Category: news

The systematic destruction of the NHS

By Daniel Margrain

Dr Bob Gill who has worked for the NHS for 24 years, and is currently seeking crowdfunding for his documentary filmThe Great NHS Heist, was interviewed as part of a short video presentation produced by the UK journalist co-operative, Real Media.

In the interview, Dr Gill discusses how the move towards privatizing the NHS has been an agenda-driven project continued over many years by successive Conservative and Labour governments’.

Over the course of the twelve minute talk, Dr Gill highlights some of the issues the NHS faces. These are the key 23 assertions he makes in the presentation:

  • The intention of successive governments’ has been to transform a publicly-funded free at the point of delivery healthcare system into something that is driven by the need for profit.
  • The privatization agenda has been a well-planned long-term project.
  • Successive governments’ have understood NHS privatization is not in the public interest and thus they have devised alternative narratives in order to deceive the public.
  • A key component of this deception has been the deliberate cultivation of a ‘scapegoating’ culture in which the elderly, immigrants, overweight etc are blamed for government under-investment in the NHS.
  • This lack of investment is portrayed in the media as NHS Trust ‘overspending’.
  • The hospital network has been deliberately saddled with toxic loans.
  • In legal terms, the 2012 Health and Social Care Act abolished the NHS.
  • The result was the emergence of a Quango headed by NHS England’s Simon Stevens who has the day-to-day power of managing the service.
  • In 2014 Steven’s introduced a five year ‘Sustainability and Transformation’ Plan (STP).
  • The STP will move the NHS closer to the private US insurance system through a process of re-structuring, dismantling, integration, means-testing and merging of existing NHS services.
  • Both the NHS workforce and the general public are largely unaware of these plans which have been made deliberately complex and drawn-out over many years.
  • This drawn-out complexity is yet another part of the plan to deceive the general public and NHS staff alike.
  • NHS reforms are reported in the media in a positive way. This is despite the fact that the said reforms will result in the destruction of the service.
  • The British Medical Association (BMA) is largely complicit in the privatization agenda.
  • Jeremy Hunt, whose powers are limited, is being used by the media as a distraction.
  • Simon Stevens, who has the real power, has been deliberately set-up by the media as a ‘saviour’ for the NHS, whereas Hunt is portrayed as the ‘bad guy’.
  • Simon Stevens ambition for the NHS is to hand it over to his former colleagues at United Health in the U.S and the U.S insurance industry.
  • Stevens is “the most dangerous public servant in the country.”
  • The NHS is subject to competition law and is under constant threat from internationally negotiated trade deals.
  • The service is geared-up to work against the interests of the patient.
  • The NHS is heading in a direction in which doctors will be incentivized to deny patient care.
  • The introduction of the principle of private insurance will result in a more expensive system with worse outcomes.
  • The plan to fully privatize the NHS is “endemically fraudulent”.

Dr Gill alludes that the deliberate asset-stripping of the NHS ranks as one of the greatest crimes inflicted on the British people. The jewel in Britain’s crown is being whittled away in front of the public’s eyes.

All the while the Conservative government has convinced large swaths of the public that Simon Stevens is the saviour of the service when in truth he is its principal destroyer. Like a TV illusionist, the government is involved in an incredible sleight of hand – some may say, collective hypnosis – of the British people.

The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is essentially a public relations figure for the government and the corporations it represents. Where the blows of both NHS workers and the public alike would arguably be better targeted is towards NHS England boss, Simon Stevens, whose power to be able to shape the future direction of the NHS far exceeds that of Hunt.

Although it’s highly encouraging that an estimated 250,000 people attended one of the biggest national demonstrations against NHS cuts in London in March last year, it is somewhat perplexing to this writer why Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in his otherwise excellent post-demo speech, failed to mention the nefarious role played by Stevens which is crucial to the entire NHS debate.

How is it possible for activists and campaigners to get anywhere near the bulls eye with their arrows when the correct target hasn’t even been identified by the leader of the opposition?

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Enemies of the people, friends of democracy

By Daniel Margrain

The ruling last Thursday (November 3) by three High Court judges to allow MPs the right to a vote over the decision to Brexit was welcomed by this writer. Campaigners won their battle to defeat Theresa May’s attempt to use the Royal prerogative as a means of overriding parliamentary sovereignty. The decision of the judges to apply what is a matter of constitutional law, means that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without a vote in parliament. Below is the 2015 Referendum Bill Briefing Paper which appears to be consistent with assertions in the liberal media that the referendum result is advisory, not mandatory:

To reiterate:

“The UK does not have constitutional provisions which would require the results of a referendum to be implemented.”

Following the judges decision, and despite the legal clarity, some of the tabloid printed media ran with inflammatory headlines. The Daily Mail – the paper that in the 1930s supported Hitler fascism, for example (see graphic above) – referred to the judges responsible for upholding the rule of law, as “enemies of the people”. Even some Tory politicians got in on the act. Sajid Javid, for instance, described the decision as “an attempt to frustrate the will of the British people.”

What Javid appears to be unaware of, is that in British law it is not the role of an independent judiciary to uphold and implement the will of the people but to uphold the law. Parliament and elected MPs are subject to the will of the people, not judges.

Javid’s stigmatizing language undermines the important role played by an independent judiciary in terms of its ability to curtail crude populism. The undermining of the independence of the judiciary and the promotion and normalization of referenda, is concomitant to the prevailing hate-driven agendas of the tabloids. But this also fits into a wider right-wing political narrative in which simplistic binary approaches to often complex problems are preferred to process and nuance.

