Thursday, December 10, 2015

Music to the Ears of Entitlement

“We have allowed our party to be hijacked by people joining by text for three quid” - Unknown Labour MP (quoted by Guardian columnist Andrew Rawnsley)

As any career journalist will tell you, the first paragraph of your article must have a killer hook in these days of fickle, easily bored readerships. Tim Ross, senior political correspondent at The Daily Telegraph doesn't disappoint:

Jeremy Corbyn’s close associates are secretly planning to purge the shadow cabinet of moderate MPs who disagree with his radical, anti-war policies, as he seeks to impose his will on the Labour Party.

It's a masterpiece:

Secret: Sly/underhand/undemocratic.

Purge: Echoes of Stalin.

Moderate MPs: Supporters of a war that - by any even slightly honest and accurate examination of the actual situation in Syria - is insane.

Disagree: Implies Corbyn is acting in a dictatorial manner in choosing his cabinet when leaders of all political parties routinely do so.

Radical anti-war policies: Standing against yet more mass slaughter (and taking into account other recent catastrophic interventions) that serves only to send stocks in arms manufacturers higher is 'radical' in this enlightened era.

Impose his will: Just in case you missed it a few words earlier: Corbyn acts like a dictator - Stalin, subtly foreshadowed by our intrepid keeper of the sacred trust of the fourth estate, is the man Mr. Ross has in mind for us.

One should not expect anything different from this particular newspaper, but inversion of the concepts of 'moderate' and 'radical' lies at the heart of corporate media propaganda. In order to protect and sustain the crony capitalist system that is condemning billions to inescapable poverty and dozens of nations to war and chaos while enriching a tiny, privileged class all as the environment is ravaged, the single key issue that must be hammered relentlessly home is that the system as it stands, while not perfect, is nonetheless the only option we have; the only viable way of allocating the resources of the planet. Any alternative vision, no matter how well conceived or by whom, is unanimously condemned as naive, idiotic, clueless and even as a dire threat to national or global security. As for the brave soul proposing such an alternative, he or she can look forward to being smeared in every way imaginable until they are no longer a threat.

An integral part of this obscenely skewed version of reality is the concept of 'leadership', the unquestioned and unquestionable idea that some among us are endowed with certain intangible qualities of character that can lead us through the dark and into the light. By an astounding coincidence, in Western democracies, these people who are portrayed as born to lead must also toe the establishment line.

In the US this means unqualified support for foreign policy: the continuation of the operation of hundreds of bases in foreign nations; unconditional backing of Israel no matter how murderous and insane the actions of its government may be; the continuation of the drone campaign that has killed thousands of completely innocent people including kids, toddlers and babies; and support of the status quo with regard to blanket surveillance as well as the electoral system and campaign donations.

In the UK it is broadly the same: support for foreign adventures and Israel along with the US as well as the UK's electoral system that ensures only establishment-friendly political parties and their filtered representatives have any chance of power. [It is worth noting here that the reason Jeremy Corbyn has been subjected to the most comprehensive media smear campaign in history is because he has slipped through the cracks and must be stopped at all costs, as the quotation at the beginning of this article demonstrates.] It also means support of the British royal family.

From a Guardian report:

Britain is “deeply elitist” according to a report by the government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty commission, with people educated at public school and Oxbridge creating a “closed shop at the top”.

Andrew Sparrow writes today: The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said its study of the social background of those “running Britain” was the most detailed of its kind ever undertaken and showed that elitism was so embedded in Britain “that it could be called ‘social engineering’”.

The report shows that in many of the UK’s top professions there is a hugely disproportionate proportion of privately educated people compared to the general profile of the UK population.

Just 7% of the UK public attended private school, which compares to 71% of senior judges, 62% of senior armed forces officers, 55% of Whitehall permanent secretaries and 50% of members of the House of Lords.


The rate is also disproportionately high in other influential roles: 44% of people on the Sunday Times Rich List, 43% of newspaper columnists and 26% of BBC executives were all educated privately.

Just one in 100 members of the UK public was educated at Oxbridge, however graduates from those two universities make up 75% of senior judges, 59% of cabinet posts, 57% of permanent secretaries, 50% of diplomatics, 47% of newspaper columnists, 44% of public body chairs and 33% of BBC executives.


There is a massive disparity in representation of the public at large. The enormous influence over politics and the public discourse as depicted in the media is one born of a demographic that has no experience or understanding of poverty and many of the ills that result from it. The utterly false and self-flattering idea that hard work always leads to success [and the converse] holds sway among them, their own enormous headstart that came from being born into a wealthy family or benefiting from the advantages that come from being privately educated notwithstanding:

From another article:

The report says: "Our examination of who gets the top jobs in Britain today found elitism so stark that it could be called 'social engineering'."

It adds that the "sheer scale of the dominance of certain backgrounds" raises questions about whether getting a top job is about ability or knowing the right people.

[Commission Chair] Mr Milburn said: "Where institutions rely on too narrow a range of people from too narrow a range of backgrounds with too narrow a range of experiences they risk behaving in ways and focusing on issues that are of salience only to a minority but not the majority in society.

"Our research shows it is entirely possible for politicians to rely on advisors to advise, civil servants to devise policy solutions and journalists to report on their actions having all studied the same courses at the same universities, having read the same books, heard the same lectures and even being taught by the same tutors.

"This risks narrowing the conduct of public life to a small few, who are very familiar with each other but far less familiar with the day-to-day challenges facing ordinary people in the country."


All of which brings us to the much-lauded closing speech in the House of Commons by Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn. The reactions from within the media class were almost unanimously gushing.

A selection:

"Quite extraordinary scenes: some Tory MPs even giving Hilary Benn a standing ovation" - Deputy Political Editor of BBC News, James Landale.

"For those of us who thought Hilary Benn had failed to inherit his father's rhetorical gifts, it's time to reconsider" - The Guardian columnist (and 2014 Orwell Prize winner) Jonathan Freedland.

"I think that is the finest speech I've ever heard in the Commons, and delivered under such pressure" - The Spectator political editor James Forsyth.

"Long after most have forgotten the detail of the House of Commons debate...many will remember the words of Hilary Benn." - The Times

[Sources: Media Lens Twitter timeline]

But what did Benn actually say?

Now I share the concerns that have been expressed this evening about potential civilian casualties. However, unlike Daesh, none of us today act with the intent to harm civilians. Rather we act to protect civilians from Daesh, who target innocent people.

See how the civilian deaths that are certain to occur (and already have occurred) are so deftly brushed off. We apparently protect civilians by bombing the places where they live, but that's OK because Daesh target innocent people; unlike us, who will in fact be targeting people who will certainly be completely innocent. Could Kafka have done better?

With the delicate consciences of the UK's elected representatives expertly salved, Benn moved to close the deal:

Now Mr Speaker, I hope the House will bear with me if I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House. As a party, we have always been defined by our internationalism. We believe we have a responsibility one to another. We never have and we never should walk by on the other side of the road. And we are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us here tonight, and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt. And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the International Brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco. It’s why this entire House stood up against Hitler and Mussolini. It is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. And my view, Mr Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria. And that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for this motion tonight.

Contempt! All a great orator needs to do, it appears, is keep repeating an emotive noun that feeds into the false notions of an ignorant, fearful and confused populace. This was George Bush all over again telling us that they hate us for our freedoms, an ignorant and simplistic assertion. Writer Sheldon Richman explains:

Let’s give these members of the American elite their due: one has to work hard to make a mystery of anti-American (and anti-Western) terrorism emanating from the Middle East. It takes prodigious effort to maintain an air of innocence about San Bernardino and Paris, because no one who claims to be informed can plead ignorance of the long history of U.S. and Western imperialism in the Muslim world. This includes the CIA’s subversion of Iranian democracy in 1953, the U.S. government’s systematic support of compliant autocratic and corrupt Arab monarchies and dictatorships, its empowering of Iraqi Shi’ite Muslims, and its unconditional backing of Israel’s brutal anti-Palestinian policies. (The savage 2014 war on Gaza killed many noncombatants.)

In the 10 years before the 9/11 attacks the administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton bombed Iraq while maintaining an embargo, most especially on equipment for the water and sanitation infrastructure the U.S. Air Force had destroyed during the Gulf War. Half a million children died. This was also when U.S. officials promised, then reneged on the promise, to remove U.S. forces from the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

From the air Americans routinely kill noncombatants in Syria and Iraq, most recently this week, when “at least 36 civilians, including 20 children, in a village in eastern Syria” were reportedly killed, according to McClatchyDC. Do Americans notice? Of course not. That’s why San Bernardino and Paris can be made to appear so mysterious.

Things like this happen all the time. The U.S. attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, was especially egregious against this background of war crimes.


The UK's establishment media love Hilary Benn and despise Jeremy Corbyn. They love the rhetoric and reserve no patience for the detailed facts and expert analysis (as urged by Corbyn) a situation as complex as this requires. We simply have to do something because they have contempt for our values. These are the words of a real leader - decisive, strong, born...entitled...to rule and it is music to their ears because that is how they also think. Democracy is all well and good until it gets in the way of the people who know by their very nature what is best for all of us. The wise caution exhibited by Corbyn and other opponents is easily depicted as 'weak' and 'doing nothing in the face of an implacable enemy'. Benn is their vision of a real leader because he keeps it simple and speaks like one of them, facts and caution be damned. Benn is one of us: welcome to our exclusive club.

