Posted in Politics

Brexit and Blair re-enters the Stage

Article 50 has still to be triggered, the negotiations have yet to begin, and the “news” on the Brexit continues to be based mainly on hearsay, hypothetical humbug, and hubris of the worst sort. However, the daily bombardment of unsubstantiated drivel means that this particular UK passport holder, who has lived in Germany for most of the last 40 years, will make his own arrangements before D-Day.  Yes, a modicum of Teutonic efficiency, rather than the hapless haphazardness that appears to be defining Brexit Blighty.

There appears to be an indication of that haplessness in Ellesmere Port, near Chester where slightly more than half of the people voted to leave the EU and the self-induced misfortune is even more pronounced in Luton where 56.55% voted for Brexit. Well, it might be argued that with the wisdom hindsight affords us it is easy to be a little clever clogs. Nevertheless,  wasn’t  David “abandon the sinking ship” Cameron outlining this eventuality in the run-up to the referendum?  Now, with General Motors likely to sell Vauxhall to Peugeot there is an increasing possibility that even a bailout from the British government will not prevent these job losses occurring. After all, if a French company, which is partly owned by the French government, has to choose between France, or a post Brexit Britain, isn’t the writing is on the wall?

Of course, ego, who “has lived in Germany for most of the last 40 years, and will make his own arrangements”, shouldn’t really give a monkey’s. Nevertheless, there is this lingering belief in the European project, even if there are a number of reservations (for instance, the fact that the Euro has no surplus recycling mechanism) regarding the direction the EU has taken, and, yes, Britain should be a part of that project.

It might be expected, therefore, that Tony Blair announcing his latest crusade to “persuade the UK to stay in the EU”, while saying that “the British people were misinformed by Brexit campaign and would be correct to change their minds”, would be welcomed. However, the last bandwagon anyone wants to jump on is the one where that odious creature is at the helm and in order to remind myself of that I revisited ‘Blair Inc.: The Man Behind the Mask’ , which begins with Blair officially resigning as PM and setting about immediately to make himself seriously rich. From there I went to  ‘Broken Vows: Tony Blair the tragedy of Power’, Tom Bower’s “devastating indictment” of the war criminal’s time in office. Yes, “odious” just about hits the nail on the head.

Therefore, if the hearsay, hypothetical humbug, hubris, and the hapless haphazardness, isn’t enough to make us realise that we all have to make our own arrangements before D-Day, the re-appearance of this actor with the messiah complex, the paranoid narcissist and proven war criminal, on the stage, should certainly not convince us that there can be common cause and common ground in trying to reverse that rather stupid decision which has already been made.

 

 

 

Posted in Politics

UK Government to increase Prison Sentences for Whistleblowers and Others

According to ‘the Guardian’ today there are “proposals to radically increase prison sentences for revealing state secrets and prosecute journalists”, with the British government’s legal advisers saying that “the definition of espionage should be expanded to include obtaining sensitive information, as well as passing it on”, while whistleblowers should be imprisoned for up to 14 years. At the moment the maximum prison sentence is two years.

With Jim Killock, the chief executive of Open Rights Group, saying that “this is a full-frontal attack, recommending criminalising even examining secret services’ material,”  while adding that “the intention is to stop the public from ever knowing that any secret agency has ever broken the law,” there is certainly cause for concern and Theresa May contending that it is not, never has been and never will be the policy of the government to restrict the freedom of investigative journalism or public whistleblowing” might be treated with the contempt it deserves.

Moreover, with ‘The Investigatory Powers Act’, which gives  “the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world”, now in effect the UK  has the most extreme surveillance any western democracy has ever seen and, indeed, a level of surveillance that,  according to Edward Snowden, goes farther than many autocracies.” Now, effectively, if any secret agency abuses what are already very extensive powers, they cannot be held to account. Of course, on top of this, a possible sixteen year prison sentence might also deter journalists and others from accepting and publishing materials that show quite clearly that crimes are being committed by the British government.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that this spying and these crimes are common public knowledge. The UK government sells weapons that are killing children in Yemen, that are used to subdue protesters in Bahrain, that are used to bomb Gaza. Indeed, according to one report, Britain is the second biggest arms dealer in the world. Similiarly, this blog was pointing out some seven years ago that the NSA “has its own rather comprehensive spying operation which would appear to include spying not only on American citizens but indeed on the whole planet.”

With everyone being spied on and the sword of Damocles hanging over anyone who publishes, or is even in possession of, information which can harm the dealers in death, it might appear that we have entered a new age where an unaccountable big brother has created a world in his own image; a world where the 1% rape and loot the planet, where perennial wars are the order of the day. Still, hope springs eternal and, when all is said and done, they don’t appear to be blocking this blog.

