“And the children of Iraq, in their graves, disabled, cancer ridden from DU weapons, disabled, deformed, homeless, displaced, Mr Blair?”  

Blair’s Grand Delusion: “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad”

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Tony Blair has announced plans to set up a new centre-ground institute to combat the “new populism of left and right”.

This new body would provide answers to anti-business and anti-immigrant views which share a “closed-minded approach to globalisation”.

In a characteristically self-congratulatory statement published on his website, he said his new not-for-profit organisation would deliver policies based on evidence rather than the “plague” of social media abuse.

It would be a response to the political shocks of the last year, such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.

It aims to support practising politicians –  such worthies as John Mann, Jess Philips, Simon Danczuk and those former colleagues still waving the New Labour flag?

He ends: “I care about my country and the world my children and grandchildren will grow up in; and want to play at least a small part in contributing to the debate about the future of both.”

Felicity Arbuthnot asks, on behalf of millions: “And the children of Iraq, in their graves, disabled, cancer ridden from DU weapons, disabled, deformed, homeless, displaced, Mr Blair?”

What could be more extremist than Blair’s deadly collusion in that country’s destruction?

 

 

 

Castro: a pioneer in tune with the growing anger at ‘incompetent and predatory elites’ and concern about climate change

 Mainstream media today has been describing Castro as a ‘cold war warrior’ – relegating him to a failed past. He could more accurately be seen as a harbinger of the popular anger described by economist Martin Wolf in the FT, at elites which have become detached from domestic loyalties and concerns, forming instead a global super-elite. Castro became a proponent of the anti-globalization movement, criticizing U.S. global hegemony and the control exerted by multinationals.

The surprise is not that many are angry but that so many are not

As Wolf says: “It is not hard to see why ordinary people, notably native-born men, are alienated. They are losers, at least relatively; they do not share equally in the gains. They feel used and abused. After the financial crisis and slow recovery in standards of living, they see elites as incompetent and predatory. The surprise is not that many are angry but that so many are not”.

castro-60s-crowds

Under Castro, Cuba became a one-party socialist state, introducing central economic planning and developing world class healthcare and education. Early achievements include:

  • 600 miles of roads built across the island
  • $300 million was spent on water and sanitation projects.
  • Over 800 houses were constructed every month
  • nurseries and day-care centres were opened for children
  • centres opened for the disabled and elderly.
  • a cap for landholdings to 993 acres per owner; around 200,000 peasants received title deeds as large land holdings were broken up.

castro-autob-coverThe BBC’s Latin American website, in considering Castro’s legacy states: “Undoubtedly, life for most Cubans on the island (and that means the vast majority who were poor when Castro came to power) improved dramatically under his leadership”.

In his autobiography he said: “If people call me Christian, not from the standpoint of religion but from the standpoint of social vision, I declare that I am a Christian.” He was an exponent of the idea that Jesus Christ was a communist, citing the feeding of the 5,000 and the story of Jesus and the rich young man as evidence.

In the early 1990s Castro embraced environmental concerns, campaigning against global warming and the waste of natural resources, and accusing the U.S. of being the world’s primary polluter. In 1994 a ministry dedicated to the environment was established, and new laws established in 1997 that promoted awareness of environmental issues throughout Cuba and stressed the sustainable use of natural resources.

By 2006, Cuba was the world’s only nation which met the United Nations Development Programme’s definition of sustainable development, with an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita and a Human Development Index of over 0.8.

urban-farms-cubaWhen the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba lost its main supplier of fertilizers and pesticides and built a largely organic farming system. In April several sources reported that America’s growing organic food sector is eyeing urban produce. One quoted the US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:

“I think they (Cuban growers) have an incredible opportunity in the future to be a major supplier of value-added organic products, simply because they have not utilized modern agricultural processes, have not used chemicals and pesticides and so forth that have been used in other parts of the world, including the U.S.”

Castro denounced the Third World debt problem, arguing that the Third World would never escape the debt that First World banks and governments imposed upon it and hosting international conferences on the world debt problem.

In Somalia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Angola he was greeted as a hero for Cuba’s role in opposing apartheid South Africa and throughout much of Africa he was hailed as a friend to liberation from foreign dominance. Nelson Mandela’s first visit after leaving prison was to visit Castro in Havana to thank him for his support in the struggle against apartheid.

