on Terror’ is officially over. But he’s right, it’s a phrase we never hear anymore.

In exactly the same way that speed cameras were only ever about making money, and never people’s safety (dozens of other methods could have been used if that was the real concern); so too was the entirely fictitious ‘War on Terror’ all about making money – not people’s safety. One group of primary beneficiaries were of course the various corporate business interests, from arms makers to private security contractors, engineering companies, banks and various energy producers. The other main group of beneficiaries were the multitude of government bodies – the armed forces obviously, but also the so-called ‘intelligence’ community, and last but not least, the police. The very last thing any of these groups want is a peaceful world.

Almost certainly the Oxford Street raid was completely unnecessary. But its main purpose was achieved. It made the front page of the Journal and ‘Residents were left terrified’.


16 August 2010

Hardly a day goes by without some new outrage being perpetrated against us by our very own trusted leaders.

On Friday the 2,000 staff that comprise the Audit Commission received an e-mail to tell them the Commission was being shut down. It was the first they’d heard about it. Whilst I’m no avid supporter of that organisation, the given reason for its sudden demise is deeply suspicious.

The closure seems to be the handiwork of one Eric Pickles, one-time Tory party chairman, now ‘Communities Secretary’. According to The Times (14.8.10), Mr Pickles says: “I want to see the commission’s auditing become independent of Government”. Auditing public money can apparently now “be done in a competitive environment”.

There are a number of reasons for the desperate state of Britain’s economy, with its public debt too huge to comprehend, but if we had to find just one reason that’s probably more relevant than any other it would have to be the gradual demise over the last thirty years of government control over financial services – trusting the policing of banking to the ‘competitive environment’.

No doubt private accountants are honourable people, and perfectly capable of auditing local councils. However, part of their entirely legitimate function is advising rich clients on how best to avoid paying taxes. And the rather less well monitored ‘competitive environment’ of offshore banking can provide other profitable services to clients – such as ‘re-invoicing’.

The Audit Commission definitely needs restructuring – especially in its power to twist the arms of our elected councillors. But its auditing function is NOT going to be improved by privatisation.


22 July 2010

Sometimes The Times prints useful or interesting information – not often, but sometimes; which means it does need to be checked from time to time. Last Saturday (17th July) were two related pieces that were worth reading (I could supply the links – but these days you have to pay for the Times’ online content, and it ain’t that good).

An article by Andrew Ellson was all about how benefit fraud is routinely punished in British courts with a jail sentence, and how tax evasion almost never is. Beginning with the legendary quote from US billionaire Leona Helmsley that “only the little people pay taxes” Mr Ellson relates a couple of cases to help illustrate his point. We learn how one Susanne Rees was sentenced to 60 days in prison for defrauding her local council of £19,000 in benefits, but how a certain Michael Frost, who admitted evading payment of £65,000 income tax, was punished with a mere 60 hours community service. Mr Frost is no doubt a relatively small player – otherwise it’s unlikely he would have had to suffer even that small indignity. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, for example, a very big player indeed, pays “almost no tax worldwide” – according to Boyle and Simms in their ‘New Economics – A Bigger Picture’; but as Mr Ellson works for one of Murdoch’s papers I’ll excuse him from reminding us about that.

Also omitted from Mr Ellson’s piece was any reference to the glee with which the entire nation’s media always and routinely leap upon any story of benefit fraudsters (and its even better if they’re immigrants), but how they usually appear to be looking the other way when it comes to cases of tax evasion.

Mr Ellson went on:

“A quick trawl through court records shows that defendants convicted of benefits fraud of more than £20,000 are often sent to prison...Yet fewer than one in every 1,000 people subject to HM Revenue & Customs investigation for tax evasion is prosecuted to the degree that a criminal sentence even becomes a possibility... Paul Malkinson, the chairman of Boston United Football Club, avoided jail despite defrauding the taxman of almost £400,000. Had Mr Malkinson’s cleaner fraudulently claimed even a tenth as much in housing benefit, you can be sure that she would have ended up in prison.”

The second article related to today’s theme was by Christine Seib, writing from New York. Her piece was about banking giant Citigroup.

Citigroup is having a hissy-fit because the British government has dared to send them a tax bill. The bank, with assets of around $2trillion, is squawking about a $400million tax bill (50% of what it paid out in discretionary bonuses), and has “threatened to pull out of Britain if the Government imposed further swingeing taxes (sic) on banks.” Our trusted leaders, clearly concerned about upsetting the corporate world, humbly rub their hands Uriah Heep-like and assure them that the tax bill is a “one-off”. Why the British government should be so anxious to appease foreign companies who don’t want to pay any taxes whilst imprisoning home-grown petty fraudsters is a fairly interesting question. It’s yet another example of how far removed our government is from its people, most of whom would respond by offering to help hasten the bank’s departure (or words to that effect), AFTER they’ve paid up of course, or done their time just like any other villain should.

Britain arguably leads the world in the gentle art of tax evasion. It has for many decades hosted the wishes of the world’s super-rich through the super-discreet services of the shadowy operators residing in its numerous island dependencies, safe and sound from any prying eyes. (Poacher-turned-gamekeeper John Christensen’s superb essay ‘Dirty Money: Inside the Secret World of Offshore Banking’ is a must-read for anyone slightly interested in this quite obscene little subject.)

So whilst your average working stiff struggles to pay her taxes like a good girl, and meekly accepts our trusted leaders’ exhortation to tighten her belt and wave goodbye to the public services she hopes her taxes are paying for, because There Is No Alternative; whilst we meekly accept the right of US investigators to pry into almost every personal bank account in Europe in the holy name of the ‘war on terror’, the super-super-rich are sulking about trifling tax bills and thinking about taking their custom elsewhere...

Well allow me to get the door.


3 July 2010

"I never had much faith in leaders. I am willing to be charged with almost anything, rather than to be charged with being a leader. I am suspicious of leaders, and especially of the intellectual variety. Give me the rank and file every day in the week. If you go to the city of Washington, and you examine the pages of the Congressional Directory, you will find that almost all of those corporation lawyers and cowardly politicians, members of Congress, and mis-representatives of the masses -- you will find that almost all of them claim, in glowing terms, that they have risen from the ranks to places of eminence and distinction. I am very glad I cannot make that claim for myself. I would be ashamed to admit that I had risen from the ranks. When I rise it will be with the ranks, and not from the ranks."
Eugene Debs

There is only one lesson of history that’s really worth anything, and it’s a lesson that no school teacher ever teaches. Those very few people who learn it at all must invariably find it out for themselves. Yet The Single Most Important Lesson of History is a very simple lesson, and it is this:

People can never fully trust leaders.

No one should ever make a statement like that and not be able to back it up with a substantial proof. But proving that particular statement is actually quite simple because there’s not just one good proof, but three irrefutable proofs: the empirical proof, the logical proof and something I’ll call the absence of proof, which I’ll explain shortly.

1. The Empirical Proof

The empirical proof is abundant and blindingly obvious – it is the permanent existence of Permanent War. No one can deny that the history of the world is one long litany of warfare. War, the single greatest barbarity to blight human existence should have been rendered impossible many centuries ago. Yet it hasn’t been. Not only has it not been rendered impossible, it exemplifies the cutting edge of technological advance, and always has done. In other words it is always young and modern, boasting the very latest in scientific gadgetry.

It’s necessary to clarify at the outset the meaning of the word ‘war’. I use the word ‘war’ to mean the forcible subjugation of people by foreign armies. Revolution is something entirely different, and is invariably a wholly justifiable action by oppressed people overthrowing their oppressors.

This single damning piece of evidence, the existence of Permanent War, is more than sufficient to substantiate the claim that people cannot trust their own leaders; for it is leaders that take nations to war. War is never a voluntary desire of the people.

If the mere existence of Permanent War were not enough to indict our leaders, there is in addition the fact that our leaders routinely lie to us about their reasons for war, and always have done.

Wars are fought to make tiny handfuls of rich and powerful people even richer and more powerful. Elites know this, and have always known it. The earliest open admission of this that I know of appears in the bible (Joshua Chapter 6) where we learn that the famous destruction of Jericho was all about plunder, and that the mighty Joshua sold the enterprise as merely doing what the ‘Lord his God’ told him to do. For although Joshua’s army “utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword”, and “burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein”, they carefully preserved the riches of the city: “only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord” ... the key to which was no doubt in the safekeeping of the good Joshua.

When the Spanish began the greatest holocaust in human history – the annihilation of native Americans – their mission was sold to the people as having a holy purpose. More than two hundred years ago Adam Smith, hardly the raving-eyed radical, describes it thus in his seminal work on the subject of wealth: “…the council of Castile determined to take possession of countries of which the inhabitants were plainly incapable of defending themselves. The pious purpose of converting them to Christianity sanctified the injustice of the project.” One such holy man active at the time, Father Domingo de Betanzos, believed that “the Indians were beasts and that God had condemned the whole race to perish for the horrible sins that they had committed in their paganism.”

Yet the real purpose of war is never what the people are told. The people are never told that they must murder, and die themselves, in order that their leaders may become even richer and more powerful than they already are.

It’s ordinary people who must do the murdering, and be killed themselves, and leaders know perfectly well that for this reason they cannot mobilise ordinary people by telling them the truth, so they must manufacture some righteous cause. The real history of wars shows a variety of trumped up reasons. Religion is probably the oldest ally of Permanent War, since at least the time of Joshua up to the present day, where ‘jihad’ or ‘holy war’ is still cited as a common ‘justification’ for murder. Countless hundreds of millions have been murdered under the pretext that their murderers are serving some god or another. Yet not a single one of the multitude of leaders and their religious spin doctors who have used this excuse since the beginning of ‘civilisation’ could actually prove the existence of the god they say they want their people to murder for, and to die for themselves.

Once it can be accepted what the real cause of war is and has always been – plunder – it becomes quite easy to see why Permanent War is so beloved by our trusted leaders and those who maintain them: it makes them richer and more powerful. No matter the destruction and suffering they cause. Once again the evidence is blindingly obvious: name one leader of a victorious war (not counting revolutions remember) who has personally lived in modest circumstances, and ensured his generals do the same. It isn’t easy.

So this is the empirical proof that people cannot trust their leaders. Not only do those leaders relentlessly search out any opportunity to plunge their people into war, they deliberately lie about their reasons for doing so.

2. The Logical Proof

If one actually thinks about it for a few minutes the logical reason for not trusting our leaders is arguably even more compelling than the empirical one.

The trust people invest in their leaders is wholly founded on the assumption that those leaders will ceaselessly and selflessly strive to act in the best interests of the people. Yet it is a completely groundless assumption with virtually no significant evidence to support it. Leaders live lives of abundance and luxury while vast numbers of their people struggle even to survive, sometimes enduring unspeakable conditions and hardships. History shows that nearly all the prominent leaders of nations have been practising capitalists, and the economist John Maynard Keynes summed up the point perfectly: “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone”.

It is indeed ‘astounding’ that we are that well conditioned. Although there are very few people who say they trust politicians, they nevertheless turn out in their droves to vote in elections.

Given that our leaders all live personal lives of pampered luxury and worship the religion of capitalism (which, according to Andy Grove the ex-chairman of Intel, is best defined as ‘shooting the wounded’), how can anyone seriously think those same leaders serve the interests of the people, few of whom live as well as their masters? It simply isn’t logical.

3. The Absence of Proof

If the empirical proof that people cannot trust their leaders was not enough, and if it was not quite sufficient to show that there is absolutely no logical reason for trusting our leaders, perhaps it would help to point to what I’ll call the Absence of Proof.

This refers to the complete absence of proof that our leaders CAN be trusted, that they DO labour tirelessly in our best interests.

No doubt some would argue that many of the comforts and advantages of modern society in the western world were once supplied by enlightened leaders: our relative freedom, health facilities and education, our democracy... all these things were at some point in time introduced into society by far-sighted reforming leaders, they might say. But that’s not quite true. In fact the very opposite is a far easier case to prove.

The few freedoms that we enjoy today were not bestowed by various wise leaders. In fact the few (slowly diminishing) freedoms we enjoy today were fought for by oppressed people, freedoms that were bitterly opposed by their leaders who thought nothing of beating, imprisoning or murdering the common forgotten people who truly fought for liberty.

Virtually every revolution in recorded history is a vindication of this view. The record is in fact unassailable. From Jesus Christ to Martin Luther King via Ghandi; from the Reformation to the liberation of Cuba via the American War of Independence, French Revolution and Russian Revolution – all of the social reforms and freedoms introduced by individuals and the movements of ordinary men and women who supported them were fiercely opposed by the leaders of the day.

Conversely, social reforms introduced voluntarily by elitist leaders (i.e. without the threat of impending revolution peering over their shoulders) are so few in number that I cannot think of a single example. This is the Absence of Proof, the non-existence of evidence to prove that leaders CAN be trusted, which, given thousands of years of recorded history, is a fairly convincing proof in its own right isn’t it?

The Single Most Important Lesson of History – that leaders cannot be trusted – is implicit in the spirit of anarchy, which has probably existed for as long as there has been oppression to resist. The fact it has existed this long, and will continue to exist for as long as there are leaders to oppose, is testimony to its truth.

But simply learning that lesson, by itself, is not enough – because the implications of it are truly staggering. The entire fabric of our society is founded on the belief that leaders are essential to our existence, that they are the very glue that keeps it all together. Understanding that leaders cannot be trusted must mean that society must inevitably fall apart.

Wrong.

When we examine history and learn that the great and wonderful leaders we were taught about at school were, for the most part, nothing more than murdering, lying, thieving opportunists who happen to have been luckier than others of their kind, we should also be able to grasp another important lesson: that we are routinely misinformed almost from birth. If we can be so misinformed about historical leaders, for example, what else are we misinformed about? Could it be, perhaps, that the view that leaders are absolutely essential to society is similarly misinformed? Whose view is it, exactly? Could it be the view of leaders, or would-be leaders, or the followers of particular leaders?

I don’t want to suggest that we are intentionally misinformed – not all the time anyway. I’m sure that for the most part the overwhelming majority of people who misinform us don’t themselves know they’re doing it. Take priests for example. I’m sure that a sizeable number of priests really truly believe the rubbish they teach. I’m also sure my parents never deliberately misinformed me (except for that stuff about Santa Claus), nor most of the teachers I had at school. Yet some of the time, that’s exactly what they did. Then there are those who misinform us ‘for our own good’ – something I call the Santa Claus effect – tell us ‘white’ lies, in the name of the greater good; and there must be a huge number of ‘news’ editors (the vast majority?) who subscribe to this principle. Is it not possible, therefore, that the view that society absolutely must have leaders, that without leaders there simply cannot be society, only chaos, is misinformation by one of these processes, or a combination thereof?

Society needs organisation, and administration, and a decision-making process wholly controlled by the people, well informed. For a civilisation that can transport people to the moon, and bring them safely home again! or communicate instantly with someone anywhere on the planet, or re-engineer our genetic make-up... For a civilisation that can do these things, and far more, how difficult can it really be to design a humane, just and peaceful society? And is the reality of that question not the most obvious proof of all that leaders cannot be trusted?


24 June 2010

The longest tennis match in history has just been completed. It was played at Wimbledon by Nicolas Mahut of France and the giant American (6ft 9) John Isner. At about 20 games all in the final set the spectacle was starting to appear gross and obscene – a little like bear-baiting, or bullfighting. When play ended last night, at 59 games each, there occurred the quite nauseating spectacle of spectators booing the decision by Mahut to break for bad light. Both players must have been utterly exhausted, and the fact that there were some morons in the crowd who placed their viewing pleasure above the physical suffering of two heroic young sportsmen was a sad indictment of modern society. The match eventually ended, three days after it started, with victory for John Isner at 70 games to 68 in the fifth set. If their match doesn’t force a change to the ridiculous rule that demands a two clear game winning margin in the fifth set (or third set for women) in grand slam tennis matches, there is no justice in the world.

I won’t hold my breath.

*

I had a phone call from Linda Neal yesterday afternoon (See previous article - dated 16 June). She was calling to say she wasn’t interested in my proposal for how SKDC could save money. Of course it was the result I expected, but I was moderately interested in finding out what reason she would give. Obviously she is too savvy a politician to be trusted with telling the truth, but her given answer might be entertaining.

It seemed her main objection was that my proposal took no account of something called the Staff Appraisal and Evaluation Guide... or some similar-sounding piece of pure bureaucracy... which apparently defines who can do what job in the council and at what grade. Because my proposal had people acting out of grade it was clearly impossible to implement it.

I half-heartedly suggested that she obtain permission from her controllers (but I think I used the word ‘partners’) to waive The Guide for the duration of a pilot; but that had the same effect you would expect if you suggested to a priest that he ignore the Holy Bible for the period of a pilot trial on Burmese Shamanism.

This fondness for Rules, Regulations and Guides is the default response of Power whenever that power is challenged, or even questioned. The fact that those same Rules, Regulations and Guides can effortlessly be set aside at the drop of a hat if Power so chooses is conveniently forgotten. Laws, like taxes, are for little people.

Of course it was the outcome I expected all along. But you have to try these things. I formed no opinion of Mrs Neal other than she seems to be an Accomplished Politician. You can never really tell if someone is lying or being evasive, but Accomplished Politicians exude a dazzling fluorescent aura that shrieks out to anyone near them that not a single word they say, or thing they do, should be wholly trusted for the truth.

My proposed ‘Lateral Administration Model’ would not only save significant public money without undue loss of public service, it would improve the efficiency of those services also – but it would be at the cost of expensive (and largely unnecessary) bureaucrats, and possibly more importantly, the loss of Power from bureaucrats. So it’s fairly obvious why Linda Neal (or any other Accomplished Politician) wouldn’t implement it without a struggle. But you have to try, in order to validate that fact.

I strongly suspect that our government’s apparent obsession with cutting public services has absolutely nothing to do with saving money. It’s for precisely the opposite reason – to make money, for those who are already obscenely rich. It works something like this:

As public services are starved of money and therefore die, the service they once provided must still be done by someone. Enter some private corporation or another. Under the pretext of providing the same service at a lower cost to the public, the corporation picks up a juicy government contract. In some cases the service may indeed be an improvement (as the public sector was hardly ever a model of efficiency). The essential difference is that money the taxpayer previously paid to a considerable number of useless bureaucrats is now enjoyed by a tiny handful of useless millionaires or billionaires. So either way, the taxpayer is stuffed, obviously; as vast chunks of the taxes she pays (expecting the money to go directly to essential services) goes instead into the pockets of useless bureaucrats or the mega-rich.

It can therefore be argued that it doesn’t really matter whether our services are provided by the public or private sector. But one quite important factor, however, is this:

The chunk of taxpayers’ money that used to be squandered on useless bureaucrats did at least remain within our own economy. Taxes were paid on civil service salaries, and those salaries were mostly spent within our own shorelines. That does not apply to the mega-rich globalised corporations that now run our public services. If taxes are paid at all by these institutions it will only be some token gesture to the act; and although some of the loot so generously provided by the taxpayer may indeed be spent in Britain, it will mostly be spent on luxury goods and services for company bosses – not ‘trickled down’ through the wider economy. Mostly of course, it will fly abroad, into offshore bank accounts or to be frittered away in various elitist playgrounds around the planet.

Another very important consideration for those of us who actually care about people (a fairly substantial number) is the issue of employment rights. Traditionally, even the lowliest of civil service jobs had reasonable conditions of service. You were never going to get rich working for the civil service (in the lower pay grades anyway), but you weren’t overworked, had pretty good holidays and could retire on a moderately comfortable pension. There were probably a couple of million employees around the country who enjoyed these conditions of service through their working lives, and whilst these jobs existed a role model for similar jobs in the private sector existed.