For example, in order to garner the support of right-wing  fringe elements, the former PM, David Cameron, stated that Article 50 would be triggered automatically following any vote to leave. This modus operandi has continued under Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, who continues to argue for a “hard Brexit” claiming that Article 50 should be invoked immediately without any parliamentary scrutiny or oversight.

These kinds of inferences to fascist ‘mob rule’ was effectively what the Conservative MP David Davies was arguing for when, on Twitter, he stated the following:

Nov 3

“Unelected judges calling the shots. This is precisely why we voted out. Power to the people!”

Here Davies is calling for a non-independent judiciary. The one word for a country where the judiciary is not independent, and where the law is expected to reflect the temporary feelings and emotions of the public – often built upon superstitions, lies and exaggerations – is “dictatorship”. The German constitution banned referenda precisely because they know how fascists came to power.

Modern, secular based constitutions that separate the judiciary from parliament exist in order to prevent the drift towards fascism. In order to prevent this from happening, it’s the job of the Conservative Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss MP, to defend the independence of the British judiciary. But instead of coming to their defense by publicly criticising Javid’s or Davies’s comments, or reprimanding the editors of the Daily Mail, she has remained almost silent.

By arguing against the decision of the High Court judges, Javid and Davies are, in effect, arguing against the legitimate right of British judges to enact British law in the context of the British sovereign parliament. From the perspective of the ‘leavers’ this would seem ironical since they were the people who were most anxious to press the point about the need to ensure Britain maintained its sovereign parliamentary status.

In the avoidance of confusion, parliament (legislature) makes laws and the government (executive) implements them. The role of the judiciary is to check the legality of those laws. The separation of these powers is an integral part of the proper functioning of the state. In ‘An Introduction to the Law of the Constitution (1915, 8th edition, p.38), Professor A.V. Dicey explains the precedent by which the principle underpinning British parliamentary sovereignty is set and, consequently, on what basis the Referendum Bill above was formulated.

Professor A.V Dicey’s century-old legal precedent states, “No person or body is recognized by the law as having a right to override or set aside the legislature of parliament” which “has the right to make or unmake any law whatever.” This simple precedent means “that it cannot be said that a law is invalid as opposed to the opinion of the electorate.” 

In this context, referenda are irrelevant because “the judges know nothing about any will of the people except insofar as that will is expressed by an act of parliament.” The point about the separation of powers is that the legislature and the judiciary protect the public from the possibility that the executive will act against the interests of society of which an all-powerful unchecked state is emblematic. But it also exists to protect the public from itself.

How does this play out in terms of the referendum?

Parliament not only has a responsibility to the 17.5 million British people who voted for Brexit, but it is also responsible to the 29 million people who didn’t (see graphic below).

The role of MPs, in which parliament is sovereign, is not to represent the wishes of the public (a common misconception), but rather to represent the interests of the public in their totality. In this sense, therefore, the interests of 29 million people override the wishes of 17 million people. The interests of the people in the country as a whole, in other words, are not served by committing economic suicide.

As almost the entire professional career of elected politicians is based on them scrutinizing legislation, it follows that what they regard as being in the best interests of the public carries more weight in the decision-making process than people who voted in the referendum on the basis of what they read in the Daily Mail or as a result of the lies uttered by politicians like Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.

The fundamental nature of British representative parliamentary democracy is that the public elect a representative not a delegate. The sovereign and inviolate aspect of the system, in other words, means that British constituents elect MPs who they think will exercise their best judgement by voting – Whips notwithstanding – on issues that reflect their best interests.

As the majority of MPs supported remain, and the majority of constituents voted to leave, adopting the rationale described means that, logically, the latter voted against their own interests. Ensuring MPs vote in the best interests of their constituents is what parliamentary sovereignty means. In this regard, all of the pro-leave MPs who said the result of the referendum was a reflection of parliamentary sovereignty, were lying.

It is clear that the Tories wanted to by-pass the law in order to initiate a ‘hard Brexit’ without laying out the terms of such a strategy. The fact that the judges have forced a parliamentary vote – barring any successful appeal to the Supreme Court – means there now has to be proper scrutiny of its terms in advance of the vote. This is in sharp contrast to the continuation of the empty and meaningless “Brexit means Brexit” platitude uttered constantly by Theresa May.

David Cameron, called the referendum, clearly in the anticipation that his side would win. He also must of been aware that a victory for leave would not have been triggered automatically as the information contained in the leaflets sent to all households stated. In any event, the former PM resigned following the result of the referendum precisely because he knew he couldn’t fulfill the promise he had made to the electorate prior to the vote. Cameron’s unelected successor, is therefore tasked with clearing up a mess set in motion by the incompetency of her predecessor.

During the previous election campaign, the Tories manifesto promise was to remain in the single-market. Having so far failed to call an election over the debacle, May’s authority is highly questionable. She didn’t have a mandate before the judgement and she has even less of one now. My advise to Jeremy Corbyn and his team is to prepare for an early election.

New Hampshire rejects establishment politics

By Daniel Margrain

There appears to be a pattern emerging within conventional democratic politics that seems set to break the neoliberal stranglehold that has dominated the said politics over the last few decades that is nothing short of revolutionary. Symptomatic of this radical shift as far as Europe is concerned has been the electoral successes of left parties in countries like Spain, Greece and Britain. Illustrative of the break with the traditional centre-right polity in America has been the ascendancy of Bernie Sanders who surged to victory beating Hillary Clinton resoundingly in the Democratic New Hampshire primary.

