Blog Archives

COVID-19 bulletin 27: misgovernment – arms manufacturers thrive, US/UK economies suffer

 

Mark Shapiro draws attention to an article by Alan Macleod reporting that –  though the US economy is suffering – American arms manufacturers are thriving.

It opens:

“The American economy has crashed – only the military industrial complex is booming. A nationwide pandemic that has (officially) claimed some 84,000 Americans has also led to an estimated 36 million filing for unemployment insurance and millions frequenting food banks for the first time”. But weapons manufacturers are busier than ever, advertising for tens of thousands more workers:

  • Northrop Grumman announced that it was planning to hire up to 10,000  employees this year.
  • Last month, the Air Force commissioned Raytheon to develop and build a new nuclear cruise missile.
  • Raytheon is still advertising 2,000 new jobs in the military wing of its business.
  • Boeing is looking to add hundreds of new workers in its defense, intelligence, and cybersecurity departments and
  • Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms dealer, announcedon Friday that it is “actively recruiting for over 4,600 roles,” in addition to the 2,365 new employees it has taken on since the lockdown started.

Washington has designated weapons manufacturers as “essential” services during a pandemic (CNN report)

In February, the Pentagon released a $705 billion budget request for 2021, revealing that there would be a “shifting focus from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a greater emphasis on the types of weapons that could be used to confront nuclear giants like Russia and China.”

Confronting nuclear giants like Russia and China

MacLeod points out that, just as Donald Trump was increasing the military budget, he slashed funding for the Center for Disease Control and for the World Health Organization, perhaps the only international body capable of limiting the spread of the virus.

In America and the rest of the world, poverty and disease have inflicted a far higher death toll than warfare

Yesterday US COVID-19’s death toll was 99,886. The United States has suffered the highest death toll from COVID-19 and the pandemic has led Americans to ask whether the enormous military budget is making them safer or whether well-funded healthcare, education and social care would have saved or enhanced more lives.

(War figures include American military deaths in battle, and in-theatre deaths as available. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS; JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY)

Alan Macleod ends: “However, that question appears not to have been debated within the walls of the White House, where it is full steam ahead with weapons production”. 

oOOo

Journalist Simon Jenkins reported last year that the British government boasted of record sales with 80% going to the Middle East.

He asserted that Britain should not be weaponising the suppression of dissent in Egypt, Bangladesh, Colombia, Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states – their national defence better termed, regime defence.

Calling the last London arms fair (above) “a stain on the nation . . . the most awesome glamorisation of death on the planet”, he added “The reality is that Britain and the US are in an arms race with the Russians in this theatre – with no remotely peaceful objective”.

And Symon Hill, in an article on security, points out that for years, “security” and “defence” have been euphemisms for war and preparations for war, adding that the coronavirus crisis is a fatal reminder that security, safety and defence cannot be found in armed force.

He ends: “In the long term, we must put our resources into addressing real threats, not into the waste and destruction of war”.

 

 

 

,

 

Coronavirus 1: “hysteria is rife”- Sir Simon Jenkins leads the charge

Due to WordPress malfunction a smaller photo of SJ was rejected by its system

Already ‘taking the coronavirus hype with a pinch of salt’, Simon Jenkinsin his late seventies – is well fitted to do this. He writes: “For the moment, if you see a virus story containing “might” “could” “possibly” or “worst-case scenario”, stop reading. You are being fed war talk. Let them wash your hands, but not your brain”.

As usual he presents facts from a range of sources to support his argument, summarising: “We’ve been here before, and the direst predictions have not come to pass . . . we might try some history”:

  • In 1997 we were told that bird flu could kill millions worldwide. Thankfully, it did not.
  • In 1999 European Union scientists warned that BSE “could kill 500,000 people”. In total, 177 Britons died of vCJD.
  • The first Sars outbreak of 2003 was reported as having “a 25% chance of killing tens of millions” and being “worse than Aids”.
  • In 2006, another bout of bird flu was declared “the first pandemic of the 21st century”, the scares in 2003, 2004 and 2005 having failed to meet their body counts.
  • Then, in 2009, The BBC announced that swine flu “could really explode”. The chief medical officer, Liam Donaldson, declared that “65,000 could die”. He spent £560m on a Tamiflu and Relenza stockpile, which soon deteriorated. 

