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Files on shady business deals involving Margaret Thatcher’s son kept secret

Secret files detailing the shadowy Middle Eastern business activities of Sir Mark Thatcher, son of...
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Video: Turkey knows Middle East going to blow up, should stay out of it...

WATCH THE FULL EPISODE HERE: https://youtu.be/7QIokguuHcc From its clampdown on democracy to the downing of Russia's warplane, Turkey has made a ... Via Youtube

Tory child abuse inquiry in chaos; Did Margaret Thatcher cover up child abuse?

The government was blasted this week as the judge appointed to lead a child sex abuse inquiry quit less than a week into the...

Margaret Thatcher Was Racist And Homophobic

As the mainstream media produce a barrage of propaganda-laced tributes for the most destructive and hated politician in British history, only a handful in the media have dared print the truth about her decade-long assault on UK society.

WATCH: Tantric Sex And The SS Margaret Thatcher

Of all the pressing matters keeping the nation awake at night perhaps the one issue of most concern is: What DO the Taiwanese think of David Cameron's upcoming EU speech? Well, Britain will sleep soundly tonight because Taiwanese current affairs chann...

Thatcher cabinet tried to ‘cover up’ role in 2,400 deaths from AIDS, Hepatitis C...

Published time: 25 Oct, 2017 15:23 Senior ministers in Margaret Thatcher’s government tried to cover...

Media mogul asked Thatcher for $20bn to save Soviet Union

A Labour MP and media mogul, the late Robert Maxwell, attempted to secure a $20...

Thatcher monument rejected by govt after residents, family complain

Plans for a statue of Margaret Thatcher near London’s Parliament square have been rejected after...

Theresa May accused of channeling ‘Thatcher the milk snatcher’ by scrapping free school lunches

Published time: 18 May, 2017 12:30 Prime Minister Theresa May has been dubbed the “lunch...

Authoritarian Populism: Viewing Trump, Reviewing Thatcher

Photo by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann | CC BY 2.0 There has been much said in the media about Donald Trump’s “populism”, alleged by some to be...

UK govt docs: Thatcher cabinet told of approval to shoot nuclear-base intruders

Newly-released British state documents have revealed that soldiers were ordered to shoot suspected intruders at a naval base after activists managed to break into...

Thatcher’s secret arms deal talks with Saudi Arabia exposed in declassified documents

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher held secret talks with Saudi rulers to persuade them to spend billions on UK-made fighter jets in what...

Varoufakis: Thatcher’s criticism of ECB was sophisticated, pertinent

Marxist economist and game theorist Yanis Varoufakis confided in crowds gathered at a Welsh arts...

‘Put Thatcher’s face on $10 bills,’ says Jeb Bush

US presidential hopeful Jeb Bush was treated to a round of applause during a Republican nomination debate on Wednesday after he suggested the late...

Thatcher made secrecy pact with Saudi king over ‘corrupt’ arms deal

Margaret Thatcher promised Saudi Arabia secrecy ahead of a £43 billion arms deal thought to have been blighted by corruption, newly-released documents reveal. The papers...

​Thatcher govt didn’t oppose Saddam’s chemical weapons program, declassified papers show

As Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was building up its chemical weapons arsenal with the help of a British firm, Margaret Thatcher’s government decided not...

Poor and Lonely in Thatcher’s London

by CHARLES R. LARSON There have been other stories of poor and lonely students living in London, though perhaps none quite so poignant and profound...

Unite Vows To Fight ‘Thatcher Day’ Call

UNITE delegates unanimously backed calls yesterday to stop hardline Tory MPs renaming August bank holiday “Margaret Thatcher Day.” The union committed to blocking Thatcher cheerleader...

Thatcher planned to use army against 1984-1985 British miners’ strike

Robert Stevens RINF Alternative News Papers released by the UK's National Archives reveal that the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher developed detailed plans to use the...

Thatcher snubbed William Hague in 1983

Freshly disclosed document shows former prime minister Margaret Thatcher had described William Hagueâ„¢s promotion as an Å“embarrassment” to the UK government. The then premier vetoed...

Thatcher funeral cost £1.2m

The direct cost of holding a ceremonial funeral for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has come to almost one-eighth of the previously estimated...

Escalated Thatcherism in Britain

Escalated Thatcherism in Britain by Stephen Lendman A previous article discussed Thatcherism. It's Chicago School fundamentalism writ large. It's financial terrorism. It's hugely exploitative. It's forced-fed austerity....

S African apartheid backed by Thatcher

The sculpture of former South African president and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela stands tall outside the Parliament Square, London while the apartheid regime was...

Thatcher at Her Most Divisive

Harri Holkeri remains something of hero in Northern Ireland. When he went there as a peace negotiator he knew that he would be firefighting....

EX-UK PM Thatcher betrayed Iran

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher betrayed the Iranian nation and government during her 11 years in office by aiding enemies of Iran throughout...

Falklands ‘mistake’: Thatcher files reveal split over war with Argentina

Published time: March 22, 2013 09:21
Margaret Thatcher.(AFP Photo / Suzanne Plunket)

The British government was divided over military involvement in the Falklands, new documents from former Prime Minister Thatcher’s archives have revealed. The papers show strong opposition in Thatcher’s own party to going to war with Argentina.

Contrary to the united front presented by the ruling conservative party before going to war with Argentina in 1982, there was heavy criticism of Thatcher’s jingoistic attitude to the conflict.

The documents published by Churchill College, Cambridge University, show the ex-PM’s correspondence with party members. One of Thatcher’s MPs warns that “we are making a big mistake,” while another advised “blowing up a few ships and nothing more.”

Sir John Hoskyns, Thatcher’s policy advisor, voiced fears that the government would “make almighty fools of themselves” and it would spell the downfall of the Thatcher regime.

One West Devon MP told Thatcher that “my constituents want blood.”

There was a significant call among Tory MP’s calling for “calm” in the face of a growing push towards a “hard line.”

"Will only support the fleet as a negotiating ploy. If they will not negotiate we should withdraw,"
wrote one MP.

Thatcher’s chief of staff, David Wolfson, even suggested a plan to bribe the islanders, promising them $100,000 and the possibility of taking up residency in Britain, New Zealand or Australia.

A historian from the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust, which disseminated the documents, said that the documents “reveal how stressful this situation was, it was a massive undertaking which tested her to the full.”

“These papers [show] in the early days of the conflict there was great confusion and doubt. We might have expected her to be breathing fire. She's not. She's always making the case,”
said historian Chris Collins.

The Falklands war was sparked when Argentinian forces mounted an invasion of the British-controlled islands on April 2, 1982. The UK reacted shortly afterwards, dispatching its navy to retake the Falkland Islands. The resultant conflict lasted 74 days and left 649 Argentines dead as well as 255 British servicemen.

Argentina still disputes Britain’s claim on the Falklands, which they call Las Malvinas, as they say it lies within their sovereign territory. The issue has been a significant bone of contention between the two countries recently.

The islanders themselves held a vote on whether or not to remain a British Overseas Territory at the beginning of March, with an overwhelming majority choosing to remain a British colony.

In February, Argentina refused an offer from the British government to discuss the sovereignty of the Falklands with the islands’ inhabitants. Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman insisted that the UN regards the dispute as a bilateral issue between London and Buenos Aires.

“I think the fanatics are not in Buenos Aires, [but] maybe in the United Kingdom because they are 14,000km away from the islands. And I think they are using the people living in the islands for political [reasons] and to have access to oil and natural resources which belong to the Argentine people,” he said in an interview with The Guardian in February.

Falklands: Thatcher Papers Reveal Tory Splits

Wide divisions within the Conservative Party over how the Government should respond to Argentina's invasion of the Falklands are revealed in Margaret Thatcher's private papers which have been made public.

While the Tories publicly presented a united front in 1982, briefing notes prepared for the-then Prime Minister demonstrate the polarised opinions she had to contend with in the early days of the crisis.

Until now the backroom deliberations have remained largely private but the notes are among those released by the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust as it opens its files from a year which came to define Lady Thatcher's career.

They range from Ken Clarke, then a junior minister, arguing to "blow up a few ships but nothing more" to West Devon MP Peter Mills who warned "my constituents want blood".

Historian Chris Collins, from the trust, said the papers reflected the "chaos" within the party and more widely following the surprise attack.

He added: "These papers reveal how stressful this situation was, it was a massive undertaking which tested her to the full.

"In the early days of the conflict there was great confusion and doubt on behalf of the party and more widely.

"People were feeling very down about the whole process and what was going to happen next. There was tremendous chaos.

"But of course a party has to show a united face as far as it can."

On April 6, four days after the incursion, the Chief Whip, Michael Jopling, prepared a note for the Prime Minister saying: "You may like to have general re-action to events in the Falkland Islands."

Mr Clarke, along with Sir Timothy Raison, MP for Aylesbury, are attributed with the view: "Hopes nobody thinks we are going to fight the Argentinians. We should blow up a few ships but nothing more."

Lady Thatcher has marked the comment with two blue biro lines.

Sir John Page was said to be "desperately depressed" by the situation and Ian Gilmour, later Baron Gilmour of Craigmillar, said: "We are making a big mistake. It will make Suez look like common sense."

Five MPS urged Lady Thatcher to "keep calm" adding "we can get away without a fight" while others were "all taking a hard line".

A similar note the following day described Stephen Dorrell as "very wobbly".

It adds: "Will only support the fleet as a negotiating ploy. If they will not negotiate we should withdraw."

Meanwhile, referring to Keith Stainton, the note reads: "Intends to attack the Government. His wife has large interests in the Falklands."

Lady Thatcher is the first British Prime Minister whose private and official papers have been released in this way.

Charles Moore, her authorised biographer, said: "The Thatcher archive is a marvellous resource for all those interested in her career as Prime Minister and in this country's recent political history.

"This release will provide the raw material to help researchers study and understand the changing political landscape of her first year as Prime Minister."

The latest release is open to the public at the Churchill Archive Centre in Cambridge and is available online.

:: A hand-written note by Lady Thatcher, prepared after April 2, 1982, possibly in preparation for a speech or press conference, shows that she settled on a brief but broadly supportive position on the Duke of York's deployment as part of the Falklands task force.

"If asked about Prince Andrew it is the express wish of The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and of Prince Andrew himself, that if the Invincible sails he sails with her," it says.

:: The papers mention an early meeting with Robert Mugabe, who had been elected as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe in 1980 and was then still considered a hero by many after his role against white-minority rule.

At a lunch held in his honour on May 19, 1982, Lady Thatcher praised him for his "friendly and open manner".

UK Elections: Business As Usual Triumphs

UK Elections: Business as Usual Triumphs

by Stephen Lendman

May 7 general elections approach. Britain is like America. It's all over before polls open. Monied interests win every time.

Ordinary people lose out more than ever in modern memory. It shows in opinion polls. 

Only 16% of voters trust politicians. Why anyone besides well-off Brits do they'll have to explain.  

It doesn't matter who wins on Thursday. Torries and New Labour are even in polls. They're like Republicans and Democrats in America - two sides of the same coin, not a dime's worth of difference between them.

Neither major party is expected to win a majority. Expect coalition government with smaller parties to follow. They largely support the same regressive policies.

All politicians lie. Nothing they say can be believed. New Labour leader Ed Miliband maintained the standard saying Britain's "clear choice on Thursday (is) between a Labour government that will put working people first or a Tory government that will only ever work for the privileged few."

Britain's "clear choice" is none at all. Monied interests run things. Bankers top the pecking order.

Politicians come and go. One major party or the other wins. Things stay the same.

Neoliberal harshness, financialization, weak unions, offshoring manufacturing, privatizing state enterprises, deregulation, and disappearing social justice characterize Britain's economy.

London's Guardian warned of a "hit list of (more) welfare cuts" coming.

Voltaire once explained British society saying its people "are like their own beer; froth on top, dregs at bottom, the middle excellent."

Today's froth never had it better. Poor Brits are enduring their hardest times since post-WW II recovery.

Middle class society is fast disappearing - like in America. Britain's weekly Spectator magazine says it's "shrinking and sinking."

"The lifestyle that the average earner had half a century ago -  reasonably sized house, dependable healthcare, a decent education for the children and a reliable pension - is becoming the preserve of the rich." 

"Middle-class pensioners look on amazed at how their children, now into adulthood, seem to have a far harder time."

Rich elites run things more than ever. They doubled their wealth since 2009. The average worker earns less when adjusted for inflation and wage cuts.

Former Bank of England governor Mervyn King said middle class society is enduring the longest squeeze in living memory. Rich folks never had it better.

London is unaffordable to live in. House prices average over $750,000. The average wage is less than $50,000.

In January, thousands participated in a March for Homes rally. They demanded solutions to unaffordable housing prices - worsening as they escalate.

They carried banners saying "People before profit." Build council homes (reasonably priced ones for working class people)." "Take the wealth of the 1%."

Rents surged an average 13% annually since 2010. So have repossessions and evictions. Britain increasingly is unfit to live in - just like America.

New Labour claiming "Britain can be better" rings hollow for millions enduring increasing hardships.

They're "all the same," growing numbers of voters say about a system increasingly ignoring their needs.

They promise one thing. They do another. Serving monied interests and allying with Washington's war machine matter most.

Respect Party Bradford West MP George Galloway is running for reelection. He calls himself "your traditional, much-loved black cab."

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone. There are not a lot of us black cabs around any more."

His constituency is one of Britain's poorest. It's struggling to reinvent itself. Despite his best  best efforts, he's up against a corrupted, uncaring system.

He's one of 650 House of Commons members. "Recovery, what recovery," he asks?

"We keep hearing that the economic recovery is better in Britain than in any other European country."

"Well it may be in London and the Home Counties, but it certainly isn't here" and most other places in Britain.

Millions are suffering. Food banks are proliferating, Galloway explained. "Can you imagine what the country will look like by 2020 if these barbarians are returned" to power, he stressed.

"We need investment in jobs and infrastructure…But it won't come under the Tories or this miserable local Labour administration." Or New Labour if it bests the Torries nationwide.

Social justice is fast disappearing. Force-fed austerity is official UK policy. 

So is growing wealth inequality. It's risen four times faster since 2008 compared to the seven preceding years.

It bears repeating. Britain is like America - governed of, by and for its privileged elites alone.

It's corrupt, fundamentally unfair and ruthlessly anti-democratic. Young people have no futures.

An entire generation is lost. Social welfare cuts hits Britain's most disadvantaged hardest.

Inequality is booming. Politicians able to make a difference don't care. Increasing amounts of public wealth in private hands is a slippery slope to third world status.

Margaret Thatcher escalated inequality. She oversaw one of the greatest ever transfers of wealth to British society's most well-off.

David Cameron is worse. New Labour's Ed Miliband is no better. Robbing poor Peter to pay rich Paul is official bipartisan policy.

It's endorsed by Liberal Democrats, Britain's third ranked party. It's neither liberal nor democratic. It's hard right like the rest.

On Thursday, voting options are death by hanging or firing squad. Ballot choices exclude government serving everyone equitably.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Globalization: Global Agribusiness Hammering Away At The Foundations Of Indian Society


RINF, Countercurrents, Global Research

https://twitter.com/colin_todhunter

According to the World Bank in the nineties, it was expected (and hoped) that some 400 million people in Indian agriculture would be moving out of the sector by 2015. To help them on their way, farming had to be made financially non-viable and policies formulated to facilitate the process.

Food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma describes the situation: 

“India is on fast track to bring agriculture under corporate control... Amending the existing laws on land acquisition, water resources, seed, fertilizer, pesticides and food processing, the government is in overdrive to usher in contract farming and encourage organized retail. This is exactly as per the advice of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as well as the international financial institutes.” 

He notes that in its 2008 World Development Report, the World Bank wanted India to hasten the process by accelerating land acquisitions and launching a network of training institutes to train younger people in rural areas so as to make them eligible for industrial work. This is now happening, especially the highly contentious push to facilitate private corporations' access to land, which has been sparking mass protests across the country. 

Sharma describes how US subsidies and global trade policies work to benefit hugely wealthy agribusiness corporations, while serving to cripple the agricultural sectors of poorer countries. The massive subsidies doled out by the US to its giant agribusiness companies lower global produce prices and buck markets in favour of Washington. The US has also included non-trade barriers (such as various health standards and regulations) to keep agricultural imports out. At the same time, India has opened its markets and support for its own farmers is being cut. Farmers are thus being left to the vagaries of a global market slanted in favour of US interests.

As India's farmers face increasing financial distress and foreign private players try to move in to secure land and the seed, food processing and food retail sectors, what is happening courtesy of compliant politicians is tantamount to cannibalizing the country at the behest of foreign interests. 

Western agribusiness has already gained an influential foothold in India and many of the country’s national public bodies. Along with US food processing giants Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, agribusiness aims to recast the rural economy (and thus Indian society, given that hundreds of millions depend on it for a living) according to its own needs. This would mean eventually moving over 600 million (never mind the previously mentioned figure of 400 million) who depend on agriculture and local food processing activities into urban areas.

Monsanto already dominates the cotton industry in the country and is increasingly shaping agri-policy and the knowledge paradigm by funding agricultural research in public universities and institutes (see here). Moreover, public regulatory bodies are now severely compromised and riddled with conflicts ofinterest where decision-making over GMOs are concerned. 

But this is the nature of the 'globalization' agenda: the goal is to ‘capture’ and ‘exploit’ foreign markets and their policy/regulatory bodies. The culture of neoliberalism is exemplified by APCO Worldwide, a major ‘global communications, stakeholder engagement and business strategy’ company that Narendra Modi has been associated with in the past. In APCO’s India Brochure, there is the claim that India’s resilience in weathering the global downturn and financial crisis has made governments, policy-makers, economists, corporate houses and fund managers believe that India can play a significant role in the recovery of the global economy in the months and years ahead. APCO describes India as a trillion dollar market.

No mention of ordinary people or poor farmers. The focus is on profit, funds and money because for the readers of such documents all of this constitutes ‘growth’ – a positive sounding notion sold to the masses that in reality means corporate profit. It forms part of an ideology that attempts to disguise the nature of a system that has produced austerity, disempowerment and increasing hardship for the bulk of the population and the concentration of ever more wealth and power in the hands of the few who now dictate policies to nation states.

Take a brief look at what happened in Britain when the neoliberal globalization strategy took hold there. As with Modi, Margaret Thatcher was a handmaiden to rich interests.

During the eighties, the Thatcher government set the wheels in motion to shut down the coal mining industry. The outcome destroyed communities across the country, and they have never recovered. Crime-ridden, drug-ridden and shells of their former selves, these towns and villages and the people in them were thrown onto the scrapheap. The industry was killed because it was deemed ‘uneconomical'. And yet it now costs more to keep a person on the dole than it would to employ them at the minimum wage, the country imports coal at a higher cost than it would to have kept the pits open and Britain has to engage in costly illegal wars to secure its oil and gas energy needs, which coal could largely provide (Britain has over 1,000 years of coal supply in the ground). In fact, before 1970, Britain got all its gas from its own coal.

The economics just do not add up. Former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill fought to save the mining industry and now asks where is the sense in all of this (see thisthis and this).   

The same happened across the manufacturing sector, from steel to engineering to shipbuilding. And a similar process occurred in the fishery and agriculture sectors. In 2010, there were over eight million unemployed (over 21 percent of the workforce), despite what the official figures said.

Britain decided to financialize its economy and move people out of manufacturing to integrate with a neoliberal globalized world order. Ordinary people’s livelihoods were sacrificed and sold to the lowest bidder abroad and the real economy was hollowed out for the benefit of giant corporations who now have near-monopolies in their respective sectors and record massive profits. People were promised a new service-based economy. Not enough jobs materialized or when they did many soon moved to cheap labour economies or they were automated. 

Although it’s a vastly different country, if we look at agriculture in India, a similar trend is seen. Almost 300,000 farmers have taken their lives in India since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to cash crops and economic ‘liberalization’.

In a recent TV interview, Devinder Sharma highlighted the plight of agriculture:

“Agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades… the World Bank and big business have given the message that this is the only way to grow economically… Sixty percent of the population lives in the villages or in the rural areas and is involved in agriculture, and less than two percent of the annual budget goes to agriculture… When you are not investing in agriculture, you think it is... not performing. You are not wanting it to perform... Leave it to the vagaries or the tyranny of the markets… agriculture has disappeared from the economic radar screen of the country… 70 percent of the population is being completely ignored…”

As policy makers glorify ‘business entrepreneurship’ and ‘wealth creation’ and acquiesce to hugely wealthy individuals and their corporations, it largely goes unrecognized that farmers have always been imbued with the spirit of entrepreneurship and have been creating food wealth for centuries. They have been innovators, natural resource stewards, seed savers and hybridization experts. But they are now fodder to be sacrificed on the altar of US petro-chemical agribusiness interests.

In his interview, Devinder Sharma went on to state that despite the tax breaks and the raft of policies that favour industry over agriculture, industry has failed to deliver; but despite the gross under-investment in agriculture, it still manages to deliver bumper harvests year after year:

“In the last 10 years, we had 36 lakh crore going to the corporates by way of tax exemptions... They just created 1.5 crore jobs in the last ten years. Where are the exports? … The only sector that has performed very well in this country is agriculture... Why do you want to move the population... Why can’t India have its own thinking? Why do we have to go with Harvard or Oxford economists who tell us this?” (36 lakh crore is 36 trillion; 1.5 crore is 15 million)

It all begs the question: where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of former agricultural workers or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalize industries that currently employ tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions)?

The genuine wealth creators, the farmers, are being sold out to corporate interests whose only concern is to how best loot the economy. As they do so, they churn out in unison with their politician puppets the mantra of it all being in the ‘national interest’ and constituting some kind of ‘economic miracle’. And those who protest are attacked and marginalised. In Britain during the eighties, it was a similar situation. Workers' representatives portrayed as the 'enemy within'. 

Through various policies, underinvestment and general neglect, farmers are being set up to financially fail. However, it is corporate-industrial India which has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the massive hand outs and tax exemptions given to it (see this and this). The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year (see here).

Again, this too is a global phenomenon.

Corporate-industrial India is the beneficiary of a huge global con-trick: subsidies to the public sector or to the poor are portrayed as a drain on the economy, while the genuinely massive drain of taxpayer-funded corporate dole, tax breaks, bail outs and tax avoidance/evasion are afforded scant attention. Through slick doublespeak, all of this becomes redefined necessary for creating jobs or fueling ‘growth’. The only growth is in massive profits and inequalities, coupled with unemployment, low pay, the erosion of welfare and a further race to the bottom as a result of secretive trade agreements like the TTIP.

India is still a nation of farmers. Around two thirds of the population in some way rely on agriculture for a living. Despite the sector’s woeful neglect in favour of a heavily subsidized and government-supported but poorly performing industrial sector, agriculture remains the backbone of Indian society.

Notwithstanding the threat to food security, livelihoods and well-being, the type of unsustainable corporate-controlled globalized industrial agriculture being pushed through in India leads to bad food, bad soil, bad or no waterbad health, stagnant or falling yields and ultimately an agrarian crisis. It involves the liberal use of cancer-causing pesticides and the possible introduction of health-damaging but highly profitable GMOs.

There was a famous phrase used in the eighties in Britain by the former Prime Minister Harold McMillan. He accused the Thatcher administration of 'selling the family silver' with its privatization policies and the auction of public assets that ordinary people had strived to build over many decades of dedicated labour. 

As Modi presses through with his strident neoliberal agenda and seeks to further privatize India's agricultural heritage, it begs the question: is it not tantamount to turning in on yourself and destroying the home in which you live? 

The 2015 British General Election: Capitalism’s One-Horse Race

RINF, Global Research, Countercurrents, Counterpunch

Britain is currently in the grip of a general election campaign. Voting takes place on 7 May and election fever in the media is building as various commentators and politicians engage in empty rhetoric about British values and democratic principles. Due to the nature of the 'first past the post' voting system, the only two parties with a realistic hope of achieving a majority of seats in parliament are Labour and the Conservatives. As in the outgoing parliament, the party most likely to achieve third place, the Liberal Democrats, might hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.

On TV last week there was a ‘leaders’ debate’. The issues debated revolved around the economy, the National Health Service and immigration. Leaders of the three main parties embraced a cosy consensus based on the need to continue with ‘austerity’ but quibbled over the nature or speed of cuts to the public sector and public services. The debate has set the tone for the unfolding campaign.

All three main parties are pro-big business and are aligned with the neoliberal economic agenda set by the financial cartel based in the City of London and on Wall Street and by the major transnational corporations. The likes of Chatham House, Centre for Policy Studies, Foreign Policy Centre, Reform, Institute of Economic Affairs and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (most of which the British public have never heard of) have already determined the pro-corporate and generally pro-Washington policies that the parties will sell to the public. Pressure tactics at the top level of politics, massively funded lobbying groups and the revolving door between private corporations and the machinery of state have also helped shape the policy agenda.

As if to underline this, in 2012 Labour MP Austin Mitchell described the UK’s big four accountancy firms as being "more powerful than government." He said the companies’ financial success allows them privileged access to government policy makers. Of course, similar sentiments concerning 'privileged access' could also be forwarded about many other sectors, not least the arms industry and global agritech companies which armed with their poisons, unsustainable model of industrial agriculture and bogus claims have been working hand in glove with government to force GMO's into the UK despite most people who hold a view on the matter not wanting them.

The impact and power of think tanks, lobbying and cronyism means that the major parties merely provide the illusion of choice and democracy to a public that is easily manipulated courtesy of a toothless and supine corporate media. The knockabout point-scoring of party politics serves as entertainment for a public that is increasingly disillusioned with politics.

The upshot is that the main parties have all accepted economic neoliberalism and the financialisation of the British economy and all that it has entailed: weak or non-existent trade unions, an ideological assault on the public sector, the offshoring of manufacturing, deregulation, privatisation and an economy dominated by financial services.

In Britain, long gone are the relatively well-paid manufacturing jobs that helped build and sustain the economy. In its place, the country has witnessed the imposition of a low taxation regime, low-paid and insecure ‘service sector’ jobs (no-contract work, macjobs, call centre jobs - much of which soon went abroad), a real estate bubble, credit card debt and student debt, which all helped to keep the economy afloat and maintain demand during the so-called boom years under Tony Blair. Levels of public debt spiraled, personal debt became unsustainable and the deregulated financial sector demanded the public must write down its own gambling debts.

The economy is now based on (held to ransom by) a banking and finance-sector cartel that specialises in rigging markets, debt creation, money laundering  and salting away profits in various City of London satellite tax havens and beyond. The banking industry applies huge pressure on governments and has significant influence over policies to ensure things remain this way.

If you follow the election campaign, you will see no talk from the main parties about bringing the railway and energy and water facilities back into public ownership. Instead, privatisation will continue and massive profits will be raked in as the public forks out for private-sector subsidies and the increasingly costly ‘services’ provided.

There will be no talk of nationalising the major banks or even properly regulating or taxing them (and other large multinationals) to gain access to funds that could build decent infrastructure for the public benefit.

Although the economy will be glibly discussed throughout the campaign, little will be mentioned about why or how the top one percent in the UK increased their wealth substantially in 2008 alone when the economic crisis hit. Little will be said about why levels of inequality have sky rocketed over the past three decades.

When manufacturing industry was decimated (along with the union movement) and offshored, people were told that finance was to be the backbone of the ‘new’ economy. And to be sure it has become the backbone. A spineless one based on bubbles, derivatives trading, speculation and all manner of dodgy transactions and practices. Margaret Thatcher in the eighties sold the economy to bankers and transnational corporations and they have never looked back. It was similar in the US.

Now Britain stands shoulder to shoulder with Washington’s militaristic agenda as the US desperately seeks to maintain global hegemony - not by rejecting the financialisation of its economy, rebuilding a manufacturing base with decent jobs and thus boosting consumer demand or ensuring the state takes responsibility for developing infrastructure to improve people's quality of life - but by attacking Russia and China which are doing some of those very things and as a result are rising to challenge the US as the dominant global economic power.

The election campaign instead of focusing on 'austerity', immigrants or welfare recipients, who are depicted by certain politicians and commentators as bleeding the country dry, should concern itself with the tax-evading corporate dole-scrounging super rich, the neoliberal agenda they have forced on people and their pushing for policies that would guarantee further plunder, most notably the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

However, with a rigged media and all major parties representing the interests of an unaccountable financial-corporate-state elite, we can expect Britain to continue to fall in line behind Washington’s militarism and a further hollowing out of what remains of the economy and civil society.

No matter who wins on 7 May, the public is destined for more of the same. The real outcome of the election has already been decided by the interlocking directorate of think tanks, big business and its lobby groups and the higher echelons of the civil service. The election will be akin to rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship.

Tony Benn and Bob Crow: Two Men Who Shook The World

(Image: RMT/PA)

Global Research and Countercurrents 15/3/2014

"Tony’s death comes only a few days after the tragic loss of Bob Crow; for the second time within a week, our movement has lost an outstanding trade unionist and socialist, and I have lost a close friend.” Arthur Scargill, former leader of the National Union of Miners.

The week just gone saw two giants of the left in Britain pass away. Rail, Maritime and Transport Union leader Bob Crow went well before his time at only 52. Tony Benn, former minister in the Labour government during the 1970s and stalwart of the left, died at 88.

Tributes have poured in for both men. Their genuine friends, colleagues and admirers praised both men’s beliefs, tenacity and courage. They saw them for the men they actually were: honest individuals who remained true to their beliefs and who demonstrated unwavering support for the wholly legitimate causes they believed in.

Others who hated the socialist beliefs espoused by Benn and Crow paid back-handed complements or offered condolences by merely saying Bob Crow and Tony Benn fought well for what they believed in. Little if anything was said about what they actually believed in or the legitimacy of their beliefs.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Twitter:

 “Sad to learn of the passing of Tony Benn. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.”

PM David Cameron said:

“Tony Benn was a magnificent writer, speaker and campaigner. There was never a dull moment listening to him, even if you disagreed with him.”

When Margaret Thatcher died last year, her ‘achievements’ were listed, while her wrongdoings were conveniently glossed over. Her supporters in the media and in politics, like Hague and Cameron and those who pretended to portray a neutral stance, included in their lavish praise for her that she was a ‘conviction’ politician and her policies were regarded by some as 'divisive'. But, on the whole, the general tone of these people was that she did what had to be done. In the wake of Benn and Crow’s passing, by what is not said, it is implied that they were totally misguided.   

When Thatcher died, such people paid scant regard to the decimation of manufacturing industry under Thatcher’s tenure, the selling off public assets built up by the hands of labour over the decades to profiteers, the deregulation of financial pratices which ultimately contributed to the taxpayer having to 'bail out' billionaire bankers, the near destruction of the trade union movement, the ultimate dismantling of the post-war Keynesian consensus on behalf of global capital and the devastation of working class communities across Britain.

All of this was swept aside by bureaucrat, careerist politicians, mainstream media anchors and commentators who stated that her policies were sometimes ‘contentious’, or they spewed out some other platitude in attempt to gloss over her treacherous impacts and policies.

Those who suffered as a result of her policies and her political opponents could see through her lies about the efficacy of privatisation or her obsession with the market. Her policies helped to facilitate the shifting of power and wealth from ordinary people to the mega rich, a process the likes of which have not been seen before in modern history. 

Mick McGahey, Vice President of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) between 1972 and 1988, said that the NUM understood the Thatcher government’s determination to use the state machine against it and that in order to dismember the welfare state and engineer the appropriation of power and wealth by elite interests, the government had to break the trade union movement and they needed to break the miners first.

The miners lost and what we are left with is the Britain we have today, pillaged, manipulated and controlled by the rich.

Tony Benn stood against everything that Thatcher stood for. And that’s why in the 1980s, he was vilified. The right wing mainstream media depicted him as being part of the ‘loony left’, and in more recent times Bob Crow was often portrayed as a ‘dinosaur’, a throwback to the Benn era. Both men stood up for the rights of ordinary working class men and women and fought against incompetent management, privatisation, imperialism, the criminal wars engaged in by Britain and the policies of exploitation and the grabbing of wealth by elite interests that masquerade as neo-liberalism.

Thatcher, followed by Blair and New Labour, did immense damage to the ordinary people of Britain and was rightfully held to account by Tony Benn. When others in the Labour movement ditched their principles to become fudgers, yes-men and careerists, Benn and Crow remained true to their beliefs.

They stood opposed to the deceit, duplicity, war mongering and hypocrisy of the likes of Cameron, Hague and Blair. They did not want to bring about a ‘fairer’ capitalism, as the current leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband espouses. They had no time for a corrupt, moribund system.

There is a speech given by Tony Benn in the British parliament in 1990. At that time, the full impact and devastation of Thatcher’s policies had hit the nation. During the speech, Benn talked about having recently been on a crowded train, where people had been tapping away on calculators and not interacting or making eye contact with one another. It represented what Britain had become under Thatcherism: cold, selfish, narcissistic and an erosion of a sense of community.

The train broke down. As time went by, people began to talk with one another, offer each snacks and shared stories. Benn said it wasn’t too long before that train had been turned into a socialist train of self-help and comradeship. Human nature had finally shone through on that train and had overcome the hypocritical and damaging ‘values’ that had been rammed down the throats of the Brits under Thatcherism.

For Tony Benn, socialism wasn’t merely an ideology, it was human nature, the type found on that train. In words, deeds and personas, Tony Benn and Bob Crow embodied the genuine notion of socialism, the best aspects of 'human nature'.

The Battle For Trust, Truth And The Internet: 2013 In Focus

29/12/2013 (This was written specifically for Deccan Herald) 

While the usual catalogue of violence, suffering and mayhem was witnessed during 2013 and sections of the media were fascinated with the lives or loves of Salman, Priyanka, Kareena and the rest of celebritydom, for this end-of-year look-back the stardust and the suffering will take a back seat. Instead, the spotlight falls on spin, trust and the internet, not least because 2013 was to a large extent a year of revelations, accusations, denials and clever public relations.  


In an age of instant, mass communications, we are bombarded with messages 24/7. From advertisements and round-the-clock news channels to newspapers, social media, text messages and emails, the onslaught is relentless. How to filter it all or to make sense of it? Who to believe and what to believe, especially when one source tells us something then another says something completely different. For the public, it can be a headache. And for those trying to influence us with their messages, they know full well that there is an information war as they battle for our hearts, minds and trust.