Whereas Clinton’s voter demographic is largely restricted to those people who are over the age of 65 and who have a family income of more than $200,000, Sanders carries majorities with nearly all demographic groups that include both men and women and those with and without college degrees. The popularity of Sanders reflects an upsurge in the grass roots opposition to the pro-war neoliberal consensus within the Democratic Party and their framing of a triangulation ideology that began under Bill Clinton and continues with Obama.

A Parallel can be drawn here with the phenomenal rise in grass roots Labour Party membership in Britain that elected Sanders’ equivalent, Jeremy Corbyn as leader on the back of a wave of apoplexy and disenchantment with both the self-interested careerist Blairite rump within the Parliamentary Labour Party and the elite political class in general. What we are witnessing on both sides of the Atlantic is the political and media establishment’s attempt to hold on to the levers of corrupt political and corporate media power and the privileges that come with them.

To this end, the strategy of the latter is to restrict the flow of dissenting information that conflicts in a fundamental way with these powerful interests. Set against this mutually reinforcing system of power and privilege undermining democracy, is a tidal wave of public anger and bitterness. Significantly, during his victory speech, Sanders briefly alluded to the kind of collusion between the media and political establishments’ described and their corrupting influence:

“The people of New Hampshire have sent a profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment.”

To my knowledge not a single mainstream media outlet has reported this part of Sanders’ speech. If one happens to be in any doubt that the liberal-left media in Britain is anything other than in thrall to the “feminist-progressive” and warmonger Clinton, than one need to look no further than the opinion pages of the Guardian. How the paper is able to reconcile its support for the neoconservative pro-Israeli hardliner predicated on her “feminism” can only be rationalized from the perspective of it’s usurpation to power.

As Craig Murray put it:

“The stream of “feminist” articles about why it would advance the cause of women to have a deeply corrupt right winger in the White House is steadily growing into a torrent. It is a perfect example of what I wrote of a month ago, the cause of feminism being hijacked to neo-conservative ends.”

In America last Sunday, CNN gave the Republican candidate, Donald Trump about half an hour of air time where he was able to call for waterboarding. He went on to state that he was in favour of much worse forms of illegal torture. Despite this, Trump’s comments went unchallenged by the CNN journalists whose role is clearly to promote him.

But as repugnant as the above is, it’s not the obvious differences between the right-wing extremism of Trump and other Republican’s compared to the democratic socialism of Sander’s that is the core issue voters are faced with in deciding whether to vote Democrat or Republican. Rather it’s the kind of cynical attempts of Clinton to disingenuously hitch on to the coat-tails of Sander’s for electoral gain depending on which way the prevailing wind is blowing, that contributes to left-wing voter fatigue that ultimately can only benefit the right.

Emphasizing the ideological distinction between himself and Clinton, Sanders said:

“What the American people are saying—and, by the way, I hear this not just from progressives, but from conservatives and from moderates—is that we can no longer continue to have a campaign finance system in which Wall Street and the billionaire class are able to buy elections. Americans—Americans, no matter what their political view may be, understand that that is not what democracy is about. That is what oligarchy is about. And we will not allow that to continue. I do not have a superPAC, and I do not want a super PAC.”

Former Democratic nominee, Arnie Arnesen, gives expression to this sentiment:

“What Bernie Sanders showed—and, to some extent, even Donald Trump has shown—is that this is no longer a time for establishment politics, that there is a problem. There is a disconnect between what they do and what they think and what the American people are feeling. Bernie tapped into that, not just in New Hampshire, but around the country.”

Fundamental to the popularity of Sanders has been his attack on the system that gave rise to the Wall Street banking scandal of which nothing short of a political revolution can resolve. He said that the problems in the United States stem from the fact that the country where mainly 62 American billionaires have the wealth of half the entire population of the world, is one of the most unequal and that he intends to do something about it:

“When the top one-tenth of 1% now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, that’s not fair. It is not fair when the 20 wealthiest people in this country now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American people…. Together we are going to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1%. And, when millions of our people are working for starvation wages, yep, we’re going to raise the minimum wage to $15 bucks an hour. And, we are going to bring pay equity for women.

And, when we need the best educated workforce in the world, yes, we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition free. And, for the millions of Americans struggling with horrendous levels of student debt, we are going to substantially ease that burden….The greed, the recklessness, and the illegal behavior drove our economy to its knees. The American people bailed out Wall Street, now it’s Wall Street’s time to help the middle class.”

Other progressive policy messages Sanders outlined in his speech on issues such as healthcare, climate change, foreign policy and minority rights, are similarly resonating within the Democratic Party and arguably further afield. In a desperate attempt to add some kind of (misguided) substance to her campaign, Hillary Clinton’s team called on former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. The “feminist” who, under Clinton’s husband during the Iraq debacle, asserted that U.S. policy objectives were worth the sacrifice of half a million Arab children, shamelessly invoked identity politics as a tactic intended to vilify women who voted for her Democrat opponent. “Women’s equality is not done”she said “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Almost certainly, what a significant amount of New Hampshire Democrats considered before they cast their votes was to evaluate both candidates’ voting record. Clinton’s record has been dogged by accusations of triangulating flip-flopping. This has been put sharply into focus by her sudden shift to the left on issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership soon after Sanders entered the race.

