Obviously horrifying is the news of the death and destruction caused by airstrikes carried out by countries including America, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Britain and Israel.
Recent news in the American press included a June report by VOA, part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, a government funded agency that oversees all non-military, U.S. international broadcasting, that at least 160 civilians have been killed and hundreds more wounded in fighting over recent weeks between Syrian forces and armed Saudi-backed ISIL rebels.
The United Nations is demanding an immediate end to indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in northwest Syria, warning the warring parties their actions might amount to war crimes.
Friendly fire kills in two incidents in Afghanistan
In March, a US-Afghan convoy came under fire from friendly forces positioned near an Afghan National Army check point in the Uruzgan province, US and coalition officials read more here. American forces launched two “self-defense” airstrikes near the checkpoint, mistakenly killing five Afghan soldiers and wounding 10 more, according to the Afghan government and coalition.
CNN also reported that Afghan security forces personnel were also killed by US airstrikes in the middle of May – read more here.
The American and Israeli press publish such news- rarely seen in British papers, unless Russia is involved. Searching for news about Britain’s activities, the writer looked at the government website which has given information about the RAF’s airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2015
28,670 people have now signed the following petition:
The Ministry of Defence has not updated its monthly list with information on RAF airstrikes this year – see snapshot from its site. We are therefore no longer aware of the damage done to human beings, their hospitals homes and schools by the RAF in Iraq and Syria.
Is this the Secret State in action – or incompetence – or indifference?
Aditya Chakrabortty focusses on the ‘vast disconnect between elite authority and lived experience, central to what’s broken in Britain today’ – the ‘gap’ which widened as independent working class self-help initiatives were replaced by the ‘hand of the state’ (Mount) creating ’a new feudalism’ and from two searing analyses of our divided society (Jones).
- “Why is a stalemate among 650 MPs a matter for such concern, yet the slow, grinding extinction of mining communities and light-industrial suburbsis passed over in silence?
- “Why does May’s wretched career cover the first 16 pages of a Sunday paper while a Torbay woman told by her council that she can “manage being homeless”, and even sleeping rough, is granted a few inches downpage in a few of the worthies?”
- Is “the death sentence handed to stretches of the country and the vindictive spending cuts imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne, a large part of why Britain voted for Brexit in the first place?”
“We have economic policymakers who can’t grasp how the economy has changed, elected politicians who share hardly anything in common with their own voters . . . Over a decade from the banking crash, the failings of our economic policymaking need little elaboration. the basic language of economic policy makes less and less sense.
“Growth no longer brings prosperity; you can work your socks off and still not earn a living. Yet still councils and governments across the UK will spend billions on rail lines, and use taxpayers’ money to bribe passing billionaire investors, all in the name of growth and jobs.”
A University College London study published last year shows that the parliamentary Labour party became more “careerist” under Tony Blair – and also grew increasingly fond of slashing welfare. Social security was not something that ‘professionalised MPs’ or their circle had ever had to rely on, so ‘why not attack scroungers and win a few swing voters?’
The trend continues: Channel 4 News found that over half of the MPs elected in 2017 had come from backgrounds in politics, law, or business and finance and more came from finance alone than from social work, the military, engineering and farming put together.
This narrowing has a direct influence on our law-making and political class and Chakrabortty comments: “We now have economic policymakers who can’t grasp how the economy has changed, elected politicians who share hardly anything in common with their own voters”.
He concludes that this is what a real democratic crisis looks like: failed policies forced down the throats of a public. Institution after institution failing to legislate, reflect or report on the very people who pay for them to exist. And until it is acknowledged, Britain will be stuck, seething with resentment, in a political quagmire.
American blue collar workers are angry (The Times); Martin Wolf adds a growing and widespread sense that ‘elites are corrupt, complacent and incompetent’
Today the Times interprets unusual polling results in the United States. Like many American media commentators, it predicts that “blue-collar workers who are worried about the effects of globalisation on American jobs promise to shape the November election”.
In the Financial Times, analyst/economist Martin Wolf expresses a belief that the ‘native working class’ are seduced by the siren song of politicians who combine the nativism of the hard right, the statism of the hard left and the authoritarianism of both.
’A plague on both your houses’?