The adulation poured over Benn has nothing to do with love or concern for the nation and its security: indeed, it is entirely cynical. The media need a viable replacement for Corbyn if they succeed in bringing him down and what better preparation than to build someone up as Churchillian, someone who can return the Labour Party to 'grown-up' politics and put the naive children like Corbyn back in their playpen where they can't do any damage? In other words, to ensure that the fake duopoly that ensures the rich remain in control whoever wins the election is restored.

Supporters of the airstrikes on Syria are deeply ignorant - wilfully or otherwise - of the facts on the ground. They may or may not be aware of the vast geopolitical/commercial interests in the region, interests that will be opened to plunder with Assad out and a Washington-friendly administration installed. Lack of awareness may be forgivable for the average person on the street, but it most certainly is not for those tasked with making such momentous decisions or reporting on them, officials and watchdogs entrusted by the public to ensure that decisions made in their name are done so with honest, objective and exhaustive consideration of all the information available. With Syria, this has demonstrably not occurred, with politicians and the bulk of the media keen instead to focus on the tub-thumping, substance-free oratory of a warmonger.

The politicians and journalists who sold this war have the blood of innocents on their hands, as they did with Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and dozens of other 'interventions' throughout history. They remain unrepentant and serve in effect as shills for the deeply corrupt arms industry: armed and dangerous.

[Note: For more on Benn's speech, read the latest Media Lens analysis].

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Motive, Means, Opportunity

“We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.” - Former US President Jimmy Carter, presidential campaign, 1976 [Source]

No clearer demonstration of the mass psychosis afflicting much of humanity can be seen than in the ongoing outrage and horror evoked by the photographs of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi's body. While it goes without saying that any empathic being would react with utter revulsion and helpless fury at the fate of this poor little boy, one cannot ignore the vast indifference evident toward the thousands of other needless child deaths that occur daily around the world. For this silent slaughter, we hear: 'Shit happens' or 'What am I supposed to do about it?'

Aylan's death even touched the stony hearts of corporate media editors:

From Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal:

His name was Aylan. He was 3 years old, from war-torn Syria.

His final journey was supposed to end in sanctuary in Europe; instead it claimed his life and highlighted the plight of desperate people caught in the gravest refugee crisis since World War II.


Readers can be forgiven for missing similarly recounted tragedies concerning other young children. From an earlier 99.99998271% article [Note: see original for sources]:

Ask yourself if you have heard the name of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped and murdered by US marines after her family (34-year-old mother Fakhriyah Taha Muhsin, 45-year-old father Qasim Hamza Raheem, and six-year-old sister Hadeel Qasim Hamza) were killed.

How about Safa Younis Salim, a 13-year old girl who amazingly survived the Haditha Massacre, in which 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed including seven children, a 1-year-old girl staying with the family and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair?

How did she survive?

"I pretended that I was dead when my brother's body fell on me and he was bleeding like a faucet."

A six-year US military prosecution ended with none of the eight Marines sentenced to jail, despite one of the men - Sgt. Sanick De La Cruz - testifying (in return for immunity) that he had urinated on the skull of one of the dead Iraqis. This outcome outraged the Iraqi people (as the attack on Malala [Yousafzai] outraged the West) but the name of Safa Younis Salim remains practically unknown.


Informing the world about these children would run counter to the crucial narrative that the US and its NATO allies are an altruistic force for good in the world - bringers of peace, freedom and democracy. Aylan Kurdi, on the other hand, may prove very useful in furthering the true aims of the Western-aligned powers, and so - like Malala - he will be making the front pages for as long as is necessary.

Mainstream press outlets have overwhelmingly called for decisive action, with tabloids like The Sun and The Daily Mail plumbing new depths of hypocrisy. The UK's 'liberal-left' Guardian newspaper joined the 'humanitarian intervention' ranks in a recent editorial:

To begin restoring that hope will inevitably mean international intervention of some kind. The establishment of credible safe havens and the implementation of a no-fly zone must be on the table for serious consideration.

Where were the editorials calling for the establishment of no-fly zones in order to overthrow the Israeli regime when last summer, in an orgy of indiscrimate slaughter and destruction, the inhabitants of Gaza (average age 17), described accurately by David Cameron as a prison camp, were subjected to a barrage of modern, US-supplied weaponry:

The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict has gathered substantial information pointing to the possible commission of war crimes by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

The 2014 hostilities saw a huge increase in firepower used in Gaza, with more than 6,000 airstrikes by Israel and approximately 50,000 tank and artillery shells fired. In the 51 day operation, 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed, a third of them children. Palestinian armed groups fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel in July and August 2014, killing 6 civilians and injuring at least 1,600.

Hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed in their own homes, especially women and children. Survivors gave graphic testimony describing air strikes that reduced buildings to piles of dust and rubble in seconds. “I woke up…in the hospital, and I later learned that my sister, mother and my children had all died,” said a member of the Al Najjar family after an attack in Khan Younis on 26 July that killed 19 of his relatives, “We all died that day even those who survived”.

The commission is concerned about Israel’s extensive use of weapons with a wide kill and injury radius; though not illegal, their use in densely populated areas is highly likely to kill combatants and civilians indiscriminately. There appears also to be a pattern whereby the IDF issued warnings to people to leave a neighbourhood and then automatically considered anyone remaining to be a fighter. This practice makes attacks on civilians highly likely. During the Israeli ground incursion into Gaza that began in mid-July 2014, hundreds of people were killed and thousands of homes destroyed or damaged.


Where is the global anguish and soul searching about the CIA drone campaign, which is now responsible, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, for the deaths of thousands of people, of whom many are civilians and hundreds children, including babies? Where is the mass public/media outrage against Obama's strikes on weddings and funerals?

A population of billions that reacts so dramatically to one outrage yet indifference to another of equal horror can only be described as emotionally and empathically dysfunctional to a profound degree.

These oddities require no psychological explanation with regard to the media. Indeed, if there were any lingering doubts about the agenda of the corporate press, they can be safely dispensed with for all time. Despite this fact, confronting mainstream journalists about this agenda on social media invariably leads to 'conspiracy' smears, derision (often with peers piling into the fray), and sometimes blocking.

It is not even necessary (although it is highly recommended) to read Herman/Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent to see the systemic bias towards corporate/state-power-friendly narratives; common sense is adequate, and the current push to war on Syria is an apt example of the standard methods employed.

How do we know there is an agenda?

1. Lies. The Syria story is being universally framed as 'We have to go in there and do something' but a crucial element is missing, namely that US-aligned forces have long been covertly operating in Syria. An internal email dated 7th December 2011 of the Stratfor 'global intelligence' company published by WikiLeaks makes this very clear. It is a remarkable email, in that it clearly demonstrates the intent of the US to intervene in the affairs of Syria, and strongly implies that - among many other things - agents from the US, France, Jordan, Turkey, and the UK were already on the ground carrying out reconnaissance and the training of opposition forces.

While the content of the email is unambiguously damning - a clear smoking gun of a plan for regime change in Syria - equally striking is the casual tone of the writer. It is that of an employee who is extremely comfortable, not only in the knowledge that the US will eventually force regime change, but also that a way will be found to make it look good in the media, presumably understanding that another department in the Pentagon or the CIA will handle that side of things. The employee assumes the humdrum tone of a person simply doing what they are expected to do - passing on useful information to his superiors - without any consideration or fear that such actions may be illegal.

This casual approach speaks volumes about the attitude from the very top down of US officials and their employees in the public and private sectors toward the nation's obligations to international law; namely that any 'problems' with such obligations can be worked around to everyone's satisfaction (at least far enough to get the job done), as demonstrated with the invasion ten years ago of Iraq by the US and its 'Coalition of the Willing' without a UN resolution.

Some highlights from the email [Original typos uncorrected. Emphasis mine in bold]:

I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air camapign to give a Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that idea, saying that the idea 'hypothetically' is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within.

***

They emphasized how the air campaign in Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake.

***

There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve. It isn't clear cut for them geographically like in Libya, and you can't just create an NFZ over Homs, Hama region. This would entail a countrywide SEAD campaign lasting the duration of the war. They dont believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Ghadafi move against Benghazi. They think the US would have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn't reach that very public stage.

***

The French representative was of hte opinion that Syria won't be a libya-type situation in that France would be gung-ho about going in. Not in an election year. The UK rep also emphasized UK reluctance but said that the renegotiation of the EU treaty undermines the UK role and that UK would be looking for ways to reassert itself on the continent ( i dont really think a syria campaign is the way to do that.) UK guy mentioned as an aside that the air force base commander at Cyprus got switched out from a maintenance guy to a guy that flew Raptors, ie someone that understands what it means to start dropping bombs. He joked that it was probably a coincidence.