Should public life really be conducted on a worst-case basis? 

Jenkins points out that politicians and the media love playing to the gallery during every health scare and terrorist incident: “Front pages are outrageous. No BBC presenter seems able to avoid the subject. Wash hands to save the nation. The BBC must be sponsored by the soap industry”.

And more seriously: Never, ever, should a government use war as a metaphor in a time of peace

“War is the absolute last resort of a nation facing existential collapse. It implies extreme violence. Words such as battles, fights, enemies and threats to nations are clearly directed at accreting power and suspending liberty. They encourage xenophobia and attacks on supposed “enemy agents” – at present, Asian communities. To promote this under the cover of any “worst-case scenario” is inexcusable”.

“Last week the prime minister, Boris Johnson, leaped from two weeks of inertia to give his Churchill impersonation.

“He donned a costume to look like a health worker. He dived into Cobra, haunt of publicity-hungry prime ministers, and pushed aside his health secretary, Matt Hancock. Aides drew up a “battle plan” to confront forecasts of 80% of Britons who “might be” infected, and 500,000 who might be dead.

“Never, Johnson must have murmured, would so many owe so much … to oneself. He stood behind a crested lectern, flanked by two scientists like five-star generals. He declared a four-point emergency strategy, plus 27 pages of “sweeping new powers” to meet “a national challenge”. He would call up retired health workers and army units. It was his first dry run at war.

May be seen for 21 days here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000gfwk

Jenkins asks if the PM’s call for calm was genuine why was he there? The consequences of this appeal was that within hours, the stock market plunged, holiday bookings collapsed, hundreds of flights were cancelled, even to places untouched by the virus, workers were told to stay at home “Even James Bond was ordered to take fright and scurry home”.

Jenkins’ verdict: “Those who use such metaphors and exploit them to heighten panic and win obedience to authority should be dismissed from public office”.

He adds that every medical expert he has heard on the subject is reasonable and calm. the virus is highly contagious, but the “great majority” of those who develop symptoms will experience only a “mild-to-moderate but self-limiting illness”, ending:

“Of course, I could be wrong. I could get ill. Millions could die. But it is also possible that come the spring, this crisis will have passed. So for the moment, if you see a virus story containing “might” “could” “possibly” or “worst-case scenario”, stop reading. You are being fed war talk. Let them wash your hands, but not your brain”.

 

 

 

.

 

Could the Stroud formula could rescue Broken Britain? Or will tribalism rule?

.

For years Stroud District Council has been led by a cooperative alliance of the Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat parties – a ‘rainbow alliance’ (below).

Last May. Gloucestershire County Council’s agenda and minutes post recorded that Cllr Lesley Williams and Cllr Rachel Smith advised that the Labour and Green members had formed a political group called the Labour and Green Cooperative Alliance.  They explained that under the arrangement the Labour and Green members would work cooperatively but would continue to look at issues on an individual basis.

Professor John Curtice summarised the electoral maths: almost half the nation voted for broadly progressive parties in 2015 (49% backed Labour, the LibDems, Greens, SNP or Plaid Cymru, while 51% chose the Tories or Ukip). He considers the impact of a coalition with even one ‘minor party’.

Labour MP Clive Lewis and Green MP Caroline Lucas noted that in the 2017 general election more than 40 local alliances were formed, where almost exclusively Greens put the national interest before that of their party.

It had a huge impact on the vote – more than doubling the average swing away from the Tories.

 

They pointed out the challenges we face:

  • markets that are too free
  • a state that can be too remote,
  • a democracy that still leaves so many voices unheard
  • and climate change on a scale our people and our planet simply can’t cope with. 

Continuing: “It will take a politics that is social, liberal and green to overcome these challenges. No single party or movement has all the answers. We are going to have to learn to cooperate as well as compete to build the society of which we dream. And we are going to have to recognise that the future is not a two-party system but one in which smaller parties grow – both in influence and in their electoral representation”.

