Category Archives: Democracy undermined
In March 2018, the Military Times reported another of Trump’s apparently casual observations that ‘space is becoming a “war-fighting domain”, adding later that at first he wasn’t serious when he floated the concept, but “then I said what a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.”
Five months later the Department of Defense released a report explaining how it intends to create the Space Force and Trump repeatedly stressed the need for American dominance in space.
In a January 2019 White House government briefing announcing his vision, though liberally using terms like protection and defense, President Trump said “we will recognize that space is a new warfighting domain, with the Space Force leading the way.” This ‘Unified Combatant Command’ will ‘protect US interests’ in space.
The voice of sanity:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronautics professor and former NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman said she prefers space to be as peaceful as possible: “Space is for exploration and lifting up humanity. We should learn from our mistakes on Earth and keep space peaceful.”
Good for business – developing a new arsenal, Star Wars 2 ?
On October 6th, in The Spectator’s inaugural US edition, James Adams comments: “In the new space race, victory won’t mean landing on the moon or sending a rocket to Mars, but developing a new arsenal to wage and win war in space”. This would include extending the range of orbital surveillance networks and producing weapons to attack space systems in orbit (anti-satellite weapons), to attack targets on the earth from space or to disable missiles travelling through space. Read more here.
Space Force’s stated mission is to protect American space assets and, in the first stages of a new war, destroy enemy satellites. All US military communications are dependent on satellites, as are 90% of communications intercepts and other forms of intelligence gathering. If they were knocked out, it would be almost impossible for the Pentagon to wage war.
Mr Adams reminds us that the militarization of space is regulated, in theory, by the Outer Space Treaty, created in 1967 by the United States, Russia and Britain, and signed subsequently by another 106 countries. He adds: “It governs the peaceful exploration of space and bans the placing of nuclear weapons there. But it didn’t ban the placement of conventional weapons in orbit, and it could not foresee all of the technological changes that, by altering the balance of power in space, threaten to alter the geopolitical balance on earth”.
Since 2013, Russia has launched three satellites that US intelligence believes may carry Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapons and Adams reports that ‘sources’ have told him that the US intelligence community is certain that Russia, China and India already have ASAT capabilities, and that North Korea and Iran have programs in development.
The most recent official announcement:(29.8.19): “Department of Defense Establishes U.S. Space Command says: “At the direction of the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper established U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) today as the eleventh Unified Combatant Command”. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. said, “This step puts us on a path to maintain a competitive advantage in this critical war fighting domain.”
USSPACECOM standup ceremony at Petersen Air Force base
The United States Space Command website reports that ‘Joint and coalition’ space officials from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States attended a ceremony to recognize the establishment of Combined Force Space Component Command (CFSCC) at Vandenberg on Oct. 1, 2019
Only Peter Lazenby, in the Morning Star, in two recent articles, appears to think that this news is of any significance. He writes, “The British government is complicit in the US military’s plans, partly by its association with the NATO military alliance and partly by the presence of US military bases within the country, which will be involved in the space militarisation project.”.
He reported that a nationwide week of action to “Keep Space for Peace” was launched last Saturday as part of worldwide protests against extra-planetary militarisation. Oxfordshire Peace Campaign targeted the US intelligence-gathering base at RAF Croughton, on the Oxfordshire-Northamptonshire border.
Today, Lazenby reports, campaigners will hold a peace vigil outside RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, a US base run by the US National Security Agency, which gathers military, political and financial information communicated by spy satellites circling the Earth and feeds it to the Pentagon. (Right: meticulous report by Steven Schofield)
The Spectator’s James Adams’ sardonic comment: “Down here on the ground, it’s a good idea to buy a wind-up radio and keep that landline phone connection. And get a road atlas, just in case”.
Many will fear far more extensive repercussions from President Trump’s latest inspiration
‘Why vote? they’ll just ignore you’, says Steve Beauchampé
The news that Sir David Attenborough has launched the 10,000-tonne hull of the UK’s newest polar ship – named after him – into the River Mersey, revives memories of the saga of Boaty McBoatface.
A 2016 article in The Atlantic, reported that the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council recently ran a contest to determine the name of the new $300-million research vessel (now launched, above):
“The new ship would explore the remotest waters, its side emblazoned with a name chosen by ‘the people’ of the internet. Or such was the idea . . . The name received three times more votes than the runner-up entry. The people of the Internet had spoken emphatically, and they were deemed to have spoken like a five-year-old”.