2. Absent from corporate media reporting is the Pentagon report demonstrating 'that the growth and expansion of ISIS was a direct result of arms being sent by the US to anti-Assad Islamists, with the strategic [US] intention of toppling the Assad regime in Syria'. [Note: original reporting by Nafeez Ahmed here]

3. Media reporting on 'murderous dictators' and 'strongmen' is selective. By a staggering coincidence, dictators that accede to US/NATO strategic demands are spared condemnation while leaders (often democratically elected) who do not are vilified relentlessly, as noted by Glenn Greenwald when Hillary Clinton warned of the dangers of Iran's 'emerging dictatorship' in 2010:

Half a century of American foreign policy flatly contradicts this sentiment (which is why Clinton heard soft chuckles and a few muffled guffaws as she spoke). The US has adored military dictatorships in the Arab world, and has long supported states dominated by the shadowy world of intelligence services. This became even more obvious after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when Washington intensified cooperation with Arab intelligence services in the fight against Al-Qaeda and other terror groups.

Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East are military and police states where men with guns rule, and where citizens are confined to shopping, buying cellular telephones, and watching soap operas on satellite television. Countries like Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, as well as the entire Gulf region and other states are devoted first and foremost to maintaining domestic order and regime incumbency through efficient, multiple security agencies, for which they earn American friendship and cooperation. When citizens in these and other countries agitate for more democratic and human rights, the US is peculiarly inactive and quiet.


Rule of thumb: if a head of state is subjected to a concerted smear campaign throughout the world's media, that leader has either been targeted for removal, is proving stubborn in allowing the US and its allies to achieve their goals, or is generally aligned against Western interests.

4. The intervention rhetoric from public officials published uncritically by the media is nothing new:

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney
August 26, 2002


Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.
George W. Bush
September 12, 2002


If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.
Ari Fleischer
December 2, 2002


The president of the United States and the secretary of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it.
Ari Fleischer
December 6, 2002


We know for a fact that there are weapons there.
Ari Fleischer
January 9, 2003


Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.
George W. Bush
January 28, 2003


We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.
Colin Powell
February 5, 2003


The Pulizer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity found in a study that 'following 9/11, President Bush and seven top officials of his administration waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about Saddam Hussein's Iraq' with 'at least 935 false statements [from top government officials] in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses'.

“There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.” - George W Bush

5. Rupert Murdoch's newspapers have been particularly vociferous in demanding bombs in Syria. For him at least, we have means, opportunity and motive. Murdoch's ownership of a large chunk of mainstream outlets gives him enormous reach (means) while opportunity knocks courtesy of poor little Aylan.

As for motive, one exists at least in Murdoch's position on the board of New Jersey-based Genie Energy. Journalist Nafeez Ahmed explains:

A US oil company is preparing to drill for oil in the Golan Heights. Granted the license in February 2013 by Israel, Afek Oil and Gas is a subsidiary of Genie Energy Ltd, whose equity-holding board members include former US Vice President Dick Cheney, controversial media mogul Rupert Murdoch and financier Lord Jacob Rothschild.

[Note: article dated January 28th 2015. Murdoch remains on the board]

Aside from personal financial interest for Murdoch, a post-Assad, US-friendly Syrian government would mean one less major Russia-Iran-axis power in the Middle East to worry about, a turn of events also greatly desired by Israel, while economically Syria would be opened up to all manner of 'opportunities' for Western corporations.

6. The refugee crisis. This user-friendly graph (also available in table form for older data) provided by the World Bank shows large increases in numbers of refugees at key moments after US/allied interventions. [Note: you can add your own parameters] For instance, with the explosion of sectarian violence in Iraq in 2006 brought about by the Iraq War, the number of refugees increased from 262,299 in 2005 to 1,450,905 in 2006 and 2,309,245 in 2007.

7. Stocks in arms manufacturing companies are in the stratosphere:

Investors see rising sales for makers of missiles, drones and other weapons as the U.S. hits Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Chicago-based BMO Private Bank. President Barack Obama approved open-ended airstrikes this month while ruling out ground combat.

“As we ramp up our military muscle in the Mideast, there’s a sense that demand for military equipment and weaponry will likely rise,” said Ablin, who oversees $66 billion including Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. shares. “To the extent we can shift away from relying on troops and rely more heavily on equipment -- that could present an opportunity.”

...

“There’s no doubt the world is getting to be a more and more dangerous place, and there are countries around the world that could look to buy aircraft and artillery," Jeff Babione, deputy manager of Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning II program, said in an interview in Oslo. “There’s a sense that there’s less stability in the world than there was before.”

...

“Clearly the world has become increasingly unstable. The question of whether that has a major impact on the defense budget is uncertain,” Finnegan said. “There may be an investor psychology that suggests that there’s going to be a large benefit to these companies. But the jury is still out.”


The arms industry is big business.

To conclude, the corporate media has concealed covert activities within Syria going back several years; has blacked out a Pentagon report demonstrating US prediction, supply and use of ISIS as a strategic asset; is again reporting selectively regarding 'good' and 'bad' dictators; and has engaged in this precise kind of rhetoric in the past before every intervention. Rupert Murdoch is a board member of a company that is drilling for oil in the Golan Heights while his newspapers sound the clarion call that may open the way for a (hoped for) post-Assad Western puppet government. Meanwhile stocks in arms companies are at record levels and the refugee crisis is now a major humanitarian disaster at World War 2 levels, with refugee populations particularly high from nations where the US and its allies have acted (covertly or overtly).

It's another set-up. Don't get fooled again.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Apocalypse Now

"Human progress has never been shaped by commentators, complainers or cynics" - Tony Blair

The Labour leadership campaign of Jeremy Corbyn will be remembered for several notable reasons, not least the descent of the UK's corporate media into unremitting farce, with the Guardian in its role as vanguard of the 'liberal left' decisively leading the pack.

The media campaign against Corbyn is one of unprecedented intensity and vitriol. Establishment journalists and public figures have lined up to pour scorn, ridicule, condescension and misrepresentation upon the leadership hopeful (chronicled by Media Lens here and here).

Apocalyptic language has become the norm with dire warnings of the utter ruin awaiting the Labour Party if the unthinkable occurs. The initial tolerant amusement displayed towards Corbyn's leadership bid turned at first to irritation, then worry, disbelief, full-blown establishment panic and now horror with a YouGov poll putting Corbyn a country mile ahead of his rivals. Now that Corbyn is highly likely to be the next Labour leader the big guns have been rolled out.

The first is not so much a big gun as a big mouth, and a shamelessly misrepresenting one at that. Nick Cohen writing in the Guardian informs us:

The severity of the assault makes me wonder why so many unions are backing Jeremy Corbyn. It is not just that he has planted kisses on the backsides of half the tyrannies on the planet: including the posteriors of an Iranian regime, which persecutes its own trade unionists along with women and religious minorities; Putin and his kleptomaniac and irredentist Russian nationalist friends; Gaddafi, after his own people had executed him, and the Chavez gang, which somehow managed to reduce oil-rich Venezuela to penury.

Peter from the Interventions Watch blog posted a must-read response on the Media Lens message board that deals with Cohen's blatant dishonesty.

The Guardian two days later featured a summary of a blog post by former Downing Street Communications Director Alastair Campbell urging the Labour Party to choose 'ABC - Anyone But Corbyn'. The providing of a platform on a key UK democracy issue for Campbell, who notoriously had Tony Blair's discredited Iraq arms dossier 'sexed up' on his direct instructions and is therefore culpable in the lies that have led so far to the deaths of over a million completely innocent Iraqi civilians, was a new nadir for the newspaper.

Not to be outdone by itself, the Guardian went one better the very next day with a leading article written by a stone cold war criminal - Tony Blair - in which the former UK leader warns that Labour faces '...rout, possibly annihilation' if Corbyn becomes leader.

Annihilation is a strong word. Blair is presumably referring to neither the recent election results for Labour in Scotland nor the fate of the nation of Iraq, but instead to the sudden, violent end of Labour's corporate cronyism, its appeasement of the neoliberal forces that are tearing apart the UK's and indeed the world's state social services and dividing up the spoils among the already obscenely wealthy, a process that has brought unnecessary poverty, misery and death to untold numbers of people.

The Guardian leadership really ought to be made to answer why a man believed by millions of his own compatriots to be a war criminal is so often given prominent space to speak his mind on crucial issues within its pages. Would we allow Augusto Pinochet to pen a thoughtful comment piece on dealing with government opposition movements? Perhaps a human rights expose by mass-murdering Indonesian dictator General Suharto (described by Margaret Thatcher as 'one of our very best and most valuable friends')?

The Guardian (and other corporate media) going to such extreme depths to smear a man who only wants equality and justice for ordinary people - who wants to bring an element of control to the corporate forces that have the world's societies in a death grip - demonstrates the true role of the corporate media: they are merely PR outlets for their owners and the predatory capitalist system as a whole. Any threat must be dealt with, and the bigger the threat, the bigger the guns. Russell Brand's call for radical change was nothing compared to this: a socialist is now the clear favourite to win the leadership of the UK's main opposition party, and contrary to the witless forecasts of doom, Corbyn's honesty, his message of justice, hope and equality, and the growing wave of public awareness of the depredations of our corrupt political systems has the potential to carry him to victory at the next election.