They point out that the millions of young people who voted live in a world of social media in which their identities and allegiances are permanently in flux. They like and they share. They flock to one idea, group or party and then another. A politics that is purposeful but also responsive, open and collaborative is needed.

The case for an alliance between ‘progressive’ parties, has been described by Simon Jenkins (above right) as unanswerable:

“In 2015, 49% of voters went for broadly progressive parties, including Labour, the Lib Dems and nationalists. But at elections they fight each other as rivals. As a result, 40 to 50 seats that might have gone to a single left-wing candidate went Tory.

Then, as now, Westminster tribalism won. Machismo required Labour “to contest every seat in the land”. That is apparently more important than denying the Tories a strong majority – let alone winning elections.

MPs Lewis and Lucas end:

“We are from different parties and different political traditions – and we celebrate that because, while we share so much, we can learn much more from each other. If we work together there is nothing progressives can’t achieve.

“The limits of the old politics are there for everyone to see – the limitlessness of the new we are just starting to explore.

Information sought:

People on the mailing list of this website are drawn from many areas of Britain and visitors come from several countries (opposite: eleven in May), the overwhelming majority from America.

British readers, expats and other well-informed readers are asked to send, via comments, any other examples of an effective co-operative alliance within councils and parliaments.

 

 

o

 

 

o

Labour Party infiltration? Have agents – yet again – been ‘planted’ to protect vested interests?

As Simon Jenkins wrote last year: “the rats have gone to work . . .”   

Mainstream media and careerist politicians are continuing to use those whom Jenkins described as “the Blairite retreads in his own party” to discredit the Labour leader whom many view as the country best, indeed – at the moment – only hope.

Today the Murdoch Times has its usual set of articles smearing Corbyn, who would not promote vested interests if elected. A peacemaker with concern for the least fortunate is so bad for business.

But has it gone further? Are the individual party members who make misogynistic, racial or anti-semitic remarks, infiltrators?

The use of arms-length agents is on record and further information about their activities continues to emerge. As many, including Dominic Casciani, the BBC’s Home affairs correspondent have reported, during the 40-year history of the Special Demonstration Squad – the unit at the heart of many of the allegations – police officers used 106 “covert identities”.  Environmental and anti-war protestors were filmed, their mail and phone calls intercepted and undercover police officers (left) deployed to infiltrate protest movements.

Casciani confirmed that official reports had revealed the existence of some of these undercover officers – such as the one who was in a campaign group close to the family of Stephen Lawrence – who helped a senior officer to prepare Scotland Yard for the public inquiry into the London teenager’s murder.

He reported on the legal position adopted by the police and other security agencies in cases involving protection of undercover officers or sensitive sources: “Neither Confirm Nor Deny”.

In the Financial Times, Robert Wright reports Jeremy Corbyn’s offer to meet representatives of the Jewish community to rebuild confidence in Labour, saying. “We recognise that anti-semitism has happened within pockets within the Labour party … I am sincerely sorry for the hurt and pain which has been caused.”

And on Twitter,  he speaks for himself: “I have written to the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council. I will never be anything other than a militant opponent of antisemitism. In this fight, I am an ally and always will be. Labour is an anti-racist party and I utterly condemn antisemitism, which is why as leader of the Labour Party I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of antisemitism that exists in and around our movement”.

Will this man’s integrity shine through the miasma of accusation and – as has happened to date – will he emerge all the stronger? Many fervently hope so.

 

 

 

0

“Jeremy Corbyn is perfectly right to relate this week’s Manchester terrorist atrocity to British foreign policy in the Middle East.”

A Moseley reader draws attention to the thoughts of Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today. A summary:

Jenkins asserted that Jeremy Corbyn is perfectly right to relate this week’s Manchester terrorist atrocity to British foreign policy in the Middle East.

He reminded all that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron clearly stated that they were spending soldiers’ lives toppling regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya at enormous expense in order to “to prevent terrorism in the streets of Britain”.

In the Andrew Neil programme this evening Corbyn added that Boris Johnson, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee – and MI5 had also expressed these views ‘on record’!

Their aim was to suppress militant Islam but Jenkins points out that when their intervention clearly led to an increase in Islamist terrorism, we are entitled to agree with Corbyn that it has “simply failed”.