Certainly, her voting record on key issues, unlike that of her rival, has been less than stellar. From supporting the 2001 Patriot Act through to the Iraq and Syria interventions and many other issues there is very little, if anything, to distinguish her record from her Republican rivals.

David Bowie: sound, not vision

By Daniel Margrain

The eulogizing in the media of David Bowie since his death last week has predictably been widespread. The consensus view is that Bowie was a trailblazer of musical trends and pop fashion, an innovator and visionary, an artist of unparalleled significance within the musical landscape of rock and roll and electronic music. Adam Sweeting in the Guardian, said of Bowie: “His capacity for mixing brilliant changes of sound and image underpinned by a genuine intellectual curiosity is rivalled by few in pop history.”

The obituary section of the Telegraph, described Bowie as “a rock musician of rare originality and talent”, while Jon Pareles in the New York Times claimed that “Mr.Bowie was his generation’s standard-bearer for rock as theater: something constructed and inflated yet sincere in its artifice, saying more than naturalism could”.…According to Pareles, “He also pushed the limits of “Fashion” and “Fame,”

Mark Beaumont of the NME appeared to go one further by claiming that Bowie’s influence on popular culture:

“simply cannot be overstated. From psychedelic folk rock to glam rock, plastic soul, avant garde experimentalism and beyond, Bowie’s relentless innovation and reinvention was one of the great driving forces of modern music and his impact reached into fashion, performance art, film and sexual politics. While his songs, consistently accessible no matter how difficult the style he explored, inspired countless musicians across a vast tapestry of rock music which he helped weave as he went.”

On the morning following Bowie’s death, and in echoing the kinds of platitudes of superficial pop stars like Madonna and Lady Ga Ga, LBC host James O’Brien devoted half of his three hour programme eulogizing about the alleged innovator and genius, inviting fans to phone in and reminisce about the pop star. With an apparent straight face, O’Brien, a former music critic, stated that Bowie’s 1971 album Hunky Dory was “probably the greatest rock album of all-time.”

These kinds of comments have been the excepted wisdom in mainstream critical circles since Bowie hit super stardom in 1972 with the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, a work that in many ways came to define him. Under the tag line, David Bowie: Visionary singer and songwriter who for five decades exerted a huge influence on pop and rock, Chris Salewicz reminded his readers of the historical continuum that underpinned the iron clad critical consensus:  “The man is a stone genius,” effused New York’s Village Voice, in the parlance of the times, “and for those who have been waiting for a new Dylan, Bowie fits the bill. He is a prophet, a poet – and a vaudevillian. Like Dylan, his breadth of vision and sheer talent could also exercise a profound effect on a generation’s attitudes.”

In Britain, the critical acclaim bestowed on Bowie is arguably only second to the Beatles. But in the cold light of day, to what extent does the man and his work stand up to proper investigative critical scrutiny? The independent music critic, Piero Scaruffi, whose words I transcribed and edited below, offers some invaluable (and corrective) insights into the mythology that surrounds the man, his music and his art. This is Scaruffi’s critique of Bowie. It’s a critique that I share:

“David Bowie turned marketing into the essence of his art. All great phenomena of popular music, from Elvis Presley to the Beatles, had been, first and foremost, marketing phenomena (just like Coca Cola and Barbie before them); However, Bowie  turned it into an art of its own. Bowie with the science of marketing becomes art; art and marketing had become one.

There were intellectuals who had proclaimed this theory in terms rebelliousness. Bowie was, in many ways, the heir, no matter how perverted, of Andy Warhol’s pop art and of the underground culture of the 1960s. He adopted some of the most blasphemous issues and turned them upside down to make them precisely what they had been designed to fight: a commodity.

Bowie was a protagonist of his times [who] embodied the quintessence of artificial art, raising futility to paradigm, focusing on the phenomenon rather than the content, and who made irrelevant the relevant, and, thus, was is the epitome of everything that is wrong with rock music.

Each element of his art was the emblem of a true artistic movement; However, the ensemble of these emblems constituted no more than a puzzle of symbols, no matter how intriguing, a dictionary of terms rather than a poem, and, at best, a documentary of the cultural trends of his time. As a chronicler, the cause of the sensation was the show, not the music.

In fusing theatre, mime, film, visual art, literature and music, the showman Bowie was undoubtedly in sync with the avant-garde. However, Bowie merely recycled what had been going on for years in the British underground, in what in particular had been popularized by the psychedelic bands of 1967. And he turned it into a commodity: whichever way you look at his oeuvre, this is the real merit of it.

Arguably, his most famous album, Ziggy Stardust (1972) represented a relative quantum leap forward from what went before. The culmination of a behind the scenes refining of his image by a new manager, his signing to a new and more powerful label, the utilization of a much more sophisticated production and, with the talents of Rick Wakeman on keyboards and Mick Ronson on guitar at his disposal, Bowie’s “art” represented the peak of the fad for rock operas.

The album is nevertheless a cartoonish melodrama that recycles cliches of decadent and sci-fi literature. Its popularity was due as much to the choreographic staging as it was to the music. The latter relies on magniloquent pop ballads (such as Five Years , the piano-heavy Lady Stardust , almost a send-up of Warren Zevon, the shrill gospel hymn Ziggy Stardust, Moonage Daydream (with a folkish sax solo reminiscent of the Hollywood Argyles and a shower of strings), arranged in such a manner to make the baroque ‘Tommy’ by the Who sound amateurish.