 

 

 

Posted in Politics

World War One Starts and Kafka goes for a Swim

My own writing might give some credence to that analogy which equates an historian’s brain to a dung heap by implying that if you leave it long enough, something will grow. Indeed, with ego foreover going off on tangents before getting to the point, the analogy might also be applied to the linguist’s brain and it has just been noticed that when I say “an”, instead of “a”, historian, it really is because the “h” is elided.

Be that as it may, this time around it was an article by  Robert Minto that started to turn the dung heap into something more substantial. The process began when I read that a line in Kafka’s journal on August 2, 1914 began with “Germany has declared war on Russia — went swimming in the afternoon.” Minto then says that this has been used as “an illustration of Kafka’s self-absorption and unworldliness.” However, my immediate thought was what was he supposed to do? After all, it is hardly likely that troops had immediately been deployed to Lake Slapy, or wherever else he might have been going for a swim.

Still, Kafka is a good starting point and it doesn’t become more Kafkaesque than Jonathan Jones when he contends “everything we know about Obama suggests he is far too good a person”, while coming to the conclusion that the man who has just left the White House knows just how ineffectual the new incumbent president is and that “soon we won’t be worrying about Trump. We will be deriding his incompetence”. No mention, of course, of the fact that under the watch of this “good person” the illegal murders, the wars, the drones, and the number of innocent people killed throughout the world never stopped.

Still, our unworldly pseudo journalist does at least get something right when he says that, like the smiling Obama, “we can all go surfing” , while suggesting that we should defer doing so until we realise that we shouldn’t worry about Trump, because he is incompetent. Yes, Trump is incompetent, but do the people in the Middle East and elsewhere really care if the bombs being dropped on them are courtesy of an incompetent, or a competent US Commander in Chief?  Still, “we can all go surfing” and might it not be that rather than being unworldly Kafka actually realised on this Kafkaesque planet our options are rather limited?

A planet where children in the Yemen are killed courtesy British hardware, where Palestine is stolen from the Palestinians, but the Palestinians are a threat to peace, a world where Israel, that oxymoronic Jewish democracy, which exists on that stolen land, possesses nuclear weapons, but instead of admitting it tries to convince the whole planet that Iran, a country with no nuclear bomb, is a  threat to world peace. Now onto the stage comes Trump and the Kafkaesque theatrics, the histrionics, the hyperbole, the hype, the hypocrisy, and the high-noon drama will continue, as will the wars, environmental destruction, and mass murder, under the watch of the man with a slightly smaller brain than the previous incumbent in the White House….., but then nothing has really changed, or has it? ……. and now I am going for a swim!

Posted in Politics

Trump the Son of Immigrants

The story could be picked up on in any number of newspapers, but it is written down succinctly enough in ‘The Times of India’.:

“The US tech industry, substantially staffed with immigrants, was thrown into a tizzy on Friday after President Donald Trump issued executive orders temporarily barring refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US, and instituted extreme vetting+ in the case of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia.” 

The focus here is neither on the human misery, nor on the fact that this executive order has little to do with making America more secure, but rather it is discussing the economic  damage to America from a policy that goes against everything the United States is supposed to stand for.

With Google saying that “at least 187 Google employees who normally live and work in the US have been affected by the ban”, substance is lent to the economic argument.However, it is when Marc Zuckerberg states that “his great grandparents came from Germany, Austria and Poland, and his wife Priscilla’s parents were refugees from China and Vietnam”, the moral dimensions of what Trump is doing, along with the damage he is doing to the idea of America and what it stands for, becomes all too clear.

Of course, it might be worth pointing out that Trump’s mother was a Gaelic speaking islander from Lewis , who worked as a waitress when she arrived in New York, and that his father was a real estate developer. Furthermore, in trying to understand Donald, it might be worth mentioning that there is evidence to suggest that his father, Fred Trump, was arrested in 1927 following a fight between police and members of the Ku Klux Klan in new York City. Trump, of course, denies that the above ever happened.

However, be that as it may, the fact is, that Donald’s parent’s, a property speculator and a waitress, were certainly of less economic use to the United States than some of the people he is trying to keep out, while it might just be that his Gaelic speaking  Calvinist mother, genuinely complemented a racist protestant father, who refused to rent his apartments to blacks.

The world turned upside down with people being barred from the United States because of supposedly extreme religious views, even when these people are very likely to be less extreme in their views than Donald’s parents ever were, and even when they make a far greater contribution to society than either his mother, or his father, ever did.

