Category Archives: Politics

Big Pharma: Gouges, Casualties, and the Congressional Remedy!

The Congress can overturn the abuses of Big Pharma and its “pay or die,” subsidized business model for its drugs.

Big Pharma’s trail of greed, power, and cruelty gets worse every year. Its products and practices take hundreds of thousands of lives in the U.S. from over-prescriptions, lethal combinations of prescriptions, ineffective or contaminated drugs, and dangerous side-effects.

The biggest drug dealers in the U.S. operate legally. Their names are emblazoned in ads and promotions everywhere. Who hasn’t heard of Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, and Novartis? Big Pharma revenues and profits have skyrocketed. In 2017, the U.S. consumers spent $333.4 billion on prescription drugs.

There are no price controls on drugs in the U.S. as there are in most countries in the world. Senator Bernie Sanders just took a bus tour to a Canadian pharmacy where insulin cost patients one tenth of what it costs them in the U.S. Yet, remarkably, drug companies, charted and operating in the U.S., charge Americans the highest prices in the world. This is despite the freebies our business-indentured government lavishes on Big Pharma. The FDA weakly regulates drugs, which are supposed to be both safe and effective, before they can be sold. Who funds this FDA effort? The drug industry itself— required by a law it has learned to love.

The Big Pharma lobby doesn’t always get what it craves. In the nineteen seventies, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, produced two paperbacks for a wide television audience (e.g. he appeared on the Phil Donahue Show). They were titled, Pills That Don’t Work and Over-the-Counter Pills that Don’t Work. Because of Dr. Wolfe’s tireless efforts, hundreds of different pills were removed from the market, saving consumers billions of dollars and sparing them the side-effects.

Big Pharma’s greatest strength is its hold over Congress. That is where it gets its huge bundle of subsidies and monopolistic privileges. During the first term of George W. Bush, the drug companies got the Republicans and some spineless Democrats to forbid Medicare from negotiating volume discounts with the drug companies, as the Pentagon and VA have done for years. Big Pharma had over 1,200 lobbyists swarming over Capitol Hill to get these handcuffs on Uncle Sam. Lobbyists combined with campaign cash donated by Pharma industry players sealed the deal.

Your Congressional representatives gave the drug giants much in return: Lucrative tax credits to pay Big Pharma to do what they should do anyway—engage in research and development. Drug companies are profitable recipients of taxpayer-funded government research on developing new drugs – and then given monopolies that enable them to impose sky-high prices, even when the purchaser is the very government that funded the invention of the new drugs in the first place.

The drug industry has also made sure there are no price controls on their drugs—whether gifted to them by NIH or developed by drug companies internally. The absence of price controls accounts for new “blockbuster drugs” going for $100,000, or higher, per patient per year. Many drug prices generally increase faster than inflation.

Greed is infinite for Big Pharma. In addition to tax credits, free drug R&D (compliments of the federal government), and no price restraints, the drug companies have moved much production to China and India. No antibiotics are manufactured in the U.S.—a clear national security risk to which the Pentagon and Trump should pay heed. Two new books, China Rx and Bottle of Poison, document the safety risks of poorly inspected labs in those countries exuding pills into your bodies without your minds being told of “country of origin” on the label.

The great hands-on humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, operating in 70 countries often under dangerous armed conflicts, lists “Six Things Big Pharma Doesn’t Want You to Know,” in its recent alert letter.

They are:

  1. Costs of developing new medicines are exaggerated tenfold or more.
  2. You’re paying twice for your medicines—first as taxpayers and second as consumers or through your government programs.
  3. Drug companies are not that good at innovation. About two thirds of new drugs (called “me-too drugs”) are no better, and may be riskier, than the ones already in pharmacies. But they are advertised as special.
  4. Monopoly patents are extended by clever lawyers to block more affordable generic versions. This maneuver is called “ever greening.”
  5. Pharma bullies low and middle income countries like South Africa, Thailand, Brazil, Colombia, and Malaysia that try to curb its rapaciousness. These drug companies use trade rules and the U.S. government towards their brutal goals.
    In the nineteen nineties, a small group of consumer advocates led by Jamie Love, Bill Haddad, and Robert Weissman persuaded Cipla, an Indian drug firm, and Ministries of Public Health to lower the price of AIDS medicines from $10,000 per patient per year price down to $300 (now under $100). The U.S. drug companies were quite willing to let millions die because they couldn’t pay.
  6. Big Pharma always says they have to have large profits to pay for R&D and innovation. Really? Why then do they spend far more on stock buybacks (one of the metrics for executive compensation), on marketing and advertising than on R&D? Dr. Wolfe exposed this malarkey years ago.

Yet exposure has not stopped the worsening behavior of Big Pharma. Good books by Katharine Greider (The Big Fix) and Dr. Marcia Angell (The Truth About the Drug Companies) are devastating critiques of Big Pharma’s practices. Despite this, the books reach small audiences and are brushed off by the drug giants. Big Pharma is able to ignore these books because it controls most of Congress—candidates rely heavily on the industry for campaign budgets.

But the American people outnumber the drug companies and only the people can actually vote come election time.  Focused voters mean more to politicians than campaign money. The August recess for Congress means your lawmakers are back home having personal meetings. Visit them and make known your demands against the “pay or die” industry. Tell them your own stories.

Or better yet, make them come to your town meetings. Remember: “It’s your Congress, people!”

One galvanizing move by an enlightened billionaire could establish a 20 person advocacy group on drug pricing, focusing on Congress and mobilizing citizens back home. Its effect would be decisive for taming the drug industry’s gouging. Any takers: if so contact Public Citizen at gro.neziticnull@sseccasdem.

  • Image at top from tarbell.org.
  • One “Little” Legislative Crime that Keeps on Giving

    NOVA: If this region—New Orleans, the wetlands, and all—were a patient in the hospital, how would you describe them? At what stage are they?

    IVOR VAN HEERDEN: Close to death.

    […]

    There is the potential for extremely high casualties—people not only killed by flying debris, drowning in the soup, but also just imagine, how do we rescue the survivors? Unlike a river flood, it doesn’t come up and go down. The water stays. And it stays for months and months and months. How do you rescue all of these people? If there’s 200,000 survivors, you get 20,000 out a day, that’s 10 days. So how are they going to hang on? You know, this is one of the big nightmares: how do you rescue those survivors? What are they going to need?

    They’re going to need to be detoxified. And this is Louisiana—it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 100 percent humidity. Putrefaction and fermentation go on very, very rapidly. So those folk are going to be surrounded by the proverbial witches’ brew of toxins.

    Photo: Ron Mikulaco, left, and his nephew, Brad Fernandez, examine a crack caused by an earthquake on highway 178 Saturday, July 6, 2019, outside of Ridgecrest, Calif. Crews in Southern California assessed damage to cracked and burned buildings, broken roads, leaking water and gas lines and other infrastructure Saturday after the largest earthquake the region has seen in nearly 20 years jolted an area from Sacramento to Las Vegas to Mexico. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

    I have talked about (written in a hundred articles and blogs) this single moment in a political prostitute’s career that defines not only the inhumanity of that person, but also his/her backers, his or her “people,” and those who continue to pad pockets with bribery money.

    Little W Bush voting to vote down legislation for making chemical companies to put into their mixes of poisons chemical markers (only in 12 common/major poisons) that would help medical experts treat poisoned youth, babies, and adults when coming into an ER catatonic or seizing. He did the veto because the chemical purveyors lobbied, threw money at candidates of whoring support, and to PR spin-masters who lie lie lie to confuse the public. Those built-in lifesavers would cost some money. Profit Profit Profit Prostitution Prostitution Prostitution.

    Remember Emmett Till, and his mother Mamie, and seeking a civil rights investigation into her son’s torture-murder-dismemberment from that bastion of Presidential Prostitution, Ike Eisenhower? That crappy general wouldn’t even open Emmett’s mother’s letter, or thousands of letters supporting an investigation into her son’s murder. No response from that five star mercenary:

    Mamie Till-Mobley telegram

    Photo credit: A telegram from Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to President Dwight D. Eisenhower requests justice in the investigation of her son’s death. The White House did not respond. [Image courtesy Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, eisenhower.archives.gov)

    Will Ike rot in hell (haha)?

    It doesn’t have to be an “elected” official that paves the way for the pimps of Wall Street, Big Energy, Big Everything, that so-called “Complex,” tied to the coined Military Industrial Complex, to wrest control of the people’s futures. Take EpiPen, and that head of that Big Pharma company —

    She was the first woman to take over a Fortune 500 company. She lied about her MBA. And, her father is a senator and former governor of West Virigina — Heather Manhcin err Bresch. These people are emotional, economic, spiritual tyrants —

    Heather Bresch
    Happy and bribed multi-millionaire, maybe a cool half a billion now!

    Bresch’s time at Mylan featured confusion back in 2008 when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that she hadn’t earned enough credits for the MBA listed on her résumé. In the end, West Virginia University rescinded a degree it retroactively awarded—but turned out, Bresch didn’t need it to keep her post.

    More recently, Mylan disclosed that it is among a group of generics companies facing price-fixing allegations from dozens of states, and federal prosecutors are investigating the issue on their own. Mylan’s president, Rajiv Malik, is among the executives personally named in the lawsuit, although Mylan has stood by its president.

    But Mylan first became something of a household word back in 2016, when the EpiPen pricing controversy broke. News surfaced that the drugmaker had been hiking prices for years on its lifesaving epinephrine injector to the point where many parents had a hard time paying for their back-to-school packages. Lawmakers struck up investigations and consumers blasted the drugmaker’s motives.

    Bresch, for her part, defended Mylan’s pricing by pointing to the drug pricing and rebating system in the U.S. Along with the EpiPen fiasco, Mylan paid $465 million to the federal government to settle claims it underpaid Medicaid rebates.

    Again, the EpiPen, which is required for more and more people today as we are a society with broken immune systems — largely caused by plastics in our food, pesticidees in our bread, herbicides in our cereal, lead in our water, and a bombardment of gene-spliced crap in our foods, like that old fish gene in tomatoes . . . forget about nanoparticles in our beer and beef! The entire food system and general living systems in the USA have been so adulterated that more and more children I teach are in school with major food allergies requiring an EpiPen, which should be free, but instead it went up to $600 a shot under Bresch’s misleadership, and she was touted as the highest paid Pharma CEO, male or female, in the land. Mis-Fortune 500!

    One action speaks volumes!Image: A pharmacist holds a package of EpiPens epinephrine auto-injector

    Think of your own communities and your own legislative districts or states, or regions. Think of that group of prostitutes allowing fracking and earthquakes; coal ash ponds made of crumbling earth and over-spilling. Think of all those CAFOs — confined/concentrated animal feeding operations — polluting the air, land, soil and watershed/water table with billions of gallons of blood, aborted animal fetuses, urine, shit, antibiotics, fungicides, and nitrates, to name a few lovely by-products of that crispy bacon burger or tender chicken nugget with cheddar cheese or big ass T-bone! How many commissioners, state ag bureaucrats, leading scientists with leading universities /lie/lied, cover up/covered up, spin master/spin mastered confusion to the point that you are now there, living a virtual chemical and chronic disease hell?

    One decision that puts health, welfare, safety of a community in jeopardy or, in fact, creates those diseases, hazards, injustices, well, that is the defining moment of any single man’s or woman’s humanity, or lack thereof. You think citing “well, in politics, it’s about compromise after negotiation after compromise” as the way democracy run for, by, because, in the name of the rich is going to fix it? After those prostitutes turn thy cheek and see-speak-hear no evil when it comes to the greater good of supporting and propping up and turbo charging the terrorists’ regime — Capitalism’s quadruple profit schemes!

