Blog Archives

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


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?





Anglo-Saxon aid – a poisoned chalice?

david cameronTheresa sent news reported by Francis Elliott, Political Editor of the Times. A template for reform of aid spending has been drawn up by Tobias Ellwood, Mr Cameron’s envoy to Nato, who points out:

“Considering the financial pressure the MoD is under it makes sense to utilise funds earmarked for ODA spend, where of course it is permitted, which are currently sitting in the DfID”.

This news paled into insignificance when Mark sent news of the Obama government’s attempted subversion of Cuban society – no doubt hoping for a ‘Cuban spring’.

The Obama government’s USAID attempted subversion of Cuban society

It was first reported by Associated Press, ‘the world’s oldest and largest newsgathering organization’: “The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) masterminded the creation of a “Cuban Twitter,” a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks . . .

USAID graphicWorld News Network graphic

“The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. Its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them. In 2012, the text messaging service vanished as mysteriously as it appeared”.

According to documents obtained by the Associated Press and multiple interviews with people involved in the project:

“When the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society”.

joe mcspedonIt was reported that this project was carried out by a high-tech team, directed by Joe McSpedon who worked for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). OTI was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the usual red tape. The team of contractors set up servers in Spain and Ireland to process texts, contracting an independent Spanish company called to send the text messages back to Cuba, while stripping off identifying data.

In 2011, the State Department’s Secretary Hillary Clinton thought social media was an important tool in diplomacy. At George Washington University, she said the U.S. helped people in “oppressive Internet environments get around filters.” In Tunisia, she said people used technology to “organize and share grievances, which, as we know, helped fuel a movement that led to revolutionary change.”

Josefina Vidal, director of U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, commented that the ZunZuneo program “shows once again that the United States government has not renounced its plans of subversion against Cuba, which have as their aim the creation of situations of destabilization in our country to create changes in the public order and toward which it continues to devote multimillion-dollar budgets each year.” Many will heartily agree with her restrained conclusion:

“The government of the United States must respect international law and the goals and principles of the United Nations charter and, therefore, cease its illegal and clandestine actions against Cuba, which are rejected by the Cuban people and international public opinion”.

TPP – 1: intensifying the corporate-political nexus or ‘open, free, transparent and fair’?

In 2007, negotiations began for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a significantly expanded version of the 2005 agreement, encompassing a larger group of countries. At its heart is the intellectual property chapter with a long section on patents.

Other sections:

  • Internet – regulation
  • Health – focus on patents and pharmaceutical data protection
  • Agriculture – plant patents & technical test data
In November 2011 a smiling President Obama formally launched the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In the Financial Times David Pilling quoted the noble announcement by Obama’s right hand in many disturbing ventures, Hillary Clinton: “We must create a rules-based order – one that is open, free, transparent and fair.”

America, she says, is uniquely placed to create such an order and to police it. “We are the only power with a network of strong alliances in the region, no territorial ambitions, and a long record of providing for the common good.”

Currently involved:

Yesterday Reuters reported that the United States is hosting the 14th round of negotiations on the proposed TPP pact outside Washington with Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. Canada and Mexico will join the negotiations when countries meet for their 15th round in December.

The TPP aims to abolish traditional trade barriers and address concerns about “state-owned enterprises” that increasingly compete with private companies.

In August 2012, Robert Naiman of the Huffington Post reported that Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders said that promoting restrictive trade policies would make it much harder for patients, governments and treatment providers like MSF to access affordable, life-saving price-lowering generic drugs: “[T]he U.S. is asking countries to create new, enhanced and longer patent and data monopoly protections for multinational pharmaceutical companies so they can keep competitors out of the market and charge higher prices for longer.”

An accurate summary?

Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) -largely funded by American unions and charitable foundations – wrote last month in the Guardian:

“In reality, the deal has almost nothing to do with trade: actual trade barriers between these countries are already very low. The TPP is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process.

“The expectation is that by lining up powerful corporate interests, governments will be able to ram this new “free trade” pact through legislatures on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. As with all these multilateral agreements, the intention is to spread its reach through time. That means that anything the original parties to the TPP accept is likely to be imposed later on other countries in the region, and quite likely, on the rest of the world”#