Corbyn can win the General Election

Daniel Margrain

Unelectable Left

No sooner had PM Theresa May announced her decision to go to the country in a snap election predicated on a single issue Brexit strategy, the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, was quickly out of the blocks in his attempts to wrong-foot her. Corbyn’s first General Election campaign speech and Q&A in which he outlined a broad set of policies to tackle growing inequality and reverse years of Tory austerity, was a tour de force.

Electable

The Labour leader’s critics – including many within his own party – argue he is unelectable. However, Corbyn’s political record would suggest otherwise. In his constituency of Islington North, Corbyn inherited a majority of 4,456, which is now 21,194. He’s one of the few Labour MPs whose vote increased between 2005 and 2010, when he added 5,685 to his majority. Although Corbyn is currently well behind in the polls, it must be remembered that pre-coup, Labour led the Tories in three polls in a row over 41 days.

Also, Corbyn’s record at elections is exemplary. London and Bristol now have Labour mayors, rolling back years of Tory dominance, while Labour’s majorities in by-elections have generally increased. It’s true that the by-election in Copeland was a major disappointment but this was largely offset by Gareth Snell who took the Stoke seat.

Moreover, as George Galloway pointed out, prior to that, Labour won three local government by-elections – two off the Tories and one off the SNP. In last May’s local elections, the party overtook the Tories in the share of the vote, coming from seven points behind at the last election.

Meanwhile, the party haemorrhaged 4.9 million votes between 1997 and 2010 under the ‘triangulated’ leadership of Tony Blair. The man who took the country to war in Iraq under a false prospectus, and who lobbies on behalf of some of the world’s most brutal and corrupt dictators, claimed in a moment of Orwellian doublespeak that Corbyn is a disaster for the party. Given Blair’s toxicity, this can only be beneficial for the current Labour leader’s fortunes.

There are other potentially toxic issues that Corbyn can capitalize on. For example, May’s unpopular campaign focusing on grammar schools is likely to play into Corbyn’s hands. Unfortunately, this gain could be offset by his misjudged Brexit strategy prior to May’s announcement which I commented on here. But as I state below, this situation is not irreversible.

Other issues that the Tories won’t be able to hide away from, is the chaos in the NHS and social care sector, the scandal of zero hours contracts, in-work poverty and welfare cuts among others.

Ultimately, the implication the public don’t necessarily favour Corbyn’s politics is wrong. His position on the NHS and the re-nationalization of the railways, for example, are universally popular. Rather, it’s more the case that the elite political-media establishment know Corbyn is incorruptible and therefore feel they are unable to win him over on their own terms. Consequently, they realize that the longer Corbyn remains at the helm the more likely it will be that those sympathetic to him and his policies will be elected into positions of power.

The fact that the media barons are constantly drumming it into the public’s heads that Corbyn is useless and needs to resign, is a testament to his unflinching endurance to see through the mandate entrusted upon him by the rank and file. If the right-wing Tory media herd are so convinced that he is useless and has no chance of winning the next General Election, why would they keep insisting that he resign? Moreover, the criticism often leveled at Corbyn that he provides weak opposition at the dispatch box during PMQs, is belied by the fact that under his leadership the Tories have been forced into some thirty policy u-turns.

Cracks

Cracks have already started to appear in the Tory armory. As Left-Foot Forward have noted, both the PMs press secretary, and her director of communications and long-term adviser, have departed company with her. In addition, “May’s two closest advisers have a long history of intra-government feuds – both were forced to leave May’s home office team after rifts with other members of David Cameron’s cabinet – and the trend seems to be continuing in Number 10.”

According to Politico:

“The string of departures from Number 10 has been linked to May’s highly controlled leadership style. Government officials frequently report that power over government messaging and media strategy is heavily concentrated in the hands of ‘the chiefs’… and that more junior members of staff have limited freedom to operate.”

May’s apparent control freakery is underlined by what Ash Sarkar, describes as “a moment of short-term political opportunism which actually has potential catastrophic affects in terms of a concentration of power in the executive.” This is given further credence by the PMs decision to refuse to take part in a televised public debate, her banning of both the public and journalists from Tory events and the insistence that her MPs sign a three lock pledge.

May’s autocratic style, indicative of her reluctance to allow proper democratic scrutiny or debate, points to her lack of intellectual acumen and the paucity of her campaign policies. The latter point has been picked up on by some establishment commentators. Columnist Fraser Nelson, for example, revealed in the Telegraph (April 21, 2017), that May’s election manifesto is likely to be extremely light in both content and detail which a single hard Brexit strategy implies.

The reliance on a constituency of right-wing extremists to argue for the Tories’ return to Downing Street based on a hard Brexit, while ignoring the key bread and butter issues, is a risky one and could easily play into the hands of her political opponents.

Beneficiary

A major beneficiary of such an approach will almost certainly be the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats which could significantly split the Tory vote. Of course, the billionaire-owning mass media support the Tories with near unanimity. But the front page of the Daily Mail (April 19, 2017) which ran with the headline “Crush The Saboteurs” (see below), is likely to alienate 48 per cent of the population who voted Remain. Therefore, the right-wing media’s depiction of over 16 million people as “the enemy” could realistically backfire on the Tories.

Battle ahead

Arguably, some of Corbyn’s biggest battles in the campaign ahead will be with the media and the disrupting forces inside his own party. However, those already writing-off the Labour leaders chances are, in my view, doing so prematurely.

It’s true that at the present time Corbyn is well behind in the polls but, as Craig Murray points out, this can be misleading. It is also worth keeping in mind that “the last Tory PM to call an early election on a single issue while ahead in the polls was Edward Heath – and he lost.”

It was music to this writers ears that Corbyn began his campaign emphasizing Labour’s policy plans in a lucid and persuasive way. But in my view, he needs also to ensure that voters are to be under no illusion that the hard Brexit May is offering is not what people voted for. He needs to come out and say so unambiguously. In this way he has every chance of capturing a great swath of the Lib-Dem vote.

The two-pronged strategy of focusing on May’s shortcomings over Brexit on the one hand, and policies to reduce inequality and create a fairer society on the other, could silence Corbyn’s critics once and for all. As a Corbyn supporter and campaigner, I have three words for May and the Tories in the days and weeks ahead: “Bring it on.”

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Killing them softly

By Daniel Margrain

The 30 minute documentary film Killing Us Softly (1979) based on a lecture by Jean Kilbourne focuses on the effects of advertising on women’s self-image and the objectification of women’s bodies. Kilbourne argues that the superficial and unreal portrayal of women in advertising lowers their self-esteem and that sexualized images of them are being used to sell virtually all kinds of goods.

Kilbourne then goes on to posit that these images degrade women, encourage abuse, and reinforce a patriarchal and sexist society. She also makes the connection between advertising and pornography, stating that “the advertisers are America’s real pornographers”.

Almost four decades after the release of the film, Kilbourne discussed her ideas as part of a campaign to bring her ideas to a new audience of young people (see below). Significantly, she says since her film’s initial release in 1979 “things have got worse, not better.”

Anniversary

This week marks the second anniversary of the tragic death of 21 year old bulimia sufferer Eloise Perry who died at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital one week after having swallowed eight unlicensed fat-burning pills that she purchased from the internet.

The pills, which the Food Standards Agency describe as being illegal to sell for human consumption, contained DNP which is an industrial chemical historically used in the manufacture of explosives and fungicides. Website companies who sell this chemical depict DNP as a fat burning product and some even use the tag line “getting leaner through chemistry” as a marketing tool.

No sooner do the UK authorities close down these sites, they reappear under different names. The fact that informed young people like Ms Parry who are aware of the risks, are so desperate to lose weight that they are prepared to go to such extreme lengths, is not only an indication that the battle is being lost, but it raises wider questions about the nature of the kind of society we live in.