He writes: “The projects of the rightwing elite have long been low marginal tax rates, liberal immigration, globalisation, curbs on costly “entitlement programmes”, deregulated labour markets and maximisation of shareholder value. The projects of the leftwing elite have been liberal immigration (again), multiculturalism, secularism, diversity, choice on abortion, and racial and gender equality . . . As a recent OECD note points out, inequality has risen substantially in most of its members in recent decades. The top 1% have enjoyed particularly large increases in shares of total pre-tax income”.
David Cameron responds to church leaders’ attacks by saying that the reforms are part of a moral mission
Wolf continues: “In the process, elites have become detached from domestic loyalties and concerns, forming instead a global super-elite. 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”.
Wolf sees the electorate turning to ‘outsiders’ to clean up the system in Britain, the US and many European countries and advises ‘the centre’ how to respond:
- People need to feel their concerns will be taken into account, that they and their children enjoy the prospect of a better life and that they will continue to have a measure of economic security.
- They need once again to trust the competence and decency of economic and political elites.
- Disruptive mass immigration needs to be brought under control; refugees must now be the priority.
- There must be a fundamental questioning of its austerity-oriented macroeconomic doctrines: real aggregate demand is substantially lower than in early 2008.
- The financial sector needs to be curbed. It is ever clearer that the vast expansion of financial activity has not brought commensurate improvements in economic performance. But it has facilitated an immense transfer of wealth.
- Taxation must be made fairer. Owners of capital, the most successful managers of capital and some dominant companies enjoy remarkably lightly taxed gains.
- The doctrine of shareholder primacy needs to be challenged. With their risks capped, their control rights should be practically curbed in favour of those more exposed to the risks in the company, such as long-serving employees.
- And, finally, the role of money in politics needs to be securely contained.
Wolf concludes pragmatically: “western polities are subject to increasing stresses. Large numbers of the people feel disrespected and dispossessed. This can no longer be ignored”.
Self interest rules OK! The threat to the status quo is paramount – the ethical dimension totally ignored.
Do governments “callously and deliberately neglect” food producers to avoid alienating corporate party funders?
Ms Truss, the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, says British farming is one of the Government’s key successes – though farmers are taking their own lives at a rate of one a week, according to many sources, though officialdom is reticent about this.
The Times of India reports that Maharashtra’s farmer suicide count in the six-month span from January to June this year stood at 1,300 cases, the state’s revenue department figures show.
Respected analyst Devinder Sharma points out that indebtedness and bankruptcy tops the reasons behind these suicides; followed by family problems and farming related issues. In both countries the authorities try to evade the real issue and blame the availability of shotguns, pesticides and so on.
Snapshots from a presentation to the UN summarises the real reasons:
British and Indian governments daren’t offend the party funding middlemen and corporate end-buyers who – without lifting a finger – profit from the food produced at the expense of the hard-working producers who are often obliged to sell at a loss.
More respect from the new Greek government
At least – the Financial Times points out – in Greece, Syriza is allowing some leeway to those producing the most essential goods. They are refusing to increase the financial burdens on farmers, who at present pay 13% per cent income tax, compared with the general 25% rate, and receive special treatment for fuel and fertiliser expenses.
With 12.4% of the country’s labour force employed in producing food and cotton and a thriving fishing industry, the new Greece government is showing some grasp of essentials and priorities – would that the British and Indian governments showed similar respect for their most important workers.
Proud to be British?
Britain shares moral responsibility for the cowardly bombing of a country Saudi Arabia has long sought to control. Almost 1,000 people have died and as many as 150,000 have been displaced by the conflict.
The FT’s shockingly bland description of this action is: “the oil-rich Sunni kingdom’s emerging strategy of using its military superiority”, arms industry-speak.
Houthi leaders say they will not negotiate an end to what seems to be a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran until:
- Saudi-led attacks end
- The US–Saudi naval blockade is lifted and
- political dialogue is resumed under the sponsorship of the UN.
Arms promotion tours planned by the current government’s UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation
Information supplied on the government’s UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation website in February was graphically presented by the able alert, energetic campaigners against the arms trade. See further disturbing information on their website.