In a political world where almost everyone is a phony, Corbyn is a rarity. In other words, he's no fake and everyone can see that; even his most strident critics habitually remark that he is a 'nice guy'. This provides a clue as to why his support continues to surge despite the high profile smears being levelled against him.

As is so often the case in these days of low-quality mainstream reporting, satirical websites have some of the best insight. The UK's Newsthump writes:

Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for the Labour leadership looks unstoppable after some genuinely dreadful people came out against him.

Tony Blair was the first truly awful person to really stand up against him.

In a studio interview the former ‘Ugly Rumours’ bassist and war-criminal called for all supporters of Corbyn to have their hearts cut out of their bodies, a strategy it is understood he first planned for all supporters of Gordon Brown during his time as Prime Minister.

This was followed by John McTernan making equally strong comments against Mr Corbyn, which everyone ignored until they remembered that he was chief of Staff to Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy. A man who’s performance in Scotland was worse than Edward the First.

Yesterday Alistair Campbell, or as he’s better known; Satan, recommended the Labour party adopted an ‘Anyone but Corbyn’ strategy, failing to recognise that Ed Miliband was ‘anyone but Corbyn,’ and that could have worked out better.

Jeremy Corbyn’s team are naturally thrilled at this.

“Well, it’s brilliant,” said a Corbyn insider.


The Guardian and other corporate media have engaged in this transparent smear campaign against Jeremy Corbin at the cost of the final remnants of their credibility, a credibility that no longer exists. Given this, the Guardian's high-profile leftist columnists Owen Jones, George Monbiot and the genuinely good Seumas Milne have to seriously ask themselves whether they wish to continue to lend legitimacy to the sham organization that pays them as gatekeepers or whether they should leave and report in some other independent capacity. Only an attention-seeking careerist or someone ignorant of their figleaf role would credibly stay.

Clicks and funds channeled instead to independent publishers like WikiLeaks, freelance investigative reporters and/or high-quality donations-only news sites/blogs would be a good start in the battle to regain a neutral, adversarial media.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

Facebook: Here

Please also see my main blog.

My articles are written freely. If you appreciate them, Paypal donations can be made at my free book's website.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

OXI

"The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 188 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world." - IMF Website

As Greece prepares today for a referendum - a stark choice between accepting or rejecting the bailout conditions proposed jointly by the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) - the 'Troika' - the UK's Jubilee Debt Campaign notes:

Ahead of the payment of €462 million by Greece to the IMF on Thursday 9 April, figures released by the Jubilee Debt Campaign show that the IMF has made €2.5 billion of profit out of its loans to Greece since 2010. If Greece does repay the IMF in full this will rise to €4.3 billion by 2024.

The IMF has been charging an effective interest rate of 3.6% on its loans to Greece. This is far more than the interest rate the institution needs to meet all its costs, currently around 0.9%. If this was the actual interest rate Greece had been paying the IMF since 2010, it would have spent €2.5 billion less on payments.

Out of its lending to all countries in debt crisis between 2010 and 2014 the IMF has made a total profit of €8.4 billion, over a quarter of which is effectively from Greece. All of this money has been added to the Fund’s reserves, which now total €19 billion. These reserves would be used to meet the costs from a country defaulting on repayments. Greece’s total debt to the IMF is currently €24 billion.

Tim Jones, economist at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said:

“The IMF’s loans to Greece have not only bailed out banks which lent recklessly in the first place, they have actively taken even more money out of the country. This usurious interest adds to the unjust debt forced on the people of Greece.”

As of 1 July 2015, Greece is in arrears to the IMF of €1.6 billion. So the IMF’s overall profit currently stands at €900 million.


Depending on who you ask, the causes of the ongoing economic crisis that has devastated Greek society range from government corruption, overly generous social benefits and pensions, tax evasion, incompetence, greed, the Olympics...take your pick. One thing is certain, however: the Greeks and their government are now at the mercy of those pulling the strings in Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington, D.C., forced to suffer crippling 'austerity' cuts as part of the terms of the bailout deals.

One causal factor seldom cited within the corporate media is the role of Goldman Sachs [My emphasis in bold]:

Wall Street tactics akin to the ones that fostered subprime mortgages in America have worsened the financial crisis shaking Greece and undermining the euro by enabling European governments to hide their mounting debts.

As worries over Greece rattle world markets, records and interviews show that with Wall Street’s help, the nation engaged in a decade-long effort to skirt European debt limits. One deal created by Goldman Sachs helped obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels.

Even as the crisis was nearing the flashpoint, banks were searching for ways to help Greece forestall the day of reckoning. In early November [2009] — three months before Athens became the epicenter of global financial anxiety — a team from Goldman Sachs arrived in the ancient city with a very modern proposition for a government struggling to pay its bills, according to two people who were briefed on the meeting.

The bankers, led by Goldman’s president, Gary D. Cohn, held out a financing instrument that would have pushed debt from Greece’s health care system far into the future, much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards.

It had worked before. In 2001, just after Greece was admitted to Europe’s monetary union, Goldman helped the government quietly borrow billions, people familiar with the transaction said. That deal, hidden from public view because it was treated as a currency trade rather than a loan, helped Athens to meet Europe’s deficit rules while continuing to spend beyond its means.

...

Banks eagerly exploited what was, for them, a highly lucrative symbiosis with free-spending governments. While Greece did not take advantage of Goldman’s proposal in November 2009, it had paid the bank about $300 million in fees for arranging the 2001 transaction, according to several bankers familiar with the deal.

Such derivatives, which are not openly documented or disclosed, add to the uncertainty over how deep the troubles go in Greece and which other governments might have used similar off-balance sheet accounting.


...

In 2005, Goldman sold the interest rate swap to the National Bank of Greece, the country’s largest bank, according to two people briefed on the transaction.

In 2008, Goldman helped the bank put the swap into a legal entity called Titlos. But the bank retained the bonds that Titlos issued, according to Dealogic, a financial research firm, for use as collateral to borrow even more from the European Central Bank.

Edward Manchester, a senior vice president at the Moody’s credit rating agency, said the deal would ultimately be a money-loser for Greece because of its long-term payment obligations.

Referring to the Titlos swap with the government of Greece, he said: “This swap is always going to be unprofitable for the Greek government.”


Greek military spending is also a major factor. A closer look at this travesty yields some very uncomfortable truths about the motives of Germany and France in particular.

From an informative Paul Haydon Guardian article in 2012:

In 2006, as the financial crisis was looming, Greece was the third biggest arms importer after China and India. And over the past 10 years its military budget has stood at an average of 4% of GDP, more than £900 per person. If Greece is in need of structural reform, then its oversized military would seem the most logical place to start. In fact, if it had only spent the EU average of 1.7% over the last 20 years, it would have saved a total of 52% of its GDP – meaning instead of being completely bankrupt it would be among the more typical countries struggling with the recession.

The supposed threat from Turkey is often cited as the major reason for such a high military budget. However, this argument just doesn't hold up for several reasons. First, both countries are part of Nato and share a number of mutual allies, not least the US, and so all-out war between the two is highly unlikely to occur. Second, Turkey has on several occasions proposed a mutual reduction in arms spending, something Greece has repeatedly refused to agree to. Finally, relations between the two countries have markedly improved in recent years, making such a massive military build-up seem even more unnecessary. All Greece's military spending seems to achieve is to polarise the situation and goad Turkey into an arms race.

The second justification given by the Greek government, that its forces are responsible for defending its porous borders from illegal immigration, is only marginally more convincing. While this might account for some increases in spending, it is unclear what role the latest fighter jets, submarines and tanks could play in stemming the tide of migrants arriving by foot or in small boats. So why has Greece continued to spend such huge amounts on its army?

One major factor is that France and Germany's arms industries have greatly profited from this profligate military spending, leading their governments to put pressure on Greece not to cancel lucrative arms deals. In the five years up to 2010, Greece purchased more of Germany's arms exports than any other country, buying 15% of its weapons. Over the same period, Greece was the third-largest customer for France's military exports and its top buyer in Europe. Significantly, when the first bail-out package was being negotiated in 2010, Greece spent 7.1bn euros (£5.9bn) on its military, up from 6.24bn euros in 2007. A total of £1bn was spent on French and German weapons, plunging the country even further into debt in the same year that social spending was cut by 1.8bn euros. It has claimed by some that this was no coincidence, and that the EU bail-out was explicitly tied to burgeoning arms deals. In particular, there is alleged to have been concerted pressure from France to buy several stealth frigates. Meanwhile Germany sold 223 howitzers and completed a controversial deal on faulty submarines, leading to an investigation into accusations of bribes being given to Greek officials.


Angela Merkel was dismissive:

A few months before submarines became the talk of Athens, Yiannis Panagopoulos, who heads the Greek trade union confederation (GSEE), found himself sitting opposite Angela Merkel at a private meeting the German chancellor had called of European trade unionists in Berlin.

