Monday, May 15, 2017

Labour’s manifesto recognises the economic status quo can’t be kept going for much longer.

»Ten years ago this month, Tony Blair was going to stand down as prime minister after 10 years in the job, during which time he had won three elections on the trot with his "New Labour" (read "NOT Labour") neoliberal (read Tory) policies. His legacy?
• Britain was in debt
• the public sector was on the brink of meltdown
• the country was trying to play the part of world policeman on the cheap
• the growing trade deficit exposed the perils of allowing manufacturing to shrivel
• then, a month after Blair’s departure from Downing Street, the biggest financial crisis in a century erupted!

Remember, it was "NOT labour" not Labour that brought all this on.

As in 2007, the economy is still over-dependent on the financial sector and on the willingness of households to load up on debt. When the housing market slows--as in 2011-12 and currently--so does the economy. Income and wealth are highly concentrated because not only has growth been slow it has also been unevenly distributed. In the workplace, management is strong and unions are weak, which helps explain why real wages have grown more slowly since 2007 than in any decade since the 19th Century. London is rich and thriving but might as well be a separate country given how different it is from other, less prosperous, regions. Relative poverty, as the former prime minister Gordon Brown has shown, is heading for levels not experienced even under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Labour’s draft manifesto at least tries to tackle some of these glaring weaknesses. There is plenty of good in the manifesto:
• Employers who whinge constantly about the poor quality of school leavers and graduates will be asked to contribute more to the education budget through higher corporation tax.
• Labour plans to broaden stamp duty to a wider range of financial instruments, including derivatives, which will raise £5bn and help lessen volatility.
• There is a recognition that macro-economic policy since the crisis has been flawed, with far too much emphasis on ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing and too little on tax and spending measures.
• Austerity has been tested to destruction, with both deficit reduction and growth much weaker than envisaged.
• There is a strong case, as the International Monetary Fund has noted, for countries to borrow to invest in infrastructure, especially when they can do so at today’s low interest rates.

It is sign of how much ground has been ceded by the left since Blair's "NOT Labour" took over the Labour party, that these ideas are seen as dangerously radical. They were not radical in 1945 when a mild mannered Labour leader, Clement Attlee, was given no chance of winning against the victorious war leader, Winston Churchill.

Germany and France have higher levels of corporation tax than Britain, but they also have better trained workforces and higher levels of productivity. A group of countries are planning a financial transactions tax. Balancing day-to-day spending while borrowing for roads, railways and superfast broadband, which is what John McDonnell is suggesting, is more Keynesian (the principles applied for the first 35 post war years--until Thatcher in this country and Reagan in the USA abandoned them to give wealthy people even more wealth!--when the Western world had more equal societies and more productive economies) than Marxist--the fake fact the Tory press apply to Corbyn's policies. What’s more, these essentially social-democratic ideas will seem even more mainstream if--as is entirely possible--there is another crisis.

And where we are is that:
• Real incomes are falling.
• Inequality is rising.
• The NHS is kept going on a wing and a prayer.
• The economy is barely rising despite more than eight years of unprecedented stimulus from the Bank of England.
• Personal debt is heading back towards its previous record levels.
• International co-operation has rarely been weaker.
• There is a profound disconnect between the financial markets, where asset prices regularly scale new heights, and the state of the real economy.

Now ask yourself this. As this is so, what is the real fantasy, Labour’s manifesto ideas that income, wealth and power should be more evenly distributed or the idea that the current state of affairs can be sustained very much longer?

We just cannot risk the current state of affairs being perpetuated under May's complacent Tories.«
(Adapted from Larry Elliott, The Guardian)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Media on Trial: Contextual Notes

Probably every conflict is fought on at least two grounds—the battlefield and the minds of the people, via propaganda. Propaganda is to rally people behind a cause, often a miliary or political one, by publicising it, but also by exaggerating, misrepresenting, and lying about it. Some of the tactics used in propaganda include:

• selective stories
• partial facts and background
• exaggerating threats to people’s security and reinforcing reasons and motivations for them to respond to them
• offering only a narrow range of insights into the situation, vouchsafed as undeniable (rather than one viewpoint among others that are not considered) and needing to be confirmed—viz, only official government sources or retired military personnel for conflicts
• denigrating as “bad guys” and name-calling the opponent or the enemy for supposed dastardly acts
• jumping to judgement based on inadequate information and before adequate or often any valid discussion, especially of the facts and the options available, has been considered.

These ploys are constantly used by our media to “persuade” people to the stance preferred by the group controlling the sources of propaganda—usually the vested interests of big businesses or the party of the ruling clique, and internationally, the USA, NATO and the West generally. All of these approaches have been used in the latest interventions by the West in Syria, Ukraine, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, but extend back over much of recent history through a multiplicity of US interventions since WWII including Chile, Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War against the USSR and China, and continue still against Venezuela, Brazil and other South American states. Since the end of WWII, the United States has:

• attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected
• dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries
• attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders
• attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries
• grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries
• been more involved in the practice of torture than any other country in the world for over a century (although not easily quantified), not just performing the actual torture, but teaching it, providing the manuals, and furnishing the equipment.

These are facts not loony “alternative facts” or “fake news” and can be found in the Western liberal media (WLM), but are not constantly plugged as the propaganda points are, so are quickly forgotten even if they were originally noticed at all by the typical receiver of the media’s news. The WLM pretends to have a “watchdog” role, an independent voice that somehow assists social accountability. Yet it has really been the source of propaganda and public enthusiasm for wars like those on Iraq, Libya and Syria. By describing bloody and vicious interventions as being “humanitarian”, journalists deliberately switched off their critical faculties and thereby switched off ours! Thus they hid a murderous spree of US/NATO “regime change” across the region.