 

 

Posted in Politics

Trump and “Gleichschaltung”

This blog post is the result of the chewing of the cud that followed a perusing of Richard Falk’s article “Trump’s Pre-Fascism and Progressive and Populist Opportunities”. Those opportunities, according to Mr Falk are there because it is still possible “to organize, protest, and oppose without serious fears of reprisals or detentions” in a country where “the media can expose, ridicule, and criticize without closures or punitive actions, facing only angered and insulting Trump tweets”. In other words, at the time of writing this, two very essential pillars of a bourgeoise democracy are still intact.

Furthermore, with Mr Falk going on to state that, for divergent reasons, there may be a ” tacit and effective cooperation between the national security deep state and a progressive populism”  in opposing Trump, it would appear that the type “Gleichschaltung” necessary to move from a pre-fascist to a fascist state would be difficult to impose on America at the moment.

Nevertheless, with their being no real mobilized anti-fascist opposition, it would be mistake, if we were to allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency. After all, it is difficult to imagine that “progressive populism”, as epitomized by the women’s marches a few days ago, can offer a sufficient bulwark on its own against the creeping cancer of “fascism made in America”. Moreover, this is crucial, as it is more than plausible that the Trump administration can reach a modus vivendi with the intelligence community and the conservative “opposition” not too dissimilar to the one that the Nazis carved out after the 30th of January 1933 with the national conservatives and the German Army.

With Trump calling for a 20% tax on Mexican imports, while declaring war with undocumented migrants inside the US and those who attempt to cross the southern border without paperwork”,the parallel in the preceding paragraph is worth chewing the cud on. After all, elsewhere we can read that Mark Morgan, the man in charge of US border protection, has been forced out of his job just a day after Donald Trump announced he was pressing ahead with his plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico.” .

The “alliance” between progressives and the deep state is about as realistic as the coming together of the German Communists and Social Democrats in 1933 ever was, while there might even be evidence to suggest that the “Gleichschaltung” has begun, even if the American Constitution might be made of sterner stuff than “der Weimarer Verfassung” ever was.

 

Posted in Politics

Trump and the New Nationalism

Timothy Garton Ash sees Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House in the wider context of “a new era of nationalism”. Certainly, with the ascendency of the “never forget national humiliation” narrative in China, the Brexit and the growth of the far right in Europe, and Narenda Modri and Vladamir Putin in India and Russia respectively, along with the likes of Erdogan elsewhere, there would appear to be enough evidence to support this.

Moreover, with the spectre of jingoism once again raising its ugly head, it is as difficult not to see a new type of bellicosity on the horizon, as it is to disagree with Mr Ash’s  contention that “by their very nature, nationalisms are likely to clash sooner or later”. Furthermore, even if his thesis that we are about to “enter an age of global confrontation” might make us suspect that he has forgotten that the United States has been overthrowing governments and starting wars for decades, his real point is that we are heading for a conflict which could culminate in Armageddon.

Rex Tillerson’s advocacy of a more aggressive strategy towards China in the contested waters of the South China Sea along with Trump saying that the “one China” policy was up for negotiation is dangerous rhetoric and the only influence it will have, if it is followed up on, is to drive China and America into an era of brinkmanship that could very well lead to war. This is precisely Mr Ash’s point; this might be a conflict that would lead to a nuclear war.

Timothy Garton Ash does offer us some solace when he  says: “No, I’m not predicting the third world war. But a 21st-century variant of the Cuban missile crisis? Entirely possible.” However, with Trump, the man who has just begun his presidency with rolling back Obamacare and a new missile defence plan, the portends are there and all the more so when it is realised that he is seeking confrontation with a Chinese government that has been drilling its citizens with a “never forget national humiliation and China must be strong”narrative and a Chinese Communist Party which might very well be prepared to go to the brink to protect not only what it views as China’s interests, but also its own legitimacy. The world might just be becoming a very dangerous place.

Posted in Politics

Trump’s Inauguration Speech

Well, the wars continued under Obama and the dead mounted up. However, having just watched Trump’s speech, it might be that the hype man’s administration was indeed a lesser of the two evils. Coming straight from the horses mouth, it does appear that we are about to enter an era of protectionism and trade wars …. and the real wars?

Well, should we give the “daddy gave me a head start” man the benefit of the doubt with his “America first and only America first” “Weltanschauung”? Could, perhaps, if it weren’t for the fact that for “America” we should read “Donald” and, even if it were, “America”, where does that leave the rest of humanity? No benefit of the doubt and we should expect the trade wars and very real wars to be just around the corner.

Indeed, in thinking about the post on this blog regarding a very possible war with China, straws have to be grasped and might a little hope be gleamed from the report in ‘The Guardian’ that Obama was apparently heard saying to Trump: “Well as I said, we’ll be right around the corner.”  Oh, desperate days when it is the hype man who offers us hope. Academic caution might be advised, but the evidence would appear to suggest that we are all pretty well fucked.