Edward Snowden’s revelations


If two words could be used to define 2013, they might possibly be Edward Snowden. This young American emerged from the shadowy world of espionage and surveillance to expose Washington’s monitoring of us all and its illegal snooping across the planet. For his efforts, he incurred the wrath of the US establishment.


Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has been the world’s sole superpower. Despite all the public statements about respect for a multi-polar world, away from the public gaze the US has done everything to ensure that it gains ‘full spectrum dominance’ of the planet. Edward Snowden’s releasing of classified information about the US’s activities did little to undermine this view. If Snowden achieved anything, it was to shatter any claims about the US being the model of democracy it likes to portray itself as whereby the individual is king and the state takes a back seat.


But wait a minute. Isn’t that view a bit extreme? In recent times, haven’t developments such as the internet come to play a vital in strengthening democracy by empowering the individual? On one level, this is true. The internet and social media provide a vehicle for self expression, and there is also the convenience of carrying out various practical tasks online. Many have put their heart and soul into the internet, and their lives revolve around tweeting, liking, disliking, sharing, mobile apps and ‘press to purchase’. We have been encouraged to place our trust in the corporations that we give our information to and have thus handed over all kinds of personal details to Facebook, Google and any number of companies.


It wasn’t always this way. The older generation can remember back to when a handful of TV and radio stations existed, snail mail was king and friends were people you personally knew and interacted with face to face. But now, everything is just a highly convenient click away and people have so many ‘friends’ that it’s astonishing. Online friends, that is - often distant acquaintances, usually ‘friends’ of ‘friends’ (virtual strangers who become virtual friends), whom they divulge all kinds of details to and share photos, feelings and much more with. In a quest for convenience and self expression, people have inadvertently surrendered their privacy and identities to that benign sounding realm ‘cyber space’. Information is flying about the place left, right and centre. But who controls it and what is done with it?


Edward Snowden shed light on such questions by exposing what some already suspected: no matter where we may reside in the world, we are potentially being listened to, watched and monitored by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US (or its counterpart in the UK). The internet is not the empowering tool that many thought it was. During the past year, we discovered that the NSA has either colluded with a range of large corporations that many trusted, or has somehow hacked into their digital databases. Courtesy of Edward Snowden, we found that our emails, phone conversations, internet and social media activities and physical movements are on file and available to be scrutinised at will. Our likes, dislikes, shares, political allegiances and activities, purchases, holiday destinations and personal feelings are all in the public domain to be tapped into.


While buying into all of those lofty libertarian ideals about the digital age being personally liberating, many were duped into handing over their personal information to those who have the power to strip us of our freedoms. The NSA has captured ‘cyber space’ and taken the keys to people’s digital homes. Ironically, they naively delivered them to it on a silver platter.


Former NSA employer Snowden blew the lid off the whole NSA data surveillance industry. He also blew the lid off how Big Brother USA spies on governments and the personal conversations of national leaders, both friend and foe alike, and disregards laws in order to access information as and when it deems fit.


All of this is an ugly truth that the US wanted to keep from us. As a result, Snowden became Washington’s public enemy number one. Before having his passport revoked, he fled to Hong Kong then Moscow. The US did everything it could to capture him and prevent further embarrassing revelations, even going as far to orchestrate the hijacking of the Bolivian president’s plane as it flew over Europe because it was thought Snowden may have been on board. After being in limbo inside Moscow airport for weeks, Snowden was finally granted asylum by Russia.


Snowden’s revelations should be of great concern to us all. It is not that we are just being monitored, it is that the internet is increasingly being centralised in the hands of certain key companies under the control of a few governments, with the US having the means to control the major transit routes that comprise the core of the net. The NSA has set out to control the internet from day one and can increasingly determine what we can access online.

  

And let’s not forget that other info warrior WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange, who also released sensitive information about US activities and remains on Washington’s ‘most wanted’ list. He spent all of 2013 in the small Ecuadorian embassy in London. Ecuador might have granted him asylum, but the British are not letting him go to the airport any time soon.


The Syrian crisis


Another key battle over information and trust occurred over Syria. The US became the self-appointed judge, jury and executioner and wanted to bomb Syria for the good of all peace loving people across the world in the name of preventing terror - so the White House’s spin machine would have liked us to believe. Many may not realise that a prelude to World War Three was possibly on the cards when the US threatened to bomb Damascus. Although difficult to confirm, some reports alleged that two missiles were actually launched from its warships in the Mediterranean, or possibly by Israel. They were supposedly shot down by the Russians who also had ships stationed there (as did the Chinese). In any case, tensions were high, and Russia was standing firm in its defence of Syria.


Barack Obama wanted to intervene, in a ‘humanitarian’ sense, because the Assad government had allegedly carried out a chemical weapons attack on its own people. That there was no evidence Assad was responsible seemed to matter little as Washington’s PR people went into overdrive, just like they did in 2003 over Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. But thankfully reason prevailed this time, not least in the British parliament, which voted not to get involved with attacking Syria. And given that no one could produce hard evidence to support US claims (not even Washington) about the said chemical weapons attack, Obama had to back down.


The whole scenario rested on information and trust. Did we trust the information being presented by the US? Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was based on what British MP George Galloway called a ‘pack of lies’, people are less inclined to rush to support US-led wars, and the internet has especially become a hotbed for the articulation of dissent. In this respect, Edward Snowden’s revelations are thus highly pertinent, given the US’s mass surveillance of almost everything online and Washington’s (and probably most governments) increasingly sophisticated attempts to control public access to content.


The rise of Narendra Modi


And so to India and the man of the moment - Narendra Modi, who was also at the centre of a battle for hearts and minds during the year. A wholly divisive figure or a shining beacon of hope for India? A hero of development in Gujarat or a case of spin triumphing over reality. Again, it was all about PR, perception and trust. One thing became clear during 2013, however; Modi was able to cement his phenomenal rise to the pinnacle of Indian politics.


While many hold Modi personally responsible for the killings and abuses that took place in Gujarat back in 2002, he has in some quarters succeeded in forwarding the message that his state is a shining example of development and that he is a suitable candidate for PM. Despite his many detractors, he has succeeded in securing a mass support base, especially among middle class youth.  


The future is bright, the future is Modi? Do you trust him? By early November, it was clear that his 960,000 followers on Google plus did. And it was clear that six million ‘likes’ on his official ‘fan page’ on Facebook did. On that page, it says: “the man endeared as a visionary & an untiring, selfless worker who has made Gujarat the cynosure of all eyes across the world.”


The future is definitely bright and we should certainly trust him, if we are to believe all the PR. And in this day and age, PR matters. It is impossible for everyone to have direct knowledge about everything that is happening in the world, so we turn to the media to inform us. But there are some heavy duty players at work, including- PR firms, lobbyists, image consultants and suchlike, whose sole aim is to get some highly distorted versions of ‘the truth’ into the public domain. And Modi has for some time had a genuine heavyweight on his side - the US-based PR/lobby giant APCO Worldwide.


This firm has been instrumental in helping to give Modi a timely and much needed makeover, remarketing him as prime ministerial material and globally promoting Brand Modi and Brand Gujarat. It culminated in 2013 with Modi being selected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Indian general election.   


And so to everything else


There were numerous prominent deaths during 2013. The two biggest were arguably those of Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher. Mandela’s struggle against the barbaric apartheid regime in South Africa was inspirational for millions across the world. After being imprisoned by the regime for 27 years, he eventually rose to become PM of post-apartheid South Africa. His death united people in grief. Eulogies came from all sides of the political spectrum.


Former British PM Margaret Thatcher was granted a lavish funeral and her coffin was paraded through the streets of London. This upset many because her time as PM left deep wounds, which her passing served to reopen. For her supporters, she saved Britain from economic meltdown. However, regardless of the eulogies following her death, or probably because of them, many people vented some very bitter sentiments about Britain’s first woman PM and her social and economic legacies.


Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher were towering political figures. For different reasons, their deaths evoked some deep-seated feelings.


What else happened during the year? 2013 saw India and Pakistan still ‘skirmishing’, the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, droughts in Maharashtra and various crashes, crushes, bombings and blasts across the country. Many metro projects moved forward in a number of cities. Flash floods and landslides in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh claimed the lives of more than 5,700 people and trapped more than 20,000.


The perpetrators of that horrendous rape aboard a bus in Delhi were finally sentenced, and the controversial Koodankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu became partially operational. Sachin decided to hang up his test match bat, Tehelka made headlines of its own for all the wrong reasons and the fodder scam from the nineties finally caught up with Lalu.


Typhoons lashed India and devastated the Philippines and French troops went into resource-rich Mali and stayed. A meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, injuring 1,491 people and damaging over 4,300 buildings, ‘austerity’ continued in Europe and the US was still printing dollars like they are going out of fashion. They might be, given the ongoing rush to buy gold by various countries and talk of replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.


A building collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,129 and injuring 2,500. It was the third worst industrial accident ever. And there was high-profile political turmoil  in Ukraine, Thailand, Egypt and Turkey. There was even a glimpse of a major thaw in US-Iran relations.


Many things happened that were unreported or under - reported, not least because they were not deemed ‘newsworthy’. For example, candlelit marches in Delhi are headline grabbing, the ongoing tragedy affecting Indian farmers is not. The IPL is extremely newsworthy, Irom Sharmila’s cause is not.  


And the same may be said about this particular look back. Some occurrences have been included, many have not. Any write up is bound to be partial and subjective. Ask ten different people to write about the year just gone and you would probably get ten totally different narratives.


However, this particular look back has been very apt because it had much in common with 2013. It was long and winding, had some interesting highlights (hopefully) and went over in a flash. But the biggest thing it has in common with 2013 - it’s finally over

.



Looking Back on Five Years of Economic Turmoil: Heart Burn or Heart Attack?



When significant US economic markets went haywire in the summer and fall of 2008, a fear, even panic, struck those charged with developing and implementing economic policy. The prevailing thinking-- unbridled capitalism with near-religious confidence in market mechanisms-- appeared to be in irreversible retreat.
The housing market cooled, home values shrank, and the financial structure built around home ownership began to collapse. As the stock market fell freely from previous highs, led by the implosion of bank stocks, investors withdrew dramatically from the market. Credit froze and consumption slowed. Thus began a downward spiral of employee layoffs, reduced consumption, capital hoarding, and retarded growth, followed by more layoffs, etc. etc.
As fear set in, policy makers scrambled to find an answer to a crisis that threatened to deepen and spread to the far reaches of the global economy. With interest rates near zero, they recognized that the monetarist toolbox, in use since the Carter administration, offered no answer.
At the end of the Bush administration, bi-partisan leaders approved the injection of hundreds of billions of public dollars into the financial system with the hope of stabilizing the collapsing market value of banks, a move popularly dubbed a “bailout.”
Early in the Obama administration, Democratic Party administrators crafted another recovery program totaling about three-quarters of a trillion dollars, a program involving a mix of tax cuts, public-private infrastructure projects, and expanded direct relief. Economists generally viewed this effort as a “stimulus” program designed to trigger a burst of economic activity to jump-start a stalled economic engine. Dollar estimates of aggregate US Federal bailouts and stimuli meant to overcome the crisis rose as high as the value of one year's Gross Domestic Product in the early years after the initial free fall. The Federal Reserve continues to offer a $75 billion transfusion every month into the veins of the yet ailing US economy.
Bad Faith
The last three decades of the twentieth century brought forth a new economic consensus of not merely market primacy, but total market governance of economic life. Regulation of markets was believed to destabilize markets and not correct them. Public ownership and public services were seen as inefficient and untenable holdouts from market forces. Public and private life beyond the economic universe were subjected to markets, measured by market mechanisms, and analyzed through the lens of market-thought. Indeed, market-speak became the lingua franca unifying all of the social sciences and humanities in this era. With the fall of the Soviet Union, capital and its profit-driven processes penetrated every corner of the world. Only independent, anti-imperialist, market-wary movements like those led by Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and a few others gained some political success against the unprecedented global dominance of private ownership and market mechanisms.
While capitalism in its most unadorned, aggressive form enjoyed the moments of triumph, forces were at play undermining that celebration. Those forces crashed the party in 2000 in the form of a serious economic downturn, the so-called “Dot-com Recession” featuring a $5 trillion stock market value loss and the disappearance of millions of jobs. Economists marveled at how slowly the jobs were returning before the US and global economy were hit with another, more powerful blow in 2008. Clearly, the first decade of the twenty-first century will be remembered as one of economic crisis and uncertainty, a turmoil that continues to this day.
Apart from the human toll-- millions of lost jobs, poverty, homelessness, lost opportunities, destruction of personal wealth-- the crisis-ridden twenty-first century challenged the prevailing orthodoxy of unfettered markets and private ownership. Even such solid and fervent advocates of that orthodoxy as the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The Times were rocked by the crisis, questioning the soundness of classical economic principles. No principle is more dear and essential for the free marketeers than the idea that markets are self-correcting. While there may be short-term economic imbalances or downturns, free-market advocates believe that market movement always tends towards balance and expansion in the long run. Thus, a persistent, long term stagnation or decline is thought to be virtually impossible (with the caveat that there are no restrictions imposed on the market mechanism).
So when perhaps the greatest era of extensive global open-market economy experienced the most catastrophic economic collapse since the Great Depression, serious doubts arose about the fundamental tenets of market ideology. And during the darkest days of 2008 and 2009, a veritable ideological panic swept over pundits and experts of the Right and the “respectable” Left. Some rehabilitated an out-of-fashion economist and spoke of a “Minsky moment.” Liberals proclaimed the death of neo-liberalism (the popular term for the return to respectability of classical economics that began in the late 1970s). And still others foresaw a restoration of the interventionist economics represented by John Maynard Keynes, the economic theories that guided the capitalist economy through most of the post-war period. Even the most conservative economists conceded that market oversight, if not regulation, was both necessary and forthcoming.
Yet, change has not come forth. Despite over five years of decline and stagnation, despite a continued failure of markets to self-correct, free-market ideology continues to dominate both thinking and policy, clearly more faith-based than reality-based. In part, the resilience of open-market philosophy emanates from the shrewd manufacture of debt-fear by politicians and debt-mongering by financial institutions. By raising the shrill cry of exploding debt and impending doom, attention was diverted from the failings of the unfettered market and towards government austerity and massive debt reduction.
Diagnosis?
Clearly all the Nobel Prize-winning mathematical economic models thought to capture economic activity failed to predict and explain the 2008 crash. No amount of faith could disguise the monumental failure of raw, unregulated markets and the policies that promoted them. Two competing, sharply contrasting, and simplistic explanations came forward.
Defenders of free markets shamelessly, brazenly argue that government meddling thwarted the full and free operation of market mechanisms, thus, exacerbating what would have been a painful, but quickly resolved correction. Following the metaphor alluded to in this article’s title, heartburn was misdiagnosed, treated with radical surgery, only to create a life-threatening condition.
Of course this is self-serving nonsense.
Whatever else we may know about markets, we know this: since the process of deregulating markets began in earnest in the late 1970s, crises have only occurred more frequently, with greater amplitude, and harsher human consequences. Before that, and throughout the earlier post-war period, government intervention and regulation tended to forestall downturns, moderate their nadir, and soften the human toll. And a glimpse at an earlier period of market-friendly policy– the early years of the Great Depression-- demonstrates the folly of simply waiting for the promised correction: matters only grew worse. Then, as now, life proved to be a hard taskmaster; when market mechanisms really go awry, no one can afford to wait for self-correction.
Liberal and soft-Left opponents of an unfettered market offer a different argument. They saw the crisis as, not the absence of free markets, but the failure to oversee and regulate markets adequately. On this view, shared by nearly all liberals and most of the non-Communist Left, markets are fundamental economic mechanisms-- essential, if you will-- but best shepherded by government controls that steer markets back when they threaten to run amok.
Thus, the 2008 crisis would have been averted, they believe, if rules and regulations remained in place that were previously designed and implemented to protect the economy from market excesses; if we had not loosened the rules and regulations, we would never have experienced the disaster of 2008.
This view is bad history and even worse economics.
While liberals would like to believe that regulations and institutions spawned by the New Deal of the 1930s stabilized capitalism and tamed markets, the truth is otherwise. The massive war spending initiated sometime before the US entry into World War II solved the problems of growth and excess manpower associated with the long decade of stagnation, hesitant recovery, retreat, and further stagnation that befell the economy beginning in 1929.
Capitalism gained new momentum with post-war reconstruction. Productive forces were restored where they had been destroyed, refreshed where they were worn, and improved in the face of new challenges. This broad restructuring of capitalism produced new opportunities for both profit and growth. At the same time, the lesson of massive socialized, public, and planned military spending were not lost. New threats were conjured, new fears constructed. The hot war in Korea and the ever-expanding Cold War fueled an unprecedented US expansion. It is not inappropriate to characterize this post-war expansion as a period of “military-Keynesianism.” That is, it was an era of Keynesian policies of planned, extensive government spending married to military orders outside of the market. Insofar as it transferred a significant share of the capitalist economy to a command, extra-market sector, it marked a new stage of state-monopoly capitalism, a stage embracing some of the features of socialism.
But by the mid-1960s this “adjustment” began to lose its vitality. Profit growth, the driving force of capitalist expansion, started a persistent decline (for a graphic depiction of this trend, see the chart on page 103 of Robert Brenner's The Economics of Global Turbulence (New Left Review, May/June 1998).
The falling rate of profit coupled with raging inflation by the middle of the 1970s. The military-Keynesian solutions to capitalist crisis were spent, exhausted, proving inadequate to address a new expression of the instability of capitalism. Perhaps nothing signaled the bankruptcy of the prevailing (Keynesian) orthodoxy more than the desperate WIN campaign-- Whip Inflation Now of the Gerald Ford presidency, an impotent attempt to stem the crisis with mass will-power where intervention failed.
Contrary to the claims of liberals, social democrats and other reform-minded saviors of capitalism, the resultant shift in orthodoxy was notmerely a political coup, a victory of retrograde ideology, but instead it was an unwinding of the failed Keynesian policies of the moment. Thus, the Thatcher/Reagan “revolution” was only the vehicle for a dramatic adjustment of the course of capitalism away from a spent, ineffective paradigm.
With Paul Volker assuming the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve and the beginnings of systematic deregulation, the Carter administration planted the seeds of the retreat from the old prescriptions. Volker, with his growth-choking interest rates, ensured a recession that would sweep away any will to resist belt-tightening. But it took the election of the dogma-driven Ronald Reagan to emulate the UK's Margaret Thatcher and use the occasion to eviscerate wages and benefits in order to pave the way for profit growth.
The cost of restoring life to the moribund capitalist economy was borne by the working class. Foolishly, the stolid, complacent labor leadership had banked on the continuation of the tacit Cold War contract: Labor supports the anti-Communist campaign and the corporations honor labor peace with consistent wage and benefit growth. Instead, profit growth was restored by suppressing the living standards of labor-- cutting “costs.” A vicious anti-labor offensive ensued.
While the loyal opposition insists on portraying the break with Keynesian economics as something new (commonly dubbed “neo-liberalism”), it was, in fact, a surrender to the old. The bankruptcy of bourgeois economics could offer no new, creative answer to capitalist crisis; it could only cast off a failed approach and restore profits by relentlessly squeezing the labor market.
This response could and only did succeed because of the extraordinary weakness of the labor movement. As the profit rate began to rebound, labor lacked the leadership and will to not only secure a share of productivity increases, but to even defend its previous gains.
Thus, capitalism caught a second wind by retreating from the post-war economic consensus and reneging on the implicit labor peace treaty. Profit growth returned and the system sailed on.
But the continuing advance of deregulation and privatization brought with it a return to the unbuffered anarchy of markets. The Savings and Loan crises of the 1980s and 1990s and the stock market crash of October 1987 were all harbingers of things to come and reflections of deeper instability.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and Eastern European socialism, a huge new market was delivered to the global capitalist system, a market that further energized the opportunities for capital accumulation and expanded profits. Millions of educated, newly “free” (free of security, safe working conditions, legal protection, and organization) workers joined reduced-wage and low-wage workers from the rest of the world to form a vast pool of cheap labor. From the point of view of the owners of capital, paradise had truly arrived. Thus, an immense, one-sided class war and the wage-depressing integration of millions of new workers set capitalism on a profit-restoring path to health, putting the now impotent Keynesian orthodoxy in the rear-view mirror. Few would guess that this trip would endure for less than two decades before capitalism would again encounter serious crises.
Significant economic growth in a period of weak labor necessarily produces galloping inequality. With corporate and wealthy-friendly tax policies, many government redistribution mechanisms are starved or dismantled. The flow of wealth accelerates to corporations and the super-rich and away from those who work for a living. The coffers of the investor class swell with money anxious for a meaningful, significant return on investment. As the process of capital accumulation intensifies, fewer and fewer safe, high-yield productive investment opportunities arise to absorb the vast pool of ever-expanding wealth concentrated in the hands of a small minority.
In a mature capitalism, new, riskier avenues-- typically removed from the productive sector-- emerge to offer a home for capital and promise a return. Bankers and other financial “wizards” compete ferociously to construct profit-generating devices that promise more and more. These instruments grow further and further from productive activity. Moreover, their resultant “profits” are ever further removed from real, tangible, material value. Instead, they virtually exist as “hypothetical” capital, or “counter-factual” capital, or “future-directed” capital, or “contingent” capital. Some Marxists rush to label this product of speculation as “fictitious,” but that obscures its ultimate origin in exploitative acts in the commodity-production process. It is this expansion of promissory capital that fuels round after round of speculative investment lubricated with greater and greater debt.
Metaphors abound for the end game of this process: “bubbles,” “house of cards,” etc. But the ultimate cause of crisis is the failure to satisfy the never ending search for return. That is, the cause of crisis resides in the process of accumulation intrinsic to capitalism and the inability to sustain a viable return on an ever enlarging pool of capital and promissory capital. Capitalists measure their success by how their resources are fully and effectively put to use to generate new surpluses. That is the deepest, most telling sense of “rate of profit.” It is the gauge guiding the capitalist-- an effective rate of profit based on accumulated assets. Apart from official and contrived measures of profit rates, the growth of accumulated capital, weighed against the available investment opportunities, drives future investment and determines the course of economic activity.
In 1999, the profitability of the technology sector dropped precipitously as a result of the unrealizable investment of billions of yield-seeking dollars in marginal Dot.com companies and internet services. As an answer to the problem of over-accumulation, investing in the fantasies of 20-year-old whiz kids proved to be as irrational as sane observers thought it to be. The crash followed.
And again in the heady days of 2005, buying bizarre securities packed with the flotsam and jetsam of mortgage shenanigans seemed a way of finding a home for vast sums of “unproductive” capital. After all, capital cannot remain idle; it must find a way to reproduce itself. But what to do with the earnings from reselling the demand-driven securities? More of the same? More risk? More debt? And repeat?
The portion of US corporate profits “earned” by the financial sector grew dramatically from 1990 until the 2008 crash, touching nearly 40% in the mid-2000s and demonstrating the explosion of alternative investment vehicles occupying idle capital. It is crucial to see a link, an evolutionary necessity, between the restoration of profitability, intense capital accumulation, and the tendency for profitability to be challenged by the lack of promising investment opportunities. It is not the whim of bankers or the cleverness of entrepreneurs that drives this process, but the logical imperative of capital to produce and reproduce.
Some Comments and Observations
There are other theories of crisis offered by the left. One theory, embraced by many Communist Parties, maintains that crisis emerges from over-production. Of course, in one sense, over-accumulation is a kind of overproduction, an overproduction of capital that lacks a productive investment destination. But many on the left mean something different. They argue that capitalism produces more commodities in the market place than impoverished, poorly paid workers can purchase. There are two objections to this: one theoretical, one ideological.
First, evidence shows that a slump in consumption or a spike in production does not, in fact, precede economic decline in our era. If overproduction or its cousin, under-consumption, were the causeof the 2008 downturn, data would necessarily show some prior deviation from production/consumption patterns. But there are none. Instead, the reverse was the case: the crisis itself caused a massive gap between production and consumption, exacerbating the crisis. The threat of oversupply lingers in the enormous deflationary pressure churning in the global economy. Despite the fact that consumer spending is such a large component of the US economy, the effects of its secular stagnation or decline has been largely muted by the expansion of consumer credit and the existence, though tenuous, of social welfare programs like unemployment insurance.
Second, if retarded or inadequate consumption were the cause of crises, then redistributive policies or tax policies would offer a simple solution to downturns, both to prevent them and reverse them. Thus, capitalism could go on its merry way with little fear of crisis. Certainly this is the ideological attraction of overproduction explanations of crises: they allow liberals and social democrats to tout their ability to manage capitalism through government policies.
However they cannot manage capitalism because crises are located, not in the arena of circulation (matching production and consumption), but in the profit-generating mechanism of capitalism, its veritable soul.
Because of the centrality of profit, the over-accumulation explanation has an affinity with another theory of crisis: Marx's argument for the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. In fact, it can be viewed as a contemporary version of the argument without nineteenth-century assumptions.
Happily, many commentators today have revisited the theory outlined in Volume III of Capital, finding a relevance ignored throughout most of the twentieth century. Only a handful of admirers of Marx's work kept the theory alive in that era, writers like Henryk Grossman, John Strachey, and Paul Mattick. Unfortunately, today's admirers, like the aforementioned predecessors, share the flaw of uncritically taking Marx's schema to be Holy Grail. For the most part, Marx used very occasional formalism as an expository tool and not as the axioms of a formal system. Those trained in modern economics are prone to leap on these formulae with an undergraduate zeal. They debate the tenability of a model that depicts the global economy as a collection of enterprises devouring constant capital at a greater rate than employment of labor and mechanically depressing the rate of profit. This is to confuse simplified exposition with robust explanation. Much can be learned from Marx's exposition without turning it into a scholastic exercise.
Among our left friends, it has become popular to speak of the crisis and era as one of “financialization.” This is most unhelpful. Indeed, the crisis had much to do with the financial sector; indeed, the financial sector played and is playing a greater role in the global economy, especially in the US and UK; but conjuring a new name does nothing to expose or explain the role of finance. Like “globalization” in an earlier time, the word “financialization” may be gripping, fashionable, and handy, but it otherwise hides the mechanisms at work; it’s a lazy word.
*****
There is a point to this somewhat lengthy, but sketchy journey through the history of post-war capitalism. Hopefully, the journey demonstrates or suggests strongly that past economic events were neither random nor simply politically driven. Instead, they were the product of capitalism's internal logic; they sprang from roadblocks to and adjustments of capitalism's trajectory. As directions proved barren, new directions were taken. While it is not possible to rule out further maneuvers addressing the inherent problem of over-accumulation, the problem will not go away. It will return to haunt any attempt that presumes to conquer it once and for all. And if capitalism carries this gene, then it would be wise to look to a better economic system that promises both greater stability and greater social justice. Of course, finding that alternative begins with revisiting the two-hundred-year-old idea long favored by the working class movement: socialism. Affixed to that project is the task of rebuilding the movement, the political organization needed to achieve socialism.
As things stand in today's world, there are most often only two meager options on the regular menu: one, to save and maintain capitalism with the sacrifices of working people and the other, to save and maintain capitalism with the sacrifices of working people and a token “fair share” sacrifice on the part of corporations and the rich. Neither is very nourishing.
The first option is based on the thin gruel of “trickle down” economics and the nursery-rhyme wisdom of “a rising tide raises all boats.” It is the prescription of both of the major US political parties, Japan's Abe, the European center parties, and UK Labour.
The second option promises to save capitalism as well, but through a bogus fair distribution of hardship across all classes. This is the course offered by most European left parties and even some Communist Parties.
But a system-- capitalism-- that is genetically disposed to extreme wealth distribution and persistent crisis does not make for an appetizing meal. Instead, we need to dispense with programs that promise to better manage capitalism, as Greek Communists (KKE) like to say. That is for others who are at peace with capitalism or underestimate its inevitable failings.
The only answer to the heart failure of capitalism is to change the diet and put socialism on the menu.

Zoltan Zigedy

Military ‘Sending up the count’: How many can we save from suicide?

"Sending up the count" is something that's done when troops are out somewhere dark and dangerous, and the leader, normally up in front, wants to make sure everyone's still there. The leader whispers, "send up the count" to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next person and so on until it gets to the last person in line. That person starts the whispering back forward again, only this time, they start off by tapping the shoulder of the person in front of them saying "one". The next person taps the shoulder of the person in front of them and says "two". This continues until the person behind the leader in front taps the leader's shoulder with the number of people behind the first person in line.

We do this especially at night, when we can't see to the end of the line, or even see the next person. We do this to make sure all is well. We do this to make sure everyone knows that whoever's supposed to be there, front and back, is there. We do this to make sure those on the team are still with the team. And if someone is missing, we find them and bring them back into the group. [Emphasis mine]
 
  In the last month,  four Canadian Combat Veterans - who having survived deployment - have died at home, within days of each other. Now add one more, as in the last few days, another young Canadian Soldier ended his own life.  Although each death is being investigated, (as are the other 70+ still being investigated) initial reports are calling these deaths suicide.  I read somewhere the other day that since the current phase of this ongoing Global War On Terror, Canada has lost more than one hundred Veterans to suicide.   Quite apart from the huge gaping holes left within those families, those communities, that number is beyond staggering when you consider that thus far in Afghanistan, 158 Canadian losses have occurred in the sandbox due to enemy action.   In the US, various statistics claim that we lose 22 Veterans a day to suicide now outpacing Combat fatalities.   

 

Those are just the ones we hear about.  These numbers, which represent a horrific new 'normal' for their families after such a devastating loss, tell me that we are failing our Military men and women. 

Veterans Day (US) and Remembrance Day(Commonwealth countries) may be over for another year, but we cannot just return to 'business as usual'.   WE  - yes, all of us -  bear responsibility: our Military leadership; our politicians; our mainstream media, and yes, we civilians are failing our Military.

From where I sit, a very basic question arises:  How can we fix this?

 Dated 2009, I found this from the US:

September 23, 2009

The Sergeant and suicide prevention

Suicide prevention 100%
The theme for this year’s “Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” is “Improving our Soldiers and Families Health: A Healthy Force Combating High Risk Behaviors.” At the conclusion of this article, there are many resources/links.

 [...]

 I was saddened (but not surprised) to learn of the difficulties and problems some of the soldiers experience while deployed. I can cite many articles about the deployment cycle and its’ affect on the military, it is worth mentioning however that difficulties such as depression, suicide, aggression (some of the symptoms of PTSD) aren’t necessarily exclusive to the ‘multi-deployed’, often, it can be ‘first time’ deployers. In fact, the military is studying the ‘mind set’ of the multi-deployed v. first or second timers to examine the element that helps them cope with extreme psychological pressures and extreme battle fatigue (both mental and physical).


My son is on his fourth deployment, a platoon sergeant (SFC) with approximately 70% ‘first time’ deployers. He is extremely proactive, carefully observing, listening and taking care of his men or any others who seek or need help. The NCO is almost always the first line of defense for troops who are experiencing hardships. I know my son has moved the earth and stars to intervene on the behalf of a trooper in trouble. He is also the same one who will allow the Private on duty with him to catch some ‘sleep’ during 24 hour CQ (Desk/phone duty in the company headquarters/on base) instead of the other way around because he remembers what it was like to be the ‘sleep-less’ private.

He asks much from his men but makes sure he gives them the training, tools and personal time they need to achieve the unit’s mission objectives and succeed as individuals.

[...]


While in the process of completing this article, I read an excellent article “Going Beyond the Book Answer: How to Be a Better Leader, written by Specialist Ben Hutto. In the article,  Spc Hutto writes:



“Army leadership, as I learned it for my promotion board, is the ability to influence others by providing purpose, direction and motivation in order to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.” [Emphasis mine]

He talks about ‘leadership by the book’, and states how “the best NCOs are able to communicate the “purpose” behind a command or task no matter how mundane or difficult. ...

There is much more here, with an extensive list of Military resources available.  What strikes me as I read this, and as I listen to our men and women today, is that even with all these programmes in place, something is missing, and to this civilian the missing ingredient is leadership.   In the last few weeks I have seen videos from both the US Military and Canadian Military leadership  as a response to the ongoing - and most recent - crisis within the Military community.  Take a look here and here. 


 All well and good, but as the article linked above clearly shows, part of the solution to current issues is about leadership that is connected to our Troops.  

I asked a Military Veteran (Platoon Sargeant in the Army) friend where we should begin.  The truth he gave me is universal and, even to this civilian, makes sense:

The only thing that is going to fix this is good leadership. F******' know your troops.
 Know when they're out of character and figure out why....[...] If a soldier has any doubt that they can tell their leader anything they need to, that leader is wrong.. [...]
 If you're going to be in charge, BE in charge. It's like I've said MANY many times: the way to "fix" this is good old fashioned leadership, but the Army doesn't allow time for that anymore.


 It means returning to the old climate, where leaders led, and trained rather than sat in a bunch of CYA, meaningless politically correct powerpoints. Those briefings are knee jerk reactions to the need "to do something," by those that have no clue what really can be done.

And that real leadership I've preached so often goes against the political correctness and professional managers the out of touch generals are pushing, so they are even further out of touch with any real means of doing something.

[Yes, real leadership is teaching] ...knowing when to break s***, and when to turn it off and protect your kids.

This simple concept of leadership is not new, and to this day, real leaders understand what their role is. Just this last weekend, I found another article about leadership. While this compelling article is addressing corporate leadership, it IS written by a Veteran, and it is directly related to leadership within our Military. Every aspect echoes what the Veteran above has told me, and adds weight to how crucial leadership is to our men and women within our Military:


Care, and make sure — without being too obvious or hackneyed — that your people know you care. Fight for them, even occasionally when you know you will lose … it engenders loyalty, and sometimes you need that to hold them together when the “big” reasons for all they’re giving just aren’t enough.

No one will follow you until they know you care.  You have to be demonstrative enough that they know you’re invested — not just in the shared mission you’re pursuing together — but in their fate and future.  Know their stories.  Know the texture of their lives.  Know what makes them tick....

Go read Reflections on Leadership here. 


We are losing our men and women who know what leadership really is, and who are committed to the values of leadership.  I came across another column, also written by a Veteran, which painfully demonstrates the disconnect that so obviously exists between our Military community and the rest of society.

 Sunday, December 15, 2013
You.Them.Me.Us 

We are the expendable and the forgotten. I want to be your voice, but I wish I was able to be someone elses voice. I loved him like a brother. Deployed with him. Slept five feet from him. Taught him to surf. Laughed my ass off when he came down to the beach from the parking lot with Scottish, both with their wetsuits on backwards, looking like they lovingly got each other dressed without their grranimals for the first time. What could have been saved with the ringing of a phone and a hello instead ended with a gunshot in Warner-Robbins without the chance to say goodbye.