    One stupid remark, as we get in all the presidential debates, both sides of the political feedlot manure pile, and if the remark is steeped in injustice, seeking the power of money and inside trading (as all lobbying efforts at the predatory capital level engage in), then there should be hell to pay.

    You got the head creep in the head office (POTUS — Perverted Occupant of the US), with so many lies, crimes, incompetencies and the like defining NPD Trump, but alas, the harbingers of money — networks, newspapers, all the Little Eichmanns and boot-lickers with bended knees or backwards flips awaiting Trump’s economic, environmental, international buggering — they are defined by their own prostitution and whoring and pimping.

    But it’s all about compromise — how many millions will lose school lunches or measly food stamp benefits? Compromise across both aisles. How many millions are on the brink of houselessness because of that fine group of prostitutes and pimps in the landlord category gouge and gentrify and gut families into eviction hell? Compromise at your local state legislature.

    One decision exposed paints a thousand other crimes hidden or about to be perpetrated:

    Ask about health care at a summer cookout, and you’ll likely get an earful about how drug corporations are gouging us, leaving many families to choose between buying medications or putting food on the table.

    Why? Because corporations put profits before patients.

    Look at a corporation like Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, which raked in $480 million in profits last year and paid its chairman $97.6 million, all while raising the price of the medication to more than $600 per dose.

    And take Michael Pearson, the former CEO of the drug corporation Valeant, who put it bluntly: “The capitalistic approach to pricing is to charge what the market will bear.”

    Meanwhile, I’ve been hearing from people around the country who are terrified that the health care repeal now before Congress will put life-saving medications even farther out of reach for them and their families.

    From Alaska to Alabama, people are worried sick about being able to get insulin for diabetes, blood pressure drugs, and prescriptions for panic attacks, ovarian cysts, lupus, celiac disease, thyroid cancer, hemophilia, and many other conditions.

    So how many hundreds of gallons of herbicides are acceptable for humanity, wildlife, flora and fauna, fetuses? Which compromise will your cancer-inflamed aunt or developmental delayed/disabled child applaud and say, “That’s politics . . . haha”? Oh, those Poison Papers:

    The “Poison Papers” represent a vast trove of rediscovered chemical industry and regulatory agency documents and correspondence stretching back to the 1920sTaken as a whole, the papers show that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public and the press. These papers will transform our understanding of the hazards posed by certain chemicals on the market and the fraudulence of some of the regulatory processes relied upon to protect human health and the environment. Search instructions for the Poison Papers.

    Which of these culprits will rot in Hell? Right! Getting down to headlines:

    ROUNDUP TRIAL: MONSANTO USED FAKE DATA TO WIN OVER REGULATORS

    TRUMP’S EPA IS UNDERMINING NEW LAW TO REGULATE CHEMICALS

    The game can’t be won by George Carlin wannabes, the Jon Leibowtiz “Daily Show” Stewart or the Stephen Colbert crap. Funny as hell is like Nero Fiddling While Rome Burns — Laughing all the way to the bank for those media mucksters, but diluting thought and intellect, those Daily Shows . . . har, har, har!

    But in a chaotic society, where we throw millions at a millionaire, like, what’s his name, Anderson Cooper, or where we listen to the third grade debate (sic) antics of idiotic debate (sic) moderators (faux), well, none of these realities are brought to the fore, since America, even in this hateful iteration, is a play nice kinda place, or at least the medium is the message, since there is a cabal of few controlling 95 percent of media, 95 percent of all communication and education platforms. These chosen people will not tolerate anything outside the discourse, outside the controlled opposition, paid for and militated by the same chosen few.

    Back to my neck of the woods. Living in a town where the forest meets the sea, as the PR spin puts it. I spend a lot of time on the Highway 101 working as a journalist, environmentalist and family advocate for a new gig I just got hired for to lead in Lincoln County.

    That beautiful Pacific, hard-edged Oregon coast, blustery winds, amazing crags and reefs and hard escarpments into the sea. That Highway 101 right up against the near tide line, with tens of thousands of visitors in their RVs and cars, renting beach houses for a span or all summer. The town of Newport is 10,000 residents, but some warm sunny summer days, up to 50,000 from around the USA and world.

    So, that big emblematic moment in this state, Oregon, not the liberal bastion portrayed by Holly-dirt or the oh-so-tragically-hip Media?! WE have their names, these culprits who call themselves representatives. Sure, there they are in living color, with their districts in bold. Imagine, Oregon’s Little Eichmann Politicians-Prostitutes voting DOWN an Early Warning system for Earthquakes and Wildfires.

    If there is a hell (haha) then these will burn in it, but not in the mindset of the Chamber of Commerce or Developers or Real Estate or Construction or Hospitality felons! Read and weep!

    Researchers were shocked when nearly $12 million to expand ShakeAlert and AlertWildfire — early warning systems to help detect significant earthquakes and wildfires — unexpectedly went up in smoke last month, just days before the end of the legislative session. Money for the projects was included as part of a larger funding package, but was stripped in a last-minute amendment.

    Disaster preparedness has continually been a focal point as Western states are poised to enter the hottest and driest months of wildfire season. And two massive earthquakes in remote areas of Southern California this month reminded the public it’s only a matter of time before the next destructive quake hits.

    “We don’t know when the next big earthquake or wildfire will strike, but we know it will happen at some point,” said Douglas Toomey, a seismologist and earth sciences professor at the University of Oregon who helps run both early warning detection systems. And Oregon is “woefully” unprepared, he said.

    Here, my lite article on Oregon State University’s marine sciences center in Newport, 13 miles from mile current tsunami vulnerable home:

    BRIDGING THE DIVIDE

    Again, this is a lifestyle and tourist-travel-stay-and-eat-and-buy magazine, where I make a few shekels:

    The next big one

    For some, maybe the glass is half empty, especially when considering just when, how big, how long and specifically where the next earthquake will occur along the San Andres Fault and Cascadia Subduction Zone.

    For Chris Goldfinger, geology and geophysics professor, it’s not a matter of “if,” but when. He was pretty clear that an 8.0 or above magnitude quake has a 37 percent probability of hitting our Cascadia zone in the next 50 years.

    He was quick to criticize the Coastal Caucus, comprising of the eight legislators from districts along the Oregon Coast, who, on June 24, voted down a statewide tsunami zoning code which would have prevented some public services, hospitals, schools, fire and police facilities from being built in tsunami zone sites.

    The final activity for the day was a tour of, ironically, a new building that was designed and is currently being constructed to withstand some level of tsunami, with design features that incorporate vertical evacuation from the lower floors to the roof. Then, contingency plans include horizontal paths to avoid tsunami inundation, including Safe Haven Hill west of Highway 101, about a mile from the campus.

    Thomas Robbins, from the architecture firm who designed the building, Yost Grube Hall, pointed out other design features that make this new building sort of a model for other structures, including deep-soil mixing to stabilize the ground under the building.

    “Augers went down a hundred feet,” Robbins said. “Then thousands of cubic yards of grout [27,380] were injected. We designed this as state of the art, for functionality, safety and aesthetics.”

    The expected growth in resident students, up to 500 in 10 years, has necessitated university housing plans — dorms — to be built on higher ground, away from the Hatfield, out of tsunami zones. There was and still is controversy about siting this new building in a tsunami inundation zone.

    The OSU Marine Science building under construction, April 2019. It’s on a sandbar at sea level in Newport, Ore., and can be overtopped by the largest of the modeled tsunamis, as well as battered by the NOAA ships docked just to the left out of the frame. It’s not often you can take the “after” picture ahead of time, but this is what it may look like after being destroyed by the next tsunami. Credit: Chris Goldfinger.

    Photo credit: The OSU Marine Science building under construction, April 2019. It’s on a sandbar at sea level in Newport, Ore., and can be overtopped by the largest of the modeled tsunamis, as well as battered by the NOAA ships docked just to the left out of the frame. It’s not often you can take the “after” picture ahead of time, but this is what it may look like after being destroyed by the next tsunami. Credit: Chris Goldfinger.

    Here, one of the outlier scientists I quoted in my “lite story” and for whom I am seeking a longer story to discuss the bastardization of the science, or what many call engineer-stitutes — the American Society of Civil Engineers, who blew one thing after another, including NOL, Katrina.

    – I had this man on my radio show in the early 2000s in Spokane, where he visited one of the colleges where I taught, Spokane Community College, Ivor van Heerden

    breach

    Photo credit: Breaches like this one (middle distance, beyond the bridge) on the 17th Street Canal caused the extensive flooding. It was not simply a matter of Katrina’s storm surge overtopping the levees. (Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District)

    Prof. Chris Goldfinger, Ph.D., Oregon State University

    ASCE models: Simplistic, no peer review, no publication

    Oregon, however, already had high-end tsunami models. By comparison, the ASCE models are simplistic, a first cut at best, that failed to incorporate the geologic, geophysical or geodetic data. They did not attempt to “balance” the slip along the subduction zone so it made sense in terms of the total budget of motion between the two colliding plates, failed to use the latest geologic evidence, and did not test the models against the geologic evidence of tsunami run-up. The ASCE models and sources were never peer reviewed in any serious way nor published. In fact, it remains pretty hard to ferret out exactly what ASCE did, as there is no documentation to speak of. At a meeting where the results were presented to Oregon specialists including me, they were heavily criticized. But the process was already complete, and our comments were not incorporated.

    So in the end, Oregon was sold this package to replace the 1995 law, and also to cut DOGAMI out of the picture. Legislators wanted to shoot the messenger, as so often is the case. Now Oregon will have two sets of tsunami lines, one in the new building codes, and one from DOGAMI. They are not the same, and don’t serve the same purpose. Nonetheless, the DOGAMI lines are defensible, published and available to all, while the ASCE lines are not in the same league. But many in the Oregon legislature became convinced that they were improving things, while others pushed the pro-development agenda, and others appeared to be confused about exactly what they were signing due to the press of other business.

    Worse than the tsunami models is that now there is no statewide uniform guidance or law to govern what can be built in a tsunami zone. Decisions will be made by local building inspectors who decide which risk category a project belongs in, and these people, in my honest opinion, are easily influenced by politics. While a given city is free to go above and beyond the codes and place things in safe locations, it will also be free to do dangerous things if the local politicians push it. To some extent this was always true, and fixing that was a problem a state task force was working on when short-circuited by the legislative attack on DOGAMI.

    A stealth war on science

    It gets worse. The bill that passed last week was done in stealth mode, under the radar, when all news was focused on a climate and carbon tax debate. It was attached to another bill very late in the session, and had no real discussion, hearings or debate. Even if some of the supporters were well intentioned, some are conflicted with strong pro-development agendas. As Rep. David Gomberg, a Democrat who represents the Central Coast, stated many times, tsunami protections were costing people money (a dubious claim at best), thus the attacks on the existing law and on DOGAMI.

    In the end, the result may well be measured in lives lost for the simple cause of profits for developers on the coast.

    Greece:  Suicide or Murder?