He led the Non-Aligned Movement from 1979–83. In December 2014, he received the Chinese Confucius Peace Prize for seeking peaceful solutions to his nation’s conflict with the U.S. and for his post-retirement efforts to prevent nuclear war. In January 2015, he publicly commented on the increased normalization between Cuba-U.S. relations, stating that it was a positive move for establishing peace in the region.

 

 

 

Media 69: 2016- 2017, good years for burying bad news?

 david-hencke-2As journalist David Hencke reminds us:

“One of the oldest tricks in the Whitehall playbook is to use a major event as cover to publish unpalatable or embarrassing news.

“It means the media are diverted by the event and don’t notice the announcement or report”.

In his recent post Hencke noted that the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury use of the US elections to hide two bad news stories.

On the day before Trump‘s victory, the Ministry of Defence slipped in a very embarrassing announcement about war veterans pensions and disability payments (£438,193,000 in the Armed Forces Pensions and Compensation scheme) for which the Treasury had apparently not budgeted, commenting: “As a result they will have to raid the contingency reserve for emergency payments to make sure these veterans have the money”.

niaNia Griffith, the shadow Defence Secretary has warned the government that military veterans must be given an urgent reassurance that they will not lose money.

On ‘results day’, the National Audit Office’s less than glowing report on the new Defence Equipment and Support agency was released to the media. Though the agency was set up to address MoD cost overruns on equipment, bad spending decisions and lack of control, the NAO has qualified its accounts and made profound and widely based criticisms of its performance

On the day of publication, few noticed that Amyas Morse, the Comptroller and Auditor General, reported: “The DE&S has again been unable to provide sufficient evidence to support certain costs, or demonstrate that all costs it has incurred have been included in the financial statements. The C&AG has therefore limited the scope of his audit opinion . . . I believe this situation has arisen because the Agency’s financial management systems, processes and controls for these transactions and balances are not yet sufficiently well developed to meet the Agency’s needs.”

anne-marie-mpHencke also reports that Anne Marie Trevelyan, Conservative MP for Berwick on Tweed and a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “At a time when we are seeing a lot of change in the Ministry of Defence, causing a great deal of anxiety for those who are serving, it is very disappointing to see Defence Equipment & Support has not got to grips with financial management”.

 

 

See also Hencke’s news article for Tribune magazine.

Will the public rally round Tony Blair as he seeks to ‘fill a massive hole in British politics’ – or is this just Murdoch mischief?

tony-blairThe understandably affronted proprietor of the Times no doubt approves the article in today’s edition (and quoted in the Independent) asserting that in January Tony Blair is expected to launch an institute based near Whitehall which will help to make the country change its mind about leaving the EU. One of two names being considered is the ‘Tony Blair Institute for Global Change’.

It is alleged that, to this end, he has held ‘information-gathering’ talks with Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of US president-elect Donald Trump, former chancellor George Osborne and other senior ministers and officials.

Last month Blair wrote an article in issue 17 of the New European newspaper, a British weekly ‘for the 48%’ launched in July and aimed at those who voted to remain within the European Union. He urged “remain” supporters to “mobilise and organise” an insurgency to make the public change its mind about leaving the EU.

A charm offensive?

jim-murphyBlair’s spokesman confirms that his ally Jim Murphy, the former leader of Scottish Labour, has been recruited to advise Blair on merging his charitable and business interests in Mayfair, Millbank and Canary Wharf under one not-for-profit brand and bolster his ‘political clout’. Murphy is a member of the political council of the sabre rattling Henry Jackson Society, a transatlantic think tank which advocates an interventionist foreign policy by both non-military and military methods – read about its spine-chilling ‘Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism’ here.

Murphy will work with 130 staff including Catherine Rimmer, Blair’s chief of staff, and Angela Salt, the chief executive of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, in merging Blair’s charitable and commercial operations under one not-for-profit brand.

And confusion reigns

rupert_-_murdoch_-_laughingMeanwhile, the Times reports/exults that 60 Tory MPs, including seven former cabinet ministers, have demanded that Theresa May pulls Britain out of the single market and customs, in a letter co-ordinated by the Conservative MP Steve Baker; the Eurosceptics are reported to have said that only the cleanest Brexit can fulfil the referendum pledge to “untie ourselves from EU shackles and freely embrace the rest of the world”.

 

 

 

 

Media 68: social media militarising the young and pacifying the attacked: ‘a vital tool for the armed forces’

social-media-military-header

 

AKA Hell’s kitchen?

