England My England – Part 1
A Look Back In Anger (cc GCHQ via NSA)
When my generation came of age in the early fifties we inherited a liberal, egalitarian world embodying socialist principles that didn’t just mouth the words ‘opportunity for all’ but genuinely set out to provide it. A world of compassion, benevolence and social responsibility that was founded in the large part by the working men and women who had fought the Second World War and survived – heroes I suppose they would be called now, although the term wasn’t used of them then, and few would have seen themselves in that light. They created it at the ballot box in 1945 with the firm determination that the privileged elite represented by Churchill and his like would never again exploit them or their children as they had their forebears.
Yet if the few of that band of ’45 that remain alive today look around them at the world inherited by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren (including those latter-day heroes returned from the illegal and ill-advised adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan) what do they see but the same old exploitative order solidly re-established.
Now, however, it is the elite of the new global feudalism who call the shots: the super-rich who in conjunction with the multinational corporate and financial institutions they control have so subverted the democratic process and so thoroughly grasped the levers of power represented by the mass media, security agencies, police and military that any prospect of meaningful change must be illusory.
Dispiriting and disheartening as it has been to be witness to the systematic rubbishing of the world of ’45 doesn’t mean though that I haven’t appreciated, even enjoyed, the passing show over the past eighty-plus years. It’s been a fascinating experience (suitable lines for an epitaph perhaps) watching the way the lords of the new feudal elite have usurped and reinforced their power, and despite the vicissitudes of hot wars (there have been so many between 1945 and Iraq/Afghanistan) and Cold War crises it has to be acknowledged that those of my generation in particular have done bloody well.
Notwithstanding the fact that reactionary forces are busy turning the clock back everywhere, we have enjoyed the fag-end of half a millennium (a minuscule part of man’s existence) increasingly free from the tyranny of religion and superstition; we’ve been the beneficiaries of an astonishing legacy in the arts and sciences; we’ve lived a life of comfort and indulgence that our ancestors could not even have conceived, and yet we’re just old enough to have known something of a different world before the war (that’s 39-45 to avoid any confusion), and to understand just how much has been lost as well as gained in the course of our lifetime.
Getting a subsequent generation to understand that though is a thankless task. I’ve tried it, and all I get is a look of blank incomprehension and the unspoken question, ‘What on earth is the old fart on about now?’
Well what this old fart is on about now is that the show is over. For the same half-millennium we’ve relentlessly plundered the world’s resources and abused the environment with malice aforethought and an egregious abandon that is beyond belief and understanding. The chickens are coming home to roost. The bills are piling up on the doormat, and the bailiff’s at the door. Take what you want, said the Lord, take it and pay for it, but unfortunately the wallet’s empty . . . have I made my point?
But aren’t my generation the lucky ones! We’re going to be long gone before the shit hits the fan. It’s going to be left to the poor sods coming on behind to carry the can, and it’s mainly with the poor sods in mind that I go public even as the finishing tape looms up ahead of me. I’m getting it off my chest – granting myself a sort of absolution for atheists before I take the ferry.
The facts, the evidence and the words of the movers and shakers, and their willing and complicit accomplices who have together brought the world to its present pass, and in which they condemn themselves will follow in later posts, as will the words of other critics of their criminal activities who speak with an authority to which I cannot pretend.
I can offer only limited references or detailed evidence – to do otherwise would make this a book, or several. It’s all out there though, articles, books, DVDs and of course the internet and YouTube. Seek and ye shall find, but whatever you do for Christ’s sake don’t bother looking in the mainstream media (gutter-press, broadsheet or broadcasting) which is either a vehicle for the malignant lies, distortions, misrepresentations, gross political bias and calculated omissions of Murdoch, Desmond, Harmsworth et al, or imprisoned within the unspoken but well understood establishment constraints that bind the rest.
Have a dip into some of the alternatives: www.medialens.org www.projectcensored.org johnpilger.com guymcpherson.com (Nature Bats Last) or www.rt.com especially The Big Picture, Cross Talk, or for a stronger UK slant Going Underground. So there are a few non-establishment options, but for the rest of this article it’s just me.
So what is it that gets right up my nose? What really pisses me off? At what do I so pathetically and ineffectually vent my spleen?
Let me itemise.
Item: the ongoing despoliation of the world and the relentless plundering of its resources by Capitalism and Global Corporatism regardless of the long-term implications.
Item: the surrender of sovereignty by most nations to the dictates of the same Global Corporatism (the clandestine Government of the New World Order) and International Finance. For John Le Carré to level the charge in the UK only at a ‘secretive public school elite’ as he does, is entirely to miss the point that to stay in office that elite has more powerful masters it must serve.
Item: the relentless pursuit of growth worldwide to perpetuate a lifestyle which is selfish, indulgent, wasteful and unsustainable. It’s the ultimate march of folly.
Item: Superstition: especially God-based religions that are proselytising, fanatical or Roman Catholic, and in particular the Papacy and all its works.
Item: blind, unthinking patriotism – ‘the love that asks no questions’ – ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag.’
Item: America – its politics and politicians, its institutions, its arrant hypocrisy, its TV and Hollywood Dream factories and the overt or subliminal propaganda they propagate, its war criminals, its lies, the violence, duplicity and subversion that are the hallmarks of its dealing with the world, its businessmen and the corrupt institutions through which they work, and apart from the likes of the few good Americans I know (who run a serious risk of getting that country a good name) I suspect my distaste would apply to most of the insular, brainwashed, superstitious and politically naive majority who soak up the artfully contrived myth.
Item: the fact that for over thirty years I have been powerless to do anything but stand by and watch as the corporate cronies and friends of the Westminster Mafia plundered the nation’s assets and resources for the personal aggrandisement of themselves, their associates, paymasters and assorted hangers-on as they preside over an unprecedented transfer of wealth and income from the poor to the rich: Trickle-up they call it.
Item: the shame I feel that I posses any human attributes in common with those same men, men from the wealthiest 0.01% of the nation, men rich in assets, men who never have to open a purse or wallet and wonder how they’ll make it to the end of the week or month, men with large houses (perhaps two or three and a pied-a-terre in Tuscany), men who can indulge themselves and their families in a winter holiday and a summer break or two, men who can chum it on the yachts of billionaires (or even their own) and be intensely relaxed about those who are filthy rich (and intensely relaxed to the point of indifference about those who are dirt poor) men who are fundamentally ignorant of the way in which the majority of the people they represent have to live their lives, men who by the dirtiest and most hypocritical of political scams (just one of many – think disability and Atos) can tax the bedrooms of the poor, the deprived, the sick and the disabled to stuff a few extra pounds into the already bulging wallets of the rich and super-rich who have no allegiance, obligation or connection whatsoever to wider society.
And all this has been engineered by an administration of the wealthy where twenty-one millionaires or multi-millionaires sit down at the cabinet table to serve themselves and their corporate masters.
Item: the systematic demonising of the unemployed, the underprivileged, the poor and the deprived as a diversionary tactic to screen the gross excesses of the super-rich.
Item: the relentless transformation, degradation rather, of our universities over the last thirty or so years. From symposia for free thought, argument, the development of new ideas and the interrogation of old beliefs, they have become education factories for the production of capitalist apparatchiks attuned only to the requirements and demands of the corporate world and the financial sector.
Just have a look at any lists of best paid graduate jobs. At the top? You’ve got it – Investment Banking. Followed by Oil & Energy, Law, Media etc, etc with Public Service languishing at the bottom.
Item: a vicarious protest this: a then and now comparison on behalf of those I describe above as the poor sods coming along behind.
1957 For the few of my generation who were fortunate enough to go to university it was with the near certainty for graduates that a good degree would secure entry to employment that offered a decent starting salary, a good career structure with the prospect of promotion for those who were efficient at their work and a final salary pension scheme at the end of the road.
For those without degrees work was plentiful with an overall unemployment rate of 1.2% There was a decent wage for a honest day’s work, and pay and conditions were protected by strong unions.
Education was free at all levels apart from maintenance costs at university which for many were in any event covered by a local authority grant.
Average new house prices at around £2,300 were a little over three times the average national wage. For those who chose not to buy, council housing was available at rents that were reasonable and controlled as were many other rentals, although the Tories were already busy destroying that protection for tenants.
When the newspapers discussed increases in public spending in advance of the Christmas celebrations they did so in terms of its drain on national savings, and the terms ‘personal debt’ or ‘household debt’ played no part in the debate. Credit cards were non-existent, and apart from mortgage payments, significant household or individual debt was likely to be restricted to HP and limited by the impositions of the credit squeeze (how quaint that term now sounds).
It was still a grey and dreary post-war world in many ways, but my generation were there on the starting blocks and the good times were about to roll: we’d ‘never had it so good’ we were told and the swinging sixties were just around the corner.
Fast forward now to: 2013 The overall unemployment rate is high at 7.0+% – an essential feature of course in the low-wage/high-profit world of neocon economics. Decent jobs are hard to come by. Pay and conditions of employment for non-graduates are dire and generally unprotected by effective unions. It’s a world of part-time, multi-jobbing, zero-hour contract exploitation at little more than sweat-shop wages with virtually no union protection.
Of graduates nearly 10% remain unemployed six months after leaving university. Of those in employment over 30% are working in sectors that do not require a degree, while almost 6% are in what are described as ‘elementary occupations.’
Employment offering security and a good career structure with the prospect of promotion is a thing of the past. Target Jobs, the online site for graduates writes:
UK plc is hiring again – James Hick. UK managing director of Manpower Group Solutions says that ‘the days of a job for life are well and truly over. Businesses are looking for flexibility when it comes to recruiting. ‘As a result graduates may find themselves accepting short-term contracts, interning or moving to a different region in an attempt to develop skills that will make them more employable in the long term.
And a final salary pension scheme? Dream on, as they say, and then try to negotiate some decent private pension arrangements where you won’t be shafted at the end of the day by the shysters in the Private Pension Scheme industry.
State Education under Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Education) and his predecessors has been reduced to such a pathetic shambles that The Daily Telegraph writes: ‘Nothing defines the chances of a teenager more than whether their parents managed to afford fees.’ At the private school attended by Gove those fees are currently £11,200 pa.
University tuition fees are now £9,000 pa with average living costs (based on the Warwick University website) of £9,000 pa: a millstone debt of £54,000 at the end of three years.
Rental charges for those not buying are uncontrolled and extortionate. At £250,000+ (in London double that) the average cost of a new house is now nine times the average national wage. And with wages stagnant and likely to remain so for many years, and Osborne re-inflating the housing bubble to ‘juice up’ a little the value of some of those toxic assets held by the banks, that ratio is likely to be up to double figures in no time. Over half of young people are reported to have given up on the idea of owning their own home, and are now described as the ‘rent generation.’ God help them.
The notion of saving is a meaningless concept in most households, and the average level of unsecured household debt is estimated at £13,000 with one in three respondents saying that they expected to stay in the red indefinitely. Yet at a time when Bank Rate stands at 0.5% the Credit Card companies are charging a rapacious 19+% APR while pay-day loan companies bleed the poor dry, with QuickQuid currently advertising 1734%APR – repeat 1734%
For the FTSE bosses and the wealthiest 0.01% of the UK these are indeed the years when they’ve never had it so good, but if anyone else in the remaining 99.99% is waiting for the good times to roll again in the foreseeable future they haven’t been listening to the words of our multi-millionaire Chancellor, or reading The Daily Telegraph’s lament for the death of the British middle classes:
The lifestyle that the average earner had half a century ago: reasonably sized house, dependable health care, a decent education for the children, a reliable pension is becoming the preserve of the rich . . . Thrift is actively punished . . . putting money into a savings account is now a mug’s game. Instead we seem to be nurturing a winner- takes-all economic model and middle-class children can be forgiven for adopting the ‘get rich or die trying’ ethos of gangster rappers. They grow up pinning their hopes on the scratchcard, the rollover jackpot, or The X Factor.
Such are the ‘benefits’ and ‘advances’ enjoyed by the average earner from the unfettered opportunities with which Capitalism has been indulged during forty years that have turned the ‘pro-business’ Downing Street Executive of this country into little more than a wholly owned subsidiary of Corporate Britain operated for the benefit of the super-rich.
And if they, the poor sods I mean, were to ask us how it came about that most of them would end up with a quality of life significantly below that enjoyed by their parents and grandparents, and spend their working lives paying off debt and otherwise servicing the extravagant life-styles to which the kleptocrats who govern us are accustomed and believe they are entitled, would we (my generation and the couple that followed) have to hold up our hands and plead guilty?
Would we have to tell them that we fell (those of us who did) first for Thatcher’s ethos of selfishness, greed and a few short-term gains, were then beguiled by the grin on the face of the shyster Blair (he’s a pretty straight sort of guy you know), and ended up by accepting Osborne’s shabby little electoral bribe by making a few pounds on the Royal Mail fire sale (while his city friends including his best man’s hedge fund Lansdowne Partners, enjoyed a free lunch and pocketed millions) and happily accepting our ‘triple-lock’ pensions and pensioners’ benefits* while he attacks the young who have so little to look forward to. * I refer only to those who could well afford to do without these little inducements.
Would we admit that we voted those shits in (those of us who did) time after time as they presided over: privatisation *** cuts to Government spending to enrich the rich *** free trade takeovers that created financial monsters that were ‘too big to fail’ and that we then had to bail out *** illegal wars *** deregulation for employers and the money men *** curtailment of workers’ rights *** PFI contracts that hock the public up to the eyeballs for decades to come *** the proliferation of pie-in-the-sky betting shops in areas of deprivation *** Quantitative Easing (welfare for the super-rich) *** and the nationwide growth of food banks to keep the poor from hunger? Feel free to extend the list ad lib.
Item: the general contempt that is expressed in this country for learning, for idealism, for personal endeavour (as distinct from profit-chasing), for mature responsible society-centred living, for the intellectual or, God forbid, anything that smacks of elitism or ‘refinement of mind.’
Item: the seemingly all-pervasive cult of the crude, the vulgar, the ignorant, the bigoted, the superficial, the loud, the brash, the banal, the self, the get-rich-quick, the something-for-nothing (you get my drift?): all of it assiduously nurtured and fostered by its social monuments, the mass media in all its many guises, but in particular by television.
The Puppet Game Show, Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor as mainstream Saturday night entertainment for Christ’s sake, and Doctor Who (a children’s programme in the sixties) Atlantis or the nostalgic drooling of Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey served up as serious drama.
I started this section with the intention of providing a detailed analysis and specific examples from the tabloids and TV, but eventually decided against it. You either know it all already, or you’ll dismiss me generally as a ***,***,*** elitist *** (please feel free to enter such pejorative or critical terms as you favour).
I have also to acknowledge that I, and you if you are with me, are massively in the minority. It seems that the British audience at large love the diet of stodge, pap and commercial piffle that is fed to them. They’re actually happy to pay Murdoch for it, soak it all up, and then come back for more. So presumably they are getting what they want.
Perhaps it is appropriate though to provide just one example of the mass indifference in this country to anything that smacks of ‘culture.’ In 2000 Sir Jeremy Isaacs launched Artsworld. A subscription channel at £6 a month, its objective was to fill what he saw (rightly) as a cultural void left by traditional broadcasters. In its brief life it was a light in the darkness: five hours each evening of eclectic arts programmes (including original commissions) brought in from around the world.
Sir Jeremy believed there was a huge hunger for the Arts in the UK. Sir Jeremy was wrong: the channel foundered after little more than eighteen months. Its requirement to break even was modest, less than 200,000 subscribers, but out of an adult population of 50 million they couldn’t be found. It is an irony of its failure that it was said in large part to be due to the launch of BBC4, originally paraded by the BBC as a sort of Jewel in its Crown offering: ‘a wide variety of programmes including drama, documentaries, music, international film, original programmes . . . an alternative to programmes on the mainstream TV channels.’ Look at BBC4’s schedules now, despair and weep. The same fate befell the original excellent subscription channel Film Four – far too esoteric for the UK public.
Both were eventually sucked into the Murdoch maw where what was left of Artsworld served as a fig-leaf for the vacuous and banal bromides that Sky spews out 24/7 on its multitude of channels. ‘57 Channels and Nothin’ On’ to quote Springsteen.
Item: the ‘celebrities’ who lend their names and smiling faces to advertisements for any crap product as long as the cheque is right.
Item: the religion of Football – new opiate of the masses, on which anyone can have an opinion provided he can master the ludicrous clichés that lie at the heart of its argot.
Item: the corruption of all sport by money and power and its translation into a mind-numbing, never-ending jamboree of World/European/Commonwealth/UK games, Olympics, Premier League, World Cup, Confederations Cup, the European Cup, the Super Cup (Oh dear God that’s enough soccer) F1, Wimbledon, The Masters, etc, etc, where the participants are all ‘brands,’ commodified components in the profit-making machines of promoters and the media outlets that buy and sell on the end product to the paying public.
But I reserve a particular detestation for the bastardisation of cricket into an entertainment for drunken, costumed louts who turn it into a beer-swilling carnival, punctuated in far too many matches by ear-splitting blasts of ‘music’ at any lull in the ‘action’ . . . Jerusalem, God help us, on the Tannoy before play starts in the Ashes tests, and soon no doubt You’ll Never Walk Alone. Oh my Arlott and my Alston long ago!
Item: the cavalier assumption that the use of my first name by any chance commercial contact is acceptable. ‘My name is for my friends.’ (Lawrence to Sherif Ali)
Item: the ‘emperor’s clothes’ syndrome in modern art where, with one or two honourable exceptions, too many people have a vested (financial) interest in not exposing the depressingly boring, narcissistic and commonplace character of so much of it, with Hirst’s ‘dot factory’ leading the pack.
‘Enough already,’ I hear you cry, and indeed it is.
The United States of America A Centre Of Infection
The USA – A Foreword (cc NSA) Although I soaked up the authorised Hollywood version of America in my cinema-going youth it didn’t take many years of watching their criminal behaviour in Vietnam and elsewhere and their braggadocio on the world stage generally, to rectify that myopic vision. A little reading, and latterly the internet did the rest.
And should it seem that the space I devote to America seems a little disproportionate, I would simply say that as Uncle Sam inveterately and uniquely parades (even invades) the world under the banner of Truth, Freedom and Justice, and clasps the cross of righteousness so firmly to his bosom, it seemed only fitting to examine his credentials a little.
I should also add that when I referred above to the insular, brainwashed, superstitious and politically naive majority who soak up the artfully contrived myth of America and the political hog-wash served up to that nation by their Presidents, Hollywood and the media, I do not forget that a great many in the UK are no better, and happily wallow in a similar myth of the basic benevolence of this country, whereas in truth it only relinquished its grip on its Imperial treasures when it was either that or have its hands chopped off, and it continues to exploit whenever and wherever it can.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Main Text ‘Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we. ‘ G W Bush – the inimitable.
Is there really anything left to say about this nation which places its collective hand over its collective heart and calls itself ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ without a hint of irony?
Well yes, one or two things perhaps, and wherever I can I have tried to use the words of Americans themselves to make my point, so it seems appropriate to start at the top with a few references to State of the Union and other speeches by Bush Snr & Jnr. Self-serving, hypocritical, disingenuous, mendacious cant they may be, but one has to admire the sheer audacity with which they are delivered. They are available on the internet both as videos (much to be preferred for the entertainment value in the performance of Bush Jnr) and in transcript and I commend them to you should you have a few moments to spare.
I read, by the way, that it is intended to ape the Americans with a UK version of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Let us then express our thanks that Blair didn’t have his head so far up the American arse as to embark on State of the Nation speeches here – that would have been unendurable.
Bush Snr 29/1/1991 in which he refers to ‘a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind—peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law,’ and the right of everyone ‘to speak out against racism, bigotry, and hate.’
With the old cold war enemy now out of the game, the ‘new world order’ was in fact the full flowering of the Washington Consensus or the new American Imperialism, and it marked the transition from the old and rather messy business of subverting and overthrowing legitimate governments via CIA funded secret armies and death squads to the enforcement of American hegemony by economic means employing inter alia the institutions of the World Bank and the IMF.
The ‘right to speak out’ was not, however, extended to US citizens who questioned Bush’s failure to resolve the Vietnam missing POW issue or the killing of priests in El Salvador. They were told to ‘shut up and sit down’ or ‘now you be quiet.’ American critics of the lies in the Iraq war propaganda received much the same treatment, they were ignored or excluded from mass media coverage. That is America’s free speech reality as opposed to the rhetoric.
It’s intriguing that in an analysis of the words most commonly used in this speech the top three are ‘our’ ‘will’ and ‘world.’ Is this an insight into the American psyche?
Bush Jnr 29/1/2002 The ‘Axis of Evil’ speech where the threat was hyped up to justify substantial increases in defence spending* (mouth-watering news for his friends and associates in the military/industrial/congressional complex) and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security** * A welfare system for the rich whereby the taxes contributed by the people are recycled via the obscene profits of the arms industry to the pockets of the multi-millionaires who contribute to party funds. A racket so blatantly operated that even Forbes magazine writes: “Profit-maximising US military contractors have long since given up even the pretence of serving the US national interest . . . US weapons systems found to be riddled with counterfeit Chinese made semiconductors.” For a veritable feast of such scams (and others) simply Google ‘Dick Cheney Halliburton scandal.’ ** Also a useful long-term insurance policy for the elite of the American political/financial/industrial kleptocracy against the possibility that one day the gun-toting American people might come to their senses and realise how they’ve been screwed.
So delighted were his congressional audience at his words that he could hardly get them out for the frequency of the applause. Not that they believed a half of it of course: they knew very well how to interpret the message. The applause was fitting tribute to a man who had the sheer bloody chutzpah to stand in front of the nation and say it all with a straight face.
Bush Jnr 28/1/2003 A near-hysterical litany of obfuscation, misinformation and lies trotted out as he whips up the ‘case’ for his war-to-come on Iraq. Remarkable for its impossible demand that Saddam should prove a negative (that he holds none of the weapons itemised) and for the bare-faced aluminium tube and yellowcake uranium lies.
Notorious also for the ensuing Plamegate affair, in which the wife of former diplomat Joe Wilson was ‘outed’ as a CIA agent, effectively destroying her career, as retribution for the fact that Wilson had dared openly to challenge Bush’s blatant misrepresentation of the intelligence. Slander, black propaganda and smears, what any serious voice of dissent can expect in America: think dirty tricks by ‘Scooter’ Libby, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.
Notorious too for the spurious claim that there existed ‘several mobile biological weapons labs.’ You’ll remember Colin Powell’s subsequent presentation to the UN of the ‘convincing evidence’ of the existence of those chimeras.
But Bush also had a message for the ‘brave and oppressed people of Iraq.’ The day of their liberation was at hand. “As we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies and freedom.”
Unfortunately he failed to advise the brave people of Iraq that in order to be liberated and free a good many of them would also have to be slaughtered, and that the country that remained would be factionalised, ungovernable, conflict-riven and left with a nuclear legacy of congenital birth defects and cancers from the thousands of depleted uranium shells fired by the US artillery.
Over the years America has generously lent a helping hand to ‘liberate’ many tens of thousands in similar ways – ask the people of Latin America
Bush Jnr 27/2/2003 (To the American Enterprise Institute) The AEI is a pro-business, right-wing think tank. “We meet here during a crucial period in the history of our nation, and of the civilized world. Part of that history was written by others; the rest will be written by us.”
He’s The Chief, the leader of the most powerful country on earth, and yet he speaks for his nation with such modesty and self-deprecation: it’s so engaging isn’t it?
“The first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people themselves . . . but Iraqi lives* and freedom matter greatly to us.” (Applause.) “The United States and our coalition stand ready to help the citizens of a liberated Iraq.will seek to protect Iraq’s natural resources from sabotage by a dying regime, and ensure those resources are used for the benefit of the owners, the Iraqi people**.” (Applause.) “The nation of Iraq with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people — is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.” (Applause.)”
* Such was the indifference to civilian deaths that it is possible for figures to vary between 100,000+ and 600,000+ The Americans never bothered with a count of Iraqi dead, or if they did they were arbitrarily classified as enemy combatants. ** Before the invasion Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalised and closed to Western oil companies. Now it is largely privatised and dominated by foreign firms: ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell have set up shop and Cheney’s old firm Halliburton is feeding off the fat.
It’s a tribute to the self-discipline of his audience that they weren’t rolling in the aisles with laughter at all this nonsense, but they understood the game and the code very well. They did their laughing on the way to the bank.
Elsewhere in the mass media of America this toxic and hypocritical cocktail of self-serving, black propaganda, misinformation and downright lies played out well with extensive coverage. When a few days later on 8/3/2003 Stephen Zunes published a devastating and comprehensive rebuttal and critique of the speech in Foreign Policy in Focus – it was virtually ignored.
In his 2003 State of the Union Address President Bush told the nation, “one by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice.”
For Americans themselves (especially if they are Hispanic or black) such justice would in all probability mean years of slave labour for the rich corporate stockholders who invest in the prison industry. For those non-Americans arbitrarily swept up and handed over by Afghan warlords for American bounty or taken prisoner in Iraq it meant all that was implied in the policies outlined by Dick Cheney five days after 9/11:
- “We also have to work though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”
And use any means they did, and it marked the United States descent into the barbarity, depravity and criminality of the tortures, atrocities and murders committed in the prisons at Bagram Airbase, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and at the ‘black sites’ of extraordinary rendition where torture was outsourced.
The ‘advanced interrogation’ techniques employed included but were not limited to:
Water-boarding, described by those who have experience it as controlled drowning
Sensory deprivation for extended periods (hoods, blindfolds, earmuffs)
Enforced sleep deprivation in cramped cells continuously floodlit with incessant heavy metal music at full volume
Pain inducing stress positions applied for extended periods
Targeting ‘detainee specific phobias’ including the use of nudity and aggressive dogs in Abu Ghraid, as Arab men are supposedly susceptible to sexual humiliation and canines (you’ll probably have seen some of the ‘happy snaps’ the boys and girls took at Abu Ghraid)
Extended beating – to death in more than one case
Threats to the prisoner’s family
Extended incarceration at Guantanamo in 6-by-8 foot cages suspended by wrists handcuffed to the cage ceiling until the body can no longer support the weight and hangs limp
Hog-tying with wrists and ankles cuffed and pulled together behind the back; there were other subtle variations.
None of these were the aberrations of a few bad-apple operatives at the practical end of proceedings (although a few would be brought to court as scapegoats) but the result of policies initiated and repeatedly endorsed at the highest levels of government, and given a spurious legitimacy in a labyrinthine, devious, perverse and ultimately indefensible legal opinion squeezed out of a compliant senior lawyer in the Department of Justice.
It provided inter alia that any Congressional law that prevented the President from gaining the intelligence he believed to be necessary would be unconstitutional (effectively a doctrine of Presidential infallibility), and it justified the new hardline approach by holding that any interrogation would be legal unless it caused pain that was“equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily functions or even death.”
There are lies, there are damned lies and there are utterances by Presidents of the United States. The rot appears to have set in after JFK although he did perhaps lend encouragement to his successors when he said, ‘No matter how big the lie, repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.’
Other contributions from Bush include:
27/1/2005, in an interview with the New York Times, “torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture.”
6/9/2006 from the White House, “I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world. The United States does not torture. It’s against our laws, and it’s against our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it.”
15/9/2006 “This debate is occurring because of the Supreme Court’s ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. And that common Article 3 says there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It’s very vague. What does that mean – outrages upon human dignity? That’s a statement that is wide open to interpretation.”
Well it may be to anyone as perversely obtuse as Bush, but just to be on the safe side: 17/10/2006 Bush signed into law a new provision that stripped the US courts of the power to hear cases based on the Geneva Convention, and included a provision that granted retroactive immunity to Bush and any members of his administration who might have carried out or ordered torture.
President Reagan’s ‘Empire of Evil’ had at last come home to the White House, and it found its expression in an inner cabal that embraced Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, Tim Flanigan, William Hayes, John Yoo and others.
There is, I suppose, a distinction of degree to be drawn between the moral obliquity and egregious criminality of these men and those who sat down around the table at the Wansee Conference in 1942 to decide the fate of the Jews, but it would be interesting to hear the views of the International Criminal Court on that point could they only be brought to the dock.
The enormity of the offence and the nature of the charge is such that references, justification and evidence are called for. Should you wish to make your own descent into this latter-day heart of darkness you will find much to occupy you in:
New Details of Prison Abuse Emerge The Washington Post 21/5/2004
Outsourcing Torture: The Secret History of America’s ‘Extraordinary Rendition’ Programme – The New Yorker 8/2/2005
In US Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates’ Deaths New York Times 20/5/2005
Taxi to the Dark Side 2007 Documentary on those Afghan deaths (on DVD and online)
Torturing Democracy 2008 Documentary on the US administration’s employment of torture (online)
The last of these is particularly useful in giving not only a complete transcript of the documentary, but also chapter and verse for the evidence and documents cited plus further reading should you feel so inclined.
As with the evidence of those veterans who in the Winter Soldier Investigation of 1971 (an event largely ignored by the media) spoke out against the atrocities in Vietnam, so with the reports I mentioned, most of the evidence included derives from those whose patriotism cannot be questioned, the soldiers themselves, and those in the administration possessed of the moral fibre to object and speak out, plus the documentary sources.
In The House of the Dead Dostoevsky wrote ‘the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.’ Have a look at what went on in Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and give your verdict on America under Bush.
And what of Obama, the first black white man to be President of the USA. Boldly he made his promises, and boldly he broke them: black man speak with forked tongue, to pervert the old western cliché.
To take just one example: Obama was elected on a platform that promised a new era of transparency in Washington – see Ethics Agenda in Change.Gov issued by the Office of the President Elect. ‘Protect Whistleblowers’ was the promise, whose acts were described as ‘acts of courage and patriotism.’
Yet on Obama’s watch eight people (more than twice the number under all of his predecessors) have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act 1917, an Act intended for spying and not for legitimate whistle-blowing or leaking which is the offence, if any. It’s the final irony when the world’s masters of illegal and covert surveillance (NSA) accuse the person who exposes them of spying.
His many other broken promises are all well documented online. The only puzzle is why anyone, anywhere expected anything else. He is, as were all his predecessors, a creature of the American party political machine and the financial/industrial elite who run it, and he does their bidding.
And The American Dream???
Detroit – Roosevelt’s One-time ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ Municipal failure *** industrial decay *** corruption *** incompetence *** population halved *** pensions lost *** homes abandoned *** the city’s workers left to pick up the tab as pensions are threatened while assets of value are disposed of in a fire sale to the rich buddies of those in control.
Other cities are similarly placed and the majority of American states are currently insolvent, with the US Treasury conducting a shadow bailout of at least 32.
For some thirty years after the war average pay rose in line with productivity. Since then while productivity has gone up by 80% average pay has increased by only 10%. The incomes of the top one percent, however, have increased six-fold.
To compensate for flat-lining income homeowners borrowed heavily by re-mortgaging at high interest with high fees, and the money moved from homeowners to Wall Street banks and the wealthy investors behind them. The result has been the creation of gross, gaping inequalities of wealth and income, enabling and compounding inequalities of political power exercised to a large measure through lobbying by corporate America.
By 2010 1 in 7 of all households were food insecure and food banks had been operating for many years. In a Gallup Poll 2013 one in five American adults said that at times in the past year they did not have enough money to feed themselves or their families.
Police brutality is endemic across the country with the force in many cities dressing and acting like Robo-cops. The internet and media is awash with reports and video footage of their violent and often unprovoked assaults supported by video footage taken by members of the public. When they have been able to retain their cameras that is, for increasingly the police are forcibly confiscating or destroying them
USA has the highest per capita prison population in the world: 716 per 100,000, up from 501 in 1992. With 5% of the world population it has almost 25% of the world’s prisoners and they are disproportionately black or Hispanic.
It imprisons people for crimes that would seldom produce imprisonment elsewhere in the world, and prisoners are kept incarcerated for far longer than elsewhere.
Human rights organisations condemn a form of inhumane exploitation where prisoners are effectively required to work for a pittance for industrial tycoons who invest in the prison industry. If they refuse to work they are locked in isolation cells. The system is condemned because ‘the private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders, who make money off prisoners’ work, lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself.’
Guns – the pursuit of folly. In 2011 civilians held 310m guns and there were 32,000 gun deaths. Defenders of the status quo claim that the answer to events like Sandy Hook is for schools etc to hire armed staff i.e. more guns. To comment would be superfluous.
In the UNICER 2013 report on the wellbeing of children in the twenty-nine most prosperous industrialised nations the children of America, the richest of all, are languishing just four from the bottom.
In the 2013 Save the Children survey of first day birth deaths in the 34 richest countries in the industrialised world the USA was bottom.
Corruption – The BBC’s Today programme 3/8/2013 reported that in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, an unexpected consequence of the American food aid programme (which flew in American wheat instead of buying from existing local and cheaper stocks) had been a spike in the growth of opium poppies despite the efforts of the West to reduce growth.
Today disclosed that with so much American wheat flooding the market the price of Afghan wheat collapsed because of the huge surplus created by the American imports. As the surplus made growing wheat uneconomic farmers planted opium poppies instead. Surprisingly despite the BBC’s reputation for fearless investigative journalism it pursued the matter no further.
Yet despite the altruistic and selfless reputation enjoyed by America in all its interventions in other countries, the economics of this operation seemed to make little sense. Why fly in wheat from America at considerable cost and to the detriment of the poppy eradication programme, when it could have been bought locally thus stimulating wheat production and reducing poppy growing?
A little online research yields an explanation. As with arms spending it’s yet another scam, a form of money laundering for the benefit of America’s super-rich, criticised as ‘corporate welfare’ for America’s three agribusiness grain giants, as legislation requires that food aid must be purchased, processed and shipped by American companies, even if there are cheaper alternatives. Only 40% of the taxpayer’s dollar goes on the food itself, the rest goes into the pockets of ADM, Cardill and Bunge.
In September 2013 Congress voted to impose cuts on the SNAP food aid programme for the poorest Americans.
In the same month Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, announced that there would after all be no tapering or reduction in the ‘Welfare for the Super-Rich’ programme of Quantitative Easing.
In an astonishing outburst of honesty at the continuation of these handouts to the financial elite, Stanley Druckenmiller American Hedge Fund Manager, Billionaire and one of the happy beneficiaries of this largesse, made the following comments in the course of an interview on CNBC:
“As a practitioner of markets I love this stuff (QE) . . . it’s fantastic for every rich person. This is the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever. Who owns assets? The rich. The billionaires . . . I had a very good day yesterday . . . We’re going to really party now (With the continuation of QE) . . . I mean maybe this trickle-down monetary policy that gives money to billionaires and hopefully we go spend it is going to work. But it hasn’t worked for five years.”
Such unashamed frankness: it fair takes your breath away.
Unsurprisingly the Bloomberg Billionaires Index noted that 2013 was a bonanza year for billionaires, its end-of-year report noting that as austerity and falling living standards dominated the agenda for most people it was a vintage year for the richest of the rich.
‘The rich will keep getting richer in 2014,’ said John Catsimatidis of the Red Apple Group, and as one of the top 500 of the world’s billionaires he probably knows what he’s talking about.
At the latest Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum, Oxfam warned of the ‘pernicious impact’ of a widening wealth gap where the 85 richest people on the globe can hold as much wealth (and the associated power that goes with it) as the poorest half of the world’s population – isn’t there something fundamentally and obscenely immoral about such a world?
“Money, money, money, money, money, money, Can you use any dollars today? Money, money, money, money, money, money, We’ve so much that it gets in our way.” Irving Berlin
As with the UK I could go on, and on, and on, but you get the picture.
England My England – Part 2 (Incompetence, Malfeasance and Criminality)
Land of Hope and Glory??? How often do we read, hear or see something that strikes us as incompetent, iniquitous, criminal or simply bloody stupid? A couple of days pass and then something else comes along, then comes another and later still another, but by then the first and perhaps the second may have been forgotten. Straws in the wind, individually they may seem to be of little or no account, but collect them over a couple of years, bring them all together, collate them and analyse them, and those few straws in the wind become a blizzard of political, financial and social incompetence at best, malfeasance and criminality at worst.
A Selection of Media and Independent Reports
General Britain is ‘one of the most undemocratic counties in Europe,’ languishing 5th from bottom in a study of 30 countries. Problems include a media skewed by private sector interests and declining trust in the police. Daily Mail 2/2/2011 and University of Zurich
Britain Bottom of the League for Age Discrimination. Report by European Social Survey.
Britain is the Shoplifting Capital of Europe Crime Report 2009 and Channel 4 Documentary 2013
Card fraud hits one in three in UK with Britain the worst in Europe. ACI International
England and Wales have the highest per capita prison population in Western Europe at 148 per 100,000. Up from 90 in 1992. International Centre for Prison Studies
UK has one of the worst motorway networks in Europe and other trunk roads are also inadequate. Road Users’ Alliance
‘Britain has the worst insulated homes in Europe.’ Paul Massara CEO Npower Today programme July 2013
UK the worst in Western Europe for homes living in fuel poverty with 5m households (19% of the total). Association for Conservation of Energy Report 2013
UK suffers some 30,000 excess deaths in winter over summer months; a situation which doesn’t obtain in colder Northern European countries because they have better quality housing and better income for elderly people who can thus afford to heat their houses. Prof J Ashton Public Health Director—Today programme 21 August 2013
Air Pollution: UK has been slow to meet EU standards on cutting levels of pollutant NO2. London has the worst air of any European city. BBC News 27/6/2012
The UK is bottom of the EU league for holiday entitlement with only 28 days compared to Finland at the top with 39. NB. In the UK Bank or Public Holidays do not have to be given as paid leave but can be included as part of Statutory 28 day entitlement. UK Gov Website and Mercer Human Resources Consulting.
UK motorists pay more in fuel tax than in any other European country. The UK is the most expensive place to fill up with diesel. Telegraph 28/1 2012
Britain has the most expensive train fares in Europe, with some commuters paying more than four times the amount for comparable journeys on the continent. Average season tickets and day returns cost almost twice as much as the next most expensive country. Telegraph 19/2/2009 And they’ve had regular hikes since.
The UK is the worst place to live in Europe, according to a new survey that claims residents endure higher prices, work harder and receive poorer public services than their counterparts on the continent. Telegraph 10/9/2010 Daily Mail 29/9/2011
Housing costs in the UK are the worst in Europe with families spending more than 40% of household income on rent, mortgage payments, utility bills, service charges and tax. Shelter: using data from EU Statistics on Income and Living Standards.
UK has 8th highest gender pay gap in a listing of 27 EU countries. European Commission Report 2009
UK’s state pension is among the meanest in the developed world. In a study of 343 industrialised nations only Mexico, Ireland and Japan had lower state pensions than the UK. OECD study
The late pension age and different life expectancy mean Britons will get fewer years in retirement than any industrialised country bar Hungary. OECD Study reported in This Money 24/3/2011
UK output is the worst in the rich nation’s league. Britain’s productivity gap with other rich G7 nations is at its widest since 1994. BUT see Good News Below Office for National Statistics and Guardian 19/9/2013
The UK is worst in Europe for protecting privacy: described as ‘an endemic surveillance society’ alongside Russia, Singapore and China. Privacy International: survey of 47 countries Britain is ‘the world’s premier surveillance society.’ Washington Post The British Security Industry Authority estimates that there are 4.9 million CCTV cameras in the UK in total: one for every 14 people. And if that weren’t enough we also have the GCHQ and NSA intrusions into virtually every aspect of our online life – but that would require a chapter to itself.
Health and Well-being UNICEF 2013 report on the well-being of children in 29 of the world’s most advanced economies puts the UK only 16th. In subcategories it stands: Teenage pregnancies 27th Alcohol abuse 21st Infant mortality 21st.
Teenage girls in UK are more likely to be binge drinkers than anywhere else in Europe, and binge-drink more than boys: over half of girls aged 15 & 16 drink to excess at least once a month. Department of Health Report and Daily Mail 1/7/2012
UK is the EU’s largest market for psychoactive substances (designer drugs). UN Office on Drugs and Crime 2013 UK moves to the summit of EU and US league table for cocaine use. The drug is cheaper than ever. Experts talk of ‘child-friendly prices’ and ‘beginners offers.’ European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Observer 14/11/2010 Compare and contrast Tom Lehrer’s The Old Dope Pedlar from 1953 “He gives the kids free samples, Because he knows full well That today’s young innocent faces Will be tomorrow’s clientele.”
Stillbirth rates in the UK are higher than in almost every other high-income country, with the highest number of excess child deaths in a study of 15 European countries: 60% higher than the best performer Sweden. RCPCH and The Lancet – Reporting a study carried out by Evelina London Children’s Hospital
In Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers Index for 2013 Britain is at 23 below, amongst others, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia and Greece. For first-day infant deaths it languishes at 26 out of 34 industrialised nations. A woman is more likely to die in pregnancy here than in Montenegro, and Britain has fewer women in Parliament than anywhere in Europe.
UK female breast cancer mortality rates are estimated to be 7th highest out of the 27 EU countries. Cancer Research UK
UK cancer survival rates for people over 65 are among the worst in Europe. Macmillan Cancer Support, NCIN and The Independent 24/1/2014
Doctor to patient ratio in Britain among the worst in Europe. Daily Telegraph 4/1/2014
In 2011, the WHO marked London out as the city with the highest TB infection rate in Western Europe.
Lung disease kills one in ten Europeans and the proportion of deaths caused by the disease in the UK is the highest in any European country. European Respiratory Society & Independent 6/9/2013
Education and Employment OECD report Education at a Glance shows that young people in the UK will spend 2.3 years unemployed or out of the labour market entirely between the ages of 15 and 29: one of the worst records of any major economy and almost double that of our major competitors
English schoolchildren are the worst in Europe at speaking foreign languages. European Commission Report and Telegraph 21/6/2012
UK has the highest ratio of pupils to teachers and the largest primary school classes in Europe and more than most other countries in the developed world. OECD report.
The UK is the third most expensive place in the world to go to university. Only in the US and Korea do undergraduates pay more for a degree. Separate data showed that disadvantaged teenagers were already less likely to succeed ‘against the odds’ with the UK coming 40th out of 66 countries for pupil resilience i.e. achieving decent standards despite coming from the poorest backgrounds. OECD and Telegraph 13/9/2011
Britain not in world’s top class of ‘academic all-rounders.’ Ranked 15th below Australia, South Korea, Canada, US and Germany. Analysis by OECD and Daily Telegraph August 2013
The Rich and the Poor Social mobility in UK is the worst in the Western world and the gap between rich and poor has become ingrained in children as young as three. Daily Mail 1/5/2012 reporting the All-Party Group on Social Mobility
Many of society’s expectations require individuals and families to spend money, and the poorest 30% of Britons are effectively prevented from participating in society by their poverty, where choice is limited to that between the basic necessities of life i.e. which is to be neglected. The cinema, a holiday or buying any but the most basic of consumer goods is impossible. Independent 27/5/2013 & Joseph Rowntree Foundation Poverty, Participation and Choice 2013.
UK is falling behind its rivals in tackling inequality and high levels of executive pay. Average pay FTSE boss 2000 = 40 x national average 2011 = 185 x national average Share of income going to wealthiest 1% of population 1979 = 6% 2011 = 14% This weak response ‘sends out a clear message about inequality . . . and the grossly disproportionate rewards for a tiny privileged elite.’ The UK has rejected the much stronger measures adopted by other countries. High Pay Centre Report May 2013
Wealth gap in the UK is wider than ever. The gulf between the richest and poorest is at its widest since WWII. Telegraph 27/1/2010 & Observer 10/2/2013
Directors of Britain’s top 100 companies have seen their average earnings soar by 27% over the past year despite a near freeze in salaries and bonuses. The Telegraph online 6/11/2012 -and so it has continued since then.
Wages in the UK have seen one of the largest falls in the European Union during the economic downturn: the fourth-worst decline among the 27 EU nations . Only Greek, Portuguese and Dutch workers have had a steeper decline in hourly wages. BBC News 11/8/2013
In UK 6.8m people and 1.8m children are trapped in long-term poverty. Nearly 1 in every 5 children (1.8m) grows up in a workless household: the highest proportion in the whole of the EU except for Ireland. Signed Off, Written Off Centre for Social Justice May 2013
Child poverty worse than the 1960s. 3.6m children living in relative poverty compared to 2m in the late 1960s. Daily Mail and National Children’s Bureau August 2013
So that’s this Scepter’d Isle, this Happy Breed of Men Some areas may have seen changes for the better – or for the worse.
And as an exercise in attributing responsibility for the calculated and extended failure to address and remedy any of these manifold failings, have a quick run through that list again and tick any that you consider might seriously inconvenience the rich and super-rich elite who have effectively run this country for the last thirty years and more. You found one?? Then I must look again.
There is some cheer though – but not much UK passport is one of the best for avoiding visa requirements when travelling abroad. Henley & Partners International Visa Restriction Index
UK is best place in Europe to be gay. Independent 13/5/2012
UK is best place in the world for online shopping. OECD figures
More British Bankers earn over €1m than in the rest of the EU with 2436 pocketing €1m or more in 2011. European Banking Authority
UK is cheaper, quicker and more reliable for litigation disputes. (Russia’s Gangster Oligarchs love it) Law Society Gazetter 15/2/2013
IMF forecasts UK Economy to grow faster than any other major European economy. BBC News 21/1/14 – but that’s only a forecast.
UK best for Tax Avoidance – unattributed
The Corporate and Financial World
BUSINESS FRAUD, CORRUPTION, MALFEASANCE AND SLEIGHT OF HAND
All neighbourly content and easy talk are gone, But there’s no use complaining, for money’s rant is on. He that’s mounting up must on his neighbour mount, And we and all the Muses are things of no account. W B Yeats
A few quotations from ‘the smartest guys in the room’ and their like that capture the flavour of the topic.
Enron Traders talking about Grandma Millie: Kevin: So the rumor’s true? They’re fuckin’ takin’ all the money back from you guys? All those money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California? Bob: Yeah, grandma Millie, man. But she’s the one who couldn’t figure out how to fuckin’ vote on the butterfly ballot. Kevin: Yeah, now she wants her fuckin’ money back for all the power you’ve charged right up – jammed right up her ass for fuckin’ 250 dollars a megawatt hour.
Anglo Irish Bankers Fitzgerald and Bowe F. And is that €7 billion a term? B. This is €7 billion bridging. F. Yeah B. So it is bridged until we can pay you back . . . which is never. Both laugh B. So under the terms that say repayment, we say ‘No.’ Laughter F. OK and what did he say? ‘I need a change of underwear.’ And how did you arrive at the seven? B. Just as Drumm (former CEO) would say, ‘Picked it out my arse.’ As did Blair, perhaps, with the evidence for his Iraq war.
Traders in the Libor Stitch-up The conversation relates to ‘wash trades’ which cancel each other out and enable corrupt traders to receive brokerage payments: Trader A: If you keep 6s (the six-month Japanese Libor rate) unchanged today… I will fucking do one humongous deal with you … Like a 50,000 buck deal, whatever. I need you to keep it as low as possible … if you do that … I’ll pay you, you know, 50,000 dollars, 100,000 dollars … whatever you want … I’m a man of my word.
Fabrice Tourre in emails just before the sub-prime mortgage pustule burst: “The whole building is about to collapse any time now. The only survivor, the fabulous Fab standing in the middle of all those complex, highly-leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding any of the implications. Managed to sell a few Abacus bonds to widows and orphans that I ran into at the airport.” Abacus were crap bonds and known to be worthless.
But first to the global shysters who really do things on an epic scale:
The IMF & World Bank
Formed after the horrors of WWII ostensibly to make long-term investments to pull countries out of poverty, reduce financial speculation and market volatility and prevent future crises, their admirable founding principles were soon abandoned.
From the outset power was allocated on the basis of size of economy so that America, and to a lesser extent Europe and Japan were in control. This meant that when Thatcher and then Reagan took office the two institutions could easily be hijacked to drive the advancement of their corporatist agenda.
Infected with the neoliberal policies of Friedman and the boys of his Chicago School travelling under the guise of ‘the Washington Consensus’ this change marked the introduction of an extreme form of capitalist exploitation and the implementation of the new draconian policies which were now considered essential for any nation’s economic health: privatisation of all state enterprises *** deregulation *** drastic cuts to government spending *** free trade: meaning the removal of all barriers impeding the entry of foreign firms, American ones in particular. Whole countries were put up for sale and their natural wealth sold to foreign companies for peanuts.
The recommendations that originally accompanied loans now became radical free-market demands, and the introduction of shock therapy programmes (euphemistically called structural adjustment programmes) from which corporate America benefitted substantially while making sure that it also enriched the corrupt ruling classes who were the local enablers.
For the people at large, however, the result was invariably calamitous. Health and education services collapsed *** subsidies for the urban poor were removed *** cash crops were substituted for basic food production *** for farmers and urban dwellers alike deprivation and poverty ensued.
The policies continued under Bush and then Clinton, who phrased them slightly differently as ‘the integration of countries into the global free market economy’ which, said the New York Times, required ‘the United States to be involved in the plumbing and wiring of nations affairs more deeply than ever before.’ In other words America rules OK?
Chile’s recent history is a classic example of the worst effects, and we had a slight dose of the medicine in the UK with the IMF bail-out in 1976, if you can cast your minds that far back.
Unedifying examples of the way in which these policies play out abound in the countries of South America and Africa and more recently closer to home in Europe where the profit-first demands on the ‘bailed-out’ economies have meant the virtual abandonment of environmental considerations in Spain, Italy and Portugal, while in Greece the unspoilt mountain region of Halkidiki, birthplace of Aristotle, is despoiled by mining in a deal in which the Greek government sold a concession to mine vast gold reserves to a Canadian based company at a fire-sale price in a deal that remains to be explained, and from which Greece will receive no royalties from the mineral extracted.
It is global plunder by a super-rich corporate elite on an epic scale, but it is by-and-large transparent. If they have their eyes open the citizens can see that they are being screwed, which accounts for the protests, but what on earth is the innocent layman supposed to make of:
The Opaque and Arcane World of Finance and Big Business where, in the thirty or so years since the ‘Big Bang’ deregulation was ushered in by Thatcher and Reagan, the stock, commodity and financial markets of the world including Banking, Hedge Funds and Private Equity Funds seem to have been progressively re-structured to serve the interests of sharp practice at best, of fraud at worst and of a select and super-rich elite at all times, and where some of the choicest offerings have been:
The sub-prime scandal and other frauds. One of the more interesting aspects of this is that although Fabrice Tourre, an employee of Goldman Sachs was tried and found guilty of misleading investors by failing to tell them of the involvement of a Hedge Fund in a $2bn deal that bet (sic) on the investment scheme failing (they made a handsome profit when it did) Goldman Sachs (who paid for his defence) is not being prosecuted, nor does it admit any wrongdoing, although it did pay $550m to the US regulator: just to put the matter to rest you understand.
J P Morgan Chase have not been quite so lucky. Now on the verge of a $13bn settlement for selling bad mortgage loans to investors it has not, however, been released from criminal liability for some of its actions.
In the UK the misdemeanours and criminal activities of the big four banks includes: Lloyds fined or mired in controversies involving PPI, Tax Evasion, links to arms trade, serious retail conduct failings. HSBC fined or mired in controversies involving money laundering for drug cartels and terrorists, PPI mis-selling, Euribor rigging, violation of US Federal Security Law. Barclays fined or mired in controversies for failure to keep proper records (US), for rigging interest rate benchmarks, for investment advice failings, mis-selling PPI RBS fined or mired in controversies involving Libor rigging, violating sanctions, mis-selling mortgage bonds (US) and PPI, price collusion, incorrectly reporting trades
Is there one of these financial banking monsters anywhere in the world that can be seen to have clean hands, or are all big banks criminal enterprises? The Washington Blog asks the same question and by reply gives a convenient list of the multifarious criminal and near-criminal activities in which they have engaged. See: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/07/are-big-banks-criminal-enterprises/
And what of the watchdogs who are supposed to police these monsters, the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms? (It used to be ‘Big Five’ but Arthur Anderson was responsible for the ‘audit’ of Leman Brothers – nuff said?) Who regulates the efficiency and quality of the audit work of these four outfits who live and breathe commercially courtesy of the non-audit services they provide to their monster clients of whose activities they are supposed to have statutory oversight, and isn’t there an inevitable conflict of interest here ? You’ll find no effective answer, but they’ve all been caught in flagrante themselves at one time or another: PwC was fined £1.4m for ‘serious misconduct’ over its audit of J P Morgan Securities Deloitte was fined £14m for conflict of interest over MG Rover, having previously been fined $1m for violating auditing standards. Ernst &Young was fined $123m for tax avoidance, $2m for failing to conduct a proper audit on one of its clients and £1.2m for failings in its Farepak audit KPMG admitted to a criminal fraud and was fined $456m, 6 partners were criminally prosecuted, is currently being investigated over its audit of the troubled Coop Bank and was implicated in a US insider trading scandal. So that’s it folks – the Big Four and they’ve all been at it, just like their employers.
The Libor Scandal where the rigging of the key lending rate for personal gain struck at the heart of the financial system – ailing already it has to be said. There have been corporate fines but as yet no individual has been successfully prosecuted.
The PFI Scam whereby money from the British taxpayer is diverted into the pockets of private companies is a relatively recent US import. Over there it can be seen at its best in defence spending and food aid. In a treasury report now two years old PFI projects were found to be ‘significantly more expensive to fund over the life of the project . . . to perform more poorly in some areas,’ and to be ‘inherently inflexible, especially for NHS projects.’ And yet we continue to pour billions into them, no one is ever called to account, and they are close bosom friends to the revolving door scam commented on elsewhere. The same near criminal waste of public funds can be found in the scandal of failed Government outsourcing projects (IT projects in particular) where skilled operators on the private side lead the Government by the nose.
Insider Trading and the Hedge Fund Cowboys See the current batch of convictions and ongoing prosecutions for insider or illegal trading linked to SAC Capital Investments in the US where insider trading ‘was substantial, pervasive and on a scale without precedent in the hedge fund industry.’
In the UK the FSA (our toothless watchdog now superseded) found that 15% of takeovers were preceded by out-of-the-ordinary trades, i.e. in 1 in 7 mergers some insider was apparently helping himself to a slice of the action, a proportion not reflected in prosecutions, which compared to the US are pathetic in number as is the size of any fines imposed.
Tax Avoidance An all-pervasive scourge since the early twentieth century, always about to be tackled by the politicians, but forever flourishing. On 2 April 1938 there was a letter in The Times
Sir – The Ancient Sport of Tax Avoidance Tax avoidance or tax dodging, as your article unceremoniously describes an ancient sport, is a sport of kings, of finance and industry, to say nothing of the landed aristocracy and gentry, and long may it continue . . . . . your suggestions do no credit to our sporting friends of the Inland Revenue who know how to play the game and observe the traditions of the Old Somerset House tie. The suggestions are tantamount to shooting the fox instead of hunting it.
Almost eighty years on and nothing has changed. HMRC still knows how to play the game, or rather has no opportunity to do otherwise because the lawmakers (whose own interests precisely correspond with those of the tax avoiders) has no interest in providing it with the powers that would enable it to do so.
Commodities Market Manipulation Examples are plentiful but at the moment it is good old Goldman Sachs and their Wall Street buddies who are accused of exploiting the rules (they ‘did nothing wrong’ of course) to force up the price of aluminium and swell their profits. Closely linked to:
Layering or Spoofing Seen in the insidious growth of high frequency trading where by the use of algorithms a rogue trader can instantaneously sell or cancel bids or contracts to create a false impression of activity in a market and thereby generate profits. Michael Coscia was recently fined over £3m for spoofing in the oil market which is routinely rigged in this and other ways. If you take the Observer you may have seen a reference to this a few months ago.
Credit Default Swaps aka ‘Casino’ Contracts or in effect betting on a Sovereign State going into default. Held by many to be a contagion of the global financial system entailing massive bailouts paid for by taxpayers, and described by Warren Buffet as ‘financial instruments of mass destruction.’
The Currency Markets Where currency spikes at the end of the month are a certain sign that the boys are clipping off a few million to stuff in their own wallets by ‘banging the close.’
Assorted Crap Financial Instruments that nobody understands.
Derivative Rate Fixing
Oh God this goes on and on doesn’t it?
Bankers’ Pay and Bonuses Frequently awarded by corporate remuneration committees on the basis of advice received from the specialist pay consultancies that have only taken root and flourished in the city in the last twenty years.
The consultants’ fees are kept private, leading to the relationship being described as a cartel. Lord Lawson, a former Chancellor, (not a man one might expect to be particularly critical of business ethics) chose a more colourful approach: ‘In my experience, they [pay consultants] are a profession which makes prostitution seem thoroughly respectable.’
The Bond Market before which all sovereign nations bow. It’s a strange amorphous creature; it responds nervously or positively, it watches closely, is not impressed, it overreacts, it becomes obsessed and sometimes it even takes fright. But at the end of the day it’s the same story internationally as nationally with the men or institutions with the big money calling the shots and pulling the strings.
Global Hedge Funds Total Assets circa $2.4 trn Private Equity Funds Total Assets circa $3.2 trn A murky world of structured finance, dodgy derivatives, collateral debt obligations and other opaque financial instruments; a world where companies are ‘financially engineered,’ cash flows ‘juiced up,’ leveraging jacked up, ‘special dividends’ paid and creditors stiffed all to extract maximum profits.
Interestingly in almost every source of information for those who might be thinking about participating (only the rich or super-rich need apply) there are sections on benefits and risks, and the latter is always twice as long as the former. It follows the pattern in a betting shop I used to pass during my working days when there were two counters saying ‘take’ but only one saying ‘pay.’ Are there lessons about Capitalism to be drawn from this?
For those on the inside, however, the private equity barons, the fund managers (the bookmakers in effect) who handle the money for investors, life is sweet and rewarding, win or lose. They enjoy an annual 2% cut of the fund’s total assets. If an investment thrives and makes a profit they take 20% of the gains. If it fails the punters carry the losses. It’s much the same with the banksters (sic) who take out millions for their expert mismanagement of other people’s money.
I think that’s probably enough of ‘big business’ to be going on with, but nowadays the corrosive and divisive effect of money reaches into every aspect of life including the Arts, and so I’ll allow myself just one example that particularly rankles in an area that is close to my heart, the theatre and Brand Shakespeare.
I can recall well how in the early sixties the Royal Shakespeare Company employed a simple membership scheme (12/6d in 1963 my records tell me) to encourage a loyal and dedicated audience for good ensemble productions.
From this simple beginning has now evolved a ‘great sized monster’ offering six categories ranging from associate membership at £18 pa (now useless for any practical purpose) through to Artists Circle (£10,000 pa) which offers dedicated ticket hotline, access to ‘sold out’ (sic) shows, invitations to opening nights, exclusive receptions, special performances and a chance to sleep with the leading lady – Sorry, I made the last bit up, but watch this space.
And as if that weren’t enough there’s Corporate Sponsorship (with a choice of Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum) and of course Brand Partnership, Corporate Hospitality and Bespoke Sponsorship – the mind boggles.
Happily midst all of this Shakespeare survives, but perversely as he was a man who always had an eye open for the main chance the bugger would probably have approved. We just have to accept these moral lapses in our geniuses.
It’s all perfectly lovely of course for the 0.01% who can buy a whole raft of Artists Circle memberships out of the money Osborne has handed them with his 5% tax cut. The average theatre lover though is likely to go online and find productions effectively sold out of decent seats within a few hours of booking opening.
Even local theatres are now up to the same caper, with the recent introduction of a ‘booking fee’ of 12% from which bronze, silver and gold members are exempt. It’s all so bloody dishonest. And in sport there is the scourge of hospitality boxes.
And via these opaque, devious and crooked devices we have in our time witnessed an epic transfer of wealth with its associated special privileges from the poor to the rich, and it’s the rich and big business who rule OK: and don’t you forget it – or have I said that elsewhere?
And over the years Capitalism, under the aegis of which all these antisocial institutions and corrupting practices operate, has with a monotonous regularity delivered:
depressions *** stock market crashes *** bursting bubbles in every conceivable commodity from tulips through railways and dotcom to uranium and of course property *** wars *** national bankruptcies or near bankruptcies *** Democracies overthrown *** American politicians playing ’chicken’ with the Global economy over their debt ceiling *** fascist dictatorships and their death squads established *** Ponzi schemes *** massive bank frauds and crises *** manipulation by the markets of almost every commodity under the sun *** booms and busts *** inflation and hyper-inflation *** riches to the rich and impoverishment to the poor *** Pay On The Nail (aka Pay As You Earn) for the majority *** Tax havens and a tax avoidance industry for the rich and super-rich *** mass unemployment *** sweat-shop wages combined with zero-hour contracts and timed toilet breaks *** pay day loan shops, food banks and betting shops proliferating on our High Streets *** monolithic multinational corporations that are unregulated, outside the law and indifferent to their impact on the societies in which they operate *** 30M across the world living in ‘modern slavery’ (Global Slavery Index 2013) *** in recent years the longest fall in living standards since Queen Victoria was Queen *** the Red Cross stepping in to provide food relief to the 120M across Europe who are living on the brink of poverty. Any further suggestions welcomed.
I know the late Maggie Thatcher told us often enough that there was no alternative, but sometimes don’t you just wonder?
England My England – Part 3
UK Politics & Business – Joined at the Hip Pocket
“Politics are now nothing more than a means of rising in the world. With this sole view do men engage in politics, and their whole conduct proceeds upon it.” Dr Johnson (1709 – 1784) So nothing changes there then.
A further selection from that blizzard of political and financial sleaze, malfeasance, incompetence and criminality.
In no particular order
MPs Expenses Scandal
Libor Scandal (Barclays & UBS)
BAE Systems bribery scandal (subsequent enquiry terminated by Blair to appease the Saudis)
Jeffrey Archer Ex-Tory MP and Lord– A man of many parts, like the curate’s egg. Investigated for alleged insider trading – prosecution did not proceed due to insufficient evidence. Convicted (4 years) of perjury in his earlier ‘cash for sex’ libel case against the Daily Star. His CV in Wikipedia is a most entertaining read.
Dame Shirley Porter (‘the high priestess of Tory sleaze’). Found by the House of Lords to have been guilty of gerrymandering during her time as Leader of the Westminster City Council.
The ‘Arms to Iraq’ affair under John Major when the government endorsed sale of arms to Saddam Hussein.
Arms sales of over £12bn approved to regimes on UK’s own list for human rights abuses.
The Geoffrey Robinson/Peter Mandelson loan affair and the latter’s resignation. He returns and resigns again after making false statements.
The Jowellgate affair.
The 2009 cash for influence scandal: four Labour Lords involved.
The 2010 cash for influence scandal: Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon et al.
The Adam Werrity/Liam Fox affair and the resignation of the latter.
Johathan Aitken alleged arms deal scam involving Saudis. Convicted of perjury. He found God in prison – of course, don’t they all?
Neil Hamilton – alleged cash for questions. Lost libel actions against Guardian and al Fayed
Sarah Ferguson offers access to Prince Andrew for cash.
Ministers’ duplicity in responding to questions on UK involvement in Extraordinary Rendition.
Outsourcing – private companies creaming off the easy money and not penalised for failure.
Mis-selling PPI and the subsequent criminal mishandling of compensation claims re mis-sold PPI
Phone hacking/blagging by journalists, ‘blue chip’ companies and law firms.
Security companies G4S and Sercoboth accused of overcharging the state for the electronic tagging of offenders.
NHS hit for millions by overcharging scam where big-pharma firms ‘divest’ themselves of drugs commonly used in NHS to businesses outside the regulatory scheme which can then mark up prices as they like. See Lloyds Pharmacies dispensing Cod Liver Oil Capsule Packs at £89 instead of the cheaper available packs at £3. They have done nothing illegal of course (that time-worn phrase) just exploiting a loophole.
Water companies racking up massive debts to pay dividends of between 20% and 30% to shareholders enabling them at the same time to slash their tax bill.
The great annuity rip-off. Pension firms making excessive profits by steering existing customers into poor deals with abysmal rates of return, and then further ripping them off with excessive management fees and commission.
And how our masters protect their own when the real nobs are involved. Try accessing the files on Lord Denning’s report on the Profumo sex scandal etc (50 years ago) and you’ll find them double-locked for at least another fifty years as ‘there are some sensational personal items which would be embarrassing if released.’
The Revolving Door Game A longstanding feature of the joined-at-the-hip-pocket relationship of business and politics in America (where the you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-stuff-your-wallet syndrome is seen to its best advantage in defence spending) – it is now increasingly popular with politicians in this country.
The richest rewards of course go to the big beasts of the political jungle: to Blair, Bush, the Clintons (him and her) for their years of selfless and dedicated devotion to the advancement of the Corporate cause. For them the returns come not in millions but in tens of millions. Good old Bill has picked up some $80m plus since he left office, and Hillary’s just starting off on the trail.
There was a time when to be appointed President or Prime Minister in the service of your country was considered to be the highest of accolades, now it is just the final marker on a politician’s CV that opens the door to the most lucrative lecture circuit or consultancy appointments when that period of service is over.
Just dip into the website for the Washington Speakers Bureau and have a look at all those smiling former Heads of State just waiting to give you the benefit of their words of wisdom – for a fee of course. Then set the fee code to ‘High to Low’ and at the top? Of course: Tony Blair.
Executive appointments, consultancies, lobbying activities, directorships or special advisory roles to autocratic governments with dodgy human rights records (a Blair specialty): all provide a rich and ongoing source of wealth to those who have had their hands on the levers of power at the highest level. The rich and super-rich who form the new global feudalism they serve are never less than generous with their placemen, and know very well how to look after their own.
Nor are the loyal lieutenants neglected:
Patricia Hewitt Blairite Health Secretary, now a director at BUPA which stands to benefit considerably from the ongoing privatisation of the NHS.
Geoff Hoon former Defence Secretary: he who wanted to translate his ‘knowledge and contacts . . . into something that bluntly makes money.’ He is now senior Vice-President at AgustaWestland the helicopter manufacturer. Didn’t the boy do well? The fact that AgustaWestland landed a £1.5bn order for helicopters while the MoD was under Hoon’s aegis is of course purely coincidental.
Chris Huhne former Secretary of State, Department for Energy and Climate Change takes up consultancy at £437 an hour with Nationwide Energy Services. ‘From porridge to snout in the trough: Chris Huhne cashing in on green energy industry he funded as a minister when he is released from prison,’ says the Mail online.
That’s probably enough for starters. If you want any more just have a browse through the website for the Government’s Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. All very open and above board of course: complete transparency as they say and always ‘On the understanding that he/she would not draw on any privileged information from his time in etc, etc, etc.’ Well as if they would – perish the thought. Note though that the committee is only advisory and not statutory.
An equally rewarding alternative is to be paid a fortune for doing nothing, as will Baroness Ashton who will it seems get £400,000 over three years (at a preferential rate of tax and in addition to her £300 a day Lords allowance) when she leaves office with the EU this year. The astonishing justifications for this largesse include that this will ensure that she can continue to give 100% for the job she’s being paid to do right up to the day she leave. Isn’t that what we’re all required to do until such time as our employers ‘have to let us go?’
It’s bloody priceless isn’t it? A cosy little in-crowd doing circuits and bumps and each time they pass Go they pick up a packet.
And outside of politicians the same scam operates in the higher echelons of bureaucracy where more than 3,000 NHS bureaucrats have received redundancy pay-offs (some of more than £500,00) before walking into new jobs with the NHS within a year.
And outside of departing politicians and the NHS two examples in particular deserve mention.
Dave Hartnett former head of HMRC (who could forget his starring role at the Corporate Tax Planning Dinner* and his gracious acceptance of the lifetime award ‘for services to tax avoidance’ ) who after resigning took up appointments with Deloitte (the auditors for the firm with whom he made his sweetheart deals) and HSBC (fined by the US for money-laundering.) What was it the Tories used to say: he’s one of us? *As shown on YouTube.
Ian ‘I couldn’t say no to Government job’ Livingston formerly boss of BT, who took over in December as Trade Minster in the Department which oversees the industry in which BT operates. Fears that there will be an unprecedented conflict of interest because of his holding of £20m worth of BT shares have been assuaged by the announcement that in line with ‘normal practice’ he will be placing his huge shareholding in a Blind Trust a popular device frequently employed in conjunction with the revolving door. It is a testament to its efficacy that it has been employed by so many figures of utter and unquestioned integrity: see Richard Nixon, Silvio Berlusconi, Thaksin Shinawatra, Bush per et fils, Lord Mandelson and Tony Blair. It is true: that trustees are rarely identified and could be friends or business associates. that Mr Livingston will still be entitled to collect dividends and interest on the holdings in his £20m BT share folio, that when Mr Livingston leaves the government he will immediately regain control of his shares at their new price level. But fair’s fair isn’t it? All open and above board and all that, and surely only the most cynical and mistrustful of us would join with Mitt Romney (a man who knows a thing or two about blind trusts) in describing them as ‘an age-old ruse.’ I mean a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind trustee. Am I right or am I right?
And at a time when BT was run by Ian Livingston it was handed a taxpayer subsidy of almost £1.2bn criticised by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee as giving the consumer a raw deal. You couldn’t make it up could you?
All in all is it surprising that a recent MORI poll showed that the British public had less trust in a politician to tell the truth than estate agents, bankers and journalists?
The Scandal of a Police Force Out of Control
“We must apologise to our readers for referring to Inspector Rebus last week as a detective member of the police farce. We should of course have said that he was a defective member of the Police Force.”
A quotation from the wonderful It Must be True, It was all in the Paper! Sadly the reality in this country is far from funny.
The Police are now effectively a law unto themselves: anti-social and anti-democratic. The Government does nothing about it, implying its tacit approval. Guilty of corruption, brutality, provocation, procedural and tactical failures, public intimidation and killings they are never effectively brought to account: examples abound.
Unjustified Killings by Police
1979 Blair Peach killed at anti-fascist demonstration by a blow on the head from the police. No charges brought.
1985 John Shorthouse, a 5 year old child, shot dead by police in botched raid on the house to arrest his father. Policeman acquitted of charge of manslaughter.
1998 John Ashley shot dead while naked and unarmed during a police drugs raid on the property. A small amount of cannabis was found. Police officer acquitted of manslaughter and murder charges because he believed, mistakenly, that he was about to be shot.
1999 Harry Stanley shot dead following an erroneous report that he was carrying a sawn-off shotgun in a plastic bag. The bag was found to contain a broken chair-leg. No charges brought, no disciplinary action taken.
2005 Azelle Rodney was shot dead in the course of a ‘hard stop’ by police. The officer responsible said that he believed that Rodney ‘was fully ready to fire with a fully automatic weapon.’ An IPCC enquiry found that Rodney was not seen to be holding a gun when shot. No charges brought to date.
2005 Charles de Menezes shot dead because the police believed he was a suicide bomber. There was in fact no ground for this belief and police initially lied in attempting to justify their actions. No one was charged or disciplined.
2009 Ian Tomlinson died when he was struck and pushed to the ground by a member of the police Territorial Support Group. Officer found not guilty of manslaughter but dismissed for ‘gross misconduct.’