But once public services are provided by the private sector, the race to the bottom means that that role model disappears; and the slow descent of all workers towards abject slavery, whilst the ruling elite gorges itself more and more on the profits of their slavery, becomes inevitable.

But apart from those minor concerns, it doesn’t really matter whether public services are run by the public sector or private corporations.


16 June 2010

It was a busy day yesterday. In the afternoon I had a very short meeting (about five minutes) with Linda Neal, leader of South Kesteven District Council, and in the evening Lorraine and I attended a ‘workshop’ run by the council because, according to their website, they needed our help in deciding priorities for their budget for the next few years.

The meeting with Mrs Neal was...strange – not the meeting itself, but how it came about at all. It began about three months ago, when the pressure being exerted by government to cut public services was just beginning to be noticed by the media. I e-mailed Mrs Neal offering my help on one possible way of dealing with that. Fully expecting to never get a reply, I was quite surprised when I received an e-mail from her asking for more information (the first message from me hadn’t been very detailed). Did I live locally? Was I looking for consultancy work? I answered straight away saying that I wouldn’t mind being a consultant – but it would have to be on the understanding that I wasn’t paid any more than the lowest paid council worker. Silence.

I e-mailed again a couple of weeks later asking if my previous e-mail had gone missing. No reply. The woman clearly thought I was some kind of nut. Fair enough, I’d tried.

Two weeks ago the national news is softening us up for the savage public sector cuts that we are being conditioned to accept as a TINA option (There Is No Alternative). We get told that our new Prime Minister wants the public to get involved, to tell him what services they could do without. I was quite surprised to see included in some of the ‘news’ reports comments from one or two people that it was just a cynical exercise whereby the government could sell its pre-determined plans as a consequence of ‘listening to the people’. It just goes to show that no matter what you can’t fool all the people all the time. It fair warmed my heart.

Anyway, as David had asked for my help I thought it would be churlish to refuse it; so I wrote to him saying I was available, and that funnily enough I’d recently offered the same assistance to our local council leader – but had not yet had a reply. Then I wrote a short article for the Journal telling this story.

A few days later (last week), the phone goes. It’s Mrs Neal. She wants to meet me. I have to admit I was pretty stunned. I’m so used to my letters to the great and the good being ignored that I don’t really know what to do when one of them responds. We fix a meeting – for yesterday. I’m puzzled by the remarkable coincidence of the timing of her phone call with my recent letters to David and to the Journal. I ring the Journal to ask if they’d contacted her about my article – maybe to verify my story? Bob Hart says not; suggests she has simply caught up with her e-mails. Hmmm... after about 3 months? Well, maybe.

Anyway, I prepare a paper for her, basically proposing my admin model where expensive managers are deleted from the public sector and replaced with ordinary administrators receiving ordinary clerical workers salaries; and those actually directly delivering public services decide between themselves how best to do so (under the overall direction of an elected official).

Knowing full well that she won’t actually do anything with my proposal (other than perhaps give it a quick glance on its way to the bin) I keep the meeting itself very short – no point in wasting anyone’s time. I just quickly explain my motives (that I really believe in my work and that as an unpublished writer, having my ideas put into practice somewhere might help me get my work published), hand her my paper, thank her for seeing me and leave. (She shows no interest in detaining me to learn more.)

Later on Lorraine and I go back into town to attend a council ‘workshop’.

Last week the Journal informed its readers that SKDC has arranged a couple of ‘workshops’ where we might express our views on which council services should be saved, and which ‘discarded’ in the forthcoming assault by central government on public services. It was too good an opportunity to miss. I mean, it’s not every day you get the chance to get cast iron proof that your cynicism is one hundred per cent justified.

About fifteen people attended, most of whom, it seemed, were either councillors or council staff. We each had two worksheets and a set of coloured pens. One of the worksheets listed 22 areas of public spending, such as CCTV monitoring and provision for homeless people. We were to use this piece of paper for a complicated little game designed to suggest that whatever we put on it might actually influence the spending cuts the council will make. I must admit I couldn’t take it seriously and lost the will to live within about five minutes of starting it. What’s much more important is what the ‘workshop’ did not include.

For example, we were not told how these 22 items had been selected for the game from what must be several hundred possibilities. Nor was there any interest in what we thought outside of the two worksheets. When my wife wanted to make a point that wasn’t listed she was told she could jot it down on the back of her worksheet. We were not invited to comment on the possible savings that could be made by reforming the grossly overpriced management structure at the council – a particular area of interest to me.

Of course I never expected the exercise to be truly useful. Like many others I’m deeply suspicious of the government’s motives for ‘consulting the public’, and am reminded of Henry Ford’s comment that customers for his cars might have any colour they like – so long as it’s black. But it’s always quite nice when your predictions are confirmed by events.

This savage attack by government on public services is completely unnecessary. The public debt was caused by predatory banks being allowed to operate in a lawless environment. Their gluttony has been rewarded by committing the taxpayer to find about one trillion pounds – a number so huge that no one can really comprehend it. No one ever asks when the banks are going to repay this money. The other day I heard someone on the BBC say that the banks should eventually repay about 700 billion pounds. Should? EVENTUALLY? When I took out my mortgage there was no clause suggesting I should repay the loan... eventually... when I can get around to it.

The public debt has been mostly created by banks, aided and abetted by politicians – the selfsame politicians who now tell us There Is No Alternative to butchering public services. Wrong. Let the banks pay for the mess they created.

*

Question: how much does it cost to get the government to admit that it was wrong? Answer: at least £200m and forty years.

Yesterday the Saville Report, which has taken about twelve years to prepare, proved what anyone with half a brain already knew. Although it took 5,000 pages to say so, the fact is that thirteen innocent, unarmed civilians were murdered by British paratroopers in the Irish town of Derry on 30th January 1972.

Yet another obscene day in the very long catalogue of similarly obscene days that is English history. It’s difficult to say how many people are culpable for the outrage of Bloody Sunday, and the 40 years it has taken to be recognised for what it was. Of course there are the likes of those who pulled the triggers, and their commanding officers; but what about the politicians and businessmen who have profited very nicely from the carnage of Northern Ireland? What about all the complicit ‘news’papers, TV stations and radio shows that have always maintained the innocent victims were armed terrorists who fully deserved being shot?

At least Saville’s work will ensure that one crime by Britain’s Permanent War machine will be reasonably accurately recorded for all time – at a cost to the British taxpayer of £200m, and forty years of struggle.


27 May 2010

Many years ago, when I was growing up in Rhodesia, it was quite normal to hear white people being openly racist in the presence of non-white people. Not all white people behaved that way, you understand (my parents, for example, never did), but quite a few did. Very often the racism was not intended maliciously. For example, a group of white people might be calmly discussing something within the hearing of black servants, say, and if they wanted to refer to black people they would use the word ‘kaffirs’ or, ‘munts’ or ‘jiggaboos’ even, completely indifferent to the fact that a black person could hear them.

This is just one, quite small feature, of having absolute power. At the time it was completely normal, not just in Rhodesia, but pretty much anywhere else in the whites-run world, for white people to behave this way – and for black people to ignore it, quite possibly to sometimes not even notice it. Comedians, for example, routinely included racist material in their work, and white people laughed at it in their hundreds of millions.

I was reminded of this little ‘perk’ of absolute power a couple of days ago. I was browsing the history section of the International Monetary Fund’s website, and was reading their glowing tribute to Harry Dexter White – pretty much the founder of the IMF.

The IMF is arguably the most powerful non-military force on the planet, and understanding a bit about it is therefore quite useful. It was created in the closing stages of World War Two. The old king (the British Empire) was dying, and the new king (the American Empire) was fidgeting impatiently in the wings looking at his watch. As their representatives gathered at Bretton Woods to carve up the planet, the final showdown occurred between White (for the new king) and John Maynard Keynes (for the dying one). This is how the dispute is described by the IMF’s website:

“Where the two founding fathers differed most was on the third theme: how independent and how powerful should the IMF be? To Keynes, what the world needed was an independent countervailing balance to American economic power, a world central bank that could regulate the flow of credit both in the aggregate and in its distribution. To White, what was needed was an adjunct to American economic power, an agency that could promote the balanced growth of international trade in a way that preserved the central role of the U.S. dollar in international finance.”

As the old king was in his final death throes it’s perfectly understandable that Keynes should have been such a passionate advocate for an ‘independent’ counterbalance to the new young upstart (ten years earlier it’s highly unlikely the thought would have crossed Keynes’ allegedly powerful mind). But now it was all too late, and there was never any doubt about whose view would prevail, so the ‘adjunct to American power’ was born.

It’s that little phrase ‘adjunct to American power’ that took me back to my Rhodesian childhood. When you have absolute power you can afford to be completely indifferent about casual expressions of that power.

Most people have no idea what the IMF is. And if they were to give it any thought at all they might say it’s some sort of international organisation – like the United Nations – and that its decisions are probably made by all sorts of different countries. I mean, it’s called ‘International’ isn’t it?

Those of us actively engaged in the War On Error are fairly used to the glazed expressions we see in people’s eyes when we start yet another rant about the real threat to world peace. You can see them thinking: “Here he goes again: more conspiracy theory.” So it’s always quite pleasant to see our opinions reinforced and confirmed by the Empire itself. After all, you can’t get much better than the IMF’s very own website admitting that it was originally designed as an ‘adjunct to American power’. As my dictionary defines ‘adjunct’ to be something that is ‘subordinate or incidental (to or of another)’, it’s fairly clear to even the dullest mind that the IMF is a very long way from being the independent economic policeman its servants and supporters claim it to be.

The activities of the IMF’s employees seldom make the evening ‘news’; which is a bit of shame because these busy people are invariably jetting around the planet where they are often engaged in something they call ‘Article IV Consultations’. A quick glance at the ‘News’ section of the website shows what I mean. Just this week, for example, these busy people are having their ‘Article IV Consultations’ everywhere from New Zealand to Senegal; from Zimbabwe to Switzerland. What’s Article IV? It’s about the IMF’s rules on currency exchange rates. Now whilst I don’t question the principle that “someone” ought to be doing this, I strongly question that it should be those working for an ‘adjunct to American power’.

Like the racist society of my early childhood that never thought for one second about casually using the word ‘kaffir’, we now live in a society that doesn’t think for one second about the implications of the world’s most powerful non-military institution casually referring to itself as an ‘adjunct to American power.’

Some might argue that is all now ancient history – that it might have been the view of Mr White, but we now live in far more enlightened times – just as white people would now no longer refer to black people as ‘kaffirs’.... except for one small glitch.

The tribute about Mr White was written relatively recently, in 1998, and is still on the IMF website today. The piece concludes with these words: “What remains of his [White’s] legacy is the International Monetary Fund, which still bears his imprint more than any other's.


20th May 2010

One of the new puppets supposedly in charge of Britain, Nick Clegg, yesterday tried to steal the spotlight from his more popular brother puppet, David Cameron. Mr Clegg, in an obvious attempt to ingratiate himself with the public, announced that he would be introducing the most radical political reforms of government ‘since the 1832 Reform Act’.

It was quite a clever effort. It tries to show he is an intellectual, a man with a sense of history. For example, the headline in today’s Independent telling the story reads: ‘Clegg makes his bid for a place in history’.

The problem is that quite a few of us have also read the occasional history book, and know full well that the greatest thing about the ‘great’ 1832 Reform Act was the great illusion that it reformed anything at all. For although it made a few changes to electoral boundaries, and a few more people were given the right to vote in elections, absolutely nothing was changed about the most important function of government – how it makes its decisions. Like I say, the truly great thing about the ‘great’ Reform Act was how that absolute non-event was sold to the public as significant political reform. I’m sure that point has not been lost on Mr Clegg or the army of advisers, spinmasters and other assorted ‘experts’ in the paid employ of the puppet masters.

I have no idea what ‘great’ constitutional reforms Mr Clegg says he is about to launch. The examples given in the paper seem to be mostly about scrapping a few laws – which is a very different thing to constitutional reform; but there’s one thing I’m 100% certain about: his claim that he will ‘hand power back to people’ is an absolute falsehood. Mr Clegg is very careful not to tell us exactly which people he is referring to here. The inference is obviously that he means the ordinary voter. Well the ordinary voter has never had any power, so ‘handing power back’ to her is completely meaningless. The only ‘power’ allowed to the voter is the right to provide the figleaf for our non-democracy by her complicity in its very occasional and carefully choreographed elections. My guess is that what Clegg actually meant by his generous offer to ‘hand power back to people’ was to ‘hand bribing power back to the Tories’ financial supporters’, as they’re the ones who have been relatively disenfranchised the most during the previous Labour government.

I’m on to you Mr Clegg, and I’ll be watching your ‘great’ reforms with some interest.


18th May 2010

It’s not very often we get such a wonderful demonstration of hypocrisy by our lords and masters as occurred yesterday, and I’m truly grateful to all the relevant players (British Airways, the High Court, the government and the media) for being so obliging.

A proposed strike by BA cabin crew was yesterday declared unlawful by the High Court. The BBC informs us that 7,482 people voted to support the strike, with 1,789 opposing it (80% in favour of strike action). But yesterday a High Court judge decided that the strike would be illegal – because of the union’s failure to notify its members that there had been eleven spoilt ballot papers!

This touching concern by BA for the letter of the law does not, however, extend to passenger safety. For on the very same day that this High Court outrage was announced we also learnt that another law, which says aeroplanes should not fly through clouds of volcanic ash (a law the airline doesn’t like), is to be changed. It seems that all of a sudden it’s now perfectly O.K. for planes to fly through volcanic debris. No doubt the airline industry knows best what’s good for it – a bit like banks, which are far too honourable a set of institutions to need regulating.

I wonder if there was a meeting of the suits recently where some sums were done. In the one column would have been a number representing loss of income by keeping planes on the ground. In the other column would have been a number representing the potential cost to an airline in damages claims if a plane fell out of the sky because its engines were clogged up with half a volcano. I wonder if such a meeting took place, and what the outcome might have been.

All in all, not a bad day’s work for BA’s CEO. I mean, it’s not every day you can give such a blatant exhibition of raw corporate power – picking and choosing which laws you decide to obey in the full glare of the public eye, and not hear a single word of censure form any of the nation’s media. I bet Mr Walsh’s bonus will be quite a spectacular sight this year. Well played, sir!


4th May 2010

This Thursday the British people will be invited to display their ignorance, yet again, of how their own country really works. For we are being invited, nay, ‘herded’ towards the ballot box in order to show that our ignorance of our own political system is so complete that we seriously believe the little ritual of scratching a cross by the side of some complete stranger’s name, just because he/she belongs to some large political party, is going to bring some improvement to our lives. Nothing demonstrates the political naiveté of the British people better than their routine submission to this farce that masquerades behind the name of ‘democracy’.

That my fellow citizens are so completely beguiled is, of course, understandable. Indeed, it’s almost impossible they should not be; for we are all taught a series of important lies almost from the day we’re born – lies which are cynically perpetuated and reinforced by the tiny handfuls of powerful plutocrats who rule our planet. Three of the more important of these lies are:

1. That our leaders are good and honourable people, driven only by their selfless desire to do what’s best, not just for those of us directly ruled by them, but for the rest of the entire planet too.

2. That we little people are too stupid, selfish and nasty to know what’s right for ourselves, let alone anyone else; and we are only really useful to society and our planet so long as we keep on breeding and submitting ourselves and our offspring to the control of its rulers.

3. That there is some sort of benevolent supernatural being living somewhere in the sky who not only genuinely cares about each and every one us, but also serves in alliance with our trusted leaders acting as an ‘invisible hand’ guiding each and every one of their actions.

There can be no real hope of real political reform until these powerful controlling lies are more widely recognised.

And the first real indication that such recognition is beginning to dawn will only occur once ordinary people simply stop voting for political parties. All of the well known political parties are the cancer of democracy, ruthlessly perpetuating a system of government guaranteed to maintain the people in a condition of ignorance and slavery. Once the people stop voting in significant numbers for political parties, hope for real and meaningful reform becomes a distinct possibility; because it will be a sign that the game is finally up.

So one extraordinarily powerful action we can all take is blindingly simple: just don’t vote. Don’t play. Don’t dignify through your complicity the cynical farce that’s sold to us as ‘democracy’. BOYCOTT THE BALLOT!


22nd April 2010

Tucked away in the bottom corner of page 50 of the Times last Saturday (17.4.10), was a little article comprising just two sentences. Under the heading “’Obscene’ payout” it advised the few of us who might have noticed it that one Todd Stitzer, the American businessman who sold off one of the very last bastions of independent British manufacturing, Cadburys – to a giant American corporation – ‘received a £40 million payout’ for doing so.

Well done Mr Stitzer.

Not only was Cadburys one of the last sizeable British manufacturers that was still working well, it was also perhaps the very last British manufacturer that provided humane conditions of service for its employees. Ever since Cadburys was founded by the eponymous Quaker family, it has had a reputation for looking after its workers. Although providing better working conditions than other British manufacturers has never been a difficult thing to do, the important thing is that it was done at all – AND DONE SUCCESSFULLY – for the best part of two hundred years. In other words, the established dogma of manufacturers – that workers must be oppressed in order for profits to be made – is well and truly exposed for the absolute bunkum that it has always been. Indeed, were it not for the fact that some American came along to kill off a successful British company, so that a giant American competitor can become even more giant-sized, there might still be one humane manufacturer left in the world to show a finger to the slave drivers who run today’s industry.

Another piece that was moderately interesting was an article suggesting that an organisation supporting decent conditions of service for Gurkhas had been fraudulent in its fundraising. Half of the page was given to a rather cynical and sneery photograph of Joanna Lumley, the celebrity actress passionately committed to this issue. The purpose was very obviously to suggest that Joanna Lumley herself was behind some fraud that may, or may not, have taken place. Lumley recently won a significant victory for ex-Ghurkha soldiers, at the expense of the establishment, and very clearly the establishment has now struck back. Their efforts are really quite pathetic.

But rather more interesting was an article headlined: “Families ‘held captive’ in drive to sterilise 10,000”. As a piece of pure propaganda, presented in what is supposed to be the nation’s most trusted ‘news’paper, this story takes a little beating. Consider for example a section supposedly given over to providing a little factual background information under the heading: “Family planning”. This section openly boasts, as one of its sources, that well known peddler of the truth the ‘CIA World Factbook’. The times ‘journalist’ responsible for this two-page spread is one Jane Macartney. Now China is perhaps the US’s real Public Enemy Number One, because it is possibly the only country capable of offering serious resistance to US domination of the planet. And because Britain is one of the US’s favourite lapdogs, it stands to reason that its premier ‘news’paper would do everything in its power to fling a little mud eastwards. However, the fact is that China is the only country in the world to take seriously the threat of the human population explosion, and the fact that the Times seeks to ridicule and attack a position that is absolutely right for the long term welfare of the planet, is to state, in unequivocal terms, the paper’s absolute allegiance to the get-rich-quick-and-beggar-the-future school of economic philosophy that so plagues our planet today.


29 March 2010

Once you know how our so-called ‘news’ is manipulated in order to deceive us it’s quite difficult not to see it in action wherever you look. The Times last Saturday was, as it invariably is, rich in examples, and because the Times sets itself up as the leading authority on news reporting this is obviously quite serious. I mean, if it was a paper that was commonly known to peddle absolute rubbish, and didn’t pretend otherwise, we could safely ignore its lies on the assumption that no-one in their right mind would believe it anyway; but the Times is supposed to be a serious paper, so obsessed with the truth that it used to claim it would rather be late to report a story than report one inaccurately. All this creates an impression of trust: we can always trust the Times to tell us the truth. The problem is of course, we can’t.