The blurb: “Social media has become an increasingly vital tool for the armed forces in the 21st Century.

“Not only in order to reach out to a wider and younger audience globally for recruitment and information purposes but as a new front in warfare. What soldiers, airmen and sailors post online can be crucial to winning the hearts and minds of local populations, weakening the enemy’s narrative and as an instrument in the proliferation of cyber warfare”.

The SMi PR group held its 6th Annual Social Media Within The Defence and Military Sector in the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury earlier this week. 

Their programme:

  • to present the latest concepts and ideas on how to enhance the outreach of the military in the digital sphere,
  • the integration of social media activities within the whole spectrum of operations conducted by the military both at home and abroad,
  • to hear from some of the leading voices of social media within the industry and NATO and allied militaries,to focus on the effects of social media on and off the battlefield through training and application,
  • to learn from the commercial sector on how to create an effective social media strategy,
  • to learn from the military about how they are utilizing digital media channels to project their activities to a wider audience,
  • to discover how social media is intertwining with other aspects of warfare to create a multi-levelled war zone both in the real world and the virtual one
  • and to discover how popular social media brands operate with militaries in a defence environment

The only named sponsor: Thales, the French multinational company that designs and builds electrical systems and provides services for the aerospace, defence, ground transportation and security market.

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COMING SOON, SMi CONFERENCES ON MORE OPEN OPPRESSION

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Future armoured vehicles – used to quell dissident or invaded populations

 air-refuelling

And military airlift and air to air refuelling – to facilitate bombing them

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*

 

 

 

Keep the engines of capitalism working? Or find a beneficial alternative?

 huffington-post2

Following the summary of yesterday’s article by the Times’ Jenni Russell, a second analysis is made by John Wight in the Huffington Post article. He writes:

“The liberal order has collapsed and no one should mourn its demise, for on its tombstone is engraved the disaster of Afghanistan, the murder of Iraq and Libya, and the unleashing of an upsurge in global terrorism and religious fanaticism on the back of the destabilisation wrought across the Middle East in the wake of 9/11. Married to a refugee crisis of biblical dimension and the closest we have ever been to direct military confrontation with Russia since the Cold War, these are the fruits of this liberal order abroad.

“Meanwhile at home its moral and intellectual conceit has produced obscene levels of inequality, alienation, and poverty, exacerbated by the worst economic recession since the 1930s and the implementation of that mass experiment in human despair, otherwise known as austerity, in response.

adams-common-good“Tony Blair, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton epitomise this failed liberal order – leaders who perfected the art of speaking left while acting right, presenting themselves as champions of the masses, of ordinary working people, while worshipping at the altar of the free market, cosying up to the banks, corporations, and vested interests”.

  • Are Brexit and Donald Trump ‘unleashing the dogs of racism and bigotry’ as John Wight fears?
  • Is hope in Jeremy Corbyn lost? Wight thinks he failed to understand the danger posed by Brexit and mounted a dispassionate and lacklustre nature of the campaign.
  • Was the manner in which Bernie Sanders folded his tent after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party nomination in decidedly dubious circumstances was tantamount to a betrayal of the passion, commitment and hope that millions across America had placed in him?

He emphasises that politics is not a mere parlour game and says that both Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are fully deserving of criticism for taking positions and an approach which has suggested that for them it is, continuing:

mlk-live-together-smaller“Demoralisation and defeatism is never an option”.

Agreed, but there are better prescriptions than those he outlines in his final paragraphs.

Jenni Russell sees ‘the anguished question’ as being how to remedy the acute problems of inequality, while keeping the engines of capitalism working.

Should we instead try the engines of co-operation, peacebuilding, mutuality and increasing self-provision?

 

 

 

 

Belatedly, after decades of growing inequality, the 99% – now able to communicate online – are waking up

 99-3

An analysis by Jenni Russell, one of the Times’ few gifted and right-minded journalists, is summarised here. She says that it wasn’t the quality of the candidates or the prejudices about gender that mattered most in this campaign. It was the message. Our lives matter:

“That is the message of the Trump revolution, delivered with a roar of anger by people who have had enough of seeing their jobs, communities, identities and futures torn apart by the rapacious currents of unfettered capitalism.