    Pundits from the left, from the right and from the center cannot stop reporting about Greece’s misery. And rightly so because the vast majority of her people live in deep economic hardship. No hope. Unemployment is officially at 18%, with the real figure closer to 25% or 30%; pensions have been reduced about ten times since Syriza – the Socialist Party – took power in 2015 and loaded the country with debt and austerity. In the domain of public services, everything that has any value has been privatized and sold to foreign corporations, oligarchs, or, naturally, banks. Hospitals, schools, public transportation – even some beaches – have been privatized and made unaffordable for the common people.

    While the pundits – always more or less the same – keep lamenting about the Greek conditions in one form or another, none of them dare offer the only solution that could have rescued Greece (and still could) – exiting the euro zone; return to their local currency and start rebuilding Greece with a local economy, built on local currency with local public banking and with a sovereign Greek central bank deciding the monetary policy that best suits Greece, and especially Greece’s recovery program. Why not? Why do they not talk about this obvious solution? Would they be censured in Greece, because the Greek oligarchy controls the media as oligarchs do around the (western part of the) globe?

    Instead, foreign imposed (troika: IMF, European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission (EC) — the latter mainly pushed by German and French banks and the Rothschild clan — austerity programs have literally put a halt on imports of affordable medication, such as like for cancer treatments and other potentially lethal illnesses. So, common people no longer get treatment. They die like flies; a horrible expression to be used for human beings. But that’s what it comes down to for people who simply do not get the treatment they humanely deserve and would have gotten under the rights of the Greek Constitution; however, they simply do not get treated because they can no longer afford medication and services from privatized health services. That is the sad but true story.

    As a consequence, the suicide rate is up, due to foreign imposed (but Greek government accepted) debt and austerity, annihilating hope for terminally ill patients, as well as for pensioners whose pensions do no longer allow them to live a decent life and especially as there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

    Now, these same pundits add a little air of optimism to their reporting, as the right wing New Democracy Party (ND Party) won with what they call a ‘landslide’ victory on the 7 July 2019 elections; gathering 39.6% of the votes, against only 31.53 for Syriza, the so-called socialist party, led by outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who represents a tragedy that has allowed Greece to be plunged into this hopeless desolation. The ND won an absolute majority with 158 seats in the 300-member Greek parliament. Therefore, no coalition needed, no concessions required.

    The new Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (51), son of a former PM of the same party, in his victory speech on the evening of 7 July, vowed that Greece will “proudly” enter a post-bailout era of “jobs, security and growth”. He added that “a painful cycle has closed” and that Greece would “proudly raise its head again” on his watch.

    We don’t know what this means for the average Greek citizen living a life of despair. What the “left” was unable to do – stopping the foreign imposed (but Greek accepted) bleeding of Greece; the strangulation of their country – will the right be able to reverse that trend? Does the right want to reverse that trend? Does the ND want to reverse privatization, buy back airports from Germany, water supply from the EU managed “Superfund”, and repurchase the roads from foreign concessionaires, or nationalize hospitals that were sold for a pittance and – especially – get out from austerity to allow importing crucial medication to salvage the sick and dying Greek, those who currently cannot afford treatment of their cancers and other potentially deadly diseases?

    That would indeed be a step towards PM Mitsotakis’ promise to end the “painful cycle” of austerity, with import of crucial medication made affordable to those in dire need, with job creation and job security – and much more – with eventually a renewed Greek pride and Greek sovereignty. The latter would mean – finally – it’s never too late to exit the euro zone. But, that’s an illusion, a pipe-dream. Albeit  it could become a vision.

    If the ND is the party of the oligarchs, the Greek oligarchs that is, those Greeks who have placed literally billions of euros outside their country in (still) secret bank accounts in Switzerland, France, Lichtenstein, Luxemburg and elsewhere, including the Cayman islands and other Caribbean tax havens, hidden not only from the Greek fiscal authorities, but also impeding that these funds could, crucially, be used for investments at home, for job creation, for creation of added value in Greece. If the ND is the party of the oligarchs, they are unlikely to make the dream of the vast majority of Greek people come true.

    Worse even, these Greek oligarch-billionaires call the shots in Greece not the people, not those who according to Greek tradition and according to the Greek invention, called “democracy” (Delphi, some 2500 years ago) have democratically elected Syriza and have democratically voted against the austerity packages in July 2015. Now, that they are officially in power, they are unlikely to change their greed-driven behavior and act in favor of the Greek people. Or will they?

    Because, if they do, it may eventually also benefit them, the ND Party and its adherents — a Greece that functions like a country, with happy, healthy and content people, is a Greece that retains the worldwide esteem and respect she deserves — and will, by association, develop an economy that can and will compete and trade around the world, a Greece that is an equal to others, as a sovereign nation. A dream can become a reality. It just takes visionaries.

    Back to today’s reality. The Greek Bailout Referendum of July 5, 2015, was overwhelmingly rejected with 61% ‘no’ against 39% ‘yes’, meaning that almost two thirds of the Greek people would have preferred the consequences of rejecting the bailout, euphemistically called “rescue packages”, namely exiting the euro zone, and possibly, but not necessarily, the European Union.

    Despite the overwhelming, democratic rejection by the people, the Tsipras government reached an agreement on 13 July 2015 – only 8 days after the vote against the bailout with the European authorities for a three-year bailout with even harsher austerity conditions than the ones rejected by voters. What went on is anybody’s guess. It looks pretty obvious, though, that “foul play” was the name of the game which could mean anything from outright and serious (life) threats to blackmail, if Tsipras would not play the game and this to the detriment of the people.

    President Tsipras’ betrayal of the people resulted in three bailout packages since 2010 and up to the end of 2018, in the amount of about €310 billion (US$ 360 billion). Compare this to Hong Kong’s economy of US$ 340 billion in 2017. In that same period the Greek GDP has declined from about US$ 300 billion (€ 270 billion) in 2010 to US$ 218 billion (€ 196 billion), a reduction of 27%, hitting the middle- and lower-class people by far the hardest. This is called a rescue?

    The democracy fiasco of July 2015 prompted Tsipras to call for snap elections in September 2015, hélas – he won, with a narrow margin and one of the lowest election turnouts ever in Greek postwar history; but, yes, he ‘won’. How much of it was manipulated – by now Cambridge Analytica has become a household word – so he could finish the job for the troika and the German and French banks, is pure speculation.

    Today, the ND has an absolute majority in Parliament, plus the ND could ally with a number of smaller and conservative parties to pursue a “people’s dream” line policy. But they may do the opposite. Question: How much more juice is there to be sucked out of broken Greece? Of a Greece that cannot care for her people, for her desperate poor and sick, cannot provide her children with a decent education, of a Greece that belongs into the category of bankruptcy? Yes, bankruptcy, still today, after the IMF and the gnomes of the EU and the ECB predict a moderate growth rate of some 2%?  But 2% that go to whom?  Not to the people, to be sure, but to the creditors of the €310 billion.

    Already in 2011, the British Lancet stated “the Greek Ministry of Health reported that the annual suicide rate has increased by 40%”, presumably since the (imposed) crisis that started in 2008. From this date forward the suicide rate must have skyrocketed, as the overall living conditions worsened exponentially. However, precise figures can no longer be easily found.

    The question remains: Is the Greek population dying increasingly from diseases that could be cured, but aren’t due to austerity- and privatization-related lack of medication and health services and of suicide from desperation? Is Greece committing suicide by continuing to accept austerity and privatization of vital services, instead of liberating herself from the handcuffs of the euro and very likely the stranglehold of the EU?  Or is Greece the victim of sheer murder inflicted by a greed-driven construct of money institutions and oligarchs, who are beyond morals, beyond ethics and beyond any values of humanity? You be the judge.

    • First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

    CapitalGate’s the Problem, Not Russiagate

    [U]nder existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
    Albert Einstein

    While the professional class minority employed in sustaining the multi-million dollar Russiagate fiasco has financially cleaned up, one has to sympathize with the slightly larger minority of innocent citizens who missed their therapy appointments in order to watch or listen to the incredibly boring, pointless and nearly unending game-of-drones latest chapter, called “Mueller’s Testimony.” The overwhelming majority of Americans only took note of this programming for the puerile when tuned into other social and anti-social media belching up enormous amounts of this brain dissolving gas. But both the minority under forceful brain assault and the majority not paying any attention are kept from far more serious events and issues that warrant all our consideration.

    While one of the ruling class parties is under forced obsession with the fiction of Russiagate, both parties are moving ahead either in blissful ignorance or saber rattling madness, towards war in the middle east for Israel, while increasing finances for Israel, suppressing American freedom of speech for Israel, and throwing in some mental assault on China to take a little attention off Russia and put it on the other alleged major menace. The imperial system of global capitalism is under greater threat than ever, with competition originating in new forms, nations and cultures everyday. What’s a ruling minority to do but further coerce its minions under thought control while slaughtering foreigners whenever and wherever possible, even as that becomes more problematic? The twenty first century has created even bigger problems for minority rule than the last one did.

    As if the repercussions of the Russian revolution in 1917 weren’t bad enough for the empire, the Chinese revolt thirty-two years later caused greater nightmares in the west. While seemingly controlling these two major revolutions in part by boycotting, sabotaging and engaging them in proxy wars, Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was immediately seen as a threat by the US and its new imperial partner Israel, with forebodings of doom at this Middle Eastern national force taking control from its colonial rulers. Iran offered a newer adversary driven by religion as well as political economics, and could become a local power threatening to Israel such as had never existed before. Naturally, the global twins of terror were alarmed and that alarm has grown as has Iran’s stature and power in the area and the world. And even the end of the Soviet Union, seen as a victory for the short sighted west, has resulted in a rebuilt Russian force and renewed assumption of a role as world power, bringing revival of all the dumbest forms of past anti-communism this time directed at a seemingly worse enemy: capitalism!

    Meanwhile, China underwent a massive reform and became a capitalist economic system under the control of a Communist Party, thereby experiencing an incredible measure of growth quite shocking to the west and causing more need to fear the end of euro-ruled environmental destruction in a more equitable – if that’s possible – exercise of market forces under the domain of an authority putting the public good before private profit. What are the ruling powers to do?

    Elect a totally un-related to the political establishment egotistical rich person as president, whose ego speaks so honestly he is all but totally destroying the usual hypocritical political protocol, and having failed miserably by allowing that to happen, blame it all on Russia. And call the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the white house a tool of… guess which country? While past presidents toed the Israeli line in deference to the power of the Israeli lobby, this one doesn’t need their money and actually believes the mythology. Ruling power is really in a quandary and so must reduce the population to even greater confusion than usual, making Einstein’s opening quote almost an understatement.

    Thus we have a nation in debt for 23 trillion dollars, mostly spent making a tiny minority wealthy beyond belief while buying a massive military with hundreds of foreign bases and enough munitions to destroy the entire planet, including Trump’s ego. This while numbers of America’s homeless increase by the minute, personal consumer and student debt are in the trillions, and the economy is said to be booming, once again assuring that it makes great sense to rely on a market under control of private profiteers and claim democracy, equality and peace on earth good will to all as the outcome of such deranged lunacy.

    Meanwhile, we hear that the person in charge is a sexist – he leaves the seat up in the toilet – a racist – he probably has more lower income supporters “of color” than upper income types of color or no color can imagine – and anything but the danger of policy in the Middle East getting beyond usual wretched American anti-Semitism towards Palestinians, and threatening to further alienate more of the world from the monstrous entity our propaganda claims as humanity’s hope while most of the world sees us as the greatest threat to peace and global security imaginable.