Headlines are a very important part of the propagandist’s art. They are seldom written by the same person who writes the article to which they refer. As far as ‘news’ reporting is concerned, headlines are the vanguard of subliminal brainwashing. We automatically think they summarise a news report, telling us in advance what we can expect to learn from that report. A headline will remain in our memories as a summary of that article. Even if we do not actually read the article at all, we will probably have noticed the headline, and a little note will be stored in our memories that we have read something, somewhere about whatever that story is about, and the vague memory of the headline will be our sole recollection of that story.

North Korea has been a popular western whipping boy for about as long as Cuba. It is identified as the same sort of threat to world peace that Iran currently enjoys. Consequently when a headline in last Saturday’s Times read “South Korean ship ‘sunk by torpedo from North Korea’”, we naturally expect the attached ‘news’ report to inform us of how that arch-villain North Korea has been spoiling for a fight again. The problem is the article which accompanies that headline simply doesn’t provide a single shred of evidence to justify it.

The very first sentence of the report reads: ‘A South Korean naval ship sank last night after an explosion that may have been caused by a North Korean torpedo.’ Note the words ‘may have been’, as they’re quite important. As soon as they’re employed the writer is at liberty to conclude the sentence any way they like. They could claim the explosion ‘may have been’ a suicide bomber, an asteroid, the cook forgetting to turn off the stove... anything. So we read a little further to find the evidence of this North Korean torpedo, but already feeling a little suspicious of the words ‘may have been’.

Next we learn that ‘Six naval ships and two coastguard vessels’ were in the area. As these vessels rescued most of the crew of the sunken ship, and because the article doesn’t say otherwise, we can probably assume they were all South Korean. Then we read that ‘it was not clear whether North Korea was the cause of the explosion’. Not clear? That’s a little different from the very clear headline. So too was this sentence: ‘”We have been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the incident,” a spokesman for the South Korean Navy said.’ Next we learn that a ‘South Korean ship in the same area fired shots towards an “unidentified target”’.

In short, apart from a vague reference to unattributed ‘reports from Seoul’, not a single word in the actual article offers any evidence at all that North Korea had anything whatsoever to do with the sinking of the South Korean ship. In fact what the ‘news’ report tells us is that the only ships in the area appear to have been South Korean, and the only ship that appears to have been doing any shooting was South Korean – a very different set of circumstances to that suggested by the headline.

The similarity between this story and the ‘Gulf of Tonkin Incident’ is quite remarkable. That scandal is now known to have been made in America two months before the USS Maddox was allegedly attacked – an action that was used to trigger a full scale US invasion of Vietnam. Not that the Tonkin Incident was the first time the US had taken itself to war on the back of an alleged attack upon it. In 1898 the sinking of the USS Maine in mysterious circumstances off the coast of Cuba was used to provoke the brief Spanish American war over ownership of that blighted island.

How on earth is the Average Person supposed to have any chance at all of forming a reasonable understanding of how her world works? When pillars of the journalistic profession such as The Times routinely peddle such obvious propaganda, presumably on behalf of The Empire, what price truth?


17 February 2010

There are some good things about our education system, and about the institution that continually supplies us with information once we leave school – the media; but there’s also a serious flaw: some of the information we acquire along the way is flat-out wrong. And because we seldom know what that wrong information is until it’s too late (if indeed we get to find out at all) it’s all but impossible to know what information we can really trust.

Most of the people we instinctively trust (like teachers, parents, and priests) don’t intentionally deceive us; but sometimes they do – like when they’re about to do something we’re not going to like, and they tell us they’re doing it for us - in our best interests. I don’t know how many beatings I had as a young person that were accompanied with the words ‘it’s for your own good’. (Not that the beatings weren’t deserved, I hasten to add – mostly they were – but they didn’t do me any good).

But it’s much harder to say that about the institutions we trust (that they don’t intentionally deceive us) – such as our employer, or the BBC, or our daily newspaper. The history of employment relations is bursting at the seams with accounts of employers lying to their workers; and autobiographies of such eminent journalists as John Simpson and Jon Snow both include stories of involvement with our ‘intelligence’ services, and according to writer William Blum the CIA admitted in 1977 that it had direct access to ‘at least one newspaper in every foreign capital at any given time’. (1)

This access by ‘intelligence’ agencies to those sources we trust for our news is required not only to glean information from reporters (who can often get to places normal spies would find quite difficult), but also to feed misinformation to an unsuspecting public. In the general mayhem caused by this sort of interference with the information we rely upon to form opinions about the world around us we can be led to trust things we should fear, and fear things we should trust.

Take the word anarchist as one small example. We’re conditioned to automatically react with fear to that word – as though someone said ‘murderer’ instead. The dictionary defines anarchy to mean ‘without government’, and if we hear the word used at all it’s always in connection with people causing wanton destruction. So the image most people have of anarchists is of masked hooligans whose ambition for the world is lawless chaos – for whatever sick reason. But if anyone actually bothers to scratch beneath the surface, to ignore this image our trusted guides create for us, and to read some of the work of self-confessed anarchists, a rather different picture emerges. Consider Emma Goldman, for example, who said: ‘No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true educator should be to unlock that treasure.’ (2)

Why do you suppose we should be conditioned to fear such people? I agree absolutely with the words of Emma Goodman, but I’m no anarchist: I not only don’t believe that society without government is possible, I don’t even believe such a society is desirable. However, for all their anti-anarchist rhetoric and propaganda, I’m not so sure our trusted leaders share that view. If that seems a little odd, perhaps it’s because you’re not seeing the bigger picture.

Although every country in the world has more government than it knows what to do with, the world itself is entirely without government – if by ‘government’ we mean something that provides security for ordinary people. If we looked at the world objectively from some other planet, what we would see is a small community controlled by gangs – like parts of L.A. say, but on a far bigger scale. For most of the history of the Earth relatively dominant gangs come and go completely unimpeded by anything approaching a world government drafting world laws to protect ordinary people and enforced by a world police force ensuring those gangs cannot thrive. About a hundred years ago the first attempt at world government occurred. It was called the League of Nations and about thirty years later evolved into the United Nations and various satellite organisations, such as those to control world’s economy. But almost from the moment they were formed these institutions were turned into playthings for the new tough kid on the block, and gangster supremo: the US government; so that today this fig leaf for world government is in fact no more than The Boss’s Licensing Department.

Daniel Moynihan, for example, when he was the US ambassador to the UN, famously said: ‘The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. The task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.’ (3) Utter contempt for the UN by the gangster-in-chief is so routine that relatively junior lieutenants like White House chief of staff Andrew Card feel sufficiently emboldened to proclaim: ‘the UN can meet and discuss, but we don’t need their permission.’ (4); or the even more junior official Francis Fukuyama: ‘[The UN] is perfectly serviceable as an instrument of American unilateralism and indeed may be the primary mechanism through which that unilateralism will be exercised in the future.’ (5).

There’s nothing new in this, of course. Law, which is the skeleton of government, has only ever been intended to control the little people; it’s always been perfectly understood that it doesn’t apply to leaders. The economic historian H.O. Meredith, writing almost a hundred years ago about controls created by the British government in order to squash any ideas of freedom being inspired by the French (or American) Revolutions, observed: ‘The legislation of 1799 and 1800, combined with the law of conspiracy, made it criminal to join a trade union or organise a strike. Technically, combination of the employers was as illegal as combination of the men: in practice it seems to have been easy to convict the men, impossible to convict the masters.’ (My emphasis) (6). Or consider the common law which says it’s wrong to kill people. True for little people, who shouldn’t go around committing the odd murder; completely irrelevant for leaders who may murder as many people as they choose, so long as they feel it’s ‘the right thing’. Ask Tony Blair. And if your country’s leader can casually ignore possibly the most important law of all, what other laws might he play fast and loose with?

So who are the real anarchists? Those few individuals who occasionally smash a couple of windows and perhaps throw the odd firebomb or two (and who might be working for the sate)? Or that other set of individuals who openly defy what’s supposed to be the world’s government, and rampage around the planet ruining the lives of millions? One set wear facemasks and live in constant fear of the police; the other set strut the world stage in thousand pound suits and own the police. But who are the real anarchists? And who really champions the interests of ordinary people? Who should we really trust, and who should we really fear?

1. ‘Killing Hope’ by William Blum p. 120 2. ‘Living My Life’ by Emma Goldman p. 409 3. ‘Hidden Agendas’ by John Pilger p. 302 4. ‘Hegemony or Survival’ by Noam Chomsky p. 32 5. “ p.29 6. ‘Economic History of England’ by H.O. Meredith p. 292.)


11 February 2010

It was announced yesterday that Birmingham City Council is to shed 2,000 jobs. With recent similar announcements from councils in both Leicester and Nottingham, how soon will it be before cuts are announced in Grantham’s public services?

The reason for the cuts, we’re told, is that public spending must be reduced to pay back huge budget deficits. Those deficits were caused by a handful of people who ruined the world’s economy, and profited very nicely by doing so – and these are the same people who now presume to advise on how we should recover from the disaster they created. No word is mentioned about the banks having to pay back the hundreds of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money they’ve had (plus interest); not only must we fund multi-millionaire bonuses we must also forego the public services we expect our taxes to pay for.

A few years ago, realising that my lack of knowledge about economics was seriously hindering my understanding of the world, I decided to teach myself something about the subject. Now, having read quite widely, I see a little more clearly; and perhaps the most important lesson I learnt about that artificial topic is best summed up in the words of Paul Bairoch, a Swiss professor of economics, who said: ‘‘If I had to summarize the essence of what economic history can bring to economic science it would be that there is no “law” or rule in economics that is valid for every period of history or for every economic structure.’ (see ‘Economics and World History’ by Bairoch p. 164)

In other words, there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ economic model; yet the one that’s relentlessly forced down the throats of a generally unwilling world is the so-called ‘Chicago School’ model of capitalism as preached by its leading guru, the much reviled and completely unmissed Milton Friedman.

This philosophy preaches total destruction of public services. Its perfect world is one run entirely by private corporations whose only interest is maximising shareholder profit. As corporations now control the Whitehouse in everything but name (as of 21st January corporations may now directly finance US election campaigns), it shouldn’t be too long before they achieve their ultimate goal.

The world’s economy is managed from the United States via its puppet triumvirate the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation. As you might expect, their primary mission in life is securing economic domination of the planet by their parent (which largely ignores all the advice and strictures those fine foundations impose upon every other nation). That Britain’s leaders aid and abet this holy purpose is something people should wonder at. But if one remembers that our government comprises people who not only assisted in destroying the world’s economy (deregulation of banks and financial services), and who also cheerfully plunge us into illegal wars (Iraq), assist foreign governments in the torture of innocent people (see the Independent 11/2/10 – ‘Britain did know CIA tortured suspect’) and then either lie about it all or do everything in their power to ensure the people don’t find out (ibid), perhaps we should not be too surprised.

Cutting public services when the economy is suffering is pure Chicago School economics, which has caused mayhem wherever it has been imposed, from Chile to Russia, as intended (consider Nixon’s instruction to CIA director Richard Helms to “make [Chile’s] economy scream” – using the Chicago model – see Naomi Klein ‘Shock Doctrine’ p. 64).

Cutting public spending must be resisted with every breath we have. If anything, it should be increased. If the government is so concerned about budget deficits it should stop financing American wars and tell the banks to pay back our money, not tell us to do without the services we expect our taxes to pay for.


26 January 2010

One Baroness Prosser was featuring very prominently in yesterday’s ‘news’. The government’s propaganda department, popularly known as the BBC, was promoting Downing Street’s push to make it even harder for people to retire than it is now. The good Baroness was given considerable time and space to peddle her opinion that people did not want to be forced to retire at 65, and that with a supposed increase in the number of old people the state could not be expected to bare the cost of their pensions. A few older workers were found (notably at ASDA – owned by possibly the most famous scourge of employment rights in the world), and interviewed, all enthusiastically regurgitating the party line. Not a single dissenting opinion was shown.

Well here’s one loudly dissenting voice:

It’s absolutely scandalous (but not surprising) that the government is planning to make people work way past retirement age. That they are attempting to dress this up as a response to the people’s wishes is a completely normal example of the cynicism that passes for government in our country. Whilst there can be no argument that people should indeed not be forced to stop working if that is really their genuine preference, that preference should never be felt simply because there’s no real choice, that their pensions are so miserable they must continue working in order to survive.

Those people who will be due to retire in the next decade or so have paid National Insurance contributions to the state all their working lives on the understanding that they will be able to retire on a comfortable pension at the age of 65 (60 for women). That previous governments have all presided over regimes that plundered pension schemes and created systems where the very rich will be able to retire anytime they like on small fortunes is not the fault of ordinary people who ask for nothing more than modest comfort in their twilight years, and to now demand that ordinary people must continue working for longer in order to pay for the rich is an obscenity of immense proportions. No doubt Baroness Prosser will be able to put her feet up in complete luxury anytime she likes. That the ordinary worker must continue in slavery in order for her to do so is...is...

Where did I put that guillotine?


18 January 2010

Ever since the infamous Monroe Doctrine of 1823 Haiti has had the dubious pleasure of being considered an ‘American interest’ – an honour now shared by the entire planet. Of course the people of Haiti had no say in the matter – they might have thought of themselves as capable of running their own affairs (having been the first slave nation to successfully overthrow their oppressors) – but then as now, Washington knew better.

I don’t know about anyone else, but if my country had just been devastated by some awful catastrophe and I had to rely on a foreign government coming to save me, a government that had quite cheerfully ignored the plight of tens of thousands of its very own citizens when they had been similarly struck down, I’d be fairly worried.

We have had blanket news coverage this week of the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Haiti. Amidst all the usual terrible scenes of human suffering and tragedy one very brief incident is transfixed in my memory. It was of a news conference with some senior US politician who had something to do with the ‘relief’ effort. I forget who he was – it doesn’t matter: if it hadn’t been him it would have been a clone. A reporter asked him why they didn’t just parachute in essential supplies, like food and water, to the desperate survivors who were wandering around the ruined streets of Port-au-Prince quite naturally scavenging anything they could. The politician dismissed the question almost as though some naive child had asked it, and, before quickly moving on answered that if they did that there would be carnage as desperate people fought over whatever was supplied. In other words they’re not supplying immediate relief because that’s in the Haitians’ best interests.

Let’s give that gentleman the benefit of the doubt, and say that he actually believed his own words; so I won’t call it a lie, I’ll simply call it the biggest load of rubbish I’d heard since... I don’t know... the previous night’s ‘news’ maybe.

The only situation where this gentleman might have been correct is if the available aid was so miniscule that it could not possibly have provided significant relief. If that is the case, why is it? I mean, the west is absolutely swimming in ‘humanitarian’ organisations of one kind or another, why are they so poor and disorganised that they can’t respond to a crisis when it actually happens? If that were the case it would mean either that these organisations just don’t have or can’t get stocks of essential food and water; or there is a transport problem i.e. they can’t get it there. I simply don’t believe that is the case. I cannot believe that a professional relief organisation doesn’t have the ways and means to obtain food and water instantly; and as the world’s media have arrived in Port-au-Prince without any difficulty, and the US has had enough time to send half its navy to the scene (together with thousands of ground troops), I’m struggling to see that there might be a transport problem. There must be another reason.

They say a picture tells a thousand words, and another brief clip shown on the BBC this morning was particularly helpful in this respect. It showed the US marines helping the relief effort. Ahhh... This was they how they were doing it: one marine was handing one small bottle of water to one Haitian child. Behind that child was another, and perhaps another child behind that one. All very ordered; all very controlled. You could almost see that image on the recruiting page of the US Marines website beneath a caption reading “Saving Childrens’ Lives in World Disasters.”

There’s no love lost between the people of Haiti and the United States. The US managed the military overthrow of the people’s chosen government under Jean-Bertrand Aristide, just as they’ve done in many other places in the region, and have helped to cruelly oppress a tragic land that Christopher Columbus once described as ‘rich and bountiful’ (just prior to his nation exterminating the quarter of a million of so Arawaks who were living there).

Disaster ‘relief’ is seriously big business where corporate profits and political prestige must be considered long before anything as mundane as helping desperate poor people. With the US ‘leading’ the relief of Haiti, quite apart from feeling even more sympathy for the Haitians than we otherwise would, the single most important thing to understand is that that ‘relief’ effort will be managed not by ordinary caring human beings but by big business – because the US government and big business are one and the same thing; and big business is legally mandated to maximise its profits.

Maximising profits means controlling supply, and making that supply as cheap as possible to produce, and as expensive as possible to buy. From a profit point of view the idea of just parachuting food and water to desperate people whist proper support systems can be set up is pure madness. Not only does it cost money but it would also mean that desperate people aren’t quite so desperate anymore, and therefore aren’t quite so easy to control. In a country like Haiti, which has every reason to be deeply suspicious of American soldiers, the population needs to be adequately ‘prepared’ to accept the authority of a foreign army. Normally the preparation of suspicious populations requires considerable bombing and armed invasion – but just because nature provides the prerequisite devastation free of charge (if that was in fact the case here), that doesn’t mean you can afford to be more liberal with the supply side of the equation, it simply means the costs are even lower and therefore the profits even more bounteous.

The United Nations is the only organisation that has truly legitimate international authority. The fact that it is being muscled aside in Haiti, with the US marketed as ‘leading’ the relief effort, is of course no surprise. But the fact is that it is the UN and only the UN who should be left alone to co-ordinate the relief effort. That’s the only way we can be reasonably sure the job is being done with minimal ulterior motive, and that the people of Haiti are getting the best support and assistance possible. My heart goes out to the people of Haiti. Not only have they been struck down by a terrible catastrophe, but they are forced to rely on the most ruthless government in existence for their relief.


12 January 2010

I first identified the Great Swine Flu Scam last spring (see comment below for 29/4/09, and 3/9/09).

The scam is now more or less official. It was on Channel 4 news last night.

For much of last year we were manipulated into believing that a major flu ‘pandemic’ was about to ravage the country. ‘Contaminated’ schools were closed on no better evidence than little Johnny turning up with a sniffle; doctors’ surgeries were partitioned off so that ordinary sick people didn’t have to risk contagion from blighted people; the wearing of face masks became strongly encouraged, and we were all urged to rush out and stock up with anti-flu vaccine, while stocks last.

It was, as I strongly suspected, and tried to point out at the time, all one big con, engineered as all the really big cons are these days, in the United States - on this occasion by the drug companies. But they are far from being the principle culprits. Indeed, corporate law being what it is, they are more or less legally obliged to do anything at all that might produce a profit for them. No, our own trusted leaders, together with the media, are far more culpable.

From the World Health Organisation being manipulated into re-defining the word ‘pandemic’ to mean almost anyone with a sniffle, to Andy Burnham telling the House of Commons in July that he was expecting 100,000 new cases A DAY by the end of August, all our trusted leaders leapt to attention like the obliging sheepdogs they are when their corporate masters are blowing the whistle; all of which, and considerably more, was faithfully reported by a complicit media - a fact which cannot be ignored.

It started with reports from Mexico about people with sniffles. We were treated to endless TV coverage of healthy Mexican troops sporting face masks and distributing face masks to all the healthy people passing by. (But the military overthrow of President Zelaya, the elected president of Honduras, which was happening at about the same time just down the road was completely ignored). Then almost daily throughout the summer about half of every ‘news’ bulletin was lovingly devoted to stories of people with sniffles.

The wheels started to come off in the autumn when it emerged that people weren’t buying their vaccines as instructed, and weren’t getting sick either. We’re now told that about 300 people died in the UK from Swine Flu – but we’re not told how many of these cases were SOLELY down to Swine Flu, and we’re not told how many people normally succumb to flu every year anyway.

Much of Western Europe is now awash in unwanted and completely unnecessary flu vaccines, and governments are trying to renege on multi-million dollar contracts they were coerced into signing. Whilst politicians are more or less obliged to report health concerns reported to them, there was absolutely no empirical evidence that the media had to pay as much attention to the scam as it did. The media therefore have more than their fair share of guilt in this particular scandal. It will be interesting to see how much of it they admit.