However BBC Science now reveals that a less imposing Boaty McBoatface, a small unmanned yellow submarine, “lives on”. These Boaty-class subs will frequently operate from the Attenborough, going into places the ship cannot reach, like the floating ice shelves that surround Antarctica.
Steve Beauchampé in the Birmingham Press gave Attenborough his due, continuing: “According to Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson naming the ship Boaty McBoatface would have been ‘inappropriate’, whilst other critics suggested that doing so would have left Britain open to ridicule”. Alternatively, he suggests, “It might have added further to our reputation as a nation of quirky, eccentrics, the country that gave the world Monty Python, cricket, Prince Charles and a wealth of quirky, much-loved traditions and customs”.
Though this disregard for the result of a public vote might be seen as trivial, Steve pointed out, “It is consistent with a government culture that regards the result of elections, referenda and the architecture of democratic structures as expendable”. He gave some examples:
- In in 2012, despite overwhelming votes against the creation of such posts, including by voters in Birmingham and Coventry, little more than three years later an even more powerful mayoral post (that of West Midlands Metro Mayor) was effectively forced upon the region, without the electorate being given any say on the issue (this has also happened in other major conurbations).
- Similarly, Police and Crime Commissioner posts were imposed without a public vote, the government afraid that the creation of such rôles would have been overwhelmingly rejected in any referendum.
- Whitehall has forced significant changes to our system of local democracy. From 2018 councillor numbers in Birmingham will be reduced from 120 to around 100
- and the present electoral cycle, whereby a third of council seats are contested in three years out of four (with no elections in the fourth year) will be replaced with all out elections staged every four years.
- The city council did not seek these changes, the electorate did not ask for them and nor were they given any say in them.
- Government ministers are increasingly overruling local planning decisions, disregarding the will of communities and traducing the democratic mechanisms campaigners faithfully and honestly employed.
- Increasingly, major housing developments, road and other infrastructure schemes as well as highly contentious fracking licenses are being granted consent even where a majority of local voters are opposed.
“A disrespectful attitude to democracy is ingrained in our political system”
This is shown, Steve says, by the regularly reappearance of MPs rejected at General Elections in the House of Lords, “negating their own failure and voting in perpetuity on legislation, with seemingly no sense of shame or embarrassment”, by others simply paying their way into the Lords and by political donors being “regularly rewarded with a place in the nation’s legislature”.
The ‘let’s pretend we never had a vote’ mentality also infects elements of the Labour Party. Despite leader Jeremy Corbyn’s resounding victory in the party’s leadership contest, several hardline right wing Labour MPs openly sought a way of running a new leadership contest that denied Corbyn a place on the ballot paper.
“When the electorate’s wishes can be so flagrantly flouted, it seems reasonable to ask how secure the result of the forthcoming EU referendum will be, or what manoeuvres and machinations might be undertaken to negate the ‘wrong’ result. And I think we all know what result that is”.
Three years later such a comment seems rather prescient.
Steve’s original article may be read in full here.
Shocked by the unbridled tone of the Attorney General in the Commons today – recorded here – his fury mounting after the second minute – I searched online for information which would shed light on his character.
When practising as a barrister, Geoffrey Cox frequently led in commercial actions and arbitrations overseas, appearing in the Dubai International Finance Centre, Mauritius and the Cayman Islands. He served as MP for Torridge and West Devon from 2005-15.
- In September 2014, it was reported that Cox was one of a number of individuals investing in the Phoenix Film Partners LLC scheme run by Ingenious PLC which HM Revenue and Customs(HMRC) had alleged to be a tax avoidance
- In 2016, at that time Britain’s highest-paid MP, it was reported he had a number of office expense claims for items, such as a 49p pint of milk, rejected by the Commons authorities.
- In January 2016, Cox, a landlord, backed the Conservative Government in voting down an amendment in Parliament on rental homes being “fit for human habitation”.
- He was a member of parliament’s Committee on Standards and the Committee on Privileges, ‘the sleaze watchdog’ but was the subject of an inquiry in 2016 after ‘neglecting to register more than £400,000 of outside earnings.
In February 2016, Cox announced in the House of Commons that he supported the case for leaving the EU and would campaign and vote to do so in the forthcoming referendum.
He was appointed to the Cabinet as Attorney General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland by Theresa May in 2018 and, in February 2019, was put in charge of negotiating changes to the Northern Ireland backstop in the EU withdrawal agreement.