    So, look for ever more details of Trump’s guilt in working for Russia – not Israel – hiding his tax forms so we won’t learn he is rich – who knew? And how he is strengthening America’s greatest menace, alienated guys with shaved heads and swastika tattoos who are making it difficult for guys who ride in limos and deal billions of dollars in stocks and bonds every day in service to their masters who use some of the profits to pay media stenographers to fill our heads with important info about Russia taking over our electoral process from the billionaires who previously owned it and are now reduced to watching some measly little Russian online operation of market hustlers spending something like a hundred thousand dollars – wow! – to affect the outcome of the multi billion-dollar market mall we’re told is our democracy.

    The American dollar’s power is going the way of all forms of previous domination and many nations are banding together to confront what the American people should be dealing with: bringing our nation under the control of its people, not just its minority ruling class, before the rest of the world has to do it for us. It’s going to have to happen to save humanity and we’d be much better off affecting that transformation ourselves, rather than be distracted further by more nonsense from consciousness control about Russia. Our problems are the climate calamity threatening all of humanity, Wall Street, the Pentagon, congress, the white house, and especially the market under minority control which is responsible for all of them. The famous socialist thinker quoted at the beginning was talking about something more recently called fake news, but whatever the label, he had it right and it’s still true.

    Thirty Years Later: Fukuyama Reloaded

    Francis Fukuyama’s book is a profound book and as a profound book it is profoundly misleading.

    A mixture of Platonic and Hegelian psychology/historical teleology as well as offering a good explanation for the historical origins of bourgeois man in Hobbes and Locke, it misleads not necessarily in the assertion that we cannot imagine a better world than one where liberal-capitalist democracy is triumphant but in the positing of the factual statement that we do indeed currently live in such a world.

    To be sure, there is much to be said for Fukuyama’s insistence (borrowed from Kojeve who borrowed it from Hegel) that the “riddle of History” is to be found in man’s desire for recognition. And in a sense, it could be said (as Hegel maintained) that the French Revolution was the beginning of the culmination of that struggle (the original end of history). But that would be a very superficial reading of what actually happened.

    That people do indeed require, seek out, and desire proper recognition for who they are and their intrinsically felt worth is not in question. That the Western liberal democracies do a relatively (in historical terms) good job of delivering on this most political of psychological needs is also, more or less, not in dispute. What is in question are the actual dimensions of possible freedom for modern, ostensibly liberal man.

    Robert Dahl once famously called into question theories of minority rule behind liberal democracies as well as Robert Michels’s famous “iron law of oligarchy” because they are hard to prove empirically. Of course, they are hard to prove! They are by nature indirect, subtle, hidden. The political and social structures within which we live are but the formal husk of a much deeper societal dimension, one which is neither accessible nor visible by the common “citizen”. It is the sphere where real power is exercised. Where the pretense of democracy is most fully revealed and true recognition is afforded to the very few.

    Networks of surreptitious power course through the veins of all our allegedly “democratic” institutions. Nothing is easier to arrange in a free society than true unfreedom. Powerful societal interests (and not just economic) dictate the range, scope, agenda and the very look and feel of our “democratic” daily life. Through the use of concentrated power in the media, security forces, judiciary, financial centers, and political “representatives” (read: carefully groomed lackeys) the facade of democratic politics and life can be maintained while it does not in the least restrain the most powerful figures in the dim background that dictate its daily rhythms and perennial contours.

    Conspiracy? Not exactly although there is most definitely some aspect of that. Rather it is the self-perpetuation of elites (and elite interests) through institutions and the careful maintenance and deepening of personal and professional ties. They know each others minds and most importantly they know each others material and political interests and the prohibitive (murderous?) costs of betraying them. And why betray them, since the benefits so far outweigh the costs?

    To return to Dahl for a moment, he too, along with Sheldon Wolin, understood that the potential for “centralized coercion” had never been greater than precisely at this moment in time. That the setting up of an “inverted Totalitarianism” (to use Wolin’s phrase) would best serve the interests of the powerful few while the “demos” would be carefully spoon fed consumerism and various forms of populism, nationalism, and, yes, superficially packaged issues of human rights and identity politics (none of which could in the slightest damage the exquisite equilibrium of the dual system of de jure rights for the majority hiding de facto power for a minority).

    Perhaps the most glaring proof of this system of invidious power comes in the seemingly unlikely form of President Trump. Actually, Trump is not the absurdity that he initially seems, rather he is the most natural, logical outcome of an absurd system. A system where the real issues of power are kept privately hidden and a consummate showman manufactures “public” issues on a daily basis while the “loyal opposition” feigns its daily shock, effectively hiding its deep complicity in the shadowy compacts of real power. The populace keeps its eyes and ears keenly upon the show placed before them and thereby becomes ever more oblivious to any real issue of political consequence or any possibility for the substantial remaking of the “iron cage” they inhabit. Yes, a multitude of questions are allowed but none with the slightest revolutionary import. But how could they, when ideologically we have reached the end of history?

    After thirty years since its first appearance, Fukuyama’s thesis at the end of his article/book may have presaged a kind of an end after all. An end where ideologically man is satisfied with himself and the modicum of freedoms he has achieved. A Nietzschean Last Man that is tired of questioning, struggle, fame, glory, or intellectual exertion of any kind. Here, I would argue, Fukuyama is at his most provocative as well as perhaps closest to a disturbing truth: that the true end of history is a time where man is so materially comfortable that he prefers the simulation of truth over its active discovery and flourishing practice. That he would prefer the big lie of a system that more or less works for him rather than the uncomfortable revelation of a strict system of strategic micro-control masquerading as a celebration of democracy and freedom. The End of History may ultimately reside in the cowardliness of our present imaginations and our impotence in creating an autonomous collective political trajectory that leads beyond furtive, hierarchical control. We must realize, and soon, how History has tricked us into thinking that we are truly recognized and free.

    Corporate Gangster: Adani’s Pursuit of Scientists

    The Adani conglomerate should be best described as a bloated gangster, promising the earth even as it mines it.  Like other corporate thugs of such disposition, it will do things within, and if necessary outside, the regulatory framework it encounters.  Where necessary, it will libel detractors and bribe critics, speak of a fictional number of as yet non-existent jobs, and claim that it is green in its coaling practices. It will also hire legal firms claiming to be trained attack dogs and hector the national broadcaster to pull unflattering stories from publication and discussion.

    As a marauder of the environment, the Indian mining giant has left little to chance.  It has politicians friendly to its cause in Australia at both the state and federal level, but it faces an environmental movement that refuses to dissipate.  It also has a problem with environmental science, particularly in the area of water management.  Conditional approvals have been secured, albeit hurried in the aftermath of May’s federal election, and even here, further testing will have to be done.

    Given the inconveniences posed by scientists wedded to methodology and technique, the company did not surprise in freedom of information findings by the environmental group Lock the Gate that it had asked the federal environment department for “a list of each person from CSIRO and Geoscience Australia involved in the review” of the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan (GDEMP) and Groundwater Monitoring and Management Plan (GMMP).

    In a bullying note to the Department of Environment and Energy (DOEE) in January 25 this year, Hamish Manzi, head of the company’s environment and sustainability branch officiously gave a five day limit to the request, claiming that it “simply wants to know who is involved in the review to provide it with peace of mind that it is being treated fairly and that the review will not be hijacked by activists with a political, as opposed to scientific, agenda.”  Manzi had noted “recent press coverage regarding an anti-coal and/or anti-Adani bias potentially held by experts reviewing other Adani approvals.” For Manzi, the only expert worthy of that name would have to be sympathetic to the mining cause.

    The corporate instinct is rarely on all fours with that of the scientific one.  The former seeks the accumulation of assets, profits and dividends; the latter tests hypotheses using a falsification system, a process that can only ever have fidelity to itself.  The corporate instinct is happy to forget troubling scientific outcomes, and, where necessary, corrupt it for its ends.  Where the science does not match, it is obviously the work of ill-motivated activists or those inconvenienced by conscience.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists in February 2012, through its Scientific Integrity Program, supplied readers with a list of fields where science, and scientists, have been attacked or compromised.  More importantly, it notes how governments become the subject of influence, their decisions ever vulnerable to wobbling.  “Corporations attempt to exert influence at every step of the scientific and policy-making processes, often to shape decisions in their favour or avoid regulation and monitoring of their products and by-products at the public’s expense.  In so doing, they often attempt to fundamentally alter the decision-making process.”

    The methods of corrupting science are not exhaustive, but the UCS report suggests a view tried ones.  Research, for instance, is either held up by the company in question or terminated.  Scientists are intimidated or coerced through threats to job security, defunding and litigation.  Defective methodologies in testing and research are embraced.  Scientific articles are ghost written, with corporate sponsorship blurred.  Negative results are slyly under-reported; positive results are glowingly celebrated. And never forget good old fashioned vilification.

    The FOI documents regarding Adani’s conduct show the company as a witch doctor wooing the federal government into timed releases of information and an obsession with preventing a broader public discussion of findings.  A January 9 email from Adani to DOEE demanded that CSIRO/GA reports not be circulated to third parties or the public.  The next day, the department obligingly informed the company that it would only share advice with Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science.

    The uncovered documents also show a certain degree of cyber stalking at play.  On January 15, a staff member of Geoscience Australia wrote to DOEE expressing concern that the company had viewed LinkedIn profiles of employees.  Such concerns did little to ruffle the growing accord between the department and the company.

    The abdication of government to the corporate sector is one of the more troubling features of this tawdry chapter in Australian non-governance.  Corporate giants know they must enlist the support of representatives who they can trust to be of sound mind.  History is replete with successful lobbying efforts in the name of corrupted science.

    In 2007, ReGen Biologics, a New Jersey company, faced a sceptical Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerned with Menaflex, a device intended to replace knee cartilage.  With the FDA’s rejection came a mobilisation effort.  Politicians were sought and cultivated.  In December that year, Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and Rep. Steve Rothman all wrote to FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach.  The Commissioner’s ear had been bended sufficiently to lead to a new review headed by Dr Daniel Schultz, head of the FDA’s medical devices division.  Scepticism vanished; the product was approved.  In 2010, a shamefaced FDA had to concede that it had erred and duly revoked approval.

    Instead of defending practices of departments and professionals engaged in the task of assessing the merits of such ventures, individuals such as the Australian deputy prime minister suggest that Adani might have a point in its heavy-handed enthusiasm to root out contrarians.  In Michael McCormack’s view, Adani “were made to jump through more environmental hoops than perhaps any previous project in the nation.”  They merely “wanted to determine… that those arguing against their proposals were not just some quasi anti-development groups or individuals.”  The thug’s narrative has found a home in the hearts of the anti-scientific representatives that currently rule the Canberra roost. Scientists have been warned.

    The Plot to Keep Corbyn out of Power

    In the latest of the interminable media “furores” about Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed unfitness to lead the Labour party – let alone become prime minister – it is easy to forget where we were shortly before he won the support of an overwhelming majority of Labour members to head the party.

    In the preceding two years, it was hard to avoid on TV the figure of Russell Brand, a comedian and minor film star who had reinvented himself, after years of battling addiction, as a spiritual guru-cum-political revolutionary.

    Brand’s fast-talking, plain-speaking criticism of the existing political order, calling it discredited, unaccountable and unrepresentative, was greeted with smirking condescension from the political and media establishment. Nonetheless, in an era before Donald Trump had become president of the United States, the British media were happy to indulge Brand for a while, seemingly believing he or his ideas might prove a ratings winner with younger audiences.

