Tag: danielmargrain.com

Barefoot economic values, TTIP & the democratic retreat.

By Daniel Margrain

Equality before the law is one of the most fundamental principles underpinning justice. It is therefore an act of utter insanity to want to roll back the gains that has seen societies’ flourish as a result of the enactment of these principles and yet that’s precisely what the UK government like that of the US and 13 other EU members seem to be sleepwalking into rubber stamping.

Fifteen years ago, George Monbiot analysed the extent to which the UK government – through the dictates of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI)- had essentially become captive to the infiltration of the state by corporations’ on the national level. What is now being proposed transnationally, is essentially the capture of national sovereignty by multi-national corporations.

The Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), a procedural mechanism that allows foreign investors to sue states’ for damages in a tribunal of arbitration, have in recent years, increased in number and value. They are set to grow exponentially if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which sets the provisions for ISDS, is allowed to go ahead as expected next year.

It will effectively mean that corporate lawyers across the EU and US will be allowed to overturn the laws of individual democratic governments’ with a view to them seeking massive compensation claims on behalf of the corporations they represent on the basis that likely “future anticipated profits” would be adversely affected.

The provisions of the draft agreement which was conducted in secret and only came to light after their contents were leaked to the media in March 2014, followed the results of a public consultation undertaken by the European Commission. Neither appears to have done anything to ally public concerns over the proposed deal which, should it end up being finalized in its current form will, as I will attempt to show below, have profound negative implications for Western democracy.

In December 2013, a coalition of over 200 environmentalists, labour unions and consumer advocacy organizations on both sides of the Atlantic sent a letter to the US federal agency responsible for trade policy, the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and European Commission demanding the ISDS be dropped from the trade talks, claiming that it was “a one-way street by which corporations can challenge government policies, but neither governments nor individuals are granted any comparable rights to hold corporations accountable”.

Clearly, the clauses in the trade agreement relating to investment protection are open to abuse, as is the undermining of national sovereignty resulting from this potential for abuse – issues that were tackled in a Guardian article by Owen Jones. Expanding on this, Martti Koskenniemi, professor of International Law, warned that the planned foreign investor protection scheme within the treaty, similar to World Bank Group‘s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), would endanger the sovereignty of the signatory states by effectively allowing for a small circle of legal experts to be given the power to usurp democratic legislative procedures and standards.

Professor Colin Crouch describes TTIP as “post-democracy in its purest form”. By this he means it represents a deficit in democratic accountability in which the structures of the state have ceded their powers to the imperatives associated with multinational capital. Post-democracy in these terms equates to the shifting of power towards corporations’ where deals are often struck in secret out of the reach of public bodies whose democratic role is to scrutinize them in the public interest.

Whenever scrutiny is removed, the burden of both economic and environmental risk relating to deals between political elites and corporate lobbies, tend to tilt towards the public sphere who pick up the pieces by way of what economists euphemistically refer to as “externalities”. Often, for example, deals involve the construction of large infrastructural vanity projects including football stadiums, Olympic villages and the like, that usually come with negative knock-on environmental, ecological, employment and economic impacts.

The London mayor Boris Johnson’s less than transparent involvement in the Olympic Stadium deal between the London Dockland Development Corporation (LDDC) and Premier League football club, West Ham United, brokered by Lady Brady, is an example of how both the political and business elites mutually benefit from these kinds of potentially environmentally and economically (for the tax payer) damaging and secret deals.

As the Blatter scandal, and more recently, Sebastian Coe’s cozy relationship with Nike and his other underhand dealings illustrate, the corporate, government and national authority ties within the high echelons of sport, are indicative of a wider corruption, albeit an informal kind that, unless you happen to be foreigner, is rarely acknowledged within the British establishment.

In such cases, corruption is normally regarded to be an activity restricted to “tin-pot” dictatorships in the developing world rather than something that has arguably become “normalized” and symptomatic of a broader societal and economic malaise conducive to political life within formal Western liberal democracies’.

With virtually every public asset being up for grabs in the era of neoliberal globalization (and hence reduced to a crude form of exchange value by the elites), means that all aspects of our existence are to be potentially ceded to the altar of profit and multilateral economic growth. This is precisely the aim of TTIP.

But of course not all values are perceived in this crude narrow sense. Employment, environmental, and even food standards protection which TTIP is set to undermine, for example, are concomitant to the public good. Within the context of a finite planet, the same cannot necessarily be said of economic growth.

Another value that cannot be measured in strictly economic terms is happiness and contentment. Can it really be said with any conviction that we, in the first world, are generally happier and more content than people in the developing world?

Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef brings some valuable insights into play within this area. Having worked for many years of his life in extreme poverty in the Sierras, in the jungle and in urban areas of different parts of Latin America, Max-Neef recalls:

“At the beginning of that period, I was one day in an Indian village in the Sierra in Peru. It was an ugly day. It had been raining all the time. And I was standing in the slum. And across me, another guy also standing in the mud — not in the slum, in the mud. And, well, we looked at each other, and this was a short guy, thin, hungry, jobless, five kids, a wife and a grandmother. And I was the fine economist from Berkeley, teaching in Berkeley, having taught in Berkeley and so on. And we were looking at each other, and then suddenly I realized that I had nothing coherent to say to that man in those circumstances, that my whole language as an economist, you know, was absolutely useless. Should I tell him that he should be happy because the GDP had grown five percent or something? Everything was absurd.

He continues:

We have reached a point in our evolution in which we know a lot. We know a hell of a lot. But we understand very little. Never in human history has there been such an accumulation of knowledge like in the last 100 years. Look how we are. What was that knowledge for? What did we do with it? And the point is that knowledge alone is not enough, that we lack understanding….”

The overriding factor that has given Max-Neef hope in the poor communities that he has lived and worked in is:

“Solidarity of people… respect for the others. Mutual aid. No greed. Greed is a value that is absent in poverty. And you would be inclined to think that there should be more there than elsewhere, you know, that greed should be of people who have nothing. No, quite the contrary. The more you have, the more greedy you become, you know. And all this crisis is the product of greed. Greed is the dominant value today in the world. And as long as that persists, well, we are done….”

According to Max-Neef, the best principles of economics are based in five postulates and one fundamental value principle:

“One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.”

In developing postulate three, Max-Neef explains:

“Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point and stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. But we continue developing ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be dialoguing here now. So development has no limits. Growth has limits. And that is a very big thing, you know, that economists and politicians don’t understand. They are obsessed with the fetish of economic growth” [My emphasis].

Crucially:

“…In every society there is a period in which economic growth, conventionally understood or no, brings about an improvement of the quality of life. But only up to a point, the threshold point, beyond which, if there is more growth, quality of life begins to decline. And that is the situation in which we are now.”

The aim of TTIP, is the promotion of multilateral economic growth (of which the ideology of progress is seen as emblematic). Paradoxically, this corresponds to the decline in the quality of life characterized by runaway climate change and the undermining of environmental protection that this implies.

The law of diminishing returns as inferred by Max-Neef, would suggest that humanity is currently at the threshold point. It’s up to us to determine our future path and those of our children and children’s children. In order to do that we need to break with the current socioeconomic paradigm.

 

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.

Is Western corruption & duplicity fanning the flames of ISIS?

By Daniel Margrain

On October 23 the mainstream media reported the obliteration by both Russian and US coalition forces of an ISIS oilfield and supply routes in the heart of Islamic State territory in Syria. Following the UK government’s decision to extend its military campaign from Iraq into Syria, a subsequent BBC report highlighted an additional bombing raid on December 5 in that country. But it has since transpired that this second raid targeted the precise location hit by the Russian and US coalition forces.

So the question arises, why would RAF warplanes hit a target that had already been obliterated five weeks prior to the second raid? A possible explanation is that the oilfield and supply routes described were in the process of being hastily reconstructed. However, this seems highly unlikely given that the BBC report cites Ministry of Defense claims that the RAFs Tornado and Typhoon warplanes were involved in eight attacks in which Paveway IV bombs were offloaded resulting in the destruction of wellheads….“thus cutting off the terrorists’ oil revenue at the very source”.

The impression given that the UK government had actively engaged in degrading the infrastructural and financial capability of their latest bogeyman, ISIS, appears therefore, to be a deception. In any event, one of David Cameron’s major justifications for his case for more war, was that Brimstone missiles, as opposed to Paveway bombs, were to be deployed against ISIS targets in Syria on account of their greater level of accuracy, thus limiting the possibility of civilian casualties.

It follows that in the unlikely event that what was being bombed was actually a site in the process of reconstruction, as opposed to an already existing obliterated terrain, the use of Paveway bombs would have greatly increased the risk of death to the civilian construction workers working on the site. This totally undermines Cameron’s claim that the UK would not attack civilians.

Whatever the truth of the situation, the fact that the RAF attacked a civilian target rather than a military base, would suggest that the government’s alleged intention to bring closure to this conflict at the earliest opportunity is bogus. The prospect of lengthy war provides a boost to the profits of the arms and weapons companies’. ISIS have gained access to weapons allegedly exported by the UK to the Middle East in the wake of 2003 invasion.