We committed armed aggression against sovereign peoples who had not attacked us

Regimes were indeed toppled. Tens of thousands died, many of them civilians every bit as innocent as Manchester’s victims. Terrorism has not stopped.

Militant Islamists are indeed seeking to subvert the west’s sense of security and its liberal values. But the west used the language of “shock and awe” in bombing Baghdad in 2003, giving the current era of Islamist terrorism a cause, a reason, an excuse, however perverted.

Jenkins ends: “Islamist terrorism is related to foreign policy. However hateful it may seem to us, it is a means to a political end. Sometimes it is as well to call a spade a spade”.

=

Read his article here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/26/jeremy-corbyn-manchester-british-foreign-policy

 

 

 

Media 77: colluding in “an open invitation to every crazed malcontent to try it again”

Unjust – and unwise

Anne emails, “Of course what happened in London was terrible but my concern is over its reporting” – or, in a link sent by Andy, “over-hyped coverage”.

She compared it with the lack of emotive language in The Independent’s coverage this week of a white supremacist charged with stabbing of a 66-year-old black man in Manhattan. The NYPD said that the young suspect has a deep-seated hatred of black people and had travelled from Maryland to New York to target and kill black men.  Was he not a terrorist? But he was not described as such.

No buildings were flood lit, no sensational description of the killings was given

Then she pointed out that 30 were killed in Syria due to US air attack on a school earlier this week and last week at least 46 people, most of them civilians, were killed and dozens more injured in an air strike on a mosque in Aleppo.

http://www.siasat.com/news/syria-33-dead-us-led-coalition-air-strike-1157431/ (March 23rd report) 

Some lives are more equal than others . . .

The recommended article by Simon Jenkins (below, right) had a more pragmatic concern. It opened: “Wednesday’s assault was a crime. The last thing we needed was our politicians and media hysterically exaggerating it . . . The over-hyped coverage of the Westminster attack will only encourage others”.

Far more are killed & injured by cars (Andy now adds, gov stats: “There were 24,620 people  killed or seriously injured in the year ending June 2016 – not much outrage there”).

He cited the ‘normal’ mode of reporting deaths by knifing in London each year, usually by those who are enraged or mentally deranged, adding “Yet more are run down by cars” and pleads:

“Don’t fill pages of newspapers and hours of television and radio with words like fear, menace, horror, maniac, monster.”

“Wednesday’s assault different was instantly subjected to an avalanche of supposition and speculation . . . Without a shred of evidence, and no “claimed responsibility”, the airwaves and press were flooded with assumptions that it was ‘Isis-inspired’. It was squeezed for every conceivable ounce of sensation and emotion”. Jenkins wisely recommends that even if this had indeed been  “terrorist” act and not that of a lone madman, the way to react is to treat it as a crime:

  • Don’t speculate when you know such speculation will cause alarm.
  • Don’t let Downing Street summon Cobra and drag the home secretary back from foreign parts.
  • Don’t flood central London with hundreds of men with machine guns.
  • Don’t have the police issue interminable empty statements
  • Don’t fill pages of newspapers and hours of television and radio with words like fear, menace, horror, maniac, monster.
  • Don’t let the mayor rush into print, screaming “don’t panic”.
  • Don’t have the media trawl the world for pundits to speculate on “what Isis wants” and “how hard it is to protect ourselves from attack”.
  • Don’t present London as a horror movie set.
  • Don’t crave a home-grown Osama bin Laden.
  • And don’t pretend you are “carrying on as usual” when you are doing the precise opposite.

After referring to the money and jobs lost by this week’s reckless coverage, the liberties the cabinet will curtail, or the million-pound contracts the security-industrial complex will squeeze from terrorised civil servants and ministers, Jenkins ends:

“The actions of the authorities and the media in response to Wednesday have ramped up the hysteria of terror. This was ostensibly a random act by a lone player without access even to a gun. To over-publicise and exaggerate such crimes is to be an accomplice after the act. London’s response to the Westminster attack is an open invitation to every crazed malcontent to try it again”.