4 January 2010

Last night the BBC screened a classic piece of twenty first century propaganda. It was a documentary presented by Michael Portillo and was supposed to be a ‘balanced’ inquiry into why Obama is not going to meet his pre-election promise of closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Portillo is a polished performer – with his background how could he not be? He was calm, reflective, caring; he was careful to include one or two people who pointed out the fact that not one scrap of evidence exists to justify the internment of any of the inhabitants at Guantanamo; he included people who had lost relatives in the Twin Towers, and spoke to one or two people who had been prisoners at the infamous prison; he explained the ‘pressures’ and ‘difficulties’ that face Obama, with a view to helping us to understand why the latest Washington puppet has failed to do what he promised. Those of us who know better could stifle a yawn and ask ‘What else is new?’ Portillo concluded with a troubled, confessional expression to camera and told us that because he too was also a political animal he understood the terrible difficulties Obama faces (meaning we should too), and that if he (Portillo) was president he would probably do exactly the same thing. That the US government has for many decades carefully picked and chosen those laws and protocols it likes, and therefore adheres to, and ignored completely those it doesn’t – like its illegal sanctions against Cuba – was obviously never mentioned.

Like I said - it was a polished performance. I could almost hear the violins in the background, and thought I detected a little misting of the Portillo eye as he contemplated the terrible burden of being the most powerful puppet on Earth.

Churchill once said that ‘in wartime truth is so precious she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies’. So he definitely would have loved Portillo’s plea that we should understand it when our ‘great leaders’ lie to us ‘in the wider interest’. But Churchill also said ‘The power of the executive to cast a man into prison, without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government’. So I don’t know how the ‘great’ man would have felt about rounding up thousands of innocents and locking them up indefinitely thousands of miles away from their families and routinely torturing them for good measure – all without a single shred of evidence of any wrongdoing on the victims’ part. (Mind you, as they’re mostly brown skinned Middle Eastern people, he might have just gassed them.)

That Portillo would probably do the same thing as Obama is of course no surprise to me – I would have been far more surprised if he said he wouldn’t; but even if he had said so I wouldn’t have believed him.


20 December 2009

Apparently some managers were whooping and doing ‘high fives’ following the decision by Mrs ‘Justice’ Cox to declare illegal the recent BA strike ballot. The good judge’s decision turned on the fact that some of those voting were not allowed to vote. However, The Times reports that that number was about 6% of the total ballot which, being 92% in favour of strike action meant it would have made absolutely no material difference to the outcome. Another great day for the champions of democracy.

Still, the last few decades have provided plenty of precedent for the principle of never letting the wishes of the majority stand in the way of corporate power. Since the very first CIA interventions in the state elections of post-war Italy to the recent military overthrow of the President Zelaya, the democratically elected of Honduras – via Guatemala, Iran, Congo, Florida and Gaza, to name but a few examples – the principle has been widely copied: democratic decisions can be tolerated – providing they produce the desired outcome.

It is of course understandable that the vast majority of Britain’s media are similarly crowing with delight – our media being controlled by huge corporations – but just how great a victory is ‘Justice’ Cox’s verdict for Mr and Mrs Average?

Our economy has been completely destroyed by the corporate business world, and it’s quite possible it will never recover. The multi-nationals that have now virtually taken over our government, many of which are not even based here, have absolutely no responsibility to Britain, no duty of care to our people. They have completely destroyed the nation’s engineering and manufacturing industries by gorging themselves on the biggest asset-stripping exercise since land enclosures and the Highland clearances – all overseen by our trusted leaders in cahoots with the judiciary and their loyal enforcers. Well done chaps.

The temporary ‘victory’ by BA managers over BA staff is just more of the same – state sponsored asset stripping and oppression of working people. The nation’s airline is poised to go the same way as the nation’s postal service, great engineering companies and utilities – not to mention the banks – all whilst their senior managers whoop it up, do their ‘high fives’, trouser the mega-bonuses and run for it.

Mr and Mrs Average need to see what’s happening: our country is being plundered by those we trust to lead us, by people like last year’s bankers, people who fill their pockets just as fast as they possibly can before flying into the sunset and leaving us to pay for the ruins they create. When the state casually overturns a 92% democratic ballot, and our media respond as though that’s some sort of victory, surely even the very dullest mind can see that the last illusion of British democracy has long fizzled out.

* * *

The latest international party to celebrate ‘global warming’ broke up a couple of days ago in Copenhagen. Everybody who’s anybody was there – from the Emperor up to sandal-clad vegetarian protestors, via Gordon Brown gurning to the voters.

If there was nothing else that proved absolutely the complete vacuousness of the ‘global warming’ charade it’s the fact that so many of our trusted leaders appear to take it so seriously – after all, really serious issues like Permanent War, overpopulation, and the fact that the world’s only hope for international justice, the United Nations, is completely sidelined from the subject altogether – these issues are never even discussed in polite society, let alone celebrated in international media jamborees.

I haven’t quite figured out what’s really behind all this interest in the planet’s climate. The only thing we know for sure is that it won’t be any sincere concerns about human life or the Earth’s fragile eco-systems. As money and power are the only things our trusted leaders are interested in there must be some sort of financial incentive in it all. My best guess at the moment is that the international policing agencies the Empire is so keen on establishing around the globe supposedly to ‘monitor climate control targets’, are going to see far more action monitoring imperial economic dominance.


5 December 2009

So another inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War has begun. The chairman of the present inquiry says there’ll be no whitewash. We’ll see. Already the evidence provided has proven what a million marchers (and many more besides) strongly suspected at the time: there was absolutely no justification for Britain going to war. The Hutton inquiry proved it in 2004. How much more evidence is necessary before we hear of Blair being indicted for war crimes, instead of the jaw-dropping suggestions he be crowned president of Europe?

Permanent War is the most important issue facing our country – and it is routinely sidestepped. Climate change is, by comparison, a minor distraction.

As the death toll of wasted British servicemen creeps inexorably towards that event horizon so beloved by warmongers (where more and more young people might be sucked into wasting their lives so that earlier lives will not have been wasted in vain) there is one vitally important subject studiously avoided by the mainstream press: the hundreds of thousands of mostly innocent civilian lives our young people are being illegally ordered to terminate. And this number is so staggeringly huge that it can only be guessed at – it is disputed to the order of plus or minus hundreds of thousands (see the Lancet’s 2006 study on the subject). Our own pointless dead is an appalling enough fact, but coercing our young people to behave like war criminals is infinitely worse.

International law is perfectly clear about the reasons where war is justified, and therefore legal. See Chapter VII Article 51 of the UN Charter (to which the UK is a signatory) which states that war is permissible only for individual or collective self defence. As Iraq had attacked no one in 2003 (quite the opposite: Iraq had been the victim of years of ruthless economic warfare), it is perfectly obvious that this condition did not exist. Furthermore, UN Resolution 1441 is often cited as the legal pretext authorising British involvement – yet nowhere in 1441 does it suggest that military action against Iraq is sanctioned.

The Iraq war was not lawful, and the presence of our forces in Afghanistan today is every bit as questionable, to say the least. If Britain’s involvement in America’s wars was legal, our forces would be wearing pale blue helmets and representing the United Nations. They’re not and they don’t; therefore their involvement in the Middle East is unlawful. The casual flouting of international law succeeds not because it isn’t a fact, but because no other country or organisation can bring the principle rogue government to account; and a law without the means to enforce it is almost useless. But not quite – because what the law can clearly indicate is the difference between right and wrong.

This is a vitally important issue. Our forces are being used as accomplices for war crimes, and the wider population is being duped into complicity exactly as ordinary Germans were duped by Nazi propaganda in the 1930s.

Britain must end its involvement in these endless battles in the Empire’s cynical and illegal Permanent War, where our young people are being needlessly killed and, which is far worse, are being used to kill countless innocent and defenceless civilians. British involvement in America’s wars must stop, and our forces must be brought home – now.


17 November 2009

Armistice Day 2009

Armistice Day is so last week.

I stopped buying poppies a few years ago, and I’m unlikely to ever buy one again. What was once, perhaps, a sincere desire to keep alive the memory of the unspeakable horror that was the First World War, in order, perhaps, that people learnt to abhor war, has become instead a celebration of war. It has elevated the status of millions of deceived young men far beyond mere heroes (which was, for most of those tragic victims, never appropriate) to that of gods; thus creating immortal role models to aid the propaganda machine for current wars, and for those to come.

It is now a ritual on Armistice Day for people to stop wherever they are, and whatever they’re doing at 11.00 a.m. and stand in silence for a minute, sometimes two. People are supposed to remember all those young gods and their ‘heroism’. But how many remember one of the many lies those young gods were told – that they were fighting the ‘War To End All Wars’? And how many wonder why it is that ninety years after the guns of the War To End All Wars fell silent there has only been one year when British soldiers have not been killed in action? How many of those brave young souls who sincerely believed they were fighting the War To End All Wars would rage, if they could, at our annual celebration of Permanent War being held in their name? How many of those silently standing Armistice Day celebrants actually think about World War One at all, and its many lessons? How can they when most of the images they see on their televisions and newspapers are of today’s tragic lost generation?

Exactly as the young people of 1914 were coerced by a relentless propaganda machine to go and waste their lives so that tiny handfuls of immensely powerful men could amass obscene personal fortunes (the British Empire expanded by about 10% as a direct consequence of the war), so too are today’s young people being relentlessly brainwashed by exactly the same type of people for exactly the same type of cause – plunder.

As yet another failed war in Afghanistan begins to draw to a close seven years after it started, the first signs of the excuses are beginning to emerge. Hardly a day goes by when our complicit media are not bemoaning the failures or shortages of kit and equipment being supplied to our troops, or the fact that not enough troops are being committed to the slaughter. We continually hear that the war would be a mere formality but for the want of a few more helicopters. We hear about MP corruption and bonuses being awarded to the civil servants of the MoD - all of which will also no doubt be cited to explain the ignominious withdrawal from that blighted country when it inevitably happens.

Yet no mention is made of the fact that the rag-tag enemy has not a single helicopter to their name, or any other type of air power, and carry out their most deadly attacks with pathetic home-made bombs. No mention is made of the huge profits being trousered by the international arms industry, or the reconstruction and private security contracts being awarded to those especially favoured sponsors of election campaigns, or the banks that handle the financing of ‘reconstruction’. No mention is made of the international spread of permanent US military bases. No mention is made of the staggering increases to the budgets of the ‘defence’ forces and their partners-in-crime: the police and various so-called ‘intelligence’ services who together perpetuate the myth of the ‘war on terror’. And of course no mention is made of the complicit media who stoke the flames of it all by their omissions, half-truths and outright lies.

From the illegal war in Iraq to the all-too-predictable disaster of Afghanistan to … where next? Where next are Britain’s youth going to be sent to kill defenceless peasants, and to be killed in return by crude home-made bombs cobbled together by angry young men with nothing else to lose, in order that arms makers, generals and bankers will continue to thrive? Iran? Pakistan? North Korea?

When are the people who stand around in silence every year at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month sporting their little plastic poppies going to realise they are being tricked? When are they going to see that their well-meaning gesture is not being interpreted as it should be, as those millions of tragic souls might actually wish – a plea for world peace – but as ongoing support for the wars of today and tomorrow; for Permanent War?


21 October 2009

There is supposed to be a national postal strike tomorrow. No one should be in any doubt that it deserves the total support of the entire country.

It is all but impossible for the normal person to comprehend what the strike is about because the corporate and government media between them completely control the information we receive. But there is one considerable fact that has managed to filter through and it’s this: Royal Mail management have refused to accept the ‘independent’ mediation services of ACAS.

To some that may some a trivial point, but it’s every bit as significant as Arthur Scargill’s refusal in the 1980’s to ballot the miners about strike action. These seemingly trivial technicalities establish the moral high ground in disputes; and just as Scargill was wrong not to ballot the miners, so too are Royal Mail wrong not to accept independent arbitration. The odd thing is that just as Scargill may well have won a strike ballot had he called one, Royal Mail management would probably gain the support of ACAS were they to call on it, as the so-called ‘independent’ arbiters are basically government lackeys (being civil servants); and we have a government deeply committed to crushing the British worker.

There are various high-profile government figures who have long been committed to privatising the post office i.e. selling off, probably to some international corporation, yet another national asset that was paid for with public money. They will probably win, as they have overwhelming power; but that doesn’t mean they should win without a fight.

Never forget:

THE REBEL, THE STRIKER AND THE HERETIC ARE NEARLY ALWAYS RIGHT!

Up the Postal Workers!


21 September 2009

Britain’s three political parties are all trying to out-cut each other. Cameron’s government-in-waiting started this particular fiasco a few weeks ago. About the only thing that might reduce the Tories’ otherwise inevitable electoral success next year is if half of their number was found to be child-molesters, or secretly in league with Osama bin Laden. Knowing this, they had no problem letting the world know how they were going solve Britain’s disastrous financial problems by savaging our public services – in other words, behave like normal Tories. Once they started, the others felt safe to jump on the band-wagon.

Brown leapt to his feet in a televised speech somewhere and waving his hand around like some manic axe-murderer he ranted about how he would cut this and cut that. This week it’s the turn of the other lot and surprise, surprise, they too are going to cut this and cut that. Not a single one of them has suggested getting back the hundreds of billions of pounds of the nation’s money so generously gifted to the rotten banks that caused the collapse of the world’s economy in the first place, and that’s now sloshing around in their virtual vaults doing very little other than continue to pay out huge bonuses to bankers.

The most ludicrous thing of all, of course, is that any of these people are still listened to – after all it was their economic policies that allowed the banks such absolute power to ruin the world’s economy. Even those that didn’t actually create the legislation to de-regulate financial services, didn’t resist it much either. Why these selfsame people should presume to be worthy of our trust is frankly farcical. The fact that they can get away with doing so is down to another situation that they have carefully contrived. I refer of course to TINA, the “There Is No Alternative” situation – the only ‘alternative’ political parties that are permitted to thrive are absolutely no alternatives at all. They all peddle exactly the same corruption – à la our US role model. The only ‘alternative’ the voter is offered at election time is ‘which particular gangster do you prefer?’ There Is No Alternative because no real alternatives are allowed to exist.

It stands to reason that while the system itself is permitted to continue without change, the corruption that is the very heart of that system will also continue without change. Whilst the individual players will come and go, it is exactly the same farce being played out on the stage.

The whole rotten system must be completely gutted and reformed from top to bottom. The People’s Constitution proposes exactly the sort of changes necessary.


17 September 2009

It was announced on yesterday’s news that two schoolchildren from Manchester, who have been languishing in prison for the last six months having been charged by the police and Crown Prosecution Service with plotting to blow up a school to ‘celebrate’ the tenth anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, were released by a jury after just forty five minutes deliberation. It turns out that there was not a trace of evidence for the ‘plot’ other than an air rifle, a few common fireworks and a few pages of rather sick, fantasy-world, writing.

Whilst I have no real sympathy for the particular individuals concerned – it seems they have dreams of joining the army where I’m sure their fantasies could be legitimately acted out – the incident itself must be condemned in the strongest terms.

It is difficult to over-emphasize the rage that stories like this generate. What better example does anyone need of the police state Britain has now become? And these stories are becoming more and more common. It is now almost routine for ‘terror’ suspects to be released by the courts for lack of evidence only to be re-arrested and tried again and again until the ‘right’ verdict is eventually achieved. Ordinary people are having their homes smashed up all around the country by gangs of Robocop wannabees acting on “credible intelligence” of one sort or another, only for them to depart empty handed leaving behind a shell-shocked citizen with a ruined home and hefty repair bill. That the police get away with this is substantially due to the complicity of magistrates who must sign the pieces of paper that ‘legitimise’ these raids. Just as Hitler’s Gestapo, South Africa’s apartheid police and the Israeli police never did anything illegal, so too do our police seldom break the law. How much more evidence do we need of the sheer evil of our legal system?

Thank God for juries, and the ordinary people who comprise them, to still bring a little sanity into our so-called “justice” system.



Young People Beware!

Young people beware! You are being lied to.

The single biggest lie you are conditioned from birth to accept is that your country’s leaders can be trusted; trusted to always act in your best interests. It is a lie of monstrous proportions. There is only one set of interests these leaders protect: their own.

Almost every adult you know is complicit in spreading this lie. However, the really dangerous thing is that the vast majority of them don’t even know they’re doing it. It’s a bit like people who spread infections: most of the people who transmit colds and flu say, don’t even know they have colds or the flu during the early stages, when they are most infectious.

One of the first deliberate lies that most Christian children learn is the Santa Claus lie. This lie is ‘justified' on the grounds that because children are showered with presents it makes them happy, and because it makes them happy it is therefore acceptable to lie to them.

Compared with the lies that start to follow this one in very quick succession, and then continue throughout a person’s life, it is indeed very trivial. Most of us can remember the moment they discovered that Santa Claus does not exist – a moment when we learn a very important lesson; a lesson that for too many people is almost instantly forgotten: adults cannot always be relied upon to tell you the truth. I call this lesson the ‘Santa Claus Effect’: the proof of the principle.

Just as our parents and families knowingly lie to us as small children ‘in our own best interests’, so too do teachers and preachers, news readers, politicians, kings, queens, sports, T.V. and movie stars. The number of lies we are told from all these trusted sources probably exceeds the truths we learn by a very long way – because ‘truth’ is incredibly illusive. If we combine all the lies told to us by those we trust and who know they’re lying (e.g. prime ministers and presidents), together with the lies told to us by those we trust but who don’t know themselves they’re lying (e.g. parents and teachers); and when we add to this number the astronomical volume of blatant lies, half truths, deceptions and omissions that comprise almost every newspaper, radio and TV news bulletin – all of which is done, like the Santa Claus lie, ‘in our own best interests’ – it isn’t very difficult to begin to see the scale of the problem; and that’s without examining the ‘factual’ content of advertising companies, or the subliminal lies of TV shows and film studios.

A very good rule is to run away very quickly from people claiming to be ‘acting in your own best interests’ – especially if they want to do something you don’t like. There is only one person you can ever fully trust to act in your best interests: yourself. But even that isn’t as easy as you might hope because, as I said earlier, the truth is incredibly illusive. However, there is one simple technique that will always help you better than most to discover the truth. It is a very old and well known technique, a technique that is widely used in courts of law all around the world: adversarial debate.

In order to come as near as you can to the truth you don’t need dozens of experts all saying the same thing – in fact they make things worse – all you need is two experts… who disagree with each other. If you always actively seek out dissenting voices, without fully trusting them either, but just listen to why they are dissenting voices, you stand a reasonable chance of getting quite close to the truth.

That you desperately need to get quite close to the truth cannot be in doubt. The world you are about to inherit is in a state of Permanent War. It is on the brink of total ecological destruction, and the social conditions for 90% of humanity are barely better than slaves – and deteriorating. This situation is not a natural disaster, like an earthquake or tsunami – it is entirely man-made; a situation deliberately created by those we trust to tell us the truth.


3 September 2009

On the 3rd July The Times reported that the new health secretary, Andy Burnham, informed the House of Commons that Swine Flu was spreading at such a rate that 100,000 new cases a day were to be expected by the end of August. The figure was obtained, he said, from ‘experts’ who had been advising ‘Cobra’ – that overly-pretentious title for a bunch of government mandarins.

I am not an ‘expert’, thank God (if there is a God), and I have been predicting the very opposite almost since this Swine Flu ‘emergency’ first dominated the nation’s news in the spring. I do not, of course, have the first idea why our lords and masters decided to create this particular piece of hysterical nonsense, but the fact that they did do so is now almost beyond doubt. As the end of August came and went, Swine Flu had not only failed to produce anything like 100,000 new cases a day, it had all but disappeared entirely from the nation’s newsrooms, noting only that the massive stockpiles of ‘Tamiflu’ were now almost redundant. They will probably have to be destroyed. Oh well, when the taxpayer can gaily dish out hundreds of billions to failed banks, what’s a few tens of millions into the back pockets of friendly drugs companies?

