Sunday, December 13, 2009
What Blair has done is admit, not only that he lied to Parliament and the British public about Saddam having WMD, but that he would have used different lies—these “different arguments”—if he had thought the WMD lie was inadequate.
Hans Blix, head of the UN weapons inspectorate in 2003, commented that Mr Blair’s confession had left a “strong impression of a lack of sincerity”, adding that the WMD argument was a “figleaf”. Blix's expressions “figleaf” and “strong impression of a lack of sincerity” are either euphemistic or sarcastic. He too thinks Blair was lying, and is an habitual liar.
From his own mouth Blair unwittingly confirms he is a sociopath, as AskWhy! has always maintained. Blair just cannot distinguish lies from truthful arguments. He should be impeached for leading the British into an illegal war which has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. Yet he thinks he can make his peace with his maker via Catholicism.
Has he noted that many Catholic mass murderers are now saints? Let us help him. All the best saints were martyrs. Let him be tried according to the law, something he denied many others, not only those who died but those he connived in torturing. Many of us would cheer to hear of his martyrdom, and that justice has been done. Impeach him!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
US Popular Opinion
America has a great analyst of their political situation in Noam Chomsky, yet Americans are so indoctrinated by their Brahmin class of plutocrats that they take no notice of what he has to say, which is a lot, it is blunt, easy to comprehend and it is true. US politicians harp on about their uniquely brilliant democracy, but while most Americans will parrot what is said out of misguided patriotism, they just do not believe it. They do not believe they create their own institutions or run their own country. Pollsters find 80% of them think the government is controlled by a few big interests looking out for themselves and not for the people. Popular opinion is that less than 20% think much of Congress, yet voters re-elect most Senators and Representatives, though they have no real choice and play no real part in running the country.
In a true democracy, people would feel they are shaping their own lives, and would therefore, Chomsky says, be celebrating 15 April, the day when taxes are paid. It was the day when the financial flesh was put on the democratically chosen skeleton, when people publicly put their money where their democratic mouth is, to implement policies they had chosen. It is nothing like that. It is a day people resent because they are obliged to pay their hard earned tax dollars to maintain policies and programs they mostly find useless at best and objectionable at worst. They do not feel they have any stake in government, and none in leading corporations banked up by government. Voters have little regard for most institutions, little say in what they decide, and little enthusiasm for having to finance it.
Political issues hardly bear on electoral campaigns, and many electors, maybe most, are not even sure what the issues are. How then is democracy possible? US Elections are run by the PR industry and so are effectively bought by the parties and candidates with the deepest pockets. The Obama campaign was no different, as the annual award by the advertising industry for the “best marketing of the year” shows. It went to Obama’s campaign which beat Apple! Advertisers work on mood not meaning, and it works! Obama had little definite to say about the issues, but concentrated on the warm feeling words “hope” and “change”. When people vote for such objectively meaningless slogans, it shows that hope and change are what they do not have. It should tell the politicians that people felt hopeless, and did not like what they had, and that ought to be a warning. It shows that society is crumbling at its foundations.
The Reality of Capitalism
No feeling of hope exists in these depressed days, but the Great Depression was different. In the depths of despair people did not lose hope, they always felt there was a way through, things would come good. Admittedly, it took a world war and many deaths before brighter days came after the Second World War when the Brahmin business classes of the US built an incredible, yet unremarked propaganda campaign to eliminate all ideas of proper democracy, and social feeling while promoting social Darwinism, the false belief that survival of the fittest should be the norm of civilized communities, that selfishness was the essence of humanity as it was supposed to be in Nature. Capitalism was driven by greed and selfishness, and those who could not stand it went to the wall, or rather had a pauper’s funeral… and that was supposed, under the “Darwinian” capitalist ideology, to have been what society was all about.
Yet what did this capitalism actually do? It was a production and marketing strategy, not a creative one, except perhaps in PR and labor productivity. Where did technological innovations like computers and the internet come from? Overwhelmingly from research institutions like universities, mainly funded by the Pentagon. In other words, the principle fount of new products was a dynamic and creative public sector of the economy. Capitalism was not where technological novelties came from. It simply manufactured and distributed them for personal profit after communal endeavors had invented them. Inventions like computers and the internet were in use for decades before private enterprise made use of them for profit. Most of the economy is the same still. So, where is the capitalism that is so much vaunted and praised by the propaganda machine? It does not exist. What exists is this:
- the public pays the costs
- the public takes the risks
- the plutocrats in the private sector take the profits.
The reality of capitalism can no longer be hidden after the collapse and bale out of the banks in the last two years. Saving inept and greedy banks is justified by the “too big to fail” slogan of our cringingly servile governments, who now are exposed as the paid monkeys of the profiteers, none more obviously than Tony Blair. Every attempt since Adam Smith to live purely by supposedly self regulating, free market principles has led to disaster.
If the banks have to be baled out because they are “too big to fail”, they are being treated as public utilities, except that the profit goes to the Brahmin caste, the bankers’ own class. In the UK, the government has had to take a dominant share in some banks, yet has been timid in acting, as a dominant shareholder should, to protect its investment from being siphoned off into private coffers, like some tinpot dictatorship supported by the US, contrary to the will of the local people. That is the democracy exported by America. Whatever is essential in a state must be publicly owned so that the state can make sure it does not fail, but the public get any profits and all of the benefits they produce. That is what a public utility is for.
As long as important peaks of the economy are protected by the public, our capitalist system is not capitalist, is it? Contrary to Margaret Thatcher’s slogan TINA, or “There is no Alternative”, and as Obama’s slogan of “Change” emphasized, change is possible, but it is undeniably difficult, and needs open public support to counter the well funded vested interests of the plutocrats. Indeed, swifter changes were needed during World War II, and the government made them. Wartime command economy enabled us to win the war, and mixed economies have proven to be more successful in economic history than doctrinaire capitalism. Why then is economic change not happening now? Why is there no firm move to regulate capitalist enterprises, and even to nationalize those that cannot be allowed to fail. Because Wall Street would not get enough out of it.
Better still than nationalization would be to let stakeholders—the workforce and the local community—take over these industries and make them produce what’s needed by the society with the profits going back to the workforce and community, and kept out of the already bulging purses of the mega rich. The trouble is that Americans have been brainwashed to think of such solutions as evil, as socialist or, heaven forbid, as communist. Yet no society, except the cooperatives of Spanish anarchism, has implemented genuine social production. The reason has nothing to do with these alternative systems not being feasible, or even being evil—cooperatives work!—it is because the Washington caste of lobbyists and the capitalist PR industry will not allow it to enter the consciousness of the US public.
Adam Smith, discussing England, pointed out that the principal architects of policy in England—merchants and manufacturers—made sure that their own interests were attended to, however grievous the effect on others, especially the common people of England. The US has remained stuck in this eighteenth century time warp in its economic philosophy. A lot has changed since Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, and, though much of what he wrote remains true, after over 200 years, it is as doctrinaire to stick to an old economics tome for political economy as it is, after 2000 years, to stick unreservedly to the bible for our moral guidance. The function of US “intellectuals” is to suppress any proper consideration of reform of received thinking. Feigning objective advice, in lofty, obscure and profound rhetoric, they emphasize the objections, difficulties and risks of doing things in a better way, intending all along to discredit any progress. They are servants of the rich. The only real difficulty to economic progress is one of public will, and that exists largely because of the PR success of the ruling class.
Trying a Little Self Reflexion
Chomsky says Americans must adopt an often recommended but rarely applied principle—look in the mirror. Before they advocate murderous incursions into foreign countries, they must look at themselves to see whether they practise at home what they preach. Maybe the trouble is the fossilization of ancient practices. From the outset, the American nation was based on “extermination”, as the founding fathers put it, and its image as “an infant empire”, as George Washington put it. These ideas seem to be instilled into the American psyche when no one gains from them except the arms manufacturers and the military industrial complex. They were a poor moral basis to build upon, but were profitable for some, and that makes it all right in America.
So too was slavery immoral. The Civil War should have ended slavery, but, after about twenty years, in the South it started to be introduced again, and with the acceptance of the North. The former slaves were criminalized through spurious acts yielding racist laws against “vagrancy” or “talking too loud”. Much of the black male population were thrown into prison by these petty but seriously immoral laws. The victims found themselves permanently incarcerated, various machinations being used to suspend parole and extend the sentence indefinitely. This body of reintroduced slave labor built the accumulated capital at the base of modern industrial society—that of the mining, steel, cotton and other industries. Black men were worse off than they had been under slavery. Slave owners valued the slave to some degree because they had paid good money for him, and so mostly they took care of him. Now black men were like galley slaves, tormented by jailers, and with no appeal for mercy.