 When we leave the life we know and try and build something new for ourselves, we miss the brotherhood, the way that your life depends on the man or woman to your left or right. We miss the hugs that the family we were thrown into and grew to love are now replaced by empty memories of better times and the jokes that only made sense to the people who were closer than family could only get away with telling....

[...]

One veteran dies by their own hands every 65 minutes. That is  22 a day. One active duty Soldier kills themselves every 25 hours.  I do this for them. I do this for you....

 For the enormity of the pain of the loss, that most of us will never understand, go read the rest of this one. 

Epic failure by all of us.   Again:  How can we fix this?

Yes, I do mean all of us, since we as civilians must speak out,  stop enabling the failure of our politicians and the Military Chain of Command to adequately support our Military.

 Let's start with the politicians.  To anybody who is half wake, even the casual observers, it is no surprise, not news,  that our current batch of politicians are failing to fulfill their duty - as OUR elected representatives - as they daily fail to meet the sacred obligation we all have to our Military community: our Active Duty; our Veterans; our Military families.

As the most recent headlines have shone a spotlight on the Canadian losses, our politicians have rushed to the media to express their concern about what they are calling 'troubling losses'.

 Read this, an article that pulls no punches about politician's hypocrisy.

As politicians loudly proclaim that they are 'bringing the Troops home' and that 'Combat is over' (nary a whisper of the word 'Victory,' have you noticed?) our Troops and our Veterans are used as pawns in political gamesmanship.  It is our Veterans and their families who are bearing the brunt of budget cuts, in all our countries. Yes, the various Defence Departments may have publicised  transitional programs  as a measure of how they support the Troops, which is better than nothing, I suppose, since according to a survey released in  September, Canadian employers - for example -   'have little interest in hiring Veterans.'.  Meanwhile, the  Canadian government is proposing to  close Veterans Affairs Offices across the country. 

From CBC, comes this from November 29, of an interview with retired Colonel,  and former Veterans' Ombudsman,  Pat Strogan.  Hard to miss his message of our failure to our Veterans:


As Stogran says "this is not news" to those of us paying attention over the years. Neither is it news that politicians persist in pointing to the millions of dollars that have been designated to supporting our Troops and Veterans.

The fact is,  politicians can puff out their self-righteous chests and claim how much they do for our Troops and Veterans, how much money they profess to be throwing at support,  but obviously whatever they, and the Military,  are doing is not working. Period.  Don't take my word for it.   Watch the video above, and read what one of the most recent grieving families has to say about the Military "dropping the ball."

 "Dropping the ball" by both politicians and Military is not unique to Canada.  I read recently that in the UK (for example) Falkland Island Veteran suicides now outnumber those we lost in Combat, and then I read that within the current Troops/Veterans that more British soldiers commit suicide than die in battle.

 From the US, headlines like thisthis, this and this bear witness to the price that our Veterans are expected to continue to pay once they return from Combat.

As a recent editorial in the National Post said: Canada's Duty to its veterans is to act, not just talk.

It is my belief that it is the sacred duty of each of our countries to honour the Service by our Troops.

The FACTS clearly demonstrate the Canadian government is failing our current Troops and Veterans, and our Military families.  

Yes, it is true that there ARE official resources available in Canada, such as Canadian Forces Members Assistance Programme, found within the official site of Veterans Affairs Canada, and they also have a page that lists the Guide to Benefits, Programs, and Services for CAF Members and their Families

They also list a 24 Hour Crisis Line Help Line   

Despite all these services, clearly,  the crisis is going unanswered for some seeking help..  What about the families?  Regular readers here know well that I also always acknowledge that the family also serves.  As one Military Wife told me recently: As a Military family, there is no personal life; there is only the Military life.  For those families, there is the  Family Information Line - which supports the 'Military Families: The Strength Behind the Uniform'.   All terrific, of course, and the absolute minimum we should be doing.  But the numbers of suicide (both those we know of, and those we do not) tell me that these programmes are not helping everybody, and that many, many - who we may only hear about when disaster strikes - are falling through the bureaucratic cracks.

Over the years I have heard -  first-hand - from deployed Troops, and now Veterans, of how they feel our Military leadership, and their political bosses,  are failing them.  

You may remember back in 2010 I shared an open letter here written by a Military Wife who chose to be called "Anonymous".  She wrote, in part:

Monday, February 8, 2010


The families also serve: A military spouse open letter


To the American Public From a Military Spouse An Open Letter (to anyone who can help) Written by: A Military Spouse December 14, 2009

This is a open letter to the Commander in Chief, First Lady Michelle Obama, the leaders of our Armed Forces, and the American Public. If it moves you, contact your elected officials.

News stations count the casualties of the War on Terrorism; by using body counts. Those numbers represent the service members who have not come home breathing to their family members. What about those that came home breathing, but dead inside? Those who suffer daily from some form, or extreme of Depression, PTSD, TBI, or any other of a half dozen syndromes? What about the families left behind whose soldiers are not getting the medical and mental health treatment the government has promised?

Our leaders stand in front of the American public and talk about how much the war is costing, and how much help is available to our returning soldiers and their families. We throw billions upon billions of dollars to artificially hold up the banking system and the value of our dollar. Yet, we sit by and do nothing while our American families fall apart.
I am the spouse of an Active Duty Soldier;
 [...]

I have held up my end of the bargain; the Military and American Government has not. I was on the front lines during the initial invasion. My husband’s military unit deployed on the day the war started in March of 2003...

[...]

I have watched as the man I married has died inside. I have waited for him to work through his demons. ...I have asked for help from the military; I have sought help in the laws written to protect my family. I have received none....

There is much more from this "anonymous" Military spouse here.

I wish I could tell you that "Anonymous" from 2010 was just an anomoly, but I know she is not.  

Over the past decade or so since I started writing on Military matters, I have come to know and love more than a few of the Military and Veteran Families from this current Global War On Terror.  These families  are some of the most amazing people it is my privilege to know, and yes, they do share their thoughts with me.  It is through them that I see and hear what life is really like for these "Girls Behind the Men Behind the Guns."     That poem, written about the women in a long ago war, reminds us that the issues faced by women then and now, and their families, are timeless and universal.  (Yes, I did write a column on that very topic long ago, but I can't find it now.)  

 FACT is that today Military Wives (of both Active Duty and Veterans) do sometimes fall through the bureaucratic cracks, and as they fall not yards of red tape, nor government-sanctioned organisations,  can provide a lifeline.  From one long-time reader I recently got this (and yes, I DO have her permission to share) :


[...]   Behind every soldier/veteran who suffers in silence with "invisible" wounds called PTSD there is a family and loved ones who suffers in silence as well. We have all read and heard about men who were soldiers who took their own lives in the last two weeks. We are angry, upset, and want to find a way to help stop even one more soldier or veteran from taking their lives again. As we try to find away to help soldiers/veterans we also need to keep in mind their families and loved ones.
 
  It is near impossible to do if you are a wife of a soldier who is still serving...the unwritten rule is wives are seen but are not to speak. We too suffer in silence literally and there is not much help out there for us or loved ones of soldiers dealing with PTSD....

I'm very glad there are many programs for soldiers who suffer from OSI/PTSD but there needs to be something for the families of soldiers. We have issues/concerns/problems at 3 am that keep us awake and there is no one we can talk to. OSI/PTSD doesn't only come up during business hours and civilian crisis lines are not equipped to understand nor offer much help/advice. I am not the only military wife who also suffers in silence nor is our family the only one who suffer in silence! We need support as well. There needs to be help for wives/families of soldiers still serving and for families whose soldiers are no longer serving. How many suicides will it take for someone to start helping us!...

[...]

Wives can only seek out so much help.  They have to be careful not to draw attention to their husband's PTSD for fear the military will catch on and put their husband's military career at risk. To this day being an active soldier seeking treatment for PTSD you run a very high chance of ending your military career even if your PTSD is considered mild.  Your personal life is not personal when you are a Military family. 

The soldier can lose his job for doing what his employer,  the government,  is asking him to do:  seek help for his PTSD.

FACT: although this Wife is anonymous, I have heard over the years of more than a few Troops afraid of seeking help because it is a "career killer."   I may not be directly connected to our Military in this current GWOT (although I do come from a family with centuries of Military service, and have been  directly affected by the generational ripples of suicide.)  I have heard many times over these last few years of how reaching out to access help has resulted in an extremely negative career impact.  There is a stigma that kicks a Soldier (or his family) who reaches out for help from the official Military programmes.


Given the escalating number of suicides, I asked another Military Wife - a long time friend - for her thoughts on what needs to be done to fix our struggling Military families.  From her I got this (again shared with permission):
 

A veteran should get every stinking possible piece of assistance to make sure they are at peace with the wars they have had to endure.
There is a way to do 24/7 help. At no cost to the veteran. I did it,  and it ended up becoming the Vet Hut Resource Centers locally here.  Just gather up some volunteer-friends, and make a phone tree. Take the phone tree to the local VA-type deal you have, and let them know your group  is willing to be a 24/7 crisis call group to aide veterans who suffer from PTSD and suicidal problems. 

Then leave it with your version of the VFW and the American Legion (or whatever your local equivalent is) and so forth,  until all groups of veteran support centers have the phone tree. Then be prepared for the phone to never ever ever stop ringing.

IT WORKS THOUGH! Then,  when the calls are too many, you take ALL that statistical information you have gathered about the number of calls, durations, and crisis problems without mentioning names etc, and go to your local veteran support centers and show them IN THEIR FACE how vital a small office of round-the-clock crisis call support is for the suffering veterans. Not just ideas. Empirical theoretical studies that proved successful.  It does work. The only problem is finding volunteers to actually answer the phone constantly. 

This workable plan echoes what the first Military Wife quoted above calls for.

Pretty basic, huh, and doesn't require a gazillion dollars.  I have seen this ingenuity, and this front-line commitment to 'knowing your Troops, looking out for them' extend into the Veteran community, and their families. too. Just as in a Combat zone it is a matter of life and death to know that you can count on the battle buddy to your left and your right to 'cover your six,' so I see Veterans and families applying that after deployment.    Veterans - sick and tired of waiting for governments' broken promises/contracts to be honoured - have created support groups specifically designed and run by Veterans - for Veterans.

In Canada, for example, there are Veteran groups that reach out in the way only a fellow Veteran can, as they continue their battles on the home-front.  There is:

The Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Their name says it all, as they advocate, both in front of the mainstream media, and behind the scenes among the politicians, for all Veterans.  I also found a very informative article in the Ottawa Citizen where they quote directly from CVA on the history and meaning of our sacred obligation to our Veterans.

Military Minds

Veterans sharing their common experiences, and solutions,  to  the issues they all face.  

VETS - Veterans Emergency Transition Services

 "...formed to reach out and help the many of Canada’s veterans who had not made successful transitions from their military careers to healthy civilian lives...."

 Our Duty - which also has a petition that I urge you to sign, calling on the government to give our Veterans the support they have earned.

These are but a small sampling of Veteran-led groups in Canada that talk MilSpeak. 

These groups DO work, DO pick up the dropped ball that governments and Military bureaucracies fumble. The Military Veteran  friend quoted above reinforces the bond found among Veteran groups:


Sadly this generation ignores the most obvious “support groups” already established. In an electronic world, VFW’s and American Legions are brick and mortar gathering places for Veterans It’s not all cheap beer and war stories, but an employment network of established Veterans that made their way through the post-Military world. It is just sitting in the company of those that “know” without saying a word, what a Veteran has been through, and is going through, even if the overt topic is an argument about the Iron Bowl, Superbowl, NASCAR, World Series, or World Cup. 


 For several years now, in Canada,  Equitas has been pursuing a class action suit representing Veterans who have been severely short-changed under the New Veterans Charter of 2006.  All Canadians who support our Troops, our Veterans and their families should check that site out.  Let it be noted that the Canadian federal government has spent thousands of dollars, in legal fees,  fighting this lawsuit; money that could have helped a lot of Veterans.  However, also comes news,  recently,  of an individual Soldier who has submitted  his own  $20-million statement of claim with the Federal Court. [ He...] alleges the Canadian military did not adequately address his post-traumatic stress disorder. 

How sad is this that our Veterans have to fight the governments when they return home.  Sure, the politicians may say they "support our Troops" but talk is cheap.  In the week prior to Remembrance Day,  Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberals, challenged the Prime Minister to honour our commitments to Veterans. 

Our politicians continue to fail our Veterans, and our Veterans continue to do at home what they did in the sandbox: fight for rights, but now they are fighting for their own rights.  I came across a stunning statistic out of the US which claimed huge numbers of homeless and hungry Veterans.    How can this be, that in NYC, for example and according to a recent article,  thousands of Veterans are having to eat at soup kitchens???  That is just one city, and I have no way of verifying the truth of their claims. However, I wrote back in October of how the cuts to Military budgets in the UK are swelling the number of homeless Veterans there.  Again, at least one volunteer group is working tirelessly to address that very real issue: Soldiers Off the Street. 



Thank God there are these volunteer groups throughout Canada, the US and the UK who stand up for each other, while the fat-cat politicians obviously remain sitting down on their job. Something in the system is very broken, and regardless of the actual number, if there is even one Veteran living on the streets, that is an epic fail, in my opinion.


So what about the current batch of politicians who appear to be clueless about Military matters, and whose ignorance woefully fails our Troops and our Veterans? As things stand right now, not one of the leaders in the UK, Canada, or the US has served in our Military.  They have no clue what it means to BE a Veteran. As I have watched our Troops and Veterans in the Global War on Terror, I have been anticipating that some of them would enter the political arena, but this is proving to be a very slow process.   In Canada, as of May 2013, out of 4,210 Parliamentarians, a paltry 14 are listed as having Military Service (and one of those is an Honorary.)  That is 0.3325416% in control of our Defence Department, all our Military policies..

From the US, I found this dated 2012:




And yes, there was this underneath the graph:


Military service by politicians is quickly nearing zero. Perhaps this is why many of our politicians are so trigger-happy these days. No one has fought and no one knows just what they are doing when they commit our soldiers overseas.

Ya think?  What this underscores for me is that we need more politicians who ARE Veterans, who know what being in the Military actually means. When I was discussing this with another Veteran friend, they were quick to remind me of  Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan both being non-Veterans.  Good point, but I would also suggest that  both of those leaders, even as civilians, demonstrated their governmental, bureaucratic support for our Troops and Veterans.   The Troops then knew they were supported. The world was a very different place then.  Unlike today, where our political leaders continue to prove that they don't *get it*,  even as they pay lip service to 'support the Troops' when absolutely necessary, it seems to me that Troops from the Reagan/Thatcher era never doubted the support from those leaders. It also seems to me, through the lens of hindsight, that Reagan and Thatcher were smart enough to listen to our Military leaders and defer to their expertise and experience (unlike the current crop of political leaders.)

As another Veteran friend (yes, I know a few!) pointed out to me recently: another part of the difference is the very low fatality rate in our current and recent wars. These low fatality rates are in large part due to military successes in trauma treatment, so that fewer troops have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan than on single days of earlier wars.

This obviously means that we have more Veterans, returning as Wounded Warriors, who have earned all the benefits that we as a society are obligated to provide. Our Veterans today,  who would most assuredly have died in previous wars, are more visible, and yes, they are dealing with long-term issues that we, as a society,  are failing to adequately and effectively address..

One of those issues is the terrible belief by some of our Troops and Veterans that the only option they have is to choose suicide.  

As I heard somewhere recently:  suicide is a symptom that becomes an unacceptable solution.  


The Veteran friend initially quoted above had this to say about suicidal Veterans:

The reality is that suicidal veterans sometimes get raided because they admit they have a gun, who the hell is going to call that line?

 Suicide is not prevented by strangers. It's prevented by friends, who notice their friend needs help, before it becomes suicidal ideation.


Powerpoints can’t fix this. Generals can’t fix this. Only individuals can fix this.

 Too often civilians and even fellow veterans say and do all the wrong things. When a veteran’s life begins to derail, often those around him withdraw, making it worse. Often, those “friends” he had before the war, suddenly have nothing in common with him. Instead of just listening, they’re more concerned with their own, in his eyes, trivial, problems.


But, when veterans see broken promises, such as promises that “getting help won’t be held against you,” while those that do get help get screwed by the very military that makes the promise, they’re not going to get help. And getting (real) help isn’t seeing a shrink that has never been there, done that. It is finding someone that can help him find his own way through the challenges he’s facing, those challenges that seem to be becoming insurmountable.

 Veterans are withdrawing from society, because increasingly society is self-absorbed and disconnected from what is important to our veterans.


A column from War On Terror News in 2009 reminds that this is not a recent phenomenon, but that within the GWOT environment, we must find solutions:

June 09, 2009

Victimizing Our Veterans: Suicidal Struggles

As the Army struggles to stem the tide of rising suicides, it seems to be at a loss to how to overcome the stigmas attached to seeking help for the underlying causes.  It seems to understand that the Warrior Culture is adverse to asking for help but while the leadership is truly seeking a means to turn the tide that has brought suicide rates up to the same level as the civilian population, it has not realized the self-destructive tactic of encouraging victimization.

The military leadership continues to search with noble motivation for a solution, currently encouraging Soldiers to demonstrate strength by admitting mental wounds.  But it describes the symptoms of PTSD and depression as causes of suicide.  It describes these as mental illnesses, even as it has created less boring mandatory briefings for the troops to endure.  Shrinks continue to prescribe medications to overcome chemical inbalances that lead to the symptoms, not the causes.


It has however realized that the illnesses which are symptoms are caused by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, but not what the root causes are.  The Military creates Warriors capable, motivated, and ready to overcome all challenges, but military life and tours of duty can be a challenge to overcoming those challenges.  Too often, the military's answer to a challenge is to add paperwork, briefings, and responsibilities to all Troops when it identifies that the Troops are buckling under the burdens. 


The military has a habit of taking a simple, successful program and developing it into a cumbersome, complicated problem.  There are so many examples of this that it becomes redundant to point to AAR's, OER's, Counseling Statements, NCOER's, and weeks upon weeks of mandatory briefings.  Each of these has a noble, positive purpose that once discovered was forcefed into a paperwork feeding frenzy that destroy the purpose itself in too many cases.



Muttered too often these days is "If I have to sit through one more 'suicide awareness' briefing, I'm going to kill myself."  Those uttering such phrases are not suicidal but would prefer to train and tired of the training distractors that eat up their time.  They are often fans of their own sarcastic irony, even as they often realize the danger of being referred to a shrink for their "suicidal tendencies."


Yet, the Army has more than once not only cancelled training, but also pulled Troops out of the field, during training exercises in knee-jerk reaction to correct issues.  In Roughneck Nine-One, SFC Antenori tells of just such an event from approximately 2002, as Fort Bragg responded to a rash of negative actions by returning Troops that led to his SF team being brought back in at the very climax of an exercise.  More recently, FT Campbell Troops were stood down for 3 straight days of "suicide awareness."


Overcoming depression for a Warrior is not a matter of victimizing the Warrior.  It is not a matter of taking pills.  It is not a matter of justifying their feelings.  For a Warrior, it is a plan of action to overcome the challenges that have led to the loss of control.  [Emphasis mine] A Warrior often trudges through the bogs of mud mentally and physically, despite conditions that would cause others to quit.  As the upper eschelons see the Warrior successfully complete extraordinary missions, it adds to the taskings, it adds to the weight a Warrior must physically and mentally carry....


I could copy and paste all of this article, but instead would suggest you go read it here.  For all the commonsense within it, it would be really helpful if some Generals also read it:




But with the advancement of communications, a General can watch a squad level engagement on the other side of the world in real time.  The danger comes in when he tries to command that battle from the safety of his office....


Leadership, again. From where I sit, it is lack of leadership, both in the Military and governments that is sorely lacking.  Our Troops, our Veterans and their families are paying the price. 

 

Not only our Troops, but our Veterans, are missing the 'old style' leadership; leadership that undoubtedly saves their lives while in Combat, and can certainly save their lives once they become Veterans.

Today we see the old school Military leadership being deliberately being purged, as our politicians continue to declare - ignorantly and shortsightedly in my opinion - that "war is  over." NO, it is not.
Still, our Military leaders, who know Combat first-hand, are leaving.  Don't believe me?  Take a look:


 DISTURBING: The List Of Purged Military High Officers Under Obama 

 And there is this: [US] Army will cut almost 2,000 captains, majors

Where does all this leave our Veterans?  In the same place as they were in the front-lines of the GWOT: relying on their battle buddies from the sandbox, the battle buddies who have been there, done that, and know what hell they have survived.

As another Veteran friend of mine recently commented:  We are not broken.  We are changed.

Who better to understand, and address those changes than another Veteran?  As the politicians, and the Military leadership who has perhaps never seen Combat continue in their failure to understand, and implement, real help that could save lives, our Veterans are 'sending up the count', and adapting what worked in Combat into their post-combat lives.



Take a look at what Sgt Brian Harding has to say..


"We are reaching out to find guys who maybe have fallen through the cracks."

To this civilian, that even one of our Troops, our Veterans falls through the cracks is unacceptable. 

 


I recently heard Canadian former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier interviewed on CBC radio, and his insights reinforce what Sgt Brian Harding and any other Veteran I know has said:



Hillier, who also served in Afghanistan as the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul in 2004, said he suffered only minuscule symptoms of PTSD when he returned home, having the occasional dream or waking up at night.



He credits his strong circle of friends and family for making him feel healthy and comfortable upon his return, but warns that not all soldiers are so lucky.



His final message to troops is to not be alone this holiday season.



"Don't be alone. Do not be alone over this period of time.

"If you've got a problem, we learned long ago in combat that there is no embarrassment in admitting a weakness. No embarrassment in approaching somebody else," Hillier said.



"You know, we entrust our battle buddies with our very lives on the battlefield, this is now a different battlefield, so trust them. Go talk to your battle buddies. Talk to them and tell them you've got a problem. [Emphasis mine]


There is much more here, which includes a link to the radio interview I mentioned above.  If you haven't read Rick Hillier's biography, A  Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War,  I highly recommend it.



As Pat Strogan says in the video above, these issues faced by our Troops and our Veterans are not just 'flavours of the day...there will be more suicides.'   These issues our Troops and Veterans face on a daily basis MUST be addressed in the months and years to come.  To do any less is to dishonour each and every one of our Military and their families. It is an epic fail by all of us. 

 

 Weeks ago, as I decided to write this column, I planned only to write a one-off.  However, I have been reminded of the enormity of the failure of all of us to actively 'Support OUR Troops'...  I deliberately say 'all of us' because from where I sit, there is more than enough failure to go around for all of us.



Despite my familial ties to our Military, and my close 'family' ties to many in the current Global War On Terror, as a civilian, no, I do not have the authority of our men and women who have risked and sometimes given all in Combat;  nor would I ever claim such authority.  However, after years of caring about our Troops, our Veterans, and our Military families - of watching and listening to them -  I maintain my belief that we as civilians do have an irrefutable responsibility to stand with them. 



We all must listen,  learn and be educated by those most knowledgeable, our Combat Veterans. If we truly mean to  respect and honour the Service and Sacrifice of our Troops, Veterans and their families, we need to do more than pay lip service. To say we 'support the Troops' is not enough.  We ALL need to walk the walk.  We need to demand our politicians also honour our Military Family. We need to address this 'unacceptable solution,' which - even during the course of my researching and writing this one article -  has claimed more lives from our Military Family.  


.
WE must not fail.  Period.


[cross-posted from Assoluta Tranquillita ]

Blowback: When Secret Plans Go Bad

For two decades the US government claimed that its decision to work for the overthrow of Afghanistan's government in the final days of the 1970s was a response to the invasion of Soviet troops. But in January 1998, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Adviser at the time, finally admitted the truth: covert US intervention began months before the USSR sent in troops.
"That secret operation was an excellent idea," he bragged. "The effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap."
During an interview with the French publication, Le Nouvel Observateur, which somehow never made it into US media, Brzezinski was grilled about the role he played in aiding the Mujahadeen. Former CIA Director Robert Gates had recently claimed in his memoir, From the Shadows, that US intelligence operations began six months before the Soviet intervention.
"According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980," Brzezinski noted, "that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention."
Seizing this opening, the interviewer suggested that perhaps Brzezinski intended to provoke the Soviets into war. "It isn't quite that," the former National Security Advisor replied cagily. "We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would." Nevertheless, when the Soviets tried to justify their invasion with the claim that they were responding to a secret war bankrolled by the US, few people believed them. 
Did he regret anything? "Regret what?" Brzezinski shot back. "That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet Empire."
But what about arming Islamic fundamentalists who might become future terrorists? Brzezinski's reply to that was brazen. "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?" The jury is out on such questions.
Brzezinski's strategy did net some obvious results. The 1980s conflict in Afghanistan, provoked by US leaders as a geopolitical move in the Great Game, led to almost two million deaths and sparked the Taliban’s rise. Afghanistan became open territory for drug traffickers and energy companies eager to build oil and gas pipelines. Meanwhile, millions of Afghanis, including many who once worked with the CIA, paid a price. Eventually, the country served as a base for Osama bin Laden's crusade against the US, Israel, and Arab regimes in the Middle East.
Another prime example of covert manipulation going drastically wrong is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known as Zaire during the 37-year reign of Mobutu Sese Seko, and before that the Belgian Congo. In 1960, despite Belgian predictions that European rule would continue for another century, the Congo declared its independence, and out of a largely peaceful revolution emerged a charismatic leader, Patrice Lumumba, who became the nation's first Prime Minister. But US policy-makers considered Lumumba, actually militant nationalist, a communist sympathizer, and therefore a threat to vital interests.
Located in Africa's heartland, the Congo was vital for its vast mineral resources; one of the world's largest copper and industrial diamond producers, it also had gold, manganese, zinc, cobalt, and silver. To be blunt, it was a key source of raw materials for the emerging military-industrial complex. Its uranium, one of the only known sources during World War II, was used in the first atomic bombs.
Even today, it isn't completely clear what sealed Lumumba's fate; some say it was his attempt to have UN troops step in to deal with the violence breaking out between tribes and political parties. In the richest province, Katanga, Moise Tshombe had declared himself ruler, attempted to secede, and recruited Belgian, French and South African mercenaries to fight the new government. However it was decided, Lumumba became a target for removal in the CIA's "golden age" of destabilization campaigns. After less than a year in office, he was deposed in a coup led by Mobuto, an Israeli-trained paratrooper who had Belgian and US backing. Mobuto, then called Colonel, turned Lumumba over the Tshombe, his archenemy.
Some details of Lumumba's assassination remain mysterious to this day. But in 2000 evidence surfaced that President Dwight Eisenhower may have directly ordered the CIA to "eliminate" him. The evidence came from Robert Johnson, who took notes at an August 18, 1960, White House meeting between Eisenhower and his national security advisers on the Congo crisis. Johnson recalled the president turning to CIA Director Allen Dulles, "in the full hearing of all those in attendance, and saying something to the effect that Lumumba should be eliminated." Eisenhower had strict rules for reports filed on National Security Council meetings: no direct quotations. With Johnson's revelation, the reason became only too clear.
Questions also surround the precise chain of events. But according to Lugo de Witte, a Flemish expert on Africa, Belgian officers probably implemented the plan. A document signed in 1960 by Harold Aspremont Lynden, Belgium's minister for Africa, announced that "the main objective to pursue, in the interests of the Congo, Katanga and Belgium, is clearly the final elimination of Lumumba." After his arrest by Mobutu's forces on January 17, 1961, on orders from Belgium's foreign minister, Lumumba was transferred to Katanga, tortured in the presence of Belgian officials, and executed under the supervision of a Belgian captain.
The new nation, whose artificial boundaries had been set in negotiations between Belgium, Britain, France and Portugal, continued to hover at the edge of civil war for several more years.
The US stuck with Mobutu until the bitter end, propping him up as part of its Cold War strategy. As "president for life," he stashed a huge fortune in Swiss banks. It didn’t matter, as long as he was an anti-communist bulwark. His rapaciousness ultimately spread throughout the country's bureaucracy, especially the army. Still, no discouraging words from his overseers.
Much of his loot came from the US; he even pocketed CIA cash provided to support "contras" at work in Angola. None of this made any difference. Mobutu was a "friend," part of an elite club that included Noriega in Panama, Marcos in the Philippines, Diem and Thieu in Vietnam, Pinochet in Chile, Somoza in Nicaragua, Suharto in Indonesia, and the Shah in Iran.
And what did this ally do to his country? According to the World Bank, by the late 1990s the economy had shrunk to its 1958 level, despite a tripling of the population. Public finances were a mess, the national currency was worthless, and the State was insolvent. Upon its independence, the Congo had the highest literacy rate in Africa; by the time Mobutu was forced out in 1997, little more than half of all children were even attending schools. When open at all, they didn't have textbooks and the students often had to sit on the floor. Even the desks had been looted.
In the early 90s, Mobutu announced that he would end his one party state. But the transition never began, promised elections were canceled, and repression continued. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations looked the other way, while mainstream media continued a policy of self-imposed ignorance. Only after his departure did the news that Mobutu was a brutal tyrant begin to reach the general public. By this time, one of the continent's most promising nations was hobbled and deeply divided. A dictator had finally fallen, but the culprits who put him there, some even expressing belated outrage, escaped with impunity.
Iraq: Creating the next enemy
When pre-9/11 covert operations are discussed, officials and pundits are quick to claim that, as bad as things sound, that’s "ancient history." Things were different during the Cold War, when beating communism excused some extreme, often unsavory tactics. But the logic is also reversed to argue, things are different now, in order to excuse the same cynical manipulation and disregard for human life.
An instructive example followed the fall of the Soviet Union, when a credible new enemy was needed. US policy makers quickly turned their eyes toward Iraq, fresh from victory after an eight-year war with Iran and well-equipped with modern French and Soviet weapons. Saddam Hussein was at the peak of his regional popularity.
Based on the theory that domination of the Gulf region by a Hussein-led Iraq could jeopardize access to oil supplies, Colin Powell, then chairing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called on General H. Norman Schwarzkopf in late 1989 to prepare a blueprint for combat. Schwartzkopf, who would lead Operation Desert Storm a year later, had just taken charge of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), an expanded version of the Rapid Deployment Force established under President Carter.
In May 1990, the National Security Council released a white paper that cited Iraq, and Hussein personally, as "the optimum contenders to replace the Warsaw Pact," using that claim as a justification for increased military spending. Meanwhile, at an emergency Arab summit held in Baghdad, Hussein called for a united front against outside aggression, more Arab coordination, and increased aid to the Jordan and the Palestinian Intifada. In the foreign policy establishment, these were interpreted as fighting words. Four months later Bush drew his line in the sand.
Hussein may well have been tricked into war by repeated assurances that the US felt no obligation to come to Kuwait's defense. It may sound like just one more conspiracy theory. However, this time there is a transcript to support the idea. On July 25, 1990, eight days before the outbreak of fighting between Iraq and Kuwait, US Ambassador April Glaspie held a taped meeting with Hussein, who apparently hoped to make sure the US would stay neutral and not intervene. Obviously, he understood that Saudi Arabia was Washington's key Arab ally, and hosted a significant US military presence in the Gulf. No credible evidence that Iraq planned to attack the Saudis has surfaced.
During their talk, Glaspie clearly suggested to Hussein that the Bush administration understood Iraq's point of view and did not want to meddle in an Arab dispute. At one point, she said, "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait...we see the Iraqi point of view that the measures taken by the U.A.E. and Kuwait is, in the final analysis, parallel to military aggression against Iraq."
A week later, that proved to be very bad advice.
Protecting the cover story
One covert operation that sparked some outrage at the time was the US training of Indonesian commandos accused of torturing and killing civilians. Despite a congressional ban in the 1990s, the Pentagon exploited a legal loophole that allowed "human rights training" to provide instruction in demolition, sniper techniques, psychological operations, and "military operations in urban terrain." The targets included workers who had lost their jobs during Indonesia’s economic crisis, students opposing President Suharto's military-dominated regime, and East Timorese who wanted independence.
Until support for Suharto became completely untenable, the Clinton Administration defended this as "engagement with an important country" that served US national interests.
Less publicized but equally deadly was US involvement in low-intensity war in Mexico. Under the guise of anti-drug operations, the US provided hundreds of million to Mexico for arms and training beginning around 1995. This included the US training of the Air-Mobile Special Forces Group (GAFE), created in direct response to the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas. After courses at Fort Bragg, GAFE units went on to kidnap, torture, and kill government opponents. Wearing hoods, they would enter homes in the middle of the night to surprise their targets, and raid hotels and restaurants without presenting search warrants.
Although responsibility for a massacre of 45 civilians in Acteal in December, 1997 couldn't be traced directly to GAFE, the incident clearly reflected counter-insurgency lessons learned at the School of the Americas (SOA) in Georgia and other US training centers. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest who spent more than two decades trying to close the SOA, repeatedly pointed out that the insurgents under attack were usually reformers, human rights workers, and peasants who opposed repressive governments. Despite platitudes about human rights, the US continued to use the same tactics that had marked earlier interventions in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
What we hear about such "humanitarian" intervention is usually just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, 24-hour news and social media promote the illusion that there are few secrets left. Reality is another matter. Assisting the CIA, front groups like the National Endowment for Democracy have funneled funds to countless so-called insurgencies for years. Since declaring Islamic fundamentalism the post-communist global menace, the Agency is known to have run covert operations in most Middle-East states, from Libya and Iran to the Sudan.
Not so safe or secret anymore
While visiting London to promote his memoirs, Henry Kissinger once stormed out of a widely heard radio interview when the questioning turned to his complicity in war crimes. Jeremy Paxman, host of a Radio 4 program, asked the former secretary of state whether he felt like a fraud for getting a Nobel Peace Prize after plotting a coup in Chile and orchestrating slaughter in Cambodia. Kissinger fumed and denied everything, of course, charging that his host was woefully misinformed. But later the same day, he declined to show up for a BBC roundtable discussion.
Kissinger isn't the only former leader who sometimes gets nervous about accountability. Back when former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was fighting extradition to Spain, other potential defendants fretted about the precedent it might set. And the Clinton administration did not help. Instead, it released documents on Chile that not only confirmed what many suspected -- the US actively promoted the coup against Allende and sanctioned the subsequent repression -- but also sparked a hailstorm of related revelations.
The administration's motives were not exactly pure. Bowing to pressure from a Spanish judge, human rights groups, and the families of victims, Clinton had opted to "declassify what we can, so that we can say we did our share." That’s how a White House aide explained it. But the potential to embarrass political opponents didn't escape notice. With Texas Governor George W. Bush emerging as the Republican presidential front-runner, the thought was that his father's connection to Pinochet's crimes could become a factor, or at least a useful attack point, during the 2000 election. It didn’t turn out that way.
Questions persist about what the first President Bush knew and did while serving as CIA chief in the mid-1970s, a period during which Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and his US co-worker Ronni Moffitt were assassinated in Washington. At the time suspicions pointed to Chile's intelligence arm, DINA, a sponsor of international terror.
According to declassified documents, however, we also know that Kissinger, Nixon, and CIA Director Richard Helms ordered a coup even before Allende assumed office. Kissinger and Alexander Haig worked out the details, described in an October 15, 1970, memo. "It is the firm and consistent policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup," wrote CIA Deputy Director of Plans Thomas Karamessines, who coordinated the operation. "We are to continue to generate maximum pressure toward this end utilizing every appropriate resource. It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG and American hand be well hidden."
Two years later, their goal was achieved. In a victory report, Naval attache Patrick Ryan called September 11, 1972, "our D-day," noting that the coup "was close to perfect." In subsequent years, the State Department received detailed reports on the escalating death toll under Pinochet. Yet, in another memo Kissinger tells the general that the US is "sympathetic with what you are trying to do here."
Years later, as Pinochet faced charges for murder, torture, disappearances, rape, and genocide, the question naturally arose: Why not Kissinger and those responsible for mass mayhem elsewhere? If more documents were declassified, the list of possible defendants would undoubtedly grow.
Even though he ultimately escaped punishment, the Chilean dictator's case did help peel away the facade of deniability, exposing high officials who provided weapons, training, financial support, and direct guidance for some of the worst modern violations of political and civil rights. Given that, is it any surprise the US backed out of an International Criminal Court (ICC), which was established in part to prosecute powerful individuals when domestic courts fail to act?
The treaty establishing the ICC was adopted in 1998, and subsequently ratified by many countries. At the time, human rights groups considered it the most important advance for the cause of international justice since the creation of the UN. But the US refused to sign at first, joining such notable naysayers as Russia, China, Israel, Iraq, and much of the Middle East.
Officially, the US objection was that, as the world's pre-eminent (and most resented) power, it might be subjected to "frivolous" prosecutions. There were also suspicions about the UN itself. By delaying, US officials hoped to obtain a guarantee that no US citizen accused of war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity could ever be brought before the court. In a letter to European Union foreign ministers, Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State under Clinton, implied that if her country did not get its way, it might withdraw from international peace-keeping and humanitarian missions. Pentagon officials went further, threatening to pull forces out of Europe.
In December 2000, the US finally signed, leaving Libya as the only country officially antagonistic the ICC's creation. But shortly after taking office, Bush II revived the old objections, suggesting that the court could expose US soldiers and officials abroad to politically motivated war crimes prosecutions. After 9/11 and the military response in Afghanistan, that looked more like a possibility. Thus, plans proceeded to reshape US relations with the UN. In May 2002, the administration informed the world body that it was nullifying its treaty signature. It was an unprecedented step; no other nation had ever before voided a signature on a binding international treaty. For many countries, the decision was a clear early sign of resurgent US unilateralism.
On the bright side, Kissinger did squirm a bit. Even Bush I sensed that he might not be immune. Predictably, the ex-president called the case against Pinochet "a travesty of justice." Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also became edgy, making discreet inquiries to Britain's Interior Ministry on the likelihood of being arrested while traveling abroad. As an old friend of Pinochet, the Iron Lady was worried about being charged as a war criminal for her actions in Northern Ireland and the Falklands.
The exposure of war crimes by former high officials like Kissinger, although it usually comes decades late and rarely leads to prosecution, does suggest that it may one day be possible to get at the truth about covert schemes and schemers. For Bill Clinton, meddling in Mexico and the Sudan, not to mention in Iraq and Kosovo, could prove damning if more of those stories were revealed.
In May 2002, eight months after 9/11, Bush II almost faced that same problem: premature exposure, in this case of what he actually knew and did before the attacks, could have led to embarrassing revelations about how and why the "war on terror" was launched. But no such luck. It still takes at least a generation, plus political convenience, to get far beyond the veil of disinformation.