On 24 September 2019, minutes of a conference call seen by Sky News revealed that Cox had advised the government that the prorogation was lawful and constitutional and that any accusations of unlawfulness “were motivated by political considerations”.
On the same day, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled unanimously that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament – as advised by Attorney General Cox – was unlawful.
The reasons for his astonishing parliamentary outburst can now be understood.
Poles apart from Murdoch’s exultant Sun, which calls it a ‘masterstroke’, the FT’s editorial team describes the decision as ‘an affront to democracy’: “Boris Johnson has detonated a bomb under the constitutional apparatus of the United Kingdom . . . Proroguing parliament ahead of a Queen’s Speech is established procedure, but for one or two weeks, not five. Mr Johnson is using constitutional chicanery to thwart a parliament that he knows has a majority against his chosen policy”.
An intolerable attempt to silence parliament
The decision, without modern precedent, is described as “an intolerable attempt to silence parliament until it can no longer halt a disastrous crash-out from EU by the UK”. British democracy is being denied a say on the most important issue facing the country for more than four decades.
The FT’s editorial team recommends parliamentarians to bring down Johnson’s government in a no-confidence vote, paving the way for an election in which the people can express their will.
Charlatans, demagogues and would-be dictators
Pointing out that history has shown that charlatans, demagogues and would-be dictators have little time for representative government, they comment: “Mr Johnson may not be a tyrant, but he has set a dangerous precedent. He and the cabal around him who have chosen this revolutionary path should be careful what they wish for. No premier who has assumed power outside a general election has ever deviated so radically from his party’s previous platform”, and end:
“Mr Johnson is framing the current battle as one between parliament and the people . . . he should be ready to test this with voters in an election — rather than making a cavalier attempt to frustrate the parliamentary democracy that has been the foundation of Britain’s prosperity and stability”.
Richard House draws attention to the global campaign, World Protest Day, #No More Trump, launched on August 10th by President Nicolas Maduro.
It appeals to the peoples of the world to stand with the people of Venezuela against the economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Caracas held signs that read, ‘No Mas Trump’ to protest against the U.S. president and his administration which has prevented the Venezuelan government from accessing billions of its own dollars and blocked food and medicine from entering the country.
Demonstrators in Australia, U.S., France, Aruba, South Korea, Haiti, Turkey Italy, Germany, Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Mozambique, among other nations, took part in World Protest Day
Under the hashtags, #NoMoreTrump, #NoMasTrump and #HandsOffVenezuela in support of Venezuela and the Maduro administration, they also demanded the halting of the U.S. administration’s efforts to try and install the self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido.
Their petition will be circulated globally until the end of August, and then presented to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, in early September. It begins with the words: We, the undersigned, the peoples of the world… It is expected that millions will sign the petition at this link in Venezuela and across the globe, before August 31, 2019.
The Caracas rally was denied Thatcher’s oxygen of publicity: Hong Kong protests dominated the press and pages of Donald Trump’s tweets pervaded the twittersphere
On August 10th, President Maduro told the thousands of Venezuelans gathered at the rally in Caracas “Today, we Venezuelans have dignity and are spiritually united.” Gerald A. Perreira, an executive member of the Caribbean Chapter of the Network for the Defense of Humanity and the Caribbean Pan-African Network (CPAN) comments:” Revolutions cannot be limited to the material/ economic plane. In fact, if a revolution is to be successful, the spiritual and cultural dimensions must be central. Hugo Chavez constantly invoked liberation theology in his speeches, and was clear that his inspiration to liberate his nation came from his religious convictions”.
Perreira recalls that on August 5, Trump had expanded the sanctions against Venezuela, signing an executive order to freeze all Venezuelan State assets in the US. Economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, in a report issued by the Washington-based Centre for Economic & Political Research published earlier this year, found that as a result of the US embargo, Venezuelans were deprived of “lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food and other essential imports”. They estimated that the sanctions against Venezuela caused at least 40,000 deaths between 2017 and 2018, and can be considered as assault on the civilian population, contravening the Geneva and Hague international conventions, of which the US is a signatory. He points out that:
“Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua constitute an “axis of hope, dignity and defiance”
- Unlike the US, none of these countries have ever invaded another country, or supported any form of terrorism.
- All three have been leaders for human advancement, dignity and progress in the region and worldwide, sharing human, cultural, scientific, and any other resource that could propel the rest of us forward.