    But then Brand started to look rather more impressive than anyone could have imagined. He took on supposed media heavyweights like the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman and Channel 4’s Jon Snow and charmed and shamed them into submission – both with his compassion and his thoughtful radicalism. Even in the gladiatorial-style battle of wits so beloved of modern TV, he made these titans of the political interview look mediocre, shallow and out of touch. Videos of these head-to-heads went viral, and Brand won hundreds of thousands of new followers.

    Then he overstepped the mark.

    Democracy as charade

    Instead of simply criticising the political system, Brand argued that it was, in fact, so rigged by the powerful, by corporate interests, that western democracy had become a charade. Elections were pointless. Our votes were simply a fig-leaf, concealing the fact that our political leaders were there to represent not us but the interests of globe-spanning corporations. Political and media elites had been captured by unshored corporate money. Our voices had become irrelevant.

    Brand didn’t just talk the talk. He went out and started committing to direct action. He shamed our do-nothing politicians and corporate media (the devastating Grenfell Tower fire had yet to happen) by helping gain attention for a group of poor tenants in London who were taking on the might of a corporation that had become their landlord and wanted to evict them to develop their homes for a much richer clientele. Brand’s revolutionary words had turned into revolutionary action.

    But just as Brand’s rejection of the old politics began to articulate a wider mood, it was stopped in its tracks. When Corbyn was unexpectedly elected Labour leader, offering for the first time in living memory a politics that listened to people before money, Brand’s style of rejectionism seemed a little too cynical, or at least premature.

    But while Corbyn’s victory marked a sea-change, it is worth recalling that it occurred only because of a mistake. Or perhaps two.

    The Corbyn accident

    First, a handful of Labour MPs agreed to nominate Corbyn for the leadership contest, scraping him past the threshold needed to get on the ballot paper. Most backed him only because they wanted to make the election look fair and open. After his victory, some loudly regretted having assisted him. None had thought a representative of the tiny and besieged left wing of the parliamentary party stood a chance of winning – not after Tony Blair and his acolytes had spent more than two decades remaking Labour, using their own version of entryism to eradicate any vestiges of socialism in the party. These “New Labour” MPs were there, just as Brand had noted, to represent the interests of a corporate class, not ordinary people.

    Corbyn had very different ideas from most of his colleagues. Over the years he had broken with the consensus of the dominant Blairite faction time and again in parliamentary votes, consistently taking a minority view that later proved to be on the right side of history. He alone among the leadership contenders spoke unequivocally against austerity, regarding it as a way to leech away more public money to enrich the corporations and banks that had already pocketed vast sums from the public coffers – so much so that by 2008 they had nearly bankrupted the entire western economic system.

    And second, Corbyn won because of a recent change in the party’s rulebook – one now much regretted by party managers. A new internal balloting system gave more weight to the votes of ordinary members than the parliamentary party. The members, unlike the party machine, wanted Corbyn.

    Corbyn’s success didn’t really prove Brand wrong. Even the best designed systems have flaws, especially when the maintenance of the system’s image as benevolent is considered vitally important. It wasn’t that Corbyn’s election had demonstrated that Britain’s political system was representative and accountable. It was simply evidence that corporate power had made itself vulnerable to a potential accident by preferring to work out of sight, in the shadows, to maintain the illusion of democracy. Corbyn was that accident.

    Brainwashing under freedom’

    Corbyn’s success also wasn’t evidence that the power structure he challenged had weakened. The system was still in place and it still had a chokehold on the political and media establishments that exist to uphold its interests. Which is why it has been mobilising these forces endlessly to damage Corbyn and avert the risk of a further, even more disastrous “accident”, such as his becoming prime minister.

    Listing the ways the state-corporate media have sought to undermine Corbyn would sound preposterous to anyone not deeply immersed in these media-constructed narratives. But almost all of us have been exposed to this kind of “brainwashing under freedom” since birth.

    The initial attacks on Corbyn were for being poorly dressed, sexist, unstatesmanlike, a national security threat, a Communist spy – relentless, unsubstantiated smears the like of which no other party leader had ever faced. But over time the allegations became even more outrageously propagandistic as the campaign to undermine him not only failed but backfired – not least, because Labour membership rocketed under Corbyn to make the party the largest in Europe. As the establishment’s need to keep him away from power has grown more urgent and desperate so has the nature of the attacks.

    Redefining anti-semitism

    Corbyn was extremely unusual in many ways as the leader of a western party within sight of power. Personally he was self-effacing and lived modestly. Ideologically he was resolutely against the thrust of four decades of a turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism unleashed by Thatcher and Reagan in the early 1980s; and he opposed foreign wars for empire, fashionable “humanitarian interventions” whose real goal was to attack other sovereign states either to control their resources, usually oil, or line the pockets of the military-industrial complex.

    It was difficult to attack Corbyn directly for these positions. There was the danger that they might prove popular with voters. But Corbyn was seen to have an Achilles’ heel. He was a life-long anti-racism activist and well known for his support for the rights of the long-suffering Palestinians. The political and media establishments soon learnt that they could recharacterise his support for the Palestinians and criticism of Israel as anti-semitism. He was soon being presented as a leader happy to preside over an “institutionally” anti-semitic party.

    Under pressure of these attacks, Labour was forced to adopt a new and highly controversial definition of anti-semitism – one rejected by leading jurists and later repudiated by the lawyer who devised it – that expressly conflates criticism of Israel, and anti-Zionism, with Jew hatred. One by one Corbyn’s few ideological allies in the party – those outside the Blairite consensus – have been picked off as anti-semites. They have either fallen foul of this conflation or, as with Labour MP Chris Williamson, they have been tarred and feathered for trying to defend Labour’s record against the accusations of a supposed endemic anti-semitism in its ranks.

    The bad faith of the anti-semitism smears were particularly clear in relation to Williamson. The comment that plunged him into so much trouble – leading twice to his suspension – was videoed. In it he can be heard calling anti-semitism a “scourge” that must be confronted. But also, in line with all evidence, Williamson denied that Labour had any particular anti-semitism problem. In part he blamed the party for being too ready to concede unwarranted ground to critics, further stoking the attacks and smears. He noted that Labour had been “demonised as a racist, bigoted party”, adding: “Our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion … we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”

    The Guardian has been typical in mischaracterising Williamson’s remarks not once but each time it has covered developments in his case. Every Guardian report has stated, against the audible evidence, that Williamson said Labour was “too apologetic about anti-semitism”. In short, the Guardian and the rest of the media have insinuated that Williamson approves of anti-semitism. But what he actually said was that Labour was “too apologetic” when dealing with unfair or unreasonable allegations of anti-semitism, that it had too willingly accepted the unfounded premise of its critics that the party condoned racism.

    Like the Salem witch-hunts

    The McCarthyite nature of this process of misrepresentation and guilt by association was underscored when Jewish Voice for Labour, a group of Jewish party members who have defended Corbyn against the anti-semitism smears, voiced their support for Williamson. Jon Lansman, a founder of the Momentum group originally close to Corbyn, turned on the JVL calling them “part of the problem and not part of the solution to antisemitism in the Labour Party”. In an additional, ugly but increasingly normalised remark, he added: “Neither the vast majority of individual members of JVL nor the organisation itself can really be said to be part of the Jewish community.”

    In this febrile atmosphere, Corbyn’s allies have been required to admit the party’s institutionalised anti-semitism, to distance themselves from Corbyn and often to submit to anti-semitism training. To do otherwise, to deny the accusation is, as in the Salem witch-hunts, treated as proof of guilt.

    The anti-semitism claims have been regurgitated almost daily across the narrow corporate media “spectrum”, even though they are unsupported by any actual evidence of an anti-semitism problem in Labour beyond a marginal one representative of wider British society. The allegations have reached such fever-pitch, stoked into a hysteria by the media, that the party is now under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission – the only party apart from the neo-Nazi British National Party ever to face such an investigation.

    These attacks have transformed the whole discursive landscape on Israel, the Palestinians, Zionism and anti-semitism in ways unimaginable 20 years ago, when I first started reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then the claim that anti-Zionism – opposition to Israel as a state privileging Jews over non-Jews – was the same as anti-semitism sounded patently ridiculous. It was an idea promoted only by the most unhinged apologists for Israel.

    Now, however, we have leading liberal commentators such as the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland claiming not only that Israel is integral to their Jewish identity but that they speak for all other Jews in making such an identification. To criticise Israel is to attack them as Jews, and by implication to attack all Jews. And therefore any Jew dissenting from this consensus, any Jew identifying as anti-Zionist, any Jew in Labour who supports Corbyn – and there are many, even if they are largely ignored – are denounced, as by Lansman, as the “wrong kind of Jews”. It may be absurd logic, but such ideas are now so commonplace as to be unremarkable.

    In fact, the weaponisation of anti-semitism against Corbyn has become so normal that, even while I was writing this post, a new nadir was reached. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary who hopes to defeat Boris Johnson in the upcoming Tory leadership race, as good as accused Corbyn of being a new Hitler, a man who as prime minister might allow Jews to be exterminated as happened in the Nazi death camps.

    Too ‘frail’ to be PM

    Although anti-semitism has become the favoured stick with which to beat Corbyn, other forms of attack regularly surface. The latest is a comment by an unnamed “senior civil servant” reported in the Times alleging that Corbyn is too physically frail and mentally ill-equipped to grasp the details necessary to serve as prime minister. It barely matters whether the comment was actually made by a senior official or simply concocted by the Times. It is yet further evidence of the political and media establishments’ anti-democratic efforts to discredit Corbyn as a general election looms.

    One of the ironies is that media critics of Corbyn regularly accuse him of failing to make any political capital from the shambolic disarray of the ruling Conservative party, which is eating itself alive over the terms of Brexit, Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union. But it is the corporate media – which serves both as society’s main forum of debate and as a supposed watchdog on power – that is starkly failing to hold the Tories to account. While the media obsess about Corbyn’s supposed mental deficiencies, they have smoothed the path of Boris Johnson, a man who personifies the word “buffoon” like no one else in political life, to become the new leader of the Conservative party and therefore by default – and without an election – the next prime minister.

    An indication of how the relentless character assassination of Corbyn is being coordinated was hinted at early on in comments – also reported by The Times, and also made anonymously – by a British military general immediately after Corbyn’s election in 2015. He told the paper there would be “direct action”, what he termed a “mutiny”, by the armed forces should Corbyn ever get in sight of power. The generals, he said, regarded Corbyn as a national security threat and would use any means “fair or foul” to prevent him implementing his political programme.

    Running the gauntlet

    But this campaign of domestic attacks on Corbyn needs to be understood in a still wider framework, which relates to Britain’s abiding Transatlantic “special relationship”, one that in reality means that the UK serves as Robin to the United States’ Batman, or as a very junior partner to the global hegemon.

    Last month a private conversation concerning Corbyn between the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the heads of a handful of rightwing American Jewish organisations was leaked. Contrary to the refrain of the UK corporate media that Corbyn is so absurd a figure that he could never win an election, the fear expressed on both sides of that Washington conversation was that the Labour leader might soon become Britain’s prime minister.

    Framing Corbyn yet again as an anti-semite, a US Jewish leader could be heard asking Pompeo if he would be “willing to work with us to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the UK”. Pompeo responded that it was possible “Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected” – a telling phrase that attracted remarkably little attention, as did the story itself, given that it revealed one of the most senior Trump administration officials explicitly talking about meddling directly in the outcome of a UK election.