But gaining access to weapons is not possible without the access to money to purchase them. Tackling the flow and source of criminal money which helps sustain the lifeblood of ISIS, is the most effective strategy in dealing with the root cause of the terrorist organization. A second consideration, is ascertaining what the overriding medium to long-term motivation of the great imperial powers and their allies that underpins the strategy for war is. The answers to these questions are most likely to be found within the belly of the beast of the political establishment who, to a large extent, appear to be pulling the financial strings that determine the control, flow and maintaining of oil revenues.

One of the leading figures who allegedly plays a pivotal role in this regard is the British politician Nadhim Zahawi whose financial interests in Genel Energy suggests he is vulnerable to lobbying. As a member of David Cameron’s government, it is alleged that the Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon has traded black market oil derived from ISIS controlled fields in Iraq prior to the black stuff being transported and sold, in part, to European markets through Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea, with the main purchaser said to be Israel.

The allegations against Zahawi come against the backdrop of evidence which indicates that ISIS sell oil emanating from nearly a dozen oil fields in northern Iraq and Syria’s Raqqa province that they control. It then passes through Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Back in 2014, David Cohen, US Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, claimed that middlemen from Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan region buy black market oil from ISIS that earns the terror group some $1 million a day.

In September last year, in a briefing to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, EU Ambassador to Iraq Jana Hybaskova, conceded that some European countries have purchased crude from ISIS from the areas in northern Iraq and Syria they have captured. Given that the most effective way of countering ISIS is to attack the source of their funding rather than using bombs to attack civilians, it was unsurprising that Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn’s initial position was to oppose military intervention in Syria. However, inexplicably, two weeks later, he changed his mind and voted in favour of bombing.

Something appeared to have happened in the two week period up to December 2 which influenced Benn’s decision to change his mind. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that war is good for boosting the profits of those connected to the military-industrial complex and that he had been lobbied by those who stood to gain financially from any change of heart.

Although share prices in the manufacturers of British WMD, BAE Systems, were depressed in late October they subsequently jumped after the announcement to bomb was made. Being in the pocket of the arms industry is concomitant to the notion of being favourable to war, which clearly explains his careful positioning to usurp the anti-war Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership.

Across the Atlantic, major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner said his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria, citing the Turkish military’s recent decision to shoot down a Russian warplane.

Meanwhile, a deal that authorized $607 billion in defense spending brokered by the U.S Congress, was described as a “treat” for the industry. What better way to benefit from this “treat” than for the major powers to secure the “hydrocarbon potential” of Syria’s offshore resources with the aim of reducing European dependence on Russian gas and boosting the potential for an energy independence.

Israel is part of a broader strategy to dismember Syria with a view to toppling Syrian president Bashar al – Assad leading to the annexation of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria during the 1967 war. This is being aided by one of the most concerted media propaganda offensives since the Iraq debacle. At the forefront of this offensive is the Murdoch printed press.

But what are Murdoch’s reasons for pushing so hard for war? The answer is Genie Energy. Israel has granted oil exploration rights inside Syria, in the occupied Golan Heights, to this multinational corporation. Major shareholders of the company – which also has interests in shale gas in the United States and shale oil in Israel – include Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild. The following is from a 2010 Genie Energy press release

Claude Pupkin, CEO of Genie Oil and Gas, commented, “Genie’s success will ultimately depend, in part, on access to the expertise of the oil and gas industry and to the financial markets. Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch are extremely well regarded by and connected to leaders in these sectors. Their guidance and participation will prove invaluable.”

“I am grateful to Howard Jonas and IDT for the opportunity to invest in this important initiative,” Lord Rothschild said. “Rupert Murdoch’s extraordinary achievements speak for themselves and we are very pleased he has agreed to be our partner. Genie Energy is making good technological progress to tap the world’s substantial oil shale deposits which could transform the future prospects of Israel, the Middle East and our allies around the world.”

Other players involved include the Israeli subsidiary, Afek Oil and Gas,  American Shale, French Total and BP. Thus there exists a broad and powerful nexus of US, British, French and Israeli interests, encompassing defense, security, energy and media sectors, at the forefront of pushing for the break-up of Syria and the control of what is believed to be potentially vast untapped oil and gas resources in the country, as well as reining in Russian and Iranian influence in the region.

The West’s intention to augment its geopolitical and economic strategic influence in Syria and the region more widely is premised primarily on a militaristic, as opposed to, a political solution. This gives rise to conflicting attitudes to the Assad regime in terms of ascertaining who are, and who are not, terrorists. In this complex web, some players are more motivated to destroy ISIS than others.

NATO member Turkey’s geo-strategic motivation, for instance, is the obliteration by Turkish forces of the Kurdish YPG who conversely happen to be one of the key fighting forces opposed to ISIS on the ground. The YPG are ostensibly supported by the British and American’s who in turn desire the overthrow of Assad whose forces are the only real credible presence on the ground.

On the other hand, it’s in both Russia’s and Iran’s interest to keep Assad in power – the latter on the basis of maintaining a link to Hezbollah in Lebanon. If ever there was an illustration for the need for a properly coordinated and multi-pronged diplomatic approach to solve a complex problem that transcends narrow self interest, then Syria and the wider Middle East is it. But instead the world powers’ are blundering from one major crisis to another with no apparent end point in sight.

 

 

Brimstone & bloodied hands

 

By Daniel Margrain

The decision of the UK government yesterday evening (December 2) to extend its war on terror into Syria with no coordinated strategy in place to defeat ISIS, will almost certainly be as catastrophic as Tony Blair’s decision in 2003 to commit British troops to Iraq. The notion that MPs could have genuinely been persuaded by Cameron’s line of reasoning for another illegal war is as inconceivable as MPs during Blair’s reign being unaware of either Scott Ritter’s findings stating that by 1998 Saddam had effectively been disarmed, or the subsequent public pronouncements of Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice that were made on the back of them that preceded the infamous 45 minute claim.

The Prime Minister’s justification for sending more of our troops into harms way – which, significantly, was rejected by the Foreign Affairs Committee – was predicated on the dubious and frankly laughable claim of the existence of 70,000 “moderate rebels”. On Sunday’s (November 29) edition of the BBCs Marr programme, Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, when pressed by presenter Andrew Marr to clarify who these rebels were, replied that were comprised solely of anti-Assad, Free Syrian Army forces.

However, early on December 1, Lt Gen Gordon Messenger, the deputy chief of the defence staff, appeared to have contradicted Fallon by refusing to confirm whether any of the alleged 70,000 fighters were members of more extremist groups such as the Islamic Front and Ahrar al-Sham. The fact that no clarification by Cameron was given to MPs regarding the source for the 70,000 figure or its composition, is not a sufficient enough basis for MPs to be able to make an informed decision about such an important life and death issue.

A major argument of those who defend the decision to extend the war, is premised on the claim that the attacks against ISIS in Iraq have not resulted in a single civilian casualty. Numerous conservative MPs have been afforded air time in the media to pontificate such an absurd claim without, to my knowledge, any serious challenge from journalists contradicting it. In under ten minutes of researching credible civilian casualty figures in Iraq resulting from coalition bombs, I learned that eight named children and two women had been killed in just one strike on Fallujah in a single day on November 26.

The public are being denied critical information by the mainstream media in order for them to be able to counter government propaganda and thus to challenge their MPs about their decisions for the case for war. But the same cannot be said of these MPs who themselves ought to be seeking to challenge such fundamental misconceptions and misinformation. Feigned ignorance is not a defence against complicit hands metaphorically covered in the blood of innocent victims.

The use of the government’s “precision” Brimstone missiles that will kill many more innocent men, women and children than the tragedy of Paris that gave rise to their use in Iraq and now Syria, will be the direct consequence of the deceptions of politicians’ and the shortcomings of journalists who failed to challenge their rationale for war.

If the government were serious about obliterating the existential threat they claim ISIS represents, then they would not be aligning themselves with allegedly 70,000 unidentified “moderates” who, as Patrick Cockburn contends “are weak or barely exist”. On the contrary, they would be aligning themselves with the forces on the ground that are resisting ISIS most effectively. These groups, as Peter Hitchens acknowledges, are the Syrian Kurds, the Syrian National Army, Hezzbollah and Iran – all of whom are being backed by Russian air power. However, this sensible coordinated strategy is being usurped by Cameron’s non-existent one, upon which, in their infinite wisdom, the majority of MPs voted.

The second explanation as to why the government’s decision to extend the bombing into Syria is not motivated by the need to destroy ISIS, is the duplicitous approach they have adopted in respect to their dictatorial regional allies in the Gulf peninsula who are among their biggest recipients of weapon deals. There is evidence that powerful actors within Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are among the most brutal regimes on earth, have been facilitating funds and arms to ISIS and their affiliates that result from these deals.

Consequently, figures suggest ISIS alone has at least 80,000 fighters up from last year’s estimates of around 20,000 to 31,500. No matter how this is spun, the situation can only be interpreted as being an example of state sponsored terrorism that has had serious blow-back consequences. A former US military chief goes as far as to admit that the Iraq invasion had spawned ISIS.

Nafeez Ahmed notes that in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2014, General Martin Dempsey, then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked by Senator Lindsay Graham whether he knew of “any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL”? Dempsey replied: “I know major Arab allies who fund them.” In other words, the most senior US military official at the time had confirmed that ISIS was being funded by the very same “major Arab allies” that had just joined the US-led anti-ISIS coalition.