- Cuba has been in the vanguard, making extraordinary contributions in the fields of healthcare and medical research.
- Despite the US’s criminal 60 year old blockade, which has been rightly described as “the longest lasting genocidal attack in history”, Cuba has developed vaccines and drugs that have saved countless lives.
The 120 member non-aligned movement (NAM) has discussed measures to counter the impact of US global sanctions, with 21 countries now included on Washington’s sanctions list. A gathering of NAM countries met in Caracas last month, together with seven observer countries, ten multilateral international organisations including the United Nations (UN) and fourteen specially invited nations. Speaking at the opening ceremony, President Nicolas Maduro (above) stressed that ending US global hegemony is a realistic goal, issuing a statement that affirmed that only Venezuela can decide its fate. It warned that US sanctions were in breach of the United Nations charter.
Perreira comments that progressive forces which stand outside the materialist tradition must take the upper hand and reclaim the revolutionary messages of the Bible and the Qur’an from ‘usurpers and hijackers’. He emphasizes that the peoples of the Global South have the natural resources and power to humble the Empire: “It is a well substantiated fact that if Europe and the US were denied access to its resources for two weeks, their economies would grind to a halt” and quotes the words of Arundhati Roy:
Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them…
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
A Moseley reader draws attention to an article by Peter Oborne, who marvels at media sycophancy: “Whatever Johnson does or says – however incompetent, immoral, ignorant or foolish – is strong, visionary and wise . . . We’ve seen nothing like this level of command and control of leading Fleet Street papers since the early years of Tony Blair, when editors and media bosses doffed their caps to Blair’s media advisers, Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson. That ended badly. The lack of criticism of New Labour helped create the hubris that led to the Iraq calamity”.
He asks us to imagine that Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister last week, put there by 93,000 mainly left-wing Labour members, and:
- that he then reshaped the Cabinet to make sure it was filled with personal loyalists, immediately sacking almost every centrist minister,
- that within minutes of kissing the hand of the Queen, he breached royal protocolby briefing the press about what the monarch had told him in private,
- that he committed himself to investing tens of billions of pounds in extra government spending within days of entering office, sending the pound into free-fall, hitting a two-year low,
- that he’d just ditched his wife of twenty-six years standing, and the mother of his four children, and installed in Downing Street a 31-year old girlfriend,
- that his new home secretary had been forced to resign in disgracejust two years earlier for secret meetings with a foreign government – and that he knew this, but still appointed her,
- that his education secretary had also been recently dismissed in disgrace for a gross breach of national security,
- that the new transport secretary had been found to have had a second job under a pseudonym while an MP – something he admitted to only after years of publicly denying the claims
- and that his most senior adviser was in contempt of parliamentafter refusing to appear before and give evidence to a select committee.
Oborne (right) continues: “all this is exactly what happened within days of Johnson entering No 10 last week. The collapsed pound. The girlfriend trouble. The dodgy cabinet appointments. The royal indiscretion”.
He asks us to imagine the media response if Jeremy Corbyn had acted in this way – “The outrage. The fury. The disbelief. The mockery. The newspaper headlines would be universally hostile. Chaos in Downing Street. Corbyn and his government would be flayed alive”.
Instead, Boris Johnson has been widely praised for ‘an almost faultless move into Downing Street’:
“It’s been a good week for Boris Johnson’s government,” drooled Christopher Hope, chief political correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. The Spectator praised Johnson as a man “dismissed as a philandering clown” but who has “confounded” his critics “at every stage”. The Times discerned Johnson’s “decisive action” in creating his new cabinet. The Telegraph opined that Johnson’s no-deal strategy sent a ‘clear message to the EU’ ”.
Oborne asks: “could it be that the rules of political reporting have changed?”
Rule 1: However incompetent, immoral, ignorant or foolish – Johnson is strong, visionary and wise.
Rule 2: Only Johnson’s opponents can be ruled offside, and only he is allowed to score the goals.
And ends, “It’s time Fleet Street woke up and asked difficult questions about Johnson’s Brexit plans. If Brexit goes wrong, Johnson won’t be forgiven – nor will the papers that backed him. It’s time to end the sycophancy”.
Peter Oborne won best commentary/blogging in 2017 and was named freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Online Media Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He also was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran.