Only World War II ended it. The need to recruit, and the absence of soldiers abroad meant black labor had to be freed for more than the prison jobs they had been doing. The new liberation lasted for several decades after the war in the years of the “Golden Age” of capitalism. Then, from 1980, the incarceration of black men again went up sharply to new heights, higher than anywhere else. It was slavery again, prison slavery. So, today, slavery continues in the US where black men are disproportionately held in penitentiaries, and locked up for absurdly cruel terms. To take the moral high ground over what it perceives as injustice abroad, so as to justify sending punitive armies to correct it, the US should first correct its own faults.
What too of the 80% of the US population that sees their own government as run by big interests looking after themselves? Do they really think the US should export a system that they themselves find so grossly unpopular? When 85% of the US population think their government should cut medical costs from their exorbitant level, and leading Congressmen and Senators use dirty tricks to try to stop it, what right do they have to tell distant countries they should not be corrupt, but copy the US. The US can hardly teach anyone lessons. It needs to learn lessons of its own.
Americans brag about their model of US democracy and the American way of life, but seem unable to compare the image and the reality they experience directly, as revealed by opinion polls. People think the US can take freedom to others, but they do not live up to it themselves. Time after time the principles of freedom and democracy are violated. The self perception of the US is entirely distorted.
Iraq and 9/11
When the US first wanted to go to war in Iraq, Bush and Blair gave their war aims as to make Saddam give up WMD. The great intellectual, Condoleezza Rice, thought he was capable of nuking New York. Opinion polls showed US citizens went to war because they feared danger. Many people in the world hated Saddam, but America was the only country in the world scared of him. Saddam had no WMD, then, suddenly, the reason was that the love of democracy was so strongly in our hearts, it justified killing tens of thousands of innocent Arabs to rid ourselves of one dictator. As if in a totalitarian state, the media and intelligentsia enthusiastically fell for it.
The 9/11 attacks were an attack on US policy in the Middle East in particular, and an attack on the West in general because mostly it supports US policy. None of the intelligence agencies or senior policy advisers doubted it, but it could not be admitted to the public. As far as Al Qaida was concerned, the US was picking on Islam, and they were going to defend themselves, but the propaganda is that the US is too Christian to pick on people.
Though 9/11 was a horrible atrocity, what if Al Qaida had been more ambitious and had more resources, and had bombed the White House, killed the President, established a military dictatorship, tortured hundreds of thousands of people, set up an international terrorist center to overthrow governments and kill people all over the world, and introduced economic reforms that ruined the economy. It would have been terrible. Well, it actually happened on 9/11! On 9/11, 1973, when a rogue state, the US, organized the overthrow of the legitimate president—Allende—and government of Chile. It is never counted as terrible, especially in the US, because it was US terror, US violence. US terror is never terror.
America is psychopathic. its citizens are incapable of self reflexion, and self criticism. Whatever they do, however disgustingly immoral and murderous, is always right. Chomsky says Americans have to learn to look at themselves before they start moralizing and punishing the rest of the world. They should start fearing God, instead of thinking they are His Great Angel.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
A few years back, at the height of the Bush administration, the Union for Reform Judaism, concerned by the politicization of science, passed the following excellent resolutions. Others, especially science organizations, should do the same:
- Demand that public officials and appointees to governmental and advisory bodies respect the integrity of the scientific process, and not manipulate scientific data and evidence, to achieve political or ideological objectives
- Call upon all levels of government to ensure that the appointment of scientists to government positions and advisory boards be made on the basis of scientific experience, expertise and accomplishment
- Demand that federal funding of scientific research result from a merit based peer review of proposals, relying strictly upon scientifically objective criteria
- Demand that government employed scientists and scientists conducting research under government sponsorship be free from threats and intimidation that might compromise their scientific integrity
- Support appropriate measures to ensure that all of the above principles are adhered to and valued
- Oppose government efforts and policies that seek to redefine science or the scientific method to incorporate religious, theological or other theories, including “intelligent design” and creationism, that are neither testable by experiment nor observation.
Further to the humiliation of Professor Nutt by the neocon New Labour government of the UK for giving it proper scientific advice as he had been appointed to do, it turns out that similar politicization of science has been going on under the neocon Bush administration. Policymakers within the federal government were trying to suppress objective scientific evidence, to distort scientific findings, and to put people in positions, notably in environment and public health, where they could promote a political and ideological agenda.
Objective science should not be subverted to serve political or ideological goals.
Science is being misused—through efforts to suppress or distort scientific findings, through the appointment of scientists and researchers who meet certain political and ideological rather than professional criteria, through funding politically self serving scientific studies, and through the intimidation of scientists. Newspapers, congressional hearings, and reports from respected scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the Union of Concerned Scientists, have expressed concern. Politics is undermining the integrity of the scientific method.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) conducted an investigation into the politicization of science within the government. It found a systematic effort to suppress and distort scientific findings to promote political ends. For example, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) replaced a web site fact sheet containing information on proper condom use, the efficacy of different types of condoms, and a study showing that condom education does not lead to an increase in sexual activity, with information on condom failure and the value of abstinence. Also, information suggesting a link between breast cancer and abortion was posted on the National Cancer Institute’s web site against the objection of CDC staff who denounced such information as long refuted and unsubstantiated.
The same report indicates that the Bush administration delayed for nine months an EPA report (eventually leaked) that indicated that 8 percent of women between the ages of 16 and 49 have blood mercury levels that could lead to reduced IQ and motor skills in their children. When new rules of mercury emissions were finally released by the EPA, at least 12 paragraphs were included, sometimes verbatim, not from scientific sources but from a legal document prepared by industry lawyers.
Reports commissioned by Henry Waxman documented many distortions of science by the executive, on a par with the suppression of Professor Nutt by the UK government, such as the widespread incorporation of erroneous, politicized information in federally funded “abstinence only” curricula. Some of these misrepresentations include inaccurate statistics about contraception, a false linkage between abortions and breast cancer, the labeling of a 43 day old fetus as a “thinking person” and the notion that “sweat and tears” can transmit HIV.
There is also growing use of political criteria for scientific appointees. Applicants have been asked about their political affiliations rather than their professional credentials. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine released a report entitled “Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments”. Among their recommendations was that “it is no more appropriate to ask Science and Technology experts to provide irrelevant information—such as voting record, political party affiliation or position on particular policies —than to ask them other personal and immaterial information, such as hair color or weight”.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
J J Goldberg, a veteran Jewish reporter, writes in the US Jewish news weekly Forward, that on 1 November, Israeli police arrested a West Bank settler, Jack (Yaacov) Teitel, a man born in Florida, charged with murder, assault and possessing weapons. Even Israeli officials accept Teitel is a case of Jewish terrorism, his dirty tricks stretching back 12 years, in the whole of which Teitel was able to operate undetected, effecting a series of well planned attacks apparently on his own, though that is an assumption. Among the targets of his terror, besides Arabs were left wing Jews, Christian Jews and homosexuals. Why did the Israeli security services—among the most diligent in the world at identifying Arab terror, and making sure by arresting many Arabs merely on suspicion and keeping them locked up so they can do no harm—took so long to identify Teitel.
Jewish anti Arab violence is a routine aspect of the West Bank where Israelis are settling illegally in land that belongs to Palestinian Arabs. Goldberg says their atmosphere of messianic religious nationalism makes West Bank settlements a breeding ground for extremist violence. The illegal Jewish settlers excuse themselves by blaming a few isolated acts on misfits. Yet Israeli terrorism is far more common than usually thought, though, because there are still many Israeli Jews who are liberal and oppose the Zionist right wing governors of the country, and because Israelis do not have to endure a life of unbearable oppression, Israeli terrorism is nothing like as widespread as that of the Palestinians, who have no choice but to turn to terrorism because the US persistently blocks UN resolutions criticizing Israel.
What is curious is Teitel has been arrested at all, and is called a terrorist by the authorities. The Israeli security forces and police normally conduct only cursory investigations of assaults of Palestinians by settlers, leading to no arrests and no publicity.