Merkel in NSA’s Crosshairs


Merkel in NSA's Crosshairs

by Stephen Lendman

Nations spying on each other is longstanding. Friends do it on foes. Allies do it on each other.

Washington's Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Israel "conducts the most aggressive espionage operation against the United States of any US ally."

The Pentagon accused Israel of "actively engag(ing) in military and industrial espionage in the United States."

US national security officials consider Israel at times a genuine counterintelligence and espionage threat. France perhaps feels the same way about America. Add Germany to the list.

On October 24, the Washington Post headlined "Germans launch probe into allegations of US spying."

Reports about NSA listening to her phone calls is the latest diplomatic row. Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle summoned US ambassador John Emerson to explain.

"For us, spying on close friends and partners is totally unacceptable," he said. "This undermines trust and this can harm our friendship. We need the truth now."

Merkel said "trust needs to be reestablished" with Washington.
German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere called what's gone on "really bad. We can't simply return to business as usual."

White House press secretary Jay Carney lied saying:

"The US is not monitoring and will not monitor communications of the chancellor."

At the same time, he added:

"We are not going to comment publicly on every specified, alleged intelligence activity." 

"And, as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations." 

"We have diplomatic relations and channels that we use in order to discuss these issues that have clearly caused some tension in our relationships with other nations around the world, and that is where we were having those discussions."

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf lied claiming Washington isn't involved in "some big dragnet." What's ongoing "are intelligence activities…with a defined purpose," she said.

"We want to make sure that we’re striking the proper balance between the legitimate security concerns and countering legitimate security threats, and protecting the privacy that all people around the world think is important, and we certainly do as well."

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is a confessed perjurer. He admitted lying to Congress about NSA spying. On October 22, he said:

"Recent articles published in the French newspaper Le Monde contain inaccurate and misleading information regarding US foreign intelligence activities."  

"The allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million “recordings of French citizens’ telephone data” is false."

"While we are not going to discuss the details of our activities, we have repeatedly made it clear that the United States gathers intelligence of the type gathered by all nations."  

"The US collects intelligence to protect the nation, its interests, and its allies from, among other things, threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

"The United States values our longstanding friendship and alliance with France and we will continue to cooperate on security and intelligence matters going forward."

Merkel is currently under fire for mishandling earlier reports about NSA spying. According to German Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Peter Schaar:

"The report that the chancellor's mobile phone was also tapped shows how absurd the attempt was to end the debate about the surveillance of everyday communications in this country."

"In light of the new revelations, it was downright irresponsible not to have pushed harder to get to the truth."

Schaar referred to German Chancellery chief of staff Ronald Pofalla's August statement. At the time, he downplayed clear evidence about NSA targeting Germany and other EU nations.

Green Party parliamentary floor leader Anton Hofreiter demanded Merkel "make public what she knew and when."

Does she or doesn't she know NSA monitors her cell phone calls? Publicly she calls it a "grave breach of trust."

Other EU leaders expressed outrage. They threatened to delay trade negotiations. European parliament president Martin Schulz said:

"This is a moment when we should pause and think over how the free trade pact is being approached. For us, a line has been reached." US intelligence agencies are "out of control."

German officials launched an official investigation. On Wednesday, Merkel spoke to Obama. He lied saying Washington "is not monitoring and will not monitor" her communications.

Major Italian newspapers said a parliamentary committee was told Washington monitored internal telecommunications, emails and text messages.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta raised the issue with John Kerry. The Secretary of State lied saying Obama's goal was striking a balance between security and privacy.

Foreign leaders protest too much. They know more than they admit. Official outrage is mostly for domestic consumption. Allies spying on each other isn't new. 

According to former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner:

"Let's be honest. We eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don't have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous."

At the same time, security expert Constanze Stelzenmueller said there's a "general assumption that certain kinds of people were off limits."

"No one has a problem with spying on the bad guys. But when you start spying on your partner in leadership, who is presumably not a terrorist, that raises a lot of questions about trust."

London's Guardian said "(w)ith each leak, American soft power hemorrhages, and hard power threatens to seep away with it."

Merkel is known as a frequent cell phone communicator. She often sends text messages that way.

Last summer, her upgrading it to a modified BlackBerry Z10 made national headlines.

On October 24, Der Spiegel headlined "Frenemies: Spying on Allies Fits Obama's Standoffish Profile," saying:

Diplomats aren't surprised about US spy agencies monitoring allies like Merkel. She and Obama aren't close friends. Obama "failed to foster close relationships with other heads of state," said Der Spiegel.

It "caus(ed) much frustration around the world."

"Complaints about Merkel's 'lost friend' are misplaced. Obama doesn't want to be a friend."

The atmosphere during a recent unnamed EU head of state Washington visit was called "frosty by those in the entourage." 

"Obama didn't find the time for even a little small talk. (I)t seemed to some like an appointment with a lawyer."

Obama was "initially uncomfortable" about Washington's so-called "special relationship" with Britain.

An unnamed African head of state remarked after visiting Washington that he longed for the days of George Bush. At least with him, he said, you knew where you stood.

Israel was upset that Obama didn't visit during his first term. He's upset other heads of state.

"So much non-diplomacy is new among US presidents," said Der Spiegel. Reagan wooed Margaret Thatcher.

GHW Bush confided in Helmut Kohl. Clinton was close to Tony Blair. GW Bush had "a whole team of 'buddies.' " He entertained them at his ranch.

In 2010, Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl said Obama has no close friends among world leaders. "But what for," asked Der Spiegel? "He has the NSA."

On October 23, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) headlined "NSA Spying in Congress: Stop the Intelligence Committee and What to Watch for in Upcoming Bills."

Congress was busy during the 16 day government shutdown. Various NSA related bills are being considered. A "still secret" House and Senate intelligence one aims to continue unrestrained telecommunications monitoring.

It'll "likely provide some window dressing transparency, while shoring up the legal basis for the spying," said EFF.

Since Snowden's documents were released, House and Senate intelligence committee chairs Rep. Mike Rogers (R. MI) and Senator Diane Feinstein defended NSA spying.

"While we have opinions about what the best way forward is, the only sure way to not go backwards, or seal the status quo into stone, is to stop the bill currently in the works by the Intelligence Committee chairs," said EFF.

It wants congressional legislation enacted against mass spying. It should either reverse Patriot Act provision 215 or act in some other way.

Section 215 pertains to alleged suspects. It authorizes government access to "any tangible item." 

Its language is vague and deceptive. It permits meta-data-mining.
Virtually anything can be monitored. Warrantless searches without probable cause are authorized. 

Information obtained can include financial records and transactions, education and medical records, phone conversations, emails, other Internet use, and whatever else Washington wants access to.

At issue are serious constitutional violations. First and Fourth Amendment rights are compromised. Other constitutional protections are at risk.

Anyone can be spied on for any reason or none at all. No probable cause, reasonable grounds, or suspicions are needed.

Lawless practices need fixing, said EFF. FISA Court operations need curbing. Increased transparency is vital. Intrusive National Security Letters (NSLs) are troubling.

They've been around since the mid-1980s. Pre-9/11, they had more limited authority to secure records and other personal information on alleged terrorists and spies. 

The USA Patriot Act's Section 505 changed things. It permits expanded FBI's authority to obtain personal customer records from ISPs, financial institutions, credit companies, and other sources without prior court approval.

At issue only is claiming information sought relates to alleged terrorism or espionage investigations. No proof is needed.

Innocent people are targeted. Virtually anything in public or private records can be obtained. 

Gag orders prevent targeted individuals or groups from revealing the information demanded. NSL use continues increasing exponentially. Doing so reflects police state tyranny.

Congressional action can change things. Legislation is being proposed to do so. Passage appears unlikely. Hardliners want status quo maintained. Future prospects look dim.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Greece: The Crisis Behind the Crisis and the Challenges Facing the Left

Neoliberal policies created a disaster in the country now shredded by austerity measures. The Syriza party and the Greek left have much work ahead if they are to build a just and sustainable economic and social order.

When the global financial crisis of 2008 reached Europe's shores sometime in late 2009, the eurozone, with its faulty design and distinct neoliberal policymaking framework, experienced its first major crisis since the introduction of the euro as a single currency; the danger of an imminent collapse was suddenly all too real. From the beginning, there were warnings about the dire consequences of introducing a single currency into a region with sharp economic and cultural differences, but the European political elite turned a deaf ear on the skeptics.(1) European business interests were too big to be compromised over concerns about future financial busts or speculations about the risk of adopting a foreign currency without the backing of a federal treasury and a central bank acting as lender of last resort. Indeed, like the owner of the Titanic who told the captain to go full speed although several warnings had been received about icebergs ahead, European policymakers at the time could not resist the temptation to launch euro as a cash currency in spite of the fact that the Eurosystem was built on a weak institutional foundation. And they compounded the error by allowing highly problematic candidates to join the union, thereby violating the principles of optimal currency areas.(2)

Unfit to Join the Euro

The first crack in the EU wall occurred in Greece, the weakest link of the currency union. Economically, socially and culturally, Greece was ill prepared to join the euro when it did back in 2001, but the country managed nevertheless to do so mainly because of its legacy of contribution to the development of Western culture.(3) The nation's domestic political and economic elite were eager to join Euroland not just because of the perceived benefits, but also because they were very much in need of a psychological boost: if you are weak and marginal, and incapable of change and improvement, joining a group of strong and rich nations gives you the illusion that you are on a par with them.(4) Hence the hilarious statement of then Greek Finance Minister, Yannos Papantoniou, who described the joining of the euro as "'an historic day that would place Greece firmly at the heart of Europe,"' or the equally laughable statement of then prime minister Costas Simitis, who propounded that "we all know that our inclusion in EMU (European Monetary Union) ensures for us greater stability and opens up new horizons."

Apparently, both of these political midgets felt that what shapes a nation's economy is its currency, not its productive base, technological know-how, human skills, etcetera. Be that as it may, the euro produced, for the most part, a rocky ride for Greece (GDP increased, but both public and private debt levels reached new heights while competitiveness declined significantly) that ten years later crashed against the brick wall erected by international credit markets when they refused to extend further lending on account of the country's massive fiscal deficit and humongous public debt burden. And perhaps not without coincidence, both of the aforementioned euro cheerleaders ended up having reigned over the longest unbroken period of political corruption in the modern period of Greece, courtesy of neoliberal "socialist" governance.(5)

When the global financial crisis erupted, the Greek economy had already entered a downturn phase, with GDP expansion having slowed down in 2008. The industrial sector, in fact, had entered a phase of recession as far back as 2005. In 2008, the industrial production indicator had fallen by 4.2 percent and reached a 10 percent decline in 2009.(6) Yet, when the crisis initially reached Greece, everyone was in an apparent and inexplicable state of denial, including leading EU officials. Thus, in October 2008, Kostas Karamanlis, then Greece's prime minister and leader of the conservative New Democracy party, declared in a speech to his cadres that the Greek economy was largely "shielded" from the effects of the economic crisis thanks to the structural adjustments his government had initiated. And his main political opponent, PASOK leader George Papandreou and current prime minister, assured the citizenry that "there was plenty of money around" and that, if elected, his government would exhibit "'the political will"' to find money for the toiling population, just as it had been found for the bailouts of the banks. But the most problematic example of unwillingness on the part of leading public officials to recognize the trouble that lay ahead for Greece came from the EU chiefs themselves: thus, EU Commissioner Joaquín Almunia announced as late as February 2009 that "the Greek economy is in better condition compared with the average condition in the Eurozone, which is currently in recession."(7)

Why were the Greek and EU political elites unable and unwilling to face up to the gravity of the Greek situation before things got out of hand? This question remains vital as the Greek economic crisis is now turning into a humanitarian crisis and EU leaders continue to ignore the pressing reality of the situation, intent on pushing forward with the destructive policies of austerity and fiscal adjustment.

But Greece's sovereign debt crisis did not come out of the blue. It may have been precipitated by the financial global crisis of September-October 2008 (the deficit had climbed to 15.4 percent of GDP, although there are accusations made from a former employee of the Greek Statistical Authority, Zoe Georganta, a professor of economics at the University of Macedonia, that the official figures for the 2009 budget deficit had been inflated by the Papandreou government in 2010 in an apparent attempt to legitimize the harsh austerity measures that came along with the bailout plan orchestrated by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); an inquiry is now underway by Greek prosecutors). But it had long been in the making. It was, in effect, a time bomb waiting to explode. The Greek economic model of growth was highly flawed: growth was not based on economic fundamentals; income tax rates were always very low, tax evasion massive, and Greek governments ran a continual deficit - building up an immense stock of national debt consistently well over 100 percent of GDP.

The Triple Nature of the Greek Crisis

Still, the Greek crisis must be seen as something much more than the simple outcome of corrupt government practices, although corruption, including tax evasion, is a major component of the economic ills facing the country today. It is the story of a kleptocratic state and a parasitic capitalist elite who got caught in the web of the eurozone's flawed design when the US financial crisis of 2007–2008 hit Europe's shores.(8) It is also the story of an economy that did not meet the prerequisites for entering an alleged optimum-currency area, nor did it make much attempt to fit in properly. But it is also the story of the general failure of the global neoliberal project, the financialization of the economy and free-market orthodoxy.(9) Indeed, how else could eurozone countries with such dissimilar economies - Greece, a statist and highly corrupt economy; Ireland, a poster-child for neoliberal capitalism; Spain, a faithful follower of EU dictates about deficits and debt - end up suffering the same fate?

The reason is rather simple: because they all orbited the same central entity, the black hole of European neoliberal capitalism. As such, political and ideological differences between social democratic and conservative political parties have long ago vanished. Thus, in Greece, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere, "'social democratic"' governments long ago discarded even the pretext of being agents of progressive reform.(10) Hence the ease with which such governments went along with the EU/IMF dictates in imposing unprecedented cuts and austerity measures that have drastically reduced the standard of living for the working people in their respective countries. In sum, the Greek crisis:

  • stands as a severe fiscal and public debt crisis (during the 1980s and 1990s, annual government expenditures exceeded revenue by an average of more than 8 percent of GDP, while the national debt exceeded 100 percent of GDP) stemming from the deep and long-term structural problems of the Greek economy and the deformities of the domestic political and cultural system
  • represents a European crisis due to the intricate trade and financial ties between Greece and the other eurozone member-states, and
  • reflects the deadly failure of the neoliberal project, which has become institutionalized throughout the EU's operational framework, all while the IMF remains the world's single most powerful enforcer of market fundamentalism. 

At the heart of the neoliberal vision is a societal and world order based on the prioritization of corporate power, "free" markets, and the abandonment of public services. The neoliberal claim is that economies would perform more effectively, producing greater wealth and economic prosperity for all, if markets were allowed to function without government intervention. This claim is predicated on the idea that "free" markets are inherently just and can create effective, low-cost ways to produce consumer goods and services. Subsequently, an interventionist or state-managed economy is wasteful and inefficient, choking off growth and expansion by constraining innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit.

This is the version of neoliberalism developed by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School and usually associated with the Pinochet regime in Chile, and, later, with the free-market policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan - an ideological revolution that was long in the making but that gained ascendancy over Keynesianism with the appearance of stagflation.(11) And it is by far the most dangerous ideology of our time (12), spreading havoc with its "economics of social disaster."(13)

In April 2010, with the bond vigilantes having woken up as a result of Dubai's debt crisis in late 2009, Greece was shut out of the international bond markets and - facing the prospect of a default - sought refuge under an EU/IMF financial rescue scheme. Months prior, the Papandreou government (14) had approached the IMF to extend its "'technical know-how and experience"' to the EU by administering a dose of shock therapy. Greece needed to be "rescued," and the Europeans needed not only the Fund's expertise but also to add an element of legitimacy to the austerity experiment that was about to be performed on a peripheral member-state. In this context, the invitation to the IMF to join in the operation on an ailing European patient served multiple purposes.

The neoliberal quacks were quick to rush to judgment about the roots of the Greek crisis - allegedly, a bloated public sector that wasted too many resources on lazy, unproductive citizens and hindered the potential of the private sector - and lost no time in recommending brutal austerity measures. What if the facts did not fit this narrative? Indeed, all the available data showed that the Greek public sector, while inefficient and corrupt, was actually smaller than the public sector of many other European nations; that Greeks worked on average more than most other Europeans; and that even Greek productivity in the years leading up to the crisis compared favorably with that of Germany.(15) And what if there were huge imbalances in the eurozone, with the core states running huge surpluses and the peripherals running huge deficits?(16) Greece was judged to be solely responsible for the sad state of its fiscal condition in the age of the euro and had to be punished, both as penance for its sins and as a warning to its southern cousins that the same fate awaited them if they didn't put their own fiscal houses in order.

It is this cynical, brutal perspective that led to Greece becoming an unwilling test subject for the EU's neoliberal vision and kept Germany's game going when things got rough in Euroland. Most of the German banks were overexposed to Greek debt and nearly insolvent. The May 2010 bailout of 110 billion euros (with a usurious interest rate of 5 percent) was orchestrated by the EU and the IMF - the twin monsters of neoliberal capitalism - in an apparent attempt to have Greece keep up with its debt payments to foreign banks: hence the rejection of even the slightest consideration of a debt restructuring, even though this would have been the quickest and safest way to allow Greece some breathing room. Helping its economy recover through the coordinated implementation of a large-scale development plan would also have been appropriate in a proper economic and monetary union. Indeed, such moves could have secured the confidence of international bond investors in the euro's sustainability and might even have prevented contagion in the rest of the periphery. They would certainly have prevented the spread of an otherwise avoidable contagion from the periphery to the center, which is clearly underway as of last year. But with the adoption of punishment as policy, contagion in the periphery became inevitable, and with the deficit economies in the periphery wrapped in an austerity straightjacket, the surplus economies of the center were bound to feel the effects of their insane and brutal policies. The economies of both Germany and France contracted in the last quarter of 2012. GDP in the eurozone as a whole fell by 0.5 percent last year, and, more significant, 2012 will go down in history as the first year since 1995 in which no quarter produced growth.(17)

The Catastrophic Effects of Austerity

Indeed, as a policy, the bailout scheme proved to be a dismal failure on every possible front, save for ensuring that debt payments kept flowing to foreign banks. The crude macro-stabilization program and the harsh austerity measures that accompanied the loan to Greece (amounting to 11 percent of the country's GDP) had the opposite of the intended effect on the markets and choked off all prospects of recovery for the Greek economy: demand plummeted due to the deadly combination of massive budget spending cuts, reductions in wages and pensions, and sharp tax increases, causing thousands of small businesses to go bankrupt and forcing several multinationals to move their production facilities to nearby Balkan countries, thereby producing explosive unemployment rates, sharply diminishing state revenues and substantially increasing the debt-to-GDP ratio.(18) The policy pursued by the EU/IMF duo is so fundamentally flawed that Keynes must be rolling over in his grave. Still, economic dogmas ought, apparently, to be respected, no matter what results they produce, so in the mind of the neoliberal zealots, they should be pursued to the bitter end. Thus, less than two years later, a second "bailout" of 130 billion euros was extended to beleaguered Greece, with terms and conditions for allegedly turning the economy around that are much harsher than the first "rescue" attempt. The "pay while you bleed" and "suffer for your sins" policy of the twin monsters should by now be clear to everyone.

In drafting the document for the so-called Second Economic Adjustment Program for Greece, the EU's neoliberal lackeys contended that "Greece made mixed progress towards the ambitious objectives of the first adjustment program."(19) On the positive side, it is noted, the general government deficit was reduced "from 15.75 percent of GDP in 2009 to 9.25 percent in 2011." On the negative side, the recession "was much deeper than previously projected" because, it is claimed, factors such as "social unrest" and "administrative incapacity" (including a lack of effectiveness in combating tax evasion) "hampered implementation." The antigrowth "fiscal and structural adjustment" program was perfectly designed and would have produced all the anticipated results if the government were better able to carry out the policies (perhaps it should have ordered the police and the army to arrest all public administrators and have them shot for disobeying the troika's commands), and if the citizenry did not on occasion make some fuss about the austerity program by staging demonstrations here and there, or by occupying the square outside the Greek parliament building. In essence, this is what the neoliberals' above comments are saying.

The feeble excuses of the EU bureaucrats for the fiscal consolidation program's causing a much sharper economic decline than "previously projected" fly in the face of the recent partial concessions made by the IMF: that the policies carried out in Greece ended up having much more adverse effects on the economy because the IMF miscalculated the impact of the fiscal multiplier. Indeed, the executive summary of the Second Economic Adjustment Program for Greece goes on to state unequivocally that, insofar as the prospects of the success of the second adjustment program are concerned, "the implementation risks ... remain very high" but the success of the program "depends chiefly on Greece."(20)

The neoliberal economics applied to Greece by Germany, the EU and the IMF did not simply cause a greater decline in Greek GDP than "originally projected" or make the debt grow substantially bigger in the course of the last two years (from 126.8 percent in 2010 to 180 percent in 2012). It also produced an economic and social catastrophe of proportions unparalleled in peacetime Europe. In May 2010, when the first bailout was approved and the austerity measures kicked into high gear, the unemployment rate in Greece stood at 12 percent. It has since climbed to 27 percent, and the youth unemployment rate has reached 62 percent. According to the Greek Statistical Authority, the actual number of unemployed reached 1.35 million in November 2012, with the number of employed standing at 3.642 million.(21)

Poverty is also spreading rapidly, affecting all groups in society, including children. In a recent report released by Eurostat, 31 percent of Greeks had a standard of living in 2011 that was close to the poverty line,(22) while the Labor Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labor (INE-GSEE) states in its monthly publication Enimerosi that by the end of last year, 3.9 million people had fallen below the poverty line.(23) Income levels for workers have also taken a big hit over the last two to three years, and there is more wage suppression to come. According to research data released by the INE-GSEE, incomes dropped by 22.8 percent, or 19 billion euros, during 2010-2011, with a projected decline of 33 billion euros in available income in 2012.(24)

Perhaps most indicative of the catastrophic impact of the EU/IMF austerity measures imposed on Greece is that many schools throughout the country have gone on for a second year without heating oil (the nation was shocked recently by the death of two college students who died in their sleep due to inhalation of carbon monoxide from a makeshift stove as they could not afford heating oil, whose cost has gone through the roof because of the government's ingenious scheme to find extra revenues by raising the taxes on heating oil by 450 percent), the public health care system has collapsed to the point that even medication for cancer patients is not available, and suicides, for a nation that used to have the lowest recorded suicide rates in Europe, are taking place at a record pace.

The aim of the EU/IMF structural adjustment program with regard to the Greek labor market (employment and wages) is crystal clear: total liberalization, minimum wages comparable to those in Bulgaria and Romania (two relatively backward-looking Balkan nations, and with levels of corruption equal to those in Greece), and a potential ban on strikes. The first two elements of the subversive neoliberal labor market policy are well advanced, while the third one is in the works. Again, these measures have an official stamp of approval from the Greek government, including the current administration, a tripartite coalition consisting of the leader of the conservative party as prime minister and the leaders of the Socialist party and the Democratic Left as vice presidents. Moreover, as with every Greek administration since the outbreak of the crisis, the Ministry of Finance serves as a Trojan horse for inflicting the scorched-earth policy of the EU and IMF on Greece's economy and its people.

"The Left's Moment": Problems and Challenges

The scorched-earth policies pursued in Greece over the last three years by Germany and the twin monsters of neoliberalism, i.e., the EU and the IMF, have produced an economic and social catastrophe of unprecedented proportions for a nation in peacetime conditions. For the past three years, Greece has been a guinea pig for the policy prescriptions of a neoliberal EU under the command of Germany and its northern allies. A public debt crisis has been used as an opportunity to dismantle the social state, to sell off profitable public enterprises and state assets at bargain prices, to deprive labor of even its most basic rights after decades of hard-fought struggles against management, and to substantially reduce wages and pensions, creating a de facto banana republic - all with the support of a significant segment of the Greek industrial/financial class and with the assistance of the domestic political elite.

Greece is a nation experiencing a catastrophic crisis of immense proportions inside one of the world's richest regions, yet its government celebrates the fact that the deficit has been reduced as a result of the fiscal adjustment efforts (when virtually all other economic and social variables have gone from bad to worse every year) and expects the citizens to offer more "blood, tears, toil and sweat." At the same time, it is launching a brutal frontal attack on the left, using lies and propaganda and, increasingly, the iron fist of the state, as public opinion polls show consistently for the last few months that the conservative party of New Democracy (which is at the helm of the tripartite government currently ruling the nation) and Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, are in a neck-and-neck race.

The political landscape of Greece has changed radically as a result of the economic crisis. First, the socialists, the true masters of calculated political and ideological duplicity, the real maestros of corruption in Greece, are all but finished as a political force. In the 2012 national elections, the Socialist Party received 12.3 percent of the popular vote, and the latest polls show that its popularity has dropped to about 7 percent. This is the price paid for surrendering Greece to the EU/IMF rescue mechanism in May 2010 and for collaborating since the 2012 elections with the conservatives in finalizing the conversion of Greece into a neoliberal zombie society.

Second, the conservatives, under the leadership of the current prime minister, Antonis Samaras, have shifted from being opponents of the memorandum of agreement with the EU and the IMF when they were the opposition to become its obsequious servants. Their credibility and base support has weakened considerably in the course of the last couple of years, but the conservative constituency in Greece feels trapped and has few options other than perhaps to throw its support behind Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party of Greece. To be sure, a good percentage of conservative voters have already done so: the neo-Nazis received 7 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 elections, and their numbers seem to be growing in spite of (in fact, maybe because of) being nothing more than preachers for hate and thugs who carry out organized attacks against immigrants throughout Greece. Ideologically, they embrace Hitler's National Socialism doctrine, strive for racial purity and openly envision the reestablishment of concentration camps for leftists and communists.

Greece's neo-Nazi political party represents a real threat to the social fabric of Greece; however, it remains to be seen how the appeal of the extreme right will be countered when society itself is facing a meltdown because of the harsh austerity measures and the traditional political establishment is morally bankrupt and has lost much of its legitimacy.(25)

The emergence of Syriza as the second-largest party (pulling 26.89 percent of the vote against 29.66 percent for the conservatives) represents the biggest change in the Greek political landscape. In many ways, this is indeed the "left's moment in Greece,"(26) but the reality of the support rate that the left enjoys is more complicated than what the numbers report. Most of its votes in the 2012 elections came from former Pasok voters. This is not to imply that Syriza may eventually rise to power on a protest vote, but it does mean that the left finds itself in the uncomfortable situation of having the backing of a huge percentage of "political orphans." Even more troubling is the fact that many former Socialist Party hacks look to relaunch their political careers by seeking to attach themselves to Syriza's political cause. These are, of course, political opportunists of the highest caliber, and Syriza must turn its back on them if it wishes to keep intact the left's overall mission, vision and core principles.

The general impression among analysts and an increasing number of average citizens is that Syriza is about to become a "new Pasok." This is not far from the truth, especially as some elements close to the leadership of the party appear to be willing to make whatever compromises may be necessary in order to have Syriza rise to power. The party also lacks a clear and coherent agenda for change, and its position on the current crisis has shifted remarkably in the course of the last several months from calling for the abolition of the EU/IMF fiscal adjustment program (but without having an overall strategy for managing the crisis, or even solid support at the grassroots level) to renegotiations of the agreement (when the "troika" - the European Commission, the IMF, and the European Central Bank, or ECB - supervising the fiscal consolidation effort has opposed outright any attempt aiming towards renegotiations of its terms of agreement for the bailout schemes). Conscious, perhaps, of the immaturity of Greek citizenry, but also reflecting its own political and ideological ambiguities, Syriza has also opted not to confront direct exit from the euro as a possible policy option, even though this may, in the final analysis, be the only effective strategy (but with a potentially huge short-term cost) for stopping the permanent decline of the nation's economy. Indeed, as things stand, the current eurozone is doomed to fail, and the peripheral nations will go on experiencing worsening economic and social conditions as the core remains adamantly opposed to any policy options that would mutualize the debt in the eurozone, provide relief for the beleaguered south, or end austerity.

To be sure, Syriza faces daunting challenges ahead, while finding the resolve to deal with them is undermined by the cacophony of views that prevail inside the party and by its lack of apparent influence among working-class organizations and trade unions. The extent to which the organization might be able to find qualified members among its ranks for the tormenting task of turning around a highly inefficient public administrative system and managing an economy which, by the end of the current year, will have seen its GDP shrink by an incredible 25 percent since the onset of the global financial crisis of 2008, is also highly debatable. For a party of the left, Syriza has also shown reluctance, or unwillingness, or inability to embark on an open discussion about the country's future political culture, having chosen, instead, to consume itself scoring political points over the way political corruption was sustained in the past by the conservative and socialist parties.

Yet, if there is anything that the economic crisis in Greece reveals, other than the fact that neoliberal policies wreak havoc on the standard of living and produce massive unemployment and widespread poverty, and that a way must be found to restart the engine of the economy and get the unemployed back to work, it is the need to come to terms with the norms and patterns of the nation's political culture, including revisiting questions of civic virtue, fairness and social provision, expectations and obligations, and articulating visions of a good and decent society.

Having said all that, Syriza remains in Greece today the only political force that can offer hope for the future, put an end to the ongoing catastrophe, and, under certain conditions, work its way toward the realization of a sustainable economic and social order based on those core principles that have long defined progressives worldwide: employment opportunities for all, decent wages, a vigorous and efficient welfare system, free health care services, free education, quality social services, a progressive tax system, democratic accountability, environmental protection, respect for the "other," democratic participation at the workplace, sound business practices, and incentives for new business undertakings.

In politics, there is a huge gap between theory and practice, so Syriza should be neither idealized nor undermined for what it is trying to do, which is to answer history's call and try to rescue the country that gave birth to democracy from becoming ultimately a wretched society and a failed state inside one of the world's richest regions.

C. J. Polychroniou is a policy fellow at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. Certain parts of the above article are included in a recent Policy Note (2013/1) published by the Levy Institute and titled "The Tragedy of Greece: A Case Against Neoliberal Economics, the Domestic Political Elite, and the EU/IMF Duo." The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the Institute's board nor its advisers.