Social pressures

The social pressures for young women (and increasingly young men) to conform to certain expectations placed upon them by the media are immense. The upshot is that they are involved in a constant psychological battle between myth and reality. In Britain, for example, the average size of a woman is now 16 but the ‘aspirational’ size is zero – an unobtainable goal.

The contradiction between reality and aspiration and the weaponization of feminism is undermining many of the gains that women made in the debates of the 1960s and 1970s. What Ariel Levi terms “raunch culture” is another symptom of the undermining of the gains made.

A tour by High Street Honey’s that involves women employed by lads mags touring the various university campuses throughout the country dressed as porn stars, is yet another social layer as part of the pressure for young women to conform to certain body-image stereotypes placed upon them.

The notion that pole dancing which is sold as exercise classes at some universities and widely regarded as being empowering for women in terms of getting them in touch with their inner sexuality, is in reality, setting back women’s rights decades. Activities like this inhibit the way women (and increasingly men) feel about their bodies and therefore they cannot be disentangled from the tragic case of Ms Parry.

The normalization of sexist imagery in pop videos and television commercials and the sexualization of young girls clothes, is another illustration of raunch culture outlined by Levi in which fantasies, desires and ambitions are transformed into commodities to make money.

The growth in cosmetic surgery is another factor that increases expectations on women’s appearances. Ninety-one per cent of cosmetic surgery is undertaken on women of which the most popular is breast enhancement. I was astounded to learn that in the U.S it’s widely considered normal practice for girls to be given a breast enlargement as a graduation present.

It’s a fact that a growing number of girls who suffer low self-esteem perpetuated by a media system that constantly portrays an ‘ideal’ body shape is a tendency that’s less common in the developing world.

Objectification

This would seem to suggest that mental illness, of which eating disorders are a reflection, is to a large extent symptomatic of the growth of the consumerist capitalist society in which human relations are objectified. In Marxist terms, objectification is the process by which human capacities are transferred to an object and embodied in it.

Young females who read fashion magazines tend to have more bulimic symptoms than those females who do not – further demonstrating the impact the media has on the likelihood of developing the disorder. As J. Kevin Thompson and Eric Stice have shown, individuals first accept and ‘buy into’ the ideals set by fashion magazines, and then attempt to transform themselves in order to reflect the societal ideals of attractiveness.

The thin fashion model ideal is then reinforced by the wider media reflecting unrealistic female body shapes leading to high levels of discomfort among large swaths of the female population and the drive towards thinness that this implies.

Consequently, dissatisfaction, coupled with a drive for thinness, is thought to promote dieting and its negative affects, which could eventually lead to bulimic symptoms such as purging or binging. Binges lead to self-disgust which causes purging to prevent weight gain.

Thompson’s and Stice’s research  highlights the extent to which the media affect what they term the “thin ideal internalization”. The researchers used randomized experiments (more specifically programmes) dedicated to teaching young women how to be more critical when it comes to media, in order to reduce thin ideal internalization. The results showed that by creating more awareness of the media’s control of the societal ideal of attractiveness, the thin ideal internalization significantly dropped.

In other words, less thin ideal images portrayed by the media resulted in less thin ideal internalization. Therefore, Thompson and Stice concluded that there is a direct correlation between the media portrayal of women and how they feel about themselves.

Social media also plays a part in this regard. A recent two part study [1] looking at social media sites, such as Facebook, researched influence and risk for eating disorders. In the first part of the study, 960 women completed self-report surveys regarding Facebook use and disordered eating. In the second part of the study, 84 women were randomly assigned to use Facebook or to use an alternate internet site for 20 minutes.

What the cross-sectional survey illustrates, is that more frequent Facebook use is associated with greater disordered eating. The survey indicates a close correlation between Facebook use and the maintenance of weight/shape concerns and state anxiety compared to an alternate internet activity [1]. Other research suggests an etiological link between eating disorders and the tendency towards self-harming [now referred to as Non Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI)] [2].

Prevalence

In terms of prevalence, over 1.6 million people in the UK are estimated to be directly affected by eating disorders. However, the Department of Health estimate that the figure is more likely to be 4 million due to the huge level of unmet need in the community [3].

Studies suggest that as many as 8 per cent of women have bulimia at some stage in their life. The condition can occur at any age, but mainly affects women aged between 16 and 40 (on average, it starts around the age of 18 or 19). Reports estimate that up to a quarter of Britons struggling with eating disorders may be male [4].

References

1.Mabe AG, Forney KJ, Keel PK. Int J Eat Disord. 2014 Jul;47(5):516-23 Do you “like” my photo?  

2.Colleen M. Jacobson and Cynthia C. Luik, Epidemiology and Sociocultural Aspects of Non-suicidal Self-Injury and Eating Disorders 2014

3. Joint Commissioning Panel For Mental Health (www.jcpmh.info/wp-content/uploads/10keymsgs-eatingdisorders.pdf)

4. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Bulimia/Pages/Introduction.aspx

 

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Why the latest claims against Assad are a pack of lies

By Daniel Margrain

Image result for anti-assad propaganda

With a critical public increasingly turning to social media to scrutinize the claims of the mainstream as well as the credibility of the assertions made by the various NGOs and government-funded human rights organisations, it’s arguably becoming more difficult for the corporate press to pass their propaganda off as legitimate news.

This is particularly the case during periods when the establishment pushes for military conflicts. One salutary lesson from the Iraq debacle, is that the public appear not to be so readily fooled. Or are they?

It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media barely stray from their paymasters tune, that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch an illegal missile strike on Syria on April 7, 2017. Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017) stated that the attack on the al-Shayrat airbase was “in retaliation to a sarin gas attack by president Assad” (three days earlier). However, for the reasons outlined below, such a scenario seems highly unlikely.

New York Times reporter, Michael B Gordon, who co-authored that papers infamous fake aluminum tube story of September 8, 2002 as part of the media’s propaganda offensive leading up to the 2003 U.S-led Iraq invasion, published (along with co-author Anne Barnard), the latest chemical weapons fake news story intended to fit with the establishment narrative on Syria.

Lack of scepticism

Showing no scepticism that the Syrian military was responsible for intentionally deploying poison gas in Khan Seikhoun, the authors cited the widely discredited $100m-funded terrorist-enablers, the White Helmets, as the basis for their story. Meanwhile, the doyen of neocon drum-beating war propaganda in Britain, Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, wrote a day after the alleged April 4 attack: “We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.

Even the usually cautious Guardian journalist George Monbiot appears to be eager for military action. On Twitter (April 7, 2017) Monbiot claimed: “We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.” Three days later, media analysts Media Lens challenged Monbiot by citing the views of former UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, both of whom contradicted Monbiot’s assertion. “What do you know that Hans Blix and Scott Ritter don’t know?”, inquired the analysts. Monbiot failed to reply.

Apparently it hadn’t occurred to these, and practically all the other mainstream journalists (with the notable exception of Peter Oborne and Peter Hitchens), that Assad’s motive for undertaking such an attack was weak. As investigative reporter Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories, argued:

“Since Assad’s forces have gained a decisive upper-hand over the rebels, why would he risk stirring up international outrage at this juncture? On the other hand, the desperate rebels might view the horrific scenes from the chemical-weapons deployment as a last-minute game-changer.”

A second major inconsistency in the official narrative are the contradictory claims relating to the sarin issue. Charles Shoebridge referred to a Guardian article that claims sarin was used, but he counters the claim by stating: “Yet, a rescuer tells its reporter “we could smell it 500m away”. The intelligence and terrorism expert was quick to point out that sarin is odorless (unless contaminated). Blogger Mark J Doran astutely remarked: “Now, who is going be stuck with lousy, impure sarin? A nation state or a terrorist group?”

Meanwhile, independent investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out that neurological symptoms that mimic those of sarin can be achieved by phosphine gas when in contact with moisture and the smell is similar to what was reported by eyewitnesses in Khan Seikhoun.