If the major imperial powers were serious about undermining the terrorists, they would start by ensuring that their regional allies stop providing monetary, military and logistical support to them and their affiliates. Often overlooked is the fact that NATO member Turkey has also played a pivotal role in funneling arms to the various extremist factions as well as actively facilitating ISIS oil sales through the country. The reason Turkey shot down the Russian jet was to deter the Russian bombing in the Nusra Front-controlled border region. All this, as Nafeez Ahmed points out:

“….. begs the question as to why Hollande and other Western leaders expressing their determination to “destroy” ISIS using all means necessary, would prefer to avoid the most significant factor of all: the material infrastructure of ISIS’ emergence in the context of ongoing Gulf and Turkish state support for Islamist militancy in the region. There are many explanations, but one perhaps stands out: the West’s abject dependence on terror-toting Muslim regimes, largely to maintain access to Middle East, Mediterranean and Central Asian oil and gas resources.”

Naturally, both Russia and its allies on the one hand, and the U.S and its allies on the other, have geopolitical interests’ diametrically opposed to one another. But the point is, Russia’s principle motivation leads them to destroying ISIS with the view to maintaining Assad’s grip on power, whereas the West’s motivation lies elsewhere.

The West have spent well over $5 trillion on waging their “war on terror”. Over that period, US State Department data shows that terror attacks have skyrocketed by 6,500 percent, while the number of casualties from terror attacks has increased by 4,500 percent.

*2004 terrorism estimates from CIA figures.

As Nafeez Ahmed pointed out, journalist Paul Gottinger, who analysed the data, noted that spikes in these figures coincided with military intervention: “…. from 2007 to 2011 almost half of all the world’s terror took place in Iraq or Afghanistan – two countries being occupied by the US at the time.” And in 2014, he found, “74 percent of all terror-related casualties occurred in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Syria. Of these five, only Nigeria did not experience either US air strikes or a military occupation in that year.”

This would appear to be consistent with Ken Livingston’s contention, for which he was much maligned, that our military intervention in Iraq in 2003 had a direct bearing on the attacks in London on July 7, 2005. Moreover, it would also tend to support his view that the forthcoming air strikes in Syria will increase the threat of terrorist attacks here. Former British ambassador, Oliver Miles recently commented:

The [current] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”

Under such circumstances, it might well be reasonably argued, as former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford has, that Cameron’s warmongering deceit is criminally negligent. It’s absurd to argue that the way to thwart transnational terrorism committed by organised groups of individuals on European soil is to bomb innocent people in nation states’ in the middle east.

Warmongering Blairites like Hilary Benn are incredulous that anybody should oppose the bombing of the 600,000 population of Raqqa, in the hope, as Craig Murray put it“of hitting 8,000 ISIS personnel carefully dispersed among them.” Conservative MP John Baron’s reasoned arguments and appeal to colleagues, below, ended up being futile but at least he and the minority of other MPs who opposed more war for the benefit of the arms industry who lobby Cameron, appear to have a conscience:

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Philip Hammond’s commendation to his opposite number, Hilary Benn, that his pro-war speech was “one of the greatest in parliamentary history”, is illustrative of how democracy is little more than lip service to power underpinned by a self-serving Red-Tory opposition. Craig Murray hit the nail on the head when he said“the odious Blairites are the most self-centred, selfish and indeed sociopathic group ever to have a serious presence in the UK parliament.”

The truth is, the general public are, as was the case with Iraq, being systematically lied to. After numerous hours of debate in parliament, it is clear that Cameron’s case for bombing that will now begin within hours of this article being published, had not been made. The decision by the British parliament to ostensibly bomb ISIS by an overwhelming parliamentary majority of 174, is not supported by the majority of the British people and is based on a charade whose real purpose is illegal regime change.

In a recent article, journalist John Pilger quoted the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas who last year revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

 

 

Toby Young Regurgitates Old Labour Myths In Order To Denigrate Corbyn

In a debate on yesterday evening’s Channel 4 News (August 11) between Toby Young and Owen Jones, the former was aghast at the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn victory in the forthcoming Labour Party leadership election campaign.

For the metropolitan elite, who Young speaks on behalf of, any notion that Corbyn could actually be victorious is invariably met with incredulity, derision or mockery.

Corbyn’s runaway lead in the polls, and the fact that he continues to pack out halls to capacity in rally after rally, is simply mystifying to people like Young. In a typically patronising fashion, the right-wing journalist was aghast at how Labour Party members could possibly support Corbyn.