2011 Mark Duggan shot dead because policeman had an ‘honest belief’ that Duggan posed a threat to the lives of those around him. No one has been charged.
2012 Anthony Grainger unarmed shot dead. Officer responsible not to be charged because he ‘honestly believed’ that the circumstances were such that force had to be used.
So an ‘honest belief’ is enough. Would that be the same sort of ‘honest belief’ that Blair had in his evidence for WMD and the other ‘evidence’ for his Iraq war, or the ‘honest belief’ of the officers in the cases referred to below?
Other Nefarious Activities
The fabrication of evidence against the Cardiff Five in the Lynette White case. The 2011 trial of eight officer collapsed in circumstances either of staggering incompetence or a contemptuous determination to frustrate the course of justice.
The intimidation, physical and mental, and framing of the Birmingham Six in 1974 by the infamous West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, criminals themselves in the physical intimidation and torture they applied to ‘solve’ other troublesome crimes.
The Guildford Four and Maguire Seven in the mid 70s. The police manipulated evidence to secure convictions but escaped prosecution themselves.
And the latest admissions:
Crime figures fiddled to meet performance targets.
Unpublished Operation Tiberius 2002 enquiry report into the Metropolitan Police now leaked to the press exposes organised crime infiltrating Scotland Yard ‘at will’ and a failure by the authorities to address ‘endemic corruption.’
Plus The battle of Orgreave: false charges against miners and evidence fabricated *** the institutionalised racism *** the Hillsborough cover-up and smearing of victims *** selling information for cash *** the activities of undercover officers in the Stephen Lawrence affair *** the gung-ho attitude of the armed response unit *** the infiltration and worse of legitimate protest groups *** the revolving door between the police and the private investigation industry *** the SOCA scandal, ‘chairman resigns following non-disclosure of consultancy.’
And so it goes on, and on: examples proliferate and no one who is black, working class or left-wing has ever expected it to be otherwise.
Perhaps there was a touch of hubris though in the Plebgate affair. Stitching-up protesters, the general public or petty criminals is all very well, but to try it on with the Government Chief Whip, and to do it so crudely and clumsily that their lies and conspiracy were easily exposed. If our police are that incompetent it’s little wonder they have to fiddle their crime figure – and even that they botch up.
America in Foreign Affairs – Part 1
Duplicity, Mendacity and Crimes Against Humanity
They ‘speak of peace while covert enmity Under the smile of safety wounds the world.’ Henry IV Part 2
In addition to the trappings of power bestowed on American Presidents when they assume office, they will also find waiting for them on the desk in the Oval Office, the propaganda hymn sheet from which they will be expected to sing when their super-rich backers in the military-industrial complex find their profits slipping and call for another war or armed intervention to ‘juice up’ their bank balances a little.
By President after President the same lofty, selfless, benevolent intentions are expressed, and the same comparisons made between their chosen targets and the demons of the past: Lenin, Hitler or indeed the devil incarnate. And one after another they say how much they desire peace and abhor war, a sentiment strangely at odds with the frequency with which America sends in the troops – or the drones.
The sentiments expressed in the following examples, culled from just a few Presidential pronouncements, can in fact be found repeated ad nauseam in speech after speech.
L B Johnson regarding Vietnam: We fight for the principles of self-determination . . . we still seek no wider war . . . We want nothing for ourselves . . . our cause of liberty, our cause of freedom, our cause of compassion and understanding . . . I am continuing and I am increasing the search for every possible path to peace.
R Reagan: This mad dog of the Middle East (Gaddafi) . . . he is not only a barbarian but he’s flaky . . . the United States does not start fights . . . the United States has been engaged in an effort to stop the advance of communism in Central America by doing what we do best – by supporting Democracy . . . We maintain our strength in order to defend and deter against aggression to preserve freedom and peace.
G Bush Snr: We’re dealing with Hitler revisited (speaking of Saddam) . . . The drug and drug related indicted dictator of Panama (speaking of Noriega with whom Bush had been sitting down to do business as CIA chief a few years earlier) . . . America does not seek conflict . . . People want democracy, peace and the chance for a better life in dignity and freedom . . Even as planes of the multinational forces attack Iraq I prefer to think of peace not war . . . No friend or foe should doubt our desire for peace.
W Clinton: I don’t like to use military force . . . We want to lift lives around the world, not take them . . today our armed forces joined our NATO allies in air strikes against Serbian forces responsible for the brutality in Kosovo . . . the United States wants peace.
G Bush Jnr: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil . . . these are barbaric people . . . servants of evil . . .a monumental struggle of good versus evil . . . Bin Laden and his allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them . . Saddam Hussein (with whom Rumsfeld and the US were doing business in 1983) is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction . . . Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly . . . America will stand with the allies of freedom, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world . . . we seek peace.
And the President’s loyal lieutenants are all well versed in the same cant, claptrap and hypocrisy. This is Victoria (‘Fuck the EU’) Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State addressing the US-Ukraine Foundation Conference 13/12/2013* just as the US was jacking up its financial ($5bn) and general support for the ‘peaceful’ protesters in Kiev to achieve the overthrow of a legitimate and elected government and ensure that it is America’s chosen stooge from the undemocratic opposition backed by fascists and neo-nazis who becomes Prime Minister. ‘that great country – principles and values that are corner-stones of all free democracies – justice – civil rights – a government that respects them, that listens to them, that protect them and provides for them – we stand with the people of Ukraine in their search for justice, human dignities, security, a return to economic health,’
Just as Bush Jnr bequeathed all those principles and values to the ‘brave people’ of Vietnam, South America, Iraq, Afghanistan . . .
All propaganda is insidious, but this particularly so because it tugs at the heartstrings. Of course we want an end to tyranny and to see people enjoying peace, freedom, self-determination. With such motives inspiring us, bombing people seems almost an act of duty, of kindness even. If the President’s motives are pure, if he is killing people for such very good reasons it may perhaps make the whole unpleasant business less upsetting.
* The whole of her address (8 minutes+) can be seen and heard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y0y-JUsPTU and it is perhaps a measure of the contempt with which she herself regards all the fine high-flown claptrap it contains that she gabbles her way through it with all the conviction of an automaton.
I should as an aside emphasise that I do not single out the Americans alone for using such mendacious drivel. It’s much the same with our politicians, but as Great Britain isn’t such a big hitter abroad as in the good old days of Empire, they are generally content to parrot the American line on our joint misadventures overseas. It’s in domestic affairs rather where our politicians follow much the same pattern with their ‘moral crusade’ to reform the benefit system and their benevolent expressions of concern for the plight and well-being of the sick, the elderly, the homeless, the lonely, the vulnerable, the disabled, the underprivileged and those enduring the scourge of in-work poverty.
On those issues they’re all almost over-rehearsed in their litany of fine-sounding, compassionate phrases delivered with such earnest expressions and in tones of such deep, deep concern (Gove is particularly good at this when he’s posing as the friend of the underprivileged child) that the innocent or naive among us might us might almost be forgiven for taking them seriously. The sad truth alas is that over the past thirty years or so they have systematically been creating the type of society and implementing the very policies that most exacerbate the plight of those for whom they express concern, while at the same time favouring their fellow-travellers, the rich and corporate interests.
In 1966 in The Arrogance of Power Senator Fulbright wrote of American actions in Vietnam: “I am not prepared to argue that mankind is suffering from an excess of virtue, but I think the world has endured about all it can of the crusades of high-minded men bent on the regeneration of the human race.’ Any people setting out ‘upon self- appointed missions to police the world, to defeat all tyrannies, to make their fellow men rich and happy and free . . . have wrought havoc, bringing misery to their intended beneficiaries and destruction upon themselves.”
As Nixon and Kissinger were as yet waiting in the wings Fulbright might perhaps be excused his reference to ‘high-minded men,’ as the worst excesses were yet to come. He was perhaps thinking of ‘high-minded men’ like President L B Johnson and McNamara, Secretary of Defence.
L B Johnson This is Johnson 2/1/1966 speaking to Eugene McCarthy about the CIA organised assassination on 2/1/9163 (when JFK was President and Johnson Vice-President) of South Vietnam’s President Diem, who although an American placeman and puppet was proving to be an embarrassment to them:
“They (the CIA) started with me on Diem, you remember, ‘He was corrupt and he ought to be killed’ So we killed him. We all got together and got a goddamn bunch of thugs and we went in and assassinated him.”
Having inherited the Vietnam War from JFK, Johnson initiated a much more aggressive policy and within little more than six months was looking for an excuse to extend that war into North Vietnam. He found it in the ‘Second Incident’ in the Gulf of Tonkin on 4/8/64, on the basis of which Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
This gave Johnson authority and legal justification for deploying U.S. conventional forces and commencing open warfare against North Vietnam; the step that would ultimately lead to the ensuing holocaust for Vietnam and the deaths of over 50,000 American servicemen.
The ‘incident’ was, however, a pure fabrication. No second incident occurred. The following extract from the White House tapes discloses Johnson and McNamara discussing the nature of their response to the ‘incident’ before it ‘took place’. The full transcript is available online.
Mc: Now this is an action that we might well wish to consider after the second attack . . . There will be ample time for us after a second attack to bring this problem to your attention, and you can then decide how far you wish to pursue the attacker into his base area. J: But I wish we had something that we had already picked out, and just hit about three of them damned quick. (The reference had been to bridges.) Mc: We will have that and I talked to Mac Bundy a moment ago and told him that . . . we should be prepared to recommend to you a retaliation move against North Vietnam in the event this attack takes place within the next six to nine hours and we . . . J: We’d better do that at lunch there’s some things I don’t want to go into with these others. I want to keep this as close as I can* so let’s just try to keep it to the two.
*Understandably, as it probably constituted an impeachable offence.
R Nixon Despite the fact that the name of Nixon is virtually synonymous with malfeasance, he was in essence little worse than the rest (he just had the bad luck to be caught bang to rights) but I’ll still include a couple of references as they involve that other ‘high-minded man’ Henry Kissinger, war criminal and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize – one of those terms really ought to go and it isn’t the first.
On 3/1/1969 Nixon told America, ‘I pledged in my campaign for the Presidency to end the war in a way that we could win the peace.’
He omitted to mention the fact that prior to the election he had, as an election tactic and courtesy of the duplicity of Kissinger, sabotaged the Paris peace talks that were taking place in October 1968 when hopes of peace were high.
It’s all very well documented, in particular by Christopher Hitchens, but in brief Kissinger as a trusted member of Johnson’s negotiating team in Paris revealed to Nixon that a deal was close that would secure peace. Nixon opened secret negotiations with President Thieu in South Vietnam who on Nixon’s advice defied Johnson and refused to proceed with the negotiations. The talks collapsed. Nixon was elected, and Kissinger became his security adviser.
At a National Press Club briefing in 2001 Kissinger lied about the affair, ‘I did not know Nixon when he appointed me as his security adviser.’
When a peace accord was eventually signed more than four years later in January 1973, the terms agreed were almost identical to the terms that could have been secured before the election of 1968. Before then, however, another 20,000 American servicemen and untold Vietnamese would have died, together with hundreds of thousands of Cambodians killed as a result of the illegal and unauthorised bombing campaign planned and presided over by Kissinger.
Despite this ongoing slaughter over an extra four years Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Or perhaps the award was for the fact that even Kissinger could not bring himself to countenance Nixon’s ultimate imbecility: the use of the nuclear bomb.
On the White House tapes for 25/4/1972 (a time when the Paris Peace talks were in progress and just eight months before the Paris Peace Accord was signed) the following conversation between Nixon and Kissinger takes place.
N: I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people? K: That would drown about 200,000 people. N: Well, no, no, no. I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that Henry? K: That I think would just be too much. N: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? K: Reply inaudible.* N: I just want you to think big Henry for Christ’s sakes.
Use of the nuclear bomb ‘for Christ’s sake.’ – Only in America. * but suggestions welcomed.
G Ford After Nixon’s fall President Ford (remember him?) pardoned him and retained Kissinger as his Secretary of State: predictably the duplicity continued.
East Timor In December 1975 Indonesia invaded East Timor and embarked on a policy of ethnic cleansing, massacres, rape and torture in which at least 100,000 East Timorese died. The weapons used were almost wholly supplied by the US, and the action was taken with US knowledge and approval.
Kissinger, whose default mode is invariably mendacity, denied having any part in giving Suharto the green light to go ahead with the invasion. On radio in 1979 he said: “We were told at the airport as we left Jakarta that either that day or the next day they intended to take East Timor . . . so it was not a question of giving approval. It was not being able to do anything about it.”
David Newsome, US Ambassador to Indonesia at the time, kept notes of a meeting between Suharto, Ford and Kissinger which tell a different story. The meeting took place in advance of their departure, and in it Suharto makes his intentions quite clear and is effectively given the go-ahead by Ford. The transcript of Newsome’s notes contains the following: “The issue was mentioned in the meeting . . . Suharto was quite candid that after several months of negotiations the Indonesians felt they had to take direct action. Kissinger: You appreciate that the use of US made arms could create problems . . . it depends on how we construe it, whether it is in self-defence or is a foreign operation. It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly. We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens, happens after our return.”
J Carter By comparison with his predecessors the ‘indiscretions’ of President Carter might almost be described as venial, and perhaps redeemed by his post-Presidential work. They were, however, ultimately to prove desperately counter-productive for his country.
In 1979 he secretly authorised an allocation of $500 million to the CIA to fund the conduct of Operation Cyclone. The intention was that the money would be used to create an international terrorist (sic) movement (the mujahideen) which by its actions in Afghanistan would help to destabilise and bring down the Soviet Union. Whatever its success in that respect, in the long run it also brought down the twin towers.
R Reagan On 7/1/1986 Casper Weinberger attended a White House meeting with President Reagan. His note of that meeting reads: ‘President decided to go with Israeli-Iranian offer to release our 5 hostages in return for sale of 4,000 TOWs [U.S. missiles] to Iran by Israel.’
It was from this covert operation, well concealed from the American public, that the CIA would also obtain the funds which were to be clandestinely diverted to arm the Nicaraguan contras who would in due course go on to commit so many atrocities.
On 13/11/1986 in a television address Reagan said: “The charge has been made that the United States has shipped weapons to Iran as ransom payment for the release of American hostages in Lebanon . . and secretly violated American policy against trafficking with terrorists . . Those charges are utterly false . . We did not, repeat, did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we.”
On 4/3/1987 in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary he acknowledged that this was a lie: “A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.”
Prior to this embarrassment, in an address given 1/3/1985 to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Reagan speaking of the Nicaraguan ‘freedom fighters’ aka the contras had said: “You know the truth about them, you know who they’re fighting and why. They are the moral equal of our Founding Fathers and the brave men and women of the French Resistance.”
In the face of such moral obliquity what is there left to say?
G W Bush It was though in the Bush administration, and in particular in its activities prior to the Iraq war, that the fine old Presidential tradition of venality and mendacity had its ultimate flowering. The American war propaganda machine is both sophisticated and finely tuned and once it was set in motion the torrent of lies and equivocation that it generated was unceasing and relentlessly repeated – never was JFK’s comment about the big lie more true.
G W Bush, ‘Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.’ Dick Cheney, ‘There’s no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.’ Donald Rumsfeld, ‘Weapons of mass destruction . . . cruise missiles, ballistic missiles.’ White House Spokesman, ‘Botulin, sarin, nerve agents.’
There were also claims of cyber attacks and a nuclear programme.
All lies of course, but the corporate-controlled and fawning US media picked them all up, and with Fox leading the pack, proclaimed them with an uncritical and indecent enthusiasm. Constant references were made to ‘solid evidence,’ to Colin Powell’s ‘irrefutable, undeniable, incontrovertible evidence,’ and the ‘overwhelming abundance of evidence’ was trumpeted by Fox News.
Relentlessly beating their war drums, the mainstream TV channels effectively trailed the run-up to the conflict as they would have done a trailer for an action movie. Neither the war agenda of the White House nor the content of its official briefings was ever effectively challenged by the main media outlets, and once the war was up and running they did indeed present it to the nation as though it was an action movie.
Phil Donahue of MS/NBC was one of the few mainstream commentators who repeatedly challenged that official line, and yet despite its high ratings the Donahue show was abruptly cancelled by the networks just three weeks before the start of the war.
An NBC memo concerning the cancellation makes it clear that pressure had been brought to bear and gave the reasons. This is ‘a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,’ said the memo. Donahue ‘seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war and anti-Bush,’ and ‘Our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.’ And once a war is under way it’s a very effective tactic to say as so many did, ‘Look we’ve got to support the troops.’
But as Americans could not altogether be prevented from seeing some of the killing, hardship and misery that was inflicted in their name, CNN issued a memo to news presenters always to remind viewers why the US was bombing in Afghanistan, saying that it was ‘perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardships in Afghanistan’ without reminding the viewers of 9/11. Pictures of ground zero were regularly aired.
Bush’s corporate friends in the oil and military/industrial complex were delighted.
And a general ethos of hypocrisy, suppression of dissent and lies at the highest level continues to the present.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking in Washington 16/2/2011 condemned the Iranian and Egyptian Governments for beating and arresting protesters ‘seeking basic freedoms . . . they stood, and marched and chanted and the authorities tracked and blocked and arrested them.’
Just moments before she spoke those words a 71 year-old man Ray McGovern had been beaten, ejected from the meeting and arrested for standing silently with his back to Clinton in protest at US Foreign Policy. Without pausing in her stride, Clinton deliberately turned her head to look away from the assault and continued with her speech.
I can recall Prime Minister Wilson almost fifty years ago completely defusing a similar situation with the simple comment, ‘Put him down, you don’t know where he’s been.’ Such wit and toleration is, it seems, beyond the American political elite.
McGovern, a former Army intelligence officer and CIA analyst had been part of the team preparing the morning intelligence briefings at the White House for Presidents from JFK to Bush Snr. On retirement in January 2003 he helped form VIPS (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) to expose the way intelligence was being falsified to justify war on Iraq.