Endnotes

1.
Some of the most dire warnings against the launching of the euro came from inside Germany itself. Wilhelm Hankel, Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider, Joachim Starbatty, and Wilhelm Nφlling were four renegade professors who opposed the euro from the start and tried to stop it with a legal challenge to Germany's highest court. Obviously, they lost the case. They tried again 12 years later against a German bailout of Greece. They lost again. Their basic claim all along has been was that the euro was an architectural flaw which would lead to the downfall of European economies. Moreover, and in sharp contrast to the original arguments in support of the creation of a single currency zone in Europe, the euro has led to greater economic and social inequality among the various national economies, has exacerbated the problem of unemployment in the peripheral economies, and has produced huge transfers from the periphery to the core.

2.
The original optimal currency area approach was laid out by Robert Mundell in his article "A Theory of Optimum Currency Areas," American Economic Review Vol. 51, No 4 (1961), pp. 657–665. See also R. I. McKinnon, "Optimum Currency Areas," American Economic Review Vol. 53, No. 4 (1963), pp. 717–725.

3.
Greece gained entry into the eurozone by fabricating - with significant help from Goldman Sachs - the true state of the country's fiscal condition. The EU political elite was clearly aware of Greece's actual fiscal condition, but opted to look the other way.

4.
This is the reason that, in spite of the irreparable damage that three years of catastrophic austerity measures - part of the bailout agreements orchestrated by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - have caused, both to the national interests and to Greece's social fabric, the discussion of exiting the euro remains a taboo virtually across the political spectrum.

5.
The conservative government of Kostas Karamanlis, which came to power in 2004 and governed until 2009, proved to be equally, if not even more, corrupt and immensely incompetent. In fact, from the 1980s onwards, the socialists and the conservatives had ruled the nation in a similar fashion, both of them using the state and its coffers as a means to enrich themselves and their parasitic capitalist partners and to cater to the needs and demands of their political clientele in order to maintain an army of faithful party voters, making it thus virtually impossible to tell which of the two political parties has caused greatest damage to the common good. Both have been implicated in various large-scale scandals that involved exploiting state resources in order to transfer wealth from the public to the private sector and to redistribute wealth from the bottom to the top. Both of them, as well as the private sector, squandered European Union structural funds with reckless abandon, in the process allowing the destruction of vital sectors of the economy to take place (e.g., agriculture). Insofar as the culture of corruption - which the elite saw fit to let spread throughout society, thus creating a system of "corrupt legality" - is concerned, foreign actors also had a major role in it. The German industrial giant Siemens was in the habit of handing out bribes to political figures in order to gain preferential treatment over business deals (i.e., gain state contracts). This was a global practice of Siemens', and it is estimated that the bribes to Greek officials in both main political parties may have been as much as 100 million euros over a ten-year period. Charges were filed in 2008 for money laundering and bribery, but a parliamentary investigative committee that had been formed to examine the Siemens scandal conveniently swept the case under the rug.

6.
Greek Statistical Authority (March 18, 2010). See www.statistics.gr.

7.
Cited on the web site of the Greek Embassy in Washington, DC. See http://www.greekembassy.org/embassy/Content/en/Article.aspx?office=3&folder=1013&article=24631

8.
See Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and L. Randall Wray, "Euroland's Original Sin," Policy Note 2012/8. Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (July 2012). Online: http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1559

9.
C. J. Polychroniou, "The Greek and the European Crisis in Context," New Politics Vol. 13, No. 4 (Winter 2012), pp. 49–56.

10.
See C. J. Polychroniou, "The Mediterranean Conundrum: Crisis in the European Periphery," Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XLVII, No. 21 (May 26, 2012), pp. 35-41.

11.
A fine new source discussing the history and the policies of neoliberalism is that of Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics ( Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012).

12.
Among the many profound pieces by Henry A. Giroux on the ideology of neoliberalism, see in particular his latest one "The Politics of Disimagination and the Pathologies of Power," Truthout (February 27, 2013). Online: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/14814-the-politics-of-disimagination-and-the-pathologies-of-power

13.
See C. J. Polychroniou, "Greece's Bailouts and the Economics of Social Disaster," Policy Note 2012/11. Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (September 2012). Online: http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1569

14.
George Papandreou, son of Andreas Papandreou, founder of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) and prime minister of Greece for almost ten years, after having won three national elections, became prime minister in October 2009. With no charisma whatsoever and lacking in intellectual prowess and administrative and leadership skills, his failure as a top political dog was all but ensured. He resigned in November 2011, after having ruled the most excruciatingly amateurish and agonizingly incompetent government in modern Greek history, but will always be remembered as the prime minister who "masterminded" the unconditional surrender of Greece to Germany and the IMF and imposed brutal austerity - the prime minister whose ultimate vision was "one working person per family." He is still the leader of The Socialist International, one of the most shameful contemporary political organizations, allegedly at the service of democratic socialism but whose members included, among other "devotees to the cause of socialism and democracy," Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali; and, the irony of all ironies, he gets paid hefty fees to lecture for a few weeks at prestigious institutions like Harvard and Columbia, probably on how to ruin an economy and destroy a nation's sovereignty.

15.
See Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Gennaro Zezza, and Vincent Duwicquet, "Current Prospects for the Greek Economy: Interim Report," Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (October 2012). Online: http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1589

16.
See Jörg Bibow, "The Euro Debt Crisis and Germany's Euro Trilemma." Working Paper No. 721. Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (May 2012). Online: http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1535

17.
Philip Blenkinsop and Annika Breidthardt, "Euro Zone Economy Falls Deeper than Expected into Recession," Reuters (February 14, 2013). Online: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/02/14/uk-europe-economy-idUKBRE91D0CS20130214

18.
C. J. Polychroniou, "Greece's Bailouts and the Economics of Social Disaster," Policy Note 2012/11. Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (September 2012). Online: http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1569

19.
European Commission, "European Economy: The Second Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece," Occasional Papers 94 (March 2012), p. 1.

20.
European Commission, "European Economy: The Second Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece," Occasional Papers 94 (March 2012), p. 4.

21.
Greek Statistical Authority, "Labour Force Survey: November 2012," Press Release (February 14, 2013).

22.
Cited in ekathimerini.com. "3.4 Million Greeks near Poverty Line in 2011, Eurostat Reports," (December 3, 2012). Online: http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_03/12/2012_472690.

23.
INE-GSEE (Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour), Enimerosi, No. 200 (December 2012), p. 1.

24.
INE-GSEE (Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour), The Greek Economy and Employment: Yearly Report (2012), p.21.

25.
Greece's two main political parties, the conservatives (New Democracy, or ND) and the socialists (Pasok), used to draw, until recently, over 75 percent of the combined vote. In the 2012 elections, both parties together managed to attract less than 35 percent of the popular vote - and if elections were held today, it is unlikely that they would get more than 28 percent of the combined vote.

26.
The phrase is borrowed from the title of an article by Costas Lapavitsas, which appeared in The Progressive, Vol. 76, Issue 7 (July 2012).

What Is Modern Monetary Theory, or “MMT”?

Hundred dollar bill macro(Photo: Tetsumo)Modern Monetary Theory is a way of doing economics that incorporates a clear understanding of the way our present-day monetary system actually works – it emphasizes the frequently misunderstood dynamics of our so-called “fiat-money” economy. Most people are unnerved by the thought that money isn’t “backed” by anything anymore – backed by gold, for example. They’re afraid that this makes money a less reliable store of value. And, of course, it is perfectly true that a poorly managed monetary system, or one which is experiencing something like an oil-price shock, can also experience inflation. But people today simply don’t realize how much bigger a problem the opposite condition can be. Under the gold standard, and largely because of the gold standard, the capitalist world endured eight different deflationary slumps severe enough to be called “depressions.” Since the gold standard was abolished, there have been none – and, as we shall see, this is anything but coincidental.

The great virtue of modern, fiat money is that it can be managed flexibly enough to prevent *both* deflation and also any truly damaging level of inflation – that is, a situation where prices are rising faster than wages, or where both are rising so fast they distort a country’s internal or external markets. Without going into the details prematurely, there are technical reasons why a little bit of inflation is useful and normal. It discourages people from hoarding money and encourages healthy levels of consumption and investment. It promotes growth – provided that a country’s fiscal and monetary authorities manage it properly.

The trick is for the government to spend enough to ensure full employment, but not so much, or in such a way, as to cause shortages or bottlenecks in the real economy. These shortages and bottlenecks are the actual cause of most episodes of excessive inflation. If the mere existence of fiat monetary systems caused runaway inflation, the low, stable rates of consumer-price inflation we have seen over the past thirty-plus years would be pretty difficult to explain.

The essential insight of Modern Monetary Theory (or “MMT”) is that sovereign, currency-issuing countries are only constrained by real limits. They are not constrained, and cannot be constrained, by purely financial limits because, as issuers of their respective fiat-currencies, they can never “run out of money.” This doesn’t mean that governments can spend without limit, or overspend without causing inflation, or that government should spend any sum unwisely. What it emphatically does mean is that no such sovereign government can be forced to tolerate mass unemployment because of the state of its finances – no matter what that state happens to be.

Virtually all economic commentary and punditry today, whether in America, Europe or most other places, is based on ideas about the monetary system which are not merely confused – they are starkly and comprehensively counter-factual. This has led to a public discourse about things like budget deficits and Treasury debt which has become, without exaggeration, utterly detached from reality. Time and time again, these pundits declaim that hyperinflation is imminent, that interest rates are on the verge of an uncontrollable upward spike, and that the jig will be up for sure just as soon as the next T-bond auction fails. But even though, time after time, it is the pundits’ prognostications which fail, no one seems to take any notice. This must change. A reality-based economics is needed to make these things make sense again, and Modern Monetary Theory is here to put everyone on notice that a quite different jig is the one that’s really up.

The gold standard was finally and completely abolished over the course of a two-year period which started in 1971, when Richard Nixon ended the convertibility of the dollar for gold and devalued U.S. currency for the first time since the end of World War II. In 1973, the U.S. stopped trying to peg the dollar to any currency or commodity, instead allowing its value to be set on a freely-floating international currency market. The monetary system we inaugurated then is the one we still have now.

It is not the same as the one which has been adopted by most of Europe – and this very prominent source of confusion about the role of money in the world today will receive close scrutiny at the proper point. But first, we need to carefully unpack the implications of taking both gold and any sort of “peg” out of the monetary equation in the first place. In 1971, gold-linked money became fiat-money – not for the first time, of course, but for the first time in a long time. And it wasn’t just any currency. It was, by far, the world’s most important currency, economically. It was also the world’s reserve currency – the good-as-gold and backed-by-gold currency which the entire non-communist world used to settle transactions between various countries’ central banks. And yet, what everyone, and especially every American was told at the time was that it really wouldn’t make much difference. 

The political emphasis, at the time, was entirely on the importance of making sure that no one panicked. The officials of the Nixon administration acted like cops who had just roped off a fresh crime scene: “Just move right along, folks,” they kept intoning. “Nuthin’ to see here. Nuthin’, to see.” All of the experts and pundits said essentially the same thing – this was just a necessary technical adjustment that was only about complicated international banking rules. It wouldn’t affect domestic-economy transactions at all, or matter to anyone’s individual economic life. And so it didn’t – at least, not right away or in any way that got linked back to the event in later years. The world moved on, and Nixon’s action was mainly just remembered as a typical, high-handed Nixonian move – one which at least carried along with it the virtue of having pissed off Charles De Gaulle.

But what had really happened was epoch-making and paradigm-shattering. It was also, for the rest of the 1970s, polymorphously destabilizing. Because no one had a plan for, or knew, what all of this was going to mean for the reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar. Certainly not Richard Nixon, who was by then embroiled in the early stages of the Watergate scandal. But no one else was in charge of this either. In the moment, other countries and their central banks followed Washington’s line. They wanted to forestall any kind of panic too. But, inevitably, as the real consequences of the new monetary regime kicked in, and as unforeseen and unintended knock-on effects began to be felt, this changed.

The world had a choice to make after the closing of the gold window, but even though it was a very important choice, with very high-stakes outcomes attached to it, there was no international mechanism for making it – it just had to emerge from the chaos. Either the U.S. dollar was going to  continue to be the world’s reserve currency or it wasn’t. If it wasn’t, the related but separate question of what to use instead would come to the fore. But, as things unfolded, no other choice could be imposed on the only economic powerhouse-nation, so all the other little nations eventually just had to work out ways to adjust to the new status quo.

Even after Euro-dollar chaos, oil market chaos, inflationary chaos, a ferocious multi-national property crash and a severe, double-dip American recession, the dollar continued to be the reserve currency. And it still wasn’t going to be either backed by gold or exchangeable at any fixed rate for anything else. But while the implications of this were enormous, almost no one understood them at the time, or ever, subsequently, figured them out. For the 1970s was the period during which Keynesianism was decertified as the reigning economic philosophy of the capitalist world – replaced by something which, at least initially, purported to have internalized and improved upon it. This too was a choice that wasn’t so much made as stumbled into. The chaotic, crisis-wracked world we now live in is the one which subsequent versions of this then-new economic perspective have helped to create.

Conventional, so-called “neo-classical” economics pays little or no attention to monetary dynamics, treating money as just a “veil” over the activity of utility-maximizing individual “agents”. And, as hard as this is for non-economists to believe, the models which these ‘mainstream’ economists make do not even try to account for money, banking or debt. This is one big reason why virtually all members of the economics profession failed to see the housing bubble and were then blind-sided by both the 2008 financial collapse and the grinding, on-going Eurozone crisis which has followed in its wake. And the current group-think among ‘mainstream’ economists is yet another case where failure is no obstacle to continued funding – or continued failure. The absence of any sort of professional, intellectual or academic accountability will be a theme here.

The public policy reversal that began with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan promised that the deregulation of capitalism would lead to greater shared prosperity for everyone. Today, even though the falsehood of this claim is brutally obvious, the same economic nostrums and stupidities that were used to justify it in the first place continue to be trotted out and paid homage to by a class of financial-media personalities who equate making a lot of money with understanding money. It does not seem to occur to them that financial criminals and practitioners of bank-fraud can get rich through sociopathy alone.

What needs to be said is this: Keynesian economics worked before, and the improved version – now generally called “post-Keynesian” – will work again, to deliver what the market-fundamentalism of the past three decades has patently and persistently failed to deliver *anywhere in the world*. Namely – a prosperity which is shared by everyone. The principal purpose of Modern Monetary Theory is to explain, in detail, why this this worked in the past and how it can be made to work again.

Here’s how: start with a 100% payroll tax cut for both workers and employers – one that will only expire (if it does at all) when we have achieved full employment. This will not de-fund Social Security. And yes, we’ll come back to this point and cover it in great detail in due course. But first, stop and think back on the effect which federal revenue-sharing had on the economy in 2009 and 2010. If you’re thinking there were fewer teachers, nurses, policemen and fire-fighters getting laid off, you are correct. If you’re thinking that more roads, dams, bridges and sewer systems were getting repaired, you’re right again. But if you think that adding 800 million dollars to the deficit over two years is a guaranteed way to generate hyper-inflation, double-digit interest rates and bond-auction failures, leading ultimately to a frenzied worldwide rush to dump dollar-denominated financial assets, well, now would be a good time to ask yourself why you believe this.

One more point – one more plank in this three-point program to restore fiscal and monetary sanity: let’s give everyone who wants to work and is able to work some *work to do*. A currency-issuing government can purchase anything that is for sale in its own currency, including the labor of every last unemployed person who is still looking for a job. So, a key policy recommendation of Modern Monetary Theory is the idea of a “Job Guarantee”. The federal government should take the initiative and organize a transitional-job program for people who just can’t find work in the private sector – as it currently exists in real-world America today. Because the smug one-liner that starts and ends with: “Government can’t create jobs – only the private sector can create jobs!” is about the un-funniest joke on the planet right now.

The government creates millions of jobs already. Isn’t soldiering a job? Isn’t flying the President around in Air Force One a job? What about all the doctors and nurses down at the V.A. hospital, and the day-care workers on military bases? They certainly all appear to be employed. When you go into a convenience store to buy some – uh – local-and-organic Brussels sprouts, say, how closely does the clerk examine the bills and coins you tender? Did any clerk or cashier ever squint or turn your five-dollar bill sideways and back and ask, “Hmm.. are you sure this money came from work that was performed in the private sector?” No. They didn’t. Because the money governments pay to public employees is exactly the same money everyone else gets paid in.

A guaranteed transition-job would need to be different from the familiar examples cited above in certain ways. It would be important to make sure that such a program always hired “from the bottom”, not from the top. That’s an important way of making sure that such programs don’t create real-resource bottlenecks by competing with the private sector for highly skilled or specialized labor. Hence, a transition-program job would more closely resemble an entry-level job at a defense plant. Such a job only exists because of Pentagon orders for fighter planes or helmets or dog food for the K-9 units. There is no sort of ambiguity about where the stuff is going or how it is being paid for. And when the people who mow the lawn or sweep the parking lot get paid, they know, without having to think about it, that their wages will spend exactly the same way down at the grocery store as everyone else’s.

Defence spending is actually quite a good analog to the idea of a transitional-job program – one that would provide work to any and every person who wanted it. The only time the American economy ever achieved an extended, years-long period with zero unemployment, low, well-controlled inflation rates and with no significant financial aftershock at the end was the World War II era – broadly defined to include the Lend-Lease buildup of 1940 and 1941. This solution to the problem of mass unemployment worked in the 1940s and it would work today. In the 1940s, of course,the jobs were almost all war-related. But, economically, this makes no difference.

The connection between war and economic prosperity has been noticed before. It led some 19th Century thinkers (and also Jimmy Carter) to wonder whether there could be a “moral equivalent of war”. Well, there can be – by way of the Job Guarantee. The biggest pre-condition has been met, because one result of most wars has been that they forced the combatant countries off the gold standard. Now, all countries have left it. What matters next is whether there are enough real resources available to produce goods and services that are equal in value to the government’s job-guarantee spending. If these resources are available – if they are not already being used to produce something else – then the increased demand that results from the payment of job-guarantee wages will not be inflationary, regardless of what they go to produce.  

Money is 100% fungible.  Whether the job-guarantee program makes fighter planes or wind turbines makes no economic difference – the workers employed by it will spend their wages on the same things other workers buy. What matters, economically, is whether there are sufficient real resources and labor available to produce these goods and services in line with the increased demand for them. If there are, no additional government intervention is necessary in order to mobilize them. The same private-profit motivation which induces a company to produce one widget can be relied upon to induce the production of another one.

Most popular misconceptions about job-guarantee work as inefficient “make-work” ignore these private-sector dynamics. It is simply assumed that if the publicly-funded workers don’t personally contribute to making shoes or soap, their wages will result in “more money chasing the same goods” – and that this will automatically cause inflation. This is an obvious fallacy which has been empirically falsified many, many times, but most people continue to treat it as an article of economic faith. So, one of MMT’s most pressing tasks today is to make the case that we can, indeed, end mass unemployment without undermining price stability.

There are many other economic problems and challenges in the world today. Modern Monetary Theory is not a panacea for them. Even if its insights and policy recommendations become widely known, and even if they are someday fully implemented, societies will still face challenges such as inequality, regulatory capture and predatory financial behavior, including the kind of predatory mortgage lending that led to the worldwide crash in 2008. In order to understand these additional economic problems and dangers, we need to look at economics in a larger context, and correctly situate Modern Monetary Theory within this wider frame.

Modern Monetary Theory is based on earlier work which also focused on the relationship between the state and its money – ideas which come under the generic designation of “Chartalism”. MMT also remains firmly within the Keynesian tradition of macroeconomnic theorizing, and recognizes an extensive interconnectedness with other economists whose work is categorized as “post-Keynesian”. Some of MMT’s other notable academic progenitors include Hyman Minsky, Abba Lerner and, more recently, the English economist Wynne Godley, whose emphasis on achieving consistency in the analysis of economic stocks and flows presaged the emphasis which MMT-orbit economists put on it today.

The label “Modern Monetary Theory” is not particularly apt. It became attached to its advocates through the informal agency of Internet comment-threading, not because anyone considered it either very useful or very descriptive. In other words, it “just stuck”. In fact, the identity of the first person to use the “MMT” label is lost to online history. So, to be clear, MMT is only modern in the broad sense in which virtually everything that got started in the Western world in the 19th Century is called “modern”. It is not exclusively monetary either – it has quite a bit to say about fiscal policy as well. And it was not, initially, theoretical – it started as a body of quite empirical observations about the dynamics of the monetary system and the many ways they are being misunderstood these days. For MMT has a dual pedigree which is itself quite remarkable.

On the one hand, it represents the patient, decades-long academic work of a cadre of perhaps eight or ten working economists (originally there were three or four, plus their students). But MMT was independently co-discovered by a single person. A person who had no specific training or academic background in economics at all – the American businessman and auto-racing enthusiast Warren Mosler. How he came to initially suspect and, ultimately, clearly understand that the spending of sovereign governments had become operationally independent of their taxing and borrowing is recounted in his 2010 book, “The Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy.”  The 1996 publication of an earlier book of his, “Soft-Currency Economics,” launched MMT as a social, intellectual and online movement. And while the academic side of MMT was completely unknown to him at first, it was not long before the two camps discovered each other, and this has led to a very extensive collaboration in the years since.

Today, MMT is being discovered by a rapidly-growing worldwide Internet audience. And the public’s growing interest in MMT is evident in other ways as well. One of the movement’s leading spokespersons, Dr. Stephanie Kelton of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, has been a repeat guest on an MSNBC weekend show. She, and other MMT economists, are frequent guests on a number of popular, mostly-progressive radio programs as well – both in the U.S. and in English-speaking countries around the world. And Warren Mosler’s seminal 2010 book was recently published in Italian.

(For obvious reasons, the stressed and austerity-damaged countries of the Eurozone’s southern tier are places where people are becoming more open to fresh economic ideas. At a 3-day conference in Rimini, Italy in 2012, a panel of four MMT/post-Keynesian speakers lectured to a crowd of over 2,000 people in a packed sports arena. Many in the audience crossed multiple international borders to attend.)

MMT has been mentioned, though not yet accurately described, in several of Paul Krugman’s columns for the New York Times. And certain aspects of it have been noticed even more widely in the media – for MMT is the theoretical basis of the “trillion-dollar coin” approach to fiscal cliffs. (The idea was first proposed and debated on Warren Mosler’s website.) In short, MMT is getting harder and harder to ignore. And since it really does have answers to some of the world’s most urgent and otherwise perplexing questions, it seems likely that MMT will soon become quite impossible to ignore. What follows is written to try to hasten that day.

This will be an intentionally simplified, non-technical exposition of the principal tenets of Modern Monetary Theory. The no-algebra version, in other words. It is intended as a guide for non-economists and other lay people who may have heard the phrase or seen a video clip about MMT and who wish to learn more. It is not a substitute for more complete and, necessarily, much more technical treatments that are available elsewhere, including the MMT Primer here at NEP.

Confining myself to examples and cases so widely known that no one will wonder where they came from accounts for the absence of footnotes in this. And since I make no claim to have learned knowledge of anything, I will just say, up front, that everything I know was thought of first by someone else. But rather than interrupt the narrative or complicate the process by trying to establish who said any particular thing first, I hope it is sufficient for me to just thank the MMT community at large for any material that I have borrowed or re-purposed along the way.

I also depart, here, from MMT’s mostly-neutral stance on contested political and ideological questions. For while MMT principles apply equally, irrespective of things like the size of government or the conceptions and misconceptions of people running governments, it has a policy bias no one can really miss.  I choose to emphasize rather than de-emphasize this bias – and I will sometimes even put it front-and-center. I hope no one will mistake this for any sort of rebuke toward those who choose not to do this. We have simply reached a point where practical applications need to be put on an equal footing with their theoretical underpinnings.

For somewhere – maybe somewhere in Italy – and on a day which may not be all that far off now, Modern Monetary Theory is going to start changing the world.

PMQS: Miliband Mocks Cameron: ‘What Can He Organise In A Brewery?’

Ed Miliband unleashed his best ever gag at the start of prime minister's questions on Wednesday, mocking David Cameron for reports he has been forced to abandon his plans to introduce a minimum price for alcoholic drinks.

"In the light of his u-turn on alcohol pricing can the prime minister tell us if there is anything he could organise in a brewery?" the Labour leader said to roars of laughter from his MPs.

It has been reported that opposition to the policy from his cabinet, including from former health secretary Andrew Lansley, education secretary Michael Gove and home secretary Theresa May - who is said to be positioning herself to challenge for the Tory leadership - Cameron has had to drop the plan.

Miliband joked: "He obviously could not tell us about his policy on alcohol minimum unit pricing, I think the reality is he has just been overruled by the home secretary on this one."

The barb did not go down well with May, who, stood next to the Speaker's chair rather than sat on the government front bench, responded with her now trademark 'death stare'.

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Downing Street has refused to say whether plans for minimum pricing had been dropped, insisting the policy will be unveiled in "due course".

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The prime minister's official spokesperson said there was a "real problem with deep discounting and the impact of anti-social behaviour" that had to be tackled.

During PMQs Cameron was directly confronted in the Commons by Tory MP Sarah Wollaston - a former GP - who said abandoning minimum pricing would "critically undermine future efforts".

He told her: "There is a problem with deeply discounted alcohol in supermarkets and other stores and I am absolutely determined that we will deal with this.

"We published proposals, we are looking at the consultation and the results to those proposals, but be in no doubt, we've got to deal with the problem of having 20p or 25p cans of lager available in supermarkets. It's got to change."

A confident Miliband, who enjoyed one of his best PMQs performances to date, said reported cabinet splits showed the government was "falling apart".

"A week out from the Budget, they have got an economic policy that's failing, a prime minister that makes it up as he goes along and all the time, it's the country that is paying the price," he said.

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  • Theresa May

    Current position: Home Secretary Rides: "Beyond The Borders" Odds to win: 4/1 For: Politically, May is a shrewd and successful operator who has done a credible job as home secretary, a role that has tripped up many previous politicians. Against: A Tory minister recently described May as "100% charmless" and the only benefit that her appointment as leader would bring would be "net migration".

  • Boris Johnson

    Current position: Mayor of London Rides: "Bumbling Oratory" Odds to win: 5/1 For: Boris is rarer thing than a <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sugarbushdrafthorse.com%2Frevival.html">Sugarbush Draft Horse,</a> he's a "popular Tory". An <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2012%2F10%2F07%2Fboris-johnson-preferred-to-david-cameron_n_1945895.html">opinion poll last October</a> outed him as the people's choice to replace Cameron. Unfortunately, it's not up to the people... Against: Johnson has all but ruled out taking over from Cameron before 2015, wary that undermining him could scupper any leadership hopes. Just like what happened to Lord Heseltine in the wake of Margaret Thatcher stepping down...

  • Michael Gove

    Current position: Secretary of State for Education Rides: "Baccalaureate Backtrack" Odds to win: 9/1 For: Gove is highly regarded within the Tory party as charming, polite and capable. Against: He has taken a bruising both from the public and other Tories for some of his proposals as Secretary of State for Education.

  • Philip Hammond

    Current position: Defence Secretary Rides: "Stripped Down Defender" Odds to win: 10/1 For: Erm... Against: Recently received a "slapping down" from Danny Alexander for publicly complaining about defence cuts. Also, he's possibly the most "beige" of all the prospective candidates.

  • Adam Afriyie

    Current position: MP for Windsor Rides: "Outside Upstart" Odds to win: 25/1 For: Afriyie is part of the new generation of Tories with fewer qualms about toppling their leader. One Tory minister said: "<a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegraph.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fpolitics%2F9916975%2FTories-too-afraid-of-fresh-chaos-for-leadership-coup.html">They don't have the same memory or experience to hold them back</a>. "And if they start to think they're going to lose their seats at the election, they could get a bit panicked." Against: Was widely ridiculed earlier this year when the relative unknown was tipped for a leadership challenge. Also, no-one seems to have told him about his own challenge until he read about it in the papers and "<a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.guardian.co.uk%2Fpolitics%2F2013%2Fjan%2F31%2Fadam-afriyie-pm-in-waiting">nearly choked on my Cornflakes</a>".

  • Liam Fox

    Current position: Rides: "Spend Wisely" Odds to win: 33/1 For: Dr Fox has become the unofficial spokesman for those Tories disaffected with the current leadership with a number of public statements criticising their direction on austerity. Against: Is it really a good move to appoint someone who was forced to resign from his job as defence minister for <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2011%2F10%2F09%2Fliam-fox-resigns_n_1002156.html">allowing a close friend improper access to the highest level of government affairs?</a> Additionaly, <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2013%2F03%2F11%2Fliam-fox-tory-leadership_n_2851902.html">Fox recently said</a>: "I think there is no chance of us having a leadership election in the Conservative Party before the election, I think that would be madness."

Earlier on HuffPost:

‘Order! Order! The Member For Wandsworth North – Down To The Office’

Disgraced former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne was ridiculed on his first day in jail when a warder called him to breakfast shouting "Order! Order!", it was reported today.

The prison officer, using the Tannoy system in Wandsworth jail, mimicked the Commons Speaker by adding: "The right honourable member for Wandsworth North - down to the office," The Sun newspaper reported.

Other prisoners at the south-west London jail were said to have roared with laughter as Huhne went from his cell to pick up the meal.

The newspaper also reported that 58-year-old Huhne has been moved to a wing for vulnerable prisoners because other convicts humiliated and bullied him.

He is said to have asked to be moved to the special area after prisoners discovered he was a millionaire and badgered him for cash.

An unnamed woman, speaking to the newspaper outside the prison yesterday after a visit to see her boyfriend, said the other prisoners targeted Huhne as a "soft touch" within hours of his arrival.

"Someone found out he was a millionaire and as soon as he was on the wing there were loads of people after him. They kept on going up to him saying, 'We know you've got money'," she said.

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"They had to move him into the segregation block because inmates were bullying him."

Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce were handed eight-month jail sentences at Southwark Crown Court in London on Monday for perverting the course of justice when Pryce took speeding points for Huhne in 2003.

Jailing the pair, Mr Justice Sweeney said Huhne had fallen from a "great height", and Pryce from a "considerable height".

Economist Pryce, 60, was convicted after a retrial last week, while Huhne pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial last month after denying the offence for nearly two years.

The former energy secretary, who once had ambitions for the Lib Dem leadership, was the first former Cabinet minister since Jonathan Aitken to be jailed.

The Sun reported that Pryce spent a "nervous" first day in Holloway prison in north London.

Postman Robert Brown told the newspaper a friend he had visited in the jail told him he had spotted Pryce, who is a mother-of-five.

"My friend said she was very scruffy and looked really nervous," he told the newspaper.

Loading Slideshow...

  • Theresa May

    Current position: Home Secretary Rides: "Beyond The Borders" Odds to win: 4/1 For: Politically, May is a shrewd and successful operator who has done a credible job as home secretary, a role that has tripped up many previous politicians. Against: A Tory minister recently described May as "100% charmless" and the only benefit that her appointment as leader would bring would be "net migration".

  • Boris Johnson

    Current position: Mayor of London Rides: "Bumbling Oratory" Odds to win: 5/1 For: Boris is rarer thing than a <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sugarbushdrafthorse.com%2Frevival.html">Sugarbush Draft Horse,</a> he's a "popular Tory". An <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2012%2F10%2F07%2Fboris-johnson-preferred-to-david-cameron_n_1945895.html">opinion poll last October</a> outed him as the people's choice to replace Cameron. Unfortunately, it's not up to the people... Against: Johnson has all but ruled out taking over from Cameron before 2015, wary that undermining him could scupper any leadership hopes. Just like what happened to Lord Heseltine in the wake of Margaret Thatcher stepping down...

  • Michael Gove

    Current position: Secretary of State for Education Rides: "Baccalaureate Backtrack" Odds to win: 9/1 For: Gove is highly regarded within the Tory party as charming, polite and capable. Against: He has taken a bruising both from the public and other Tories for some of his proposals as Secretary of State for Education.

  • Philip Hammond

    Current position: Defence Secretary Rides: "Stripped Down Defender" Odds to win: 10/1 For: Erm... Against: Recently received a "slapping down" from Danny Alexander for publicly complaining about defence cuts. Also, he's possibly the most "beige" of all the prospective candidates.

  • Adam Afriyie

    Current position: MP for Windsor Rides: "Outside Upstart" Odds to win: 25/1 For: Afriyie is part of the new generation of Tories with fewer qualms about toppling their leader. One Tory minister said: "<a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegraph.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fpolitics%2F9916975%2FTories-too-afraid-of-fresh-chaos-for-leadership-coup.html">They don't have the same memory or experience to hold them back</a>. "And if they start to think they're going to lose their seats at the election, they could get a bit panicked." Against: Was widely ridiculed earlier this year when the relative unknown was tipped for a leadership challenge. Also, no-one seems to have told him about his own challenge until he read about it in the papers and "<a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.guardian.co.uk%2Fpolitics%2F2013%2Fjan%2F31%2Fadam-afriyie-pm-in-waiting">nearly choked on my Cornflakes</a>".

  • Liam Fox

    Current position: Rides: "Spend Wisely" Odds to win: 33/1 For: Dr Fox has become the unofficial spokesman for those Tories disaffected with the current leadership with a number of public statements criticising their direction on austerity. Against: Is it really a good move to appoint someone who was forced to resign from his job as defence minister for <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2011%2F10%2F09%2Fliam-fox-resigns_n_1002156.html">allowing a close friend improper access to the highest level of government affairs?</a> Additionaly, <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2013%2F03%2F11%2Fliam-fox-tory-leadership_n_2851902.html">Fox recently said</a>: "I think there is no chance of us having a leadership election in the Conservative Party before the election, I think that would be madness."

Related on HuffPost:

The Real Iran Hostage Crisis: A CIA Covert Op

iranflag

Global Research Editor’s Note

The script of Best Film Academy Award Movie  “Argo” which depicts the Iran Hostage Crisis is largely based on fiction.

The purpose of the film is to rewrite history, to falsify what actually happened as well as provide a human face to US foreign  policy.

Amply documented, the Iran Hostage Crisis was a complex CIA covert operation intent upon stalling the Iranian Revolution as well as spearheading the political demise of President Jimmy Carter.

The following article first published in 1995 is based on extensive documentation collected by Fara Mansoor, a prominent Iranian intellectual.