Then there has been the willingness of the media to cite what is clearly an untrustworthy source, ‘British doctor’, Shajul Islam. Despite  having been struck off the British medical register for misconduct in March 2016, the media have quoted or shown Islam in their reports where he has been depicted as a key witness to the alleged gas attack and hence helped augment the unsubstantiated media narrative. In 2012 Shajul Islam was charged with terror offences in a British court.

Peter Hitchens takes up the story:

“He was accused of imprisoning John Cantlie, a British photographer, and a Dutchman, Jeroen Oerlemans. Both men were held by a militant group in Syria and both were wounded when they tried to escape. Shajul Islam, it was alleged, was among their captors. Shajul Islam’s trial collapsed in 2013, when it was revealed that Mr Cantlie had been abducted once again, and could not give evidence.

Mr Oerlemans refused to give evidence for fear that it would further endanger Mr Cantlie. Mr Oerlemans has since been killed in Libya. So the supposedly benevolent medical man at the scene of the alleged atrocity turns out to be a struck-off doctor who was once put on trial for kidnapping.”

Fourth, there is the question as to why the U.S would launch a military strike in the knowledge that it would risk further sarin leaks into the atmosphere. As the writer and musician, Gilad Atzmon, argues:

“It doesn’t take a military analyst to grasp that the American attack on a remote Syrian airfield contradicts every possible military rationale. If America really believed that Assad possessed a WMD stockpile and kept it in al-Shayrat airbase, launching a missile attack that could lead to a release of lethal agents into the air would be the last thing it would do. If America was determined to ‘neutralise’ Assad’s alleged ‘WMD ability’ it would deploy special forces or diplomacy. No one defuses WMD with explosives, bombs or cruise missiles. It is simply unheard of.”

Atzmon adds:

“The first concern that comes to mind is why do you need a saxophonist to deliver the truth every military expert understands very well? Can’t the New York Times or the Guardian reach the same obvious conclusion? It’s obvious enough that if Assad didn’t use WMD when he was losing the war, it would make no sense for him to use it now when a victory is within reach.”

Logical explanation

A far more logical explanation,  given the location, is that chemicals were released into the air by Salafist terrorists to frame the Syrian government. The location of the alleged attack is the al-Qaeda-affiliated controlled, Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province. It is from here that the Western-funded White Helmets operate. Rather conveniently, they were soon at the scene of the alleged attack without the necessary protective clothing being filmed hosing down victims.

As Al-Qaeda and their enabler’s are the kinds of people who cut out and eat human organs as well as decapitate heads, they are likely to have little compunction in using Syrian civilians, including children and women, as a form of ‘war porn propaganda’ in order to garner public sympathy as the pretext for Western intervention.

Syrian-based journalist, Tom Dugan, who has been living in the country for the last four years, claims no gas attack happened. Rather, he asserts that the Syrian air force destroyed a terrorist-owned and controlled chemical weapons factory mistaking it for an ammunition dump, and “the chemicals spilled out.” This seems to be the most plausible explanation.

Mr Dugan’s version is markedly similar to the analysis of former DIA colonel, Patrick Lang Donald who, on April 7, 2017 said:

“Trump’s decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib. Here is what happened:

  1. The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.
  2. The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believes was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamic rebels.
  3. The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.
  4. There was a strong wind blowing that day and the cloud was driven to a nearby village and caused casualties.
  5. We know it was not sarin. How? Very simple. The so-called “first responders” handled the victims without gloves. If this had been sarin they would have died. Sarin on the skin will kill you. How do I know? I went through “Live Agent” training at Fort McClellan in Alabama.

The former colonel’s testimony is extremely persuasive and exposes the media’s attempts to take at face value Pentagon propaganda. Another convincing reason to discount the official narrative, is because Assad doesn’t possess any chemical weapons. Even The Wall Street Journal, citing a Hague-based watchdog agency, conceded on June 23, 2014 that “the dangerous substances from Syria’s chemical weapons program, including sulfur mustard and precursors of sarin, have now been removed from the country after a monthslong process.”

The plot thickens

On April 11. 2017 in response to the claims and counter claims, Washington released into the public domain a four-page White House Intelligent Report (WHR) by the National Security Council (NSC), purporting to prove the Syrian government’s responsibility for the alleged sarin attack and a rebuttal of Russia’s claim that rebels unleashed the gas to frame the Syrian government. Among the numerous claims of the WHR, was that the site of the alleged sarin release had not been tampered with.

But as one commentator pointed out, “any serious examination of the WHR reveals it to be a series of bare assertions without any supporting evidence….and is filled with phrases like “The United States is confident” … “We have confidence in our assessment” … “We assess” … “Our information indicates” … “It is clear” … and so on. In other words, “this is the US government speaking, trust us.”

More importantly, upon its release, the credibility of the WHR was also called into question by the respected US physicist and missile expert Theodore Postol, emeritus professor at MIT. In his detailed analysis released on April 11, 2017 titled A Quick Turnaround Assessment of the White House Intelligence Report about the Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria, professor Postol argues that the physical evidence strongly suggests the delivery system for the nerve gas was a mortar shell placed on the ground, not a bomb dropped from a warplane. Towards the end of his critique, Postol said, “The situation is that the White House has produced a false, obviously misleading and amateurish report.”

Elaborating on his argument in a television interview, the MIT professor said:

“The report, quite frankly, doesn’t meet the laugh test. As an American citizen I want to know who signed it off….I think this is an indication that there is something extremely problematic in the American national system with regard to the use of intelligence.”

Postol added:

“It indicates a willingness on the part of high level people in the White House to distort and to use intelligence claims that are false to make political points and political arguments….I think this report was almost certainly politically-motivated… This is a serious and intolerable situation.”

On April 13, 2017 Postol produced a follow-up critique of the WHR – an Addendum to the first report – in which he asserts that “the assumption that the site of the alleged sarin release had not been tampered with was totally unjustified and no competent analyst would have argued that this assumption was valid.”

Postel goes on to criticise the veracity of the claims the WHR make with regards to the “communications intercepts” and the basis by which other intelligence assessments were made.

In a third paper – all of which have been totally ignored by the corporate Western media – Postol augments his previous papers by citing additional evidence from two selected videos which were uploaded to YouTube in the time period between April 5, 2017 and April 7, 2017.

The MIT professor posits that:

“Analysis of the videos shows that all of the scenes taken at the site where the WHR claims was the location of a sarin release indicate significant tampering with the site.  Since these videos were available roughly one week before the White House report was issued on April 11, this indicates that the office of the WHR made no attempt to utilize the professional intelligence community to obtain accurate data in support of the findings in the report.”

Postol points out that one of the videos indicates that workers in the close vicinity of the alleged bomb site were not wearing any protection of any kind to protect them from sarin poisoning, while others were inadequately protected.

Postol concludes by stating bluntly that “the WHR report was fabricated without input from the professional intelligence community.” He then reiterates the corporate media’s version of events, namely, that on April 4, 2017 a nerve agent attack had occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria during the early morning hours locally on that day and that three days later the U.S government carried out a cruise missile attack on Syria ordered by President Trump without any valid intelligence to support it.

Significantly, Postol then states:

“In order to cover up the lack of intelligence to support the president’s action, the National Security Council produced a fraudulent intelligence report on April 11, four days later. The individual responsible for this report was Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, the National Security Advisor. The McMaster report is completely undermined by a significant body of video evidence taken after the alleged sarin attack and before the US cruise missile attack that unambiguously shows the claims in the WHR could not possibly be true. This cannot be explained as a simple error….

“…This unambiguously indicates a dedicated attempt to manufacture a false claim that intelligence actually supported the president’s decision to attack Syria, and of far more importance, to accuse Russia of being either complicit or a participant in an alleged atrocity.”

Postol then repeats a quote from the WHR:

“An open source video also shows where we believe the chemical munition landed—not on a facility filled with weapons, but in the middle of a street in the northern section of Khan Shaykhun [Emphasis Added]. Commercial satellite imagery of that site from April 6, after the allegation, shows a crater in the road that corresponds to the open source video.”