A study released in 1994 by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem found that between 1988 and 1993, during the first intifada, 1207 Palestinians were killed by Israelis, 62 by settlers, and 1,145 by security forces. In the same intifada, 117 Israeli civilians and 64 security personnel were killed by Palestinians. Of 48 of the 62 Palestinian deaths at the hands of settlers, 13 cases went to trial. Almost three quarters of the deaths of Palestinians by Israeli settlers studied never reached the courts. Of the 13 that did one led to a conviction for murder! Nine more were convicted of other offenses, and the rest could not be found guilty. Similarly, a government study released in 1984, by the Israeli Deputy Attorney General, looked at 70 Palestinian complaints of attacks by settlers between May 1981 and April 1982. 53 of them ended in no action due to lack of evidence or “absence of public interest” (Goldberg's quotation marks). The author concluded that the army and government consistently overlooked or downplayed settler violence against Arabs.
In the same year, 1984, Jewish terrorism first received widespread notice, following the mass arrest of the “Jewish Underground”. Their crimes included car bomb attacks on three Palestinian mayors, leaving two severely maimed, plus attempted bombings of Arab commuter buses and an armed assault on an Islamic college campus, killing three students and wounding 40. 25 were arrested, mostly leaders of the Gush Emunim settler movement, and most were given 20 years to life. Nearly all were paroled or pardoned within six years, by 1990.
In 1994, terrorist Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli born in Brooklyn, New York, killed 29 Arab worshipers in Hebron. In 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by Jewish terrorists. Many more had negligible publicity and so were barely noticed even at the time. In 1984, besides the Jewish Underground arrests, two other, independent terror cells were exposed but the public could not distinguish them. One consisted of Kahanists carrying out bus bombings and shootings, and the other of kabbalists aiming to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount.
In 2003, following two years of roadside shootings, killing eight, and the bombing of an Arab girls’ middle school, wounding 11, nine men of an organized terrorist group were brought to trial and eventually convicted but so slowly that it attracted no publicity. What publicity there was justified the murders by eliciting sympathy for one of the terrorists whose 10 month old daughter had been killed by a Palestinian sniper in 2001.
The settler's excuse of blaming a few isolated acts on misfits is a well tried and tested technique in Israeli misinformation. Israeli terrorist crimes are immediately dismissed by officials as acts of deranged individuals to sidetrack media attention. Yet, given sufficient delay, the criminals are tried and convicted, showing they could not have been deranged, but were sane all along. Insanity is a defense! Examples are Alan Goodman, a Baltimore born soldier who opened fire on the Temple Mount in 1982, killing two guards and wounding nine others, and Ami Popper, a Rishon Letziyon youth who gunned down seven Arab day laborers at a bus stop in 1990. Now he is a hero of the far right.
It’s an unpleasant story, but an essential one. If we don’t remember the past, we can’t understand the present. We often speak of the sacred duty of remembrance, but memories are tricky things.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
This neocon, neofascist, pseudo-Christian New Labour government in the UK is getting more and more like Hitler sitting in his bunker refusing to surrender while Germany was bombed, battered and burned around him. Brown clings on to the last vestiges of power his absurd government has, while issuing directive after ridiculous directive to the already battered and utterly frustrated British People.
Now the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has sacked his drugs adviser, Professor David Nutt, head of the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. His heinous crime is advising Johnson on the misuse of drugs! The purpose of this council, when it was set up in 1971 was to provide key advice on what Class A drugs should be, and to ensure that policy is based on evidence. New Labour, of course, are too fascistic to listen to advice. They are only interested in pursuing the doctrinaire free market policies that Blair and Brown intended when they took over the Labour Party on behalf of neoconservatism and their own brand of Christian fundamentalism. Beguiled by Blair's charm and promise of government at last, Labour Party members let him gnaw away the socialist heart of the Labour party like a parasitic wasp eating a defenceless caterpillar. And what did the trades unions do? They stood by! Just stood by doing nothing!
In the same news programme on BBC TV we heard that New Labour will finally privatize the National Health Service, by allowing private patients to be treated with the help of a public subsidy. This will ensure that waiting lists do not get longer when they apply the forthcoming cuts on public spending necessary because of all the public money given to fat cat bankers. New Labour continuously kicks sand into the eyes of its supporters who are too feeble or dim to respond.
This government is utterly discredited, and New Labour will be lucky to get into power ever again. Certainly, it is time the unions either withdrew support immediately, or threatened to withdraw it if New Labour does not revert to Labour by reinstating the old consititution, whereby members could actually influence policies, even if they had no way of ensuring that elected Labour governments acted on them. Because the membership are just fodder for getting Blairite selected MPs elected, and the members have no say in what their MPs do, they might as well accept they are slaves to the greedy neocons Blair approved as flunkeys and yes men—and yes women too, plenty of them! Blair is now being rewarded. Having given away $ trillions, Brown is looking forward to his own rich pickings.
The whole of the scientific community ought now to be up in arms at the complete disdain Brown and Johnson show they have for science. There can be few people in Britain who do not agree with Professor Nutt that alcohol and cigarettes are far worse than cannabis, and the public are making a judgement merely on impression. The scientists have the concrete evidence, and it confirms the general impression. Nutt has also pointed out what everyone, certainly most of our young people, know, and that is that ecstasy is pretty harmless too. Deaths have occasionally been attributed to ecstasy, as an anaphylactic reaction, but deaths are attributed to the same sort of shock from peanuts, and they are not classified as dangerous drugs. Similarly, the professor said smoking cannabis created only a “small risk” of psychotic illness. There is unquestionably much more psychoses generated by alcohol. Many still die annually from the physiological effects of smoking cigarettes. He is right!
Professor Nutt rightly accused ministers of devaluing and distorting evidence and said drugs classification was being politicized. Prof Nutt is standing by his judgement based on the scientific research that cannabis should be reclassified as only a Class C drug based on its effects. He said science can help the government. It could give them excellent advice. And that was the very purpose of the Drugs Council he chaired. But he thought it would be simpler, and one might add more intelligent, if they took the advice rather than sending messages that confuse the public. Twice in the last few years, once with cannabis and then with ecstasy, ministers ignored the experts because of “public perception”. Former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, still talks of the “need to send out a message”. Parliament's Science and Technology Committee has criticised such propaganda:
The government's desire to use the class of a particular drug to send out a signal to potential users or dealers does not sit comfortably with the claim that the primary objective of the classification system is to categorize drugs according to the comparative harm associated with their misuse.
Using the classification system to send messages again amounts to saying, “feed the public lies—that is all they understand”. It is the neocon method of giving the public myths they can accept and believe. These myths are just lies. But Professor Nutt is saying also that it does not work. It is no deterrent. The classifications are “to provide the public with an evidence-based and rigorous appraisal of relative harms”, and from it they can make their own comparisons and judgements.
His sacking from a none paid, entirely honorary and voluntary job is an insulting and demeaning challenge to the value of science. What did the Home Secretary have to say? He had “lost confidence” in Nutt's advice. Well that means that Johnson and the New labour set of dummies want their adviser to join them in their habit of “spin”, another modern euphemism for lying. It does not suit them to have objective advice, true advice, they want sycophants around them who will say just what the want to hear. But that is not surprising. Blair was quite a sociopath, incapable of knowing the difference between truth and lies, probably a good reason why he was accepted into the Catholic communion, and recommended as President of Europe—an absolute slap in the face for almost everyone in Britain, if it happens.
The real conservatives, the Tories, supported New Labour on this, just as they did over the Iraq war. But on this occasion a voice of reason came from the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne. He said the decision to sack the adviser had been “disgraceful”:
What is the point of having independent scientific advice if as soon as you get some advice that you don't like, you sack the person who has given it to you?
Mr Huhne added that the government might as well have “a committee of tabloid newspaper editors to advise on drugs policy”. Prof Colin Blakemore, professor of neuroscience at Oxford University and former chief executive of the Medical Research Council, said:
I worry that the dismissal of Prof Nutt will discourage academic and clinical experts from offering their knowledge and time to help the government in the future.