It is now a well recorded fact that the present Empire has long indulged itself in the sport of occasionally infecting its own population with various diseases (deliberately infecting other nations has been just too routine to comment on) – from using its own armed forces as guinea-pigs in nuclear and biological fallout experiments, to releasing various poisons, viruses and bacteria into public places (e.g.the US Army has admitted infecting 239 populated areas in the United States over twenty years – and those are just the cases it owns up to).

So when I say I’m a little suspicious over the total non-event that has been Swine Flu 2009, I hope you can see why.


* * *

Right girls, so you want to save the planet; here’s what you do:

1. Understand that the long term survival of the planet depends almost entirely on girls – not boys.

2. Forget all the nonsense about global warming – whilst the Earth is definitely warming up, it has been doing so for at least ten thousand years, and will continue to do so with or without any interference from humans for as far into the future as we’re capable of seeing: it started warming all by itself without any involvement by humans, and will most likely stop warming in exactly the same way. The fuss about global warming is nothing more than a deliberate distraction from the real problem.

3. Ignore every ecological ‘expert’ you come across unless their work is wholly focussed on the following fact: the world’s human population is growing at a rate of two people a second, and the rate is increasing. Note that that figure is not the planet’s birth rate, it’s the growth of its birth rate.

4. Go to your favourite internet search engine. Type in the words ‘human population’. Access the site called “World Population Clock” – it’s run by the maths department at Berkley. Your mission, girls, is to stop that clock. Reversing it would be good, but stopping it is essential.

5. In one generation’s time young families with more than two children must be as socially unacceptable, everywhere on the planet, as smoking in public places is now.

It’s fairly obvious to anyone who bothers to think about it for five minutes that the biggest threat to Earth’s fragile ecosystem is the runaway train of human population growth. This thing can only be stopped by girls. The greenest people on the planet are girls who don’t have any children at all – they should all be given some sort of award for services to nature. China once offered a fragile glimmer of hope with its one-child policy. It’s rumoured that it may now be about to abandon that policy in compliance with its conversion to the religion of capitalism. If true, it’s the most tragic piece of news for real ecologists since dinosaurs became extinct. However, all is not lost. All it takes is for girls to realise that they have the power; they and they alone can choose how many babies they have. They must understand that the very survival of the planet’s precious, delicate, beautiful wildlife and wildernesses is wholly dependent on them choosing to have no more than two babies. That and that alone is the only hope of really saving the planet.


16 August 2009

Dirty Tricks in Paradise?

Last week the British governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), Gordon Wetherell, suspended the democratically elected government of the islands for ‘up to’ two years whilst he “puts the islands’ affairs back in good order”. The islands’ premier, Michael Misick, resigned in March supposedly as a consequence of a damning report on his administration by retired British judge, Sir Robin Auld. In addition to wholly suspending TCI’s constitution and sacking interim premier Galmo Williams (who has called the decision a coup), together with the entire cabinet in the name of good governance, the British have also suspended trial by jury for the duration of their takeover.

It is of course all but impossible for the average citizen to glean the real truth behind events such as these. We can only filter through the various snippets of information provided by the corporate press and try to work out what’s really happening by reading between the lines; and then hope against hope that what we come up with is a little closer to the truth than what’s being sold. The given reasons by the British government for their actions can obviously be dismissed out of hand, like the bit where Governor Wetherell says “it is not a British takeover” (In fact it’s a pretty good rule of thumb to usually believe the very opposite of what governments tell us). The good governor’s statement was full of the usual professional bureaucrat’s flannel: “We need to stabilise TCI’s finances and help rebuild a more diverse and vigorous economy.” (But according to the Independent, TCI’s economy grew under the leadership of Premier Misick from a GDP in 2003 – when he came to power – of $216m to $722m, and tourism grew from 175,000 visitors per annum to 264,000) And the bit I particularly liked: “We need to clean up public life and start to develop a fairer, more open society” – by sacking the elected administration and suspending trial by jury?

Other news reports suggest that Misick and his government were indeed living the high life – but that sort of thing never usually disturbs the slumbers of HMG; indeed, it’s more usually an essential qualification. So what might really be going on?

For me, one particular sentence stood out from a quite good report in the Independent way back in March (25th): “Sir Robin's commission heard how Mr Misick and other ministers had grown rich by acquiring publicly-owned Crown land, selling it to developers and receiving commissions.” In the same article another interesting little gem claimed: “Canadian legislators have made regular overtures to unite with TCI. Nova Scotia voted in 2004 to invite the islands to join the province.”

Surely those dastardly islanders wouldn’t be presuming to decide for themselves what to do with their own land would they? Sorry, I meant to say HMG’s land?

The arrogance of the British government’s decision to scrap the islands’ democratically elected government is of course reason enough to arouse our suspicions – especially when none of the story has made it into Britain’s mainstream media (like the recent military coup in Honduras); but the real clincher is the fact that the government has also chosen to scrap trial by jury for the next two years. Something very dirty is happening in paradise.


3 August 2009

The Times recently reported that China might be on the verge of abandoning its one-child policy. The really interesting question is why?

China’s one-child policy has always been controversial, to say the least. Originally introduced in the late 1970s it was seen by the authorities as the proper means to address the problem of overpopulation. It was never universally applied or rigorously policed (by Chinese standards) with fewer than half of the population actually subject to the rule.

In recent years I have become something of a convert to the principle, so am a little disappointed to see that China may be abandoning it. For the inescable fact is that the world IS overpopulated, and China’s efforts to confront the issue are really something that should be admired and emulated by anyone seriously interested in the long term survival of the planet’s fragile eco-systems.

The Times article interested me for the slant that was applied. For the suggestion was clearly that human population reduction is unwise because it would mean that old people won’t have enough young people around to pay their pensions for them. Although this argument no doubt has some legitimacy, I wonder if there are other reasons that are not being aired quite so freely.

The core principle of capitalism is growth. Growth is arguably the capitalists’ single most important driving force. If things are not growing and expanding, panic and mass hysteria quickly follow. But the obvious fact that the Earth has finite resources and cannot therefore sustain permanent growth does not seem to impinge in any way upon their guiding dogma. This rather obvious paradox actually serves as wonderful example of the true mantra of modern capitalism: fill your pockets today and let someone else worry about tomorrow. So what’s all that got to do with China’s one-child policy? you might ask. Well, quite a lot.

There are two essential requirements to sustain the capitalist gospel of permanent growth: growing numbers of customers and growing numbers of workers. The notion that both should stop growing or, shock! horror! go into decline! is more than enough to maintain your average little capitalist in a state of permanent cold sweat.

It is of course a standard trick for our controllers to sell their schemes and dreams to us in terms of supposed social benefits to womankind; and their touching concern for the welfare of small children and grannies at times like these is truly heartwarming. The apparent worries of our capitalist masters for the pensioners of the future should, like everything else they say and do, be taken with a substantial pinch of salt. After all, state pensions are, relatively speaking, a brand new invention; it makes you wonder how on Earth mankind managed for the last couple of million years without them. Presumably old people just starved to death as soon as they stopped working.

Well no, actually; they didn’t. In almost every so-called ‘primitive’ society, on every continent, there is considerable evidence that old people were generally venerated by their communities. They were, quite rightly, acknowledged as the living recorders and keepers of history, and their accumulated life’s wisdom regularly consulted and valued. Their few necessities, wants and comforts presented no overwhelming burden for the community to cope with. It is only in recent times, under modern capitalism, that old age has suddenly presented a ‘demographic crisis’. So what else might generate our controllers sudden concern for the welfare of old people?

There is a very revealing comment that was recorded in a Poor Law Commission Report in 1834. In a section discussing the effects of the new Speenhamland System (the originator of state welfare in Britain) appeared the following remark: “I was informed that the consequences of the [S]ystem were not wholly unforseen at the time as affording a probable inducement to early marriages and large families; but at this period there was but little apprehension on that ground. A prevalent opinion, supported by high authority, that population was in itself a source of wealth, precluded all alarm.” (my italics)

Do we have here a more likely explanation, not only for China’s new concern for the welfare of its pensioners, but also for the complete and utter disregard of almost every other society on Earth for the planet’s rampaging population growth?

It doesn’t take too much effort to understand why our capitalist controllers are so enamoured by exploding populations: they satisfy those two essential requirements of capitalism – the ever-growing supply of customers, and the ever-growing supply of cheap/slave labour.

It is almost inevitable that our controllers will survive the most recent economic disaster over which they presided. After all, it was not the first time the cycle has been completed since its first outing a few centuries ago, and there’s absolutely no reason to think it will be the last. It goes something like this: create an artificle money bubble whereby a tiny handful of people make eye-watering fortunes through largely fraudulent financial speculations; continue until the buble bursts; wait for the government to demand that the taxpayer pays for the failed speculations; bide your time in five star luxury on tropical beachs, plush ski resorts and majestic yachts whilst the furore dies down and tens of thousands of little people all over the world quite literally die as a direct consequence of your actions; retire from the game if you wish as you definitely never need to work again, or go back to go and start again for the sheer fun of it all.

Such are the people who have been in charge of the world’s economy for a depressingly long time. Such people do not lie in their beds at night worrying about how old folk might have their pensions paid.

China originally adopted a one-child policy because its leaders clearly understood that ‘growth’ was not only the Holy Grail of capitalism and therefore anathema to communism; and that it was also obviously an unsustainable principle given that the Earth has finite resources; but that ‘growth’ was simply unnecessary once any society achieves a self-sustaining human population level. As China now firmly embraces the religion of capitalism to its breast , together with its long-established understanding of the direct relationship between population and wealth, it seems to be on the verge of abandoning the most important cause in which it was the planet’s undisputed leader.

The Earth long ago passed a self-sustaining human population level. It long ago arrived at the point where its human population can only continue at the cost of the permanent destruction of some eco-system or the exhaustion of some irrepacable resource. China’s one-child policy offered a very real light of hope at the end of the capitalists’ cataclysmic permanent ‘growth’ tunnel. It’s a sad day indeed to think that that light might now be extinguished.


12 July 2009

Bring Them Home. Now!

Exactly three years ago the Grantham Journal printed one of my articles calling for the return of our troops from Afghanistan. At the time British troops had been based there for about six years and had ‘only’ lost five men – less than one a year. However, it had just been announced that our forces were to take over the Helmand province, and things were expected to go rapidly downhill. In my article I reminded readers of the ancient history of that unconquerable land, of the numerous empires that had come and gone, winning their occasional battles, but never the wars. I knew of course that my call for the return of our troops would be ignored by most, opposed by some – but it was the right thing to do, so I did it.

Today, as we mourn the bloodiest week for British troops since the start of that campaign, as we slowly become used to an average of one British death every couple of days, it’s high time once again to do the right thing.

British forces must come home. NOW! No one who truly values our armed forces could say anything else. They should not be there. They must all come home.

The cynicism and deceit of our political masters as to WHY our forces are dying in distant deserts and killing unknown, uncounted, and largely innocent and defenceless peasants totally eclipses the trivial (albeit legitimate) scandal over parliamentary expenses. We are told about their touching concern for the health and education of Afghan children, and the (quite feeble) number of schools and clinics that have been built in response (mostly for their propaganda value); but we’re not told about the oil and gas pipelines being frantically constructed across the country for western energy companies. We are told of our leaders’ misty-eyed vision of a free and democratic Afghanistan, but we don’t learn about the awesome and permanent US military bases being built (by American contractors) to ensure that Afghan freedom and democracy conforms to imperial requirements. We are told how some Afghani families are now receiving electric power in their homes for the first time ever – but not about how the profits of those supplies go to western utility companies, not Afghanistan.

Sending our armed forces off to kill and die in distant lands for spurious humanitarian reasons is an old trick; and winning popular support for political trickery by conflating the people’s affection for their troops with approval for politicians’ actions is equally well tried and tested. About eighty years ago Major General Smedley Butler, once the most highly decorated officer in the US forces, wrote: “I spent 33 years in the Marines, most of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for Capitalism.”

It’s obscene enough that our young people are still being killed and injured serving as muscle men for big business, paid for by the taxpayer. That they are ordered to kill unknown numbers of innocent and mostly defenceless civilians for exactly the same cause is every bit as obscene. Our forces must come home. NOW!





9 July 2009

Just over 10 days ago, on 28th June, President Zelaya, the elected head of Honduras was overthrown in a military coup. Initially he was exiled to neighbouring Costa Rica. Within a week of his forced expulsion he was supposed to return to Honduras (the soldiers’ coup appearing at first glance to not have any international support), but his plane was refused landing permission at Tegucigalpa airport. According to reports, a huge crowd that had assembled at the airport to greet him was dispersed by the military, and at least two protesters killed during a public demonstration condemning the coup.

Only time will reveal the full story behind this event. For now there is little to go on. However, there is one quite interesting hard and irrefutable fact: somehow the story has completely escaped the attention of the British media. Whilst we have endured endless coverage of the sad demise of Michael Jackson, heard about civil unrest in China and even had several reports about the kidnapping of an American soldier in Afghanistan, we have heard not a word about the kidnapping of a state president, and the considerable civilian unrest in Honduras. Now why might that be?

It is rumoured that President Zelaya is something of a humanitarian. Apparently public transport, schooling and health care have all improved during his short time in office. His kidnapping occurred on the eve of a public referendum he intended to hold on whether to make some mild liberal reforms of the Honduran constitution. Whilst the US has so far refused to recognise the military coup, it has done little else and, as I’ve already pointed out, the media have been curiously coy about covering the story. At the time of writing it’s reported that President Zelaya has recently met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington. There can only be one possible interpretation of that: a spelling out of the conditions for any US support for his return home – and you can bet any continuation of Zelaya’s constitutional and social reforms will be a pretty long way down the agenda.

It’s always interesting to compare the news that can be found via the internet with the content provided by our established media. Most of the media seldom indulge in blatant lies – that sort of behaviour is reserved for the tackier publications or quite exclusive ones. However, the telling of half truths and selective omissions is every bit as effective.


16 June 2009

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced that an inquiry is to be launched into the events leading up to the illegal war in Iraq in 2003, in which Britain played a significant part – not just in contributing armed forces and weapons of war, but also by adding its significant moral weight behind the American adventure –helping to provide an illusion of respectability to the so-called ‘coalition of the willing’.

However, the ‘inquiry’ is not to be held in public. Instead it is to comprise privy councillors meeting in secret. It’s to be chaired by a Whitehall mandarin instead of a judge and, according to General Mike Jackson, quoted in The Times today: “Apparently there’s to be no subpoena arrangement for witnesses to attend the inquiry because there is no legal status for it, so there’ll be no swearing to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

It really does make you wonder why they bother. As no one alive today, with half an ounce of grey matter to spare, will trust the outcome.

One possible explanation is that by holding an inquiry it might remove this highly emoptive subject from the public arena on the grounds that the government couldn’t possibly comment whilst an inquiry is in progress. This might then serve as a delaying tactic during the next general election. But the government must know that the findings of a secret inquiry will never be trusted. The public ones are dodgy enough, so a secret inquiry has absolutely no chance of silencing a cynical public.

Another possible explanation for this shameful piece of theatre is that it may be the formal creation of the first pages of the history of the war. Accepting that nothing short of a full public inquiry will satisfy those of us alive today, who can still remember with perfect clarity the shameful events that led to British forces participating in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent unarmed Iraqis, our controllers have moved on to creating the story that tomorrow’s innocents will learn through their history books. The official report, contrived from an official inquiry, will have the air of respectability that will more than suffice for the history books of the future. No matter that the report is a skillfully crafted compilation of half truths and ommissions drafted by carefully selected experts meeting in total secrecy.

*

Featuring quite prominently in yesterday’s news were images of policemen beating up a defenceless and unarmed man in Nottingham. The images were filmed by a passer-by using their mobile phone. The victim could be plainly seen lying on the ground defencelss (having already been ‘tazered’) as two hefty police officers mauled him around. Failing to do whatever it was they were trying to do, two more policemen turned up, one of whom decided that the man (who seemed almost unconscious) clearly needed more ‘tazering’. So after considerately waiting for his colleagues to stand clear, he blasted the helpless victim once again. Then all four piled onto him once more with one of them clearly swinging punches at the man’s back and head.

And the police wonder why we hate them.


14 June 2009

Truly terrifying news is seldom found on page one of our newspapers. It’s usually tucked away somewhere obscure where it’s less likely to be noticed. Such was the case yet again last Saturday.

The front page of the Times, where you might expect to see the most important stories affecting the nation, was given over to the Iranian presidential election and to a story about some comment expressed by the editor of Vogue magazine. Neither is of much importance to Britain.

Many readers would have given up by page 37, having lives to live, and quite probably not expecting to learn anything more of interest anyway. Yet last Saturday, on page 37, was one of the most terrifying stories I have seen in recent times, a story that should have every parent out protesting at the school gates and on the streets. The piece was written in a sort of jokey style, so that even if you did get that far through the paper you might be ready for a bit of light relief and therefore tempted to laugh it off. I was so appalled I too wondered if it was a wind-up. It wasn’t.

The story concerned an ad in the Times Educational Supplement – one of the nation’s leading notice-boards for teaching opportunities. MI5, spy HQ, is recruiting teachers. To make sure it wasn’t a wind-up I checked the TES website, and true enough there it is, large as life, at the top of the section titled ‘Other Positions’ titled: “Operational Intelligence Officers” and showing MI5 as the employer.

What’s all that about?

Anyone who still doubts the headlong gallop of our country towards full-blown police state needs to think about that ad; because what it tells us is that professional spies will soon be prowling the corridors of the nation’s schools, and not only directing the education of our young people, but eliminating anyone who might be deemed a ‘threat to national security’ – like dissenting teachers and student activists.

Our spymasters have long been active in institutions where most people would not expect them – like the media for example, where journalists have been actively recruited for decades (the secret services had an office at the BBC until the mid-eighties, where they vetted all new recruits; both Jon Snow and John Simpson tell in their autobiographies how they were approached by MI5; Sandy Gall worked with MI6 in Afghanistan; and the CIA once boasted that up to the 1970s they either owned outright or could influence at least one newspaper in every major city in the world).

But surely schools are hallowed ground? Surely this is one step too far?


5th June 2009

Local county elections were held yesterday. I stood as an Independent for the Grantham North District. I finished fourth out of five candidates, obtaining 333 votes representing about 11.5% of the total number cast. A 40% turnout, down from the 67% turnout of the last elections, reflected the real opinion of the silent majority: utter disillusionment.

It is reasonable to say that as far as elections are concerned any result other than a win is a failure. However, to do so in my case would not only be an insult to the 333 people who voted for me, it would also disregard a few very important points.

The first point to make is that I am not well or widely known, and the philosophy of Free Democracy is even less well known than that.

Secondly, Grantham North is a huge Tory stronghold, and a very safe seat for any Tory candidate. It is a sad, but true observation that if a sack of potatoes were to stand under a Tory label, it would win a significant number of votes.

Thirdly, we had very limited funding. My campaign could not have cost more than £100 in total, and apart from our next door neighbour kindly volunteering to post about 150 leaflets, relied totally on Lorraine and I doing the donkey work.

Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, Free Democracy is an incredibly radical philosophy. Never in human history have the British people been allowed to make their own political decisions, so to propose a mechanism whereby they might do so is truly uncharted territory. My campaign leaflet was completely unequivocal about our beliefs, aims and aspirations, yet I was still supported by one voter in every eight. That is not insignificant or unimpressive.