Michel  Chossudovsky, February 26, 2013


By Harry V. Martin

Free America, 1995

Fara Mansoor is a fugitive. No, he hasn’t broken any laws in the United States. His crime is the truth. What he has to say and the documents he carries are equivalent to a death warrant for him, Mansoor is an Iranian who was part of the “establishment” in Iran long before the 1979 hostage taking. Mansoor’s records actually discount the alleged “October Surprise” theory that the Ronald Reagan-George Bush team paid the Iranians not to release 52 American hostages until after the November 1980 Presidential elections.

Mansoor’s meticulous documents, shared exclusively with this magazine, shows a much more sinister plot, the plot to take the hostages in the first place. “For 15 years the truth about the nature and origins of the Iranian hostage crisis has been buried in a mountain of misinformation,” Mansoor states. “Endless expert analysis has served only to deepen the fog that still surrounds this issue. We have been led to believe that the ‘crisis’ was a spontaneous act that just sprang out of the ‘chaos’ of the ‘Islamic Revolution’. Nothing could be further from the truth!”

“To really understand the hostage crisis and ‘who done it’, one has to look not only with a microscope, but also a wide angle lens to have a panoramic view of this well scripted ‘drama’,” Mansoor states. “That ‘drama’ was the result of large historical patterns, models, and motives. Once its true nature is understood, it will be clear how Iran/Contra happened.

Why Rafsanjani has been trying to ‘move toward the West,’ and why Reagan called him a ‘moderate’. And why, during the Gulf War, James Baker said, ‘we think Iran has conducted itself in a very, very credible way through this crisis’” Mansoor emphasizes that the “October Surprise” myth has served as dangerous misinformation.

THOUSANDS OF DOCUMENTS IN SUPPORT

With thousands of documents to support his position, Mansoor says that the “hostage crisis” was a political “management tool” created by the pro-Bush faction of the CIA, and implemented through an a priori Alliance with Khomeini’s Islamic Fundamentalists.” He says the purpose was twofold:

  • To keep Iran intact and communist-free by putting Khomeini in full control.
  • To destablize the Carter Administration and put George Bush in the White House.

“The private Alliance was the logical result of the intricate Iranian political reality of the mid-70s, and a complex network of powerful U.S.-Iranian ‘business’ relationships,” Mansoor states. “I first met Khomeini in 1963 during the failed coup attempt against the Shah. Since that time I have been intimately involved with Iranian politics. I knew in 1979 that the whole, phoney ‘Islamic Revolution’ was ‘mission implausible’.” Mansoor was frank. “There is simply no way that those guys with the beards and turbans could have pulled off such a brilliantly planned operation without very sophisticated help.”

Mansoor has spent 10 years researching the issue.

“I have collected enough data to yield a very clear picture. Mr. Bush’s lieutenants removed the Shah, brought Khomeini back to Iran, and guided his rise to power, sticking it to President Carter, the American people (52 in particular), and the Iranian people.”

He stated with boxes and boxes of evidence to support his contentions.

“My extensive research has revealed the heretofore untold truth about this episode. This is not another ‘October Surprise’ theory purporting how the hostage crisis resulted in some Khomeini-Republic better deal. That theory puts the cart before the horse. Its absurd premise is that a major international deal was initiated and consummated in three weeks. Give me a break! Bill Casey didn’t have to go to Paris to play lets-make-deal. The ‘deal’ had been in operation for at least two years. This game of blind-man’s-bluff around Casey’s gravestone was more disinformation, damage control.”

REAGAN, BUSH AND THATCHER IN IRAN IN 1978

Mansoor produced a confidential document called the “Country Team Minutes” of April 26, 1978, more than a year before the hostage crisis. The meeting was held in Iran. The second paragraph of the routine minutes, states, “The Ambassador commented on our distinguished visitors, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Margaret Thatcher, and commented that Teheran seems to be the site for an opposition parties congress.” Mansoor indicates the entire relationship was probably the most sophisticated criminal act in recent history. “That the people who, until recently, were holding power in Washington and those who currently are still in control in Teheran, got there by totally subverting the democratic process of both countries is news. That their methods of subversion relied on kidnapping, extortion and murder is criminal,” Mansoor states.

Mansoor became a target after he did a radio show in Portland on November 13, 1992. It was the first time he attempted to go public with his documents and information. The Iranian regime has placed a bounty on Mansoor’s head and he has received many death threats.

Is Mansoor just another conspiracy nut? Ervand Abrahamian of Baruch College of New York stated in a letter to Mansoor,

“As you know I am very weary of conspiracy theories. But, despite my preconceived bias, I must admit I found your manuscript to be thoroughly researched, well documented, and, of course extremely relevant to the present. You have done an first-class job of interviewing participants, collecting data from scattered sources, and putting them together like a highly complicated puzzle.”

Mansoor’s meticulous research clearly demonstrates how Khomeini’s published vision of an Islamic Government (Vilayat-Faqih) dovetailed with the regional and global strategic objectives of a hard-core subset of the U.S. National Security establishment loyal to George Bush. It shows that the Iranian hostage crisis was neither a crisis nor chaos. In 1953, the CIA orchestrated a coup in Iran, which threw out the democratic government and installed the Shah.

In order to understand the imperative of this Alliance, we must realistically examine the sociopolitical alignment both in Iran and the U.S., and accurately assess their respective interests to find the command ground for this coalescence. The anti-monarchic forces in mid-70s Iran consisted of various nationalists groups including religious reformist, the Islamic Fundamentalists, and the leftists and communist.

The Nationalist forces were varied. Some were from within the government, but they were poorly organized and without grass-roots support. Their position was clearly anti-left and anti-communist, but they were vulnerable to being taken over by the well-organized left.

The Islamic Fundamentalists had no government experience, but they had major grassroots supports. Islam, in its Shi’ite format was deeply embedded in the lives of the vast majority of the Iranian people. The Fundamentalists were absolutely anti-communist.

CARTER FIRES 800 CIA COVERT OPERATORS

The philosophical divide within the U.S. National Security establishment, especially the CIA, became quite serious in the aftermath of Watergate. To make matters worse, the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, his campaign promise to clean the “cowboy” elements out of the Central Intelligence Agency and his “human rights” policies alarmed the faction of the CIA loyal to George Bush. Bush was CIA director under Richard Nixon. Finally, the firing of CIA Director George Bush by Carter, and the subsequent “Halloween Massacre” in which Carter fired over 800 CIA covert operatives in 1977, angered the “cowboys” beyond all measure. That was Carter’s October surprise, 800 firings on Halloween 1977.

Bush and his CIA coverts were well aware of the Shah’s terminal cancer, unknown to President Carter. The team had an elaborate vested interest to protect. They were determined to keep Iran intact and communist-free and put George Bush in the White House.

TIMELINE: SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

Hence, the Islamic Fundamentalists were the only viable choice through which the Bush covert team could implement its own private foreign policy. The results: the birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the fall of President Carter, and the emergence of something called the “New World Order.” Mansoor’s documents show step-by-step events:

1. In 1974, the Shah of Iran was diagnosed with cancer.

2. In 1975, former CIA director, and the U.S. Ambassador to Iran, Richard Helms learned of the Shah’s cancer through the Shah’s closest confidant, General Hossein Fardoust. The Shah, Helms and Fardoust had been close personal friends since their school days together in Switzerland during the 1930s.

3. On November 4, 1976, concurrent with Jimmy Carter’s election as President, CIA Director George Bush issued a secret memo to the U.S. Ambassador in Iran, Richard Helms, asking:

“Have there been any changes in the personality pattern of the Shah; what are their implication pattern for political behavior? Identification of top military officers that most likely play key roles in any transference of power if the Shah were killed…who will be the leading actors? How will the Shah’s pet projects, including the economic development program, be effected by his departure?”

4. By July 1977, anticipating trouble ahead, the Bush covert team issued preliminary script for the transition of power in Iran. According to John D. Stemple, a CIA analyst and Deputy Chief Political officer of the U.S. Embassy in Iran, “A ten page analysis of the opposition written by the embassy’s political section in July 1977 correctly identified Bakhiar, Bazargan, Khomeini and Behesti as major actors in the drama that begin unfolding a year later.”

5. Contrary to this analysis, in August 1977, the “official wing” of the CIA fed President Carter a 60-page Study on Iran which concluded:

“The Shah will be an active participant in Iranian life well into the 1980s…and there will be no radical changes in Iranian political behavior in the near future.”

6. On October 31, 1977, president Carter made good on his campaign promise to clean the “cowboys” out of the CIA. He fired over 800 covert operatives from the Agency, many of whom were loyal to George Bush. Carter’s presidency split the CIA. It produced in them, among whom were “many well-trained in political warfare, a concerted will for revenge.” By the end of the 1970s many of these special covert operatives had allied themselves with George Bush’s candidacy, and later with Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign.

7. On November 15, the Shah of Iran visited Washington, D.C. Carter toasted his guest, “If ever there was a country which has blossomed forth under enlightened leadership, it would be the ancient empire of Persia.”

8. On November 23, Ayatollah Khomeini’s elder son, Haji Mustafa, died mysteriously in Najaf, Iraq. According to professor Hamid Algar, he was “assassinated by the Shah’s U.S.-instituted security police SAVAK…the tragedy inflamed the public in Iran.” Ayatollah Khomeini placed an advertisement in the French Newspaper Le Monde which read: “thanking people for condolences that had been sent of the murder of his son”. He also “appealed to the army to liberate Iran, and to the intellectuals and all good Muslims to continue their criticism of the Shah”.

9. December 31, 1977, Carter visited the Shah in Iran. He toasted the Shah for maintaining Iran as “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” Ironically, that so-called stability evaporated before the champagne lost its fizz.

10. On January 7, 1978, an insidious article entitled Iran and the Red and Black Colonialism, appeared in the Iranian daily newspaper Ettela’at. It castigated the exiled Khomeini, and produced a massive protest riot in the Holy City of Qum the next day. The clergy had little choice but to rally to Khomeini’s defense. The Qum incident shifted many of the clergy from a position of support for the Shah’s monarchy to an active opposition. That “dirty trick” perpetuated by General Fardoust was the trigger that sparked Islamic movement participating in the anti-Shah democratic Revolution. John D. Stempel, characterized Fardoust’s importance to the Alliance: “it is hard to over estimated the value of having a mole in the inner circle of the Shah.”

11. On February 3, a confidential communiqué from the U.S. Embassy clearly reflected the vision of the Alliance: “Though based on incomplete evidence, our best assessment to date is that the Shia Islamic movement dominated by Ayatollah Khomeini is far better organized, enlighten and able to resist Communism than its detractors would lead us to believe. It is rooted in the Iranian people more than any western ideology, including Communism.”

12. April 1978, Le Monde “identified Khomeini’s Liberation Movement of Iran as the most significant force in the opposition followed by the Shi’ite Islam joins the reformist of progressive critics of the Shah on the same ground. In fact, this analysis was contrary to what Mohaammad Tavassoli, leader of the Liberation Movement of Iran, expressed to John D. Stempel on August 21, 1978: “The nationalist movement in Iran lacks a popular base. The choice is between Islam and Communism…close ties between the Liberation Movement of Iran and the religious movement was necessary. Iran was becoming split by Marxist and the religious.”

13. On April 26, the confidential minutes of the U. S. Embassy Country team meeting welcomed Bush, Reagan and Thatcher.

14. On May 6, Le Monde became the first western newspaper to interview Khomeini in Najaf, Iraq. Khomeini acknowledged his compatibility with the strategic imperatives of the Bush covert team, “we would not collaborate with the Marxists, even to the overthrow of the Shah.”

15. The same month, Khomeini’s old ally from the failed 1963 coup (that resulted in Khomeini’s arrest and major uprising in June 1963 and his subsequent exile to Iraq) General Valliollah Qarani sent his emissary to meet Khomeini in Najaf. Qarani had been a major CIA asset in Iran since the 1953 coup. Seeing another chance to gain power for himself, he advised Khomeini, according to former Iranian President Abol Hassan Bani-sader:

“if you settle for the Shah’s departure and don’t use anti-American rhetoric, Americans are ready to take him out.”

16. In August, the Bush team sent its own point man to meet the exiled Ayatollah in Najaf. Professor Richard Cottam carried excellent credentials. During the 1953 coup, he had been in charge of the CIA’s Iran Desk, also, he had been in close contact with Dr. Ibrahim Yazdi in the U.S. since 1975. Curiously, he admitted to Bani-sadr in 1987, that he had not been working for the Carter Administration. Cottam’s visit must have had an impact, because Iran suddenly began to experience a series of mysterious catastrophes:

  • In Aberdeen, Fundamentalist supporters burned down a theater killing the innocent occupants, blaming it on the SAVAK and the Shah.
  • There were riots in Isfahan that resulted in martial law.
  • On August 27, one of Khomeini’s rivals among the Shia Islamic faithful outside of Iran, Ayatollah Mosa Sadr mysteriously disppeared. According to an intelligence source he was killed and buried in Libya.

17. By late August, the Shah was totally confused. U.S. Ambassador Sullivan recorded the Shah’s pleadings over the outbreak of violence:

“he said the pattern was widespread and that it was like an outbreak of a sudden rash in the country…it gave evidence of sophisticated planning and was not the work of spontaneous oppositionists…the Shah presented that it was the work of foreign intrigue…this intrigue went beyond the capabilities of the Soviet KGB and must, therefore, also involve British and American CIA. The Shah went on to ask ‘Why was the CIA suddenly turning against him? What had he done to deserve this sort of action from the United States?”

18. September 8, the Shah’s army gunned down hundreds of demonstrators in Teheran in what became known as the “Jaleh Square Massacre”.

19. On September 9, President Carter phoned the Shah to confirm his support for the Shah, a fact that enraged the Iranian population.

20. A few days later, Carter’s National Security aide, Gary Sick, received a call from Richard Cottam, requesting a discrete meeting between him and Khomeini’s representative in the U.S., Dr. Yazdi. Sick refused.

21. Khomeini for the first time, publicly called for the Shah’s overthrow.

22. In Mid-September, at the height of the revolution, “one of the handful of Khomeini’s trusted associates”, Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Beheshti, secretly visited the United States among others, he also meet with Yazdi in Texas. Beheshti was an advocate of the eye-for-an-eye school of justice.

23. In early October 1978, the agent for the Bush covert team arranged to force Khomeini out of Iraq.

24. October 3, 1978, Yazdi picked up Khomeini in Iraq and headed for Kuwait. According to Gary Sick, he received an urgent call from Richard Cottam, learning for the first time that Khomeini had been forced out of Iraq. Sick was told that Khomeini and his entourage were stuck in no man’s land while attempting to cross the border. Cottam was requesting White House intervention to resolve the issue. Sick respond, “there is nothing we could do”.

25. October 6, Khomeini’s entourage, having gotten back through Baghdad, popped up in Paris. According to Bani-sadr, “it was Khomeini who insisted on going to Paris instead of Syria or Algeria”. Whoever helped Khomeini out of the Kuwaiti border impasse had to have been on good terms with both the French and Saddam Hussein.

26. December 12, Yazdi made a trip to the U.S. to promote Khomeini and his Islamic Republic. Yazdi met secretly with Henry Precht on an unofficial capacity. Precht was the Director of the Iran Desk at the State Department and one of the Bush team’s main choke points in the Carter Administration. Later Precht and Yazdi appeared together for televised discussion of Iran. Yazdi assured the American public that Khomeini had not really called for a “torrent of blood”, and that the “election would be absolutely free”. The Islamic Republic “would enjoy full freedom of speech and the press, including the right to attack Islam.

27. December 28, Cottam visited Khomeini in Paris where he noted that U.S. citizen Dr. Yazdi was the “leading tactician in Khomeini’s camp” and apparent “chief of staff”. Khomeini was not interested in the Mullahs taking over the government. Also noted that “Khomeini’s movement definitely plans to organize a political party to draw on Khomeini’s charisma. Cottam thinks such a party would win all Majlis seats.”

28. Leaving Paris, Cottam slipped into Teheran, arriving the first week in January 1979, to prepare Khomeini’s triumphal return to Iran.

29. January 4, 1979, Carter’s secret envoy, General Robert Huyser arrived in Iran. His mission was to prevent the “fall of the Shah”. According to Huyser, Alexander Haig, ostensibly a strong Shah supporter-inexplicably, “took violent exception to the whole idea.” Huyser recalled that “General Haig never gave me a full explanation of his strong objections.” Huyser also revealed that Ambassador Sullivan “had also expressed objections.” Two pro-Shah advocates opposed to the prevention of the Shah’s fall.

30. On January 14, President Carter finally “authorized a meeting between Warren Zimmerman and Ibrahim Yazdi. On the same day, Khomeini, in an interview on CBS claimed, “a great part of the army was loyal to him” and that “he will be in effect the strong man of Iran.”

31. On January 16, in an exact repeat of the 1953 CIA coup, Bush’s covert team ushered the “eccentric and weak” Shah out of Iran.

32. On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini staged his own version of a “triumphal return” in the streets of Teheran.

33. Khomeini moved quickly to establish his authority. On February 5 he named Mehdi Bazargan, a devoted Muslim and anti-communist, interim Prime Minister. Yazdi and Abbas Amir Entezam became Bazargan’s deputies, Dr. Sanjabi Foreign Minister, and General Qarani was named military Chief of Staff.

34. On February 11, 1979, in seemingly a bizarre twist, General Qarani asked the Shah’s “eyes and ears” General Hossien Fardoust for recommendations to fill the new top posts in Iran’s armed forces. Outside of the Chief of SAVAK, all the other recommendations were accepted. Shortly after, General Fardoust became head of SAVAMA, Khomeini’s successor to SAVAK.

35. On February 14, 1979, two weeks after Khomeini’s return to Iran, the U.S. Embassy in Teheran was seized by Khomeini supporters disguised as leftist guerrillas in an attempt to neutralize the left. U.S. hostages were seized, but to the chagrin of Khomeini’s Fundamentalist, the Iranian coalition government restored order immediately. Ironically, in the same day in Kabul, Afghanistan, the U.S. Ambassador was also kidnapped by fanatic Islamic Fundamentalists disguised as leftist guerrillas and killed in the gunfight.

36. On February 14, soon after the order was restored at the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, Khomeini’s aide Yazdi supplied the Embassy with a group of Iranians for compound security. Ambassador Sullivan installed armed, and trained this Swat squad lead by SAVAK/CIA agent Mashallah Kahsani, with whom Sullivan developed a close working relationship.

37. By August, pro-Bush CIA official George Cave was visiting Iran to provide intelligence briefings to Khomeini’s aides, especially Yazdi and Entezam. These intelligence exchanges continued until October 31, the day Carter fired Bush and the 800 agents. Then with all the Iranian officials who had restored order in the first Embassy seizure eliminated, the stage was set for what happened four days later.

38. On November 4, 1979, the U.S. Embassy was taken again. Leading the charge was none other than Ambassador Sullivan’s trusted Mashallah Kashani, the Embassy’s once and former security chief.

With the evidence and documentation supplied by Mansoor, the alleged October Surprise would not have been necessary. President Carter was the target, in revenge for the Halloween Massacre, the night 800 CIA operatives and George Bush were fired by Carter. The man thrust, however, was to prevent a communist takover of Iran on the Shah’s anticpated death.

Winning the Argument

Winning the Argument

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Posted on Feb 15, 2013

By Eugene Robinson

In his bid to be remembered as a transformational leader, President Obama is following the playbook of an ideological opposite, Margaret Thatcher. First you win the argument, she used to say, then you win the vote.

Obama is gradually winning the argument about what government can and should do. His State of the Union address was an announcement of that fact—and a warning to conservatives that to remain relevant, they will have to move beyond the premise that government is always the problem and never the solution.

It’s ridiculous for critics to charge that Tuesday night’s speech was not sufficiently bipartisan. Repairing the nation’s infrastructure is not a partisan issue; bridges rust at the same rate in Republican-held congressional districts as in Democratic ones. The benefits of universal preschool will accrue in red states as well as blue. Climate change is not deterred by the fact that a majority of the Republican caucus in the House doesn’t believe in it.

There is no bipartisan compromise between “do something” and “do nothing.” Obama’s re-election reflected the progress he has made in convincing Americans that “do something” is the only option—and that “do nothing” leads inexorably to decline.

Thatcher’s reshaping of British politics and governance is instructive. The Iron Lady came to power at a time when Britain was sinking. The ideological pendulum had swung too far to the left, and the nominally socialist Labor Party, architect of the modern British welfare state, was out of ideas. Thatcher’s Conservative government roused the nation from its torpor. She was an enormously polarizing figure, and much of what she did—fighting the unions, privatizing state industries and public housing—was met with bitter resistance.

Today, Britain remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world and continues to play a major role in international affairs. London is arguably the world’s pre-eminent financial center. I doubt any of this would be the case if Thatcher had not won the argument about how her nation should move forward.

When Obama took office, the United States was in a similar funk. Ronald Reagan’s conservative ideas had been corrupted by his followers into a kind of anti-government nihilism. Reagan wanted to shrink government; today’s Republican Party wants to destroy it.

Obama assumed leadership of a country in which inequality was growing and economic mobility declining, with the result that the American dream was becoming less attainable. It was a country whose primary and secondary schools lagged far behind international norms; whose airports, roads and bridges were showing their age; and, most important, whose path to continued prosperity, in the age of globalization and information technology, was not entirely clear.

Obama’s State of the Union speech was a detailed reiteration of his position that we can and must act to secure our future—and that government can and must be one of our principal instruments.

To understand why Americans re-elected Obama in November and sent more Democrats to both houses of Congress, consider the Republican response delivered by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., following the president’s address.

Never mind the unforgettable moment when Rubio stooped almost out of sight and reached for a bottle of water, all the while trying to look straight ahead at the camera like John Cleese in some Monty Python sketch. I felt genuinely sorry for him—and appalled at the Republican Party’s incompetence at basic stagecraft. First they give Clint Eastwood an empty chair to perform with at the convention, and now this?

Even more unfortunate, in the end, was the utter lack of ideas in Rubio’s speech.

“More government isn’t going to help you get ahead, it’s going to hold you back,” Rubio said. Yet he also said that he never would have been able to go to college without government-backed student loans. And he spoke touchingly of how Medicare paid for the care his father received in his final days and the care his mother needs now.

I expected him to try to reconcile this contradiction. Instead, he went back to portraying government as something to be tamed rather than something to be used. To a majority of Republican primary voters, this makes sense. To the electorate as a whole, it might have made sense 30 years ago—but not today.

Margaret Thatcher never won the hearts of her many opponents. But by winning her argument, she shaped a nation’s future. There’s an increasing chance that historians will say the same of Barack Obama.


Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)washpost.com.
   
© 2013, Washington Post Writers Group

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EU budget: Leaders try to thrash out deal

David Cameron and other European leaders are preparing to meet in Brussels to try to reach a settlement on the European Union's long-term budget.

They are under pressure after talks last November collapsed when Britain, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands demanded deeper cuts from 2014-2020.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy is trying to broker a deal between the Commission and European Parliament, who want spending to rise, and restive member states.

The meeting is the first summit since Mr Cameron promised British voters an in-out referendum on EU membership after 2015 if he stays in power.

He has vowed to seek a fresh settlement with Brussels to get a "better deal for Britain", and insisted radical reforms would benefit the whole group.

But other countries have warned that the UK cannot "cherry pick" and this week French leader Francois Hollande declared there can be no "a la carte Europe".

Mr Cameron is among those arguing that it is unedifying for the EU to increase its budget when countries are pushing through austerity measures at home.

Downing Street has made clear that his position has not changed and he stands ready to block any new deal if it does not amount to a real-terms freeze.

The UK has highlighted major potential savings, including cuts to the administration budget and a 50bn euro project called "Connecting Europe" designed to improve infrastructure, energy and digital links.

A senior diplomatic source insisted Britain is not isolated and that only Belgium and Luxembourg, where many Eurocrats live, support a proposed increase in administration costs.

But there are significant disagreements between the net contributors and net receiver countries over how the EU budget should apportion its finances.

France has declared that the UK should have to give up some of its rebate - worth £5bn a year to the Treasury - to stand any chance of securing a freeze in spending.

President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday: "There are those who want to see cuts, others - possibly the same - who want guarantees on their own rebate.

"I have been told a solution cannot happen with Britain. But why should one country decide for 26 others? Indeed, we could have agreed at the last European summit."

But the diplomatic source said changing the rebate was a non-starter and suggested Mr Hollande was "playing to the gallery".

Margaret Thatcher negotiated the rebate in 1984 because other countries, and particularly France, benefit disproportionately from the Common Agricultural Policy.

The European Council's last proposal was for a budget limit of 973 billion euros (£840bn) over seven years but the UK, Germany and other countries want this to be closer to 950 billion euros (£820bn).

Ahead of the summit, Mr Van Rompuy insisted the available deal amounted to a "real-terms freeze" - effectively challenging Mr Cameron to take what is on offer.

Failure to agree this week could lead to a considerable delay because officials will then want to wait until after German national elections in September and European Parliament elections next year.

This could stall a decision until 2015, meaning funding to help boost poorer regions in the UK might be held up as well as money for research and educational projects.

Existing spending levels would be rolled over month by month until a budget deal is done - which would effectively freeze spending for the foreseeable future.

Gay MPs Hail ‘Historic’ Vote, Speak Of ‘Personal Battles’ Against Discrimination

Gay MPs celebrated victory on Tuesday evening in Westminster after the Commons voted convincingly 400 to 175 to endorse same-sex marriage.

Many MPs taking part in the debate yesterday were born before 1967, when being gay was still illegal.

In highly personal speeches some told of their struggles with their sexuality as they encouraged their colleagues to vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

Tory Crispin Blunt, said the Bill was part of an "astonishing and wonderful change" that had taken place over the past 50 years which had "taken millions of us from criminalisation to legal equality and the enjoyment of self-worth and validation".

"Those sentiments were certainly not apparent to me as a young man," he said. "I thought there was something wrong with me that had to be mastered, and for three decades I managed that struggle."

"The relief and happiness that comes from not having to do so any longer is due to the courage of others who fought for all the measures to advance equality over the past five decades that are the precursors to today’s Bill."

Stewart Andrew, the Conservative MP for Pudsey, told the Commons of the "personal battles" he had faced during "some of the most troubling and dark times" in his life.

"Many people have spoken and written about deeply held religious beliefs. From an early age, I developed those beliefs, going to church without the support of my family. That faith grew over time, but in my adolescence, I began to realise that I was gay.

He added to laughter: "Being gay in a small Welsh village really was like being the only gay in the village."

"It was the start of some very deep questioning about my faith and my sexuality that has taken me years to try to resolve, and I am still seeking answers."

Mike Freer, the MP who holds Finchley and Golders Green, once Margaret Thatcher's seat, challenged the idea he should be content with his civil partnership as it afforded him the same legal protections as marriage.

"I ask my married colleagues: did they get married for the legal protections it afforded them? Did they go down on one knee and say, 'Darling, please give me the protections marriage affords us'? Of course they did not," he said.

"My civil partnership was our way of saying to my friends and my family that this is who I love, this is who I am and this is who I want to spend the rest of my life with. I am not asking for special treatment; I am simply asking for equal treatment."

Bristol West Lib Dem Stephen Williams, noted he was born in 1966, when homosexuality was a criminal offence.

"During my life we have seen much progress, but it has come in fits and starts and has not always been easy," he said.

"Throughout my teenage years and my years at university, being openly gay was virtually impossible, because occasionally it could be a terrifying identity for an individual to have.

"I am thinking of the abuse that I received myself, and the far worse that I saw meted out to other people at school and university.

"What I say to colleagues on both sides of the House who oppose what we are trying to achieve today is please have some empathy with what your fellow citizens have been through. Equality is not something that can be delivered partially—equality is absolute."

Stourbridge Conservative Margot James, a vice chairman of the party, said being treated equally was "very welcome indeed".

"We still have some way to go, not just for gay people but in other areas too. My party should never flinch from the requirement to continue this progression; otherwise we may end up like the Republican party, which lost an election last year that it could have won were it not for its socially conservative agenda."


James added: "One last point that has not been raised is that gay people have always been allowed to marry—as long as they choose someone of the opposite sex.

"This has been the case in politics and in Hollywood for reasons that are well known. Many gay people today appreciate civil partnerships, but want more—they want the status of marriage. I am thinking particularly of younger gay people, who did not have to grow up in the environment that some of us had to grow up in. I support their right to declare their love in a state of marriage."

St Austell & Newquay Lib Dem Stephen Gilbert said he grew up "20-odd years ago in an environment that made it hugely difficult for me to be open, honest and up-front with my family, friends and workmates about the choices I wanted to take in life and the people I wanted to see".

"That was unacceptable 20-odd years ago and it is unacceptable today, but it remains the case for many hundreds of thousands of people across our country," he said.

"I welcome this historic Bill, which I think will end a form of discrimination and, perhaps more crucially, send a signal that this House values everybody equally across our country.

"That signal will deeply affect people like me in the same way as I was affected 20 years ago, when I saw this House vote to equalise the age of consent. That was the first time I saw other gay people on a TV screen and it was the first time that I realised that I was not alone. It changed my life."

Former Conservative police minister, Nick Herbert, who toured TV studios on the day of the debate making the case for gay mariage was also born before being gay was decriminalised.

"Not so long ago, it was possible to sack someone because they were gay," he said. "People did not dare to be open."

"Thank goodness so much has changed in my lifetime. That progress should be celebrated, but we should not believe that the journey is complete.

"I think of the gay children who are still bullied at school or who are fearful about whether their friends and families accept them.

"I think of sportsmen and women—vital role models—who still do not feel able to come out. The signal we send today about whether the law fully recognises the place of gay people in our society will really matter."

SEE ALSO: Cabinet Ministers Join Tory Dissent Against Gay Marriage

Nigel Farage’s UKIP On The Increasing European And Soviet Union Similarities

From Margaret Thatcher's original (now extremely prescient) warning of the European Union's structure creating "insecurity, unemployment, national resentment, and ethnic conflict" to Nigel Farage's recent clarifications on the agonizing direction in w...

Lord Lawson Says RBS Should Be Nationalised, As Cameron Urges Bonus ‘Restraint’

Former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson has said George Osborne should nationalise the Royal Bank of Scotland.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the peer who is a member of the parliamentary commission on banking standards said RBS, which is 82% owned by the taxpayer, should be taken over entirely and used to increase lending to business.

And the Tory peer who served in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, said the government should not worry about bankers moving overseas if bonuses are cut.

“These are not particularly impressive individuals," he said of young bankers in the City. "They’re all of them easily replaced, particularly in today’s labour market."

On Friday it was reported that RBS was hoping to claw back £100m in bonus payments to its staff as it prepares for a hefty fine over the Libor rigging scandal.

According to Sky News the bank is expected to pay up to £300m to staff in its Markets and International Banking (M&IB) unit for their work in 2012.

Downing Street has said all banks should "follow a policy of restraint" when awarding bonuses.

Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins is to waive his bonus for 2012 after a "very difficult" year for the scandal-hit bank.

Jenkins, who took on the role last August, said it was "only right that I bear an appropriate degree of accountability" following a year of devastating reputational blows for the group, including its £290 million settlement for Libor rate rigging.

The move follows reports that Barclays was preparing to pay Jenkins a bonus worth at least £1 million for 2012.

The maximum bonus he was entitled to was £2.75 million - or 250% of his £1.1 million salary.

Related on HuffPost:

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: The Great Train Rebellion

The ten things you need to know on Monday 28 January 2013...

THE GREAT TRAIN REBELLION

First, there were the Euro-rebels. Then the gay-marriage rebels. Now, it's the train-spotting rebels. David Cameron, it seems, can't stop picking fights with his backbenchers.

The Times splashes on the Tories' "high speed rebellion":

"David Cameron faces a grassroots Tory rebellion after he unveils plans today to drive the fastest railway in Europe through the party’s heartlands to Manchester and Leeds.

"The Times can reveal that a blueprint for the £33 billion High Speed 2 line, to be published this morning, will" - among other things - "pledge to create 100,00 jobs, including 10,000 during construction". Hmm, they had me at "100,000 jobs".

This could be the moment that former Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan - leader of parliament's Nimby brigade, whose Amersham and Chesham seat is on the route and has described it as "the wrong railway in the wrong place at the wrong time and for such a high cost" - takes revenge on the PM for sacking her from the cabinet last year. Dave may come to regret giving Cheryl the boot while swilling a glass of red wine...

Note: Apologies for the lack of a Morning Memo yesterday. I was out of the country, at a conference. Normal Sunday service will resume next weekend.

2) DAVE VS ADAM

Perhaps Cheryl Gillan will have to get in line. Yesterday, a new challenger appeared on the scene: (backbench) Conservative MP for Windsor, Adam Afriyie. (Adam who?)

The Independent's Andy McSmith reports:

"The debate began after three Tory-supporting Sunday newspapers reported a 'well-organised' campaign to secure the leadership for Mr Afriyie, who was a frontbench spokesman for the Conservatives in opposition but was excluded from the Government.

"... Mr Afriyie said he almost choked on his breakfast cereal when he read the reports. He told Sky News: 'I will never stand against David Cameron. I am 100 per cent supportive of David Cameron... There is no truth to any of it. We are working very hard to keep David Cameron secure, to make sure there is not a vacancy.'

"However, he also said he and his allies had talked about 'the long-term future of the party,' indicating that he sees himself as a candidate in a post-2015 leadership contest if the Tories lose the general election.

"The promise not to stand against Mr Cameron is actually meaningless, because the rules of the Conservative Party, revised after the fall of Margaret Thatcher, do not permit a direct challenge to a Tory Prime Minister, who must be felled by a vote of no confidence before an election can be held to choose a successor."

The Telegraph reveals, on its front page, that "a handful of former ministers who were sacked by Mr Cameron in the reshuffle have been working for weeks, trying to cement support for Mr Afriyie if the Tories lose the likely May 2015 election".

The paper's leader concludes: "The silly season appears to have started early this year."

Indeed.

3) LIB DEMS FOREVER

"England does not love coalitions," Benjamin Disraeli famously remarked. This morning's Independent has this as one of its front-page headlines: "Prepare for an era of coalitions, say Lib Dems."

The paper's Andrew Grice has interviewed the Tories' favourite Lib Dem minister, David Laws, and reports:

"Liberal Democrat leaders want all three main parties to draw up a slimline manifesto for an era of 'coalition politics' as well as an 'age of austerity' at the 2015 general election.