New Labour ministers might think drug taking is immoral, but then so is smoking and drinking, especially to excess, the norm among many people, especially the young, today in Britain. Professor Nutt is pointing out hypocrisy, something New Labour just cannot grasp. So, an independent scientist has been removed for reporting sound scientific advice. Let us hope that scientists for once will rally behind one of their own, and in favour of science. The very top scientists should howl in rage, not that others should not, but the top ones have a chance of being heard. These AskWhy! pages have said before that scientists, who could be a powerful force in the world for good, should be more prepared to open their mouths in protest, and to act in defence of their findings. Rage, rage, you lot!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
The UN Resolution on the Goldstone Report
US ambassador Douglas Griffiths, opposing the human rights resolution at the UN, said the Goldstone report written by South African Judge, Richard Goldstone, was unfair towards Israel. But Goldstone investigated both sides of the conflict, Israel and Hamas. The 575 page document concluded that, during its incursion into the Gaza Strip, on 27 December 2008, to root out Palestinian rocket squads, Israel:
- used disproportionate force
- deliberately targeted civilians
- used Palestinians as human shields
- destroyed civilian infrastructure.
It also pointed out that Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, deliberately targeted civilians and tried to spread terror through years of rocket attacks on southern Israel. In fact, the report required both Israel and Hamas to look publicly and fairly into their respective human rights failings in the conflict, and, if they failed to conduct credible investigations within six months, recommended a reference of the offending party to the International Criminal Court prosecutor in The Hague.
So, the report itself is balanced, but the UN resolution emphasized the Israeli part because far more innocents were killed by Israeli professional soldiers than by Hamas fighters. The three week conflict in Gaza left 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. It was the continuation over decades of such one sided “defense” of the territory that until 1948 had been the Palestinians’ for twelve centuries that has caused the hatred of Moslems worldwide. Consequently, the resolution agreed in Geneva called for the UN General Assembly to consider the Goldstone report, and then for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to report, on Israel’s adherence to the resolution, to the Human Rights Council.
For Washington, justice is a “distraction from the peace process”, according to the US ambassador. Naturally, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, claimed the resolution “provides encouragement for terrorist organizations worldwide and undermines global peace”. Israel is not the terrorist organization he meant. Meanwhile Ambassador Griffiths continued with the usual pro-Israeli stance of all US administrations:
We had worked for a resolution that recognized the right of a state to take legitimate action to protect its citizens in the face of threats to their security while also condemning violations of international law regardless of the actor.
Read this carefully. “A state has the right to take legitimate action to protect its citizens.” It is true, and is enshrined in the Human Rights Act, but the US ambassador means Israel has the right, not the Palestinians who are actually fighting for the life and land of its people, yet always suffer completely disproportionally in the one sided war going on between Israel and Palestine. Numerous UN resolutions have been directed against Israel, but they lead nowhere because of US intransigence and veto.
In 40 years, Israel has featured in 65 Security Council UN resolutions, passed by two thirds majorities or better in the 15 nation Security Council—often 14 to one, the US! These resolutions have censured and deplored Israel’s actions and policies in respect of massacres of Palestinians, land grabbing since the 1948 partition, destroying Palestinian buildings including homes, making them refugees in their own land, restricting their access to water and electricity, illegal imprisonments, deliberate harassment and settling Israelis in illegal settlements. These are all violations of human rights, yet The US and Israel justify them by the fact that Palestinians protest against them! If someone did it to you, what would you do? Tip your cap in gratitude? Something is seriously wrong with the world when people wronged for half a century are treated as if they are criminals for trying to assert some sort of justice themselves.
For international justice for them is a joke, through US protection of Israel. It is impossible for them to find justice wherever they turn. Insurmountable obstacles are constantly placed in their way, legal channels are blocked, and their human rights are mangled in the interest of US oil imperialism. They have lost their own land, and are promised a share of it, as a Palestinian state but the never get even to share what was theirs sixty years ago. In the end, they only have one course open to them— to fight for their rights—then they are called terrorists.
Is it any wonder that Arab and African countries can only see US double standards in this, and try to use the UN for its proper purpose. The Israelis do all the damage, and the Palestinians get all the blame. Those who believed President Obama would act differently have already been disappointed. Change? He talks the talk but no longer walks the walk, in this key issue of foreign affairs. Typically and especially typical of his predecessor, he insists on a nuclear free Middle East, except for Israel, whose 60 nuclear bombs, though held contrary to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty never meet any US disapproval while Iran gets threatened with nuclear attack just for enriching uranium for legitimate reasons.
How can the leaders, and indeed the general population, of this immensely powerful superpower, the US, claim to be a moral nation, or even understand what morality is, when they have such an immoral attitude to some of the most ill treated people in the world. The Palestinians are treated as less than dogs. So much for the respect the meretriciously Christian Americans have for God and His creation, and Christ’s famous saying that to mistreat anyone is to mistreat himself in the same way!
At the root of the US hypocrisy is the unqualified protection America gives its Middle Eastern colony, Israel. The US can veto anything brought before the UN Security Council blocking any call to bring Israel to justice before the International Criminal Court. Israel therefore knows it stands above international law. It can therefore act just as it likes to its Arab neighbours, launching attacks wherever it fancies. The illegal segregationist wall stretches through the West Bank to protect the illegal Israeli settlements being expanded there—Arab land—and Gaza is still being illegally blockaded.
As the US ambassador said, countries have the right to self defense, and that is what the Palestinians have been doing, but the US has its own agenda behind its immoral attitude to foreign policy. It is the agenda of the magnates and militarists who make megabucks out of other people’s distress, and so have a permanent policy of causing it, not just in Palestine. It is time for American liberals and the genuinely Christian American, if any exist, to speak out against the criminality of their own leaders serving those who sacrifice human beings to the insatiable Moloch of greed and war bucks, America’s caste of robber barons.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
In a special session, 25 members of the 47 nation UN body voted in favor of the resolution that chastised Israel for failing to cooperate with the UN mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone. Another 6 voted against—the US and Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia and Ukraine—while 16 others abstained or did not vote. Britain, France and three other members declined to vote. Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council, were among those voting yes.
Britain, which used to pride itself on its respect for law and for human rights did not vote, according to David Milliband, the UK's Jewish Foreign Secretary, because it had not finished discussing the issue, effectively colluding with Israel to keep its generals and officials from prosecution. The British Foreign Office prevaricated last month, over a private visit to London of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his wife until they had immunity from prosecution.
Moreover, the United Nations itself ignores Israel's flouting of Security Council Resolutions and has shelved the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, its own careful investigations into Israel's crimes.
Goldstone, a noted judge, who is a Jew and has been under strong pressure from Zionist Jews and Israelis, concluded that both Israel and Hamas, the militant ruling party of Gaza, elected by the Palestinian people, committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the conflict.
So the responsibility was evenly divided between Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinian people, having been consistently failed by international bodies and the international legal system, it can scarcely surprise anyone that they have tried to take matters into their own hands. Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto did the same—they fought back even though against the odds. why is it right for Jews to fight fascist oppression but it is not right for Arabs to do it against Israelis, Jewish colonists in the US colony of Palestine.
Israel is portrayed as the minnow even though it has nuclear weapons and every modern WMD it wants from their protectors the USA. The Palestinians have almost nothing, though Israel launched its vicious attack in response to some rockets fired from Gaza in late December 2008. These rockets were not professionally made military hardware, but are ingenious home made contraptions, little more than self propelled mortar bombs, and quite untargetable. They have caused some casualties and damage to property, but no fair judge can compare it with the full scale professionally equipped onslaught of the Israeli army last January.
And who can doubt the injustice looking at the figures of casualties from the three week long invasion of Gaza by the Israeli troops and their tanks. Almost 1,400 Palestinians—400 children—were killed during conflict, and just 13 Israelis, half by friendly fire! What is moral or defensible about professional soldiers killing defenseless women and children in their homes?
How can the US justify such immoral behavior? How can Obama especially justify it? It is not moral in the least to beat up and murder helpless people, and it is the Palestinians who are helpless not the Israelis. Obama in less than a year has been corralled by the military clique in Washington, yet has won a Peace prize. So too did Kissinger, but he at least gave his back. Why doesn't Obama change? Change was his slogan. Why not try it in foreign affairs as well as in health care? And even there he is struggling. We have to conclude that the Christian-Zionist military axis ruling the US is too strong for anyone. The US people themselves need to respond.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Patricia Reaney of Reuters Life! reported that the United States is now the most admired country in the world, thanks to President Barack Obama, according to a new poll of 20,000 people in 20 rich and developing countries, asked to rate 50 nations in categories such as culture, governance, people, exports, tourism, landscape and education. The US rose dramatically from seventh place last year, after the eight G W Bush years, to go ahead of France, Germany, the UK, and Japan, the current top five nations in the Nation Brand Index (NBI). During the monstrous foreign policies of the Bush administration, the US declined in image globally, pleasing his Rambo supporters, but, despite the turmoil in world economics, its status has risen under Obama. Iran came in last at number 50.