James Clapper US Director of National Intelligence Speaking at a Senate Committee hearing 12/3/2013 in reply to Senator Ron Wyden. This was before the Edward Snowden disclosures. Wyden: ‘Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?’ Clapper: ‘No sir.’ Wyden: ‘It does not?’ Clapper: ‘Not wittingly.’
9/6/2013 After the Snowden disclosures of the activities of NSA, Clapper was asked on NBC what he meant when he said that there was not data collection on millions of Americans. He replied: “I thought, though in retrospect, I was asked—“When are you going to start– stop beating your wife” kind of question, which is meaning not– answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no. So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no.” He added that his reply was perhaps ‘too cute by half.’
In a subsequent apology to Congress he wrote, ‘my response was clearly erroneous, for which I apologize.’
Or perhaps like our Alan Clark he was just being a little ‘economical with the actualité.’
America in Foreign Affairs – Part 2
American Subversive and Criminal Interventions Abroad
The following direct quotations from some of the players in this great game are given as a preliminary to the sections that follow.
Richard Nixon in 1955 as Vice-President “Guatemala is going to enter a new era in which there will be prosperity for the people together with liberty for the people.”
George W Bush Jnr: “America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling: our goal instead is to help others to find their own voice, attain their own freedom.”
Howard Hunt, CIA Operative 1949 to 1970: “What we wanted to do was to institute a terror campaign to terrify Arbenz (elected President of Guatemala) particularly, to terrify his troops much as German Stuka bombers terrified the people of Poland.”
Philip Agee CIA Operative 1957 to 1968: “In the CIA we didn’t give a hoot about Democracy. I mean it was fine if a Government was elected and would cooperate with us, but if it didn’t then Democracy didn’t mean a thing to us.”
John Stockwell Highest-ranking CIA official ever to leave the agency and go public. He ran a CIA intelligence gathering post in Vietnam, was the Task-force commander of the CIA’s secret war in Angola in 1975 and 1976, and was awarded the Medal of Merit before he resigned.
- “Extensively, we manipulated and organized the overthrow of functioning constitutional democracies in other countries. We organized secret armies and directed them to fight in just about every continent in the world . . . we have organized, and still do, fund death squads in countries around the world. Like the Treasury Police in El Salvador which are responsible for most of the killing of the 50,000 people just in the ‘80s . . . . These are all people of the Third World. They are people of countries like the Congo, Vietnam, Kampuchea, Indonesia, Nicaragua, where conspicuously, they nor their governments, do not have the capability of doing any physical hurt to the United States.”
Duane Clarridge CIA Chief in Chile 1981 to 1984 in an interview with John Pilger: P. It was a period when the CIA played a major role . . . C. That’s right they played a major role in overthrowing whatshisname. P. His name was Salvador Allende. He was democratically elected. C. Right OK. P. Is it OK to overthrow a democratically elected government? C. It depends what your national security interests are: that he (Pinochet) committed crimes I agree . . . sometimes things have to be changed in a rather ugly way. P. What right has the United States or any foreign government to do what you do in other countries? C. Our security interests P. But the people you do it to have no say in it. C. That’s just tough . . . we’ll intervene whenever it’s in our national security interests to intervene and if you don’t like it, lump it. Get used to it world, we’re not going to put up with any nonsense.
Under-Secretary of State Richard Olds put it more eloquently of Nicaragua in 1929. “Central America has always understood that governments which we recognise and support stay in power, while those that we do not recognise and support fall.”
Major General Smedley Butler US Marine Corps He attained the highest rank authorised in the Corps. At his death he was the most decorated marine in US history, having received 16 medals including 5 for heroism.
To Major General Smedley Butler pride of place for honesty and understandingmust surely go though for his speech given in 1933.
“War is just a racket. A racket is best described as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is all about. It is conducted by the very few at the expense of the masses.
The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6% over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100%. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.
I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defence of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.
There isn’t a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its ‘finger men’ to point out its enemies, its ‘muscle men’ to destroy its enemies, its ‘brain men’ to plan war preparations, and a ‘Big Boss’ Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.
It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.
I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.
I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street.
The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
Major Joseph Blair, instructor at the School of the Americas, Georgia 1986-89 in an interview with John Pilger. The school taught interrogation and torture techniques: B. The doctrine that was taught was that if you want information you use physical abuse, you use false imprisonment, you use threats to family members, you use virtually any method necessary to get what you want. P. Torture? B. And killing. P. Killing? B. If there’s someone you don’t want, you kill them. If you can’t get the information you want, if you can’t get that person to shut up or stop what they’re doing you simply assassinate them with one of your death squads.
1998 – Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General
“In the speech that Martin Luther King made on April 5th 1967, the most startling thing that he said at the time and the thing that caused the most anger and hatred to be directed toward him, was this sentence: ‘The greatest purveyor of violence on earth is my own government.’ Thirty one years ago. Why anyone would have been startled is hard to say because it was an obvious fact. But apparently we need more education in the obvious than we do examination of the obscure and unknown. Last year, U.S. military expenditures, with all the suffering on the planet, all the sickness and hunger and ignorance and pain, the American military budget was $265 billion. The second largest government expenditure for militarism was $48 billion. And that was the Russian Federation. The United States military expenditures exceed those of the top 12 government expenditures on earth by themselves and are more than a third of all the military expenditures on the planet. We have a war party in this country and we’ve had it all along! And you can call it Democrat for a while, you can call it Republican for a while, but it has been the special economic interest in this society that’s governed us from the time that we founded our governments on this continent. And the people have never controlled those governments. We call ourselves the world’s greatest democracy — we are absolutely a plutocracy! It’s the most obvious thing in the world! Wealth governs this country! And wealth uses military violence to control the rest of the world as best it can! “
American Interventions Abroad
Since 1945 the US has intervened directly or indirectly, armed or otherwise, in the internal affairs of more than forty sovereign nations, many of them Democracies, and attempted to overthrow their governments. No country is considered to have a right to go its own way unless that way coincides with US interests. Following these interventions governments are replaced by dictators or other pro-Washington leaders.
Examples taken from South America, known contemptuously to the US as the backyard, are: Guatemala In the 1950s the natural wealth of Guatemala was controlled by 2% of the population in collusion with corporate America. In 1954, however, when the agrarian reforms of President Árbenz (democratically elected in 1951) began to be seen as a threat to US corporate interests, he was overthrown in a coup orchestrated by the CIA which initiated more than thirty years of dictatorship rule and civil strife.
The American place-man who Nixon flew in to congratulate was Carlos Armas who removed suffrage from the majority of the people for being illiterate, abolished all political parties other than his own, established a secret police force, and created Latin America’s first death squad which embarked on a policy of imprisonment, torture and execution for all who opposed him or expressed dissent. This established the pattern for all future interventions.
Another defender of Guatemala’s ‘liberty’ was General Rios Montt who in a brief Presidency initiated a well documented campaign of human rights abuses and genocide against the indigenous population. His guns and helicopters came from the US and President Reagan flew in to congratulate him as a ‘man of great integrity.’
Over the years the enforcer of Nixon’s ‘liberty’ and Reagan’s ‘man of great integrity’ and their like were to cost more than 200,000 Guatemalan lives.
Brazil 1964 where Democratically elected President Joao Goulert was brought down by a Washington instigated coup d’état led by army officers corrupted by the CIA. Repressive military regimes ruled for the next twenty years.
Chile In the early 1970s the socialist policies and nationalisation programme instituted by President Allende were seen as threatening US corporate interests, and were considered unacceptable by the Nixon administration which via the CIA set about subverting the regime by the use of covert agents and by economic pressure.
‘Remarks to the Press by the Honorable (sic) Henry A Kissinger’ 21/11/1975 Kissinger, as ever, was in full mendacity mode: “We had no contact with any of the people who carried out the military coup, and therefore the coup that overthrew Allende was without contact with the US.”
On 15/9/1970 Nixon, Kissinger and Helms (Director CIA) had met in the Oval Office, and Helms handwritten notes reveal a plan to prevent Allende from coming to power.: “Not concerned risks involved . . . no involvement of Embassy . . . $10,000,000 available more if necessary . .”
An internal CIA memo dated the following day outlines the official but secret policy of the CIA: “The President asked the Agency to prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him. The President authorised ten million dollars for this purpose, if needed . . . The Director said he had been asked by Kissinger . . . to meet with him . . . to give him the agencies views on how this might be accomplished.”
It was known in Washington that General Rene Schneider head of the Chilean military would uphold Allende’s confirmation by the Chilean Congress, so it was decided to get rid of him. Col Paul Wimert US Military attaché in Santiago handled the operation and had a war chest from which to pay the anti-Allende groups. When a kidnap plot failed the CIA sent a cable on 15/10/1970: “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup . . . It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the US Govt and American hand be well hidden.”
Wimert in a later interview reported the outcome: “I mean he (Schneider) went the same way all the time and there’s this one morning and he goes to go there and it’s boxed off . . . and then he stopped the car and they shot him.”When Wimert was told that Kissinger said there had been no plot and that he was not involved. His reply was succinct, ‘He’s a liar.’
It took the CIA a couple of years, but in 1973 on 11th September (a date that would have an ironic resonance twenty-eight years later) Washington’s man Pinochet sent in his British made Hawker Hunter Jets to bomb the Presidential Palace and Allende was overthrown in the Washington backed coup d’etat.
In the ensuing weeks and months supporters of the Allende administration and anyone openly hostile to the fascist dictatorship of Pinochet was rounded up. Incarcerated in the secret prisons at the National Stadium or the Villa Grimaldi they were the victims of atrocities that included torture, rape, arbitrary execution or were simply ‘disappeared.’ Men, women (often pregnant) or children, Pinochet’s death squads did not discriminate, and over the years, in the tradition established by Armas and Montt and endorsed by Washington, thousands were killed, their names well documented by human rights organisations. As Duanne Clarridge said, ‘Sometimes things have to be changed in a rather ugly way.’
The elite of Chilean society, the bankers, industrialists, financiers and businessmen were all delighted to be rescued by Pinochet’s fascists and Milton Friedman’s Chicago Boys (think of them as an economic death squad) who followed hard on their heels to open the country to corporate America and institute a policy of free-for-all privatisation with attendant restriction of workers’ rights. It was ‘the shock doctrine*’ in action; a bonanza for the rich, a disaster for the poor and it dramatically increased the gap between rich and poor. *See Naomi Klein’s remarkable book of the same name documenting the doctrine in action world-wide.
In the UK and the US, where that wealth gap is now increasing exponentially, we’re so much more civilised about these things aren’t we? Our National Stadiums serve only for sporting circuses, and death squads and Villas Grimaldi are quite de trop. The ways and means whereby this economic coup has been achieved will be found elsewhere in this piece.
Of murderer Pinochet, Thatcher spoke movingly in a speech at the Blackpool Conference on 6th October 1999. He was a man the UK should have welcomed as an honoured guest, she said. She repeats the old American lie, two lies in fact, that it was the communists under Allende who nearly wrecked the country, and that Pinochet subsequently built a prosperous, democratic order: prosperous for some, democratic for none.
It’s quite clear that by the time she gave this speech the poor old dear had quite lost it. It’s an extraordinarily hysterical tirade against the left even for Thatcher, and descends into mawkish, almost risible, bathos in her portrait of Pinochet ‘on his bed of pain’ and ‘breathing his last in a Spanish hospital, awaiting some interminable, contemptible semblance of justice.’
To turn to it from hearing and reading the accounts of the atrocities at the Villa Grimaldi is to make one want to throw up.
By the late 1970s most of Latin America was controlled by dictators like Pinochet all backed directly or indirectly by Washington whose men were taught at the US funded School of the Americas – see above. Officially it taught human values such as respect for human rights, but the internet is awash with documented accounts of the atrocities committed by its ‘graduates.’
But with the new decade, as the activities of dictators and their death squads became an increasing embarrassment, Washington’s policy began to change. On 16th December 1983 in a short address at the White House (a seminal moment in the development of the hypocritical clap-trap that his successors developed to such a fine art) Reagan launched:
“A programme with a vision and a noble purpose. The National Endowment for Democracy . . . goes right to the heart of America’s faith in Democratic ideals and institutions. It offer hope to people everywhere.”
It was of course a cynical sham, but embarrassing exposures of the illicit activities of the CIA had made it necessary for something to be done. The illicit activities continued of course, but under the aegis of the NED. As Alan Weinstein who helped draft the legislation said to the Washington Post, ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.’
See the Iran Contra affair and that all-American hero Colonel Oliver North.
Throughout Latin America the Guatemala/Chile story was repeated, invariably with support and funding from Washington: in El Salvador where the El Mozote massacre took place, in Uruguay, in Nicaragua and so it went on.
Nor did men or women of God fare any better than the peasants or workers if they showed any sign of opposing the actions or dictates of Washington’s placemen. Whether you were an Archbishop like Romero (murdered while conducting mass in El Salvador) or an American nun (like the four kidnapped, raped and murdered by US-trained Salvadoran death squads) you could expect no mercy.
Sister Dianna Ortiz was lucky. She was abducted, gang-raped and tortured by members of the Guatemalan military, but released after twenty-four hours. When she subsequently pursued her case in the American courts she received damages and forced the disclosure of CIA documents showing decades of US support of Guatemala during its genocide of its rural indigenous people.
Spanish Civil War Always very keen to support the fascist cause in pre-war Europe, Corporate America received a thank you accolade from José Maria Doussinague undersecretary at the Spanish Foreign Ministry, “Without American petroleum and American trucks, and American credit, we could never have won the Civil War.”
And in a post-war world of mounting anti-communist hysteria the US continued to practice and enhance its dirty tricks operations wherever it saw the left as a threat to the Capitalist model as exemplified by Corporate America. In China, in the Philippines, in South Korea and in Europe it lent its support to reactionary extreme right-wing organisations, but it was not until Iran 1953 and America’s role with the UK in fomenting and supporting the coup that ousted democratically elected Prime Minister Mosaddegh (who was seen to be threatening UK oil interests and open to ‘Soviet aggression’) that the US first engineered the overthrow of a democratically elected government outside of its South American ‘backyard.’
Congo 1961 Where the murder of Lumumba, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of independent Congo, was instigated by the CIA and the West because he opposed the Belgian-backed secession of mineral-rich Katanga under the pro-western Tchombe.
Where in 1964 photojournalist Don McCullin was witness to CIA men organising the shipment of mercenaries in C130 American planes to Stanleyville, where he saw young boys being murdered in cold blood.
Greece 1964 On 11 June 1964 a meeting took place between President Johnson and the Greek Ambassador Alexander Matsas who was presenting a Greek protest against the US decision to establish NATO bases on Cyprus. The Greek parliament led by moderate Papandreou was unlikely to accept such a plan, said Matsas.
In the US Department of State Memorandum of Conversation for that meeting, the record of the President’s response while admirable for its brevity is singularly uninformative as to content. “The President made clear our position of the Cyprus crisis.”
The President’s response as later amplified by Matsas himself and by other observers at the meeting has, however, all the eloquence and oratorical finesse that admirers of President Johnson have come to expect.
“Fuck your parliament and your constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If these two fellows continue itching the elephant, they may get whacked by the elephant’s trunk,whacked good…. If your Prime Minister give me talk about democracy, parliament, and constitution, he, his parliament, and his constitution may not last very long.”
As Matsas left the room Johnson shouted after him, “Don’t forget to tell old Papawhat’shisname what I told you…. You hear?”
To Matsas, a poet of some standing himself from the cradle of Western Civilisation and inheritor of the oratorical tradition of Demosthenes, such an earthy, home-spun homily from a good ol’ southern Gentleman must have been a revelation, and one is left with the feeling that LBJ and CIA man Duane Clarridge would have made real good drinking buddies.
And ‘whacked good’ Greece was in 1967 when the USA strongly supported and endorsed the restoration of the first fascist government in Europe since the war under Georgios Papadopoulos, a collaborator with the Germans during the war and subsequently CIA trained. The regime of the colonels followed, political freedoms and civil rights were suppressed, freedom of the press was suspended, torture and violation of human rights was routine.
Grenada 1983 Where the USA invaded without any consultation with the UK (so much for the ‘special’ relationship) having previously used the CIA to instigate violence to destabilise the Government and procure the murder of Maurice Bishop the PM. An episode dressed up in the subsequent show trial as murder by a ‘small ultra-Leninist clique.’
And in No Gun Ri *** Cambodia *** My Lai *** Abu Ghraib *** Fallujah *** Haditha, and in its arbitrary killing of the innocent by the use of drones . . . but I think that’s enough. There’s really no point in overkill is there? That can be left to the Americans.
In his speech made on 4 April 1967, during the Vietnam war, Martin Luther King called America: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today . . What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? . . . A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
A year to the day later he was murdered.
Democracy and The Dictator’s Handbook
‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’ John F Kennedy
Democracy – The Great Illusion In a UK poll for Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer for 2013 the question put was ‘To what extent is this country’s government run by a few big entities acting in their own best interests?’ 90% answered ‘somewhat’ including 60% who answered ‘largely/entirely.’ Which poses the question: why then in election after election do we fail to get a government that runs the country in the interest of the people at large?
‘You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.’
Attributed to Abraham Lincoln, a politician, although I prefer the alternative attribution to P J Barnum, a fellow showman and scam artist.
But in our UK Democracy it is of course sufficient to fool a few of the people (in the marginal swing constituencies) once every few years – a task that our spin-doctors and propagandists achieve with consummate ease. And if there are any naive enough to believe that it will ever be possible to prise the hands of the present global gang of kleptocrats from the levers of wealth and power via the ballot box, it can only be because they have failed to read the runes correctly.
‘Violent disorders call for violent remedies’, said Old King Log in I Claudius Well that may have worked in Imperial Rome, but increasingly in the West, in anticipation of what is likely to come if ever the people wake up and realise just how they have been systematically shafted, manipulated and deceived year after year after year,the scope and techniques of intelligence gathering and the near-lethal (and lethal if need be) tools of crowd control have been beefed up and perfected, with the bogeyman of ‘terrorism’ providing the perfect cover to slip a few fast ones down the leg side without evoking any protest.