And then adds:

“The data provided in these videos make it clear that the WHR made no good-faith attempt to collect data that could have supported its “confident assessment.” that the Syrian government executed a sarin attack as indicated by the location and characteristics of the crater.”

If Postol’s version of events, which is the basis of Russia’s position (see below), is true (which is extremely likely), it’s almost certainly the case that the rebels on the ground linked to al-Qaeda who control Khan Sheikhoun, are the same people who carried out the alleged false flag attack.

Timing

Another aspect to all this which seems to have been overlooked by many commentators, is the timing of the incident. An observant reader, kindly pointed out to me the discrepancy between the reported time-frames of the gas release and the alleged sarin chemical attack. Lebanese independent investigative journalist, Adel Karim, stated that at 8am on April 4, 2017, journalists linked to radical groups located in Idlib provided him with material that purported to show the consequences of the alleged attack.

The timing of the rebel account of the attack was contradicted by Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konoshenkov who claimed that an attack took place between 11.30am and 12.30pm on that day, and that the said attack was directed against a “large terrorist ammunition depot and a concentration of military hardware in the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun town.”

The above anomaly, therefore, reiterates the contention made by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem that the first reports of the chemical attack from rebel-affiliated groups “appeared several hours before the government airstrike”. It follows that Karim’s version of events appears credible and the account provided to him by rebel groups in Idlib, is therefore almost certainly bogus.

The Lebanese journalist concludes convincingly that “the decision to attack the Syrian military infrastructure was taken in Washington long before the fabricated events in Khan Sheikhoun and what happened was a “staged falsification” aimed to “justify U.S aggression against Syria.”

Whatever the truth, both the anomaly in regard to the timings of the alleged incident and, more significantly, professor Postel’s analysis, are surely significant enough to be worthy of further investigation by Western corporate media outlets such as the BBC. But at the time of writing (April 17), other than the occasional brief interview with former Syrian ambassador, Peter Ford, no alternative narratives have been aired.

One of the few media outlets who have been prepared to give the oxygen of publicity to opposing viewpoints, however, is RT. Unlike the BBC, the Russian-based broadcaster has recently interviewed Postol at some length.

Pattern

This sequence of events follows a recent pattern of anti-Assad claims exemplified by four similar controversial stories in which the corporate media have attempted to pass fiction off as fact. The first of these on February 13, 2017, relates to the findings of a report by Amnesty International which contends that Assad was responsible for the “execution by mass hangings” of up to 13,000 people. The alleged atrocity that evoked in the press comparisons to Nazi concentration camps, was within days criticised for its unsubstantiated and uncorroborated claims.

It should be recalled that it was Amnesty International who uncritically supported the emergence of a fake news story during the first Gulf War in which Iraqi soldiers were said to have taken scores of babies out of incubators in Kuwait City leaving them to die.

The second press release, three days after the mass-execution story aired, concerned the heart-rending case of a Syrian boy who Anne Barnard of the New York Times reported on twitter as having “his legs…cut because of attacks from Assad and Russia.”

It soon transpired, however, that the organization credited with filming the “attacks” was Revolution Syria, a pro-insurgency media outfit who also provided the videos for the equally fraudulent claim that the Russians bombed a school in Haas in October 2016. Dr Barbara McKenzie provides a detailed background to the story which can be read here.

The third piece of false reporting to have emerged, is in connection with Security Council resolution 2235 which highlights the conclusions of a August, 2015 OPCW-UN report. The said report, aimed at introducing new sanctions against Syria (which Russia and China vetoed), didn’t make the claims subsequently attributed to it in the corporate media, namely that between April, 2014 and August, 2015 the Assad government was definitively responsible for three chemical attacks using chlorine.

Security analyst Charles Shoebridge pointed out on March 1, 2017, that “most media didn’t even seem to bother reading the report”. Shoebridge confirmed that the OPCW-UN investigation contained findings that did not correspond to what the public was being told. Pointing out the reports many caveats and reservations, the analyst said the evidence “wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered “strong”, or “overwhelming”, adding that “investigators were largely reliant on reports from the White Helmets.”

Finally, independent journalist Gareth Porter inferred that U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda after he exposed distortions contained in a March 1, 2017 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry which claimed that an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in the west of Aleppo City on Sept. 19, 2016, was undertaken by Syrian government planes. Porter reveals that the reports findings were based on pro-rebel Syrian White Helmets testimonies that were “full of internal contradictions.”

Extraordinarily, in March, 2016 German journalist Dr. Ulfkotte brought the lies of the mainstream out into the open by confessing live on television that he was forced to publish the works of intelligence agents under his own name, adding that noncompliance with these orders would result in him losing his job. Sharing this information in front of millions of people (reminiscent of the film Network), Ulfkotte said:

“I’ve been a journalist for about 25 years, and I was educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public. But seeing right now within the last months how the German and American media tries to bring war to the people in Europe, to bring war to Russia — this is a point of no return and I’m going to stand up and say it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do and have done in the past because they are bribed to betray the people, not only in Germany, all over Europe.”

The inability of mainstream journalists to undertake basic fact-checking illuminated by the examples described, reinforce the veracity of Ulfkotte’s claims that corporate journalists are “educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public.” But more than that, it amounts to a stark admission that the corruption at the heart of the elite media and political establishment is systemic. As Mark Doran on Twitter put it: “Our corrupt politics, our international crime, and our ‘free media’ form a seamless whole.” The goal of this consolidation of power is to secure yet another middle east resource grab.

Daniel Margrain is a freelance writer based in London. He has a masters degree in Globalization, Culture & the City from Goldsmiths. His articles have appeared in numerous on-line publications and blogs.

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21st Century Victorian Holocausts

By Daniel Margrain

 

Author Milan Kundera’s aphorism that “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”, might well have been written for the starving, poor, sick, mentally ill and disabled whose suffering the vast majority of the political-media class are attempting to wipe from the pages of history.

One rare exception is the Daily Mirror who occasionally report on the plight of world’s “unpeople”. I will never forget, for example, their courageous coverage of the Iraq WMD debacle or the fact they were the only corporate daily paper at the time to give prominence to John Pilger’s insightful journalism. Also, to their credit, shortly before the last General Election, they availed their readers of the attempts by the Tories to cover-up rates of suicide among Britain’s sick and disabled people who the government deem fit for work.

The Mirror’s revelations underpinned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refusal to release figures highlighting the number of Incapacity Benefit and ESA claimants who had died between November, 2011 and May, 2014. It was only after concerted political pressure from below that the government were eventually forced into releasing the information by the Information Commissioner (IC).

The DWP Secretary at that time, Iain Duncan Smith, who admitted that his department have a “duty of care” to benefit claimants, disingenuously insisted that there was no evidence of a ‘causal link’ between the governments work capability assessment (WCA) and the subsequent 590 recorded deaths from suicide.

This was contradicted by the coroners findings which stated that all of the deaths “certainly aren’t linked to any other cause”. It was subsequently revealed that WCA assessors “used psychological ‘nudge’ techniques to push the mentally-ill and those with disabilities towards suicide in order to reduce the ‘burden’ on society caused by these “useless eaters”.

The recorded figures of avoidable deaths resulting from the attempts by WCA assessors to ‘nudge’ people off benefits towards work, almost certainly represents the tip of an enormous ice berg.

In an an attempt to humanize some of those who died in this way, concerned citizens have recorded the personal details of some of the individuals and the circumstances that led to their untimely deaths. This information can be viewed here, here, here and here. It’s particularly shocking to this writer that in Britain in 2017 many of those listed died of starvation.

Deception

The recent personal testimony of commentator Stewart Bailey provides a graphic insight into how assessors are encouraged to push claimants off-benefits towards serious hardship. Mr Bailey’s account which highlights a series of misrepresentations and falsehoods made by assessors in relation to his health condition, is supported by the findings of the Disability News Service (DNS) who have collected evidence as part of a lengthy investigation.

The DNS allege widespread dishonesty by assessors working for the outsourcing giants Capita and Atos. Claimants spoke repeatedly of dishonesty, “fraudulent conduct” and “lie after lie after lie” told by assessors in their reports, on which DWP decision-makers based their decisions on their eligibility for Personal Independence payments (PIPs).

This comes on top of the introduction (April 6, 2017) of the governments policy to reduce tax credits to families with two children meaning 116,000 households will be affected pushing an additional 387,000 children into poverty. Levels of welfare payments in the UK are so low that they have been described by the Council of Europe as “manifestly inadequate“.

The DNS findings also come a few days after their revelation of new plans which indicate that the Tory genocide against the sick and disabled is set to accelerate. The news service have revealed that new government reviews into PIPs means that disabled people are constantly in fear of having their payments cuts or, worse, halted.

The DNS point out that nearly half (45%) of PIP claimants who had a planned review of their award in 2016 either saw it cut or lost it entirely based on the absurd pretext that cutting benefits to the long-term disabled will help them into work.

Joe Whittaker, chair of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, said: “The imposition of yet another stage in the already oppressive process to ‘support disabled people into employment’, cynically named a ‘health and work conversation’, is another pernicious attempt to weaken the rights of disabled people.”

Caroline Richardson, one of the authors of a report on last years green paper for the Spartacus Network of sick and disabled campaigners published last month (March, 2017), said the plans show “a total ignorance of the level of sickness or disability that the claimant may be experiencing, and will subsequently lead to huge stress and deprivation at what may be a crisis point in people’s lives”.

The Spartacus report accused ministers of using the green paper as a “smokescreen” to disguise their intention to cut support and force sick and disabled people into inappropriate work.

Life unworthy of life

While all decent people rightly regard this ‘involuntary euthanasia’ strategy to be deeply shocking, it should be noted that it is far from being a new one. Years before moving towards explicit racial genocide, the Nazis developed the notion of ‘useless mouths’ or ‘life unworthy of life’ to justify their killing of ‘undesirables’ who like the Tories they regarded as a ‘drain on society’ whose value was measured solely in terms of their perceived negative impact on the ‘taxpayer’.

These ideas are a variant of nineteenth century ‘Social Darwinism’ and eugenicist theories, which adapted Darwin’s notion of the survival of the fittest to describe relationships within society or between nations and races as a perpetual evolutionary struggle in which the supposedly weaker or defective elements were weeded out by the strongest and the ‘fittest’ by natural selection.

Off benefits into coffins

Following Duncan Smith’s resignation over a scandal in which people are being pushed off benefits into coffins, many people were hopeful of a change in policy direction under his successor, Stephen Crabb. But these hopes were soon dashed after the latter announced a further six years of “welfare reforms” (euphemism for £12 billion of cuts to the most in need).

What independent journalist, Mike Sivier, correctly, in my view, described as a preventable “war of attrition” amounts to an ideological attack on those who are least able to defend themselves. This war is continuing under the current DWP minister, Damian Green, after it was recently revealed that the government reversed Tribunal rulings that would have extended financial support to 160,000 people with disabilities.

The attempts by the Tories to humiliate and inflict immense suffering on the weakest in society, is what film-maker Ken Loach described as the British governments “conscious cruelty” towards them.

Historical continuum

The ethnic cleansing of the poor by stealth is not, of course, limited to British citizens but forms an integral part of an historical continuum that extends throughout the world. The Nazi Genocide was an extreme version of the ruling classes attitude towards ‘undesirables’.

The symbiosis that exists between the UK government, M15/6, the vice-chair of the BBC Trust and British arms manufacturer, BAE Systems (ie the industrial-military complex or ‘Deep State’), is a contemporary expression of how this ‘conscious cruelty’ is being played out in relation, for example, to the killing fields of Yemen.

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia exceed the amount given in aid to Yemen by a factor of ten and is indicative of how imperial power, whose corollary is the industrial-military complex, is actively complicit in a famine that is engulfing the country. As Chris Murphy, citing a Huffington Post article, put it: “I feel like a broken record, but please read this – we are plunging Yemen into famine – on purpose.” Even the Economist concedes that famine which is menacing millions of people throughout the country, is a consequence of war, not drought.

Not only is the UK government providing the Saudi regime with the BAE bombs that are being dropped on Yemeni civilians but, as historian Mark Curtis has shown, it has a long collaborative history of training and funding Jihadist Islamist groups in its various proxy wars in countries that include Libya, Iran, Pakistan, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Bosnia. The famine in Yemen is directly linked to the UK governments collusion with radical Islam as part of its strategy to extract resources from the country.

Expendable

In essence, the poor and weak are viewed by imperial power as nothing more than expendable objects to be dehumanized, stigmatized and exploited as part of the imperial game of profit maximization. Whether it’s the culling of ‘useless eaters’ in Britain, the historical asset-stripping of Africa, the contemporary conflicts in Syria and Iraq or the famine in Yemen, the principles and objectives are invariably the same – the theft of resources, the exploitation of the poor and weak and the undermining of basic human rights.

These ideas would not have come as any surprise to the politicians of the Victorian era who would have shared with Tory Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green, Chancellor, Philip Hammond and Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, an ideological commitment towards ending ‘welfare dependency’ and promoting ‘humanitarian interventionism’ and the ‘responsibility to protect’. Then, as now, lofty sounding morals are regularly evoked.

One of Hammond’s prominent 19th century counterparts was ‘India’s Nero’, Lord Lytton. Like Hammond, Queen Victoria’s “favourite opium-smoking poet”, vehemently opposed efforts to interfere with “market forces”. In 1877-78 Lytton rubber-stamped the export of a record amount of wheat grain to Europe rather than relieve starvation in India.

During the late 19th century, India, under Lytton, had effectively become a Utilitarian laboratory where millions of lives were wagered against dogmatic faith in omnipotent markets overcoming the “inconvenience of dearth”.

Free market zealot

A similar Utilitarian laboratory had been established by Britain in Ireland during this late Victorian period. Under the tutelage of free market zealot, Chancellor Lord Charles Trevelyan, the Irish famine ‘relief effort’ was put into place that resulted in a politically-induced genocide no different in principle to the ‘cheque book euthanasia’ policy of the modern day Tories.

The tragedy of the famine is commemorated each year by people from all over the world. Later next month (May 20, 2017), those gathered will descend on the beautiful County Mayo coastline in the west of Ireland to take part in the ten mile Famine Walk from Doo Lough to Louisburgh – the town where on the night of March 30, 1849, hundreds of starving people arrived seeking relief and workhouse shelter.

They were met at the shelter by the local Poor Law guardians whose role was to ‘inspect’ them as certification for their ‘official pauper’ status. This would then supposedly entitle them to a ration of food to be eaten the following morning at a fishing establishment called Delphi Lodge owned by the Marquess of Sligo, ten miles away.

Many didn’t arrive at their destination having died from exposure to the harsh elements or through starvation. The few that did make it were refused the relief they were told they were entitled to and they died on their homeward journey, with the bodies remaining where they fell.

Such tragedies were common in Ireland in the mid-19th century. By 1871 the population of the country had halved, with at least 1.5 million dead. Two million fled to America, many of them dying during the voyage or on arrival. The historian and critic, Terry Eagleton, describes the famine as “the greatest social disaster of 19th century Europe, an event with something of the characteristics of a low-level nuclear attack.”

In echoing the kind of detached but scornful class-based attitude the contemporary ruling elite have towards their working class minions Trevelyan, in a rather casually racist manner, said of the Irish:

“The great evil with which we have to contend, is not the physical evil of the famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people.”

Pleading

Lord Clarendon, an establishment Anthony Wedgewood (Tony) Benn, of his day, pleaded with the Liberal PM, Lord Russell to intervene, stating:

“Surely this is a state of things to justify you asking the House of Commons for an advance. For I don’t think there is another legislature in Europe that would disregard such suffering as now exists in the west of Ireland, or coldly persist in such a policy of extermination.”

Clarendon’s call for Russell to intervene wasn’t heeded and neither were similar calls to prevent famines in other nations during the Victorian colonial era – China, India, Egypt, Korea, Brazil, Russia, Ethiopia and Sudan. In the latter two countries alone, an estimated one-third of the populations died.

The European empires, together with Japan and the United States, rapaciously exploited the opportunity to wrest new colonies, expropriate communal lands, and tap novel sources of plantation and mine labour. As Mike Davis points out:

“What seemed from a metropolitan perspective the nineteenth century’s final blaze of imperial glory was, from an Asian or African viewpoint, only the hideous light of a giant funeral pyre. The total human toll…could not of been less than 30 million victims. Fifty million dead might not be unrealistic.”

Resonates

The famines of the Victorian era continue to resonate today throughout Africa. Then, as now, they were a symptom of social and economic policies that result in unnecessary deaths. Even in the 19th century this was well understood.

The radical journalist and humanitarian, William Digby, principal chronicler of the 1876 Madras famine, as well as famed naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, for example, both viewed mass starvation as an avoidable political tragedy not ‘natural’ disaster. Published in 1898, Wallace characterized the famines in India and China, together with the slum poverty of the industrial cities, as “the most terrible failures of the century.”

Millions died, not outside the capitalist system but in the very process of being forcibly incorporated into its economic and political structures. Indeed, they were killed by the theological application of the sacred principles of Smith, Locke, Hobbes, Bentham, Malthus and Mill in much the same way as hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of today’s poor, mentally ill and disabled have, under the Tories, died as a result of the neoclassical economic Chicago School’s application of the sacred principles of Friedman and Stigler.

The consensus view among the ruling class of the Victorian era was that famine was deemed to be a morally justifiable “salutary cure for over-population.” Today, over three million of the world’s children die needlessly from hunger. Indebted countries are forced to export food as a “free-market” commodity while the producers are denied their own produce and many of them go hungry, and their children starve.

That is what happened in Ireland and India. In Trevelyan and Lytton’s day it was known as Liberalism. Today it is known as ‘neoliberalism’. “England made the famine”, wrote the Irish socialist, James Connolly, “by a rigid application of the economic principles that lie at the base of capitalist society.”

In essence, nothing has changed. The ruling class attitude towards the poor and sick who suffer as a result of the political consequences and actions of those who rule over them, is as deeply embedded today as it was a century and a half ago.

Jonathan Freedland: Britain’s Greatest Stenographer?

Image result for jonathan freedland, pics

By Daniel Margrain

In his latest article for the Guardian (April 5, 2017), Jonathan Freedland provides a commentary in support of the near-consensus view among the corporate mass media that Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad’s government was responsible for the latest chemical gas atrocity in Idlib province in the north of the country. “We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” says Freedland. What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.

Any chances the public had of getting any clarification from an alternative source like the BBC were also dashed. What a great swath of the British public have now come to expect is that the country’s national broadcaster is little more than a propaganda arm of the state. The organisations latest report on the incident via their middle east website does nothing to dispel such a claim.

As expected, the basis for their assertion that Assad was responsible for the incident were statements made by White House officials and UK-based NGOs. From Iraq to Libya, and now Syria, this kind of reliance on partial and unreliable sources represents, an only too familiar pattern.

Surely, the public can expect a more honest and critical evaluation of events from the nations premium left of centre and liberal ‘progressive’ broadsheet, the Guardian, right? Well, actually, no.

As with the BBC, Freedland discounts the far more likely and rational explanation proffered by the UK governments official enemies, Damascus and Moscow. Echoed by UK security analyst, Charles Shoebridge, the rationale underlying this explanation is that it’s extremely unlikely that Assad would engage in such a self-destructive action.

This is because the world-wide condemnation that would follow one day in advance of a UN EU conference in Brussels beginning today (April 5, 2017) – the stated intention of which is to bring about peace – would run contrary to such a strategy. Logically, the only people who would benefit from the disruption of such a meeting would be Assad’s extremist political opponents.

Furthermore, as Shoebridge suggests, Assad cannot, from his perspective, be said to be motivated by any need to deflect from what is currently an advantageous position, militarily. The people who benefit from this kind of attack the most are the Western-backed ‘rebel’ terrorists “because they gain a major political advantage at a time when they are struggling both politically and geo-strategically.”

It should also be recalled, that until very recently the Trump administration’s stated position was the rejection of Obama’s policy of regime change in Syria. Rather, he was more concerned with destroying Assad’s terrorist enemies. Conveniently, the gas attack provided the pretext for a shifting of policy back towards regime change. As the former ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, put it:

“If the Jihadists wanted to complicate Trump’s task of making American policy more sensible, they wouldn’t have gone about it any way other than to amount a piece of fake news like this.”

A slight variation on this interpretation of events was posited by Craig Murray, another former UK ambassador, who stated:

“Assad had seen his position go from strength to strength, thanks to Putin’s astute deployment of Russia’s limited military power. Militarily the balance had swung dramatically in Assad’s favour, while Trump had said the unsayable and acknowledged that putting Syria into the hands of Wahabbist crazies was not in the United States interest. So I cannot conceive that Assad would risk throwing all of this away for the sake of a militarily insignificant small chemical weapons attack. It would be an act of the most extreme folly.”

None of this is deemed worthy of any column inches by Freedland. Instead, he plumps for a “more credible” individual as a means of supporting his case in the form of an ex-British army captain and one of the current directors of the UK NGO, Doctors Under Fire.

Another director of this organization is BBC Newsnight and Channel 4 News favourite, David Nott, a much in demand ‘media-savvy’ surgeon who, like the Western-funded “humanitarian” NGO the White Helmets, seemingly takes every photo opportunity to be pictured alongside suffering children for propaganda affect.

For journalists like Freedland, whose role is essentially that of a Whitehall stenographer, it’s apparently inconceivable that UK funded NGOs like Doctors Under Fire, the White Helmets and Hand In Hand For Syria, could present a major conflict of interest in respect to his reportage.

Freedland correctly states that “for six long bloody years, atrocities have been continued in Syria”, but he’s careful not to apportion any blame for the said atrocities on the shoulders of the West’s proxies and mercenary forces who the UK government help financially support, fund and train. These forces include ISIS, al-Qaeda and their various offshoots and affiliates.

The Guardian journalist then goes on to interpret US Secretary of State’s Rex Tillerson’s support for the self-determination rights of the Syrian people to be free from the influence of external foreign powers, as a negative. Furthermore, he is contemptuous of Trump’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, for her stated rejection (since changed) of illegal regime change in Syria.

Freedland then casually dismisses Russia’s legitimate case in February for a veto against UN sanctions based on unsubstantiated allegations regarding Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Finally, he goes on to claim that “more than 400,000 have been killed [in Syria]…” asserting that “Assad has himself broken international law”. Freedland failed to back-up either claim, but rather, pronounced Assad guilty of committing this latest atrocity even though no evidence whatsoever has been provided. This also applies to all previous claims where the Syrian president has been accused of using chemical weapons.

Extraordinary journalistic claims demand extraordinary evidence. Freedland adheres to the former but is remiss in terms of the latter. This latest in a long line of fake news from the once respected Guardian, is nothing more than government propaganda dressed up as investigative journalism. Is it any wonder that the paper’s sales are in a terminal state of decline?

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Panama Papers: Business As Usual

By Daniel Margrain

The Panama Papers : How the rich rob us

Steve Topple’s excellent piece for the Canary which revisited the one year old Panama Papers scandal, was a welcome reminder of the background to the biggest data leak in history. As Topple outlined, the government’s stated intention to tackle the systematic corruption that resulted from the handing over by an anonymous source of massive amounts of data from the Panama-based, German-run law firm Mossack Fonseca which specializes in providing clients with dodgy offshore accounts, was essentially a face-saving exercise intended to give the public the impression that the elites were taking the issue seriously. But a year down the line, it appears to be business as usual.