Bowie’s melodic skills shone in the grand soaring refrains of Starman and Rock And Roll Suicide, that were de facto tributes to the old tradition of Tin Pan Alley. The album displayed the half-hearted stylistic variety of latter-day Beatles albums, from the soul-jazz tune Soul Love to the martial folk-blues shuffle It Aint ‘Easy. Hang On To Yourself is a whirling boogie dance as is Suffragette City. The latter, in particular is a quintessentially hysterical breathless Who-style boogie and perhaps his career standout.

The track exudes the languid existentialism of the ballads, confronting Bowie’s erotic futuristic cabaret from the vantage point of teenage angst. Certainly the whole worked well as a postmodernist analysis of show business’ cliches. Credit for the production quality goes to Ken Scott (who Bowie defined as “my George Martin”) and new guitarist Mick Ronson: all the arrangements were designed from them (the string arrangements are all Ronson). Scott did all the mixing alone.

Bowie’s “heartbreaking” vocals were so exaggerated that they sounded like a parody of sorts. Ditto the kitschy arrangements. The concept was, first and foremost, a caricature. By fusing Scott Walker’s melodramatic style, Jacques Brel’s weltschmerz, Zen mysticism, McLuhan’s theory of the medium, Andy Warhol’s multimedia pop art and Oscar Wilde’s fin de siecle decadence, Bowie coined the ultimate revisionist and self-reflective act of the most revisionist and self-reflective decade.

For better and for worse, Ziggy marked the end of the myth of rock sincerity and spontaneity: the star was no longer a teenager among many, a “working-class everyman,” and, above all, the star was no longer “himself” but rather a calculating inventor of artificial stances and attitudes. His stance indirectly mocked and ridiculed the messianic aura of rock music.

Not much of a musical genius, but certainly a terrific showman, diligent student of Hollywood’s mythology, living impersonation of the Gothic iconography (Dorian Gray) and of the Parnassian iconography (Pierrot), Bowie owed ​​little to his frail and easy compositions: he owed ​​almost everything to the “image” that he had created and was nurturing with non-musical factors.

Although the music was almost always banal and embarrassing, the scene in which it played out was at least funny while at the same time solemn and murky. Bowie’s world was a frightening one, devastating and senseless, populated by outcasts and alienated human wrecks. Bowie’s vocal tone resembled an existential horror that could modulate detachment, cynicism and yearning.

Bowie had rediscovered the “crooning” of pop and soul singers of the ’50s, perhaps a less innovative style of singing that one could have imagined in 1975, that nevertheless also managed to combine a form of cabaret in the service of the theatre of Brecht. Mindful of the dramatic experience and clearly with Lou Reed in mind, Bowie consciously evoked “Brecht-ian” alienation that was fashionable in those years. The songs of Bowie deliberately calculated a striking contrast between music, text and image which would lead the public to think critically about “illusions” as presented.

Inspired by the alienated rock of Reed, the Dionysian like performance of Iggy Pop and the meticulous electronics of Brian Eno, Bowie forged a new type of ritual mass that paradoxically conceptually morphed into a kind of kitsch Hollywood entertainment. Skilled at riding fashions, as opposed to creating them, Bowie always arrived one or two years after someone else had invented the phenomenon (for example, decadent rock, soul-rock, electronics).

As with the Beatles before him, Bowie knew how to best present the phenomenon to the masses via the bourgeoisie media and turn it into an international “fashion”. Essentially, Bowie’s major contribution to the annals of rock music was his popularization of the notion of the eclectic and refined musician. Many other rock musicians have explored and referenced pop art, literature and painting in a more thorough and original way than Bowie but have not garnered the critical recognition that came his way.

Bowie was said to have written the first “space ballad” but space-rock had been invented a few years earlier. Before the release of Space Odyssey, the Rolling Stones had recorded 2000 Light Years and the inventors of space-rock, Pink Floyd had, in 1967, released Interstellar Overdrive and Anno Domini. Moreover, long before the media had coined Bowie as being the inventor of the ‘glam’ concept, Mick Jagger, and many other contemporaries of the period, had been sexually ambiguous and had worn make-up.

Also decadent rock had long preceded Bowie with the likes of the Velvet Underground and the Doors. Bowie’s “uniqueness” was that his antics were the first to be publicized by the media. As often happens with the pop star, Bowie has falsely been attributed with creating the merits of an entire population of musicians. One of the most overrated artists of his generation, Bowie’s sound was largely Visconti’s (or Eno’s). Without that Sound, Bowie was a second-rate pop vocalist singing for a second-rate audience. 

For more analysis and reviews, go to: http://www.scaruffi.com/

 

Are the Brady Bunch hammering the public purse?

By Daniel Margrain

I’m sure that I speak for the vast majority of West Ham fans when I say that the start of each season is met with an air of extreme trepidation. The feeling of anxiety in anticipating what is to come in the opening six weeks or so of any campaign is exacerbated if our first game of the season happens to be a home fixture.

From a personal point of view, I can barely get through the hours leading up to the opening Saturday afternoon kick off without exhibiting a combination of cold sweats, nausea and nervous fidgeting. I can only compare the experience to my school days during the hours leading up to the time when my exam results would drop from the letterbox on to the hallway floor.

You know you have to face the proverbial music at some point but don’t want the potential disappointment that comes with it. You tell yourself you want to know the results of your exams but paradoxically, at the same time, you fear the dreaded fail, rather like sitting through a horror movie with your hands “covering” your eyes. Similarly, I dread putting on Final Score, particularly during the opening day of the season and particularly if the game is at home.