When it came to his turn to address the leader, he instinctively popped the question that many in Greece have wanted to ask. "After running through all the reasons why austerity wasn't working in my country I brought up the issue of defence expenditure. Was it right, I asked, that our government makes so many weapons purchases from Germany when it obviously couldn't afford such deals and was slashing wages and pensions?"

Merkel's reaction was instant. "She immediately said: 'But we never asked you to spend so much of your GDP on defence,'" Panagopoulos recalled. "And then she mentioned the issue of outstanding payments on submarines she said Germany had been owed for over a decade."


In the period between 2002 and 2011, Greece bought 42% of its arms from the US, 25.3% from Germany and 12.8% from France - the top three suppliers.

"Just under 15% of Germany's total arms exports are made to Greece, its biggest market in Europe," Papadimoulis said, reeling off figures from a scruffy armchair in his party's parliamentary office. "Greece has paid over €2bn (£1.6bn) for submarines that proved to be faulty and which it doesn't even need.

"It owes another €1bn as part of the deal. That's three times the amount Athens was asked to make in additional pension cuts to secure its latest EU aid package."


...

"Since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Greece has spent an estimated €216bn on armaments, although I am 100% certain that in absolute terms its defence expenditure is much greater than official documents would show due to the so-called secret funds the state has access to," said Katerina Tsoukala, a Brussels-based security expert.

"The problem is that unlike Britain, for example, Greece has never had a transparent and democratic defence procurement strategy. Instead, everything is veiled in secrecy and people like me have to go to Sipri to find out information that in other countries would be readily available."

The murkiness has ensured that over the years the Greek arms trade has become increasingly associated with high-level bribery and corruption – the very practices abhorred by Berlin, Athens' main provider of rescue funds.

This week the former defence minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos was jailed pending trial on charges of accepting an €8m bribe from Ferrostaal, the German company that helped oversee the scandal-marred sale of four Class 214 submarines to the Greek navy 12 years ago.


Fast forward to 2015 and Greece's military spending, while significantly lower than before, continues to be a great drain on the overall economy.

Finian Cunningham writes:

Even after five years of economic catastrophe, Greece’s annual military budget amounts to $4 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. That translates to 2.2 per cent of the nation’s GDP – a colossal drain on the economy.

To put Greece’s military spend into perspective, it is double the ratio that most other EU countries currently spend on defence. For example, Germany spends 1.2 per cent of GDP, Italy 1.1 per cent, Netherlands 1.2 per cent and Belgium 1.1 per cent.

If Greece were to cut its outsized military budget by half that would generate $2 billion in one year alone, which would pay off its immediate bill to the IMF and help the country reach a 1 per cent budget surplus that the Troika has set for 2015. In other words, that source of finance would obviate any further need for cutting pensions and workers’ salaries.

Why the Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras, which claims to be a radical socialist coalition, does not pursue this more imaginative and democratic alternative is a curious question. Last week, Tsipras offered to cut the military budget by $200 million – or a mere 5 per cent. But the offer was rebuffed by the IMF because it stated that its rules do not permit interference in a country’s defence policy.


A highly recommended commentary by Boris Kargalitsky writing in Counterpunch puts things into perspective:

The actions of the Troika seem far less absurd if we reflect that the billions of euros intended to “save Greece” never reached that ill-fated country but were deposited immediately in German and French banks. Under the pretext of servicing the Greek debt a huge financial pyramid was created, analogous to a Ponzi scheme or to the MMM and GKO pyramids in 1990s Russia, but on a much greater scale. Meanwhile, part of the money that finished up in the banks was sucked directly out of Greece, while a further part came from the pockets of West European taxpayers. For decisions made effectively in Berlin and Brussels, with the approval of Paris, the citizens of other Eurozone countries were forced to pay. The victims included even the inhabitants of Spain and Italy, as well as of countries such as Austria and Finland that had no relation whatever to the events concerned. A sort of all-European pipeline was constructed, and used to siphon off state funds for the benefit of German and French financial capital.

...

[] a re-launching of the economy is technically inconceivable unless the harsh rules imposed by the ECB are rejected, along with its insistence on a dramatic increase in competitiveness unaided by a lowering of the exchange rate. Since it has been understood from the outset that the ECB will not agree to sharply lower the euro exchange rate solely in order to save Greece, it is clear that in technical terms there is not the slightest chance of a successful exit from the dilemma without Greece quitting the Eurozone and returning to the drachma. The only real question has been whether this exit will be planned, organised and prepared in advance, or whether it will be chaotic and disastrous. The situation is very similar to the one in Argentina in 2001, when after a default the peso had to be decoupled from the dollar if economic growth was to resume.


The people of Greece and Europe as a whole are not the only ones praying for a certain result in the referendum. Dozens of hedge funds stand to lose billions:

During peak hype a year ago, there were perhaps 100 hedge funds plowing what they thought was fertile financial soil. But when things began to curdle again in late 2014 and in 2015, many of them bailed out, selling what they could.

But 40 or 50, according to local broker estimates, kept their bets and hopes alive that it would all get worked out somehow, that the ECB or Germany or whatever would swoop in and allow them to make a killing, as they’d done with Greek bonds in 2012. So these funds have about $11 billion stuck in these shut-down Greek markets.

[From] The Times:

*****

The largest investors include Japonica Partners in Rhode Island, the French investment funds H20 and Carmignac, and an assortment of other hedge funds like Farallon, Fortress, York Capital, Baupost, Knighthead and Greylock Capital.

A number of hedge funds have also made big bets on Greek banks, despite their thin levels of capital and nonperforming loans of around 50 percent of assets.

They include Mr. Einhorn at Greenlight Capital and Mr. Paulson, both of whom have invested and lost considerable sums in Piraeus Bank. Fairfax Financial Holdings and the distressed investor Wilbur Ross own a large stake in Eurobank, one Greece’s four main banks.

Big positions have also been taken in some of Greece’s largest companies. Fortress Capital bought $100 million in discounted debt belonging to Attica Holdings, Greece’s largest ferryboat holder. York Capital has taken a 10 percent stake in GEK Terna, a prominent Greek construction and energy firm.

In 2014, Blackstone’s credit arm bought a 10 percent chunk of the Greek real estate developer Lamda Development. And Third Point, one of the earliest, most successful investors in Greek government bonds, has set up a $750 million Greek equity fund.

Among the most dubious of these was a 10 percent equity stake, then worth about $137 million, that Mr. Paulson’s hedge fund took last year in the Athens water monopoly. The company had little debt and was set to be privatized, making it an attractive prospect at the time. But the privatization process is now frozen, and the monopoly is struggling to collect payment on its bills from government entities that are nearly broke….

*****

Now Greece’s financial system is shut down to control the chaos. Parts of the economy are shut down with it. Greek banks had already been reduced to penny stocks before the bank holiday, confounding these hedge funds that had invested in them. Now, they’re cutoff from the lifeline that has kept them from toppling.

“People are freaking out,” Nicholas Papapolitis, a corporate lawyer in Greece who has led some of the largest hedge-fund deals in the market, told the New York Times. He was working through the weekend, comforting and cajoling his frantic hedge-fund clients. “They have made some really big bets on Greece,” he said.

They weren’t betting on Greece, however. They were betting on the ECB, the European institutions, and taxpayers – as they’d done in 2012, when they’d made a killing – to shovel money their way. Only this time, it didn’t happen, leaving the ultimate “smart money” to twist in the wind.


These commentaries make it clear that the Greek people, who have suffered terribly for so long due to corruption in successive governments and wolves of varying species preying on their misfortune, are pawns in a much wider game. While today en masse they have the power to reject the punitive tactics of the Troika, the fear campaign has been stepped up to hysterical levels on all fronts with apocalyptic warnings coming from quoted officials in the media along with hundreds of real-life tragedies recounted just in time to terrify the Greek population into rejecting any kind of step into the unknown.

Polls earlier in the week showed a clear majority for a 'no' vote but the bank closures and the corporate media fear campaign have led to the elimination of that lead, with the latest polls saying it is now too close to call. In such a scenario, the Yes campaign will have an advantage, as fear inevitably takes its toll on those Greeks who are not suffering as badly as some or on those who are relatively unfamiliar with the scandalous background details of their nation's desperate plight.

The reality, however, is that a vote for Yes or No will ensure future pain with no immediate lessening of the current level of suffering. The difference is that at least with a No vote, the way will be opened for the Greek people to reject the burden of the Troika and other predators sucking their lifeblood. It will ensure, for instance, that there need be no firesale of its islands just to kick the debt can down the road for a few more years. With a sharply devalued post-default currency, the country would be swamped with bargain-seeking tourists along with foreign investors in its large agriculture and shipping industries, all hoping to take advantage of suddenly low prices and rates. While there will be pain for a time, the seeds of recovery will have been planted and future generations would benefit from the removal of the chain of debt - another name for control by foreign powers, banks and hedge funds - from around their necks. It is also worth noting that current opponents of Western policies like Russia and China are likely future creditors and trading partners.