"In an interview with The Independent, David Laws, who heads the Liberal Democrats' manifesto group, said: 'We have to learn the lesson of tuition fees.'"

The Indy also notes how party leader Clegg told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme yesterday that the Lib Dems would be up for joining a coalition with Labour if the latter beat the Conservatives at the next election.

Is the country ready for its own version of Germany's Free Democrats - i.e. a third party that is permanently in government via ever-changing coalitions?

4) DON'T COME TO BRITAIN. IT SUCKS HERE.

This is my favourite story of the day - from the Guardian's front page:

"Please don't come to Britain – it rains and the jobs are scarce and low-paid. Ministers are considering launching a negative advertising campaign in Bulgaria and Romania to persuade potential immigrants to stay away from the UK.

"The plan, which would focus on the downsides of British life, is one of a range of potential measures to stem immigration to Britain next year when curbs imposed on both country's citizens living and working in the UK will expire.

"A report over the weekend quoted one minister saying that such a negative advert would 'correct the impression that the streets here are paved with gold'."

Well, of course, they're not. We're on the verge of a triple-dip recession, with real wages falling and child poverty on the rise. Thanks, in part, to policies backed by that unnamed, anonymous minister.

But, take a step back, what kind of government is so obsessed with 'cracking down' on immigration that it's willing to consider doing down the country's international image in order to keep migrants out? You could not make it up.

To be fair, the FT reports: "Downing Street played down any such campaign yesterday, with one aide dismissing the idea as 'kite flying'."

5) DON'T FORGET MALI

Hats off to the Indy and the Guardian for keeping news the conflict in Mali on their front pages.

The Independent's splash headline reads: "Revealed: how French raid killed 12 Malian villagers."

The paper reports:

"A father last night described the moment a French attack helicopter bombed his town in Mali, killing his wife and at least three children from another family. Amadou Jallo, 57, lost his wife, Aminata, in the attack on Konna, in which 12 civilians died and 15 more were injured."

Meanwhile, the Guardian's Luke Harding reports:

"Just two weeks after intervening in Mali, French troops, together with the Malian army, have wrested back control of most of the north of the country from Islamist rebels.

But, he adds:

"... despite these swift successes, it is uncertain whether France's giddy military advance will deliver any kind of lasting peace. So far the 'war' in Mali has involved little fighting. Instead Islamist rebels have simply melted back into the civilian population, or disappeared."

Hmm. Sounds like Afghanistan circa late 2001.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video: "Six dogs. One Dish. One incredibly cute trick."

6) ERIC PICKLES VS 'CHEATING' COUNCILS

The Telegraph splashes on the "minister at war over 'cheating' councils":

"Councils are treating local residents 'with contempt' and will be cheating taxpayers if they increase local taxes without public backing, the Local Government Secretary warns.

"In an article for The Daily Telegraph, Eric Pickles says he will introduce new laws to stop councils abusing the system by hitting householders with stealth tax rises next year.

"Mr Pickles, who describes some councils as 'cheating their taxpayers', discloses that only about a third have so far signed up for a national council tax freeze, with dozens more threatening to defy government calls for restraint amid the ongoing economic turmoil."

Perhaps, just perhaps, if the coalition hadn't frontloaded their cuts to local government budgets, councils wouldn't need to raise council tax.

7) VOTE TORY, GET NO HOLIDAYS?

From the Guardian:

"David Cameron will use EU reforms to repatriate and weaken workers' rights, Frances O'Grady, the new leader of the Trades Union Congress will warn on Monday.

"Speaking at a conference in Madrid she will say that, if the prime minister gets his way, employees across Europe may no longer receive health and safety protection, equal treatment as part-time workers and women, or paid holidays."

8) NO NEED TO SMELL THE COFFEE

The papers this morning are all ove the so-called 'spat' between the government and Starbucks. The Express reports:

"Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps yesterday denied that the Tories had 'singled out' coffee giant Starbucks over how much tax it paid.

"His comments follow claims that the US firm had threatened to stop investing in Britain after Prime Minister David Cameron urged business last week to 'wake up and smell the coffee' about public anger over tax avoidance.

"It was seen as a dig at Starbucks, which has paid no corporation tax in the last three years and only £8.6million in 14 years in Britain."

9) 'DIVERSITY CRISIS'

The Guardian's splash is a self-professed 'exclusive':

"Police forces should be made to positively discriminate in favour of black and ethnic minority officers in the face of a growing diversity crisis, according to one of the country's leading chief constables.

"The radical proposal – which would mean a change in the law – from Sir Peter Fahy, of Greater Manchester, comes in the face of what he said was an embarrassing paucity of black and minority ethnic officers (BME) at the top of British policing."

I'm all for more diversity, and even - as a last resort - positive discrimination, but Fahy's rather odd comments about more BME officers helping with "undercover surveillance" won't go down that well with BME communities...

10) BARACK AND HILLARY SITTING IN A TREE...

It's not often you see the president of the United States sit down for a joint interview alongside his secretary of state.

From the Guardian:

"Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton coyly batted away questions over any White House succession plan during a mutually appreciative interview on Sunday...

"'You guys in the press are incorrigible. I was literally inaugurated four days ago, and you're talking about the elections four years from now,' offered Obama.

"Clinton likewise gave an answer that could be interpreted any number of ways: 'Obviously the president and I care deeply about what's going to happen for our country in the future. And I don't think, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow or the next year,' she said."

Obama declared, with Clinton at his side: "I'm going to miss her." Awww - to think it was only five years ago that they were tearing strips out of each other in public as they tried to destroy each other's political careers.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 35
Lib Dems 12
Ukip 7

That would give Labour a majority of 78.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@TomHarrisMP If Cameron fails to win a majority in 2015, then obviously *someone* will take over. That doesn't necessarily mean there's a conspiracy.

@BevanJa Is it possible for newspapers to suggest a black politician may be a future party leader without a crude comparison to Obama?

@DanHannanMEP Does Nick Clegg lack all self-awareness? A referendum on AV was critical, but a referendum on the EU is a distraction?

900 WORDS OR MORE

Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Only a coward would deny the people their voice on Europe."

Gavin Kelly, writing in the Guardian, says: "Could the Tories' plan for re-election in 2015 cost just 10p?"

David Blunkett, writing in the Daily Mail, says: "Coalition's constituency boundary reforms are a complete mess and an insult to voters."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

Reclaiming Our Imaginations from ‘There Is No Alternative’

We live in a time of heavy fog. A time when, though many of us dissent and resist, humanity seems committed to a course of collective suicide in the name of preserving an economic system that generates scarcity no matter how much is actually produced. To demand that all have enough to eat on a planet that grows enough food, that absurd numbers of people do not die from preventable disease, that utter human deprivation amongst plenty is not tolerated, or that we put the natural laws of the biosphere above socially constructed economic “laws” — is presented as unrealistic, as the fantasy of idealists or those who are naive to the “complexity” of the world’s problems. If we create and recreate the world everyday, then how has it become so supposedly absurd to believe we might actually create a world that is honestly making the possibilities of egalitarianism, justice and democracy?(Source: Flickr / jimkang)

Capitalism — the logic of subordinating every aspect of life to the accumulation of profit (i.e. the “rules of the market”) — has become today’s “common sense.” It has become almost unthinkable to imagine coherent alternatives to this logic, even when considering the most basic of human needs — food, water, healthcare, education. Though many have an understanding of capitalism’s failings, there is a resignation towards its inevitability. Margaret Thatcher’s famous words, “There Is No Alternative,” no longer need to be spoken, they are simply accepted as normal, non-ideological, neutral.

What sustains the tragic myth that There Is No Alternative? Those committed to building a more just future must begin re-thinking and revealing the taken-for-granted assumptions that make capitalism “common sense,” and bring these into the realm of mainstream public debate in order to widen horizons of possibility. We can’t leave this task to the pages of peer-reviewed journals and classrooms of social theory — these conversations must enter also into the family dining rooms and TV screens. Here are some thoughts on conversation starters:

Alternatives could never work. Does capitalism “work”? Even by its own indicators, as we’ve become more capitalist (i.e. neoliberalism), economic growth and productivity has actually declined.

Today’s globalized world is too complex to organize things any differently. Of course the world is complex — each of us is a bundle of contradictions and we need look no further than the dynamics of a single relationship to make a case for social complexity. But things are also quite simple — we live in a world where one billion people go hungry while we literally dump half of all food produced. Can we not come up with a productive socio-economic system that also meets people’s most basic needs? The gift of today is that we have the ability to reflect and draw-upon many forms, past and present, of non-capitalist social organization, and to creatively experiment with blending the best of these possibilities. The fact that we are more connected than ever before and have advanced so far technologically gives us more possibilities, not less.

Because of our “human nature,” we can only create economic systems based on competition, greed and self-interest. This is not only utterly pessimistic, but plain wrong. Again, we can start by remembering all sorts of societies that have existed through history. Then just look around and ask the question, what motivates you and the people you know? Fields as diverse as neuroscience and anthropology have mounted evidence showing humans’ incredible capacity for cooperation and sensitivity to fairness. We are actually all quite capable of anything; but it is up to us to decide how to use our capabilities, and of course that will be dictated by what our social systems encourage and teach us to value. If there is one thing that can be said about “human nature,” it is that we construct ourselves from within our societies and we are incredibly malleable.

Freedom is only realizable through a free-market. Attaching our values of freedom to the market is not only de-humanizing, but it also fails to recognize how one person’s “freedom” to economic choice is another’s imprisonment in a life of exploitation and deprivation. There is no possibility for freedom and emancipation until we are all free, and this will only come through a much richer and deeper conception of human freedom than one that is premised upon going to a grocery store and “choosing” between 5,000 variations of processed corn.

Capitalism is the only system that encourages innovation and progress. Progress towards what? And how does enclosing common knowledge through intellectual property rights, or excluding most of the world from quality education, or depriving half of humanity from the basic life-sustaining goods needed to function healthily, lead to greater innovation? Just begin to imagine the innovative possibilities of a world where all people had access to everything they needed to live, to think, and to contribute to the common good.

Things could be worse. Of course they could, but they could also be better. Does the fact that we’ve lived through bloody dictatorships mean that we should settle for a representative democracy where the main thing being represented is money? Things are getting better. Can we really say that things are getting better as we head towards the annihilation of our own species? Sure, we may have our first black president and be making small gains in LGBT rights or in women’s representation in the workforce; but let’s not neglect the fact that capital is more concentrated and centralized than it has ever been and that its logic now penetrates into the most basic building blocks of life. I think we should give ourselves more credit than to settle for this “better.”

Change is slow. Slow is not in the vocabulary of the corporations who are stealing our common genetic heritage, or their buddies who are getting rich playing virtual money games that legally rob us all. The enclosure of our commons and the concentration of capital is not happening slowly. Whether we acknowledge it or not, change is happening — what is up for grabs is the direction of that change.

The best we can hope for is “green” and “ethical” capitalism. The logic of this belief is fundamentally flawed because it assumes that within capitalism, businesses can prioritize anything above the bottom-line. In actuality, businesses that commit themselves first and foremost to being truly and fully ethical and green will find it very difficult to stay in business. Of course there are great models of ethical business — worker-owned organic farms, for instance — but these cannot thrive and become the dominant norm when they are functioning within an economic structure that concentrates wealth and power in the hands of Monsanto. And while we should support these alternatives that exist within capitalism, we need to recognize that it’s way too little, way too late — structural change must (and will) happen, one way or another. Getting rid of capitalism means abandoning markets as a tool of social organization. This is not necessarily true, although perhaps we would do best without markets anyways. Societies have existed that have used markets but restrained oligopoly capitalism, and many brilliant thinkers have envisioned a transition to a society structured by norms of equality and sharing where markets do play a role. I’m not advocating for or against any specific proposals here, but the point is that this assumption is historically inaccurate and we have barely begun to give serious thought to other possibilities.

People don’t care. People may be distracted by consumerism, may only have enough energy to struggle to pay their bills, may be fearful, may lack access to good information... but none of these things mean that they don’t care. Show anybody an image of a starving child who works in the cacao fields but can’t afford to eat (much less taste chocolate), and they will feel disgust. The charity industry is thriving precisely because so many people do feel implicated in the revolting manifestations of capitalism. But people’s sense of outrage has been channeled away from collective political action and towards ethical buying and holiday-time charitable donations. Without an honest and sophisticated society-wide conversation about the structural issues we are facing, people’s care is reduced to individual guilt and disempowerment.

People won’t stop consuming, plus all the poor people want what the rich people have. Of course they do! Doing away with capitalism doesn’t mean resorting to primitivism, or abandoning all of our washing machines, or leaving the poor destitute. While of course there are limits to the earth’s resources (fossil-fuels in particular), this doesn’t mean that we can’t organize a productive, equitable and sustainable social order that includes many of the comforts of modern life and excitements of technology. We need not abandon desire with capitalism. In fact, getting rid of capitalism gives us the best chance of having time to organize a sustainable system of consumption before it is too late — staying hooked into capitalism may actually be the quickest route to primitivism.

Capital’s enclosure of our commons — our common resources, genes and even intellect — has been accompanied by an enclosure of our imaginations. We need to re-claim and re-orient what it is to be “realistic” from the falsehoods of There Is No Alternative. This is not a call for pure imaginations of some future utopia. It is not a fantastic plea for a sudden and complete dissolving of all the social structures that currently pattern our lives. Instead, it is a call to take what is already going on all around us, all the time — cooperation, sharing, empathy — and let these aspects of our humanity that we most cherish guide our future. To begin to re-direct and re-structure our social systems towards the things we most desire and value — caring for and cooperating with one another, true participation and democracy, human freedom and free time, peace and co-existence — and in doing so, to watch these things begin to flourish.

If it is naive to believe that we can structure society to reward goodness instead of greed and prioritize people instead of profit, then I’m fighting until the bitter end to maintain my naiveté! Things become possible when we believe they are possible; so let’s start believing.

Andrea Brower

Andrea Brower is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Auckland. She has been very active in alternative food and global social justice movements, and spent several years co-directing the non-profit Malama Kauai in Hawaii, where she is originally from.

Mehdi’s ‘Sunday Lunchtime’ Memo: ‘A Vicious and Cowardly Attack’

The ten things you need to know on Sunday 20 January 2013...

1) 'A VICIOUS AND COWARDLY ATTACK'

From the Press Association:

"David Cameron has confirmed that three British nationals have been killed in Algeria, a further three are believed to be dead and a British resident has also died.

"The remaining 22 British survivors have returned to the UK and been reunited with their loved-ones, the Foreign Secretary has confirmed.

"Mr Cameron said: 'I know the whole country will want to join me in sending our sympathies and condolences to the families who have undergone an absolutely dreadful ordeal and who now face life without these very precious loved ones.'

"Speaking from Chequers, the PM echoed President Barack Obama and blamed the terrorists for the deaths, saying 'of course people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events, but I would just say that the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched a vicious and cowardly attack.'"

NOTE: For reasons I won't bore you with, this Memo was delayed today, hence it's 'Sunday Lunchtime', rather than 'Morning', title. Normal service will resume tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed.

2) 'RED MEAT'

Forget the horse meat, it's all about red meat when it comes to the PM and Europe.

From the Observer:

"David Cameron will deliver a 'redmeat announcement' on Britain's future in the EU, which he believes will satisfy all but a hard core of Conservative MPs, when he makes his much-delayed keynote speech on Europe in the next few days.

"Amid uncertainty over the exact timing of the jinxed address, senior government sources told the Observer that the prime minister intends to make the speech this week - possibly tomorrow - if a resolution has been found to the Algerian hostage crisis.

"'He wants to go ahead as soon as possible. There will be something in it which will pacify all but the hard core,' said the source. 'But he could deliver the same kind of speech that Margaret Thatcher gave in Bruges in 1988 and around 25 MPs would not be happy. It is not possible to please everyone.'"

Speaking on the Andrew Marr programme, foreign secretary William Hague confirmed that the PM's 'tantric' speech on Europe would take place in the coming week.

Hague told stand-in presenter Jeremy Vine that an announcement on the location and timing of the speech would happen tomorrow, and said the British public "need their say" on the UK's relationship with Brussels - suggesting that was what his boss, the prime minister, would offer. Watch this space.

3) COUP AGAINST CAMERON?

Remember the letters to Graham Brady and the 1922 Committee? The ones from Tory backbenchers that could trigger a vote of no-confidence in Dave's leadership of the Conservative Party? There's now 17 of them, apparently.

From the Sunday Times:

"An increasing number of backbenchers are privately discussing the possibility of attempting to unseat the prime minister before the poll in 2015 if the party continues to trail in the polls.

"While there is no immediate threat to his position, a well-placed source said that up to 17 MPs had now written letters of 'no confidence', and there are rumours that at least one list of MPs willing to back a coup is being gathered.

"For the first time, discussions about ousting Cameron before 2015 appear to be spreading beyond the so-called 'usual suspects' — a hard core of about 20 backbenchers who are hostile to his leadership."

Oh dear.

On a side note, Nigel Farage still isn't happy with the Ukip-abusing Tory leader. This morning, on the Andrew Marr programme, Ukip leader Nigel Farage ruled out a post-2015 "deal" with a Cameron-led Conservative Party:

“I think with David Cameron as leader, that is virtually impossible to even contemplate."

4) PLEBGATE, PART 99

Uh-oh. It's not looking so good for Sir Jeremy Heywood. From the Mail on Sunday:

"Britain’s most powerful mandarin faces public humiliation after MPs claimed his bungled investigation cost ‘plebgate’ ex-Tory Minister Andrew Mitchell his job.

"A report by a powerful Commons committee will tomorrow accuse Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood of failing to give the former Chief Whip a chance to prove he was the victim of a police conspiracy.

"A copy of an explosive report by the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, shows that MPs lambast Sir Jeremy’s handling of a Downing Street investigation into Mr Mitchell."

5) TAXING TIMES

Last Sunday, this Memo noted how the two Eds had were keen to position the Labour Party behind an anti-tax-avoidance campaign; this Sunday, it's the turn of the Liberal Democrats.

From the Sunday Telegraph:

"Senior Liberal Democrats are drawing up plans for a new levy on Starbucks, Amazon and other global businesses that pay low levels of tax on their British operations.

"As part of preparation for this year’s Budget negotiations, Lib Dems are looking to introduce a minimum tax charge on multinationals based on their global profits.

"Tim Farron, the party’s president, said the charge would address the 'natural outrage' many British people have felt at how little some multinationals contribute to the public finances."

I guess dealing with the 'national outrage' over tax avoidance helps the Lib Dems deal with some of the 'national outrage' over... the Lib Dems themselves.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

In honour of yesterday's 'National Gun Appreciation Day' in the United States, watch this amusing video of US gun owners making idiots of themselves.

6) 'WAR ON BENEFIT CHEATS' ANNOUNCED. UGH.

Remember how Iain Duncan Smith, saviour of the poor, claimed in a recent Today programme interview that he and his department never demonised people on benefits? Remember that?

Well, check out some of today's headlines and news reports. The Sun on Sunday ("£5bn benefiddle") says:

"Ministers will this week step up the war on benefit cheats after false claims hit a record £5.3billion.

Hit squads will be sent into welfare hot spots to target suspect claimants."

The Sunday Express quotes IDS as saying: “The welfare state has over the years become so complex and confusing that fraudsters basically have been given the green light to pick the pockets of hard working taxpayers.

Green light? Hit squads? 'Benefiddle'? I wonder how many papers IDS/the DWP briefed about illegal tax evasion, which is estimated to cost the exchequer tens of billions of pounds compared to illegal benefit fraud which costs just over £1bn (or around 0.7% of the benefits bill).

7) HERE COMES THE TRIPLE DIP?

From the Observer:

"The Office for National Statistics will publish its first estimate of GDP growth for the final quarter of 2012 on Friday and many experts, including at the Bank, expect it to show that the economy contracted. A second negative quarter, from January to March, would mark the onset of Britain's third recession in five years."

The paper says the "Ernst and Young Item Club forecasting group joins those calling on the government to abandon the 2% inflation target, forcing the Bank of England to take more drastic action to lift the economy out of its slump".

No pressure then on Mark Carney, the new bank governor from Canada who takes over Sir Mervyn King in the summer...

8) LIVING WAGE 'ZONES'

Triple-dip or no triple-dip, wages will continue to stagnate over the next few years - and have been in decline since around 2003. Would a living wage help? Ed Miliband thinks so - from the Observer:

"The first detailed blueprint for boosting the wages of millions of low-paid private and public sector workers, while saving the Treasury billions of pounds a year, is released today by two leading thinktanks as support for the living wage grows at Westminster.

"Labour welcomed the radical ideas from the independent Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) as an "extremely valuable contribution" to the living wage debate, amid signs they could be taken up by Ed Miliband's party for inclusion in its next general election manifesto."

9) KENNETH BAKER VS MICHAEL GOVE

My former New Statesman colleague George Eaton has done a rather interesting interview with former Thatcher cabinet minister and Tory grandee Kenneth Baker - 'the most transformative education secretary in recent history' - which Michael Gove won't be too pleased with.

The top lines:

1) He describes Gove's English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which will replace GCSEs from 2015, as "a throwback", comparing it to the School Certificate he sat as a 16-year-old in 1951.
2) He says the "jury's out" on free schools and says he doesn't think "allowing them to be run for profit would necessarily change very much, quite frankly. I really don’t think it would".
3) He says "the jump [in tuition fees] to £9,000 was just too much, quite frankly".

10) OBAMA 2.0

It's time for the second term. From the BBC:

"Barack Obama is due to be officially sworn in for his second term as US president in a small ceremony at the White House.

Although the US Constitution requires the oath of office to be taken by noon on 20 January, as that falls on a Sunday the public inauguration will take place on Monday."

The president wants the Almighty on his side. From the Huffington Post:

"When President Obama rests his hand on two historic Bibles to take his second-term oath of office Monday (Jan. 21), he'll add a phrase not mentioned in the Constitution: 'So help me God.'

"... Although the phrase was used in federal courtrooms since 1789, the first proof it was used in a presidential oath of office came with Chester Arthur's inauguration in September 1881.

"Every president since, including Obama, has followed suit."

The Huffington Post has commissioned a series of special pieces on 'Obama's second-term challenges' which you can read here.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 42
Conservatives 33
Ukip 11
Lib Dems 7

That would give Labour a majority of 96.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@TimMontgomerie Never seen Cameron looking so tired, making his Algeria statement. Doesn't look like he's been to bed. Must have been v challenging few days

@OllyGrender Prob remains if PM does go for "in/out referendum" I know precisely where my party stands on that but his party will be chronically divided

@campbellclaret Success of Borgen (currently trending) and West Wing (which I have not seen) a sign of gap in market for essentially pro politics TV?

900 WORDS OR MORE

Liam Fox, writing in the Mail on Sunday, says: "Lethal force, not rational argument, must be our response to these violent fanatics."

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg's relationship is starting to thaw."

Lord Wolfson, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "I back the single market – but not at any cost."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Cable Vs Cameron

The ten things you need to know on Thursday 17 January 2013...

1) CABLE VS CAMERON

First there was an American diplomat. Then a German politician. Then a former British ambassador. And then, of course, a group of eurosceptic Tory backbenchers. Everyone seems to have something to say on Britain's relationship with Europe ahead of David Cameron's 'tantric' speech on the subject in the Netherlands tomorrow.

Tonight, just a few hours ahead of the PM's address, it's Vince Cable's turn. As Ned Simons and I report:

"In a speech to business leaders on Thursday, the Lib Dem business secretary will say it is a 'terrible time' to have the 'diversion and uncertainty' which build up to a referendum would entail.

“'Uncertainty is the enemy of investment. At a time of extreme fragility in business confidence such uncertainty would add to the sense of unresolved crisis and weaken Britain’s ability to deliver more reform inside the EU,' he will say.

"... Taking aim at eurosceptic Tory backbenchers, Cable will use his speech on Thursday evening to say that it will be “next to impossible” to safeguard the UK national interest in the Single Market if London tries to disengage from its existing commitments.

“'The eurosceptic calculation is that British permission is necessary for closer integration- via treaty change- and that this permission can be traded for the negotiating objectives. That seems to me a dangerous gamble to make,' he will say."

There aren't many Tories who like Vince Cable and there'll be even fewer after he delivers tonight's speech in Oxfordshire. A senior Lib Dem official tells us that the the party wants "to give the Tories enough rope to hang themselves with".

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports:

"In the runup to the [Cameron] speech, a group of prominent City figures have written to the Telegraph in support of an in-out referendum, and a group of 30 pro-European Tory MPs, including Ken Clarke and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, have written a letter charging the prime minister with jeopardising Margaret Thatcher's foremost European legacy, the single market. The MPs warn: 'We fear that a renegotiation which seems to favour the UK alone would force other capitals to ask why they cannot simply dispense with those parts of the single market that don't suit them, potentially endangering Margaret Thatcher's defining European legacy.'"

2) 'THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF'

The Tories' seem pretty divided on Europe - something Ed Miliband was keen to highlight during prime minister's questions yesterday. But what's Labour's position? We may found out today when shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander gives his own speech on Europe (yep, everyone's at it!) in which he will say:

“The gap between the minimum the Tories will demand and the maximum our European partners can accept remains unbridgeable."

Meanwhile, his boss, the Labour leader Ed Miliband, has told the Financial Times that David Cameron was about to take Britain "to the edge of an economic cliff" with a promise of an EU referendum, which he believes will also reawaken "collective" hysteria" in the Conservative Party.

Miliband told the FT that he is "not in favour now of committing to an in-out referendum - it wouldn't be the right thing for our country. The priority for this country is to focus on our economic difficulties and getting out of those difficulties and you don't do that by putting a big 'closed for business' sign around Britain."

Cameron "should be listening to the CBI and not Nigel Farage", the Labour leader added.

Oooh...

3) COLLECTIVE (IR)RESPONSIBILITY

Europhobes in the cabinet (IDS? Owen Paterson? Chris Grayling?) will be delighted - from the Guardian:

"The prime minister has refused to confirm or deny claims that he has given cabinet colleagues freedom to campaign for Britain to exit the European Union in a future referendum."

It could be 1975 all over again...

4) 'ROM THEIR WAY'

That's the headline in the Sun this morning, which reports:

"Up to 350,000 Romanians and Bulgarians could flock to Britain when restrictions are lifted at the end of this year, a report warns today.

"The influx would equal a city the size of Leicester.

"A new analysis estimates 50,000 Romanians and Bulgarians could arrive each year — or 250,000 over the next five years. But that figure could hit 70,000 annually — or 350,000 over five years, according to..."

Hmm. According to who? Yep, you guessed it:

"...campaign group Migration Watch."

But earlier this week, the prime minister said that the detail for such calculations "wasn't there yet" and as the BBC reports:

"Sarah Mulley, of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank said that although it was 'very difficult to predict migration flows with any degree of confidence in these circumstances' the estimates put forward by Migration Watch 'look high'.

"She said: 'The UK is opening access to its labour markets along with the rest of Europe and the process of opening up to Bulgaria and Romania has been a gradual one, in contrast with 2004 when the UK was the only large EU country to open its labour market and when borders and labour market access were opened at the same time.

"'So it would be very surprising if net migration from Bulgaria and Romania was on the scale predicted by Migration Watch.'"

Watch this space.

5) BARACK OBAMA VS THE NRA

Second-term Obama seems to have found his cojones - from my HuffPost colleagues in the US:

"In a bold and potentially historic attempt to stem the increase in mass gun violence, President Barack Obama unveiled on Wednesday the most sweeping effort at gun control policy reform in a generation.

"'This is our first task as a society: keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged,' Obama said. 'We can’t put this off any longer.'

"... [T]he president recommended requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; reinstating the assault weapons ban; restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines; eliminating armor-piercing bullets; providing mental health services in schools; allocating funds to hire more police officers; and instituting a federal gun trafficking statute, among other policies. The cost of the package, senior officials estimated, would be roughly $500 million, some of which could come from already budgeted funds."

The NRA isn't happy. Prior to the president's announcement, America's largest gun lobby released a TV ad in which

"... a narrator argued that the Secret Service protection provided to Obama's two daughters, Sasha and Malia, is evidence that the president is an 'elitist hypocrite,' who wants armed guards for his own daughters, but not for other people's children. The ad was widely panned as soon as it was released, and White House spokesman Jay Carney called it 'repugnant and cowardly.'"

"Has the NRA lost it entirely?" asks Salon's Joan Walsh.

Er, yes.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of two dogs Skypeing each other.

6) AFGHAN REDUX?

From the Times splash:

"British special forces were on standby last night to mount a rescue mission after al-Qaeda militants in Algeria took scores of foreign workers hostage, including up to five Britons.

"One British citizen was killed in the bloody siege at a BP gas plant in the East of the country — the worst terrorist crisis of David Cameron's premiership and one of the largest foreign kidnappings of recent times. The militants, from neighbouring Mali, claimed that they were responding to a decision by France, supported by Britain, to attack al-Qaeda Islamists in their country."

The paper adds:

"In a move that could increase tensions further, MPs approved plans yesterday to send a small number of British military personnel to help to train Mali's demoralised army as it battles to reclaim the sprawling north of the country from jihadists.

"Britain has contributed two transport aircraft to help the French mission, but was expected to send a small number of soldiers to Bamako, the Malian capital, as early as next month under proposals drawn up by the European Union."

But the Daily Mail's leader argues that "it would surely be disastrous for Britain to commit more of our overstretched men and equipment to a cause not obviously our own". It says:

"Indeed, in the rapidly escalating conflict in Mali, where France will triple its troop deployment 'within days', aren't there chilling echoes of Afghanistan? There, too - where the bloodshed continues after more than a decade - Britain took arms against a tribal enemy as a gesture of solidarity with an ally.

"In Mali, as in Afghanistan, the insurgents are proving a more formidable foe than expected, armed as they are with heavy machine guns, Kalashnikovs and rocketpropelled grenades.

"... As France calls for more international support, is it too much to hope that David Cameron will remember the British lives lost and the sobering lessons of our oh-so-recent history - and just say No?"

7) LABOUR'S IRON MAN?

The cover story of the Guardian's G2 supplement has a rather startling headline this morning: "Could Ed be Labour's Thatcher?"

Author Andy Beckett, a long-time Miliband-watcher, draws a fascinating comparison between the Labour leader and the Tories' most famous, successful and right-wing leader. He writes:

"Members of Miliband's unusually small inner circle are also open about their preoccupation with – and even sometimes admiration for – what Thatcher subsequently achieved in her 15 years as opposition leader and prime minister."

The whole thing is worth a read - and not just because Beckett plugs my biog of the Labour leader in the opening paragraph.

8) AUSTERITY WATCH, PART 129

From the Times:

"More than 100,000 disabled people will lose basic home support under government reforms of social care, leading disability groups are warning.

"Five charities including Scope, Mencap and Leonard Cheshire argue that the care system is already underfunded by at least £1.2 billion and “is on the verge of breakdown”.

"... In a report published today the charities say that 40 per cent of disabled people are already failing to get the basic care they need, such as help with washing, dressing, cooking and eating."

9) FORMER ISRAELI PM ACCUSES CURRENT ISRAELI PM

From the Daily Beast:

"Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says the government of Benjamin Netanyahu spent almost $3 billion in the past two years preparing for a war against Iran's nuclear program that it probably never intended to wage.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Olmert said the sum was above and beyond the billions allocated to the defense budget and helped raise Israel’s fiscal deficit to heights it hadn’t reached in years. As a result, he said, Netanyahu would be forced to make broad spending cuts, if reelected next week..."

Now that's what I call a deficit debate...

10) 'MY MATHS ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH'

From the HuffPost UK:

"Wonga's head of regulatory and public affairs has told a committee of MPs that he could not work out the interest on a loan from his own company because 'my maths isn't good enough.'

"Henry Raine, head of regulatory and public affairs at the payday loans company, defended his business to the House of Commons Public Accounts committee, where he was grilled by chair and Labour MP Margaret Hodge on the effectiveness of consumer credit regulation."

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the latest Ipsos-MORI poll:

Labour 43
Conservatives 30
Ukip 9
Lib Dems 8

That would give Labour a majority of 124.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@DanHannanMEP The lobby is covering the PM's coming speech in terms of party management. They're missing the epochal significance of an In/Out referendum.

@edballsmp When David Cameron gets so desperate he has to claim Labour wants Britain to join the single currency, you know he's really losing it..

@TheOnion On Tonight's ONNCast: NRA Fights Legislation That Would Ban Gun Sales To Those Currently On Killing Sprees

900 WORDS OR MORE

James Forsyth, writing in this week's Spectator, says: "Cameron’s European moment has come – a year late."

Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Tony Blair’s record in the Middle East is a sorry one – it’s time he quit."

Slavoj Zizek, writing in the Guardian, says: "The west's crisis is one of democracy as much as finance."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

Cameron’s Plan For EU Referendum Would Slash Ukip Support

David Cameron could slash Ukip's support by more than a third if he promises an in-out referendum on EU membership, according to a poll.

Research by ComRes for the Sunday People found 63% of the public want a vote on whether Britain should remain in the union.

Some 33% said they would cast their ballot in favour of a full withdrawal - including two thirds of Ukip supporters, 27% of Tories, 25% of Labour voters, and 17% of Liberal Democrats.

However, more people - 42% said they were against leaving the EU.

There were also signs that opposition to the union has softened, with the proportion who think there should be a referendum dropping from 68% in October 2011.

At that time 37% wanted to exit the EU altogether.

The poll suggested that Ukip is on track to knock the Tories into third place in next year's European parliament elections.

Asked who they would back in the contest, 35% said Labour, 23% Ukip and 22% the Conservatives. The Lib Dems were on just 8%.

But as the Prime Minister prepares to make his crunch speech on Europe later this month, Ukip voters were asked how they would react if he pledges to hold an in-out referendum.

Nearly four in 10 - 37% - said they would probably not support the party any more.

Quick Poll

Should Cameron hold a referendum on Britain's EU membership?

Share your vote on Facebook so your friends can take this poll

ComRes chairman Andrew Hawkins said: "While European and Westminster electoral dynamics are different, the prospect of humiliation in 2014 would fuel disquiet among Mr Cameron's right flank who have still not forgiven him for not winning in 2010 and want to see traditional Tory values asserted more aggressively.

"The challenge for (Ukip leader) Nigel Farage is to appeal now to Labour voters and to maintain his party's support in the event of the promise of a referendum."