“For 40 years they have been sold the promise that free trade deals and the flows of people and capital around the world will bring them prosperity. Instead their incomes have stalled, industries have collapsed, towns and cities have decayed, unfamiliar faces and cultures have appeared in their streets, and the rich have got much, much richer. Yet no one prioritised their loss and anguish until a billionaire channelled their voice.” . . .

She itemises, that, as union power has collapsed, competition increased and shareholders and managers awarded themselves the lion’s share of income:

  • Workers’ pay has risen by 11% in real terms in that time,
  • CEO pay has risen by almost 1,000%.
  • The top 1% are taking 95 cents in every dollar, compared to 50 cents just 20 years ago.

She moves on to the psychological and cultural price the 99% have been paying: just as in Britain (a reference to Corbyn’s huge backing?) this is a vote to reject an economy that prioritises turmoil and profits over the human need for stability, meaning, community and hope:

“Millions of Trump voters are now clinging, fervently and gratefully, to his vague and airy promises of transformation and security. But the anguished question of how to remedy the acute problems of inequality, while keeping the engines of capitalism working, has so far eluded Nobel economists such as Robert Shiller, the ex-chairman of the federal reserve Alan Greenspan, and President Obama”.

Ms Russell ends by wondering if Trump, who “owns the whole train set now” – ‘an arch-capitalist’ who has filed for bankruptcy multiple times – will have the faintest clue how to deal with it?

 

 

Source: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/clinton-didnt-lose-because-shes-a-woman-qd7j6p6qn

 

 

 

Black Monday: how can government sentence the poor and disabled to increased hardship?

How can MPs earning more than double the national average – plus allowances, directorships and expenses – find it in their heart to vote to sentence the poor and disabled (without influence) to increased hardship?

The relatively prosperous look on aghast as support for those who have least is cut but the prosperous are voted tax breaks and other concessions. How far will this government be allowed to go?

It is no coincidence that around the country groups are gathering to promote showings of the latest Ken Loach film and citing his Question Time video clip:  

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A Bournville reader points out that “the tragedy is that (the long-term homeless) are going to be joined by many more who have had a home. See what is going to come into play with effect from Monday 7th November” and sends a link to an article about a cut in housing benefit from Nov 7th.

He asks: “Where are all these extra homeless people and families to go? And at what cost?” 

Tomorrow more than 100,000 households will be materially worse off. Some households will lose as much as £115 a week.

The idea of tightening their belt and reducing household spending assumes that energy and food are expendable luxuries.

tighten-belt-cropThose hit by the cap will soon be in arrears. Either their landlord, social or private, absorbs the cost of the arrears, or – more likely – the tenant is evicted.

In the Guardian, Aditya Chakrabortty stresses the costs of the lost income, the long-term psychological harm to tenants, the deteriorating health of households in temporary accommodation and the exorbitant cost of temporary accommodation for those evicted.

Every day in England and Wales, 170 tenants are evicted.

homeless-textEvictions have increased by 53% in the past five years. Around 80% of these are carried out by social landlords, and a further 20% by private landlords.

The new reduced benefit cap: how it works and who it affects – the facts and figures – are given here and in the BBC programme, right.

Those who are being swayed by the PM’s rhetoric should look at her previous actions in office as Minister for Women and Equality, when her edicts downgraded the provision for carers, children in need and vulnerable people. She:

  • suspended the registration scheme for carers of children and vulnerable people.
  • scrapped the former Labour Government’s proposed “go orders” scheme to protect women from domestic violence by banning abusers from the victim’s home.
  • closed the previous Government’s “ContactPoint” database of 11 million under-18-year olds designed to protect children in the wake of the Victoria Climbié child abuse scandal and
  • removed a clause from the Equality Act which would have required public bodies to consider how they can reduce socio-economic inequalities when making decisions about spending and services.

Welfare payments are designed to act as a safety net to stop people in the fifth-richest economy in the world being hungry or homeless.

Where will the cuts inflicted on the poorest end, and wherever is Ms May’s compassionate conservatism in action?

 

 

 

Media Lens dissects the ‘compassion’ which appears to loom large in mainstream politics and media

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A lightly edited section of today’s mailing – to read it in full, plus an account of our involvement via the arms trade and of Emily Thornberry’s Yemen motion, click here.

At first sight, compassion appears to loom large in ‘mainstream’ politics and media. When the American and British governments target countries like Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, ‘compassion’ is always at or near the top of the agenda.