The IMF, profiting from an impoverished, desperate nation in direct contravention of its stated mission statement, can be trusted only to extract further suffering from Greece. The referendum is a stark choice for the Greek people between darkness and hope in the knowledge that both will involve pain. Meanwhile, the feverish levels of hysteria emanating from the corporate media fear campaign confirm that the banks, the hedge funds and the rich desperately need Greece to submit to continuing humiliation for their own selfish, greedy ends.

Will the people of Greece show courage one more time and strike a real blow against the corporate elites that have taken control of the world's financial and political institutions? This is a microcosm - a manifestation in miniature - of the global struggle against corporate fascism. A No vote will give heart and momentum to the anti-austerity, anti-fascist, pro-democracy movements that have emerged in dozens of nations, ordinary working people who have organized and pledged to secure their human rights. It will also confound the true underlying aim of the Troika - to make an example of Greece - to show other 'upstart' nations who commit the capital crime of demanding a decent life for its citizens just who the boss is.

OXI means hope.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

Facebook: Here

Please also see my main blog.

My articles are written freely. If you appreciate them, Paypal donations can be made at my free book's website.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sign of the Times

"We don't go into that level of detail in the story; we just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government at the moment" - Tom Harper (lead reporter on latest Sunday Times Edward Snowden article)

Controversy has arisen around a recent Sunday Times story on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The article claims that the NSA documents leaked by Snowden have been hacked by Russia and China, putting the lives of agents in the field at risk. It is also a mixture of serious errors, outright falsehoods and unfounded claims made by anonymous sources. One source is quoted as saying that Snowden has 'blood on his hands', not the first time that such a claim has been mendaciously deployed for dramatic effect.

Many of the claims in the article have already been debunked by serious critics here, here, and most powerfully here by Glenn Greenwald, the journalist Snowden chose to give his documents to.

One also needs to ask why, if it is true that UK intelligence knew that there was a possibility that the files could be hacked (and momentarily putting aside Craig Murray's note that names of agents would never be written down) potentially compromised agents were not withdrawn immediately and replaced where possible. If they really were so concerned about the threat to the lives of their agents, why wait until after the documents were hacked (if they were as claimed). The obvious course of action in such a scenario would be to withdraw any such agents from the field as soon as possible in order to minimize the damage.

The focus of this analysis, however, is on the widespread use of anonymous sources, especially within newspapers of record. The Snowden furor is the tip of the iceberg. One recent example of the use of anonymous sources is the repeated evidence-free assertions of build-ups of Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, usually accompanied by a strong implication that Russia is about to invade. When such assertions are published on Reuters or the other major 'wires', the financial and methodological realities of modern media ensure that the stories will be republished word-for-word everywhere, not only on internet news sites like Yahoo and Google, but also on major blogs and in low-quality independent media. [Aside: High-quality independent media would only print such claims with strong disclaimers while pointing out similar instances in the past].

In other words millions will read and ingest parts of the story and, when the next drama in the news cycle comes along, will forget everything apart from the few soundbites they vaguely recall: 'blood on his hands', for instance. As the vast majority of casual news readers have no familiarity with or serious interest in the details of the Snowden case (with some falsely believing, for example, that he gave the documents to WikiLeaks) or indeed in most other serious political or social issues, the damage will have already been done. This, in a nutshell, is why soundbites are so prized and ubiquitously used by PR and advertising firms.

Anonymous sources have been used in several important stories over the years and the most instructive example of how devastating such irresponsible media reporting can be is the destruction wrought upon Iraq. The New York Times and other newspapers relied on anonymous sources to allege the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The term WMD itself is one of the most successful soundbites of all time, with the acronym widely used at the time and even now in casual discourse.

The claims were reported uncritically and little or no questioning of the official government position could be found as the drums beat relentlessly for war. We now know that these claims were fed to the media in full knowledge that they were false or amplified, and history tells us that no WMDs were there.

Fast forward to 2015. Nobel Prize recipient Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) released a report entitled 'Body Count' this year that concluded that over a million people had been killed in Iraq since 2003 as a result of the invasion. Sectarian violence continues to rip the nation apart and the outlook is bleak with the ascendance of IS in the nation. The city of Fallujah lives with the legacy of US chemical warfare, with hideous genetic deformities and other serious health issues out of control. Meanwhile Judith Miller, the star New York Times reporter, recently embarked on a media tour to promote her book explaining how she really believed what she was writing at the time, employing classic tactics of obfuscation to defuse questioning on her culpability.

The dangers of using anonymous sources are clear:

1. They allow governments, institutions and major corporations to selectively leak information that benefits their agenda.

2. They lead to a situation where no one can be meaningfully challenged on the claims. Spokesmen can plead 'national security' and other excuses to avoid addressing questions.

3. A claim without evidence is just that: a claim - only a starting point for a journalistic investigation; not a green light for an explosive, defamatory headline piece that will grab instant worldwide attention.

Nonetheless, there are many cases where the use of anonymous sources is unavoidable, though given the above hazards, great care must be taken. There are several types of anonymous source. A credible source could be someone with whom a journalist has cultivated a long relationship, one whose credibility has been proven time and again on the basis of accurate past stories. A first-time source, perhaps an idealistic employee like Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden, can also be credible if they provide genuine evidence for their claims and are or have also been in a position to obtain such information.

Acting on information from first-time or even known sources - even with evidence (which may be fabricated) - is risky as Newsweek discovered in 2005 when a story (now retracted) it ran about a US Guantanamo interrogator flushing a copy of the Koran down a toilet turned out to be baseless. The story sparked violent riots in Afghanistan and other nations and at least 16 people were killed.

This is where journalistic instinct and experience all come into play. A good journalist will try to corroborate a story and name as many informants as possible, while at the same time appreciating that many sources have extremely good reasons for not being named. This, of course, damages the credibility of the story and makes it only a claim. A reporter and his/her editors must bear in mind the level of credibility when presenting the story to the public, considering factors such as the availability of publishable evidence (like pictures) and the extent of credibility of sources and corroboration and give an appropriate level of prominence to any article published based on this information.

There are, however, cases when it would be irresponsible to publish; namely when a source or even multiple sources have a track record of providing false information or when a source or sources have something to gain financially or politically from the story.

In the case of the Snowden article and the UK government, it's two for two. The UK government has lied to or misled the public in the past on numerous occasions and its assertions therefore can not be reported uncritically. Further, GCHQ has been greatly embarrassed by the exposure of its Stasi-like operations thanks to Snowden, meaning the government would therefore benefit from discrediting or smearing him.

The Sunday Times responded to criticisms of its article in the form of a 'has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed' interview on CNN with the lead reporter on the story, Tom Harper, taking questions from host George Howell.

Gist (significant comments in bold):

Howell: How do senior officials at 10 Downing Street know that these files were breached?

Harper: Well, uhh, I don't know the answer to that George. All we know is that this is effectively the official position of the British government.

...

Howell: How do they know what was in them [the files], if they were encrypted? Has the British government also gotten into these files?

Harper: Well, the files came from America and the UK, so they may already have known for some time what Snowden took — uhh, again, that's not something we're clear on ... we don't go into that level of detail in the story we just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government at the moment.

Howell: Your article asserts that it is not clear if the files were hacked or if he just gave these files over when he was in Hong Kong or Russia, so which is it?

Harper: Well again sorry to just repeat myself George, but we don't know so we haven't written that in the paper. It could be either, it could be another scenario.

...

Howell: The article mentions these MI6 agents ... were they directly under threat as a result of the information leaked or was this a precautionary measure?

Harper: Uhh, again, I'm afraid to disappoint you, we don't know...there was a suggestion some of them may have been under threat but the statement from senior Downing Street sources suggests that no one has come to any harm, which is obviously a positive thing from the point of view of the West.


In short, Tom Harper knows quite literally nothing about the story. He also says that 'no one has come to harm', which makes the inclusion of the term 'blood on his hands' unconscionable. He only knows what government officials hiding behind anonymity told him. Yet armed with this spectacular lack of knowledge, he published a headline article that claimed that the files had been 'cracked' by the Russians and Chinese (although he doesn't know that) and also that Snowden has 'blood on his hands', while again having no evidence that this is true. These are extremely serious, dangerous and defamatory claims so one would expect the inclusion of a comment from the Snowden side, or at least from one of his prominent supporters or associates. No such opportunity was provided. This also is a fundamental breach of journalistic ethics.

If one were searching for a working definition of 'government propaganda mouthpiece', the actions of Tom Harper and - by extension - the Sunday Times are as close as one can get. While the Sunday Times and any media outlet are at liberty at any time to publish the 'official position of the British government' on any issue they choose, depicting it as bombshell breaking news complete with deliberately emotive language is the height of irresponsibility.

This is a serious embarrassment for a major newspaper. A retraction, apology and full explanation must be issued for any credibility whatsoever to be regained. As the Sunday Times is unlikely to accept such an assertion, and is indeed standing by its story, can we now expect a similarly aggressive and blockbusting article on the 'official position of the British government' on, say, its arms sales to the Saudi regime? At least in this case the term 'blood on its hands' would be demonstrably accurate.