Earlier on Saturday, Tory grandee Lord Heseltine turned on David Cameron, warning the PM against taking a “punt” by holding a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

The former minister, who served under Margaret Thatcher, made the comments in interviews with The Times and FT ahead of Cameron’s speech on the EU later this month.

Cameron has said he wants the UK to stay in the EU, but wants to renegotiate the terms of the relationship, particularly as those within the EU are pushing for greater integration.

However the PM's desire to fashion a looser relationship with Europe could prove tricky. On Thursday, a delegation of German MPs told the prime minister not to "blackmail" the rest of Europe with threats, while on Wednesday the Obama administration warned Britain not to turn "inwards" with a referendum.

ComRes interviewed 2,059 adults online between December 19 and 21. Data were weighted to be representative of all adults. The Ukip voter sample size was 304.

Heseltine Warns Cameron Over EU Referendum ‘Punt’

Tory grandee Lord Heseltine has turned on David Cameron, warning the PM against taking a “punt” by holding a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

The former minister, who served under Margaret Thatcher, is renowned for his staunch Europhile views, and Saturday’s comments, made in interviews with The Times and FT ahead of Cameron’s speech on the EU later this month, will only serve to exacerbate Tory tensions over Europe.

heseltine

Heseltine: "Thatcher said 'Never go into a room unless you know how to get out of it'."

The peer, who serves as an adviser to the coalition on economic growth and has gone on record in his belief that Britain will eventually adopt the Euro, said: "Mrs Thatcher said 'Never go into a room unless you know how to get out of it'.

"To commit to a referendum about a negotiation that hasn't begun, on a timescale you cannot predict, on an outcome that's unknown, where Britain's appeal as an inward investment market would be the centre of the debate, seems to me like an unnecessary gamble."

Lord Heseltine added: "If I was responsible for inward investment into any of our European colleagues, it would give me the best argument I could dream of.

"Why put your factory (in Britain) when you don't know - and they can't tell you - the terms upon which you will trade with us in future?"

Quick Poll

Should Cameron hold a referendum on Britain's EU membership?

Share your vote on Facebook so your friends can take this poll

Cameron has come under pressure from an increasingly unruly Tory backbench, with many criticising the prime minister for not pushing Britain further away from the ailing European project.

The Tory leader has said he wants the UK to stay in the EU, but wants to renegotiate the terms of the relationship, particularly as those within the EU are pushing for greater integration.

However Cameron's desire to fashion a looser relationship with the EU could prove tricky. On Thursday, a delegation of German MPs told the prime minister not to "blackmail" the rest of Europe with threats.

Washington will be watching Cameron's speech closely, with the Obama administration having warned Britain on Wednesday not to turn "inwards" with a referendum.

Philip Gordon, the US assistant secretary for European affairs, made clear that the United States favoured a "strong British voice" within the EU.

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Russian Embassy responds to hypocritical Times report on ‘investigation’ into MPs on RT

Published time: 11 Oct, 2017 15:11 Edited time: 11 Oct, 2017 15:20 The Russian Embassy...

Cyril Smith abused kids for ‘perverted amusement’ & MI5 may have covered it up,...

Published time: 10 Oct, 2017 14:52 The late Liberal Party politician Sir Cyril Smith treated...

The Trump Presidency

  David Barsamian: You have spoken about the difference between Trump’s buffoonery, which gets endlessly covered by the media, and the actual policies he is...

Unfortunate photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg emerges after spat with anti-Tory protester

Published time: 3 Oct, 2017 10:45 A photo of could-be-next-Tory-leader Jacob Rees-Mogg at the Conservative...

A Murdoch interfering in British politics? James claims the UK needs Fox’s Sky takeover

Published time: 14 Sep, 2017 16:17 Another member of the Murdoch family stands accused of...

Theresa May vows to stay on as PM… evidence suggests she may not be...

Theresa May says she’ll remain in power as prime minister “for the long term” and...

New Tory youth group targeted by full-on social media #meme assault

Published time: 29 Aug, 2017 16:14 A new Tory grassroots campaign which aims to copy...

Could Britain avoid being dragged into a North Korean war?

Published time: 10 Aug, 2017 16:10 Britain, America’s top European ally, could formally refuse Donald...

10yrs after financial crisis, another crash is ‘almost inevitable,’ economist Steve Keen tells RT

Ten years on from the start of the global financial crisis, one of only a...

The Instability of Britain and the US: How Do We Come Back From This?

Photo by Garry Knight | CC BY 2.0 There is a famous scene in Shakespeare’s Henry V on the night before the battle of Agincourt, when the...

Spain will not use Brexit to retake Gibraltar – Spanish foreign minister

Spain will not exploit Brexit talks to win back sovereignty over Gibraltar, its foreign minister...

What is the British govt really hiding in its secret archives?

As Britain’s love affair with state secrecy collides yet again with public demands for transparency,...

How War Became a Lucrative, Global Industry

I cannot recommend the new documentary Shadow World highly enough. It packs an enormous punch in 90 mins, providing a devastating account of the...

RAF smuggled Christmas trees into Saudi Arabia despite religious ban

Published time: 20 Jul, 2017 13:40 The Royal Air Force (RAF) transported Christmas trees into...

Britain tried to free Hitler’s first deputy from Spandau imprisonment

The UK government tried to secure the release of Rudolf Hess, the deputy Fuhrer in...

Britain wanted to threaten Saddam’s Iraq with chemical weapons

Published time: 20 Jul, 2017 15:40 Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s former prime minister, wanted to threaten...

‘Japanese-paid’ neoconservative think tank hypes Chinese threat to Britain

A British neoconservative think tank, recently accused of being paid by the Japanese embassy to...

Gibraltarian fury at King of Spain’s call for settlement which suits ‘all sides’

Published time: 13 Jul, 2017 12:01 Officials in Gibraltar are angry at the King of...

Another U-turn: Tories drop manifesto pledge to scrap free school meals

Published time: 4 Jul, 2017 16:21 The Tories have yet again backtracked on one of...

The Democratic Party’s Deadly Dead-End

Exclusive: By playing for centrist and neoconservative votes, national Democrats have left the party floundering with no coherent political message and...

Forbes’ ‘Go Bust’ Prescription For Indian Farmers Is A Death Warrant

By Binu Mathew and Colin Todhunter Background Washington’s long-term plan has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system...

Why This Year's UK Election Feels Like a Victory After 20 Years of Neoliberalism

Jeremy Corbyn campaigns in West Kirby, England, May 20, 2017. (Photo: Andy Miah) In 1997, I voted for the first time in a British general...

Tale of two leaders: victorious Macron meets enfeebled May

Published time: 13 Jun, 2017 17:02 UK Prime Minister Theresa May is in Paris meeting...

Final election poll puts May’s Tories 12 points ahead of Corbyn’s Labour

The last poll released ahead of election day put Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party...

Monsters, fish fingers & space lords: 5 of the weirdest candidates standing in UK...

Thursday’s UK general election is a two-horse race between Theresa May’s Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn’s...

Secretive Bilderberg Group to talk Russia, Trump & ‘war on information’

Many of the world's most powerful people are gathering for the annual meeting of the mysterious...

Secretive Bilderberg Group to talk Russia, Trump & ‘war on information’

Many of the world's most powerful people are gathering for the annual meeting of the mysterious...

Manchester Bombing: 'Refugee'-Terrorist Family Arrested

Predictably, a Third World invader family pretending to be refugees in Britain are among the eight nonwhites who have been arrested so...

Why Would Anyone Vote Conservative in the UK election?

Consistent with 21st century politics the announcement on 18th April of a general election by Prime Minister Teresa May was a cynical move based...

May & Corbyn face backlash for no-show at ‘second-rate’ leaders’ TV debate

Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have been blasted for failing to...

Buying the election? Tory billionaires outspend Labour’s trade unions in donor war

Donations from the billionaire business lobby to the Conservative Party are already almost double the...

Only surviving terrorist behind Iranian Embassy siege lives on welfare in south London

Published time: 3 May, 2017 10:17 The only terrorist to survive the storming of the Iranian...

Giving NY’s Governor a $783,000 Bribe Is Business as Usual for Rupert Murdoch

Buffalo News (4/18/17) A Buffalo News headline (4/18/17) asked a pointed question about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “How Did Cuomo Make $783,000 on Memoir...

Theresa May meets Donald Tusk for 1st time since Brexit was triggered

Published time: 6 Apr, 2017 10:58Edited time: 7 Apr, 2017 09:56 EU Council President Donald Tusk...

Could joint UK-Spanish sovereignty deal solve Gibraltar impasse?

Former Labour Cabinet Minister Peter Hain has called for the sovereignty of Gibraltar to be split between Spain and Britain, as Brexit negotiations reignite...

‘Don’t lose your cool’: Spain jibes Britain over Gibraltar ‘war’ threats

Spain is urging Britain not to lose its “composure” over Gibraltar, after a group of “sabre-rattling” Tories warned the UK would be willing to...

From paramilitary to peacemaker: Former IRA commander & NI leader Martin McGuinness dies

Former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness died Tuesday morning following a...

Theresa May in Vogue: Interview suggests PM smitten with ‘gentleman’ Donald Trump

Prime Minister Theresa May’s controversial interview with American Vogue fashion magazine has hit the stands, with the British politician using the chance to praise...

Brexit could give £8bn extra spending money to UK government – IFS

Britain could see a Brexit dividend of up to £8 billion (US$10 billion), the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said. In its Green Budget,...

Britain in line for decade of austerity & highest tax burden in 30 years,...

As the UK faces another decade of austerity, Britain’s tax burden is to hit its...

Govt hires advertising giant to lead fight against rise of far right in Britain

Lies spread by the far right will be challenged in an online campaign by Theresa May’s government as part of a £60 million battle...

Gay Nigerian man faces ‘unlawful’ deportation from Britain

British authorities are preparing to “unlawfully” deport a gay man to Nigeria on Tuesday night, despite fears he will be targeted and attacked on...

The Tories Are Wrecking the NHS in Order to Privatise It

Are we witnessing the unfolding of the last chapter of the Tories’ plan to privatise the NHS? The first step was taken by the...

Theresa May attacks John Kerry’s Israel speech in bid to please Trump team

In what appears to be an attempt to woo Donald Trump’s incoming administration, British Prime...

Cocaine-eating moths? British govt mooted unusual plan to fight Latin American drug barons

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted to use cocaine-eating moths as part of a plot...

‘Historic & impressive’: Britain’s ambassador to US breaks silence on Trump election

Britain’s ambassador to the US has broken his silence on US President-elect Donald Trump’s election...

‘Year zero of modern era’: WikiLeaks releases more than 500k US diplomatic cables from...

WikiLeaks has released more than half a million US diplomatic cables from 1979, covering numerous incidents...

‘Freedom of speech no excuse’: Students ban Daily Mail, Sun & Express from London...

The students’ union at London’s City University has voted for a motion stating that “there...

Pacifist white poppies make record sales as red flower increasingly ‘militarized’

White poppy sales have hit a record high this year, with manufacturers of the peace symbol suggesting the militaristic overtones of the traditional red...

Theresa May wrong to dismiss Trump-Farage friendship, say rebellious Tories

British Prime Minister Theresa May has reportedly sparked Tory infighting over her refusal to deal with UKIP’s Nigel Farage as he offers himself as...

The Political World After Trump’s Win

The Democratic Party’s long sojourn into corporate-friendly politics – and neglect of its old working-class base – has led to...

Foreign Office recalls files revealing ‘SAS role in the Sikh genocide’

The British Foreign Office has withdrawn secret files from the National Archives about the 1984...

Two more women claim Trump inappropriately touched them

Summer Zervos is the latest woman to allege Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was sexually inappropriate...

The Failed Dogma of Neoliberalism

In the 1980s, British Prime Minister Thatcher and U.S. President Reagan depicted neoliberal or “free market” capitalism as the ideal system, a dogma that...

New UKIP leader hails Putin as ‘hero,’ whips up social media frenzy

Diane James, who last week replaced Nigel Farage as leader of the UK Independence Party...

Theresa May Bans Ministers Talking To The Media

The BBC’s rather charming piece entitled “Who is Theresa May: A profile” sets out a life reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher, from her early days...

Trump more psychopathic than Hitler, Oxford study finds

US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has more psychopathic traits than Adolf Hitler, a researcher at...

Nigel Farage aide held in US on money laundering, extortion & fraud charges

An aide to Nigel Farage is facing money laundering and blackmail charges in the US...

‘I destroyed the far right in UK’: Farage on Brexit, UKIP future & neo-Nazi...

In an interview with RT UK, outgoing UKIP leader Nigel Farage denied that his Brexit...

Purr-fect or PR-fect? What feuding Downing Street cats can teach us about UK politics

Whether it is because they serve as the personification of rivalries within Britain’s ruling class,...

Majority of Britons back PM May on launching nuke attack that would kill 100,000

PM Theresa May was right to give an unequivocal "yes" according to 66 percent of...

The British govt’s ‘take out the trash day’: A brief history of burying bad...

The government of Prime Minister Theresa May has dumped more than 300 documents containing some...

PM May relinquishes Britain’s 6-month EU presidency ahead of Merkel meeting

Britain will give up its scheduled six-month European Council presidency following last month’s referendum vote for Brexit, Downing Street has said. Prime Minister Theresa May...

Theresa May becomes new UK prime minister

Theresa May has become Britain’s second ever female prime minister after being appointed by Queen...

How Government Officials Deceive Themselves, To Deceive the Public

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org Especially the foreign services and the military of any country are being paid like lawyers are standardly paid: they’re...

Cameron to leave Downing Street on Wednesday, Theresa May to become PM

Theresa May will succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister on Wednesday evening after May’s challenger...

This Europe isn’t MY Europe

Peter van Els The EU is a precarious subject these days. Both backers and detractors are subject to harsh criticism, and those wanting to leave...

Mass surveillance, deportations & nuclear weapons: What to expect from UK’s new PM

Theresa May will replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister on Wednesday. What do we...

Women on top in Westminster, but a defeat for feminism?

Britain’s two most powerful political parties could soon be led by women, with one, Theresa...

From Brexit in the UK to Austerity in Spain, Europe is on the Edge

(Photo: Pixaby) On the surface, the June 23 Brexit and the June 26 Spanish elections don’t look comparable. After a nasty campaign filled with racism and...

Brexit and Spain: Europe on the Edge?

While the Spanish election was portrayed as a defeat for the left, it was more a reshuffle than a major turn to the right. On...

The Millennial Generation Is a Perfect Fit for Socialism

Few developments have caused as much recent consternation among advocates of free-market capitalism as various findings that millennials, compared to previous generations,...

Brexit: What’s Next?

Anti-austerity protest in Dublin in 2012 (William Murphy via Flickr) The recent UK referendum was a vote of no confidence to the entire system. The...

Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?  

Colin Todhunter Describing itself as a major ‘global communications, stakeholder engagement and business strategy’ company, APCO Worldwide is a lobby/PR agency with firm links to the Wall...

This Bloody EU Referendum

The question whether to remain in the EU or leave has been distorted beyond recognition by political pimps and spivs on both sides of...

Britain fumes as US backs Argentine foreign minister’s bid for UN secretary general

Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the US could be in for a rocky patch as Washington...

Planetary Doom?

On the eve of World War II, the United States was still mired in the Great Depression and found itself facing war on two...

Texit!

AUSTIN, TX – Lord Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley, thinks Texas should secede from the United States. In his native Britain, voters are preparing...

‘I sent you a love letter’: British PM Major & Bush Sr shared affectionate...

“Love” letters between former UK Prime Minister John Major and US President George HW Bush...

Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew

The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility”. This unanimous statement was...

The British Labour Party must admit its Mistake

It’s always very difficult having to admit you’re wrong, and the more you believe something is right the harder it is accepting it might...

Blair, not Corbyn, was Dangerous Experiment

By God, how Tony Blair and his ilk have degraded the public discourse. He warns that a Jeremy Corbyn government would be “a very...

Yanis Varoufakis on Privatization, Human Rights and Capitalism

In this interview with the former finance minister of Greece and founder of DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025), Yanis Varoufakis, a...

EU ‘violates international law’ by failing to tackle corruption, says justice minister

The European Union is failing to take steps to tackle the “corruption” and “systemic fraud”...

Feminism is Bigger than Gender: Why I’ll be Happy in Hell Without Hillary

Some questions for the moderate left Are you a Bernie supporter and wondering if you will or can vote for Hillary if he loses the...

"For The First Time In 30 Years, I Desperately Want To Leave London"

When I was growing up I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to live anywhere but London. Dr. Johnson’s quote was...

UK prime minister invokes militarism and war to argue for EU membership

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Julie Hyland In a speech pledging to ensure “peace”, Prime Minister David...

Give MPs power to strip unethical elites of their knighthoods – Shadow Chancellor

People who were knighted and then engage in unethical or illegal conduct should be stripped...

The day in Brexit: Unusual alliances form as Farage enjoys popularity spike

Despite being accused of having a “poncey” name by David Cameron, UKIP leader and Brexiter-in-chief...

UK: Millions of low income families will be poorer under welfare reforms

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Thomas Scripps This month, cuts to Universal Credit—the Tory government’s cover scheme...

Striking junior doctors reject ‘liar’ Hunt’s ‘scaremongering’, say world-class care continues

Junior doctors are taking all-out strike action for the first time in the history of...

British Conservative Breaks Ranks, Opposes TTIP

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org It’s as if, say, during the Republican Administration of U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush, the person who had...

Anal s*x epidemic: Porn blamed for sharp increase in ‘unwanted’ activity among teens

Anal sex is on the rise for UK teens, according to a report by the...

UK prime minister defends super-rich in statement on Panama Papers revelations

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Julie Hyland Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, used his statement to parliament...

‘Cameron shouldn’t just resign… he should be sent to prison!’ Ken Livingstone tells RT...

Prime Minister David Cameron should be sent to prison for profiting from shares in his...

Labour Party and unions mount nationalist campaign over UK steel industry

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Robert Stevens Following an emergency meeting with cabinet ministers yesterday, British Prime...

Corbyn’s first six months as genuine opposition to warmongers

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. After half a year in office, nothing remains of the platform...
The crime scene of the City of London

The crime scene that is the City of London – haven of havens

When it comes to The City of London, the term ‘tax haven’ is not describing all that it should. It doesn’t just shield the...

UK energy firms rake in profits as “fuel poverty” escalates

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Emily Wilson and Robert Stevens British Gas, the UK’s largest domestic energy...
Mass privatisation paying for failed economic policies

Mass privatisation masks Britain’s failed economic policies

There is no doubt that throughout the last forty years or so neoliberalism has dominated government, housing, transport, energy and the financial sector in...

Eton student who sent child porn to undercover cop spared jail despite Britain’s ‘crackdown’

A former Eton College student who made and shared graphic child pornography images has avoided jail time, despite Britain's promise to crack down on...

On Hillary Clinton, Sexism, and U.S. Foreign Policy

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at CSIS. (Photo: Flickr/CSIS) After the strong early primary showings by Senator Bernie Sanders, a few high-profile supporters of...
Poverty is much worse in Britain than you think

The Truth About Poverty In Britain Is Much Worse Than You Think

Forty years after Margaret Thatcher came to power the true extent of neoliberal market reforms are still unravelling and inequality, as we are now...

Corrupt water corporations steal £1bn from public

For-profit companies formed out of the Thatcher administration’s privatization of English and Welsh water supplies overcharged customers by more than £1 billion with help...
Fastest asset stripping of UK ever

Fastest Asset Stripping Of The UK Ever As Economic Policies Fail To Deliver

Public sector debt, that is the national debt that is declared as debt on the books of UKplc stands at around £1.6 trillion or...

UK Labour leader urges party not to defy Conservative spending cuts

By Chris Marsden Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has issued a letter instructing local Labour councils to abide by the law and impose austerity cuts demanded...

Open University staff in Britain protest regional centre closures

By Joyce Smith The Open University (OU) is set to close seven of its regional centres in England. The centres set to shut are in Birmingham,...

Britain’s Government Sponsored National Housing Ponzi Scheme

When it comes to housing policy in the UK, the Conservatives are a one-trick pony. They have form. It is designed around dividing the...

Ex-PMs Gordon Brown & John Major condemn Osborne’s attacks on welfare

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has blasted Chancellor George Osborne’s plan to cut tax credits for low income families, saying they will push...

TTIP: The Aristocracy Aren’t Satisfied; They Demand More

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org A new analysis of the Obama-proposed TTIP ‘trade’ treaty, which the U.S. would have with Europe, finds that it...

A crisis of global dimensions

In a Perspective column published at the beginning of 2015, the World Socialist Web Site commented on the frequency of crises convulsing the global...

Rupert Murdoch: Propaganda Recruit

Special Report: Journalistic objectivity was never high on Rupert Murdoch’s ethics list, but “secret” records from the 1980s show how far the media magnate went...

Obama v. Putin: Their Debate on Crimea

The Source of the ‘New Cold War’: The Basic Disagreement Between Obama and Putin Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org INTRODUCTION The basic disagreement between U.S. President...

Modi and Monsanto: A Wake Up Call For India

Immediately prior to Narendra Modi being elected India’s PM last year, there were calls from some quarters for him to usher in a Thatcherite-style...

The political issues posed by Corbyn’s election as UK Labour Party leader

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party is an indication of enormous social anger and disgust with the rotten...

Can Jeremy Corbyn Stem the Tide of Neoliberalism and Militarism?

Jeremy Corbyn has won the British Labour Party’s leadership election by a landslide. Corbyn comes from the left of the party, a party that...

Privatization Is at the Core of Fascism

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org Privatizations are increasingly fashionable, such as in Greece, Ukraine, the U.S., and UK – and privatizations are a central...

‘More damaging than Watergate’: Ex-News of the World news editor on Ted Heath rape...

Allegations that former Prime Minister Ted Heath raped a 12-year-old boy could be “far more damaging” to the political establishment than the Watergate scandal,...

Chris Squire, founding member of Yes, dead at 67

By Kevin Reed Chris Squire, the British-born bass player, song writer and vocalist for the progressive rock band Yes, died on June 27 at his home...

British housing crisis is about to get even worse

SW- The Tories launched their new right to buy scheme for housing association tenants last week. Under Margaret Thatcher’s previous scheme only council tenants could...

Globalization – Global Agribusiness Hammering Away At The Foundations Of Indian Society 

According to the World Bank in the nineties, it was expected (and hoped) that some 400 million people in Indian agriculture would be moving...

The 2015 British General Election: Capitalism’s One-Horse Race 

Britain is currently in the grip of a general election campaign. Voting takes place on 7 May and election fever in the media is...

Met Police To Be Investigated For Covering Up Establishment Child Abuse

A British watchdog is expanding its investigation into allegations that senior Metropolitan Police figures ordered officers to drop inquiries into child sex abuse claims...

Former Met Police Officer: Pedophile ring leads to British Monarchy

A member of the British royal family was part of a pedophile ring under investigation by police until the case was suddenly dropped, an...

Tory bankers – hypocrites and thieves

How does privileged prime minister David Cameron have the nerve to tell company directors that “put simply–it’s time Britain had a pay rise”? This is...

Washington’s Gamble: Russian Roulette, The Pale Blue Dot And All Out War

Colin Todhunter The ‘Pale Blue Dot’ is the name of the photograph of the Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager spacecraft, some six billion...

Electoral Nihilism

Norman Pollack RINF Alternative News Elections are revealing for what they hide, in the case of the US midterms just completed: a bludgeoning of American political...

The Rape of Democracy

Eric Zuesse On the one side are conservatives, who resent taxes and self-identify with rich people who say that government is basically a huge waste...

Electoral Commission scrutinises donation to Conservatives

Melanie Newman The Electoral Commission has agreed to scrutinise a donation connected to a Russian banker to the Conservative Party following a complaint by the Bureau...

Mass Murder as Political Marketing — The Phoenix Program and U.S. Foreign Policy

The CIA’s infamous program to crush the resistance to U.S. occupation of South Vietnam is largely remembered as a gigantic campaign of assassination that...

For U.K. youth, disappointment means demonstration

Kate Aronoff On Monday, I wrote about how a disappointing Obama administration may not necessarily turn post-millennials into archconservatives. While we may have to wait a few...

Tories hope child abuse inquiry will divert gaze from top

Simon Basketter The Tories hope that the announcement of a panel of inquiry into how allegations of child abuse were handled will get them past...

Why isn’t Labour offering an alternative to Tory austerity?

Workers are furious with the Tories, but Ed Miliband’s Labour Party seems determined not to offer anything better. Tomas Tengely Evans looks at why...

Questions over Tory donation linked to banker

Melanie Newman and Tom Warren The Conservative Party are refusing to confirm whether a Russian banker was behind a £40,000 purchase of a portrait of Margaret Thatcher auctioned...

Banker pays £160,000 for ‘ultimate tennis match’ with David Cameron and Boris Johnson

The wife of the former deputy finance minister of Russia last night won an auction at the Conservative summer party to play “the ultimate tennis match” with...

REVEALED: Edwina Currie approved Jimmy Savile’s role at hospitals

Jimmy Savile was given “free run” in hospitals to turn up day or night, which allowed him to assault patients. And his senior role at...

Jimmy Savile: ‘It couldn’t happen again.’ Yes it could and it’s probably happening right...

Tony Gosling Will the Savile scandal be the last top establishment cover-up to see the light of day? We heard this week yet more horrors about...

The assassin’s guide to Western ‘democracy’

Tony Gosling What do Olof Palme, Patrice Lumumba, Princess Diana, Dr David Kelly, Robin Cook, Yasser Arafat, Slobodan Milosevic and Hugo Chavez have in...

UK: Hillsborough disaster inquest reveals safety violations by stadium operator

Barry Mason In April 1989, 96 men women and children died as a result of a stampede at the Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield, South...

Low-income UK residents pay higher tax rates than the wealthy

Robert Stevens Low-income UK residents pay a higher tax rate than the wealthy, according to a report published Monday by the Equality Trust think tank. The...

Tony Blair, George W. Bush, and David Cameron – Using “God” As An Excuse...

Felicity Arbuthnot  RINF Alternative News There must be something in the water at No 10 Downing Street, currently inhabited by Prime Minister David Cameron. When Tony Blair...

Fighting The Corrupt Military Industrial Complex – The Legacy of Tony Benn

Binoy Kampmark  RINF Alternative News Their scanning us for hidden socialism, you know. — Tony Benn to Nigel Nelson on going through a metal detector,The Daily Mirror,...

How International Financial Elites Change Governments to Implement Austerity

Ismael Hossein-zadeh  RINF Alternative News Many countries around the world are plagued by all kinds of armed rebellions, economic sanctions, civil wars, “democratic” coup d’états and/or...

Bias Towards Power *Is* Corporate Media ‘Objectivity’

David Cromwell  RINF Alternative News The key to what is precisely wrong with corporate journalism is explained in this nutshell by the US commentator Michael Parenti: ‘Bias in favor...

Big Oil’s Chokehold on Canadian Democracy

Murray Dobbin RINF Alternative News Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” — Benito Mussolini With the announcement...

UK housing benefit changes threaten mass evictions

Eileen Rose  RINF Alternative News Open season has been declared on housing benefit recipients who live in private rented accommodation. The New Year saw one of the...

UK chancellor demands pro-business reform of European Union

Julie Hyland  RINF Alternative News UK chancellor George Osborne has called for wholesale economic and political “reform” of the European Union (EU), warning that otherwise Britain...

New Australian school curriculum to promote war and nationalism

Patrick O’Connor RINF Alternative News The Liberal-National government has announced a “review” of the national school curriculum. Education Minister Christopher Pyne declared that revising the...

Democrat de Blasio

Democrat de Blasio: Was His Swearing In a Tip Off? In the early 2008 primaries, Barack Obama ran to the right of everyone except...

Know Your Enemy: Financial Fascism and its Come-Uppance

Andrew McKillop It’s on everyone’s mind these days, and no wonder. People are concerned it’s happening again. What is fascism? Depending on which university professor you...

The Downing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie: It was the Uranium

Patrick Haseldine RINF Alternative News Patrick Haseldine is a former British diplomat who was dismissed by the then foreign secretary, John Major, in August 1989. He...

The World Unites Behind Mandela: An Unreported United Message From The United Nations

Millions of South Africans mourned the death of Nelson Mandela as you would expect, but the rest of world also joined in an...

When Britain Savages Itself

England's prestigious Oxford Union recently invited famed raconteur and talk-radio host Michael Savage to a debate on whether or not NSA leaker Edward Snowden...

The Tate’s Anti-Painting Tunnel Vision

The show “Painting Now: Five Contemporary Artists” at Tate Britain did not exactly get off to a cracking start. At 5.30 p.m., half an...

Self-Boycott

Can a country boycott itself? That may sound like a silly question. It is not. At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the “Giant of...

Blowback and the “Great Game”: When Secret Plans Go Bad

Greg Guma RINF Alternative News For two decades the US government claimed that its decision to begin working for the overthrow of Afghanistan's government in the...

Mandela and the African Liberation Struggle

Beijing. On Thursday December 5, 2013 the people of South Africa lost one of the foremost freedom fighters and revolutionary who made his mark on...

Must It Keep Getting Worse?

It must be hard for people who came of age politically during the past thirty-five years to appreciate how it used to be taken...

The Other Mandela

The cloyingly sweet tributes to the late Nelson Mandela do as much to undermine the man's legacy as they do to distort the record...

‘He was not an AMERICAN!’: Sheriff defies Obama’s order to lower flag for Mandela

Janeen Capizolabizpacreview.comDecember 8, 2013 For one South Carolina sheriff, defying President Obama's order to lower the American flag to half-staff in honor of former South...

In Death, as in Life, Truth About Mandela Overlooked

With the widely anticipated passing of South African revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela late Thursday, December 5, presidents and dictators from around the world —...

Nelson Mandela: Obama, Clinton, Cameron, Blair — Tributes of Shameful Hypocrisy

Accusing politicians or former politicians of “breathtaking hypocrisy” is not just over used, it is inadequacy of spectacular proportions. Sadly, searches in various thesaurus'...

How Nelson Mandela Changed the Course of History — for South Africa and the...

The South African president, who was...

How Nelson Mandela Changed the Course of History — for South Africa and the...

The South African president, who was...

Mandela was on US watch list till 2008

Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela passed away Thursday evening at the age of 95. The US government did not remove the name of former South African...

The Euro Crisis, Contradictions between Countries in the Periphery and Centre of the European...

The crisis that started in the United States in 2007-2008, hit the European Union head on in 2008, and has been causing major problems...

Bankocracy: from the Venetian Republic to Mario Draghi and Goldman Sachs

From the 12th century to the beginning of the 14th, the Knights Templar, present in much of Europe, had become the bankers for the...

We Live in an Era of Zombie Politics: Bill Moyers Interviews Henry Giroux

Giroux's new book highlights the rapacious...

Establishment Proposes: “Have the Government Give Every Adult a Basic Income”

With government intervention now becoming the only viable solution being touted for everything from individual health care and the economy to our personal safety...

Neoliberal Globalization: Is There an Alternative to Plundering the Earth?

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Global Research 21/5/2014

Apparently, the results of the national general election in India mark a turning point. We are told that the nation has spoken and has given the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP party a ‘landslide victory’. Despite the euphoria, however, only 31% of votes cast were for the BJP. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement. But it was enough to give the BJP a ‘landslide’ in terms of parliamentary seats. No party in India has ever won over half the seats with such a low share of the vote. The previous lowest vote share for a single-party majority was in 1967, when Congress gained 40.8% of the votes polled.


With calls from some of Modi’s advisors for a Thatcherite-style, pro-privatisation revolution in India (1), it is worth recalling how successive Thatcher-led governments in Britain brought immense damage to the social and economic fabric of the country to profit her rich backers on the back of similar ‘landslide’ victories based on similar shares of the vote (2).


There was never a ringing endorsement in Britain for the policies of Thatcher. The opposition was weak and split and many bought into to her platitudes about privatisation, the feckless poor, the virtues of the free market and rolling back the state as a proxy for Britain’s woes at the time. Similarly, notwithstanding a fragmentation of the vote which has helped the BJP into power, disillusionment with the Congress Party in India has led many voters to buy into the rhetoric of the charismatic Modi who is regarded by many as someone that can get things done. Like Thatcher, he is seen as a strong leader who will act when others have fudged and procrastinated. 


The type of ‘development’ being pushed through in India is underpinned by unconstitutional land takeovers, cronyism, corruption, violence and the trampling of democratic rights (3,4,5). And for all the talk of the wonders of opening up markets and economic neo-liberalism, the poverty alleviation rate in India remains around the same as it was back in 1991 (0.8 percent), while the ratio between the top and bottom ten percents of the population has doubled during this period (6).


In Gujarat, which has fully embraced the neo-liberal model of ‘development’ under the leadership of Chief Minister Modi, hundreds of thousands of farmers, fishermen, pastoralists and agricultural workers have been displaced from their land. Since 2001, some 16,000 farmers and workers have committed suicide due to economic distress (7). Gujarat has the highest prevalence of hunger and lowest human development indices among states with comparable per capita income. The high level of malnutrition is a consequence of extremely low wage rates, malfunctioning nutrition schemes and lack of potable water supplies and sanitation. Over two thirds of households defecate in the open, resulting in high levels of jaundice, diarrhoea, malaria and various other diseases (8). Unregulated pollution has destroyed farmers and fishermen’s livelihoods and has subjected local populations to diseases and death (9). Moreover, GDP ‘growth’ in Gujarat is underpinned by debt. The state's debt increased from approximately 7,716 million US dollars in 2002 to 23,672 million US dollars in 2013 (10).


Hand in hand with privatisation, Gujarat has also witnessed massive corruption (this is not unique to Gujarat, it is a symptom of neo-liberalism: since 1991, whenIndia began to embrace neo-liberalism, the outflow of illicit money from the Indian economy has accelerated, 11). Writer Rohini Hensmen provides details about the levels of “stupendous” corruption and argues that those who have campaigned against it have “not fared well” (12). He goes on to state that Gujarat's growth has been achieved at the cost of handing over complete control over the economy to private interests. Economist Shipra Nigram agrees: 
“Key sectors – traditionally held to be the preserve of the state – such as ports, roads, rail and power have been handed over to corporate capital. This has meant, inevitably, that the government has abdicated all decision making powers, as well as functional and financial control over such projects. Nowhere else in the country has this abdication of responsibility been so total, nowhere