Post-PMQs: surely the views of over 100 distinguished Jewish signatories outweigh those of 60 assorted Labour Lords
In an unsuccessful effort to deflect attention from Mr Corbyn’s questions about climate change during today’s PMQs, Theresa May forcefully – even maliciously – demanded an apology for his ‘failure to deal with anti-semitism within the Labour party’.
The following snapshots were taken as they spoke.
She referred to a full page advertisement in the Guardian paid for by 60 ‘distinguished’ Labour peers, attacking Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism – as reported in the Murdoch Press.
Watch the exchange by clicking on this link (6 mins) and note the difference in demeanour as Jeremy Corbyn – impressively cool under fire – sets the record straight and tenaciously continues to challenge the government on the contrast between its rhetoric and its actions on climate change.
This welcome financial windfall for the Guardian, which occupies several inches of space after every online article asking for donations, recalls its withdrawal – after a communication from the Jewish Board of Deputies – of a previously published letter supporting Labour loyalist MP, Chris Williamson. It had over 100 Jewish signatories – many of whom evidently deserve to be described as distinguished.
The list of these signatories and their affiliations has, however, been saved by people who are beginning to expect this sort of mainstream skulduggery and may be seen here.
As the ‘censored’ Guardian letter said, such attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters aim to undermine the Labour party’s leadership, but – we add – they can rebound on the perpetrators.
Media 99: Anti-semitism campaign a fabrication – Norman Finkelstein charges the British elite & its media
Richard House has drawn attention to the latest Media Lens report: ‘Suspending Chris Williamson – The Fury And The Fakery’ – which includes a comment in a forceful and eloquent video by American political scientist, activist, professor and author, Norman Finkelstein (right), whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp and two slave labour camps and whose father was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. He writes:
‘Corbyn . . . did not present a threat only to Israel and Israel’s supporters, he posed a threat to the whole British elite. Across the board, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, they all joined in the new anti-semitism campaign . . . this whole completely contrived, fabricated, absurd and obscene assault on this alleged Labour anti-semitism, of which there is exactly zero evidence, zero.’
Media Lens points out that more than 150 Labour MPs and peers – the “infamously pro-war, Blairite section of the party have added to the propaganda blitz by protesting against the decision to readmit Williamson in a statement led by the bitterly anti-Corbyn deputy leader Tom Watson”.
A recent blog on the Jewish Voices for Labour site also stated that a “hostile, personal campaign is being waged against Chris, who is a hard-working and diligent MP with great standing in his constituency and a strong record of anti-racist campaigning”.
It adds: “This country stands in desperate need of a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, aiming to unite people around protection and promotion of hard won rights and services, the party needs the dedication and principled commitment of Chris Williamson and others like him”.
In 2018, Noam Chomsky commented on this campaign: ‘The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.’ (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018).
He commented on these issues again this month in correspondence with journalist Matt Kennard:
‘The way charges of anti-Semitism are being used in Britain to undermine the Corbyn-led Labour Party is not only a disgrace, but also – to put it simply – an insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The charges against Chris Williamson (right) are a case in point. There is nothing even remotely anti-Semitic in his statement that Labour has “given too much ground” and “been too apologetic” in defending its record of addressing “the scourge of anti-Semitism” beyond that of any other party, as he himself had done, on public platforms and in the streets.’
Media Lens’ challenging conclusion asks what sanction the Labour Party should put on those politicians who personally voted to authorise illegal British and US wars in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – acts which did not merely offend but killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, bringing whole countries to their knees.
A Corbyn government will need support from openly selected MPs and a mass members’ movement to bring about beneficial change
An editorial by Ben Chacko opens with a reference to civil servants apparently briefing the press against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – a further sign of the strain a truly radical opposition is putting on our political system.
Chacko (right) predicts that this will intensify if he enters office:
“Labour’s radical programme will face parliamentary sabotage, which is why open selection of Labour MPs to improve the character of the parliamentary party is essential.
“It will face legal challenges from corporations with bottomless wallets, institutional interference from the judiciary and the EU if we haven’t left the latter, economic warfare, meddling by foreign powers such as the United States, perhaps even the military putsch mooted in 2015”.
John McDonnell has often said that when Labour goes into office we will all go into office – and Chacko stresses:
“We need to build a mass movement of trade unions, campaign groups such as the People’s Assembly and community organisations fighting for change in every workplace, every town hall and every high street to make those words a reality”.
Only by building up united and determined pressure ‘from below’ will the political-corporate grip on power be broken.
Read the Chacko editorial here.