The US right wing was not pleased. An apparently oxymoronic Republican website entitled American Thinker, seemingly a cover for a cabal of Zionists, responded:
Of course the world loves Obama. After all, he loves the world, right?… there might be some question about how much he loves the part that he lives in—but that’s beside the point. Once again, the USA is on top, kicking butt and taking names and… What the people of the world love about Obama is that… the US will be a good little world citizen and kow tow to the United Nations, that we will embrace our enemies and kick or friends in the teeth, and that he will subsume American interests in favor of the interests of other countries… The thug nations of the world are satisfied.
Readers’ comments to the article included:
Since when does any real American give a rat’s a$$ about what anyone else thinks about us?
If everybody is happy, you’re doing something wrong…
Of the 130+ nations fully 100+ are dictators or totalitarian regimes that hate democracies and especially the US.
Another reason they hate us is because most of those countries have dictators and dictators don’t allow their people to know the truth about America and her greatness. The people just believe what they are told. But if they had a taste of our Freedom they would no doubt overthrow their dictatorship governments and join us!
So a bunch of tyrants, thugs, dictators and totalitarian whack-jobs dearly love us now?
Well, there you are, the American Thinker! These are the pious Judeo-Christian supporters of Bush and Cheney thinking deeply. These are the people who are proud to display their utter ignorance and bigotry in public, then think the world was ungrateful to dislike them. They are the people who seem utterly unable to consider that most of the world’s dictators are actually supported by the USA. “They just believe what they are told” and “the thug nations of the world are satisfied” are hilariously oxymoronic… or are this simply hilariously moronic? Republican wing nuts like these like to kick ass, as they put it, but don’t like it when some little kid kicks the bully back. He’s a dictator then, little tyrant.
Obama has done a little, very little so far, to get sanity back into US foreign relations, but getting brains into US rednecks is a lot more difficult.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Industry and its employees are paying the price for a crisis brought on by the bankers. A loan to save 900 skilled workers from the dole cost a mere £4m, a single banker’s bonus! If taxpayers’ money can be used to bail out the banks, it should also be available to help vital industries. Yet the government persists in enforcing its old dogmas, as if nothing had changed.
Why try to force people who are ill or disabled or workshy and old people over 65 to work when there is not enough work for those who are able bodied and want to work? If there is not enough work for everyone, why not reduce the working week? If there is not enough work to go round, why did Labour help fix 48 hours as the minimum working week by refusing any amendment to the Brussels Working Time Directive. In doing this, the Labour government ignored its own party conference and the policy of both the trades unions democratically and publicly agreed through the TUC. It also defied the stance of most Labour and Socialist members of the European Parliament in an earlier vote in Strasbourg.
The Labour Party was founded by the trades union movement, and reduction in working hours was the aim of the first trades unions. Long hours and abject working conditions meant an early death for working people, including children. Strike pay was the only benefit that the first union offered, and reducing the hours of labour was, “the whole aim and intention of the union”, Will Thorne said. The eight hour day became a basic principle of trades unionism. The primary cause of trades unionism was not higher wages but shorter hours.
The first victory of British trades unionism was at the Beckton Gas Works in London’s East End—the replacement of a twelve hour day by eight hour shifts with no loss of pay. Since then the struggle to humanize work and change the economy has been long and arduous. For a century, the trades unions won significant reductions in hours through their struggles and sacrifices. By the seventies, the demand was for a 35 hour week. But the subsequent victory of the Thatcherite Tories and Blair’s Thatcherite New Labour—just when people thought they were voting for the rejection of Thatcherism—paved the way for the working week to rise from the 1980s onwards.
If the first British trades unionists knew shorter hours helped in the struggle against unemployment, the sons and daughters of clergymen, pseudes and shopkeepers constituting Blair’s and now Brown’s New Labour party simply do not get it still. Its decision to stick with a 48 hour week is a goad to all those who think the UK Labour government’s neoconservative, nineteenth century policies need to be fought with a campaign to reduce working hours in the face of rising unemployment.
Their slogan should be, “Shorter hours for better life”. Long hours preclude a good quality of life, cut down family time, erode away leisure time. And long hours of work are a health and safety issue. Health and safety at work should not be left up to arbitrary local negotiations between trade unions and employers, any more than burglary should be left up to the burgled and the burglar, to use Richard Leonard’s words. Both are matters of public interest, and so are a government responsibility in a civilized democratic society.
Paying workers dole money because they have no work at all for months or years makes no sense. What is required are loans for businesses that cut the working hours of their staff to avoid short time working, or going to the wall. Industry needs money, so credit from the banks has to be forced, if banks are determined to stay divorced from their prime purpose. Their prime purpose is not to devise pyramid selling schemes that allow dealers to get rich quick through the bonuses they pay each other. It is to lend deposited money at modest interest to entrepreneurs.
The nation has put cash into the banks to save them from their own folly. It is time to see it coming out again, in loans to industry. Workers are footing the bill for bankers’ blunders, but the money extracted from ordinary people’s pay should not be a long time commitment. The banks must be made to pay back what they have so far been given apparently unconditionally. They can only do it without stimulating an identical crisis, by returning to prudent business methods.
Too many Labour ministers have no knowledge or interest in the history of the party they represent. They are ignorant of any of the principles that motivated the party, and have opted instead for self gratification, and ingratiating themselves with US plutocrats and Russian oligarchs. They have forgotten that they were elected to serve working people, those who create wealth, not those who own the means of doing it, and certainly not themselves for personal gain.
Labour must return to principles, but since it lost all pretence of democracy in the Blair years, it has to be doggedly pushed and even threatened by the unions, which now represent not only blue collar workers but large numbers of middle class white collar workers, technicians, teachers and civil servants. This great trades union Leviathan has to get rolling again. It means members have to snap out of the lethargy induced by the borrowing boom of the Blair years. It was not a golden age but a tinsel age. Like Blair himself, it was all false.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
When industrial changes causing hardships to some workers happen unexpectedly and without the government preparing for retraining, the workers remain conservative about their trades, and dislike innovations, new processes and new methods. When such changes are in the permanent interest of the community, they ought to be carried out without allowing unmerited loss to laborers whose old fashioned work is no longer wanted.
Why should, say, a coal miner suffer when the pits become uneconomic, or coal usage has to be curtailed because of climate change? He has not committed any crime, and the closures are entirely outside his control. Instead of being allowed to starve or suffer humiliating poverty, he must be paid to retrain, be given instruction in whatever other trade is within his grasp and is in demand. Everyone ought to have sufficient pay to ensure a livelihood, whether or not the work they are skilled in is wanted at the moment or not. If it is not wanted, some new trade which is wanted should be taught at the public expense. Is that socialist planning? It is capitalist planning because capitalism depends on public spending. Poverty restricts spending, and suppliers fall on to short time, and bankruptcy. It makes sense to ensure a minimal spending level, even when people are unemployed. Welfare is not a dead loss. It lubricates the economy.
Natural human conservatism tends to hold back progress. But most workers are interested mainly in security, security of employment and security of income. Workers determined to stick with dead end jobs are few and far between—a newspaper editors fantasy. People protect dead end jobs only because they know no, or inadequate, provision has been made for them when the obsolete factories close.
The tyranny of the employer, which robs most people of liberty and initiative, is unavoidable so long as the employer retains the right of dismissal and loss of livelihood. It is a right supposed to be essential for anyone to have an incentive to work properly, but, by some curiosity of human nature bankers and corporate bosses, people supposed to be highly motivated, actually need the opposite incentive—vast bonuses and “golden hellos”—to entice them to work. It needs no massive study to realize that this dichotomy of human nature is nonsense. It is the mentality of the slave master over the slave, propagagated largely by overly rich newspaper editors.
Bertrand Russell said as we get more civilized, incentives based on hope become preferable to those based on fear. Everyone, not just bankers, should be rewarded for working well rather than the right wing dogma of punishment for working badly. The banking instance of it is simply a scam—a way of robbing us all by dubious methods—but the system has always worked properly in the civil service, where anyone is only dismissed for some exceptional degree of vice or virtue, such as murder, or refusal to participate in immoral governments plans.