So all in all it is obviously sad that I did not win; but then I never really expected to. However, the most important achievement was the fact that I provided an opportunity for 7,319 voters to do the right thing – something that was unfortunately not available to any other voter in the land. 333 of that number wisely took advantage of that opportunity; but some 4,412 chose the second best alternative: to boycott the poll altogether.


29 May 2009

It was recently reported that David Cameron intends to reform government in order to ‘return power to the people’. It seems that this was a reaction to his fury at the outrageous abuses of the parliamentary expenses system that has been taking place under his very nose, and seemingly unnoticed by him until he read all about it in the Daily Telegraph.

I was intrigued by the use of the word ‘return’. It made me browse through my (admittedly imperfect) memory banks in the section marked ‘History’, to try to recall the time to which he could have been referring. I couldn’t find one. When was power ever ‘in the hands of the people’?

Amongst Mr Cameron’s fine ideas for actually achieving this noble aim is to notify us by text message when parliament has decided something. Gee, thanks David. That would really make me feel in control, and would definitely help eliminate parliamentary corruption.

When I was browsing my memory bank I paused on the year 1832. The public mood in the country concerning the ruling elite was possibly similar to what it is today, and the word ‘Reform’ was on everyone’s lips, and for very similar reasons: government was affectionately and widely known as ‘Old Corruption’. A titanic and quite fascinating struggle ensued in parliament where Lord Grey sought to quell public unrest by introducing the ‘Great’ Reform Act. Although Grey’s reforms were passed by the Commons, they were rejected by the Lords, a decision which triggered rioting throughout the country (one of whose victims was Nottingham Castle). Grey dissolved parliament and a general election was held where there was only one issue – ‘Reform’. Although the pro-reformers comfortably won, the Lords still tried to scupper Grey’s proposals, and only conceded defeat when the PM threatened to create however many new lords were necessary to pass his bill.

Although the PR machine of the day widely proclaimed the ‘Great’ Reform Act of 1832 to be a major triumph for the people, it’s really quite impossible to see how it increased the decision-making authority of the people one jot. Like so many other ‘triumphs’, before and since, there was considerably more froth than beer, and it wasn’t too long before the very considerable number of dissidents around in those days began to realise it.

It was about this time that the Chartist movement became firmly established.

Few people today have heard about the Chartists, as history quietly tries to airbrush them into oblivion; but they were without doubt the first powerful national organisation wholly committed to representing the interests of the British working class, epitomised with their idea for a People’s Parliament. (Although the Levellers were also a significant movement two hundred years earlier, with some similar ideals, they never became as powerful or as well organised as the Chartists.)

When the Chartists organised a rally at Kennington Common in 1848, to be addressed by the charismatic Feargus O’Connor, the authorities were so concerned that they mobilised 8,000 troops and artillery, deputised thousands of special constables especially for the occasion and evacuated Queen Victoria to the Isle of White.

That particular rally turned out a flop, but the Charter of the eponymous Chartists had become a firmly fixed political aspiration of the working classes and the government knew they had to do something, or face permanent revolution. The dilemma facing them was summarised by the writer Thomas Carlyle, who said: “How, in conjunction with inevitable Democracy, indispensable Sovereignty is to exist: certainly it is the hugest question heretofore propounded to mankind.”

The government eventually responded (in 1867) with the Second Reform Act, and once again with considerable internal dissent. Although this move was also widely trumpeted by the state PR machine as delivering power to the people, Benjamin Disraeli, widely held up in breathless admiration as a ‘great statesman’ said of it: “I hope it would never be the fate of this country to live under a democracy... (The Second Reform Act is…) a bulwark against democracy.”

However, many of the so-called (but rapidly diminishing) ‘freedoms’ we enjoy today owe more to the actions of dissidents such as the Levellers, Chartists and Suffragettes, and the very considerable personal sacrifices and suffering of all-but forgotten nineteenth century working class heroes, than the much trumpeted Magna Carta and the aristocrats who drafted it (Magna Carta, incidentally, was never intended to represent the common man, most of whom were considered the property of feudal lords and therefore without rights of any kind).

The so-called ‘British Constitution’, deemed to be so perfect that it doesn’t need writing down anywhere, is of course a device to allow the elites who rule us to do so according to whatever whim possesses them. One of the leading authorities on the subject is still considered to be Walter Bagehot. He wrote: “Constitutional Royalty…acts as a disguise. It enables our real rulers to change without heedless people knowing it. The masses of Englishmen are not fit for an elective government.”

A cartoon recently appeared in The Independent. It showed a sketch of David Cameron dressed up as an armour-clad Guy Fawkes deep within the empty bowels of parliament waving a children’s sparkler around. The message was of course that his proposals to ‘reform’ parliament are about as much use as a sparkler would be for blowing up the place. The cartoon could have represented with equal accuracy Brown or Clegg, or any of them. Meaningful reform will never come from those benefiting very nicely from the status quo. They might tinker around with a few cosmetic alterations and then use their awesome PR machine to deceive us into thinking significant change has been made, as with the so-called ‘Great’ Reform Act of 1832, but they will never ‘return’ power to the people for the simple reason that the people have never had power; and until the entire corrupt system is replaced, never will have.

Our People’s Constitution proposes real and meaningful power to the people, and it does this by one simple device: it transfers all political decision making authority from the hands of powerful self-interested elites into the hands of properly informed ordinary citizens. This device, that would be so simple to do, represents the acid test of any politician’s sincerity when they bluster on about ‘returning power to the people’. None of the existing parties will ever subscribe to it because they would have to give up power, and all its material benefits.

Providing ordinary people are properly informed they will invariably produce good and humane decisions; and until the people have that ultimate authority no amount of tinkering with relatively petty issues like parliamentary expenses will make one scrap of difference. Only the People’s Constitution would truly deliver real constitutional reform placing political power where it really belongs – for the first time ever – in the hands of the people.


10 May 2009

I’m intrigued by all the fuss on MPs’ allowances. The story has taken over from last week’s panic about our impending annihilation by swine flu, and is being endlessly covered by all the national media.

MPs have been filching from the public purse one way or another since MPs were invented. In fact it’s so normal that it’s not even against any rules. So all the current hysteria must be intended for some other purpose (the general rule of thumb is that when the media are frantically pointing you in one direction it’s very important to look behind you). The question is: what?

Finding out the truth about our rulers is very difficult. Take history. History is always taught in schools from the winners’ viewpoint, the unspoken assumption being that the winners’ cause is always right: good always triumphs over evil. History is taught as though the most important thing is to be factually correct: that dates are correct, that peoples’ names, places and events are all as accurate as existing evidence can show. This is all in the holy name of Objectivity, we are taught. However, it all starts to unravel once we venture into why an event occurred; and if by chance we touch upon the subject of the actual winnings of the winners (the losses of the losers are invariably ignored altogether), then the role of fiction assumes significant proportions. Consider for example the blood-soaked progress of the Christian Empire around the world. This thousand year long episode was, according to our teachers, the steady march of progress and enlightenment – never an excuse for slaughter, rape, enslavement and pillage. Ditto for the Roman Empire. What our history teachers consistently fail to teach us is the endless glorification of megalomaniac emperors and the elites who prop up their regimes, together with the terrible human costs required to feed their greed and power. We are taught that these people were ‘great’ – faultless role models for our breathless admiration and awe. Of the billions of ordinary people who have endured unimaginable suffering so the ‘great’ may be recorded in our history books as ‘great’, we learn next to nothing: their stories are the stories of losers, and therefore worthless.

History is taught this way for a reason: to perpetuate the system; to condition our minds into acceptance of our servitude as the natural order of things. And the hypocrisy behind it is really quite breathtaking. The motto of the British monarch is ‘Ich dien’ – I serve. This is meant partly to create the touching illusion that the monarch’s first duty is their service to the British people – but more particularly to instil in the minds of their subjects that their first duty must therefore be to the monarch, in a sort of reciprocal arrangement. Whereas the truth of the matter is that the only cause the monarchy has ever truly served is its own enrichment, and that of its closest allies and enforcers. In a classic example of the general principle of government: rules and laws (and mottos) are only intended to keep the little people in check – it’s clearly understood they don’t apply to rulers. The little people have always been irrelevant, except where their existence can be turned to the one true timeless cause.

Once this vital role of history in our conditioning is clearly understood, it becomes a little easier to see why the truth behind the daily current events that fill our newspapers and TV screens is so very difficult to determine. The dates and places and names may all conform to the standard requirements of historical accuracy, and therefore pass the ‘Objectivity’ test; but the reasons for those events are far more difficult to grasp.

So to return to the controversy of the day – the very generous allowance system our leaders have chosen to provide for themselves. There is absolutely nothing new in this. More than two hundred years ago Tom Paine observed that: "Change of ministers amounts to nothing. One goes out another comes in and still the same measures, vices and extravagance are pursued. It signifies not who is minister. The defect lies in the system. The foundation and superstructure of government is bad." About thirty years later William Cobbett wrote: "The Duke of Marlborough is renting Marlborough House in Pall Mall to the Prince of Saxe Coburg for £3,000 a year. The good Duke himself pays just under £40 a year rent to the government for the selfsame building." Both comments could be contemporary news stories, instead of two centuries old. So the question is: why all the fuss about something that is as deeply ingrained into British government as the monarchy itself?

At this stage of the game we cynics can only speculate. We have no more inside knowledge than any other normal mortal – but we can and do suspect that there is far more to it than meets the eye at first glance. A clearer understanding will slowly emerge as the inevitable changes to ‘clean up’ government are introduced; but one thing this particular cynic is quietly sure of: there may well be change, but government will not be one jot cleaner than it was last year, or two hundred years ago. After all, MPs’ expenses are just the tiny tip of an enormous iceberg.


9 May 2009

Last Saturday we were all doomed. We were all being urged to stock up with face masks and a particular anti-flu vaccine produced by a particular international drugs company. People holidaying in Mexico were returning home early and those planning to go there were cancelling their trips. School children were being told to stay at home. Mothers were refusing to let their children mix with any other children who had not been thoroughly dosed up with a particular anti-flu vaccine.

The cause of the world-wide panic, swine flu, the ‘global pandemic’ that had possibly claimed fewer lives than lightning strikes over the same period, was never likely to do any more harm than normal seasonal flu; but last week it was not possible to pick up a newspaper or turn on the television or radio without endless coverage on the subject.

This Saturday I couldn’t find any news at all about swine flu in The Times, and only noticed it being used as a subject by one of the paper’s columnists.

The BBC possibly began the switch-off process a couple of days ago, when I noticed Fiona Bruce in some news bulletin ask the question: have we all been over-reacting to the swine flu story? A little knowing smile played across her face, like a kindly school teacher trying to bring calm and order to a class of over-excited eight year olds just in from the playground. As though the whole thing was our fault, a product of our childishness: a story created entirely by millions of silly people behaving just like the silly-billies we are. The media had nothing to do with it – they were only reporting what they saw.

What a perfect example of how well programmed we are. When our media-masters click their fingers and demand mass hysteria, how dutifully we respond. And when they click their fingers once more to turn our flickering attention elsewhere, we instantly obey, like entranced stooges responding to a master hypnotist; none questioning for a minute the ridiculous spectacle they have just been required to perform for the master’s amusement.

Who knows how many real stories passed under the radar while our international attention was being diverted by this wholly manufactured non-event; not for the first time, not for the last.


29 April 2009

Flying Pigs?

As a hardened cynic I cannot in all honesty say that it was only the face masks that made me start to wonder, but they certainly piqued my curiosity.

Mexican governments are not famous for their compassionate concerns for their own people. If ordinary Mexicans were truly important to their government why do they have to leave their country in their tens of thousands every year in order to be treated like slaves and fugitives in a hostile land? Why would you need to leave the comfort of your home and family and friends for such misery and hardship if you had such a kind and caring government?

But what we see on our TV screens almost every day are images of ordinary Mexicans going about their business wearing pale blue face masks. We see images of uniformed face mask-wearing personnel strolling around the streets handing them out ‘free of charge’ to people not wearing them. It seems a strange thing to do for a government that is so unconcerned about its people that it’s quite happy to engineer its society in such a way that a life of slavery and fear in a racist xenophobic foreign land is preferable to life at home.

The face masks are supposed to be a response to an alleged outbreak of ‘swine-flu’, that supposedly originated in Mexico. At least half of our TV news bulletins are given over to the topic, and it features on the front pages of all the national papers. We see the various ‘experts’ lining up to talk about ‘pandemics’ and to remind us all of the great flu outbreak in 1918 that killed more people than World War One. To bring it closer to home we see a story of a young Scottish couple who recently had a holiday in Mexico and are now in quarantine in a Scottish hospital where they are being treated for ‘swine-flu’. We see reporters going around the couple’s hometown interviewing citizens who might have breathed in the same air. We see the panic-stricken faces of those same citizens as they share their very real concerns about their safety and that of their loved ones. We haven’t quite got people running around hysterically pulling out their hair screaming that it’s the end of civilisation as we know it – but that doesn’t seem far off.

Yet if we have a little look at the facts, as far as we know them, you can only scratch your head and wonder what all the fuss is about.

At the time of writing the young Scottish couple who have shown ‘mild flu-like symptoms’ are the only confirmed cases in the UK, with a mere fifty other people being tested. According to The Independent today (29th April) the US has reported a total of 64 cases. In Mexico itself, where you would assume the disease must be completely out of control, about 2000 people are supposed to have it and 152 people are supposed to have died because of it – from a population of about 109,000,000. So this international panic reduces to the possibility of one in every 50,000 Mexicans having flu. Yet intriguingly the same report devotes just half a sentence to the rather conflicting information that ‘the World Health Organisation said it had notification of 79 confirmed cases worldwide.’ The report did not tell us how many people had been struck by lightning worldwide since the outbreak of this ‘pandemic’, but the comparison might have been interesting.

In a different article in the Independent we learn that: ‘The World Health Organisation have said the deadly swine flu virus could no longer be contained and raised its alert to just two steps lower than the maximum of six, signifying a "significant increase in risk of a pandemic". Presumably this is the same WHO that reported “79 confirmed cases worldwide.”’

Let’s get back to the face masks. Why is the Mexican government distributing them to all and sundry?

One of the many ‘experts’ gracing our TV screens yesterday, whose name escapes me, informed us that the face masks are all but useless for people hoping not to catch the infection, as contaminated air could pass around the sides of the mask. Furthermore, apparently the masks quickly become unserviceable because they become damp through the moisture in the breath of those using them. So why is the Mexican government distributing them so generously to all and sundry?

Perhaps its intentions are not to help people remain infection-free themselves, but to help stop them spreading the virus. If the outbreak had occurred in Sweden say, one of the few countries that does seem to care about the welfare of its people, I might have thought that a credible explanation. But this is Mexico, whose government really couldn’t care a tinker’s cuss about the overwhelming majority of its people, and doesn’t seem a likely candidate to waste too many pesos on dishing out freebies.

I’m sure there’s nothing suspicious about the fact that Emperor Obama apparently requested an extra $1.5 billion from the US congress yesterday to ‘build anti-virus stockpiles and to monitor the spread of the disease’ (presumably the WHO are not up to that particular job). Or the fact that whoever it is that’s in the business of making face masks is doing extraordinarily well at the moment (according to the Guardian: ‘The Department of Health is also in talks to "urgently increase" stockpiles of surgical face masks, to be used by doctors and nurses if infections spread more widely here.” – even though most ‘experts’ seem to agree the masks are all but useless); or printers (more from The Guardian: ‘The government is today preparing a mass information campaign that will see leaflets about swine flu delivered to every home in the UK as fears grow that the virus will become a pandemic.’) To say nothing of the assorted spooks and spin-doctors whose careers are entirely wrapped up with keeping the public in a permanent state of twitchy anxiety. I’m sure there’s no connections between any of these things.

I predict this curiously named swine-flu ‘pandemic’ will go exactly the same way as the equally curious bird-flu ‘pandemics’ of the last couple of years; that a few more billions of taxpayer pounds will find their way into some dubious bank accounts; that no more people will die from flu than in any normal year without millions of government leaflets and face masks; and that our governments will proclaim this long and loud as ‘major victory’ and a direct consequence of their ‘vigilence’ and ‘leadership’.

Having said all that I might actually try and get myself a freeby face mask if I can – it might screen the overwhelming aroma of pig shit.





27 April 2009

An All-American Boy Grows Up

As a young chap growing up in far-away Rhodesia I used to be a huge fan of all things American. I used to view my dad’s deep-rooted mistrust of Americans as just another of his old-fashioned prejudices that was basically founded on jealousy – his dislike evolving from World War Two when he and his fellow undernourished British soldiers could not compete for the girls against the limitless supplies of nylon stockings and chocolate readily available from hunky well-fed American GIs. For me, however, someone wholly addicted to American movies, comic books and TV programmes (that comprised most of our supplies of those products), I just could not wait until I was old enough to emigrate and immerse myself in that wonderful culture of freedom.

And this is the really interesting thing; not, I think, just as far as I’m concerned. Because what really appealed to me about all things American were their values: that they passionately believed in freedom and democracy and justice, and fought all their wars for those values. It wasn’t the fact that you could make lots and lots of money pursuing the American Dream that caught my interest, but that you could be really free. I never doubted it for a minute – why should I? Every movie, comic book and TV show I watched confirmed it all beyond a shadow of doubt.

I cannot point to a single moment in time when I grew up, and realised that what I had believed for so very long was in fact a lie. It was probably quite a gradual process. Today, when I understand the phenomenon so much better, I cannot even soften the lie by seeing it as an ‘honest mistake’. Although I’m sure some of the writers of the comic books, TV shows and movies genuinely believed in the goodness and badness of their heroes and villains, being even more immersed in their own culture than I had been, the fact that absolutely no dissenting comic books, TV shows or movies were being made and marketed can only have a far more sinister explanation.

Once I started to actively seek out truth, the flood gates opened, and the massive scale of the illusion and fraud became apparent to me. The one hope of real freedom and justice that I believed existed somewhere on the planet, happily in the most powerful country on Earth, was in fact the very opposite: the most cynical and corrupt regime anywhere to be found – made the most monstrous by the unchallengeable military machine that reinforced it. The self-styled champions of freedom and democracy were in fact the very opposite: the gangsters of oppression and tyranny. It felt like an old and valued friend had died – no, worse – had been gang-raped and murdered very slowly.

The situation quite depressed me for quite a long time, and it took quite a while for me to realise the situation wasn’t quite as hopeless as it first appeared. Because once it dawned on me that most of the American people must be every bit as brainwashed about their country as I had been, being even more immersed in its elitist propaganda than I was, the solution slowly crystallised. There is no force on the face of the planet that the US government actually fears more than its own people. This fact is regularly proven by its paranoid rhetoric, getting ever more frenzied, a rhetoric intended to keep its people fearful and therefore accepting of any brutality it hands out – at home or abroad. So surely it must be that force, the American people, that must be carefully nurtured.

This was a significant relief for me – as though discovering that my old and valued friend wasn’t actually dead after all, just very, very ill. Obviously the vast majority of ordinary Americans are just like I was. Having bought all the same PR merchandise, and more, why shouldn’t they be? And, just like me, it will be those same values of the PR merchants’ American Dream they love: the freedom, equality and justice, rather than a burning desire for limitless wealth that inspires them. What happens when they, like me, realise they’ve been tricked?

Today international anti-American sentiment is probably at an all-time high, and growing exponentially as her imperial ambitions become more widely understood. I’m very relieved to be able to say in all honesty that I don’t share those sentiments. It’s essential to realise that the American people have nothing to do with their government – that although they live in relative comfort, they too are its victims. It is the US government that is the most sinister terrorist regime on the planet, not the American people, who are currently as powerless as the people of Timbuktu to do anything about it. Slowly, slowly more and more people are realising that the cynical illusion of western democracy is no more than a cheap trick to keep them oppressed; that they have no more power to influence their rulers than our descendents had a thousand years ago; that, to quote Tom Paine from more than two hundred years ago:

“Change of ministers amounts to nothing. One goes out, another comes in and still the same measures, vices and extravagance are pursued. It signifies not who is minister. The defect lies in the system. The foundation and superstructure of government is bad.”