It takes a special level of indoctrination to report with a straight face righteous accusations by British government officials that anyone at all has blood on their hands. The UK, both in its colonial and modern eras, has attacked, invaded, occupied or interfered with almost every nation on the planet. Such indoctrination is a common element of establishment journalists in the UK, with many seeming to possess no awareness of how ludicrous some of their claims about the crimes of current enemies are when weighed up against the similar, documented crimes of their own nation, which they almost unfailingly depict as a benign force in the world.

For the Sunday Times to stand by this obviously bogus story, there are only two possible interpretations of its role: it is either naive about or complicit in the actions of its government. As one does not become a decision-maker in a Rupert Murdoch-owned enterprise by being a shrinking violet, the first option can be safely eliminated. The unavoidable conclusion, therefore, is that the Sunday Times in publishing this article is complicit in the aims of the UK government.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Establishment Consensus

“I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,” and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one”… I don’t vote because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance; I know, I know my grandparents fought in two world wars (and one World Cup) so that I’d have the right to vote. Well, they were conned.” - Russell Brand

The turnout for the 2010 UK general election was 65.1%, meaning 34.9% of the electorate - more than one in three members of society - did not vote. By age the picture was/is bleaker, with only 44% of eligible voters between 18 and 24 years exercising their voting rights. The most successful party - the Conservative Party - garnered 36.1% of the votes cast. With the entire electorate factored in, this equates to only 23.47% of the citizens of the UK voting for the party which has (with the aid of Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats) imposed a radical privatization and 'austerity' agenda upon the poor, old, sick and disabled.

This is not a representative system by any stretch of the imagination. Not only have more than three out of four (76.53%) of the UK's citizens been forced to swallow an extreme ideology they did not vote for that serves only the already extremely wealthy, more than one in three people chose to play no part in their country's election.

Any discussion of political opinion in the UK is meaningless when this demographic - the largest by far - is not included. 10.7 million people voted Conservative. 15.9 million people did not vote at all.

The standard mainstream response to this conundrum is dismissive, with pundits aplenty happy to spout the conventional wisdom that apathy, stupidity or laziness is the reason for this failure of democracy, and that those who do not vote have no right to complain as they themselves choose not to take part in the electoral process.

As is almost always the case, conventional wisdom is flat wrong. A 2013 Guardian/ICM poll found overwhelmingly that anger is the reason for not voting, particularly amongst the young, men, and those from the north of the nation among others (see link for details).

The inescapable conclusion is that the largest voting demographic of the nation views every single viable choice as unacceptable, sees the political classes as ideologically and morally bankrupt. The main reasons for anger in the poll were broken promises (64%), MP's perceived as being 'on the take' (46%), politicians not saying what they believe (34%), parties being so similar that there is no meaningful difference between them (26%) and parties not representing voters' mix of views (25%). Only 2% cited inconvenience as a reason not to vote.

Contrary to the accusations of laziness and apathy, therefore, the decision not to vote of those who profess anger towards the system represents true democracy: exercising the right to vote for 'none of the above' because, in frank terms, 'none of the above' stand for them; representing instead the ruling and corporate classes - the 'establishment consensus': the continuation and entrenchment of the status quo.

Indeed, an analysis of turnout by age is telling. The rule of thumb is the younger you are in the UK, the more likely it is you will not vote, suggesting that younger people in the face of a hostile environment (debts incurred from student loans, lack of work, high rents etc.) see no realistic solutions from the choices on the election menu.

The major campaign issues pushed by the big parties and echoed faithfully in the press are all safely within acceptable debate limits: red herrings that raise passions like immigration or vague, PR-produced gobbledygook repackaged as pledges. Marvel at the Ed Miliband obelisk photo op:

A BETTER PLAN.
A BETTER FUTURE.

1. A strong economic foundation
2. Higher living standards for working families
3. An NHS with the time to care
4. Controls on immigration
5. A country where the next generation can do better than the last
6. Homes to buy and action on rents


Safely ensconced in Downing Street, criticism of any and all of these 'pledges' can be easily refuted via the imaginative use of statistics - a practice of politicians since the dawn of time. Absent from these pledges and any manifestos of the only parties that can win is any discussion of the true threats to civilians and democratic principles:

A. The NHS Sell-Off

1 – PropCo

NHS Property Services Ltd (PropCo) was launched in April 2013 and now owns £3 billion worth of NHS land and buildings. These assets were once held by the now-abolished Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities; now PropCo is responsible for selling them off to property developers. Furthermore, while the government currently owns all of PropCo’s shares, the Act that created PropCo allows for private firms to buy the majority of these shares. Thus large swathes of NHS land could quickly pass into private hands.

2 – PFI/PF2

You’ve probably heard of the Private Finance Initiative and its sequel, PF2. You may think these are merely expensive loans with Wonga-style interest rates. Certainly these deals are bad value for the taxpayer and have pushed many hospitals into the red, but they’re more than just that. For at least the 25-30 year repayment period, the private firm providing the loan actually owns the hospital. Thus, more than a hundred NHS facilities are owned by banks and shell companies.

3 – Commissioning Support Units

Although CCGs were created by the 2012 Act to decide where the money goes, it is the CSUs that provide the infrastructure. CSUs are there to run tenders, manage contracts, provide IT and HR services and other back-office admin functions. The Act created CSUs as part of the NHS structure, but from 2016 the CSUs will become independent businesses to be bought out by private firms. In fact, the sale has already begun. If private firms take over the CSUs they will have a huge influence on the funding and rationing of healthcare in this country.

4 – Personal Health Budgets

Personal Health Budgets (PHBs), in which an individual is allocated a limited amount of money to cover their healthcare needs, are already being introduced in England. While there is the obvious spectre of ‘top-up’ payments for those who exceed their allocated budget, there is another issue here. The classical pattern of funding in the NHS is that money is allocated to Trusts according to the amount of work they need to do. PHBs allow for a move to the private insurance model, where everyone pays in a premium (in this case their PHB) and the private firms then decide who gets treated/which claims to pay out on. You can just imagine the worried well opting to pay their PHB into a private insurer in return for cheaper gym membership and money off their holidays. Meanwhile, the genuinely-ill would end up paying top-ups to access increasingly rationed basic NHS treatment. Combine universal PHBs with privatised CSUs and you get an American-style health system.

5 – Foundation Trusts and Mutualisation

If the land, buildings, back office and budgets have all been privatised, what does that leave? That’s right, the NHS Trusts themselves. All hospital trusts now have a mandate to become independent businesses known as Foundation Trusts. These are standalone organisations which have to keep themselves in the black, and can do so by taking on as much private work as they want. As with the CSUs, the FTs are units ripe for privatisation, which in this case is dressed up as warm and fuzzy “mutualisation“. This means passing from public ownership into the hands of ‘stakeholders’. That’s right, privatisation.


[See link in heading for sources]

B. MPs Conflict of Interest (Health Industry):

Instead of promises to end conflicts of interest between MPs and the NHS, over which they can wield enormous power, Labour has made crowd-pleasing pledges such as the £2.5 billion NHS Time To Care Fund and promised to cap private providers' profits at 5%, pledges which do nothing to halt the overall sell-off to the highest bidders or the obvious systemic corruption laid out in the above list of seventy MPs [see link], designed merely to make voters' heads nod in approval in the short term.

[Note also this list of Conservative Lords with financial links to companies involved in healthcare (from 2012)].

C. The TTIP

The TTIP (like the TPP) is a stone-cold corporate coup d'etat. George Monbiot writes:

The central problem is what the negotiators call investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The treaty would allow corporations to sue governments before an arbitration panel composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people have no representation, and which is not subject to judicial review.

Already, thanks to the insertion of ISDS into much smaller trade treaties, big business is engaged in an orgy of litigation, whose purpose is to strike down any law that might impinge on its anticipated future profits. The tobacco firm Philip Morris is suing governments in Uruguay and Australia for trying to discourage people from smoking. The oil firm Occidental was awarded $2.3bn in compensation from Ecuador, which terminated the company’s drilling concession in the Amazon after finding that Occidental had broken Ecuadorean law. The Swedish company Vattenfall is suing the German government for shutting down nuclear power. An Australian firm is suing El Salvador’s government for $300m for refusing permission for a goldmine over concerns it would poison the drinking water.

The same mechanism, under TTIP, could be used to prevent UK governments from reversing the privatisation of the railways and the NHS, or from defending public health and the natural world against corporate greed. The corporate lawyers who sit on these panels are beholden only to the companies whose cases they adjudicate, who at other times are their employers.

As one of these people commented: “When I wake up at night and think about arbitration, it never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to investment arbitration at all … Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament.”

So outrageous is this arrangement that even the Economist, usually the champion of corporate power and trade treaties, has now come out against it. It calls investor-state dispute settlement “a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people”.