 

 

 

 

QE for environmental technology: a political imperative in the run-up to the next election

In the Guardian last week, Simon Jenkins observed that there is too little money around and so a chronic shortage of demand. He adds that Britain and the US addressed this challenge by “printing money”, by quantitative easing (QE).

But QE just channelled billions into bank vaults and boosted reserves, went to stockmarket inflation and into ‘obscene bonuses’.

Jenkins notes that the commentator Anatole Kaletsky has pointed out that if the £375bn of QE had gone to private bank accounts rather than to buying bonds from banks, it would have meant £24,000 per British family and that this would have ‘transformed the demand economy’.

In a letter signed by a number of experienced people, instead of this indiscriminate shower of cash, the advantages of well-targeted “green infrastructure QE” were set down. It would stimulate the economy, boost employment and tackle climate change countrywide by:

  • making the UK’s 30m buildings super-energy-efficient
  • dramatically reducing energy bills,
  • fuel poverty and
  • greenhouse gas emissions.
  • tackling the housing crisis by building affordable, highly insulated new homes, predominantly on brownfield sites
  • providing job security and
  • local business opportunities and
  • rebalancing the economy.

The letter ends by pointing out that the “jobs in every constituency” element inherent in green infrastructure QE means that it should become a political imperative for all parties in the run-up to next May’s election.

The vote on the war in the Middle East: three sources

George Parker, political editor of the Financial Times: MPs sceptical and anxious over Isis strikes

ft.com logo“The vote was decisive and deceptive. An overwhelming majority of 481 gave the impression that the House of Commons was confident in its decision to send British forces to war in the Middle East for the fourth time in 15 years. In fact the mood among MPs was one of scepticism and anxiety – even fear . . .

“During the course of a sombre emergency debate, speaker after speaker stood up to back UK military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, but expressed fears over whether it would work, and where it might lead, in almost the same breath.

commons debate middle east 9.14“The Conservative MP Ken Clarke gave voice to a political class scarred by the experience of previous interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all of which the former chancellor said had ended in disaster: “What happened in all those cases was that the military deployment produced a situation at least as bad as it had been before and actually largely worse”. Like many other MPs, he concluded that bombing Isis was the least-worst option.

“Yet his short intervention summed up the doubts reverberating around the chamber over what MPs were being asked to approve: the “almost symbolic participation” by the RAF in attacks on Isis targets in Iraq, but not Syria . . . the drift towards a wider engagement beyond Iraq stirred foreboding among MPs who remember the way UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were sucked into an open-ended conflict . . .

“In the upper house, just as in the Commons, the big majorities for British intervention in Iraq did little to disguise the pessimism over its chances of success.

“As Frank Dobson, the former Labour health secretary, put it: “If we look at the track record of the interventions of the French, the British and the Americans in the Middle East since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, then the odds look as though we won’t succeed. Everything else has gone wrong . . . ”

The Herald reported SNP MPs’ refusal to support air attacks on Isis

herald logoAngus Robertson, the Nationalists’ foreign affairs spokesman, expressed revulsion at the militia group’s reign of terror, which includes beheadings, crucifixions and rapes, and agreed international co-operation was required. However, during an impassioned eight-hour debate, the Moray MP yesterday told the Commons that because there was no coherent plan to “win the peace” in the Coalition’s motion then SNP MPs would vote against it. He said there was “deep scepticism for the potential of mission creep and a green light for a third Iraq war”, given what had happened previously in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, adding, “The motion asks for a green light for military action which could last for years [but] there is no commitment in the motion for post-conflict resolution.”

guardian logoIn the Guardian, Simon Jenkins: “This is the moment in any war when peace goes dumb. The cause is just. The enemy is in our sights, and the provocation is extreme. Blood races through tabloid veins. It is white feathers for dissenters”.

“The new Iraq war has no strategy, not even tactics. It is a ` a token, a pretence of a strut on the world stage . . .

“The return to war will reinforce the politics of fear – which is the grimmest legacy of the Blair era in Britain. It has Cameron popping in and out of his Cobra bunker like a rabbit in a hole. Every government office, every train, every airport welcomes visitors to Britain with terror warnings and alerts. Cameron does this because he knows he can only get Britons to go to war by portraying Isis as a “threat to Britain’s national security”. Some Isis adherents may have criminal intent, but that is a matter for the police. Britain survived a far greater menace from the IRA without crumbling. Its existence is not threatened by jihadism. The claim is ludicrous. Cameron must have no faith in his own country.