The agony is prolonged due to the fact that our home result is invariably the last Premier League one to be read out, just as it was the case that Ardleigh was one of the last streets on our posties Basildon round. Non-football fans are simply unable to comprehend the suffering we football fans have to endure on a Saturday afternoon. Every season has been the same for me since I can remember and the 2015-16 season was no different.

As our pre-season Europe campaign under our new charismatic manager turned out to be nothing less than an unmitigated disaster, expectations for a good premier league start were low. After confounding the football world with our amazing opening league victory against Arsenal away, confidence was high for the next few games.

But West Ham being West Ham, we lost the next two at home on the bounce to less than glamorous opposition before turning it around with three subsequent victories, two of which were nothing less than stunning against Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.

With 12 points in the bag after our opening six games, I felt as though I was, to a degree, in a position to be able to relax. Of course West Ham fans never totally relax. As all life-long Hammers supporters will know, expectations for a successful season are typically medium to non-existent.

If in this current campaign, the Hammers were to finish in a top eight position and have a good cup run I’ll be relatively happy. Despite our recent hiccups in the league, not least in part due to our mounting injury list, I believe our squad is strong enough to secure a top half finish.

With our move away from our spiritual home at the Boleyn into the Olympic Stadium at Stratford in east London from next season, it’s important that we finish high up in the table in order to attract new players to the club while keeping hold of our best.

With a manager and former player (who appears to be finally attuned to the  entertainment ethos of the club that the fans demand) pretty much cemented into place for the foreseeable future, things are as solid as they can be for a club of our size and the relatively limited resources we have at our disposal.

As far as the fans are concerned, off the park shenanigans are, at least on the surface, good as well given that those who run the club plan to substantially reduce season ticket prices in an an attempt to fill the new stadiums 54,000 capacity – a model that other clubs have apparently been encouraged to adopt.

But as I will hopefully be able to argue persuasively in the remainder of the article, this is a double edged sword. Here’s the problem: West Ham United are paying just £15million towards the £272 million cost of converting the Olympic Stadium despite the fact that, should the club still be a Premier League outfit next year (which seems highly likely), it will – under the terms of a new TV deal – be entitled to a payout of at least £99 million.

Small business people, many of whom run their businesses on extremely tight margins, might be scratching their heads as to how it can be that the elite within football, such as multi-millionaire Lady Brady who brokered the deal, are seemingly immune to the kind of market forces that the former are compelled to adhere to?

As far as the super-rich with contacts to the top echelons of political power are concerned – whether they be premier league chairmen or City bankers – it would appear that the kind of business risks the rest of us are prone to, is not applicable to them.

In this regard, it is difficult how one could possibly argue that the Premier League is no different in principle to what happens within the much maligned banking “racket”. Perhaps I’m missing something here and readers will be able to point out to me where I’ve got it wrong.

I’m not one of these obstinate traditionalists who is intent on stifling change. On the contrary, I embrace it. I’m excited as the next man about the move to our shiny new stadium. However, what I’m less than enamoured by is the morally and financially expedient, needless to say potentially corrupt price tag that comes with it.

The reality, however one looks at the situation, is that we, the tax paying fans and non-fans alike, will be subsidizing what essentially is a risk-free big business speculative enterprise on behalf of the super rich. It’s true that in season one ticket prices will be cheaper than our London rivals, but it’s fanciful to suggest that during subsequent seasons ticket prices will remain similarly low.

I have no detailed insight into the medium to long term business plan model that the club has in place, but it would surely be churlish to deny the directors at the club have not been eyeing up something along the lines of the Arsenal model.

Lady Brady and the rest of the high flyers within the club set up are in line to make a financial killing not just from us, the everyday football fan, but also from the wider tax paying public. The various pronouncements made in the media, particularly by David Gold regarding his supposed love for West Ham United Football club, are in part clearly intended at staving off any criticisms of the club over a stadium deal that has been less than transparent.

In my view, what often tends to get overlooked in the rush for on the field success, is the realization that the David Gold’s of this world are multimillionaire, and in some cases, billionaire businessmen and women who are first and foremost motivated by profit. If they happen to be in the position of being able to grab a big slice of these profits by creaming off great swaths of our tax revenues in the process, then all the better for them.

This is not an anti-business stance I’m taking here but an anti-corruption stance – albeit a form of legalized corruption. It’s not good for the reputation of West Ham United Football Club and its fans that we will be perceived as having unfair financial leverage over other similarly sized clubs, predicated on a system of legalized corruption.

I’m not arguing here that these kinds of underhand non-transparent deals and unethical business practices are unique to West Ham United, it’s just that I’m uncomfortable with the idea of us engendering success both on and off the field in a way that is symptomatic of the malaise that seems to have become an accepted, and some might argue, intrinsic aspect of socioeconomic and political life in our country.

That the kinds of informal corruption and unethical business practices described seem to have become a normalizing feature of not only professional football and other sports, but in public life more broadly, is not something West Ham fans, or indeed any other fans, should readily embrace without serious critique.

COP21 resolves nothing

By Daniel Margrain

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Academic research supports the hypothesis that environmental degradation is linked to economic growth. As economies grow the countries’ in which the growth rates occur pump out correspondingly higher rates of the gas responsible for the greatest single cause of human induced climate change into the earth’s atmosphere. The tendency among humans to consume more and more of the finite resources of our planet, is predicated on capitalism’s inherent drive for growth upon which the maximization of profits is dependent. This is what Naomi Klein talks about when she refers to the capitalist system as one in which the ruthless drive for expansion is kept going by “consumption for consumption’s sake”.