    Here is the dictionary definition of “run the gauntlet”: to take part in a form of corporal punishment in which the party judged guilty is forced to run between two rows of soldiers, who strike out and attack him.

    So Pompeo was suggesting that there already is a gauntlet – systematic and organised blows and strikes against Corbyn – that he is being made to run through. In fact, “running the gauntlet” precisely describes the experience Corbyn has faced since he was elected Labour leader – from the corporate media, from the dominant Blairite faction of his own party, from rightwing, pro-Israel Jewish organisations like the Board of Deputies, and from anonymous generals and senior civil servants.

    ‘We cheated, we stole’

    Pompeo continued: “You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”

    So, Washington’s view is that action must be taken before Corbyn reaches a position of power. To avoid any danger he might become the UK’s next prime minister, the US will do its “level best” to “push back”. Assuming that this hasn’t suddenly become the US administration’s priority, how much time does the US think it has before Corbyn might win power? How close is a UK election?

    As everyone in Washington is only too keenly aware, a UK election has been a distinct possibility since the Conservatives set up a minority government two years ago with the help of fickle, hardline Ulster loyalists. Elections have been looming ever since, as the UK ruling party has torn itself apart over Brexit, its MPs regularly defeating their own leader, prime minister Theresa May, in parliamentary votes.

    So if Pompeo is saying, as he appears to be, that the US will do whatever it can to make sure Corbyn doesn’t win an election well before that election takes place, it means the US is already deeply mired in anti-Corbyn activity. Pompeo is not only saying that the US is ready to meddle in the UK’s election, which is bad enough; he is hinting that it is already meddling in UK politics to make sure the will of the British people does not bring to power the wrong leader.

    Remember Pompeo, a former CIA director, once effectively America’s spy chief, was unusually frank about what his agency got up to when he was in charge. He observed: “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses.”

    One would have to be remarkably naive to think that Pompeo changed the CIA’s culture during his short tenure. He simply became the figurehead of the world’s most powerful spying outfit, one that had spent decades developing the principles of US exceptionalism, that had lied its way to recent wars in Iraq and Libya, as it had done earlier in Vietnam and in justifying the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, and much more. Black ops and psyops were not invented by Pompeo. They have long been a mainstay of US foreign policy.

    An eroding consensus

    It takes a determined refusal to join the dots not to see a clear pattern here.

    Brand was right that the system is rigged, that our political and media elites are captured, and that the power structure of our societies will defend itself by all means possible, “fair or foul”. Corbyn is far from alone in this treatment. The system is similarly rigged to stop a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders – though not a rich businessman like Donald Trump – winning the nomination for the US presidential race. It is also rigged to silence real journalists like Julian Assange who are trying to overturn the access journalism prized by the corporate media – with its reliance on official sources and insiders for stories – to divulge the secrets of the national security states we live in.

    There is a conspiracy at work here, though it is not of the kind lampooned by critics: a small cabal of the rich secretly pulling the strings of our societies. The conspiracy operates at an institutional level, one that has evolved over time to create structures and refine and entrench values that keep power and wealth in the hands of the few. In that sense we are all part of the conspiracy. It is a conspiracy that embraces us every time we unquestioningly accept the “consensual” narratives laid out for us by our education systems, politicians and media. Our minds have been occupied with myths, fears and narratives that turned us into the turkeys that keep voting for Christmas.

    That system is not impregnable, however. The consensus so carefully constructed over many decades is rapidly breaking down as the power structure that underpins it is forced to grapple with real-world problems it is entirely unsuited to resolve, such as the gradual collapse of western economies premised on infinite growth and a climate that is fighting back against our insatiable appetite for the planet’s resources.

    When we colluded in the manufactured consensus of western societies, the system operated without challenge or meaningful dissent. A deeply ideological system destroying the planet was treated as though it was natural, immutable, the summit of human progress, the end of history. Those times are over. Accidents like Corbyn will happen more frequently, as will extreme climate events and economic crises. The power structures in place to prevent such accidents will by necessity grow more ham-fisted, more belligerent, less concealed to get their way. And we might finally understand that a system designed to pacify us while a few grow rich at the expense of our own and our children’s future does not have to continue. That we can raise our voices and loudly say: “No!”

    The Plot to Keep Corbyn out of Power

    In the latest of the interminable media “furores” about Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed unfitness to lead the Labour party – let alone become prime minister – it is easy to forget where we were shortly before he won the support of an overwhelming majority of Labour members to head the party.

    In the preceding two years, it was hard to avoid on TV the figure of Russell Brand, a comedian and minor film star who had reinvented himself, after years of battling addiction, as a spiritual guru-cum-political revolutionary.

    Brand’s fast-talking, plain-speaking criticism of the existing political order, calling it discredited, unaccountable and unrepresentative, was greeted with smirking condescension from the political and media establishment. Nonetheless, in an era before Donald Trump had become president of the United States, the British media were happy to indulge Brand for a while, seemingly believing he or his ideas might prove a ratings winner with younger audiences.

    But then Brand started to look rather more impressive than anyone could have imagined. He took on supposed media heavyweights like the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman and Channel 4’s Jon Snow and charmed and shamed them into submission – both with his compassion and his thoughtful radicalism. Even in the gladiatorial-style battle of wits so beloved of modern TV, he made these titans of the political interview look mediocre, shallow and out of touch. Videos of these head-to-heads went viral, and Brand won hundreds of thousands of new followers.

    Then he overstepped the mark.

    Democracy as charade

    Instead of simply criticising the political system, Brand argued that it was, in fact, so rigged by the powerful, by corporate interests, that western democracy had become a charade. Elections were pointless. Our votes were simply a fig-leaf, concealing the fact that our political leaders were there to represent not us but the interests of globe-spanning corporations. Political and media elites had been captured by unshored corporate money. Our voices had become irrelevant.

    Brand didn’t just talk the talk. He went out and started committing to direct action. He shamed our do-nothing politicians and corporate media (the devastating Grenfell Tower fire had yet to happen) by helping gain attention for a group of poor tenants in London who were taking on the might of a corporation that had become their landlord and wanted to evict them to develop their homes for a much richer clientele. Brand’s revolutionary words had turned into revolutionary action.

    But just as Brand’s rejection of the old politics began to articulate a wider mood, it was stopped in its tracks. When Corbyn was unexpectedly elected Labour leader, offering for the first time in living memory a politics that listened to people before money, Brand’s style of rejectionism seemed a little too cynical, or at least premature.

    But while Corbyn’s victory marked a sea-change, it is worth recalling that it occurred only because of a mistake. Or perhaps two.

    The Corbyn accident

    First, a handful of Labour MPs agreed to nominate Corbyn for the leadership contest, scraping him past the threshold needed to get on the ballot paper. Most backed him only because they wanted to make the election look fair and open. After his victory, some loudly regretted having assisted him. None had thought a representative of the tiny and besieged left wing of the parliamentary party stood a chance of winning – not after Tony Blair and his acolytes had spent more than two decades remaking Labour, using their own version of entryism to eradicate any vestiges of socialism in the party. These “New Labour” MPs were there, just as Brand had noted, to represent the interests of a corporate class, not ordinary people.

    Corbyn had very different ideas from most of his colleagues. Over the years he had broken with the consensus of the dominant Blairite faction time and again in parliamentary votes, consistently taking a minority view that later proved to be on the right side of history. He alone among the leadership contenders spoke unequivocally against austerity, regarding it as a way to leech away more public money to enrich the corporations and banks that had already pocketed vast sums from the public coffers – so much so that by 2008 they had nearly bankrupted the entire western economic system.

    And second, Corbyn won because of a recent change in the party’s rulebook – one now much regretted by party managers. A new internal balloting system gave more weight to the votes of ordinary members than the parliamentary party. The members, unlike the party machine, wanted Corbyn.

    Corbyn’s success didn’t really prove Brand wrong. Even the best designed systems have flaws, especially when the maintenance of the system’s image as benevolent is considered vitally important. It wasn’t that Corbyn’s election had demonstrated that Britain’s political system was representative and accountable. It was simply evidence that corporate power had made itself vulnerable to a potential accident by preferring to work out of sight, in the shadows, to maintain the illusion of democracy. Corbyn was that accident.

    Brainwashing under freedom’

    Corbyn’s success also wasn’t evidence that the power structure he challenged had weakened. The system was still in place and it still had a chokehold on the political and media establishments that exist to uphold its interests. Which is why it has been mobilising these forces endlessly to damage Corbyn and avert the risk of a further, even more disastrous “accident”, such as his becoming prime minister.

    Listing the ways the state-corporate media have sought to undermine Corbyn would sound preposterous to anyone not deeply immersed in these media-constructed narratives. But almost all of us have been exposed to this kind of “brainwashing under freedom” since birth.

    The initial attacks on Corbyn were for being poorly dressed, sexist, unstatesmanlike, a national security threat, a Communist spy – relentless, unsubstantiated smears the like of which no other party leader had ever faced. But over time the allegations became even more outrageously propagandistic as the campaign to undermine him not only failed but backfired – not least, because Labour membership rocketed under Corbyn to make the party the largest in Europe. As the establishment’s need to keep him away from power has grown more urgent and desperate so has the nature of the attacks.

    Redefining anti-semitism

    Corbyn was extremely unusual in many ways as the leader of a western party within sight of power. Personally he was self-effacing and lived modestly. Ideologically he was resolutely against the thrust of four decades of a turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism unleashed by Thatcher and Reagan in the early 1980s; and he opposed foreign wars for empire, fashionable “humanitarian interventions” whose real goal was to attack other sovereign states either to control their resources, usually oil, or line the pockets of the military-industrial complex.

    It was difficult to attack Corbyn directly for these positions. There was the danger that they might prove popular with voters. But Corbyn was seen to have an Achilles’ heel. He was a life-long anti-racism activist and well known for his support for the rights of the long-suffering Palestinians. The political and media establishments soon learnt that they could recharacterise his support for the Palestinians and criticism of Israel as anti-semitism. He was soon being presented as a leader happy to preside over an “institutionally” anti-semitic party.

    Under pressure of these attacks, Labour was forced to adopt a new and highly controversial definition of anti-semitism – one rejected by leading jurists and later repudiated by the lawyer who devised it – that expressly conflates criticism of Israel, and anti-Zionism, with Jew hatred. One by one Corbyn’s few ideological allies in the party – those outside the Blairite consensus – have been picked off as anti-semites. They have either fallen foul of this conflation or, as with Labour MP Chris Williamson, they have been tarred and feathered for trying to defend Labour’s record against the accusations of a supposed endemic anti-semitism in its ranks.

    The bad faith of the anti-semitism smears were particularly clear in relation to Williamson. The comment that plunged him into so much trouble – leading twice to his suspension – was videoed. In it he can be heard calling anti-semitism a “scourge” that must be confronted. But also, in line with all evidence, Williamson denied that Labour had any particular anti-semitism problem. In part he blamed the party for being too ready to concede unwarranted ground to critics, further stoking the attacks and smears. He noted that Labour had been “demonised as a racist, bigoted party”, adding: “Our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion … we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”

    The Guardian has been typical in mischaracterising Williamson’s remarks not once but each time it has covered developments in his case. Every Guardian report has stated, against the audible evidence, that Williamson said Labour was “too apologetic about anti-semitism”. In short, the Guardian and the rest of the media have insinuated that Williamson approves of anti-semitism. But what he actually said was that Labour was “too apologetic” when dealing with unfair or unreasonable allegations of anti-semitism, that it had too willingly accepted the unfounded premise of its critics that the party condoned racism.