The civil service is always the first target of reactionary newspaper barons, but they are mainly exemplary workers. New Labour has done its best to destroy the civil service even at the highest level. To restore civil servants’ confidence and the esteem we had in them is another essential of any government that is to replace the odious one of the last decade or so.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
John Kampfner at Index on Censorship, says by the time Blair left office, he had built a surveillance state unrivalled anywhere in the democratic world. Parliament passed 45 criminal justice laws—more than the total for the whole of the previous century—creating more than 3,000 new criminal offences. That was two new offences for each day parliament was sitting.
- Police and security forces were given greater powers of arrest and detention.
- All institutions of state were granted increased rights to snoop.
- Individuals were required to hand over unprecedented amounts of data
New Labour has made the left suspicious of civil liberties, liberties it was always concerned to protect, for they are necessarily removed always by fascist governments intent on destroying liberty as a whole. From ID cards to CCTV, to a national DNA database, to long periods of detention without charge, to public order restrictions on protest and curbs on free expression through draconian libel laws, New Labour rewrote the relationship between state and individual. It laid the footings of a fascist state, just as the USA Patriot Act did.
Meanwhile, blatantly unprincipled and hypocritical, Blair’s government colluded with US “special rendition” flights, the transport of terrorist suspects to secret prisons, with transit rights at British airports, and serious questions have been raised about the UK’s role in torture.
A party that should have intervened for social justice and greater equality instead allowed the bankers to rob us by setting up pyramid schemes to pile up bonuses, then, when the scheme inevitably went bust, arranged for we suckers to pay them the huge deficits they had created, and without any noticeable inclination to seek retribution. Instead, ministers sought ever more ingenious ways of watching us, listening to us, and telling us how to lead our lives. Why is all this not sending out a strong whiff of Naziism?
It is all surprising because, in Britain, since Victoria, we have prided ourselves on liberal traditions. Yet now those who complain about individual rights are regarded with disdain or hostility. Kampfner in a new book (Freedom for Sale) thinks people around the world, whatever their different cultures or circumstances, have been too willing over the past 20 years to trade certain freedoms in return for the promise of either prosperity or security. We have elevated private freedoms, especially the freedom to earn and spend money, over public freedoms, such as democratic participation and accountability and free expression. What he calls “globalised glut”, the thirst for material comfort, the ultimate anesthetic for the brain.
If he is right, we are now moving from the new 1929 to the new 1930s, with the prospect of a new world war in a decade. Sounds as if we should all be reading this book. The we had better wake up.
An inquiry into the killing of an Iraqi hotel worker, twenty six year old Baha Mousa, has heard he was arrested along with a number of other civilians by soldiers of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Basra in 2003. It is a horrible and devastating story which should bring tears to the eyes of anyone reading it, tears of shame and humiliation at what was done to him in our name.
These Iraqi civilians were subjected to brutal and vicious abuse from British troops, were subjected to sensory deprivation techniques, kicked and beaten repeatedly. The inquiry saw video footage of hooded and bound prisoners being beaten and abused by Corporal Donald Payne of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment. In his opening address to the inquiry, Rabinder Singh QC, representing Mr Mousa’s family, said:
Baha was a human being, yet to his guards he was known as “fat boy” or “fat bastard”.
Mr Mousa’s father is a colonel in the Iraqi police. While being tortured for 36 hours on the floor of a filthy toilet at a holding facility, Baha Mousa was heard to scream for respite, and say he thought he would die. Mr Singh read out the statement of another detainee, describing what were Mr Mousa’s last moments on the evening of the second day:
I heard Baha Mousa screaming, “Oh my God, I’m going to die, I’m going to die. Leave me alone. Please leave me alone for five minutes”.
After he had been tortured to death, Mousa’s body was released. He had suffered 93 separate injuries. Neither Mousa nor any other of the civilians detained had been tried or convicted of anything. He had recently lost his young wife to cancer and had been left working in a war zone with two motherless, and now fatherless, children.
Solicitor for the detainees Phil Shiner said the responsibility for Mr Mousa’s death rested at the highest level. He said the inquiry must establish:
How it came about that senior politicians, civil servants, lawyers and senior military personnel knew—or ought to have known—that British soldiers and interrogators were using coercive interrogation techniques in Iraq and thought these were permittable and lawful.
The use of hooding and other torture techniques were banned under the Geneva Convention, and outlawed by the UK Conservative Heath government, in 1972, following the use of sensory deprivation techniques during internment in Northern Ireland. Mr Singh wondered whether the use of these techniques had ever ceased:
In 2003, the so-called “conditioning” techniques were used in Iraq on civilians in the name of the people of Britain. Stress positions, hooding, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and noise all came back. Perhaps they never went away.
It is important not to fall into the trap of thinking that this case was simply one of indiscipline. This case is not just about beatings or a few bad apples. There is something rotten in the whole barrel.
For the abuse and murder of Baha Mousa and the indignities and outrages perpetrated on countless numbers of Iraqi victims, only one man has been found guilty of war crimes and that man, the only one who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to only a year in prison and dismissed from the service. Defence Secretary, Des Browne, admitted “substantive breaches” of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights that protect the right to life and prohibit torture, still no one in the army’s hierarchy has been identified as responsible and punished, though the Ministry of Defence agreed to pay out £2.83 million to those who were mistreated, accepting some culpability.
The Baha Mousa inquiry may provide some answers to what went wrong in the army’s chain of command. It may expose ignoble and immoral conduct among British soldiers, including senior officers, in wartime. And all three of the major parties supported the war. Though the Liberals made a token protest, it was not enough to exonerate them. The British public ought to recognize that politicians from all parties carry the guilt of the wounding and deaths of myriads of Iraqis.
But the army’s political masters, the Blair-Brown neo-Nazi concoction called the New Labour government, remain in power, the personal guilt of ministers unacknowledged, their draconian laws still on the statute book, and their own crimes still unpunished. We need to remove these criminals from office, and to send them to the law courts for judgement. We are supposed to know, from our experience of Naziism that military might ought not be used to achieve political objectives.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Democrats, and even some Republicans, are outraged that the GOP is running a campaign to undermine the Obama White House by alleging intimidation. Republican Steve Landes is reported to have compared the White House to “the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany”. Landes said:
I’m a student of history, and the Soviets and Nazis are the most egregious examples of those who used those tactics. I’m a history buff and I use the most relevant and strongest example of what people do.
He forgot Republican Richard Nixon’s “Enemies List” and Republican Senator Joe McCarthy’s “Enemies From Within”. Even Republicans have been shocked.
It seems the only basis for the Republican campaign is that Macon Carter, the White House director of new media, posted a blog last month (4 August) on the White House Web site asking people to e-mail the White House to report Republican lies about health-care reform:
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there… These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com.
Plainly the aim here is to be able to refute the falsehoods being spread by the Republicans, yet the implication is that the White House is acting like Senator McCarthy did. He was a Republican! In fact, when Bush twice fiddled his way into Office, the White House kept names, and required oaths of loyalty to Bush’s neoconservativism. Landes offers no proof that the current President is doing the same thing. All he offers is an emotionally loaded allegation.
The internet response is that Republicans cannot stand the idea of a black president, and have to invent nazi or communist plots to explain their worst fears, and the GOP is now a laughing stock of lunatics and freaks. Honest and open political discourse is dead, killed off to feed Republican prejudice. Lacking any ideas themselves, they resort to lies and uncivil behavior to try to block the properly and fairly elected Democratic President, and his Administration’s program—the reason he was elected.
They say “No” to it all and call Democrats scary names, hoping to prevent the change Obama was elected to bring on. When the president wants to talk to school kids—as Bush and Reagan did without anyone objecting—about the value of education, for Republicans, he is indoctrinating them with communism. When Obama wants to provide health care to all Americans, for Republicans, it is a socialist coup. If he was born in Hawaii, for Republicans, the birth certificate is fake, his parents anticipated his Presidency to put false announcements of his birth in the Hawaiian newspapers in 1961, and hundreds of people have kept quiet about the conspiracy. Even Republicans are outraged, and so they ought to be:
As a Republican, I am revolted over the lies of people like Landes, and I am doubly revolted over Landes’ remarks having Holocaust survivors among my friends. Republicans arrest people who wear antiwar t-shirts at Bush rallies, then bring guns to Obama rallies. They appeal to racist fears through demagogic propaganda. They continuously lie about nearly everything. They rant against immigrants, start gratuitous wars, subvert the constitution, steal elections. Then they call the Democrats Nazis. It is the Republicans are acting like Nazis. Any faith I had in Republicans is dying. The crazies and their favored demagogues have begun to rule through stupidity, fear, ignorance and subversion.