Ironically, if the US government were to actually practice the values it preaches to everyone else: the freedom, justice and equality, it would be universally admired and caressed and, because it would still be the most powerful military machine on the planet, even more secure than it is today. And the truly ironic thing is that it would be economically richer and more stable too. Its real vulnerability is its tyranny over its own people – a natural product of the get-rich-quick economic policies it has pursued since its creation; policies designed to enrich whatever crop of plunderers have kicked and gouged their way into power without a care in the world for those who must supply the wealth, or for tomorrow’s generation.

Simple solutions are available.

First is self belief – even more important than education. We are programmed from birth into a culture of leadership, into believing that we as individuals are not capable of doing anything unless someone is leading us. Leadership is grossly overrated. We need to realise that each and every one of us is capable of independent thought and independent action, that each and every one of us can take some small action within our means and abilities to help effect real change. But the action must never cause physical injury to anyone: non-violence is a far more powerful and effective tool than violence for changing our society – ask Ghandi and MLK. Self belief is not only essential for effecting change now, but also for managing change in the future.

Next is education. Just one person acting on their own can educate others. It isn’t necessary to do anything more complicated than distributing reading lists. People love lists, and a list of your ten favourite dissident books, and three favourite radical websites (make sure they’re all easily readable and not too hysterical – loud and aggressive people must always be avoided) is bound to attract some attention. Nothing inspires action as much as education. Once people know what’s really going on it’s almost impossible not to act, to do something, even if the action is no more than passive opposition to the system.

Third is voting. People need to realise that political parties are the cancer of democracy and at the very heart of the corruption that controls us. They are an essential part of the leadership culture that destroys individual self belief. Until such time as Independent believers in Free Democracy can provide a system of government where the people may take direct control of their governments’ decisions, citizens should only vote for ordinary Independents. If there are no Independents to choose from the people should not vote at all – follow the wonderful Haitian ‘Closed Door’ example and boycott the polls, refuse to dignify a corrupt and broken system by using it.

Fourth is to stand in elections as an Independent believer in Free Democracy (or something very similar). The mere act of competing in elections is a fine way of educating people into the realities of life at the same time as offering real choice. Losing votes doesn’t matter – a valuable public service is served simply by trying to unseat the established parties.

Fifth is not quite so simple – but not that difficult either, and is anyway essential: drafting a new Peoples’ Constitution (Free Democracy has a fine example of one that others can adapt). New constitutions are important – much more important than human leaders. A new Peoples’ Constitution serves the vital function of an intellectual focal point that can serve the individual self-reliant citizen far, far more usefully than human leaders (who are too easily corruptible). It serves the equivalent purpose of Marx’s Manifesto or Mao’s Little Red Book. But your constitution must ensure that the people have real and actual control, not the illusory controls through third parties of better known constitutions; that only the people can change it; that it is the supreme law of the land and that each and every public servant is obliged to serve the constitution as their first duty, and in defiance of superiors if needs be in the sure knowledge they could not be victimised for doing so.

Most of these few things are simple and cheap to do, and serve as those essential first steps.

These solutions are floating just out of reach of the hands of the American people, people who cannot in any way be held responsible for the considerable sins of their governments – past and present, and future too unless they acquire some self-belief. The overwhelming majority of Americans, being carefully brainwashed from birth, are as ignorant of the truth of their own country as most other people are, and have no real choice of how they are governed. How could they not be ignorant, or given any real political power? Their system ensures both situations are carefully maintained and perpetuated. But it is a fragile control. The people need little more than to be properly educated, and then offered real choice at the ballot box by an abundance of Independent candidates who believe in Free Democracy, or something very like.

It’s not that difficult.


6 April 2009

Hollow Victory

"The truth, carefully crafted, is the biggest lie of all"

The word ‘victory’, reinforced with an unnecessary exclamation mark, was sprawled across the front page of the Grantham Journal on 3rd April 2009 in letters two inches high. Just below was a photograph of some happy-looking elderly chaps, presumably ex-soldiers.

The story related to a local campaign recently run by the Journal to raise money for a memorial to service personnel who have died since 1945. When the paper launched their campaign about a month ago I wrote to the editor pointing out that their project was, at the very least, misguided, for the very simple reason that every conflict that has involved British troops since 1945 has been opposed to spreading freedom and democracy, not supporting it, as the Journal’s campaign claimed. I cited Kenya, Congo, Palestine and Egypt as a small sample of cases in point; there are of course, many others. Unsurprisingly, the editor chose not to print my letter.

However, despite the fact that Grantham is a garrison town, and given the Journal’s relentless propaganda campaign for their little memorial, together with the almost daily jingoistic rhetoric from the national media, the paper tells us that ‘donations have been received from more than 50 individuals.’ Wow. Overwhelming or what?

As I pointed out in the letter the Journal refused to publish, to equate the causes of those who died fighting Nazi fascism with those who die today helping to police international American gangsterism is not only an insult to World War 2 victims, which is bad enough, it is also a vindication of the cynical abuse of today’s armed forces, which is considerably worse. It would seem from the embarrassingly sad number of contributions to the Journal’s cause that the public have not yet been totally numbed into senselessness.

Anti-war activists have always been routinely criticised by people such as newspaper editors. In the past there have even been calls that we should be tried as traitors. Our virulent hatred of war is translated for its propaganda value as treachery to our troops. Yet the simple fact is that no-one cares more for the safety of our troops than an anti-war activist. We want them so safe that they are never put into harm’s way in the first place. Our armed forces are meant to protect Britain, not act as imperial stormtroopers. It was bad enough in the days when it was our own empire they were brutally enforcing; today they are stormtrooping for someone else, which is just about the most obscene abuse of our own forces imaginable.

Make no mistake, I’m no shrill opponent of the British Empire peering primly through my rose tinted spectacles and a hundred years of hindsight. At the time, with half a dozen other European countries competing for world domination, it was kill or be killed. If it hadn’t been the British Empire over which the sun never set, it would have been someone else’s, France probably. It’s a slim excuse for international gangsterism, but it was nevertheless a legitimate excuse. Today that excuse is no longer valid. We have an international body called the United Nations which, if it were permitted to do its job, could eliminate war altogether. The fact that it is not allowed to do its job is directly attributable to the current empire which has, since the end of the Second World War, been resolutely committed to ensuring the UN’s uselessness – except, obviously, when it suites the purposes of empire.

The vicious attacks on our anti-war activists by our own media are of course entirely consistent with a propaganda machine. Herman Göring, who was no slouch on the subject, once observed: “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country.”

It really is quite obscene, this sycophantic subservience of our media to the ruthless elites who rule us and who send our armed forces to distant parts of the planet, there to enforce the savage looting of scarce resources in the name of More, the God of Plunder, while all the while cynically pretending an interest in ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, worthy values they actually snuff out at every opportunity. This is NOT what our forces should be doing, and the fact that our media whip up popular frenzy for this sick abuse of our young people makes the media every bit as culpable for war crimes as Joseph Goebbels once was. The Journal’s propaganda campaign is anything but a victory, and the mere fifty contributors to it after weeks of relentless promotion pretty well shows that most people know it – and they wonder why their sales are falling.


30 March 2009

April Fool

Last Saturday (28.3.09), The Times published an opinion piece by one Carl Mortished. My first reaction to it wasn’t so much one of anger, it was more a sort of jaw-dropping incredulity. Mr Mortished is apparently the world business editor for the Times, so you might assume he’s reasonably bright. When I pointed out his article to my wife she quickly reminded me of the fact that it’s almost 1st April, the day when journalists like to produce truly ridiculous stories as a mild distraction from the more normal misinformation that comprises their daily fare. Of course, the thing must have been Mr Mortished’s idea of a joke.

Nevertheless, it was interesting that the joke was clearly intended for rich elites at the expense of ordinary people, rather than the other way around; but then I suppose that is what you might expect from a world business editor.

The joke was nicely summarised in the title of the column: “Abolish MPs’ pay. Politics is not a career.”

When you read it to find out exactly how Mr Mortished proposes MPs might feed themselves, you learn that he proposes:

“During their time in parliament, the MP’s previous employer would be required to give financial support.”

It’s a very good thing that we realise Mr Mortished’s piece is a joke. Otherwise you could only conclude the man secured his position through intimate family connections rather than any intellectual ability – or the Times is an elitist publication wholly opposed to the notion of democracy (and that cannot possibly be, can it?)

One of the many clever devices our supposedly ‘serious’ media employ to deceive us is the carefully contrived half-truth: that old trick where they tell you the truth, but they only tell you half of it; the half that conforms to the particular propaganda model they’re peddling. Mr Mortished used a similar device quite effectively in his column by including several points that were either entirely true, or widely perceived as true.

For example, he starts off by attacking the bankers and those corrupt politicians making today’s headlines, knowing full well they’re all everyone’s favourite bad guys at the moment. Then he affects to be one of the people by pretending to be a real worker himself:

“The whole cabal of bankers, MPs, ministers and CEOs seem to have their snouts in the trough, roistering while we toil. We are overworked and underpaid while they are always on the gravy train.”

This from the world business editor of an international news organisation.

Then he attacks politics, which is usually a fairly safe bet (and especially so when the Home Secretary’s husband is in the news for trying to claim public expenses for subscribing to a TV porn channel):

“What manner of work is politics?” he asks, answering the question himself a little later: “An MP is not employed. Therefore he should not have a wage.”

This populist nonsense is then mixed with one or two perfectly valid points: that CEOs are obscenely rewarded as though they were real entrepreneurs, which of course they’re not; and that in an ideal world all public servants (including MPs) would see their work as a vocational service rather than a pampered, privileged, secure existence entirely funded by the gullible taxpayer. He even throws in a reference to Plato’s Republic to create the impression that in addition to being ‘overworked and underpaid’ he is also a man of culture.

Of course the piece was a joke, wasn’t it, not intended to be taken seriously? Surely no one could take seriously the suggestion that our law makers should be in the full time employment of corporations; could they? However, the very final question of his piece does just make you wonder:

“If the Commons in 2003,” he writes, “had been filled with intelligent, independent men and women with real outside careers, would it have voted to go to war in Iraq?”

Even now, after reading that sentence about ten times, I still find my jaw dropping in disbelief. To quote a very famous American: he cannot be serious. Can he?

After writing an article whose title tells us that ‘politics is not a career’, he concludes by proposing that our law makers should be people with outside careers, many of which would significantly depend on the laws they pass. Can he possibly be serious with that word ‘independent’? Can the world business editor possibly not realise that nothing is as good for business as a war? Does he really imagine that an employee of an arms maker, say, is going to have an ‘independent’ view about whether the country should go to war? So the obvious answer to his question, an answer that even the slowest child must surely see, is yes, of course his Commons filled with such ‘independent’ men and women would have voted for war in 2003; and most probably also every year since then.

It’s just as well we know Mr Mortished’s piece was a joke. Wasn’t it?


21 March 2009

A Lesson to be Learnt

Politicians are well known liars; so well known that it hardly needs pointing out. Whether they are lying about spying on political rivals (Nixon), closing down coal mines (Thatcher), women they’ve had sex with (Clinton), or mythical weapons of mass destruction (Blair/Bush), lying and politicians go together like pigs and brown smelly stuff.

However, the very sizeable arsenal of tools of deceit available to their fingertips is not confined to the more obvious porkies such as these few crass examples. Indeed, for everyday purposes there are far more subtle devices available. Take the ‘honest mistake’.

Hardly a day goes go by without a very brief appearance of some important person in a suit on TV informing the nation about some inquiry or investigation into yet another government failure, where ‘lessons have been learnt’. It will always be some earnest-looking individual who appears to be truly shocked at the catalogue of ‘mistakes’ his/her investigation has revealed. The phrase ‘lessons to be learnt’ is now almost as familiar to our daily news as ‘and now for the weather’.

The most obvious and familiar calamity where the words ‘lessons’ and ‘learnt’ are as common as ‘failed bank’ and ‘government bailout’ is of course the destruction of the western economy. Almost every politician in the world, together with the media lapdogs who obediently peddle their lies, is standing solidly behind the cover story that the disaster was entirely unpredictable; that it was the result of numerous ‘mistakes’; and that inevitable ‘lessons have been learnt’ to prevent it ever happening again. Well that’s o.k. then.

Why ordinary people should waste a single second of their time listening to exactly the same people who ‘led’ us into the cesspit earnestly advising us on how to get out of it instead of grovelling for their lives as they should be doing, is a legitimate question that many are asking.

The institutionalised ‘honest mistake’ is nothing new. It has comprised a significant part of US foreign policy for at least half a century, and has been successfully employed internally by that nation almost since its creation. The American sponsored holocaust of South East Asia in the 1960s and 70s is officially recorded for the history books as a ‘well-meaning blunder’ – something that was admittedly disastrous but was an ‘honest mistake’, made by good people with the world’s best interests at heart. It is the sort of deceit that is almost plausible – were it not for the fact that an exactly similar ‘well-meaning blunder’ had occurred not ten years earlier – in Korea. You could be forgiven for thinking that even the slowest mind must have started to smell a rat when the failure of mythical weapons of mass destruction to materialise was basically excused by faulty ‘intelligence’. However, as that great teacher John Pilger has pointed out on more than one occasion, quoting the dissident writer Milan Kundera: ‘The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.’ (‘Freedom Next Time’ p. 37.) In other words, whilst history continues to selectively ignore the memories of those who can well remember the ‘mistakes’, the ‘mistakes’ may be safely repeated over and over again.

This systemic ability to continue making ‘honest mistakes’ has been noticed by many others of course, and even excused by some such as historian Gabriel Kolko: ‘The world’s leaders and their governments have time after time revealed an ignorance that has cost humanity a price in suffering beyond any measure.’ (‘Century of War p. 454) The assumption that the world’s condition of Permanent War is a product of the permanent ‘ignorance’ of our leaders explains how ‘honest mistakes’ may be endlessly made – it’s through honest ignorance.

Ignorance is something with which we can all identify – it is, after all, the condition in which we ordinary mortals are all carefully kept; so at first glance it seems reasonable that our ‘leaders’ might also suffer from the same complaint. Except for one small problem: all our ‘leaders’ have at their fingertips a wide range of very expensive experts who are supposed to guide them from one faultless decision to another. Either these experts routinely fail in their duty, or their guidance is routinely ignored. So ‘ignorance’ cannot be a valid excuse; it is either incompetence, or something far more sinister.

The examples from history of this ‘ignorance’ in practice are truly legion, as Mr Kolko pointed out; but let us focus on perhaps the most recent well known occurrence: the destruction of the world’s economy.

Hardly a day goes by without some ‘expert’ or ‘leader’ commenting on the ruin of the world’s economy in terms of the ‘mistakes’ made and the ‘lessons that have been learnt’ to ensure it never happens again. Included in the long catalogue of ‘mistakes’ is the one that no one saw it coming; the collapse of world banking took everyone by surprise. This is simply a flat out lie; and the evidence is widely available.

The first inklings of a serious problem started to become widely known about twelve years ago; for it was about twelve years ago that tens of thousands of UK home owners with mortgages began receiving letters from banks and building societies telling them that the endowment policies they held in the hope they would pay off their mortgages, in fact wouldn’t. It was about the same time the first major banking scandal of modern times had rocked the world with the revelation that a ‘rogue trader’ – Nick Leeson – had caused the collapse of Barings Bank through his dodgy deals. Dodgy deals that soon transpired to be quite routine and common practice; Mr Leeson’s misfortune being only that he was found out. A few years later, an exactly similar story from Germany demonstrated that absolutely no ‘lessons had been learnt’ from the Leeson saga. In other words, the banking world knew exactly what was going on and, as our ‘leaders’ presumably have access to the same news as the rest of us, we can assume that they did too. They all simply chose to look the other way. ‘Ignorance’ had nothing to do with it. It was simply a question of make as much cash as quickly as possible while the sun still shone and hope the rain stayed away until it was someone else’s problem.

Whether we look at the world’s carefully maintained condition of Permanent War, the destruction of its economy, or the ruin of its delicate ecology we find a common thread: ‘leaders’ making decisions that are later seen to be ‘mistaken’ or ‘ignorant’ by new ‘leaders’ who have ‘learnt lessons’ and ‘moved on’. In fact the most important lesson of all is studiously avoided – not because no one knows about it – but because our ‘leaders’ depend upon it for their existence; and that lesson is this: the whole decision making process of the world’s most powerful figures is institutionally corrupt and designed with the sole purpose of their own enrichment and empowerment. The welfare of today’s ordinary people is entirely irrelevant to them, and the welfare of tomorrow’s ordinary people is even less significant.

This, the single most important ‘lesson to be learnt’ should be learnt not by our ‘leaders’, who know it already, but by the ordinary men and women who alone comprise the only body capable of doing anything about it. For it is only when ordinary people take control of their own lives by making their own political decisions that global institutionalised corruption might be permanently consigned to the blood-soaked pages of history where it belongs.





3 March 2009

Leading today’s news is the story that the government is to impose some new restrictions on the purchase of alcohol in Scotland. Now that they have finally succeeded in banning smoking almost everywhere except the privacy of one’s garden shed, it is now very clear that the one remaining pleasure available to us – drink – is next on their hit list.

Of course their campaign has all the usual hallmarks of a well-oiled propaganda machine in full swing. Our TV screens are filled with images of people falling over in the street at midnight; of the sad families of people killed by drivers who have had a drink; of grim looking medical-types complaining about the number of alcohol-related illnesses that are clogging up their precious NHS. Consistent with all crude propaganda campaigns we do not get a single glimpse of the other side of the coin: the tens of millions of people who go out every night for a few drinks with their friends and who somehow manage to get home safely without falling over in the street; the possibly far greater numbers of accident victims where the drivers are completely sober; the fact that those NHS patients with alcohol problems have paid into the NHS all their working lives and are fully entitled to good health care from a service they’ve entirely funded.

I’m not very convinced the government’s apparent concern for our health is as pure as they would have us believe. Being an entirely venal administration the chances that someone somewhere is looking to make a quick buck is not unlikely. Qui bono? Who benefits?

Our all-but-completely-privatised health service is largely run by corporation types who aim to make big profits from providing our health treatment. The very last thing they want to see is sick people. Sick people require treatment which equals expense which equals reduced profits.

Having successfully cleared out a huge number of sick people by successfully killing off A&E services in hospitals, and getting the government to criminalise smokers, they’re moving their attention to the next batch of people who sometimes need a bit of help – those who enjoy a drink or two.

The government’s anti-alcohol campaign has nothing to do with their concern for our health (free sports facilities would be a more sincere gesture of their compassion – if they had any). This latest witch-hunt of theirs is just like any other supposedly done on our behalf – to produce profits for cronies.


Not entirely unrelated to this was a story about some parliamentary jolly-boys outing to Northern Ireland (not a bad venue now it’s a bit safer for the little darlings). Their purpose, supposedly, was to canvas opinion about pots of public money being doled out to bank managers. Why the jolly-boys had to go to Ireland for this exercise is a total mystery to me (only a cynic would think it might have had something to do with the fact that it was right after the weekend when England played Ireland in rugby).