D. Foreign policy/Defence

The Conservatives can, of course, be relied upon to aid the US and NATO in their imperialist adventures. What choice is on offer, then, for voters who do not desire their tax money to be used in such ways? In a detailed analysis of Ed Miliband's likely approach to foreign policy, Ian Sinclair concludes:

What all these examples show is that far from being anti-war Miliband has repeatedly supported wars of choice, often with dubious legal and moral justifications (Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq 2014), most of which have turned out to be a disaster for the country he claimed to be protecting and the wider world (Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq 2014). Like the deeply unpopular Tony Blair, Miliband has publicly stated he would support military action without a UN Security Council resolution. When he did oppose military action this was either done in private, thus minimising the danger to his future political career (Iraq 2003), or has been presented as a clear, moral stand, when in actual fact his position was difficult to distinguish from the government’s own position – and based on ignoring the will of the United Nations (Syria).

If this is how Miliband acts in opposition, what can we expect from him as Prime Minister when he is likely to be under intense American and domestic pressure (from a combination of the armed forces, the intelligence services, the press, his own cabinet, his own party, the opposition party) and is keen to show he is “tough enough”?

It is clear the fight against the UK’s aggressive foreign policy will have to continue after the election, whether it is David Cameron or Ed Miliband sitting in 10 Downing Street.


The last disastrous war that the Labour Party led the UK into was the Iraq War. A recent report says a million Iraqis were killed, 5% of the entire nation's population.

E. Climate Change

The Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG) recently published its findings:

Summary:

There is strong evidence of advanced acceleration in:
• Arctic warming and sea ice decline in a vicious cycle
• Substantial ice loss in Greenland with potential massive loss due to unstable glaciers
• Disruption of jet stream behaviour, with abrupt climate change leading to crop failures, rising food prices and conflict in the Northern Hemisphere
• Rapid emissions of methane from the Arctic seabed, permafrost and tundra.

The tipping point for the Arctic sea ice has already passed.

Conclusions:

The meltdown is accelerating and could become unstoppable as early as Sept 2015
Immediate action must be taken to refreeze the Arctic to halt runaway melting
• Greenhouse gas emissions reduction, however drastic, cannot solve this problem
• Calculations show that powerful interventions are needed to cool the Arctic
Any delay escalates the risk of failure
• Arctic meltdown is a catastrophic threat for civilisation.

AMEG therefore calls for the immediate setting up of a task force, specifically mandated to ensure that the Arctic is cooled as quickly and safely as possible.

[Emphasis (bold) mine]

Yet the environment issue is far down the campaign agenda.

Where are the discussions of tax havens and the trillions stashed in them? The Labour Party talks of funding its NHS Time To Care fund (£2.5 billion) with a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million along with tobacco levies and new taxes on hedge funds when it could more easily target the huge sums avoided by tax dodgers every year:

In November 2011, when the Tackle Tax Havens campaign was launched, a study it carried out revealed that more than $3.1 trillion in tax is evaded, 4.9% of the world's GDP at that time. It also found that in the UK 'a staggering £69.9bn is illegally kept from the exchequer every year, equivalent to 79.8% of the NHS budget'. [Source]

Voters need to ask why tax havens are being left well alone by both parties. While Labour has made pledges with regard to closing the 'non-dom' status tax loophole, does anyone expect serious measures toward closing the global tax haven network?

It is literally the Roman Senate prioritizing something like road maintenance as the Visigoths swarm over the hill. Discussion of the extreme nature of the threats facing the UK and other 'modern democracies' is swamped in the media, drowned out by the vapid and insipid 'analyses' of careerist journalists, all intent on enhancing their 'portfolios', access to the rich and powerful, and number of Twitter followers. Every 'gaffe' and 'twist and turn' of the campaign is hyped out of proportion into something 'potentially game changing' - until it is forgotten when the next one comes along.

Business as usual. John Hilley writes:

Thus, from Labour, the 'best hope', we're assured, for those struggling to survive and dependent on food banks is some supposed 'rescue' through promises of 'renewed growth', notional promises to end zero-hours contracts, and a few paltry tax inducements to all those 'hard-working families'.

And that's about the sum of it; the 'as-good-as-it-gets' limit of 'radical reform'. Decades of 'neoliberal realities' have conditioned politicians, the media and the wider public to the very idea of what's even mentionable, never mind politically doable.

Little wonder so many voters feel deeply alienated from the political system. We're expected to be passive, compliant consumers of supermarket politics and brand-name parties, all hard-selling 'extra-special' versions of the same old generic product.

And the political fare on offer is all manufactured and presented to placate big business, to court corporate approval and to ensure that the ways in which we vent our dissatisfaction is safely-boundaried by QuestionTime-type 'participation'.

So you will hear endless party gushings on the need to 'tackle poverty' and 'create prosperity', but never how to liberate people from the mentally-oppressing anguish, fear and distress of market life.


Yes, there are alternatives. The Greens and - especially - the TUSC list sensible policies that challenge the status quo in their manifestos, identifying many of the above unmentionables as critical threats to the UK. However, even those many people who broadly support the policies of these parties have a devastating disincentive to vote for them: the absurd UK 'first-past-the-post' electoral system, which, chiefly among its many evils, ensures tactical voting, where, in a given constituency, if a voter's preferred candidate has little or no chance of winning, he or she is likely to vote for another candidate who is more likely to defeat the least preferred one. This more than anything leads to a society that is woefully unrepresentative of the preferred policies of its citizens.

This is depicted clearly on this interactive election graphic. The TUSC is not even mentioned - just covered by the 'others' label. While the SNP and Lib Dems can expect some influence over the balance of power, the fundamental policies that will ensure continued dominance by the ruling and corporate classes enjoy a broad bipartisan consensus within the two major parties. The austerity policies that have wrought havoc upon the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of the UK will endure, becoming 'austerity lite' if the Labour Party eventually forms a government. No party challenging these policies has any chance at all, and so their supporters end up voting Labour to 'keep the Tories out'.

And so it goes...every five years...like clockwork. And tens of millions fall for it every time.

The big media circus this week in the electoral campaign has been the successful co-opting of Russell Brand. Brand has been useful in helping to highlight corporate abuses and the dysfunction of the UK's electoral system, bringing these issues to millions of young people who otherwise may never have considered them seriously. His actions over the last two years have also been instructive in highlighting how the corporate media respond to a threat to the status quo. His sincerity and desire for radical change is obvious, but his naivete in embracing the glib promises of Ed Miliband is extremely disappointing.

One has to wonder how much his friend, Guardian journalist Owen Jones, had to do with his decision behind the scenes. Jones, who describes himself as a radical, is nonetheless closely wedded to the Labour Party. Brand, who laughably described Jones as this generation's George Orwell, could plausibly have been convinced by Jones to support the Labour cause, arguing that the best hope is for 'change from within'.

One only needs to look at the current sorry state of the UK to see that this Fabian approach to socialism has been utterly discredited as a means of bringing about meaningful change. The nation's institutions are so thoroughly co-opted and dominated in key positions by those with incentives to keep things just as they are that the idea of gradual, incremental change from within is ludicrous. Brand launched his latest Trews video incredibly saying 'Vote Labour for revolution' and even more incredibly taking Ed Miliband's word that he will 'listen to communities' and 'welcomes and wants pressure from below'. He has embraced lesser evilism, one of the oldest scams in the book, and is going to be in for a major shock if Labour win and the inevitable cosmetic changes are implemented.

What activists like Brand and Jones fail to realise - wilfully or otherwise - is that true change almost always takes time, so long that one may not even live to see it. Real change comes from people who don't necessarily have career plans or personal ambitions; it comes from people willing to take a position they know to be the right one and sticking to it, resisting perceived tactical short-cuts like supporting lesser-evil corporate stooges and blindly trusting them to somehow magically bring about justice and freedom for all, all the while making names for themselves and selling books.

This tactical, pandering-to-the-establishment mindset was revealed in Jones when he stated that he would vote 'No' in the Scottish independence referendum, supporting Labour and the establishment that wanted for their own purposes to prevent Scotland from becoming a proud, independent nation. It is a narrow, cowardly, venal and self-serving philosophy that can perhaps be forgiven in the naive, inexperienced Brand, but not in a journalist who makes a living selling himself as a radical. Declaring himself to be anti-establishment, Jones in facts functions as a valuable servant acting not only as a 'liberal-left' media gatekeeper, but also influencing many thousands of voters, especially younger ones, to vote against their interests for the Labour Party and its corporate-friendly priorities.

The 'revolution' will not come from voting Labour. With no other parties with establishment-challenging policies in with a chance of gaining any power, the only course of action (aside from directly voting for the small radical parties in a show of support) is to opt out of the electoral system that sustains this farcical state of affairs and work towards direct revolutionary change.

The standard establishment response to this call not to vote is to chastise, to remind such an ignorant 'nihilist' that 'people died for the right to vote'. Indeed they did, but they did not die for a meaningless vote, which is precisely what the UK election offers. They died for true representation of the people, not the tired illusion of freedom of choice paraded out every five years in a prolonged circus orchestrated by media owners who benefit directly from its eternal continuation.

'Demos' comes from the Greek for 'common people'. 'Kratos' comes from the Greek for 'rule' or 'strength'. There is no democracy in the UK.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

Facebook: Here

Please also see my main blog.

My articles are written freely. If you appreciate them, Paypal donations can be made at my free book's website.

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