Others agree Republicans have gone crazy, asking, “How did the party of Lincoln and Ike ever become such a party of reactionary cowards?”. Susan Eisenhower said, President Eisenhower wouldn’t recognize the Republican party. Their leaders whip fearful people up into a frenzy by telling lies and half truths. Fear is the central policy of the new republicans. Out of the fear, they have created a group of people who want to shoot first and ask questions later. They have no men or women of substance to be their statesmen, only demagogues, Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity. Others ask:
- Where were these people when Bush confiscated more than 10,000,000 phone records of American citizens without a warrant?
- Where were these people when Bush’s FBI harvested financial records, medical records and emails of more than one million people, of which only a few hundred were being investigated for anything?
- Where were these people when Bush decided he could detain ANYONE, citizen or not, for any reason or no reason, never file charges, never provide any evidence whatsoever, and never let them go?
What has Obama done that comes anywhere near those assaults on the Constitution? Nothing! They want a dog eat dog society of “every man for himself. Democrats will fare better than those folks because we believe in taking care of our own and we believe in paying for it.”
Obama will need support, if he is to succeed in changing America. It is nice to see he is getting some. The outrage being shown here, if it bears longer term fruit, could help the world get its faith back in an America that sunk lower and lower over the last 25 years, through Republican regimes and even Clinton’s, politically castrated as it was—if the President personally proved otherwise, at least to Monica!—by phony Republican morality and its power in the Senate.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Geoff Simons, author of many books on geopolitics, describes George Bush as a semi dictator who ignored the constitution and pretended that he was a war leader so as to rule by diktat. But before Bush there were plenty of lies, torture and invasions. This legacy has left Barack Obama trapped in a culture that regards military aggression and subversive operations as normal tactics. This is the deep seated, enduring and global militaristic culture with which Obama has to contend.
Before Barack Obama became president, US military strategists briefed him on the war in Afghanistan. He asked them what was their exit strategy from Kabul. Silence! Whatever Obama thought about this, the US are still deeply involved in killing Afghans approaching the anniversary of his election. Obama is surrounded by people in the US intelligence and military who don’t want themselves or their policies subjected to too much scrutiny.
After eight years of fighting in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden remains free, despite the technology of the mightiest power on earth, and the liberal intervention to democratize the country is stuck in the mire of corruption. Al Karzai, the supposed leader of the country, is a US puppet, who was for long a CIA agent. So it is hardly surprising that any aid sent to Afghanistan simply disappears long before it gets to its targets. The UN suggest that barely 10% of outside aid gets through. It still proves US benevolence, or so the average Yankee seems to think, scared as shit that if they do not keep the front line 6 to 12 thousand miles away, they will have to defend their own back yard. The trouble is their own back yard has continued to expand since the Monroe Doctrine, and for a long time now has covered the whole world.
The Afghan war is what the Vietnam war was, and dozens of other US wars have been in the last 100 years since the Spanish American war, aggression against a foreign state started with whatever excuse and for whatever real reason the US deemed appropriate in its role of world bully. The initial excuse here was the handing over of Osama bin Laden and the al Qaida perpetrators of 9/11. Then it became the noble neocon desire to bring democracy to a backward country—whether they wanted it or not—a banner eagerly waved by Blair, then Brown, as philanthropic imperialism.
On 2 December 1823, president James Monroe outlined the points that defined the Monroe Doctrine—the “American continents” were not subjects for European colonisation and any such attempt would be seen as “dangerous to our peace and safety”. This doctrine yielded the idea of “manifest destiny”, supposedly giving divine sanction to any expansionist policy. The New York journalist, John L O’Sullivan, wrote in 1845 that it was “the fulfilment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly expanding millions”. This meant that the racist genocide of indigenous people would rightly contribute to the enlargement of a Christian nation. In 1822-5, US forces repeatedly invaded Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Since then, the US has been an imperial junkie, unable to break the habit of killing foreigners in their own lands as a route to expansionism and resource exploitation. They had begun by breaking treaties with the native Americans and slaughtering them.
The Spanish-American war began in 1898, bringing further opportunities for US expansion across the world. The Cuban war of liberation was converted into a US war of conquest. Cuba had a liberation movement heroically fighting against Spanish colonialism and the US would have to intervene. On December 24 1897, US undersecretary of war, JC Breckenridge, commented that the inhabitants of Cuba…
…are generally indolent and apathetic. Its people are indifferent to religion and the majority are therefore immoral. They only possess a vague notion of what is right and wrong. As a logical consequence of this lack of morality, there is a great disregard for life.
It would of course be “sheer madness” to annex such a dissolute and depraved people into the virtuous US. Cuba was invaded and occupied in what US secretary of state John Hay dubbed “a splendid little war”, which crippled the Cuban economy and reduced the people to destitution. Havana stank, and sick and starving people roamed the city or lay in the gutters. Streets were lined with the corpses of horses, dogs and human beings. All efforts to bury the dead had been abandoned. Breckenridge observed:
We must clean up the country, even if this means using the methods Divine Providence used on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. We must destroy everything within our cannons’ range of fire. We must impose a harsh blockade so that hunger and disease undermine the peaceful population and decimate the Cuban army.
The academic Brian Linn graphically described the response of the US army to the Filipino liberation struggle. Suspects were hung by their thumbs to make them talk. Water was forced down the victim’s throat—“the water cure”—Americans seem fond of water torturing, and euphemisms for it! Villages were burned. US Colonel Benjamin F Cheatham urged his troops to “burn freely and kill every man who runs”. Villagers were forced into concentration camps with food shortages and appalling sanitation. A report said that “malnutrition, poor sanitary conditions, disease and demoralisation”, had cost 11,000 Filipino lives.
The twentieth century gave many more opportunities for US imperial expansion. In the first decade of the century, troops were active in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Syria, Panama, Abyssinia, Korea, Cuba, Honduras and Nicaragua. Just before World War I, the US found reasons to send troops to Cuba, Haiti, China and Turkey. In 1915, president Woodrow Wilson ordered General John J Pershing to invade Mexico with 10,000 troops to crush the insurrection led by Francisco Villa—Pancho Villa. China was again invaded in 1916, while in the same year US troops began an eight-year occupation of the Dominican Republic to combat a popular uprising.
The US invasions continued in China, Guatemala and Russia (all in 1920), China and Turkey (1922), China and Honduras (both invaded in 1924 and 1925), China again (1926 and 1927). In the prelude to World War II, US forces again invaded Cuba and China. In 1940, the US acquired from Britain the lend-lease bases of Newfoundland, Bermuda, St Lucia, Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad and British Guiana, and in April 1941, Greenland and Iceland were taken under US protection. In October 1945, 50,000 US marines were sent to north China to aid the nationalist battle against the communists. World War II and the Korean war resulted in permanent US occupations of parts of Germany, Japan, South Korea and Britain and of many island bases taken over from the Japanese.
On 7 August 1964, the US Congress, responding to president Lyndon B Johnson’s deliberate lie that US ships had been attacked by North Vietnamese vessels in international waters, approved the Gulf of Tonkin resolution affirming “all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States… to prevent further aggression”. The blatant lie had produced a presidential authorization that led to almost 60,000 US fatalities. Vietnamese dead, like the earlier Korean dead, numbered in the millions. The Vietnamese war included the Phoenix programme, which involved the systematic torture of tens of thousands of Vietnamese peasants.
William Blum, in his book Rogue State, has profiled US interventions since the end of the Vietnam war. Washington launched military or subversive actions in the Dominican Republic, Zaire, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Iran, Libya, Grenada, Honduras, Chad, Bolivia, Iraq, Panama, Colombia, Peru, the Philippines, Liberia, Turkey, Kuwait, Somalia, Yugoslavia, the Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Afghanistan, East Timor, Serbia, Yemen, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Pakistan, South Ossetia, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Uruguay, Ghana, Chile, El Salvador, South Africa, Portugal, Angola, Jamaica, Seychelles, Diego Garcia, Marshall Islands, Albania, Costa Rica, Georgia and other countries.