Anyway, whilst I’m all in favour of heaping as much public opprobrium upon the heads of bankers as is humanly possible, I wouldn’t like the wider public to lose sight of the fact that the bankers are only the very well paid fall-guys. The real villains have not yet been held to account. The real villains are of course the politicians, because it is they who are ultimately responsible for scrapping the legislation that had been in place to prevent the destruction of the world’s banking system. I’m all for Sir Fred and his buddies being stripped of their scandalous, obscene public pension handouts, BUT… if we’re going after obscene public pension handouts we should also be including Brown, Blair AND their Tory opposite numbers all of whom silently acquiesced in dismantling the laws that policed the banking system. The vacuous twittering about the ‘mistakes’ that were made, and the ‘lessons they’ve learnt’ is not good enough. These people knew exactly what they were doing; and they should all be held to account along with the noble Sir Fred and his gang.


Also in the news was a piece about Blair and how ‘shocked’ he was at the devastation inflicted in Gaza by the Zionists. Apparently it was his first visit to the area. He was appointed to the gravy-train position of Middle East ‘Peace’ Envoy TWO YEARS ago! So concerned has he been about the genocide being perpetrated under his nose it’s taken him TWO YEARS to go see for himself!


Finally a piece of local news.

The Grantham Journal, our local paper, is campaigning for support for its plan to erect a war memorial to the British forces who have been killed since World War 2, ‘fighting for peace and freedom’.

I am totally opposed to their campaign and wrote a letter to the Journal to say so. It did not get published. So I’ll put it here:

“Your memorial campaign, though well-intentioned I’m sure, is fundamentally flawed. To equate the causes of those who died fighting Nazi fascism with those who die today helping to police international American gangsterism is not only an insult to World War 2 victims, which is bad enough, it is also a vindication of the cynical abuse of today’s armed forces, which is considerably worse.

“The conflicts sited in your article: Borneo, Malaya, Korea and Aden, and a few more besides: Kenya, Congo, Palestine and Egypt were all conflicts where British troops were used to oppose freedom and peace not, as the proposed wording of your memorial states, to support it; and the Falklands conflict was no more than a PR exercise for a crippled Prime Minister staring at electoral defeat.

“Our armed forces have been terribly abused since 1945, cynically manipulated as political pawns to lend an appearance of respectability to US imperial ambitions. Those British personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice should indeed be remembered, but in the right and proper context, as victims of their very own political leaders, as tragic evidence of exactly why no young person should consider taking the queen’s shilling today.”


26 February 2009

It was announced today that that honourable knight ‘Sir’ Fred Goodwin, ex-CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, is beginning his retirement (age 50) on a cool £50k a month. It simply beggars belief. How can someone who presides over the destruction of his own company, to the tune of billions of pounds, be rewarded with a fifty grand a month payment for the rest of his life? How can such thing happen anywhere other than a nation run entirely by gangsters entirely for gangsters?

Not that such an obscene event is the only evidence of exactly why our system of government must be replaced. In the space of just over a week our illustrious leaders have provided us with three more shining examples of exactly why the system they carefully protect is broken beyond repair; and proving beyond any reasonable doubt that replacement is the only solution.

Last weekend saw the introduction of The Banking Act 2009; then two days ago we were informed that Jack Straw had vetoed a ‘freedom of information’ request to provide details of the cabinet discussions leading up to Britain’s illegal war in Iraq; and postal workers have been protesting against the government’s clear intention to sell off yet more of the postal service.

The Banking Act appears to be every bit as insidious as the various government decisions taken over the last ten years and more to de-regulate the banking industry – the prime reason for the collapse of the world’s banking system and the existence of such gross obscenities as ‘Sir’ Fred’s golden handshake. This latest piece of legislation allows for government intervention in future banking crises to take place in secret. There is no conceivable situation where such secrecy could be required. It is completely unacceptable to allow a failed and discredited system to play fast and loose with taxpayers’ money and draft legislation to ensure those same taxpayers never find out about it.

In a move directly related to the government’s desire to keep secret their questionable handling of taxpayers’ money, Jack Straw has vetoed a request under the so-called ‘Freedom of Information Act’ to allow the release of documents detailing cabinet discussions prior to the illegal war in Iraq. His excuse for doing so is that it is not ‘in the public interest’. Mr Straw has done more to expose the deep cynicism of this piece of law than any humble hack such as myself could ever hope to do: the quite ludicrous and Orwellian ‘Freedom of Information Act’ provides for the release of government information - unless the government doesn’t feel like releasing it.

Then that other great pillar of our establishment, ‘Lord’ Mandelson, contributed on Tuesday to our cause to replace the government, by assuring us that the Post Office will not be privatised – it just needs private money.

Can there possibly be any more convincing spectacle of government corruption or incompetence (for it must be one or the other) than to see it pouring hundreds of billions of pounds worth of taxpayers’ money into banks that the private sector have ruined, at exactly the same time as it tries to sell off yet another public asset, paid for with public funds, to that same private sector? It would be interesting to know how much of the ‘arrangement fee’ for killing off our post offices will be sticking to ministerial fingers. Not that we’ll ever find out – it wouldn’t be in the public interest.


20 February 2009

Here’s a funny thing.

Three nights ago (Tuesday) I heard on BBC news that the trial had started of eight men charged with plotting in 2006 to blow up various aeroplanes. The story was quite prominent, and featured the following day in most of the newspapers too, with one of them speculating that the trial was expected to last ten months.

Then on Wednesday night, towards the end of the Beeb’s news, a very short mention that the trial had ended… because the judge had dismissed the jury.

I couldn’t find any coverage at all of that little snippet of news in any of the papers the following day. The BBC website says only that the jury was dismissed ‘for legal reasons’.

How is it that a trial so important that it makes all the nationals on one day, a trial so important that it’s expected to last ten months, yet when it ends in very mysterious circumstances after just one day, it doesn’t rate reporting at all in most if not all of the nationals, and is worth no deeper explanation on the BBC than ‘the jury was dismissed for legal reasons’?

On exactly the same theme, we’ve recently been informed that the Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, who has been imprisoned in the UK without charge for a few years now, may be deported to his native Jordan – one of the empire’s client states known to torture prisoners – where it seems he will almost certainly be jailed once again. When he was discussing this story on TV last night, the Beeb’s ‘security’ expert, Frank Gardner, informed us that Mr Qatada has been imprisoned without charge for all this time because bringing him to trial would mean using government witnesses whose identity cannot be revealed.

We’ve had trials before where witnesses have had their identity concealed. Why not this one? How long will it be before this farce of a judicial system is overthrown?

Today’s Independent reports that almost 60 new restrictions on our liberty have been created through 25 new acts of parliament since Labour came to power in 1997. This in the total absence of any evidence whatsoever that our society is one jot more dangerous than it was thirty years ago.

Police state Britain is well and truly here.


Changing the subject somewhat...

A few years ago, when it was located on St Peter’s Hill, I worked at the Jobcentre. Today, as one of the two million unemployed people that the government admits to, I attend Jobcentre ‘Plus’ as a ‘jobseeker’.

In my day, when it was a humble Jobcentre, its stock in trade was jobs: it was where you went if you wanted to find work. You could also go there and pick up an information leaflet on most aspects of employment law if you had a query about your employment rights, and probably talk to a helpful human being as well. Not anymore you can’t (not through any fault of the frontline staff I hasten to add).

When I first appeared at the newish Jobcentre ‘Plus’ tucked away in Castlegate a few weeks ago I wondered why it was so quiet, compared with the permanent queues of my day. The answer, it seems, is that the Jobcentre no longer deals in jobs, which might explain why it is known by many of its users as ‘the joke shop’; and its newish location, well hidden from any passing public, no doubt helps keep people away.

If you turn up there hoping to look for work you might be directed to a machine where you could search for vacancies anywhere in the country. Very impressive. You might even be allowed to use a telephone to enquire about them; but as for seeing a human being to help you find work in Grantham, forget it; you would probably be re-directed to one of the now numerous ‘employment agencies’, which have spread everywhere like mould and seem little more than modern slave markets. And as for information about your rights… not a leaflet in sight; you could be forgiven for thinking you haven’t got any rights to enquire about.

George Orwell would have loved the term Jobcentre ‘Plus’. Today’s public services could be lifted directly from the pages of ‘1984’ where the titles of government departments were the very opposite of their actual functions. Consider: our Ministry of ‘Defence’ would be far better called the Permanent War Department; the BBC could be the Ministry of Deceptive Services; the ‘National Health Service’ would be more accurately titled International Medical Investments plc; and it would be far, far more accurate if Jobcentre ‘Plus’ were re-named Jobcentre Minus.


14 February 2009

I am not a big one for poring over the details of tragic accidents. In my view there’s something rather ghoulish about doing so. Pain is something private, and those enduring it, if they cannot be helped, should be left to endure in private and the care of friends and family until time can work its magic. Making public spectacles of their grief is simply macabre.

So when I glanced at the front page of this morning’s Times and into the unmissable sad eyes of a lady whose husband was killed in the Twin Towers I was already half way to turning the page; but I noticed the headline informing me that she too had been killed… in an airplane crash two days ago just outside New York. Tragic enough, I thought, that a Brit should have been amongst the many victims of 9/11, but how ironic that his wife should be killed in a similar accident so far away from home. It made me wonder what part of the country she was from. So I found the article and read it. There was no mention of where she came from; and her husband seems to have been an American. A bit of further checking revealed that it seems they were both American.

It is, of course, a difficult thing to question a tragedy, and it is a reasonable story for the Times to find space for; but on the front page? Is a tragic accident of an American in America really the most crucial piece of news that British people should be aware of?

Contrast it with the ‘news’, if you could possibly call it that, on page 27 of the same edition. Taking up just two sentences, the nation is informed that the police officers responsible for shooting Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes seven times in the head – not exactly an accident – are not to be prosecuted; even though the killing was ‘not a “lawful killing”’.

What is really the more important issue to Britain? A tragic accident involving an American in America, or British police walking away scot free from committing an unlawful killing?


1 February 2009

Part of me wants to say: ‘Why are we still even listening to them? Why is the media paying so much attention to economic solutions offered by the very same people who have shattered the world’s economy and destroyed the western banking system? Why are we doing that? It’s bad enough when someone you trust knowingly stuffs you once, so why, why do we bend over and ask them to do it again?’ But I know the answer: we are given no choice.

We are still listening to the likes of Gordon Brown, Peter (‘Lord’) Mandelson, and the endless series of ‘experts’ on TV blaming banks and speculators (anyone but the government) for ruining the world’s economy for the simple reason that no one is offering any alternatives; or, if they are, they are being kept well away from the limelight.

Yesterday’s paper was quite illuminating, in a sad sort of way. Leading with the news about the series of strikes across the country in protest at the use of gangs of foreign workers whilst domestic unemployment soars, The Times assumed its expectedly sniffy position – the sort of position that is often assumed by well-fed, comfortably employed, very well paid creatures of the establishment. There were concerns about increasing racism and ‘oxygen for the BNP’; but not a word about the very real problems and dangers that the strikers, not for the first time, have highlighted and are trying to bring to the nation’s attention.

The essence of the problem appears to be this: British companies and foreign companies working in Britain are entitled to use workers from anywhere in the EU. The strike in Immingham that started the ball rolling was over Total (a foreign company) employing a largely Italian workforce (who seem to be housed in a barge somewhere offshore) whilst local British workers are unemployed.

I ask the reader to bear with me. I find it very difficult to write about this stuff because of the rage inside me: the shear evil behind this situation is something that should have every decent citizen up and down the land out on the streets. Whilst I stop short of calling for the guillotines to be sharpened, it is only just short.

You see, the law has been carefully crafted in such an iniquitous way that companies have every incentive and opportunity to exploit the entire European labour force. Companies may shop around the continent to find the cheapest and most vulnerable workforce available and employ those people in foreign countries where employment rights and half-decent working conditions are next to impossible to police. I mean, if one of Total’s Italian workers, for example, injures himself in Immingham or is unfairly dismissed, just what exactly can that worker do about it? Which court is going to hear his case? The law has been fashioned to enrich elites and convert the workforce into slavery.

Saturday’s Times featured an article by Mandelson. It was titled ‘Four sober steps on the road to recovery.’ The fact that one of the country’s leading opinion formers gives half a page of space to someone who has not only been twice sacked for questionable activities in the performance of his duties and who I understand is still being investigated for questionable activities whilst employed by the EEC, but was also a highly prominent figure in the same Blair government that engineered the country’s economic demise, should speak volumes. Nay, it shrieks volumes. Why, dear reader, why is this pillar of media respectability supporting one of the gang who might reasonably be held accountable for our country’s ruin?

That some of our ‘trusted leaders’ have not only actively conspired to create this situation but have been ‘ennobled’ for doing so should really be the final straw. I mean, just how many times must we be shafted by our own government before the system that sustains it is overthrown? How long before Free Democracy is installed and the people can finally assume control of their own lives?

THE REBEL, THE STRIKER AND THE HERETIC ARE NEARLY ALWAYS RIGHT.


23 January 2009

The Emperor is dead. Long live the Emperor.

Last Tuesday we were treated to endless saturation coverage of the coronation of Emperor Obama. If it achieved nothing else, it did just confirm how very much work there is to be done: that so many people (millions, we were told, flocking into Washington for the big day) seriously think that this new figurehead is going to make a single scrap of difference to a planet whose sacred purpose of enriching the motherland is more and more being taken for granted.

The BBC coverage was gloriously sycophantic, as befits an organisation so deeply immersed in subservience to human deities. Having spent minimal costs covering the holocaust of Gaza (which conveniently ended two days before the Emperor’s coronation), the Beeb was able to have plenty of reporters on hand to cover the really big story. However, try as they might to erase the blip of Gaza from our memories, Gaza itself was not quite ready to be dismissed from our news.

Yesterday it emerged that when British charities approached the Beeb for two minutes of its precious airtime to screen an appeal for funds for the relief of Gaza, the request was denied… because the Beeb did not want to compromise its objectivity.

Now no one appreciates a spot of objectivity in news reporting more than me; but there was a slight inconsistency in the Beeb’s position... because of another story they were running at more or less the same time.

This concerned a report of a couple of complaints that the Beeb allegedly received from British soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Apparently some wounded soldiers had objected to being treated in the same hospital as wounded Taleban fighters. These concerns were given quite a bit of news coverage in the Beeb as well as other news sources. However, no mention was made of anyone inquiring how the wounded Taleban fighters felt about being treated in the same hospital as the racist invaders of their country. Whilst we do not expect objectivity from the various newspapers that covered the story (Times online did not print this comment in their ‘have your say’ section), the Beeb claims to specialise in the thing, so you might reasonably expect some attempt to find out the Taleban position… in the name of objectivity of course. I did point this out to their head of news but at the time of writing I have had no reply, nor noticed any new information about Taleban opinion on the subject of having to share hospital facilities with invading armies.

As we have been faithfully promised that the new Emperor is going to be introducing all sorts of new changes, perhaps media reform is coming. Just to be on the safe side, I don’t think I’ll hold my breath.


10 January 2009

Open letter to The Times

Today’s leading article, ‘In Defence of Israel’, is absolutely correct. No one should indeed be in any doubt who is, in the end, responsible for the suffering of Gaza.

Having bravely defied 99% of UN opinion for many years, as well as numerous International Court rulings, there can be no doubt that the heroism of the Israeli government is truly inspirational and should serve as a model for every other government on the planet. Added to this there is the steely-eyed courage of their tiny under-resourced army as they daily face the terror of lethal stone-throwing children and brown people disguised as civilians, not to mention the occasional homemade firework let off by brown people who think they have rights just because they’ve never known any other homeland and happen to have been elected to government.

You are so right to point out the injustice of a cold and heartless world that cannot see the wisdom of ejecting worthless brown people from their homes and land in order that fascist supporters of genocide from every corner of the globe may have a nation to call their very own.

Well done, The Times, for your courageous stand for Zionism; and as you can see there is at least one person who, like you, is in no doubt of who is, in the end, responsible.

John Andrews


7 January 2009

I have been a fan of George Monbiot’s writing for about three years, since I read his ‘Captive State’, which is one of the most important books a British person could read. Many of the articles he pens for his column in the Guardian and various websites are simply superb; and I have always enjoyed his more personal essays where he describes his passion for growing his own produce; and yet… there is also something vaguely discordant about his work.

Now I know it’s impossible to always produce a work of art – not even geniuses can do it; so what hope we more mortal hacks? But the disquieting thing about his writing is not the occasional piece of mediocrity – which would only show he’s human – it’s more a vague sense of hypocrisy that sometimes permeates through.

Most people would label Mr Monbiot ‘left wing’: he writes for the Guardian, therefore he must be quite pink to say the least, surely. He has long campaigned vigorously, almost hysterically even, on behalf of environmental issues, which must make him a raving red; and his political writing often seems angry and indignant on behalf of the oppressed majority. You could be forgiven for thinking he might be a staunch opponent of the establishment in all its forms; but that is not the impression I have been slowly coming to, and I find that quite worrying.

Why do I feel that way?

The first thing that troubled me was his apparent awe of science. Most of his articles are presented in a style that might be suitable for some scientific research paper, with long lists of impressive-looking references appended; and he is always scathing of criticism from anyone who is not an acknowledged expert in whatever subject about which they dare to voice an opinion.

Now I would be the last person to challenge the value of science. If it were not for science’s rigid determination to produce hard verifiable evidence in the relentless search for truth we would still be in utter darkness, and subjected to the ruthless controls of superstitious shamans. But… science often gets it wrong; and it is often manipulated; and the awestruck subservience to its priests, such as Mr Monbiot frequently demonstrates and demands from others, is exactly the opposite quality that is most precious to science – a doubtful, questioning mind. In other words, although scientific method is an infinitely more useful tool for the truthseeker than superstitious faith, it should never be wholly trusted; a little room should always be left for doubt.

And then I wonder about Mr Monbiot’s apparent concern for the ordinary person, whom so much of his work would appear to support. Consider two of his recent articles, one of which concerned something he called an ‘aggressive interview’ with the CEO of Shell; and the other was a nice piece about Welsh railways.

Mr Monbiot appeared to quite like Shell’s head man, or at least not dislike him (he’s probably very well qualified). There is absolutely no reason why this should not be: I have friends whose politics are an absolute anathema to me; and I have often met convicted criminals who it is difficult not to like. So I have no issue with Mr Monbiot’s personal feelings for the man; my problem with the article was the subtle misdirection given in the concluding paragraph.

Having shown Shell’s head man to be fairly economical with the truth Mr Monbiot closes with: “On this issue Jeroen van der Veer and I agree. Oil companies, he says, should not seek to determine a country’s energy mix: that is for the government to decide. Saving the biosphere, in other words, cannot be left to goodwill and greenwash: the humanity of pleasant men like van der Veer will always be swept aside by the imperative to maximise returns. Good people in these circumstances do terrible things. Companies like Shell will pour big money into alternative energy only when more lucrative or immediate opportunities are blocked. Where is the government that is brave enough to block them?”

So it’s the government’s fault.

Except for the fact that, as Mr Monbiot knows only too well, modern western governments are indistinguishable from international corporations. Not only are senior governmental positions routinely filled via a busy revolving door with corporate boardrooms; but parliamentary bills are routinely drafted by lawyers acting for the corporations those bills will most benefit. That Mr Monbiot, a supposedly rabid environmentalist, should so easily provide comfortable excuses for one of the largest oil companies on the planet is curious, to say the least.

I also found one tiny remark in his Welsh railways piece unsettling. Writing with real affection for his new-found homeland, he gives as one of his reasons for this affection: “When I wrote to a very active councillor, asking his permission to recommend him for a gong, he replied, ‘I would prefer not to seek such an honour.’ “

Britain’s ‘honours’ system is directly connected to its class mentality, which is a key lever of control and instrument of oppression. That Mr Monbiot should even think of supporting it sounds alarm bells in my ear.

Mr Monbiot has taught me an awful lot, and I have not yet reached the point where I no longer trust his voice, but I am reading his work with a sadly growing doubt.





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