    Like the Salem witch-hunts

    The McCarthyite nature of this process of misrepresentation and guilt by association was underscored when Jewish Voice for Labour, a group of Jewish party members who have defended Corbyn against the anti-semitism smears, voiced their support for Williamson. Jon Lansman, a founder of the Momentum group originally close to Corbyn, turned on the JVL calling them “part of the problem and not part of the solution to antisemitism in the Labour Party”. In an additional, ugly but increasingly normalised remark, he added: “Neither the vast majority of individual members of JVL nor the organisation itself can really be said to be part of the Jewish community.”

    In this febrile atmosphere, Corbyn’s allies have been required to admit the party’s institutionalised anti-semitism, to distance themselves from Corbyn and often to submit to anti-semitism training. To do otherwise, to deny the accusation is, as in the Salem witch-hunts, treated as proof of guilt.

    The anti-semitism claims have been regurgitated almost daily across the narrow corporate media “spectrum”, even though they are unsupported by any actual evidence of an anti-semitism problem in Labour beyond a marginal one representative of wider British society. The allegations have reached such fever-pitch, stoked into a hysteria by the media, that the party is now under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission – the only party apart from the neo-Nazi British National Party ever to face such an investigation.

    These attacks have transformed the whole discursive landscape on Israel, the Palestinians, Zionism and anti-semitism in ways unimaginable 20 years ago, when I first started reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then the claim that anti-Zionism – opposition to Israel as a state privileging Jews over non-Jews – was the same as anti-semitism sounded patently ridiculous. It was an idea promoted only by the most unhinged apologists for Israel.

    Now, however, we have leading liberal commentators such as the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland claiming not only that Israel is integral to their Jewish identity but that they speak for all other Jews in making such an identification. To criticise Israel is to attack them as Jews, and by implication to attack all Jews. And therefore any Jew dissenting from this consensus, any Jew identifying as anti-Zionist, any Jew in Labour who supports Corbyn – and there are many, even if they are largely ignored – are denounced, as by Lansman, as the “wrong kind of Jews”. It may be absurd logic, but such ideas are now so commonplace as to be unremarkable.

    In fact, the weaponisation of anti-semitism against Corbyn has become so normal that, even while I was writing this post, a new nadir was reached. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary who hopes to defeat Boris Johnson in the upcoming Tory leadership race, as good as accused Corbyn of being a new Hitler, a man who as prime minister might allow Jews to be exterminated as happened in the Nazi death camps.

    Too ‘frail’ to be PM

    Although anti-semitism has become the favoured stick with which to beat Corbyn, other forms of attack regularly surface. The latest is a comment by an unnamed “senior civil servant” reported in the Times alleging that Corbyn is too physically frail and mentally ill-equipped to grasp the details necessary to serve as prime minister. It barely matters whether the comment was actually made by a senior official or simply concocted by the Times. It is yet further evidence of the political and media establishments’ anti-democratic efforts to discredit Corbyn as a general election looms.

    One of the ironies is that media critics of Corbyn regularly accuse him of failing to make any political capital from the shambolic disarray of the ruling Conservative party, which is eating itself alive over the terms of Brexit, Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union. But it is the corporate media – which serves both as society’s main forum of debate and as a supposed watchdog on power – that is starkly failing to hold the Tories to account. While the media obsess about Corbyn’s supposed mental deficiencies, they have smoothed the path of Boris Johnson, a man who personifies the word “buffoon” like no one else in political life, to become the new leader of the Conservative party and therefore by default – and without an election – the next prime minister.

    An indication of how the relentless character assassination of Corbyn is being coordinated was hinted at early on in comments – also reported by The Times, and also made anonymously – by a British military general immediately after Corbyn’s election in 2015. He told the paper there would be “direct action”, what he termed a “mutiny”, by the armed forces should Corbyn ever get in sight of power. The generals, he said, regarded Corbyn as a national security threat and would use any means “fair or foul” to prevent him implementing his political programme.

    Running the gauntlet

    But this campaign of domestic attacks on Corbyn needs to be understood in a still wider framework, which relates to Britain’s abiding Transatlantic “special relationship”, one that in reality means that the UK serves as Robin to the United States’ Batman, or as a very junior partner to the global hegemon.

    Last month a private conversation concerning Corbyn between the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the heads of a handful of rightwing American Jewish organisations was leaked. Contrary to the refrain of the UK corporate media that Corbyn is so absurd a figure that he could never win an election, the fear expressed on both sides of that Washington conversation was that the Labour leader might soon become Britain’s prime minister.

    Framing Corbyn yet again as an anti-semite, a US Jewish leader could be heard asking Pompeo if he would be “willing to work with us to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the UK”. Pompeo responded that it was possible “Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected” – a telling phrase that attracted remarkably little attention, as did the story itself, given that it revealed one of the most senior Trump administration officials explicitly talking about meddling directly in the outcome of a UK election.

    Here is the dictionary definition of “run the gauntlet”: to take part in a form of corporal punishment in which the party judged guilty is forced to run between two rows of soldiers, who strike out and attack him.

    So Pompeo was suggesting that there already is a gauntlet – systematic and organised blows and strikes against Corbyn – that he is being made to run through. In fact, “running the gauntlet” precisely describes the experience Corbyn has faced since he was elected Labour leader – from the corporate media, from the dominant Blairite faction of his own party, from rightwing, pro-Israel Jewish organisations like the Board of Deputies, and from anonymous generals and senior civil servants.

    ‘We cheated, we stole’

    Pompeo continued: “You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”

    So, Washington’s view is that action must be taken before Corbyn reaches a position of power. To avoid any danger he might become the UK’s next prime minister, the US will do its “level best” to “push back”. Assuming that this hasn’t suddenly become the US administration’s priority, how much time does the US think it has before Corbyn might win power? How close is a UK election?

    As everyone in Washington is only too keenly aware, a UK election has been a distinct possibility since the Conservatives set up a minority government two years ago with the help of fickle, hardline Ulster loyalists. Elections have been looming ever since, as the UK ruling party has torn itself apart over Brexit, its MPs regularly defeating their own leader, prime minister Theresa May, in parliamentary votes.

    So if Pompeo is saying, as he appears to be, that the US will do whatever it can to make sure Corbyn doesn’t win an election well before that election takes place, it means the US is already deeply mired in anti-Corbyn activity. Pompeo is not only saying that the US is ready to meddle in the UK’s election, which is bad enough; he is hinting that it is already meddling in UK politics to make sure the will of the British people does not bring to power the wrong leader.

    Remember Pompeo, a former CIA director, once effectively America’s spy chief, was unusually frank about what his agency got up to when he was in charge. He observed: “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses.”

    One would have to be remarkably naive to think that Pompeo changed the CIA’s culture during his short tenure. He simply became the figurehead of the world’s most powerful spying outfit, one that had spent decades developing the principles of US exceptionalism, that had lied its way to recent wars in Iraq and Libya, as it had done earlier in Vietnam and in justifying the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, and much more. Black ops and psyops were not invented by Pompeo. They have long been a mainstay of US foreign policy.

    An eroding consensus

    It takes a determined refusal to join the dots not to see a clear pattern here.

    Brand was right that the system is rigged, that our political and media elites are captured, and that the power structure of our societies will defend itself by all means possible, “fair or foul”. Corbyn is far from alone in this treatment. The system is similarly rigged to stop a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders – though not a rich businessman like Donald Trump – winning the nomination for the US presidential race. It is also rigged to silence real journalists like Julian Assange who are trying to overturn the access journalism prized by the corporate media – with its reliance on official sources and insiders for stories – to divulge the secrets of the national security states we live in.

    There is a conspiracy at work here, though it is not of the kind lampooned by critics: a small cabal of the rich secretly pulling the strings of our societies. The conspiracy operates at an institutional level, one that has evolved over time to create structures and refine and entrench values that keep power and wealth in the hands of the few. In that sense we are all part of the conspiracy. It is a conspiracy that embraces us every time we unquestioningly accept the “consensual” narratives laid out for us by our education systems, politicians and media. Our minds have been occupied with myths, fears and narratives that turned us into the turkeys that keep voting for Christmas.

    That system is not impregnable, however. The consensus so carefully constructed over many decades is rapidly breaking down as the power structure that underpins it is forced to grapple with real-world problems it is entirely unsuited to resolve, such as the gradual collapse of western economies premised on infinite growth and a climate that is fighting back against our insatiable appetite for the planet’s resources.

    When we colluded in the manufactured consensus of western societies, the system operated without challenge or meaningful dissent. A deeply ideological system destroying the planet was treated as though it was natural, immutable, the summit of human progress, the end of history. Those times are over. Accidents like Corbyn will happen more frequently, as will extreme climate events and economic crises. The power structures in place to prevent such accidents will by necessity grow more ham-fisted, more belligerent, less concealed to get their way. And we might finally understand that a system designed to pacify us while a few grow rich at the expense of our own and our children’s future does not have to continue. That we can raise our voices and loudly say: “No!”

    Shit Show in Toronto

    Alabama of the 50s and 60s has migrated to Toronto.  The ghost of South Africa has a consulate here. Israel’s apartheid government must be jealous over how well Toronto’s NDP runs its elections. So what the hell happened?

    On June 23, 2019 a particular riding (similar to a Congressional district) had its election for the New Democratic Party (once one of the most left parties recognized by Election Canada) to represent the riding in Ottawa if it were to win the general election. Saron Gebresellassi, an Eritrean lawyer, and speaker of 7 languages, was one of 3 candidates for the position. Unlike the other two candidates, her base is the disenfranchised, the new immigrants to Canada, people of color, the disabled, the people on government assistance, and, of course, all others who support her humanity.

    Saron and her team personally registered nearly 400 new voters to the NDP for this election. She personally delivered it to the NDP brass before the deadline. But because her registration forms were on paper, not on-line, and paid with cash, not credit card, the executive committee of the NDP in Ottawa did not register them, as they said they would. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP, was notified and was asked to intercede, but to no avail.  So Saron’s voters come out to vote. So many for the first time in any national election, had to stand in line with screaming babies, old people not able to, people in wheelchairs, just to go through all 400 sheets of registration forms to match their names, while the near lily-white audience sat comfortably not having their registration challenged.

    People left in frustration. People who had others pay the $5 membership fee were turned away because it didn’t come from their pocket. Someone else may have paid for them. A reverse poll tax. Either my wife or I paid our membership fees for both with a credit card yet neither of us were challenged, or even asked. The election was a sham, straight out of the US Republican Party playbook. The NDP clearly does not want to change the tenor, and especially the color, of its membership.

    Their newly elected nominee, Paul Taylor, had personally insulted this particular community within the riding by refusing to attend a debate, which the other two candidates were present, and then had the nerve to ask the organizer of the debate to hold a celebratory meet and greet party for him “when” he wins the nomination. Taylor’s team left flyers about Naomi Klein’s endorsement in public housing and predominantly immigrant buildings where Saron had dozens of supporters. Funny, though, that he posted her endorsement in Saron’s riding, where she has been organizing for six months. Like who the hell there would know who Naomi Klein is? So out of touch.