Such support “beggars belief”, he said. He continued: “How many elections does Labour have to lose when it puts up a left-wing leader in order for the message to sink home”? Here, he is perpetuating the myth discussed here and here that left-wing leaders are unelectable.

He then made a reference to former Labour leader Michael Foot’s lack of apparent popularity in an attempt to bolster his argument. But again, he was dealing in myth rather than reality. A commentator on Craig Murray’s blog by the name of Bevin put Young straight on the matter:

“What happened to Foot’s campaign in 1983 was that a large part of Labour’s leadership seceded calling the Labour platform extremist and Marxist. This had the effect, amongst other things, of confusing much of Labour’s traditional support.

Occurring at the same time as a massive media campaign celebrating the SDP and its purported radicalism – ‘breaking the mould of British politics’ – it divided the Labour vote and handed the election to the unpopular Tories.

Then there was the Falklands effect. The notion that Foot was defeated in a straight contest with Thatcher and that his mild socialist policies were rejected in favour of her hard right programme is nonsense.

His position was sabotaged by a well financed and carefully co-ordinated campaign to split the Labour party, by a right wing faction that has, since the 1940s, relied upon US governmental patronage on condition that it use every weapon to thwart those in Labour opposed to the Cold War and in favour of nuclear disarmament and peace.

Those who actually recall the history of the period will confirm that both within the Labour party and in the broader population, nuclear disarmament, getting out of NATO and declaring British independence from the US were very popular policies.

The membership of the Labour party was overwhelmingly in favour of the left. The proto Blairites and the Grosvenor Square groupies invariably relied on block votes from the authoritarian Union leaders at the party’s annual conference. The membership of the Constituency parties always supported the left. And so did most Trade Unionists and Labour voters.

When predicting the result of the next general election it would be best to understand that, for the great majority of the electorate, the coming five years are likely to see the NHS going the way of free education, a housing crisis which will see large numbers of working families, once again, living in crowded slums, an enormous increase in unemployment and a radical decline in living standards. A return to Victorian conditions.

Any politician who can offer an alternative is likely to do better than those declaring that nothing can be done, which is what the Blairites say. That any such politician will be crucified in the media, slandered and misrepresented goes without saying.”

Equality And Social Justice – Cameron Style

The mainstream media today confirmed the Tories commitment to equality and social justice with their announcement of their plans to ensure that UK citizens aged 18-22 are (in line with anti-EU discrimination law), to be exempt from the same rights to tax credits, child benefit and housing benefit as their immigrant counterparts.

Government lawyers have stated: “Imposing additional requirements on EU workers that do not apply to a member state’s own workers constitutes direct discrimination which is prohibited under current EU law” (1).

So, apparently, in order to be compliant with EU law, UK citizens within the 18-22 age group must forgo these benefits on the basis that it’s discriminatory because immigrants are not entitled to them.

But instead of raising the bar by insisting that both UK citizens and immigrants within this age range be entitled to benefits on an equal basis, the Tories have decided to lower it by insisting that neither group are entitled to anything. In other words, equality in the gutter as opposed to equality at the dinner table.

The reason so many immigrants – many of whom risk their lives –  want to come here is because of the perception that the UK is a relative economic powerhouse. However, any cuts to benefits will not deter people who are primarily motivated by the need to improve the lives of themselves and their families as a result of perceived greater work opportunities this country allegedly offers.

The government have done nothing to dispel myths that the UK is a land of milk and honey. This would suggest that their plan to cut welfare across the board in order to adhere to EU law was planned. As blogger Mike Sivier put it: “The migrant situation is a crisis of the Tories’ own making and they are using it to hammer their own fellow citizens” (2).

So what next do the government have in the pipeline you might reasonably ask?

The Tories are ideologically opposed to the welfare state. This latest move is, I would suggest, part and parcel of their intention to get rid of it altogether by stealth. It’s a remarkable state of affairs when our only hope out of this morass appears to be Jeremy Corbyn.

Tough Tories

Mr Amin hatched a scheme to persuade the English Defence League (pictured) to announce an inflammatory march against a new £18million ‘mega-mosque’

Employers who take on illegal immigrants will apparently face new sanctions under the law. Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire said companies “will be hit from all angles” (1) with raids and checks concentrating on building sites, cleaning firms and care homes.

Apparently, the government intends to use a multi-pronged attack using HMRC, the tax office, the health and safety executive and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (the body that issues licenses to employment agencies and gangmasters within the agricultural industries) in an attempt to tackle employers who break the law in this way.

But is this merely another illustration of government grandstanding and the use of soundbites in exchange for any serious commitment to tackling the issue? A Freedom of Information request found the Home Office had issued almost £80m in fines but collected just £25m. The figures show that more than 8,500 penalties totalling £79,300,000 were issued between 2008/09 and 2012/13, but two-thirds of that total remains uncollected (2).