For an indication of some of the choicer crowd control devices that are being lined up for us have a look at ‘Cannon on the Street of London,’ at http://www.newstatesman.com/michael-brooks/2014/01/water-cannon-could-just-be-beginning-police-weaponry-deployed-london
It’s all been very efficiently done so that, while a modest level of protest, even civil disobedience may be tolerated, the days when it might have been possible to seriously threaten the status quo through a popular uprising or people’s revolution are sadly long gone. The game’s over. We’re stuck with what we have: like it or lump it as a CIA representative might say.
Nor can we say that we weren’t warned. In a 1975 inquiry into intelligence agency abuses in the US at a time when the powers of surveillance were a fraction that they are today Senator Church wrote:
- “If a dictator ever took charge . . . there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government no matter how privately it was done is within the reach of the government to know . . . that is the abyss from which there is no return.”
Capitalist democracy as it is now pedalled across the world is surely the ultimate con trick, in which the ruling elite (the business/monied/professional classes) together with the judiciary (interpreting and applying the laws promulgated by the ruling elite) and its enforcement agency (the police, with the army always on the sideline if needed) form an unholy trinity to keep the plebs where they belong by duplicity, deception and distraction for as long as that is possible, but by more robust (a very popular word with our masters at the moment) means where they feel the situation demands it. London Mayor Boris Johnson puts it just about as robustly as we might expect. The police needed ‘to get medieval immediately’ on troublemakers, he told the London Assembly. Thumb screw and rack perhaps – the police would love it.
Bloody Sunday where the Saville report has now established unlawful killing of peaceful protesters by agents of the State; Orgreave, where there was similar State organised and approve thuggery; Wapping; kettling at the 2010 student protests and G20 protests are all prime examples where things ‘got medieval’ in the UK. In the US the Occupy Wall Street protests (accepted by the authorities as a peaceful protest movement) were nevertheless monitored by the FBI and DHS through the joint terrorism task force and dispersed by police in riot gear using tear gas and brutal physical assaults on protesters. Forty years earlier four students had been killed at Kent State University when National Guardsmen opened fire on students protesting against the US invasion of Cambodia. Two years prior to that Mayor Daley’s police in Chicago had brutalised protesters against the war in Vietnam.
In America a militarised police force looks and acts like Robo-Cops, and sees the public it should be there to serve as the ‘enemy.’ The internet is awash with reports of an epidemic of police brutality, much of it video-recorded by the public – provided the police have not forcibly confiscated or smashed their cameras as increasingly happens.
The New Yorker from 8/8/2013 provides a good introduction to the American problem, and if push comes to shove it will be coming our way. See http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/08/swat-team-nation.html
Once an administration has a ‘mandate’ it does as it wants regardless of the fact that public opinion is clearly opposed to government intentions. In the UK the majority opinion was opposed to the Iraq war; polls show that 61% of the UK public believe major public utilities were better run by the public sector and that they would prefer the railways back in public ownership; over 66% oppose the sell-off of Royal Mail, and yet as a matter of dogma the sell-off has proceeded. More privatisations are to follow: NHS Blood Supply Service, Forensic Science Service, Student Loans. If it would put a profit in the rich man’s pocket at the expense of the public at large they would privatise our grannies.
Privateering: the act of raiding and plundering for personal gain. Abolished in 1856 by the Paris Declaration, but restored and refurbished under Thatcher – it has flourished ever since.
Even to talk of ‘choice’ is a mockery. It’s the same with our ‘Democracy’ as it was with the Model T Ford – you can have any colour you like as long as it’s black, or even blackshirt – see The Dictator’s Handbook below
On the question of the essential requirements for a functioning democracy opinion is inclined to be divided. Democracy demands an educated and informed society. Attr. Thomas Jefferson For a working democracy the uninformed are the key ingredient. Princeton Research Project
The Princeton research was, it is true, based upon a study of the Golden Shiner (a minnow) whereas my preference would have been for sheep which would have got them the same result with less effort, and might have been accepted as a closer analogy to the bulk of the electorate in most democracies.
But what the new corporate world order demands of ‘Democracy’ in every ‘democratic’ society in the world is neither an informed nor an uninformed society, but a society that is misinformed, ignorant and apathetic, and it achieves that objective with such ruthless efficiency that one can only stand back and look on in admiration.
The oligarchs/emperors of Rome, who had little more than bread, circuses and perhaps the occasional crucifixion or head to deliver to appease the mob, would surely have been green with envy to see the ways and means by which the majority of a contemporary electorate is so easily deluded, distracted and bamboozled by a ceaseless parade of superficial diversions and entertainments even as its attitudes and opinions are systematically molded and manipulated by the mass media.
Little more than a century ago religion was said to be the opiate of the masses. Today however the electorate is fed such an abundance of goodies from which to select their anodyne that they must be spoilt for choice: a non-stop calendar of sporting events with soccer leading the pack *** celebrity culture and scandal *** booze *** drugs hard or soft *** ‘adult’ entertainment and pornography (subtly different) *** pop and associated festivals *** hard-core gambling at home or online *** the lottery (it could be you, but it’s sure to be Camelot – they dodge tax too) *** pulp magazines – chick-lit and the like *** TV (where choice means a tedious and generally unrewarding hunt for anything other than ‘another chance to see’ the same stupefying, vacuous, banal formulae with ‘reality TV’ its nadir) *** religion’s still there of course, but now it’s on offer in a variety of new, exciting colours with the most eccentric emanating from America where the televangelists have found that spreading the word of the Lord is far from incompatible with making a few million bucks *** plus of course a plethora of electronic toys. And finally and inevitably the never-ending bloody saga of the Windsors and all their tribe in every channel of the mass media: their births, their deaths, their romances, engagements and marriages, their copulations and parturitions (chance would be a fine thing I hear the media pack cry), their stupefyingly crass activities and pronouncements, their smiles, their frowns, their ups, their downs – if they aren’t second nature to you by now you haven’t been watching have you? From everlasting to everlasting the Old Firm trundles on, yea even unto the last trump.
Beginning with the arrival of suffrage (and in due course, horror of horrors, full universal suffrage) with its attendant threat to the interests of the ruling elite, the techniques of brainwashing, manipulating and conditioning the masses have been honed, refined and extended, finding perhaps their most eloquent expression in 1928 in Edward Bernays Propaganda.
- “If we understand the mechanisms and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it . . . The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.“
His ideas, as you may readily believe, were enthusiastically adopted by men such as Goebbels, and have their final flowering on the shelves of the nation’s newsagents and the multi-various productions of its TV and radio channels. In the newsagents (lads’ mags at the top sir, Top Gear below, celebrity gossip and news round the corner) there is little to be found other than wall-to-wall bland, vacuous trivia packed with advertising material at best; at worst, if it reflects any political stance whatsoever, it will be peddling some crude right-wing, business-oriented agenda and denigrating anything that smacks of left-wing, socially responsible values.
‘Neutrality’ is only skin-deep; the mass media, owned, funded and controlled by the same cabal that owns, funds and controls the political system, is itself an integral element of corporate and state power. The whole fabric operates within Chomsky’s* five filters for manufacturing consent, although at number five for anticommunism should now be substituted counter-terrorism. * Chomsky Manufacturing Consent
And away from the gutter press and mass market magazines those same filters and in particular the sin of omission (see also ‘Project Censored’ on the internet) operate even within the so-called liberal and balanced institutions: the Independents*, the Guardians and that bastion of ‘balance’ and impartiality the BBC. * Now for sale with Desmond or Murdoch favourites to take over, God help us, and so the curse of propaganda proliferates.
At the BBC this is best demonstrated in the run-up to the Iraq war when the acceptance of Blair’s sophistry was almost absolute. As studies at Cardiff University and Media Tenor have shown the BBC was overwhelmingly sympathetic to the government’s case and in the run-up to the invasion devoted a mere 2% of news output to anti-war voices.
The point was subsequently taken up by Jeremy Paxman. ‘Yes we were hoodwinked,’ he said. The ultimate irony was Paxman’s subsequent reprimand for breaking the BBC’s ‘strict impartiality rules’ by speaking the truth and referring to ‘Blair’s lies’ in the run-up to the war.
In a similar study of 304 BBC reports on Venezuela it was found that only three mentioned the Chavez government’s record in promoting human rights and reducing poverty. And they’re still at it: on 4/9/13 they could be heard soliciting the views of war criminal Henry Kissinger (another honoured guest?) on the evolving Syrian situation.
This easing-out of journalists who step out of line or whose reporting might make uncomfortable reading or viewing for the ruling elite is well exemplified in the case of Donahue (see America in foreign affairs above) and the barring of Don McCullin from Thatcher’s Falklands adventure on the spurious grounds that the ship was full. The honesty of his reporting from Vietnam and elsewhere had not been appreciated. The last thing that any Government wants is a journalist who tells the truth: journalists in future were to be ‘embedded’ i.e. censored from reporting anything not Government approved.
And it is the application of the same filters by an unrepresentative corporate/professional/managerial class operating within the same unspoken but well understood paradigm that has ensured that the media of mass communication has never provided, and will never provide an effective and ongoing platform for working-class radical voices to present an intelligent and reasoned critique of the catastrophic shortcomings of Democratic Capitalism, of its institutionalised corruption and subversion by the corporate sector and its executives, and of its failure to serve all but the super-rich and that small proportion of the population that are licensed to pick up and enjoy a few crumbs of their own in order to service their masters and perpetuate in the media the myth that ‘there is no alternative.’
No opportunity is ever spared to denigrate and mock any alternative that might smack of socialism let alone anything further to the left, or to trot out examples of its failures in the past while excusing and accepting as an inevitable price of ‘democratic capitalism’ the epic abuse and systematic corruption of the system under which we have groaned for the past forty years. In short the most effective way of maintaining the illusion that there is no alternative to the current corrupt, self-serving kleptocracy is to ensure that under no circumstances can alternatives or anyone proposing alternatives be seen to experience success.
‘Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state,’ (Noam Chomsky) and so effectively has the propaganda of the extreme right taken hold in America that use of the term ‘liberal’ evokes an almost Pavlovian response of abhorrence in the minds of many of its citizens, and ‘socialist’ will have almost all of them foaming at the mouth.
The following was written by Chris Hedges US Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and writer:
- “The inability to articulate a viable socialism has been our gravest mistake. It will ensure, if this does not soon change, a ruthless totalitarian capitalism . . The left has been destroyed, especially the radical left, quite consciously in the whole* name of anti-communism . . . We have allowed ourselves to embrace an ideology which, at its core, states that all governance is about maximizing corporate profit at the expense of the citizenry. For what do we have structures of government, for what do we have institutions of state, if not to hold up all the citizenry, and especially the most vulnerable.”
* I surmise that ‘holy’ was intended here, although the error is to be found in all sources.
It should be noted, however, that the leaders of ‘free liberal democracies,’ those enthusiastic advocates of democratic capitalism, have always been intensely relaxed (what a felicitous choice of phrase that was) about the existence of non-democratic regimes under fascist dictators or right-wing authoritarian regimes which they see as presenting no threat to capital.
They’ve always been more than happy to cosy up to them. Indeed with the big beast of Democratic Capitalism the USA, and the UK its loyal lapdog, the relationship is generally symbiotic and beneficial enough for those naughty little domestic human rights excesses to be overlooked. Thatcher’s love affair with Pinochet (an honoured guest) and her hysterical tirade at the Conservative Party Conference is typical.
The shameful farce of South Africa’s transition to ‘Democracy’ in the 1994 elections is just one example of what goes on. As racial apartheid ended so economic apartheid began in a deal stitched up in the UK in the mid-80s between the big business corporations that underpinned apartheid and the ANC moderates that they could do business with.
Corporate South Africa was untroubled by the change and within its cosy embrace the new black bourgeoisie flourished. Cronyism was the name of the game as the ANC chiefs moved into mansions on select estates. In the townships, however, crime increased, apartheid era evictions continued, black miners were shot dead in defence of corporate interests and for the majority of blacks so little changed that some even expressed nostalgia for the ‘order’ of the old regime, much as in former Communist states there are many who express a post-communist nostalgia for the ‘old days.’
So well did things proceed that by 2001 George Soros was able to tell the World Economic Forum ‘South Africa is in the hands of international capital.’
What a pity we can’t have a more thorough and public analysis of the failings of democracy, its institutionalised corruption, and its subversion by the corporate sector and its executives than we ever get. For the truth is that the real threat to democracy has always been from capitalist democracy, and there will be no true democracy anywhere while it continues to hold sway.
Capitalism defends liberty today only as unrestricted licence for its own. It fights not against that which restricts real freedom and liberty of the individual, but against that which restricts the licence of property, assets and wealth.
There was a time when liberty and freedom were partners in the Trinity of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, but Equality and Fraternity were rapidly suppressed when those who preached of liberty had secured not liberty, but dominance, and who now pay the concept lip-service in the guise only of their licence.
True, democratic capitalism recognizes the right of the lambs to have better barns, to be fattened up a little, have their wool combed and be kept in tolerably good health, before being eaten: eaten culturally, intellectually, morally and financially.
And if the lambs do not like it that way, then every few years they have the freedom to put their cross into a box and choose: a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, because every party is infected. And, with a few honorable exceptions, the whole function of our partial and kept press is the dissemination of such prejudice as will preserve the lambs in their delusion that they are making a meaningful choice.
And should it seem that I have exaggerated the extent to which unelected, unrepresentative, global corporations serving only the super-rich control our destinies, just take a look at the coming attractions: The secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership described as ‘a Christmas wish-list for major corporations’ and ‘designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination . . . to lower wages and increase insecurity’ See http://stoptpp.org/ And the proposed EU-US trade deal now under consideration
Both put the rights of corporations to pursue profits above the duty of Governments to pursue legitimate public policy objectives. The inevitable and grotesque outcome is exemplified in Australia where Philip Morris Asia Ltd the tobacco giant is suing the Government for legislation introduced to protect its population against lung cancer.
And just in case the commercial and financial clout of America’s Corporate Empire (on which the sun never sets) doesn’t quite cut the mustard, our ‘Global Policeman’ has the military muscle to back it up with 761 active military bases worldwide (Pentagon figures 2008) in 39 countries. To recap: G W Bush speaking 27/2/2003, ‘We meet here during a crucial period in the history . . . of the civilized world. Part of that history was written by others; the rest will be written by us.’
Strange echoes there of that chilling scene in Cabaret: 1931 Berlin before Hitler’s thugs assumed power, and a sweet-faced young Nazi singing Tomorrow Belongs To Me to a Biergarten crowd of fascists who enthusiastically take up the theme and turn it into a threatening statement of intent. ‘Get used to it world, we’re not going to put up with any nonsense,’ as Duane Clarridge CIA Chief in Chile once said.
An appropriate place perhaps at which to introduce:
Ten Commandments From The Dictators Handbook
1 Invoke an Internal and External threat
2 Establish Secret Prisons
3 Develop a Paramilitary Force
4 Introduce Surveillance of Ordinary Citizens
5 Infiltrate Citizens’ Groups
6 Arbitrarily Detain and Release Citizens
7 Target Key Individuals
8 Restrict or Indirectly Control the Media
9 Cast Criticism or Dissent as Treason or Espionage
10 Subvert the Rule of Law
Tick the boxes for the UK and reflect on the fact that all ten have been identified in the United States: See Naomi Wolf The End of America.
Perhaps it is some or all of the foregoing which explains the declining turnout in UK elections since the war and the minority of some 35% who simply ignore the election process. They may perhaps do so because they feel they have effectively been disenfranchised having no voice to represent them; they may do so because they haven’t a thought of any significance in their head; or they may be simply indifferent because all that they hear are the same lies in new guises, and all that they see on offer, all that any of us see on offer, is the seamless sameness of Tory/Lib-Dem/New Labour drawn from and serving the same unrepresentative monied/business/professional bourgeoisie that exercises power throughout all areas of political life and dominates the media.
And if anyone did step forward to offer a true, radical alternative to the right-wing, corporate-friendly agenda that has dominated politics for the past thirty-five years and more he would never be elected and never have an opportunity to present his views because he would be allowed no platform from which to express them. Or if by some miracle he were to establish himself, form a party and eventually a government, the USA/CIA, the ‘markets’ and global corporatism would intervene to ensure that it didn’t last long.
So what advice should we offer to any one of the three billion or so extra bodies that will be arriving to burden the planet with their presence during the coming century?
Are you looking for an easy, risk-free birth, a healthy and stimulating childhood, the best of schools for your education with a premier university to round it off, an internship and a quality job waiting for you, a secure home in a gated community, and a rewarding and interesting life free from the incessant pressure of debt?
Then get yourself a super-rich daddy child: the choice is limited and may be rather unsavoury, but the rewards are great.
Homo – Sapiens???