If one accepts this line of reasoning then it follows that in order to ameliorate the affects of climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it’s necessary to challenge the growth based profit seeking logic of capitalism that gives rise to it.

Here we are faced with a major contradiction. The economic growth that is generated by capitalism creates employment opportunities. But in so doing, it also creates an insurmountable environmental and ecological crisis which, taken to its logical conclusion, negates the need for economy and hence employment. It’s this fundamental contradiction that undermines the COP21 in Paris and all of the other UN Climate Summit’s that preceded it.

This rather depressing reality, is underscored by the fact that these summits are primarily concerned with satisfying the demands set by capitalist growth, as opposed to creating the necessary conditions for environmentally sustainable societies’. Although this truism is rarely openly and unambiguously stated, any cursory analysis of the situation reveals that job creation and the “need” to maximize economic growth, overrides environmental sustainability considerations.

The insatiable demands of investors on the one hand, and the urgent need to cut down on global carbon emissions, on the other, are necessarily incongruous concepts. The failure of successive summits, most notably, in Copenhagen, in addressing the incompatibility between economic growth – a factor intrinsic to capitalism – and environmental sustainability that limits it, is a recipe for disaster because it perpetuates the conditions in which further environmental degradation of the planet will occur.

It’s precisely this logic that explains why it is that one of the key players at the COP21 discussions in Paris, Saudi Arabia, attempted to undermine them, even though climate change forecasts suggest that the Gulf region will become uninhabitable as a consequence of the failure of the Arab state agreeing to a radical shift in its negotiating position at the summit.

The rationale for the world’s largest producer of oil in its derailing of negotiations, is based on narrow short-term economic self interest. Saudi Arabia are among the most powerful of the 195 nations who attended the conference in Paris who, alongside their powerful allies, are empowered to block any meaningful negotiations in terms of emissions through a process of informal consensus.

Conversely, the poorer nations, were effectively not in a position to wield sufficient enough power to be able to offset the decision-making processes of the most powerful – the negative impacts of which, as Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, noted – they will disproportionately be on the end of.

For example, the numerous islands that comprise the small Pacific states’ who are among most likely to be adversely impacted by the worst consequences of climate change, had emphasized the need to act on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, while their powerful counterparts adamantly arrived at a higher “consensual” non-binding figure reviewed once every five years.

All this, and the fact that Saudi Arabia introduced a set of unreasonable negotiating pre-conditions against the emerging economies, are the main factors that arguably, in part, prompted the former Nasa scientist, James Hansen, to comment that the discussions in Paris were “a…fraud… a fake,”. He added: “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises….”.

Meanwhile, the United States used the fact that it has not ratified any human rights statute internationally as a poison ‘divide and rule’ pill against the developing countries with the aim of picking off the most vulnerable as their justification for shifting blame for the crisis on to the smaller nations.

This underhand tactic serves a dual purpose in as much as the source of the problem – the rich elites’ pattern of consumption and their lifestyle – is conveniently admonished. That the ‘1 percent versus the 99 percent’ narrative remained a feature of Paris, is to my mind, the most depressing aspect of the summit. Kenyan political ecologist, Ruth Nyambura summed up the impasse well when she said: “We want to get out of this sinking ship, but countries like U.S. are holding the lifeboats.”

The reality is the settlement that emerged in Paris is an extremely weak one due largely to the negotiated consensual interplay between the most powerful players. This meant they were able to use each other to take things off the table they didn’t want. This interplay, to a great extent, is determined by the influence the oil, coal and gas companies had on proceedings as well as the banks, hedge funds and other financial institutions who fund them.

The giant corporations garner an enormous amount of power in terms of their ability to be able to influence the decision making processes of the most powerful governments’. This often takes the form of the lobbying of leading politician’s of these governments by the giant corporations. Paris was no exception. The issues to do with conflicts of interest remain.

Thus, the potential for corruption is as strong as ever, aided ostensibly by credible figures who misrepresent consensus research. The misrepresentations in Paris included climate change professors who Greenpeace exposed as figures who were willing to produce pro-fossil fuel industry research by concealing the source of their funding.

The denialism also invariably extends to apparently skeptical mainstream journalists like Christopher Booker and James Delingpole whose roles are little more than conduits for the kinds of power they are supposed to hold to account. The reality is that the relationship between fossil fuel emissions and climate change is scientifically indisputable. To quote George Monbiot in his book ‘Heat’: “To doubt today, that manmade climate change is happening, you must abandon science and revert to some other means of understanding the world: alchemy perhaps, or magic.”

Nevertheless, the influence that journalists, powerful corporate lobbyists, former politicians and others within the denial industry are able to exert in order to deceive and mislead the public regarding the science can not be underestimated. One such figure is journalist, Peter Hitchens, who ought to know better.

The writer, who has many credible and sensible things to say about the decision of the UK government to go to war in Syria, apparently bases his authority to deny the reality of climate change on misleading glacier figures published online by the ‘Science and Environmental Policy Project’ (SEPP) run by a discredited environmental scientist called Dr S. Fred Singer.

The data has been reproduced by several other groups and had also found its way into The Washington Post. According to George Monbiot, the figures which were published by these groups, were subsequently used by Hitchens as well as other notable denialists like Melanie Phillips and David Bellamy to support their respective positions. However, the groups have one thing in common: they have all been funded by Exxon.