In 2009/10 the number of employers fined for using illegal immigrants stood at 2,254. By 2013/14 (the latest available figures) the number had been reduced to 2,090 (3). The government would claim that this is a success. But Labour and the unions say that this merely shows that the problem is going undetected because a lack of resources because of cuts, hence the need for the crackdown.

Unite, the country’s largest union, argue that the scope and powers of The Gangmasters Licensing Authority need to be expanded to prevent abuses that amount to modern day slavery (4).

They said that if the government was really serious about this crackdown it would expand the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to include more sectors other than just agriculture. And they would give it more money. In fact, it’s funding was frozen in 2010 (5).

The gangmasters when contacted by Channel 4 News about the supposed government crackdown didn’t know anything about it (6). A poll of Border Force employees revealed 98% ­questioned thought staff shortages were stopping them making all the checks they should (7).

Meanwhile, on the back of Cameron’s description of migrants as a ‘swarm’ (8), Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond defended his use of the term ‘marauding’ when describing the immigrants at Calais who are trying to access the tunnel their (9).

This narrative fits in with the government’s perceived crackdown on rogue employers who take on illegal workers. In reality, the appearance of toughness has more to do with appeasing their right-wing constituency in an attempt to win back former Tory voters who deserted the party for UKIP prior to the last election.

Public Coffers Hammered

 Impressed: An image provided by West Ham which shows how the stadium could also be used as a concert venue after the Games

The new English Premier League football season begins today. As as life-long West Ham United supporter my expectations for a successful season are typically low. If the Hammers finish in a top eight position and have a good cup run I’ll be happy. With our move away from our spiritual home at the Boleyn into the Olympic Stadium at Stratford, east London next season, it’s imperative that we maintain our premier league status.

With a new manager and former player (who appears to be finally attuned to the  entertainment ethos of the club that the fans demand) in place, all is relatively good on the playing side of things. As far as the fans are concerned, off the park shenanigans are good too given that those who run the club plan to substantially reduce season ticket prices in an an attempt to fill the stadiums 54,000 capacity – a model that other clubs are encouraged to adopt (1).

But here’s the problem. West Ham United are paying just £15million towards the £272million cost of converting the Olympic Stadium despite the fact that, should the club still be a Premier League next year, it will – under the terms of a new TV deal – be entitled to a payout of at least £99million (2).

Small business people, many whom whom run their businesses on extremely tight margins, might be wondering how the elite within football, like multi-millionaire lady Brady, who brokered the deal are apparently 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 – whether they be premier league chairmen or City bankers – are concerned, it would appear that the kind of business risks the rest of us are prone to, is not applicable to them. The Premier League football racket is akin to the banking racket.

The Benefit Sponging Elite

Last night another row erupted after it emerged that hedge funds rushed to gamble on RBS shares falling in value after government plans to start selling its stake were leaked last week. (file image)

I was in my local cafe earlier today and nearly choked on my bacon sandwich at the sheer audacity of the banksters. I happened to glance over at the adjacent table at the copy of the Daily Mail somebody had left open. I generally detest this rag, but have to admit that every now and then it does come up with the occasional nugget.

The paper does appear of late to be on a mission to undermine Osborne and the Tories. As I alluded to in post on August 4, it was clear that the Tory Aristocrat had garnered some insider knowledge prior to the part sell off of RBS thus providing the opportunity for his mates in the City to, once again, pillage the public purse- this time to the tune of a cool £1bn (1).

This was money which no doubt could have been better spent on bailing out a non-taxable status charitable organisation like, for example, Kids Company run by Camila Batman (and robber?) ghelidjh. Maybe an extra billion added to the £3 million Cameron nodded through to the bankrupt charity would have saved it?

But anyway back to the latest banking scandal. With her insider knowledge and connections as a former City banker, it’s highly conceivable that Treasury minister, Harriet Baldwin. who defended the sell-off, would have advised Osborne on the matter.

The Daily Mail’s Banking Correspondent, James Salmon, revealed that hedge funds rushed to gamble on RBS – a ploy known in the market as ‘shorting’ – “may have generated profits of more than £10 million, This is because the bank’s share price fell in the days before the government sell-off.” (2).

Labour MP John Mann, a member of the Treasury select committee, said: “Yet again hedge funds and bankers are making money and the public are losing out.” (3). A few days ago former City trader, Tom Hayes,was given a 14 year sentence for his role in rigging the Libor interest rate. (4). But he is merely the sacrificial lamb for a much wider and systematic corruption that begins at the very top. The fact that these kinds of abuses are allowed to continue in the context in which people struggling on benefits are jailed for stealing food (5), is the scandal of our time.

The former Republican analyst Mike Lofgren, disgusted with what his party had become, said the following about the economic elite in the United States:

“The rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it ” (6).

He might as well of been talking about the UK, which is basically little more than the 51st state. Osborne and Cameron identify more readily with a transnational elite than with the other people of this nation. The proof is in the pudding. On behalf of this elite, the government gives away a staggering £93bn a year in corporate welfare – a sum bigger than the deficit.(7). It champions the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; a graver threat to the interests of this nation than Islamic extremism.

And yet there is a iron-cast consensus between the Tories and the Labour hierarchy in terms of their unwillingness to tackle the problem. This explains why the latter distance themselves from the populist Jeremy Corbyn who wants to put and end to this kind of revolving door political cronyism.

The real benefit spongers are not those who feature on low brow documentary programmes, but rather they are the elites who occupy the corridors of the plush buildings within the City of London.

Banking Racketeers Set For Another Windfall

A sign is displayed outside of a branch of The Royal Bank of Scotland in central London, Britain May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

The UK Chancellor’s announcement that he plans to sell-off £2 billion worth of the 79 per cent stake the government has in RBS over the coming fortnight is, according to Unite national officer for finance Rob MacGregor, “recklessly irresponsible”(1). RBS shares that stood at £6.88 in 2007, are now valued at £3.30 (2). It should be noted that the shares have not been offered to the people who bailed out RBS, that is us, the taxpayers but to the Tories’ city friends.

The decision by Aristocrat Gideon Osborne, who seems set to be next in line to take the reins of PM from his friend David Cameron (3), and who promised action on tax avoidance (4), despite the fact that his family business has avoided tax (5), is defended by Treasury minister, Harriet Baldwin. Why would she defend the sell-off which will result in a £1bn loss to taxpayers, you may ask?

Well, it could have something to do with her connections within in the banking racket. Having joined investment bank JP Morgan Chase in 1986, she then became managing director and Head of Currency Management at their London office in 1998. She left the bank in 2008, after more than two decades with the bank (6). Maybe she has advised Cameron to get shot of the RBS millstone before his transition to PM.

The chief architects of the RBS collapse, Fred Goodwin and Sir Tom McKillop seemed to have disappeared into the ether.

To sell these shares when business is slow, many are on holiday and the stock market depressed, means its the opportune time for these scoundrels to defraud us for the second time round, which of course is really what this latest scandal is all about.

If, after this latest act by the page boy to his dads banker friends in order to further the interests of the banking racketeers, won’t have awaken the masses from their slumber, then I fear nothing will. There is no clearer illustration we are being taken for a ride than the governments collusion with the bankers as highlighted by this sell-off.  Austerity amounts to the raiding of the public coffers to bolster the pockets of the super-rich (7).

As economist Andrew Fisher alludes, this is clearly an ideological and dogmatic move by Osborne, not a financially pragmatic one:

“Banks that owe their continuing existence to public funds should be acting in the public interest — investing in the productive economy, reducing the margins between their lending rates and savers’ rates, and ending the fat-cat bonus culture at the top, while underpaying and laying off cashiers at the other end.”(8).

The Financial Times reported yesterday (August 3) that Osborne wants to flog off £32bn worth of public assets by the end of the financial year, as part of a strategy to reduce the role of the state that will do nothing to stimulate growth (9). The £32bn worth of public asset stripping that is to include the Met Office, Ordnance Survey and air traffic controller Nats, breaks even Thatcher’s record (10).

We are not in this mess because politicians are stupid but because of the cozy relationship that exists between them and the bankers who the latter lobby on behalf of (11). The Guardian outlines how it all works. A commentator on Craig Murray’s blog argued that:

“The entire RBS saga is a scam from start to finish:

• All banks make huge profits by lending prodigiously.
• Concentrate bad debts in a few banks.
• Instill ‘too big to fail’ meme.
• Order politicians to ‘nationalise’ compromised banks at huge cost to tax-payers.
• Continue injecting billions until ‘nationalised’ banks have paid off the lion’s share of bad debt.
• Sell bank back to bankers at knock-down price” (12).

Another commentator from the same blog makes another apt point:

“Note the bastards didn’t buy voting shares in RBS: the taxpaying sucker didn’t even have the opportunity to reform the bank. Lovely little restructure: the retail arm goes to another retail bank for a knockdown price (W&G may not have been too wise buying it even then), while the crooked division ends up divvied up between hedge funds. And lives to cheat another day” (13).

Don’t forget dear readers, we are all in it with the aim of getting the deficit down.