State-corporate propaganda is full of ‘shoulds’, all rooted in ‘our’ alleged ‘responsibility to protect’. Why ‘us’? Why not Sweden or Iceland? Because ‘we’ care. ‘We’ just care more.

Time and again, the cry from the political system is: ‘We Must Do Something!’ ‘We’ must save Afghan women from the ‘Medieval’ Taliban. ‘We’ must save Kuwaiti new-borns flung from their incubators by Iraqi stormtroopers. ‘We’ must save Iraqi civilians from Saddam’s shredding machines. ‘We’ must save civilians in Kosovo from Milosevic’s ‘final solution’.

As for the suffering civilians of Aleppo in Syria, hard-right MPs like Andrew Mitchell demand, not merely that ‘we’ save them, not merely that ‘we’ engage in war to save them, but that ‘we’ must confront Russia, shoot down their planes if necessary, and risk actual thermonuclear war – complete self-destruction – to save them:

A key task of the corporate media is to pretend this is something more than a charade. The truth is hinted at in BBC political programmes that open with jovial, bombastic, comical music, as if introducing some kind of music hall farce. The cast is currently led by foreign secretary Boris Johnson, a P.G. Wodehouse character reimagined by Stephen King.

After chuckling about how ‘There is no other country that comes close to [Britain’s] record of belligerence’ in invading or conquering 178 out of 200 countries existing today, Johnson opined:

‘As our American friends instinctively understand, it is the existence of strong and well-resourced British Armed Forces that gives this country the ability to express and affirm our values overseas: of freedom, democracy, tolerance, pluralism.’

As Johnson doubtless understands, this was a near-exact reversal of the truth. He noted in 2014 of the 2003 Iraq invasion: ‘It looks to me as though the Americans were motivated by a general strategic desire to control one of the biggest oil exporters in the world…’

If politicians are clearly bluffers, corporate journalists are selected because they powerfully echo and enhance the alleged need for compassionate ‘intervention’. The likes of David Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen, John Rentoul, Jonathan Freedland and Oliver Kamm earn their salaries by appearing to tear their hair out in outrage at the crimes of official enemies and at the ‘useful idiocy’ of the perennial, naysaying ‘leftists’.

But the point is that compassion – the kind rooted in an understanding that all suffering is equal, the kind that feels even more responsibility for suffering caused by our own government – is not partial, it does not defer to power. It doesn’t fall silent when ‘we’ are committing crimes. Quite the reverse.

 

 

 

Private hospital profits boosted as NHS struggles

A Solihull reader draws attention to a major investigation by Pulse, the leading publication for GPs in the UK, which has revealed that private companies are boosting their profits by up to 100% as the health service struggles to cope.

 pulse-header

An analysis of company reports and statements from all the major private hospital chains that make their figures available shows all have boosted their revenues this year. They say they are gaining from the plight of the NHS, with patients more likely to pay for their care to avoid lengthening NHS waiting lists, which have led to 3.7 million NHS patients wait for treatment – the most since December 2007.

Commissioners pay millions to private hospitals

The investigation – the most comprehensive since the introduction of the Health and Social Care in 2012 – also shows that local commissioners are paying hundreds of millions to private hospitals and that hospitals have also boosted their income from private work.

GP visit for £120 fee

It comes as Pulse yesterday reported that one private GP firm is expanding its service which promises to deliver a GP to patients’ doorsteps in 90 minutes for £120 – one of a number of companies taking advantage of long waiting times for GP appointments.

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General Practitioners Committee (GPC) leaders say the Government is undermining the NHS in favour of the private sector through ‘scandalous’ underfunding, and ‘sleepwalking’ us towards a US-style health insurance system.

The Pulse investigation found that companies are looking to expand services to take advantage of waiting lists. News concerning the following providers may be read here:

  • BMI Healthcare
  • Spire
  • Nuffield Health
  • Circle
  • BMI
  • CareUK

David Hare, chief executive of NHS Partners Network – which represents private health companies – said: ’Independent hospitals play a vital role in keeping NHS waiting times low during a time of huge service pressures. NHS patients are also increasingly choosing to be treated at private hospitals, paid for at NHS prices, to NHS standards and free at the point-of-use.’

But GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul says the rise in private use ‘represents a clear diversion of funds out of the NHS and into the private sector’: “In many cases private providers will cherry-pick low-risk patients, adding further strain onto impoverished NHS hospitals caring for patients with greater morbidity. This is unfairly undermining the NHS in favour of the private sector”.