Russian chemical attack on the United Kingdom …. and the band played, believe it if you like

Solace, or escapism, from the daily drivel is being sought in long walks, a perusal of medieval history in the form of Bruno Preisendörfer’s, ‘Als unser Deutsch erfunden wurde’ and the occasional visit to the local fitness centre. Unfortunately, in our digital age, it is invariably difficult to avoid the deluge of misinformation, that seems intent on drowning our abilities to cognitively process and objectively view the real story behind the hype.

Do we really care that Rex Tillerson failed to thank Trump in his departure speech, even if the blatantly rogue nature of the United States under this particular President’s watch, which is sort of epitomized by his “promoting two officials condemned by human rights groups for endorsing or overseeing torture,” should be of some concern? Still, the good old US of A has been using hyperbole, hypocrisy, and hype, and, of course, bullying, torture, regime change, and mass murder for quite some time now and that has to be the point. The purveyors of propaganda in the West, have been lying murdering, hypocrites for a long, long, time and while we certainly shouldn’t believe that the Russians, the Chinese, or the Iranians, will offer some sort of alternative that is morally acceptable, we should at least be aware that the West has long since lost the moral high ground, even if it is doubtful that it ever really had it.

And so to  the United Kingdom, where fake news, false flags, and unsubstantiated drivel, have been par for the course from time immemorial. Time to forget the Brexit for a day, or two, or maybe even three, because there has been a Russian chemical attack on Blighty. That’s right, a former double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter have been hospitalised after a nerve agent attack in Salisbury.  Well, what else could mighty Blighty do but issue an ultimatum demanding that the Russians explain how a Soviet-era nerve toxin was used in the attack? And now that the ultimatum has been ignored, expel 23 diplomats.  It might even seem plausible, if it were not for a couple of things.

Russia didn’t reject the ultimatum out of hand, but rather said that it would not comply with Theresa May’s demand until the Russian government had been given samples of the nerve agent. Now, if the British had done that and Craig Murray’s assertion that not only does Moscow not have a monopoly on the novichok group of nerve agents, but that there are also a number of other more likely suspects than a kremlin, which can hardly have a motive for such an attack, was to bear fruit, the shit really could hit the fan. Yes,methinks the quite ridiculous motley crew in Westminster would really be in an even bigger bit of a pickle than they are in at the moment.

So what do they do? Well, they reject Russia’s request and they turn on the hype, hyperbole, hypocrisy, and hysteria that normally accompanies Britannia’s contrived actions and one week after the attack the residents of Salisbury are being told to wash their clothes. Could they not have been told this six days ago? It really does beggar belief. Or does it? After all, what can we expect from clowns who are pointing the finger at Moscow, despite the fact that the police investigation is ongoing and still nobody is providing any evidence that it was Russia. Well, there might lie the reason for the Tories failing to return any of the money they have received from rich Russians and, no doubt, when they finally concoct some nonsense to support their accusations, the mainstream media and the British establishment will crucify anyone who makes this point.

Of course, that last point is moot and it would be better to concentrate on the facts and, even if it is not exactly clear what the fact are, a recent article in today’s ‘Guardian’, which is based on Craig Murray’s analysis is certainly worth a read. Indeed, having read that article, it might just be that the conclusion reached would be similiar to the one reached by Mr Murray who says, that while he is not ruling out that it could have been Russia, he fails to see the motive for such an action and he wants to see the evidence.

Academic caution is, perhaps, advised, but don’t expect any real proof and certainly not before this spat moves to the next level.  Dangerous stuff and following on the heels of  Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, coming firmly down in Britain’s side, Berlin, Paris, and Washington have now come out in support of their ally. Where this latest exercise in subterfuge, this exceedingly silly and dangerous sham, might lead, is difficult to determine at this stage. However, it would be more than welcome if the mainstream media were to generally follow the example of that one article in the Guardian and ask some basic questions. These questions might include, but not be limited to, who had the motive and the opportunity to perpetrate this attack?

By doing that an alternative hypothesis might emerge, but that certainly wouldn’t be in the interests of a pseudo journalistic clique whose sole raison d’être lies in supporting the hype, hyperbole, and hypocrisy, of their masters.  Anyway time for some fresh air, followed by a cup of coffee, and a few pages of Bruno Preisendörfer’s, ‘Als unser Deutsch erfunden wurde’ and it really is difficult to take the nonsense coming out of little England seriously.

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Piñera and a new bout of smash-and-grab

The New York Times’ description of Chile as a “deeply polarized nation” would reflect my own experience of a country, which desperately needs at least some of the social and economic changes the socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, wanted to implement at the beginning of her presidency, even if those reforms were not only always going to be limited, but also ultimately failed.

However, it is with Sebastián Piñera’s victory in last months run-off against Alejandro Guillier for the presidency that the lid has been put on any real reforms for the next four years. Of course, why this is so is all too easy to see when we look at just one of the intended reforms, namely, a private pension system which sees workers paying into for-profit funds that do not ensure them a dignified old age.