    NDP leadership played a major role in allowing this to happen. Singh was made aware of the problem of this non-traditional approach to registering voters and how the executive board in Ottawa refused to do their job of putting these new voters on the voters’ list. Janet Solberg, sister of Stephen Lewis, leader of the NDP for most of the 70s who kicked out the leftist contingent known as The Waffle, played a leadership role in officiating this election. In a 3 way call to the candidates, she openly expressed her hostility to Saron by stating how she won’t support her.

    This party stood for something once. The greatest Canadian of all times, voted by a majority, was Tommy Douglas, former premier of Saskatchewan who gave us our single payer health care system and represented the NDP. So yes, now it supports their version of a Green New Deal. It opposes the neo-liberal Justin Trudeau. It hates Doug Ford, the Donald Trump of Ontario, but it also supports the disenfranchisement of people of color, new immigrants, and frankly, people who just don’t look like them. It is no wonder the NDP polls at 12%. And learning on social media that this is not an isolated incident within the NDP throughout the provinces, that 12% will be, and should be, a high mark.

    The Futility of Populism

    On May 13 the Oval Office in DC was graced by the presence of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban is known for his defense of ‘Christian Europe’ against invading migrants along with the accompanying ‘virus of terrorism’ and for what he calls ‘illiberal democracy’, which includes such initiatives as restricting press freedom, undermining judicial independence, and shutting down Central Europe University, while circulating some obvious anti-Semitic propaganda around its founder George Soros. Donald Trump, as could be expected, gave Orban a grander than most European capitals,

    rambling ‘Viktor Orban has done a tremendous job in so many way. Highly respected. Respected all over Europe, probably like me, a little bit controversial, but that’s ok. That’s ok. You’ve done a good job, you’ve kept your country safe.’ Then adding ‘I know he’s a tough man, but he’s respected and he’s done the right thing, according to many people, on immigration. And you look at some of the problems that they have in Europe that are tremendous because they’re done it a different way than the Prime Minister.’

    Of course Orban is far from the first strongman to receive a red carpet in Washington. The list of such specimen who have gotten a warm reception at the White House is too numerous to count. The House of Saud has been an honored guest for decades. What brought the spotlight on this encounter is that Orban is mentioned as being part of a vast resurgent right-wing populism with which Trump himself is often grouped. Meanwhile days after Orban’s visit, the Brexit crisis finally brought down Theresa May with her Tory government in Britain still trying to square the circle on Brexit having already received two extensions in the process. Shortly after May’s announcement right-wing parties, including in Britain with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, made significant gains in the EU parliamentary elections.

    Since the Brexit vote in June 2016 innumerable gallons of ink have been spilled on expanding right-wing populism, governments that bill themselves as everything from ‘nationalist’, along with its corollary ‘anti-globalist’, to ‘illiberal.’ Trump was elected in November 2016. Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency of the Philippines in that May. In Italy an alliance of the Five Star Movement and The League (formerly the Northern League) assumed power in May 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was convincingly elected in Brazil five months later. In Poland the Law and Justice Party won a parliamentary majority in 2015 (it previously was the largest party in parliament 2005-2007). Orban has been in power since 2010.

    Like all narratives this one is prone to overstatement. On May 20, 2019 the New York Times had this on its front cover:

    And in India, where the world’s biggest parliamentary election… the electorate seems poised to bring back Mr. Modi (Narendra Modi), extending the wave of victories by right-wing populists around the world… Around the world, it has become the age of the political big man, and no one disputes that Mr. Modi is the biggest force India has produced in decades.

    Modi did indeed go on to win a landslide reelection on the back of Hindi nationalism and in the aftermath of a military confrontation with Pakistan. Yet Hindi nationalism has been building in India for decades and tension with Pakistan has been endemic since the partition back in 1947. Can a strong comparison truly be found with Trumpism in the U.S.? Such differences stand out between all these figures. Duterte and Bolsonaro were elected in the midst of very bad crime waves on ‘law and order’ platforms that emphasize ‘zero tolerance’ for alleged criminals and drug users. Both rail against ‘feminism’, ‘social justice’, and ‘socialism’ when convenient, which is often, especially in targeting the opposition to their bloody crime fighting policies (Duterte recently proclaimed he ‘cured himself’ of being gay, Bolsonaro publically proclaimed the importance of Brazil not being a ‘gay tourism paradise’). Immigration plays no part in their message. Bolsonaro pleaded ignorance on the economy, claiming only ‘superficial understanding’ and handing it off to University of Chicago trained economist Paulo Guedes as ‘Super Minister.’

    Opposing Muslim immigration is the largest pillar of Orban’s and Polish President Andrezej Duda’s platform, their anti-EU rhetoric centering on negotiations during the migrant crisis of 2014-2015 and its aftermath. Their emphasis on sovereignty is in opposition to EU attempts to quota migrants. Orban’s government was successful in building a border fence along hundreds of miles of Hungary’s southern border. Orban also instituted a jobs program for his rural base, along with free school books, paid for partially by a tax increase. The Five Star/League coalition in Italy’s messaging also largely centers on anti-immigration, as does the appeal of the far-right Alternative for Germany which has made impressive gains since the migrant crisis. Trump too was elected on border security, with the same reactionary rhetoric about migrants, and he also brought a strong anti-free trade position to go along imagery about ‘American carnage’, occasional rants against political correctness, and appeals to ‘those were the days’ patriotism- infamously during the protests of NFL players during the national anthem.

    Besides the noxious loudness of their collective personalities, along with perhaps the admiration of Steve Bannon, the one thread that runs through all of it is ‘anti-elitism.’ On the surface this translates to an obvious resentment of the influence that wealth has over governance. Trump ranted against the influence of Goldman Sachs, given the lucrative speaking fees it gave Hillary Clinton, before he appointed several Goldman figures to his cabinet. Yet the idea is vague and fluid enough to be extended in any direction.  Given this easy fluidity elites are those who favor everything from immigration to secularism to environmentalism to socialism. Hence the pejorative ‘liberal’ is often attached to ‘elites’ both for clarity and scorn’s sake. In fact ‘elite’ has more or less become a replacement for ‘liberal’, the elite aspect a sort of red meat to working class cultural conservatism- ‘not only do they think you’re stupid they have more money than you do.’

    Predictively when it comes to practical results populism thus far has come up short. Bolsanaro’s poll numbers are in freefall and the Brazilian economy has flatlined. Duterte’s slaughter may be producing an impressive body count but history clearly shows that ‘wars on drugs’ no matter how brutal hardly put a dent in drug trafficking. Trump constantly railed against the U.S. trade deficit during his campaign. In 2018 the deficit reached an all-time high. While the number of migrants crossing the border has declined greatly since the early 2000s, the numbers during the Trump presidency have surged to the highest they’ve been in over a decade. In December 2018 the Italian government backed off its debt exploding budget proposals in the face of EU sanction threats. Currently it is toying with a pathetic ‘mini-bot’ (mini Bills of Treasury, essentially IOUs) program to reduce its debt. None of the ‘Euro-skeptic’ parties are campaigning to leave the EU and the recent EU parliamentary election, by no means the most significant of elections, more often a forum for simple protest votes, saw about an equal increase for left wing parties, such as the Greens, as populist parties. In fact the Euro-skeptics, such as Italy’s hard-right interior minister Matteo Salvini, often cloaked themselves under the banner of saving Europe rather than leaving. Hungary  and Poland have long been among the largest recipients of EU funding. Plus the European populist parties have their own divisions, primarily about the ‘Russian question’ with those parties in Western Europe, such as Marie Le Pen’s National Rally favoring warm relations with Vladimir Putin’s government and those in East cool to the idea.

    The antagonists to the elites in populist imagery naturally would be the working and middle classes, any distinction between them simply blurring under the banner of ‘those who work.’ It is important to note that lack of distinction is due to the fact that this kind of producerism, defined as a conviction that the wealth produced in a society should belong to its producers, targets the allegedly parasitic poor masses just as much as it targets the rent seeking elites. The highpoint of the original Populist movement is often said to be the Omaha Platform which launched the Populist Party back in 1892. While the Omaha Platform properly railed against war and trusts there was the resolution that read:

    That we condemn the fallacy of protecting American labor under the present system, which opens our ports to the pauper and criminal classes of the world and crowds out our wage-earners; and we denounce the present ineffective laws against contract labor, and demand the further restriction of undesirable emigration.

    Much was made of Trump’s support from the white working class and though this proved to be overstated he did win his election through the Rust Belt. Much of the support from Brexit came from Britain’s deindustrialized heartland. In the context of working class displacement, low wages, capital flight, the endless quest for cheaper labor around the world for greater profits and shareholder value, the ‘globalism’ being railed against by the populists is simply another name for capitalism, hence the reason why these economic ‘nationalists’, who loudly wave the capitalist banner against the specter of creeping socialism, never quite get around to saying what it is they actually intend to implement. After all capitalists are perfectly free to argue that the elite doing what is in its interest is the key that unlocks prosperity for everyone but not to argue that capitalism is anything but elites ultimately doing what’s in their interest.

    For instance, the economic power of China has become a pivotal issue in American politics. Indeed, if there is an actual proclaimed area of bipartisanship it is that China is an economic opponent whose progress has come at least partially, if not more so, at the expense of the United States.  A study by the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the explosive growth in the trade deficit since China’s entry into the WTO in December 2001 has cost the U.S. 3.4 million jobs, 74 percent of them in manufacturing.  Populists have seized on such numbers. An example comes from a piece in the New English Review titled ‘More Than a Trade War with China.’ There Brandon J. Weichert writes, under a subheading of ‘Death to American Manufacturing! All Hail China’s State Capitalism!:

    In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the first round of free trade deals was signed between American companies and China that would eviscerate the American manufacturing sector and help build China’s massive middle class. It was during this period that China also became the workshop of the world…There is a direct connection between the collapse of the American blue-collar community due to deindustrialization and the propulsive rise of the Chinese middle-class. Meanwhile, the coastal enclaves in the United States, where manufacturing was not as important… benefited most. It was in these bastions of prosperity where the policies to push those industrial jobs out of the American Midwest and into China were made—and these coastal metropolises rarely saw the negative downsides of these decisions. As American policy was increasingly determined by a conglomeration of corporatists, globalists, foreign-funded lobbyists, and airy academicians…

    Obviously the author has never been to coastal enclaves such as New York, where deindustrialization caused the poverty rate to spiral in the last 40 years, or Baltimore where the effects of deindustrialization continue to devastate the city. The author’s use of ‘State Capitalism’ is instructive, clearly meant to distinguish it from ‘real’ capitalism thus save capitalism from itself from the criticism. If meant as a pejorative about state subsidies it obviously overlooks the fact that the U.S., much of Europe, and Japan heavily subsidize their agricultural sectors. Much is also made of technology transfers that China has required in joint ventures with multinational corporations. This again is largely theater: Last year when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked countries on how well they protected intellectual property China scored above Turkey, Brazil, South Africa, and the Philippines. According to the Heritage Foundation annual index of ‘economic freedom’ the Chinese government intervenes less than American allies in India, Vietnam, and Brazil.

    No threat of violence or death, nor certainly any concern for human rights, caused the global economy to make China the world’s factory, only the promise of cheap labor and great profit. Technology deals with Chinese partners were considered well worth it. As if global capitalism would bypass the country with the largest amount of surplus labor and the largest consumer market. In the end the Trump administration’s tariff war vs China won’t accomplish much in terms of bucking these trends, nor will the other populists succeed in stemming the underlying causes of the discontent they are exploiting such as uneven development, capital flight, and migration. However deep the populist moment goes it will pass. The contradictions of global capitalism will remain.