Due to the specific nature of the leak, it’s clear that the potentially incendiary material is unlikely to see the light of day within the public domain. Given that the leaked material is being managed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) who in turn are supported by some of America’s biggest corporate funders, this was always going to be the case.

As was suggested at the time, had the leaker approached Wikileaks with the 2.6 terabytes of data consisting of 11.5 million documents, rather than Suddeutsche Zeitung – and by extension, the Western media more widely – the impact and potential consequences for those concerned would of been far greater. Instead, the largest data leak that journalists have ever worked with was selectively ‘drip-fed’ with most of the significant amounts implicating Western elites being censored from the public gaze.

Luke Harding

The public had already seen signs of that with the release of Luke Harding’s Guardian piece published exactly one year to the day (April 4, 2016). Predictably, Harding focused on Russian individuals and companies whose wealth represents a minority of the money stashed away. Crucially, he failed to mention that 9,670 UK Companies and over 3,000 US Companies, as well as former PM David Cameron’s father, top Tories and some of the UK’s biggest allies, were implicated and/or named in the Panama Papers.

Did the corporate media vilify David Cameron for some serious high-ranking connections to this mother of all leaks? No, it did not. Did the same media publish any damning report that featured Cameron airbrushed alongside global ‘baddies,’ like former Iranian leader Ahmadinejad? Again, the answer is No.

In the year since the leak, there has been no mention in the corporate media of the fact that the amount of UK companies, banks and accountants complicit in the scandal ranked second highest in an international league table (see below):

Neither has there been any mention of the numerous huge Western multinational corporations or billionaires involved, some of whom sit in the House of Lords. It’s also worth recalling that Harding failed to mention by name the 12 leaders, past and present, identified in the documents. Instead, the Guardian journalist, in line with the methodological approach adopted by Suddeutsche Zeitung, selectively focused on the West’s official enemies – Russia, Syria and North Korea.

There was certainly no impression given in the Guardian article that the global web of corruption and tax avoidance extends to 72 states, heads or former heads of state. Instead, the front cover of the paper at the time sensationally headlined with the words “Exclusive: The Secret $2bn trail of deals that lead all the way to Putin”.

Kowtowing

Neither would one have ascertained the scale of the corruption having watched the UK state broadcaster, the BBC, who chose to mention just five of the 72 – Egypt, Iceland, Gaddafi, Putin and Assad. Central to all this is the pathetic kowtowing to power by our media that’s supposed to be impartial and independent yet they act reflexively on mass by directing their fire at enemies of the state.

Naturally, the media cannot be perceived to be so transparently biased which is why the occasional ‘balanced’ message is required. Step forward the Telegraph. A year ago to the day (April 4, 2016), the paper reported:

“David Cameron’s father ran an offshore fund which avoided paying tax in Britain by hiring Bahamas residents, including a bishop, to sign paperwork…The fund, which was established in the 1980s with help from the Prime Minister’s late father, continues today. The Guardian says it has confirmed that ‘in 30 years Blairmore has never paid a penny of tax in the UK on its profits.”

Nevertheless, the targeting of a dead man is virtually risk free as will be the ‘outing’ of an occasional senile corrupt Lord to be cynically used a sacrificial lamb for the media hacks to peruse over if and when the time is right. Ultimately, the UK Secret Services will never allow the media to publish anything that is likely to damage the ‘reputations’ of leading establishment figures. The Snowden files that the Guardian had in its possession but were requested to be destroyed by M15, are proof of that.

Agenda

On Monday April 4, 2016, I had been watching the UK media all day after the Panama Papers story broke. All of the news bulletins, without exception, prefaced the scandal with either Putin, Cameron’s deceased father or Assad. It’s mainly the first two which are easy and convenient targets intended to deflect away from the crimes that implicate ‘our’ leaders. Almost certainly then, there is a highly motivated political agenda at work here.

This explains why Iceland, who locked up many of its corrupt and criminal bankers, was also named. Following the revelation that the country’s PM was implicated in the scandal, the people of Reykjavik took to the streets in their thousands demanding his resignation which happened shortly afterwards.

The elites on both sides of the Atlantic are concerned about the affect the revealing of widespread and systematic corruption within the high echelons of media and politics will have on the body politic of Europe and North America. They don’t want Reykjavik to spread to London, Paris and Washington. This is another reason why the full scale nature of those implicated is unlikely to be revealed for many years to come, if ever.

What all this highlights is the public is being cynically deceived by the corporate media in order to get their fellow elites off the hook. Craig Murray’s brilliant expose of the BBC Panorama documentary, Tax Havens of the Rich and Powerful Exposed, highlights the extent to which BBC producers and presenters will go to in order to misdirect their audience to this end.

Perhaps less subtle than the overt propaganda pieceSaving Syria’s Children, but no less effective, the BBC related at length the stories of the money laundering companies of the Icelandic PM and Putin’s alleged cellist. As Murray said:

“The impression was definitely given and reinforced that these companies were in Panama. [Presenter] Richard Bilton deliberately suppressed the information that all the companies involved were in fact not Panamanian but in the corrupt British colony of the British Virgin Islands. At no stage did Bilton even mention the British Virgin Islands.”

Murray goes on to say:

“Is it not truly, truly, astonishing the British Virgin Islands were not even mentioned when the BBC broadcast their “investigation” of these documents?”

The BBC, and media in general, are obscuring the key role British money-laundering via its base in the British Virgin Islands plays in these transactions. It can never be stated enough that this corruption scandal mostly concerns the British Virgin Islands. Yes, the corruption is widespread and involves a number of world leaders, some of whom are the UK governments official enemies.

However, in the broader scheme of things, these political figures are essentially peripheral. The level of corruption is widespread and systemic. It’s important that the ruling elites are constantly reminded that the British public haven’t forgotten about the Panama Papers scandal.

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Brexit: A Disaster In Waiting

 By Daniel Margrain

With article 50 triggered, the clock is ticking: the UK government has less than two years to reach a settlement in what is going to be the ‘mother of all divorce cases’. With the Tory government having been, up until now, deliberately vague about what it seeks to achieve during the negotiations, the predicted outcome of Brexit is based on unwarranted optimism at best and catastrophe at worst.

This is not what the British people voted for. It’s not the job of politician’s to support a suicidal Brexit strategy predicated on a racist narrative and false promises written on the side of a bus, but to scrutinize claims and represent the best interests of their constituents by voting accordingly in parliament.

There was never any compulsion to follow- through on a referendum based on falsehoods or pandering to racists. In my view, the Labour opposition could and should have done more to defend the Remain campaign from the crass opportunism of their opponents. Labour missed an ideal opportunity to capitalize on Tory divisions over Europe exemplified by Theresa May’s lies and dramatic u-turns.

Richard Corbett nailed it when he said:

“Until recently, the argument that the UK would be able to thrive without any kind of trade deal with the European Union was only promoted by UKIP and the Eurosceptic fringe of the Conservative party. Now, it is apparently shared by UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, repeatedly saying that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Beneficiaries

The main beneficiaries of such complacency have been the Liberal Democrats who are stealing many of the 48 per cent of disenchanted English and Welsh voters who voted Remain from under Labour’s nose. What Corbyn seems to be banking on is that enough people will buy into his ‘island of socialism’ narrative.

This appears to involve his rejection of the notion that the EU, as an international institution, is synonymous with an internationalist conception of socialism. That’s not to say the EU is a perfect international institution – far from it. But its effectiveness in the progressive sense is dependent upon the nature of the governments who control it.

Rather than retreating into the concept of an inverted socialist vision, it’s my view that Corbyn would have been better served by maintaining a strategy of solidarity with other pro-EU socialist colleagues within Europe by helping to create a much more integrated and supranational form of political organisation at the European level and thus radically helping to change the direction of EU policy. Big capital can only be countered by big institutions.