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! Hamlet
As a non-believer I find it surprising that my sleep is sometimes troubled by a strange and visionary dream in which a father and his son play out a short but rather off-the-wall two-hander in which the dialogue goes something as follows:
Son. Not interrupting am I Dad? You’re not in the throes of creation or anything? Father. No, day off son: taking it easy for a change. In fact the way things are going I’m beginning to think I should give some consideration to chucking it altogether and retiring. Do you think you’re ready to take over the firm yet? Son. Ah, well in a way that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Father. Very perspicacious of you my boy, but then you were always pretty sharp as a young lad. My word some of the things you used to come out with then: fair had me scratching my head where you got it all from. Had some of my best executives stumped from time to time I can tell you. Mind you I wasn’t sorry to see that. Presumed just a little too much did some of them: needed to be cut down to size a bit. You’ll know who I mean I’m sure. Simply couldn’t resist making a little bit on the side, and so I had to let him go – as they say. Never realised at the time he’d do so well in opposition, but then I think there’s more than enough room for both of us. Can’t say I like his business ethic though, but I mustn’t get on that hobby-horse or we’ll be here all day. So what’s your problem my boy? Son. Bit awkward this Dad, cause it’s something you originally invested quite a bit of time in. Father. Not sure I like the sound of that. I have a horrible feeling I know where you might be going. Son. Very perspicacious of you Dad, if I may return the compliment. Look I’ll try not to embarrass you too much, but do you remember that little bit of trouble-shooting you sent me on some while ago when one of your bright ideas turned out to be a real bomber? Father. I thought somehow that might be it: go on. Son. You’d given this young couple a start in a really lovely place, very upmarket: lots of space, all mod cons and a bloody lovely garden and smallholding. You’d gone to all sorts of trouble for them I remember: showed them the ropes, gave them a book on estate management, went through the tenancy agreement in detail and dealt with all their queries. Then you leave them alone for five minutes and what happens? Father. They screw up, and I have to go down and read them the riot act. Son. Right! But that didn’t do the trick either did it? They’d got the idea of that begetting business by then, and there was no stopping them was there? They were at it like rabbits, morning, noon and night. And the result? The most God-awful, dysfunctional family and one that was going to set the pattern for the years to come, and boy didn’t the following generations turn out to be a mess. Father. I think you’re being a bit hard there. I did it all for the best you know, and they seemed such a nice couple to start with. Son. That’s all very well Dad, but a little foresight wouldn’t come amiss when you decide to embark on one of your fancy projects. Isn’t that what you’re constantly telling me? Always consider the worst possible outcome. Father. Alright I’m sorry. I know you had a bit of a tough time when I sent you along to counsel them and point them in the right direction, but . . . Son. Tough time? Tough time? Never mind the thanks I got at the end for all my hard work, but have you ever tried being born? No sorry, of course you haven’t: everlasting to everlasting isn’t it? Well let me tell you Dad that birth and the whole bloody begetting business that precedes it really was not one of your brightest ideas: far too messy and uncertain. Father. I’ve said I’m sorry haven’t I? What else could I have done? Son. Well for a start you could at least have kept half an eye on what they were getting up to after I came back, but you haven’t a clue what’s gone on since then have you? Father. Can’t deny it my boy. Too much else on my plate. Finding it more and more difficult to cope nowadays, and thought you’d straightened them out for me. So what’s the state of play now? Son. Well to put it in language that they might themselves understand, this time your little experiments have fucked things up good and proper. Make yourself comfortable and I’ll elucidate.
That was the way in which I’d originally chosen to approach what was always going to be a tricky subject to handle. As I proceeded, however, I realised that I was at risk both of trivialising my subject matter and perhaps of gratuitously offending those who still adhere to the old superstitions. And so from here-on I revert to the sober and the conventional, but as I could not find it in my heart to delete my little drama so laboriously won, I’ve let it stand.
To attempt to represent the view of some completely impartial observer (a visiting alien shall we say) on the health and wellbeing of life on earth since its inception did, however, seem to be one way of trying to avoid both the bias that has tainted and bedevilled most of man’s attempts to form an objective judgement of his place in the world, and the anthropocentric morality that puts the welfare of humanity before all else. To do so in the form of a dialogue offered in addition the prospect of debate.
My dilemma though is that I am, and always have been, a biocentrist: one of evolution’s random sports, a deviant from the species, a chip off a different block, call it what you will.
“Man delights me not. No, nor woman neither . . .” So the line from Hamlet continues, but I’ll not go so far. Thanks to all that badmouthing in Genesis, poor old Eve got stuck with a rank bad press that lingers on to this day. Pandora got much the same treatment, but it was man not a woman who struck the first blow, man who fired the first shot, man who built the first bomb and man, by and large, who opened the box of technical tricks that brought the world to its present pass.
So let me get my confession out of the way right now . . . I’m partial, I’m prejudiced and my views are too firmly entrenched for me even to envisage, let alone effectively present, an opposing viewpoint in a meaningful and balanced debate. And so, if you’re still with me, I’ll proceed.
The glory and splendour of planet earth is life. Not human life, just life: life from the unique fauna of the deep sea’s black smokers to the ecosystems in the hostile waters of Lake Vostok and to all that lives, or has lived, in between. It’s been longer in its evolution than we can possibly imagine, it’s of a complexity that perplexes the best of minds, and it’s possibly unique to earth, so let’s start to show it some respect man. Know what I mean?
For some time it would all have seemed rather dull to our alien observer: not much change in life from one billion years to the next in fact, and pretty slimy and anaerobic it was too. Then, about a billion or so years ago, things began to evolve a little faster when sex arrived on the scene. Doesn’t it always?
Despite its ensuing success and popularity in the evolutionary chase, however, it seems unlikely that pleasure was a factor in these early genetic exchanges between eukaryotes. Pleasure, it is argued, does not exist within a bacterium’s realm of experience.
But then somewhere along the way, perhaps half-a-billion years or so ago in one of evolution’s happy little twists, some primordial ancestor’s genetic exchange (another useful euphemism there) must have given him a thrill. That was when the begetting began in earnest, and from thence all subsequent problems flow.
With the advent of sex our alien observer would have seen life flourishing as never before: red in tooth and claw certainly, but rich, diverse and in reasonable balance. It certainly had its ups and downs over the years: tested to the edge of extinction in fact by climate change, global cooling, glaciations, sea level falls, volcanism and asteroid impact: all chance catastrophes external to life itself.
But less than half-a-million years ago he would have noticed a perturbation of the system from within as Homo began his advance out of Africa. Had it stopped at Erectus or even Hiedelbergensis all might perhaps have been well. But the appearance of Homo Sapiens (surely the final oxymoron) marked the arrival not of just another twig on the tree, but of a pathogen of life itself, whose progress as he advanced was distinguished by exploitation, destruction and the extinction of any other form of life that seemed not to serve his purpose or to hinder his advance.
Even as a hunter-gatherer his impact was substantial. The extinction of megafauna in Australia was coeval with the early expansion of man across the continent. The same is true in North and South America from twelve thousand years or so ago and in Madagascar from two thousand years ago. In New Zealand almost half of the species that once existed have disappeared since human settlement began some seven hundred years ago. Only in Africa, where the larger vertebrates were seasoned to man’s threat as they evolved side by side, did the larger species survive in the early years, as they would not in the later.
It’s all coincidental and circumstantial of course. There is no smoking gun for those earlier extinctions. That had to wait the arrival of industrialisation and technology, since when there has been no stopping him. Life for the first time has turned against itself. Man has become the sixth extinction, and he has conducted his business with an efficiency and ruthlessness that takes the breath away.
It would be superfluous to attempt to list all the extinctions that man has left in his wake. They are well enough documented and it would require an encyclopaedia: indeed one already exists. It seems fitting though to single out a few as examples either of the beauty that he has destroyed or the gross obscenity of the scale of his butchery: a roll-call of honour for the butchered and shame for the butcher.
In mammals: the Silver Grizzly *** the Barbary Lion *** the Bali Tiger *** the Arizona Jaguar *** the Eastern Bison *** the Bubal Hartebeest *** the Pyrenean Ibex *** and lastly Stella’s Sea Cow – to read of the size of the herds, the speed with which they were driven to extinction and the method by which they were slaughtered is to despair.
In reptiles: tortoises (a particularly unfortunate species) too many subspecies to mention, but say a prayer for dear, departed Lonely George of Pinta Island, the last of his race
In birds: all the Moas *** the Dodo *** the Great Auk *** the Norfolk Island Kaka *** the Bay Thrush *** the New Zealand Bush Wren.
But it is the Passenger Pigeon above all which illustrates the gross excess in which man indulges when exploiting and exterminating another species for profit. In the mid-nineteenth century it was considered to be the most successful species of bird on earth, accounting for perhaps 40% of the bird population of North America.
Even after hunting began, a flock a mile wide and over 300 miles long (an estimated 2,000 million birds) was recorded passing over Cincinnati. Some sixty years earlier before the slaughter started James Audubon recorded flock after flock passing overhead from noon to sunset. One flock only he estimated at over 1,000 million birds.
The motive for the slaughter was purely commercial: in the cities adult birds were cheap meat, the squabs a tender delicacy. By 1896 when the final orgy of slaughter took place the population had been reduced to about 250,000 of which perhaps 5,000 survived.
Packed into boxcars and ready for the markets their dispatch was, however, delayed by a derailment. The birds putrefied under a hot sun and the carcasses were dumped. In 1900 the last passenger pigeon in the wild was shot, and in fifty years the seemingly impossible had been achieved.
Not that man hasn’t been even-handed in his approach. When it comes to short-term gains he has slaughtered and exterminated his fellow man with the same enthusiasm and indifference that he brought to the animals.
Instances are legion from across the world and from all times.
The Spaniards were appalled by the Aztec’s sacrificial butchery of their captives. Such savagery, thought Cortes, so he burned a few of them in public just to put them on the right track, and having sown the seed of smallpox in their ranks returned to complete his slaughter a little later. With the plague of smallpox stalking ahead of them Alvarado carried the massacres to the Maya and Pizarro to the Inca.
A couple of centuries later in North America trade goods carried the pestilence to the Cherokee and half the nation died. That infection was accidental. A few years later, when the British handed over deliberately infected blankets to the Indians during Pontiac’s war it was not.
When guns and germs had softened up the opposition nicely the conquest was completed by men like Daniel Boone (that celebrated American folk hero) with shabby little deals like the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals in which the Americans honed their dubious business and diplomatic ethics. The rest of the story of the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the North American indigenous peoples is too well known to rehearse.
In Tasmania the British hunted and exterminated the aboriginal people with the same enthusiasm that they did the Thylacine – the Thylacine survived longest. They might have done the same with the aboriginal Australians but the task was beyond them, and so they did the next best thing: they debased and corrupted the aboriginals and their culture.
The Belgians atrocities in the Congo *** the atrocities of colonial France *** British Imperial atrocities across the globe *** The Armenian Genocide *** Communist atrocities in the Soviet Union and Europe *** the Nazi and Japanese atrocities and genocide in WWII.
Americans atrocities in Vietnam and Iraq.
Atrocities by Reagan’s illegal contras in Nicaragua.
British atrocities in Malaysia, Cyprus, Kenya.
The Cyprus Civil War: atrocities by Greek on Turk, Turk on Greek.
The war crimes of Nixon and Kissinger in Cambodia which in their secret and illegal assault of 1973 was bombed back into the stone age.
Northern Ireland 1971.
The genocide in Rwanda.
The Indonesian genocide in East Timor, and the ethnic cleansing and massacre of ethnic Chinese. The leaders of the death squads not only walk free, but are publicly celebrated and boastfully re-enact their atrocities in the documentary film The Act of Killing.
The Christian Phalangist/Muslim atrocities in Beirut in the 70s when the Phalangists proudly wore their Christian crosses as they committed their murders.
The 1982 massacres at Sabra and Shatila camps by Christian Phalange aided, abetted and illuminated by flares fired by the Israeli forces under the late Ariel Sharon.
The atrocities in the Congo Civil War, the . . .the . . .
Enough already, I hear you cry, although the list could go on, and on, and on.
In a recent study by Vasa University, however, it is claimed that organised violence between rival groups is not an innate condition of mankind, and that when primitive peoples were living as nomadic foragers warfare was not common. The conclusion would seem to be that organised violence and warfare are just another product of civilisation over the last twelve thousand years or so: just 0.1% of man’s history.
If that is true then civilised man has done a remarkably good job in making up for lost time: oh what a piece of work indeed. And that’s just the fauna: not that the flora fared any better.
Just one example must suffice from the forests of North America. In 1850 old-growth redwood forests covering some 2,000,000 acres were home to ancient giants growing to two hundred feet and more, some of them as old as 2,000 years. Today just over 100,000 acres of such forest remain, little more than 5%, and most of the giants have been felled. What sort of men are we that we can wantonly destroy something that it would take 1,000 years or more to replace (that will in fact never be replaced) for the sake of a quick buck. The tropical rainforests are, of course, now going the same way.
And the prognosis? Will the growing chorus of warning voices now be heeded? It seems unlikely. Man’s objectives have always been essentially short-term, and the relentless pursuit of folly will almost certainly continue on the assumption that something will turn up, as of course it will, but it might not be very nice.
Our observer, if saddened by such a criminal despoliation of the wonder that is earth, will no doubt console himself with the thought that the one redeeming feature about the whole sad mess is that man, by his own actions and self-interest, seems well placed to set a record as a here today, gone tomorrow species.
Save the world! How that phrase resonates around the internet: more than 30 million Google hits. It sounds so impressive doesn’t it, so altruistic and selfless, whereas sadly at its heart most of the commentary is as anthropocentric as ever. Save us, save man, is the real meaning.
So don’t worry about the world folks. The planet’s been plodding along quite happily for four billion years or so – give or take a few extinction events of course – and will plod on equally happily for many more once it’s shrugged off mankind.
Life itself is resilient. Even in the face of man’s determined efforts it flourishes in the most hostile of places. Man will pass, indeed with every day he is expediting his passing, and he will carry many beautiful creatures with him, but the plates will churn, climates will change, new continents will arise and new species will evolve: these things shall be. All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well: always excluding the runaway greenhouse effect of course.
All life needs is a little time and space and to be left alone. The life that follows us may not have the beauty and the splendour (as we judge) of the species we consign to extinction, but it will have its own merits and be free of the dead hand of mankind.
An improbable example of such a resurgence is to be found in the ‘dead’ zone around Chernobyl, where researchers who went to study the radioactive ‘wasteland’ found what they described as a modern day Eden that in spite of the radiation was lush, diverse and swarming with animal, bird and insect life. They wrote:
- “The animals and plants are in greater number now than if the reactor had not gone down. The ecosystem is as it was before humans started living there – except for the radiation. It seems as though normal human activities associated with the agrarian society are more destructive than the world’s worst nuclear meltdown.”
THE HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE
‘Man is a blind, witless, low-brow, anthropomorphic clod who inflicts lesions upon the earth.’ A counter-blast to Hamlet by Ian McHarg
1 Population, population, population
2 Global warming from CO2 emissions exacerbated by methane release as permafrost melts
3 Pollution/Ecological disaster/acidification of the oceans
4 Depletion of resources leading to armed conflict
5 Growth of antibiotic-resistant infections/bacteria
6 Nuclear/germ warfare, weaponised bacteria/viruses
7 Terrorist/Rogue Synthetic Biotechnology
8 Artificial intelligence linked to military operations
Add, subtract or amplify according to your predilections and prejudices.
The predicament that man now faces is not something that was unforeseen until recently. The potential threats of unrestrained population growth, global warming, rapacious consumption of resources, pollution of the environment by industry and pesticides, and the ultimate imbecility nuclear war, have been with us for a long, long time. It’s just that the warning voices that have been there for just as long, have always been ignored, sidelined, rubbished; a threat to the cosy unsustainable life-style that the ‘advanced’ developed nations have enjoyed at the expense of some other human life, let alone non-human. And a threat of course to business enterprise and growth in the GDP without which we are apparently all damned.
But enough’s enough. If you’ve had even half-an-eye open on what been going on for half a century and more you have to be aware of all this stuff, and as I have now thoroughly vented my spleen of the accumulated bile of 80+ years, I’ll allow myself just a few closing thoughts.
Our love affair with fossil fuels was great fun while it lasted, but let’s be honest: it was just one of those things, wasn’t it? Just one of those crazy flings. Give or take another half-century or so and humanity is well and truly buggered isn’t it?
Solutions are proposed of course. Geo-engineering technology some say can save us, but as it was technology that got us into the mess in the first place, that’s a bit like Americans proposing more guns as a solution to their gun problem.
And even eminent men who think seriously about these things come up with some strange offerings as a solution. The celebrated cosmologist Stephen Hawking in the course of a recent lecture in Los Angeles said, ‘We must continue to go into space for humanity. We won’t survive another thousand years without escaping our fragile planet.’
What, all ten billion of us? Some spaceship! You’ve really got to be super-intelligent to spout such utter twaddle.
We’ve binged on the energy from fossil fuel and all its derivatives for so long now that we’re on a treadmill from which it is impossible to step down. No career politician in his right mind would dare to contemplate proposing the one possible solution that might offer man a slender hope as an on-going species: a global command economy, the abandonment of that impossible fantasy of everlasting growth, and the imposition, repeat imposition, of a life-style akin to that we enjoyed (sic – we were all much healthier on short commons) in wartime, plus a steady but relentless reduction in global population to sustainable levels.
It’s a pipe-dream of course. Global consensus on such an issue—dream on. What hope of any action when Lord Lawson and his cronies of the Global Warming Policy Foundation are busy trotting out their ‘experts’ and ‘research papers’ in the face of the general scientific consensus on Global Warming.
In much the same way the tobacco barons hired their scientific ‘experts’ to rubbish the claim that smoking caused lung cancer and all its other associated ills. Available evidence was far from conclusive, said Sir Robert John Sinclair to stockholders of the Imperial Tobacco Company in 1953. There was, he said, a considerable weight of statistical evidence against the validity of the accusations, and the tobacco industry together with its placemen fought a rearguard action for more than forty years while millions died.
And now the fossil fuel industry is busy employing the same tactics, and buying ‘expert’ opinions from the same think-tanks that took the tobacco barons’ money, only this time it’s the world at stake and we haven’t got forty years to spare.
So if we aren’t going to bite on the bullet and take the one hard route that just might have some prospect of success why don’t we stop wittering on about solutions? Things have gone too far, the matter’s far too complex for ‘a solution,’ and as there’s bugger all that you or I individually can do about solving the multitudinous problems that face mankind (all of our own making) then the best thing we can do is contribute as little as possibly to the ongoing train wreck and hope that when man has finally shuffled his way to extinction the world that he leaves behind will still be fit enough for what is left of life to bustle in.
It’s been a fascinating but horrifying experience watching mankind sink further and further into a morass of its own making. The middle-game is almost over now, and I can’t quite make up my mind whether I’m glad or sorry that I won’t be around to see the endgame played out.
To those of you who still are I wish the best of luck – you’re going to need it.
That’s all folks: as I thought when I posted this over a year ago, but events in the Ukraine have overtaken me. Far to important to ignore.