In Afghanistan, back in the present, bombing by pilotless airplanes continues, and is extended into Pakistan. Neither Obama nor General David Petraeus seem able to stop rogue officers from doing just as they like. They are undisciplined and irresponsible, but determined to have fun soldiering, just as the captain of the USS Vincennes had fun in 1988 shooting down an aeroplane with 290 passengers and crew on board, in a similar utterly undisciplined act. Many say the Lockerbie bombing, later the same year, was a reprisal for that US atrocity—an eye for an eye, so to speak—but the US did not want any such conclusion to be drawn, so the CIA set up Abdulbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan, whom most of the British relatives of the dead now consider to be innocent. Yet the US, with the same evidence before them refuse to accept that the conviction of al-Megrahi is, to say the least, unsafe, and the rage is fomented by Obama, Hillary Clinton, and one of the men responsible, CIA chief Robert Mueller.
So the Yankees continue their policy of invasion, utterly unable to accept that it is a long time failure. Or is it a failure? The US military industrial complex have their own economic reasons. It gets huge government appropriations, and these make for vast profits in the military linked armaments and supply industries. For Cheney and the like of his puppy, Bush, these overseas adventures are ways of siphoning tax dollars into personal profit. And who allegedly pays most tax dollars? Cheney’s own Republican voters! They do not seem to notice they are the ones being conned the most.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
It’s all over. We’ve lost the consent of the people. It’s finished.The troops were sent on “a fool’s errand”, he says, because all the options were not properly considered before the military one was chosen. The aim of democratization given as the purpose of the intervention required the winning over of the people.
It’s not good for winning hearts and minds when you keep bombing wedding parties. How would you feel if it happened in this country? One Taliban commander said, “Supposing thousands of Afghans had invaded your country and bombed your villages and killed your wives and children, what would you do?” You’d be furious. Each one of those people affected by such atrocities is a recruit for the Taliban. They all have fathers, and brothers and sisters. Yet it keeps on happening.The occupation of Afghanistan is bound to fail, and the use of air power is a disaster, Fergusson says:
It’s part of the problem not part of the solution.Moreover the strategy called “decapitation”—despite appearances, not literally the blowing off of Afghan heads, whether they are Taliban fighters or women and children—but the targetting of the leadership is counter productive, he tells us, because they are replaced by younger men who are bitterer, more fanatical, and less likely to compromise than the old guard. Carrying the war into Pakistan is also futile and counter productive, Fergusson thinks:
It’s turning into a honey pot for global Jihad, and that’s our fault!The Taliban and Al Qaida ought to be treated as separate entities, but the west conflates them. The Taliban are not monolithic, and were not, at least initially, concerned with the west. They had no foreign policy. Their revolution was internal, and divided on many issues. They are uniting against the western invaders. Al Qaida’s, on the other hand, was entirely a foreign policy—to defeat the west.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
…it is essential, if man is not compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law…Rawls, bending to US realities, allowed that a society did not have to be egalitarian when inequality helped the poorest in society to be better off, but he saw that excessive inequality could only destabilize society, and consequently that class differences, if necessary, ought to be small. The modern USA has ignored this hitherto, and, if Obama, now is trying to do something about it in the one field of health care, Americans ought to be glad. Regrettably, too many of them are conditioned by bigotry and selfishness. The dangers to America are not from outside. Americans need to examine themselves more closely.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Our greatest current philosopher, Ted Honderich, starkly sums up the New Labour experiment we have been suffering since grinning Tony won over the electoral masses in 1997. Labour activists and voters were delighted, but not lefties and socialists who characterized Blair as the first Labour Prime Minister not to have waited until he got into power to sell out. His New Labour had already manifestly abandoned everything that made labour a party of the working class.Blair’s and Brown’s record since have proved that the New Labour party hasn’t a principle that it is not willing to ditch, that it was not about offering us a new set of policies, but was about selling us a more colourful shade of Thatcherism, and that this “selling” amounted to telling lie after lie after lie, trowelling on the lies so heavily that Brown has gotten completely tangled in his web of deceit, something that Blair knew by his burglar’s instinct was about to unravel so he got on his bike and cycled off at full speed, trying to grab as much loot as he could while wobbling off. The outcome in Great Britain is that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. Ordinary workers have ridden on the stoked up debt mountain for the past decade as much as the bankers, giving them the illusion of being better off, but Brown is determined to leave us feeling sorry. He has given a trillion or so pounds sterling to bankers, and left the working class in hock for the next fifty years. The Gini Coefficient is a statistical measure of inequality, running from 0 to 100, where 0 is perfect equality and 100 perfect inequality—a single person has everything. The Gini index for Thatcher governments was 29 or 30. For Blair and Brown, it is about 35. UK society is much less equal than it was before the turkeys voted for Thanksgiving Day, or Christmas in their case. Blair lined up with his chum George W Bush not only to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent Arabs, but also to mould Britain closer to the US, seen by Blair as an ideal—the Great Society, no doubt. The Gini coefficient in the US is around 45.
It’s not a shock that you get turned away from a hospital if your breathing’s getting worse and you couldn’t afford health insurance… For president, America is getting a choice of millionaires at this election. It won’t be as clear this time as last election, though, that it doesn’t matter who wins. Last time America proved that, by not really trying to find out who won.In the supposedly greatest democracy in history, it seemed inexplicable why Americans were not outraged at Bush’s blatant gerrymandering and electoral rigging, but Americans seemed uninterested. Honderich is right, as are the 50% of people who cannot be bothered to register and vote in the US—what is the point? The US is not a democracy, it is a plutocracy! Britain has taken giant steps in the same direction under New Labour. We should start objecting before it is too late.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
It only stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.It sounds almost communistic. If there are no masters, then there are no slaves, but the message of her writing is that the masters must be allowed to remain masters, and untrammelled by any concern for the wretched. Slaves must be slaves forever! It is all they are good for. Rand believed that altruism was evil. So any redistribution of wealth, even voluntarily, is weakening to society. How can such a vision be anything other than Nazi? Rand’s vision of the world in Atlas Shrugged inspires either slavering devotion or disbelieving ribaldry. Leading philosophers ignore it as puerile. Noam Chomsky even called her “one of the most evil figures of modern intellectual history”. But Rand’s adherents see parallels in today’s economic events. Faced with Obama's Keynsianism, the thought of a right wing strike has its sympathisers among the caste of Republican politicoes on Capitol Hill. Some foresee a Rand revolution, in which those unwilling to pay their taxes decide to “do a Galt”, arrange a strike of the wealthy. Obama’s policy of creating work by injecting cash into the economy, they argue, smacks of socialism, forcing the strong and successful to prop up the weak, feckless and incompetent. Business commentator, Stephen Moore, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
The current economic strategy is right out of Atlas Shrugged. The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you.The Republican congressman, John Campbell, told The Washington Independent:
People are starting to feel like we’re living through the scenario that happened in Atlas Shrugged. The achievers are going on strike. I’m seeing, at a small level, a kind of protest from the people who create jobs… who are pulling back from their ambitions because they see how they’ll be punished for them.They cannot mean the bankers! Among the bankers, brokers and industrialists, whose greed brought on this recession, were adherents of Rand’s ideas, like Alan Greenspan, for long boss of the Federal Reserve. They just love Ayn Rand. Ideas like hers justify their “rational self-interest” in packaging up debts as leveraged private equity buyouts, but theirs turns out to be an “irrational self-interest”. The system was an elaborate pyramid selling scheme that some didn’t catch on to and others ignored to get the most out of it while they could—not via the phony bonds themselves, but the bonuses for selling them! We need to force more of them to give up their ill-gotten gains, then send them on a permanent enforced strike in some suitable penitentiary. Just to prove how out of touch with reality modern Republicans are, Campbell gives Rand’s book as gifts to his interns. The conservative right wing ignore history in favour of these infantile fantasies like Rand's. Penelope Newsome, writing in The Guardian, brought all this to mind. She talks about J M Keynes, 70 years ago, revealing the two great mistakes in economic policy capitalist governments make in a recession. Keynesianism was taught as received wisdom in university economics courses until about 35 years ago, when Milton Friedman's monetarism became fashionable, and set us on the road to our present state. Ayn Rand was obviously not a Keynsian.
- First Mistake—Governments should reduce interest rates and increase the money supply then businesses will borrow and invest and create a recovery in output and employment. Not so! Businesses will not borrow, even at zero interest rates, when there is no demand for their output. And why would banks lend money at zero interest rates, especially to businesses with no demand even for their existing output.
- Second Mistake—Governments should cut wages and allow costs to fall then prices will fall and demand will increase, lifting output and employment. Not so, again! Output and employment will not rise even if prices do fall, because the fall in incomes imposed first must mean that workers do not have the cash to spend, especially when they are scared of becoming unemployed.