And amid the slaughter and mayhem, Britain and other arms exporters ‘laugh all the way to the bank’
For the common good: economists advocate a moral vision to rescue our manipulated, extractive and highly unequal economy
Mark Mazower, a British professor of history based at Columbia University, writes in the FT that the moral reasoning that lay behind the Greek election result began from a simple insight: that the economic trauma of the severity Greece has suffered is destroying society:
“With youth unemployment above 50%, an entire generation is being consigned to the scrap heap. At the same time, the notion of the common good is being sacrificed through forced sell-offs of state-owned lands as well as businesses, with the prospect of ecological destruction as a result.
“What is the moral vision the creditor nations propose?
“Frugality is not a policy. And if finance is to serve Europe rather than run it, a notion of the common good needs to be restored. The alternative is an increasingly fractious continent”.
Urban Britain also has a disturbing level of youth unemployment and has sold its state-run utilities for a pittance to foreign companies
To replace our “desiccated, manipulated, disloyal, extractive and highly unequal economy that has been allowed, and – by some administrations – encouraged”, Birmingham-based economist Emeritus Professor Michael Wilkes advocates a new discipline, socionomics,
A citizenry of good intent
He acknowledges that the social and moral education needed to produce a citizenry of good intent that will make the socioeconomic system work properly and sustain it for future generations, and that winding back globalisation will take longer and will involve more people and organisations and other countries.
Wilkes advocates certain steps that could be taken immediately:
- the restoration of equitable and redistributive taxation,
- the introduction of living wages,
- the plugging of many loopholes for tax avoidance,
- the undertaking of thorough corporate reform
- and the recreation of an active, interventionist and self confident public sector.
He concludes: “These measures would represent leadership in its finest form. This, and the promotion of the concept of stewardship in place of the present self serving forms of ‘leadership’ ”.
His blog mentions – amongst other coverage – the Guardian and Channel Four “mea culpa” interviews with Chris Huhne – one given according to the Standard to the journalist best man at his wedding, adding:
“What next? The creation of a Huhne concerto by piano playing Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger to commemorate the event or an Anna Wintour fashion show to raise cash for Vicky Pryce’s convalescence . . .”.
“No matter. My main point is that this is a distraction.
“While all this goes on thousands of people are being forced to move house because of cruel government policies, there is an epidemic of unsolved child abuse cases and the NHS appears to have let patients die unnecessarily on an epic scale.
“Literally While Huhne fiddles Britain burns”.
In giant amphitheatres citizens appear to be wildly excited by the Olympic spectacle, forgetting for a while the ever-increasing aspects of Britain’s destructive ‘real world’, including:
- soldiers and civilians being killed
- BAe and others arming dictators and their people paying the price long after their presidents are supplanted
- government striving to pollute the country with genetically modified crops, and more unwanted supermarkets, incinerators and nuclear waste
- seeking to commandeer land and homes for HS2, benefitting a small elite who require taxpayers to pay for saving 40 mins of their time
- doctors and surgeons who cannot find work after speaking out about practices leading to premature deaths in their hospitals
- food producers going out of business because corporate retail denies them a fair price
- bankers continuing to profit whilst the lowest paid bear the costs of their blundering greed
And a reader sends news of the latest in a long-drawn-out saga of corporate-political corruption.
Professor Scott Cato points out in her blog, Olympicopoly:
“(London) has become the playground of an international elite. Those attending the games are profligate financially and in carbon terms, jetting around the world for hedonistic pleasure. ”There will be spectators, but in global terms all will be rich, since no tickets are available within the price-range of the average global worker. Londoners have lost their city, their roads, their buses, their tube stations . . .
“Small-scale entrepreneurs. . .are excluded from economic opportunities by the mother of all restrictive practices that the Olympic contract itself embodies. . .She points out that:
“[A]lthough most of the economic value arising from the games will be enclosed and extracted by the corporate sponsors, it is the people of the UK who will pay the majority of the cost. So just as we subsidise the roads that enable Tesco and their ilk to drive their goods from underpaid producers to overfed consumers, so we pay for global marketing opportunities that are then exploited by a narrow range of global corporations.”
“Before the TV transmission of the opening ceremony began, Danny Boyle dedicated the performance to the volunteers who made it possible, the people who worked without being paid, who he called ‘the best of us’. In a games that seems more obviously controlled by corporate interests than any before, that is the message we must hold on to.”