Much of the Tory austerity drive has to do with the systemic and structural limitations associated with state power at the national level. The “pooling of national sovereignty” which implies greater European integration and federalization, goes some way to addressing these limitations, which is no bad thing.

Regardless, many of those who favour greater integration in principle, falsely believe that the lackluster performance of the Euro undermines it. In truth, the national schadenfruede that culminated in the British government’s reaction to the performance of the Euro, is a red-herring.

The problem, as Craig Murray recognized, is not currency union, but the lack of any fiscal union. The one is not feasible without the other. The economic argument for the alleged failure of the EU as an economic project, therefore, cannot be made on the basis of the relative weakness of the Euro, but rather on the lack of any implementation of a fiscal union.

Rolling back

Similar unjust criticisms are leveled at EU legislatures as the basis for arguing for UK withdrawal from the union. The anti-EU right have attempted to roll back the powers of both the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The Brexit establishment has objected to some of the humane rulings of the ECHR. In particular, this includes the protection of the human rights of immigrants at risk of being deported by the UK. The ECHR is itself outside the remit of the European Union.

But the ECJ is bound by the overarching decisions of the ECHR when ruling on matters of specifically EU law. The Tories want a “British” convention on human rights to replace the European convention which if achieved, would further seriously undermine civil liberties and human rights in Britain.

Given the numerous advantages of the EU described, it seems strange that Corbyn hasn’t come out more stridently in public to defend the notion that more, not less, European integration is needed. The labour leader’s calculated rejection of the Remain position is a risky strategy. It’s one in which he seems to be prepared to put all his eggs into one basket.

We will know closer to the next General Election whether the implications of a damaging Brexit predicated on the isolationist neoliberal approach by those who champion it, will be sufficient enough to engender a return to socialism among the body politic of British society.

However, if by 2020 Corbyn’s ambivalence to Brexit backfires on him and he loses the election, it will be the poorest and weakest in society who will pay the biggest price in terms of further cuts to welfare and the undermining of workers rights and protections.

Having left the EU, any post-2020 Labour opposition will have to win arguments on these and other key issues such as social legislation and human rights that are currently protected by the EU but which the Tories have long wanted to opt out of.

Scrapped

There can be no doubt that in a Brexit Britain under the Tories, many European regulations restricting working hours and other employment and social reforms will be scrapped and working class living standards diminished.

This will be achieved through the enactment of something as far reaching as the Great Repeal Act. Embodied in the Statute of Proclamations 1539, the Great Repeal Act will override the preservation of EU law by granting executive powers to enable legislation to be changed by order, rather than through parliament; a method of lawmaking wholly at odds with democracy and accountability.

To add salt to the wound, the Tories dream of extending a tax-haven for the super-rich will mean that the 99 per cent will be expected to fund the shortfall of a welfare state depleted of resources. Any future Labour government will be left to pick up the pieces of Brexit against a backdrop in which access to the Single Market both for manufacturing and financial services will of been severely hampered.

With the prospect of London losing its role as the world’s leading financial sector to New York, Frankfurt and Paris due to companies’ relocating resulting from lack of tariff-free access, these problems will be further compounded. Already German car manufacturer’s are bracing themselves for a new era of trade tariffs with the UK because Angela Merkel has warned that she is going to put the interests of the 27 remaining EU members first in the forthcoming Brexit talks.

The possibility of a country like Australia plugging the gap, has been torpedoed by the decision of that nations foreign minister to consider relocating Australian companies from Britain to Ireland in order to allow the country to keep its access to the Single Market. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Donald Trump’s trade chief, Wilbur Ross, has urged Britain’s rivals to exploit the “God-given opportunity” of Brexit to take business away from the UK.

Taking back control

These kinds of examples illustrate the nonsense behind the rhetoric of those who argue that Brexit will enable Britain to “take back control”. How does a country take back control of its trade relationships by giving complete control of these relationships to the union it has just left, arguably because its people felt it had too much control of their country?

Paradoxically, what the 52 per cent who voted for Brexit on the basis that the EU have too much control did, was to ensure that the EU have absolute control. In other words, “taking back control” is essentially coded language for saying that the remaining 27 EU members will exercise complete control over precisely what relationship the UK will be able to enjoy with the world’s largest trading bloc.

Moreover, May and Johnson’s populist mantra “no deal is better than a bad deal” means the exact opposite. As Richard Corbett points out:

“The National Institute for Economic and Social Research predicts that leaving without a deal, and thus falling under WTO rules and tariffs, would reduce real wages by between 4.6 per cent and seven per cent. A leaked Treasury report also warns that leaving the EU with no trade deal is the “alternative to membership with the most negative long-term impact” and would cause a “major economic shock”.

Corbett continued:

“Some studies estimate the increase in UK food prices alone could be as much as eight per cent, in addition to those already created by the devaluation of the pound following the referendum. Yet the impacts are not just financial or trade-related. A report from the UK House of Commons’ cross-party foreign affairs committee highlights the difficulties that UK citizens in other EU countries, and EU citizens in the UK, would face on issues such as residence rights, access to healthcare, employment rights, cross-border civil law disputes and pensions if we exit with no arrangements in place. It would also take our universities out of European research programmes, our police out of cross-border crime-fighting systems and our airlines out of EU skies.”

White Paper

Then there is the issue that the British people voted for Brexit on the basis that in so doing they would ensure parliamentary sovereignty would be reclaimed. But, as the government’s Brexit White Paper reveals, this is yet another false argument. Parliament has “remained sovereign throughout our membership to the EU”.

In a section titled “taking control of our own laws”, the White Paper states: “The sovereignty of Parliament is a fundamental principle of the UK constitution. Whilst Parliament has remained sovereign throughout our membership of the EU, it has not always felt like that.”

Even the suggestion that the fishing industry has a glittering future as a result of Brexit falls apart given that 60 per cent of fish landed in British ports arrives in Scotland which voted to Remain.

Meanwhile, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds seems to be suggesting that Sein Fein are poised to head for full unification of Ireland which means the UK won’t exist anymore. Then there is the issue of Scottish independence. A few days ago the Scottish parliament voted for another referendum.

This puts Theresa May in a difficult position. On the one hand, the woman who argued that “we need more unity” while undertaking negotiations that guarantee disunity, can’t be seen to be granting Scotland a referendum. This is because if she loses she will be forced to resign. On the other hand, if May does grant Scotland a referendum and puts a date on it, she will send her negotiators to Brussels without knowing what her own country looks like.

Michael Howard’s jingoistic remarks over the British money laundering tax haven, Gibraltar – 96 per cent of whose residents voted Remain – will undermine Britain’s negotiating position no matter what approach May decides to take. It’s quite possible to envisage a situation in the near future in which the “country we got back” consists of nothing more than England and Wales.

In the comments section of a recent LabourList article, Richard Dean provides a neat “conservative” summary of the likely impacts resulting from the irrational Brexit position. He writes:

  • We are going to get control of our borders, but according to leading Brexiteers this is not going to change immigration much, because we actually benefit from immigration overall.
  • We are going to get control of our laws, but according to leading Brexiteers this does not mean that anything much will be changed. At most we might tweak a few little things here and there, but Brexiteers don’t know what things.
  • We are going to get control of our money, except that we are likely to end up losing money as a result of the loss of trade with the EU27. We will probably lose about the same as we gain from not paying the famous £350 million.
  • We are going to be able to strike trade deals with countries outside the EU, just like the trade deals that we currently benefit from by being inside the EU.
  • We are going to leave the ECJ, and then negotiate an identical arrangement to settle trade disputes. We will agree to be bound by whatever the independent new adjudicators adjudicate, just like being in the ECJ, because if we didn’t do that it wouldn’t be the independent arbiter of trade disputes that every trade deal needs.

David Jackson adds:

“Brexit is the equivalent of doing a parachute jump without checking the pack on your back actually has something in it. Still it’s not the falling that does the damage its the sudden stop at the bottom or in our EU exit case in 2 years time!”

 

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