In other words, working people have to give part of their earnings to private companies who then literally steal from them and for these really “clever”  people private pensions is only one of the many avenues for raking in money in neo-liberal Chile. Yes, now they have “their” president and, as I was told in countless conversations, a man who is good for the country, because he understands business. Of course, not that anybody really wanted to discuss how he made his money,

Of course, accumulating wealth through selling off your country’s resources, through rents and usury , or by getting half of the population up to their eyeballs in debt because of basic services such as health care and education, is not unique to Chile and it is all succinctly summed up in a recent article in the UK’s ‘Socialist Worker’ which states that according to Oxfam, “the world’s richest 1 percent grabbed £4 out of every £5 of new wealth created in the world last year.” Yes, “grab” just about hits the nail on the head and get ready for Sebastián Piñera’ and his mates indulging in a new bout of smash-and-grab.



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Norman Finkelstein and red lines for the American Jewish Community

Almost five years ago this blog covered Norman Finkelstein’s original attack on the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement’ and came to the conclusion that it is for the Palestinians to decide whether to accept what is essentially a soft Zionist solution. Moreover, that particular article refuted Dr Finkelstein’s argument that the Palestinians have no alternative other than to accept Israel’s existence, which, by implication means Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, within the pre-67 borders, because ‘de jure’ Israel exists as a state.

Of course, that is hardly convincing when at the same time he asks us to ignore UN General Assembly resolution 194 and fall in line with “what the public is ready to accept. ” With historical Palestine in the process of disappearing completely from the map more than a little scepticism is advisable when confronted with “realism” of this sort and all the more so when, some five years after his final coming out as a soft Zionist, Dr Finkelstein goes on at great length to inform us that American Jews are increasingly against the occupation, but Israel’s existence is a red line.  Again, we are talking about Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Five years ago it was all about “what the public is ready to accept” and today it is about what the Jewish community in America is ready to accept.

This narrative is as much about the American Jewish community as it is about some muslim boogeyman. In 1948 an ethnic cleansing of one people by another people began and that ethnic cleansing is still ongoing today. How we in the world community come to terms with that is one matter, how the Palestinians deal with it is another. It might very well be that they will opt for a two state solution based on the pre-1967 borders and in doing so they might need people like Dr Finkelstein to negotiate with. However, it is, at the end of the day, really about what they are ready to accept and not about what some undefinable “public”, or indeed the American Jewish community, are willing to accept.

Finally, it is with a heavy heart that this article is written. Respect for Dr Finkelstein, who has exposed many of the myths behind the state of Israel for the poppycock that they are, while simultaneously revealing many of the injustices suffered by the Palestinians, remains. However, those injustices are symptomatic of an ongoing ethnic cleansing, which began in 1948 and when it comes to any negotiations the least the Palestinians can expect is that General Assembly Resolution 198 and the right to return is addressed. After all, Dr Finkelstein, the law is the law.

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Chile and patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel

It was originally conceived as an inkling of Chilean “ressentiment” when our guide in the Atacama desert raged against Bolivians and when, three weeks later, in Pichilemu, a beach resort town in central Chile, a hotel waiter thought it apt to accuse the same neighbour of deceitfulness when he babbled the following – what has revealed itself as being – biased laden tripe:

A Bolivian is having a party and he asks a Chilean if he could rent him a couple of tables for a couple of days. They agree on a price and the Chilean supplies him with the tables. Two days later the Chilean goes to collect the tables, but when he arrives and asks for them the Bolivian tells him that they were sold to him and that they are now his.

“La patria” is writ large in Latin America and there, as indeed anywhere else where  the “dulce et Decorum est” drivel holds sway, it purposely sets about preventing any cognitive processing that might lead to an objective conclusion. In other words, what do the guide in the Atacama and the waiter in Pichilemu know about the War of the Pacific, which started in 1879 and finished in 1884 with victory for Chile and that country’s acquisition of territory from both Peru and Bolivia? An acquisition that left Bolivia without a coastline.

Of course, such ignorance is hardly unique to Chile, or indeed to Latin America and stuffing people’s heads full of shit is a useful ploy by elites all over the globe. In a world where Samuel Johnson’s adage “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” remains pertinent, the “never forget national humiliation” narrative seduces the masses in our “three wee monkeys” middle kingdom, while Donald Trump’s “America first” policy strikes a chord with, perhaps, the majority of Americans.

And what does it all mean? Well, almost one hundred years after Wilfred Owen’s war, “the war to end all wars” , not only do we know that the wars never really stopped, but we also know that they are still fueled by the same old lie dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori” and behind that old lie is still the same biased laden tripe. And would it not have been a waste of time had someone pointed our waiter in Pichilemu to a link which shows that it might in fact have been the Chileans who were the thieves?