But this fact hasn’t initiated any retractions. On the contrary, it has resulted in the ‘digging in of heels’. The intention is to create confusion and the impression of uncertainty within the scientific community, when in reality none exists. The science is settled. Even Exxon’s own research conducted decades ago, that was until recently covered up, confirmed the role of fossil fuel in global warming.

Despite this, the damage has arguably already been done. Governments’ can only ameliorate the worst affects of runaway climate change. It’s too late to stop it in it’s tracks. As the consequences of climate change feedback begin to take their toll, we will soon be reaching the tipping point.

If in the year 2030, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere remain as high as they are today then ecosystems will begin to release carbon dioxide as opposed to absorbing it. At this point climate change will not only be out of our hands, but it will accelerate without our help. If this does indeed come to pass, then the world will be taking to task the complicit role the denialism industry played in it.

The Paris postmortem.

By Daniel Margrain

President Hollande’s declaration yesterday (November 16) that France is on a war footing is an almost seamless continuation of his rhetorical flourishes that followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January. This time, though, they have intensified and are clearly intended to give a signal to Syria’s President Assad that he can expect more bombs to be dropped on his country.

Something similar happened after 9-11 when President Bush announced to the American public, and hence the world, that the price to be paid for the deaths of over 3,000 people on American soil would be the spilling of the blood of Islamist terrorists, which of course, turned out to be a euphemism for the deaths of a million Iraqi civilians. Although the countries’ and time-frames are different, the magnitude of the grandstanding rhetoric and the upcoming violent retributive responses are not.

Hollande said that the terrorist attacks were “orchestrated from abroad”. But so too have been the attacks on Syria by NATO over the last four and a half years. The dropping of Western imperialist bombs under the umbrella of a war based on the responsibility to protect doctrine, is far more deadly and destructive than the collateral damage caused by a handful of psychopathic killers and sadists under the epithet, “terrorism”. The intended aim of the latter was to cause a lasting sense of disorientation and fear among the masses while the purpose of the former is the destabilization of a country as the precursor to the eventual domination of an entire region by a Western elite.

The leaders of the great imperial powers whose whirlwind of destruction throughout the middle east has resulted in the debris blowing back into the symbolic and literal foundations of Parisian culture have, in so doing, struck at the heart of enlightened modernity and bohemian excess. A city whose decadent charms could be best discovered by walking it’s streets in the manner of the flaneur is rapidly becoming a pastime that is out of step with these increasingly coarse times.

What the impact of creeping globalization has managed to do to the cultural landscape of the city is to diminish its collective sense of unity and resistance to the vagaries of market forces that typify many other cities. The political consequences that will almost certainly arise from the terrorism witnessed on the streets of Paris will be a further crackdown on civil liberties, growing suspicion of the “other”, a rising tide of chauvinist nationalism, and the implementation of a strategy of divide and rule.

The panic and fear witnessed on the streets of the city shown on the mainstream news channels in the aftermath of the attacks will, I suspect, be an illustration of what is to come in the future. The fear will likely be whipped up by the French mainstream media and leading politician’s who, as the investigative journalist Gearoid O’Colmain has pointed out, will almost certainly focus their campaigns on undermining attempts by dissidents who publicly question the established order.

For all of the fighting talk by Hollande of how the war will be taken to the terrorists and how they cannot hope to succeed with their strategy of violence, is not borne out by the resulting panic that ensued. The uncomfortable truth is the terrorists are winning. We now live in an era of eternal war fought on the absurd premise that a corresponding everlasting peace is just around the corner. This circular illogicality is underpinned by numerous ongoing conflicts which are being fought on unlimited battlefronts on a global scale.

This scenario isn’t lost on the elite 1 per cent who regard the end game as the emergence of a “peace” predicated on continued injustice and the creation of a wilderness starved of hope and aspiration for the remaining 99 per cent. The combination of an Hobbesian world and the kind of future of the science fiction of Huxley and Orwell  is in truth a mark of the present that somehow we have let happen as though having stepped blindfolded and hypnotized into the pages of the novels of their creators’.

The people of the world are caught in the middle in this disaster while the elite look down on the chaos and carnage from their ivory towers and from the luxurious comfort of their gated communities. The connections between the environmental degradation of our planet which is crumbling around us, and the limits of a system predicated on the unsustainable concept of unlimited economic growth and warfare are clear.

The propaganda that the leading politicians and their mouthpieces in the mainstream media present to the public is the notion that state violence is the default position to counter the terrorism of which the chaos and carnage described is implicit. The BBCs political editor Laura Kuenssberg, for example, constantly gives the impression of being baffled about peace over violence.

In a high-profile piece on the BBC’s flagship News at Ten programme on September 30, Kuenssberg featured in an almost comically biased, at times openly scornful, attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on nuclear weapons.  The overall narrative is that violence is the answer to violence which is presented as normal while diplomacy and peace is regarded as radical and “off message”.

Rarely do the media point out the truth that violence against an ideology can never in practice be a winning strategy or that neoliberal socioeconomic fundamentalism is as extreme as its politically-inspired violent offshoot. One of the causes that has laid waste to alienation and radicalism in Paris is the kind of socioeconomic discord that the racially segregated Muslim ghettos at its periphery and its sterile hollowed out core reflect.

What underpins this socioeconomic discord is the history of French imperialism and colonialism. The root cause of the despair and terrorist depravity that the world witnessed last Friday is not located in the bazaars of Damascus or the cafes of Algiers but in the boardrooms and plush offices of metropolitan cities like London, Paris and Washington.