“The contrast between Asia’s eastern and western extremities is now stark, the one booming, the other descending into catastrophic instability and medieval horror. It is impossible not to relate this to two centuries of western imperialism and meddling. It strains belief that further intervention – through the crudest of all forms of aggression – can bring peace and reconciliation”.

Simon Jenkins: “the absurdity of Britain’s nuclear deterrent”

Today Donald sent round this valuable link to yet another gem of incisive thought and devastating mockery by national treasure, Simon Jenkins

trident submarine

Political Concern summarises points he made for reluctant or busy readers:

Jenkins “just cannot get enough of the Scottish referendum debate. On every side the unthinkable is thought, the unsayable said . . . revealing swamps of intellectual confusion our rulers would rather keep hidden . . . The murky covers are removed from:

  • North Sea oil,
  • the single currency,
  • the Barnett formula,
  • welfare dependency,
  • the West Lothian question
  • and the fate of Faslane and its Trident submarine base”.

Finance-driven:

No sensible defence expert Jenkins has ever encountered has any time for Trident. Its sole supporters are those with money in the project and lobbyists employed by them: “The world in which these people move is not one of soldiers, guns and bombs but of thinktanks, travel grants and seminars”.

gravy train

Faslane and its missiles will cost British taxpayers £100bn over the next 25 years, but Britain could invade a dozen countries and seize their terrorists for less.

The language is that of faded imperialists . . .

A BBC programme on the topic by Andrew Neil on Tuesday revealed a cast of gloom-laden defence pundits bewailing Britain’s “loss of influence” if Scotland were “lost” and Faslane closed. Our seat at the top table would be removed. Hardly anyone mentioned defence, just prestige . . . out of their time. The only power they know is PowerPoint.

Relocate to Devon or the United States?

american hubris2An intriguing insight into the politics of nuclear weapons is Rusi’s tangential dismissal of concerns over an “accidental ignition of one or all of a submarine’s Trident D5 missiles” and the resulting contamination of 260,000 Devonians. The ignition of the warheads would also make a dreadful mess of Truro . . . but the defence ministry has the right to “waive safety requirements” where it is “in the interests of urgent national security”. The Rusi report discusses basing Britain’s deterrent where it surely belongs, in the US (birthplace of its missiles), particularly as we are told that the Americans retain the secret warhead codes specifically to forestall independent British use.

The sight of a truly daft megaproject has Chancellor Osborne rolling on his back with his feet in the air, cash oozing from every pore

Osborne may be ruthless towards current government spending – he can guard a candle-end – but as soon as each multibillion-pound project – HS2, nuclear power stations, Heathrow runways, aircraft carriers – is announced in Whitehall, Jenkins watches the chancellor and a “rabble of salivating bankers and lobbyists (many of them paid parliamentarians) form a chorus to shout down any sceptic as variously killjoy or unpatriotic. The real victim is always the taxpayer”.

Was the Treasury once so effective?

Jenkins continues: “Not long ago, the Treasury was the one government institution prepared to call the bluff of such megaprojects and hold them to account. It showed lobbyists the door. It was the intellectual powerhouse of the public sector”.

Conclusion: “If the Scottish referendum does indeed force the absurdity of Britain’s nuclear deterrent out into the light of day, it is worth it for that alone. If it were to go further and kill Trident stone dead, it would be thank you, Salmond, thank you, Scotland”.

MLK live together smaller

Simon Jenkins on political machismo – Yeo-style

A reader sent a link to the article from which this extract has been taken:

Big-willy politics is the most dangerous politics of all. It appeals to paranoid machismo, not argument or reason.

Yeo’s taunt at David Cameron – is he “a man or a mouse” over Heathrow – is the dumbed-down remark of a politician who takes £140,000 in a year from energy companies while chairing the Commons energy select committee – though this may say more about today’s parliament than about Yeo.

The thesis that any profit to an interest group must be “good for Britain” is insidious.

Read more here.