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No flat white coffee in Valdivia and difficult to find one in Valparaiso

IMG_6137Llanquihue in Chile’s los Lagos region to Valdivia is little more than a two-hour drive and it sort of mirrors the experience you might expect if you were to set off from a little village in the Cotswolds and end up in the centre of Birmingham. Possibly being a little unfair on Valdivia, but then my expectations were hijacked by a Chilean of German descent who described it as being “sehr schön”.

With its dilapidated buildings, obvious lack of public investment and poor infrastructure, it is not unlike many other Chilean cities away from the richer suburbs and, even if this might hold true for some Western European cities, it is the predominant malaise that extends to the town centre that accentuates the difference that you might find between a Burnley and Bath. In the main city square attempts to attract tourists give way to locals, sometimes employable and sometimes not, occupying benches, whiling away the time. With a bottle of booze, unmanageable debt, or nothing at all, it is “siempre mañana” for many.

The flight north and Valparaiso has brought a contrast. The poverty is still evident, but, even if, here and there, there are posher cafes and restaurants, this is a city of no illusions. But, then we should have no illusions too. The character is retained, there is an obvious left-wing culture, a proud working class, and a plethora of bars and cafes that cater to those who know how to have a good time within their means. However, the process of gentrification is underway and one wonders what the readily available flat white will really cost when it prevails in a couple of years time.

Still, perhaps, South America’s major port should be grateful. After all, unlike Valdivia, it will have the option of the flat white culture. Yes, maybe it is much of a muchness in this neo-liberal world of winners and losers. “Ten thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire”, and “yesterday’s paper, telling yesterday’s news”, but no flat white in the Valparaiso Cafe pictured above.


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Conversation in Chile and rentier capitalism

Castro on the island of Chiloé is a pleasant little town and, despite the occasional dilapidated building, the town appears quite prosperous. As usual, it is the targeted conversations that reveal a different picture and when you are informed that the country’s minimum wage is about US$ 400 per month and you are told that possibly half of Chile’s working population live on that you cannot help but wonder if the girl’s smile at the Unimarc checkout disguises some very real “Ängste”.

It is, of course, the same the whole world over, and in neo-liberal Chile running up debt is the only solution. Have a look here Europe, if you want to see what they have in store for us. And in a country where the “clever guy” President had an idea, an idea that we had in Europe a long, long, time before he did. In other words, he didn’t really have an idea at all, but he did introduce credit cards to the country and he gets a little, little, bit of every transaction and ends up making an awful lot of money from nothing.

Indeed, with Capitalism seeking its saviour worldwide in rentier capitalism and the departure from adding any real value to anything, a cursory look at a couple of very real aspects of the  Argentinian and Chilean economies, which are being held up as examples by the IMF and the World Bank, needs to be taken.

Productive capitalism and adding value is practically non-existent in Chile, and is only a small part of the Argentinian economy. The elite, who see Communists, at every turn, import whatever is in short supply in the country and sell it on at a substantial profit, or they simply sell off the country’s raw materials and pocket the money. Or, they get really clever and introduce credit cards into the country and then become the billionaire president of the country. Oh, that sounds familiar and, while this one is in office for a second term, we can at least hope that the guy a few thousand miles to the north east of this rather beautiful country will be denied that privilege.

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Chile, stupendous scenery, and the Chicago Boys stopping me getting a decent coffee

These are only observations, but the prices being charged in Chile are similar to those in Western Europe, but the service is not. Moreover, while the stupendous scenery does more than compensate for the lack of infrastructure, the poor roads, public services, and abscence of good coffee, should still be mentioned.

The mandatory hike in and the more comprehensive tour of Torre del Paine have been completed and today is being spent walking around Puerto Natales. A pleasant surprise at the bus station where a real coffee barista trying to eke out a living served a real flat white and the smile returned to ego’s face after a confrontation with the over-expensive “hot water, sold as coffee” that has a monopoly outside of Santiago.

The purveyor spoke fluent English too, which is quite an anomaly in Chile, where the lack of skills in any second language is right up there with the Anglo-Saxons, and the conversation moved to me asking why he doesn’t set up down town in Puerto Natales? The rents, it would seem are prohibitive and it would appear that it is going to be very difficult for a poor man to break into a wealthy man’s market, even where he is offering a better “mousetrap”.

Again, only observations, but with camping in Torres del Paine costing $100 US per night, with the couple of cafes in Puerto Natales either serving hot water as coffee, or refusing to serve it without food, with extremely poor roads going into and out of the park, it would seem that there are a lot of people here in Chile making money without really doing anything for it.

Of course, those people will tell you that is an example of the Chicago boys capitalism working, instead of realising that with bad public transport systems, no comprehensive medical care, second-rate services, poor infrastructure, and no easy access to a flat white, it is in fact an example of why that model doesn’t work.

Still, the scenery shown in the picture does ease the pain of the bumpy roads, make you forget you haven’t had your morning dose of caffeine, and, yes, turn a blind eye to all those people doing “nada de nada” and lining their pockets. At least while on holiday.

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