For the US and the UK criminal enterprise against Syria, the challenge was as ever selling it to their electorates—public relations! Justifying the dirty war called on mass disinformation. Seeking “regime change” the US and its NATO allies hid behind proxy armies of “Islamists” accusing the Syrian Government of atrocities, and so a narrative had to be built and promoted. It required a relentless propaganda campaign demonizing the Syrian government and everything it did. So, the mild-mannered optometrist, Syrian President, Bashar al Assad, was described as worse than Hitler. They did this by constant reliance on partisan sources, such as the UK-based Rami Abdul Rahman (SOHR, the self-styled Syrian Observatory on Human Rights), the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), the latter two firmly embedded in a “revolving door” relationship with the US State Department, at least under Democrat administrations.

As western peoples we have been particularly deceived by this dirty war, reverting to our worst traditions of intervention, racial prejudice and poor reflection on our own histories. The popular myths (manufactured lies) of the dirty war are that…

• It is a “civil war”—a “popular revolt” in 2011 was violently quashed by Assad.
• Assad is a brutal dictator who enjoys killing “his own people”.
• The opposition are actually Syrian rebels who want rid of their hated leader.
• The US/NATO/Saudi Arabia/Qatar are justified in backing the rebels.
• So “terrorists” in Syria are really just dissident Syrians fighting for their freedom.
• The Syrian forces backed by their ally Russia’s airforce are deliberately killing Syrian people not terrorists.
• The Syrian people will welcome regime change and the replacement of Assad with a US/Nato approved government.

Each and every one of these assertions can be shown to be lies from the Western press itself, though finding the rebuttals is not easy amid the mass of propaganda. It is easier to find the detailed rebuttals from the alternative media as represented by some of the speakers here (and listed below), and sometimes from honest academics, also represented in tonight’s addresses. Their articles will often cite the confirmatory references in the main stream media.
Some reliable authorities worth looking up online and reading…

Prof Tim Anderson
Chris Hedges
Craig Murray
Finian Cunningham
Glen Greenwald
Jon Pilger
Jonathan Cook
Pepe Escobar
Thierry Meysanne
William Blum
Robert Parry
Neil Clark
Michel Chossudovsky
Piers Robinson

And some of the websites and political online magazines where counter propagandist material can be found…

Global Research
Dissident Voice
21st Century Wire
BS News
Consortium News
Naked Capitalism
Zero Hedge
Morning Star

Friday, May 5, 2017

What is at stake in terms of inequality in the UK General Election

Danny Dorling at Class explains what's at stake in terms of inequality.

"Whether measured by the Gini coefficient for OECD countries, or by the take of the top 10%, income inequality rates in the UK today are the worst in all of Europe. Of all the countries of Europe, the UK was the only country to see no improvement in life expectancy between 2011 and 2015 (the latest year for which data has been released). In most countries economic inequalities have been reducing or stable in recent years. Our main problem is being governed by people who have no interest in policies that address inequality, and in telling the public that they believe most people do not deserve to be well off."

Yet, the Conservatives on present trends are likely to win a large majority of seats without a large majority of votes (because the media have succeeded in portraying the Labour leader as ineffective, when he is in fact the only leader to have presented policies capable of changing our situation) and, unless the electorate realise it and return to supporting Labour, the growth of inequality and the decline of Britiain will continue. The Tories, along with most other parties are hoping to benefit from the media denigration of the Labour leader, abetted by far too many Blairite MPs still in parliament.

Danny Dorling tells us the 2017 General Election will determine whether the many negative changes in life chances that began in 2011 become cemented for a generation. For example:
• For the first time ever, as you became older in Britain you now become less likely to escape private renting. If current trends continue, then most people aged under 50 should assume they will spend the rest of their lives renting from a private landlord. The wealth of private landlords rose by £177bn between 2010 and 2015 as landlords bought up more and more properties and as the price of all properties rose because of their frantic purchases, all fuelled by high and rising rents.
• The failure of the Conservative government to see any improvement in public health since coming to office is the worse health record of any UK government since at least 1945. People in the UK now live shorter lives than people in Greece. Life expectancy in Greece, at 81.1 years, is today higher than in the UK, at 81.0 years. Greece fared worse than the UK in 2011. Now it does better. If the Conservative majority is greatly increased, we should not expect to live as long as other people in Europe.
• The average child in the UK should expect to be taught at schools that are increasingly poorly resourced compared to what school children elsewhere in Europe will experience, and more than one in four children will be poor.
• For working adults wages will remain low, rents will climber even higher, even more people will be forced to take any job, or any number of jobs, they can find. Most will spend most of their adult lives working to allow their landlord to become richer. Adults not in work will suffer even more.

To address inequality in the UK, Dorling says we need a bold package of interventions. The package should include
• good job creation
• the universal provision of high quality, affordable childcare
• a fairer, more progressive tax system
• a programme for affordable housing.

There is no lack of available policies. Labour are offering them. The Tory problem is a refusal to identify inequality as a problem in the first place. In fact, the Conservative party has celebrated high and rising economic inequality.

Even under Blair Labour were not as bad as the Tories became! Twenty years ago in 1997, 27% of all children and 26% of all pensioners in the UK lived in poverty. By the time Labour were replaced by the LibDem Tory coalition power in 2010, those proportions had fallen to 18% and 17% respectively, a reduction in economic inequalities. The reductions could have been greater had the take of the top 1% not been allowed to continue to rise under Labour, but that was a critical failing of New Labour. It was, as Mandelson said, "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich".