Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Vote “Yes” for Reindustrialization of Scotland

August 16, 2014

The following was published on August 28 2014 as a letter to the Lanark and Carluke Gazette, the local newspaper where I grew up, in the run up to the referendum on Scottish independence. 

As a child in the late ’60s/early ’70s, I well remember taking the train from Carluke up to Glasgow.  By the time Wishaw was reached, the signs of heavy industry were obvious.  Engineering and steelmaking were to the fore, with the Ravenscraig steelworks at the core.  Hallside was passed, then onto Glasgow with its rail yards and shipbuilding.  The scale of it all left a huge impression.  I could only imagine what was happening around the glowing furnaces.

I soon began to appreciate the degree to which friends’ families were working in and around these, and related, industries.  The presence of Ravenscraig, an integrated steelworks, meant employment and job opportunities.  Oil and gas had just been discovered in the North Sea, the extraction of which would require vast quantities of steel for production platforms, pipeline transmission systems, processing facilities, and related infrastructure.  Entering my teens, with an admittedly abnormal interest in politics for my age, I felt the future looked bright for my generation – despite the ongoing malaise within the broader UK economy.  I doubt I wasn’t the only one to feel such optimism, a new dawn for Scotland; maybe wider complacency began to set in.  After all steel making would always be there and had been for generations.  Scottish steel had helped defeat the Nazis.  In the ’80s even BMW used Ravenscraig steel!  And now there was a new end user, requiring thousands of tons of steel largely destined for offshore.  When I left Lanark Grammar in 1979, days after the election of the Thatcher government, pessimism did not enter my head.  This soon changed.

The rest is history, scarring Lanarkshire.  Essentially, Ravenscraig was sacrificed.  There was no will to retain it, despite valiant efforts and its relative productivity.  After hundreds of years, iron and steel making was eliminated from Scotland.  An industry, generations in the making, essentially wiped out during the years of Thatcherism.  Simultaneous to the need for steel for developing North Sea oil and gas fields, too.  Such severe deindustrialization would not have happened in an independent Scotland.  Employment opportunities gone forever.  Personally, my reluctant emigration.

It is now 2014 and if I am accused of living in the past so be it.  I have heard it said that voting “No” in the coming referendum is tantamount to agreeing to the legacies of Thatcherism.  I think that is harsh as I recognize why, out of self-interest, nostalgia and/or fear, people would choose to vote “No”.  But make no mistake voting “No” has risks that economic potential will again fail to be realized, and that generations to come will again be failed.  That Scottish soldiers will be repeatedly committed to further acts of overseas adventurism masquerading as foreign policy.  That nuclear weapons will remain on the Clyde estuary.  That Scotland’s natural resources will continue to be squandered.  That the pound will continue to lose value.  That Westminster will continue to govern for the benefit of the City of London, rather than for the nations and regions of the UK as a whole.

Voting “Yes” to independence has risks, too.  Any action does.  But, make no mistake, many of the politicians focused on these risks would stick a proverbial knife in your back, their purpose is in manufacturing propaganda for “Project Fear”.  Their goal is to keep Scotland’s resources tied to Westminster and the City of London.  After all, the Bank of England is able to generate pounds out of thin air to maintain a debt-based economy.  Natural resources and energy, particularly oil in the North Sea and Atlantic Shelf, cannot so be created.  The political establishment at Westminster is terrified of the macroeconomic consequences of a “Yes” vote; no tactic will be too low for “No”.  But Lanarkshire and Scotland needs reindustrialized, long term the best way to achieve that is with a “Yes”.

3 Legs of “No”: Sentimentality, Fear and Central Banking

August 16, 2014

I have been following the Scottish independence referendum campaign and regret to say that I have yet to hear or read much of a positive case for retaining the Union. The “No” campaign seems to stand on the 3 legs of sentimentality, fear and currency/central banking. Little in the way of positives has come from “Better Together”, just “Project Fear”. After all, many of the leading figures in “Better Together” stood by as Scotland, the West in particular, was deindustrialized. Its harder to say “better together” and address the evisceration of core industries, such as steel making in Lanarkshire or shipbuilding on the Clyde, that occurred under Westminster.

“Yes” has made propaganda, too. That I wouldn’t deny. But “Yes” has outlined a positive vision of the future. Generations to come would benefit from a reinvigorated, reindustrialized Scotland. There isn’t much to be sentimental about in post ’79 Scotland.

Michael Steele Should Feel Aggrieved Today

November 7, 2012

If I had to pinpoint the key moment when Mitt Romney lost the election, it would long pre-date his eventual securing of the GOP nomination.
In January 2011, Michael Steele was essentially fired and replaced with Reince Priebus. As time passed, it became increasingly clear that by taking this decision the RNC was dicing with electoral disaster. Michael Steele had articulated and taken an inclusive approach that paid dividends in the 2010 election. By dumping him and installing Reince Priebus as the new Chair of the Republican National Committee, the GOP had put in place a person that had no interest in adopting the sort of inclusive approach that would hand victory to Mitt Romney on a silver platter.
My evidence? The treatment of Ron Paul and his supporters by the RNC was atrocious.  All the way from the Iowa straw poll to the Convention in Tampa.  The Republican Party also totally failed to address big issues relating to the role of the Federal Reserve, Civil Liberties and the immediate need to drastically cut Federal spending on programs such as Medicare parts C and D.  This lead to the alienation of natural, small “l” libertarian, Republican supporters and, shock horror, the chickens came home to roost.  Obvious or what.  I had the opportunity to vote for Gary Johnson, who was similarly poorly treated by the RNC, and took it – in the swing state of Ohio, too.  Many others just did not vote.  Political blowback.

As Chair of the RNC, Reince Priebus executed appallingly bad judgement; a charge of which he will certainly not be alone.  For that he, and his cronies, should immediately quit.  They were instrumental in delivering an epic fail.  Or maybe they prefer to fail rather than do what we all know needs to be done to restore fiscal sanity.

Why I will vote third party, and for Gary Johnson, on Tuesday

November 4, 2012

I live in the swing state of Ohio. This means I have been inundated with Democrat and Republican propaganda. I have had up to 6 mailers from PACs in my mailbox in a single day. Being a “swing voter”, I guess I am of pretty high value to the duopoly. If I read all these mailers, other than to view them as a propaganda analysis exercise, I would be in danger of being less well informed than if I hadn’t received them at all. The latest stormer was from “Freedomworks”, a guide slamming Sherrod Brown. This amused me immensely as much of the information therein, or subtle variations thereof, could equally be applied to almost every Republican Congressman and Senator, Paul Ryan included. Remember that Paul Ryan was begging Congress to pass TARP. Also, in all these mailers big issues are totally absent – the role of the inflationary role and cronyism of the Federal Reserve, erosion of the Bill of Rights, and unending overseas adventurism.
I will vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, in large part because he addresses these issues. But also because he was not given a fair shake during the Republican primary process, and not just by the GOP itself but also by their shills in our corporatist propaganda organs.  A form of political blowback if you will.

Randorsement of Romney: Gradualism in Politics

June 8, 2012

Few events surprise me, but one did yesterday – seeing Rand Paul endorse Mitt Romney on FoxNews. The resultant apoplexy from certain segments of the “Liberty Movement” is not surprising, and regrettable. I did think an endorsement would happen, but not until much later. Paul Jr is seeking to advance his limited government agenda. Given the nature of politics and the innate conservatism of the public (to maintain the status quo) this will occur at a snails pace – rather than by a rapid process. This does not suit plenty of people, but gradualism is usually the most sustainable path forward in politics. So I may disagree with this “Randorsement” at this time, especially when his father Ron Paul is still collecting delegates for the Republican convention, but I commend him for his thinking.

Herman Cain’s Achilles’ Heel

October 10, 2011

So Herman Cain has now stated, “To protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying you’re anti-capitalism.” Not so fast…….. It may be that many Occupy Wall Street people are, but to focus on that is a diversion. Rather, the reason that OWS is gaining traction is because of the blatant cronyism between the Federal Reserve, “too big to fail” Wall Street firms and their Democrat and Republican puppets in both the executive and legislative branches of government. Be it Obama/Geithner/Pelosi or Bush/Paulson/Boehner. Indeed, much of the Tea Party can trace its roots back to the same disgust with Wall Street as we see today with OWS.
The Federal Reserve, Mr. Cain’s former employer, bailed-out their chums in Wall Street, and overseas, to the tune of $16 TRILLION of freshly inflated Bernanke bucks. In only a little over 2 years, too. The bail-out happened under both Bush and Obama, proving that cronyism is indeed bipartisan. By avoiding true capitalist principles, the perpetrators of the financial meltdown not only got off scot-free but were also spared bankruptcy – the free market fate they deserved.
We know the magnitude of the bail-out because of the stellar work of Ron Paul and Alan Grayson in the House and Jim DeMint and Bernie Sanders in the Senate that forced a GAO audit of the Federal Reserve’s role in the bail-out. I know that all four opposed TARP, too. I do know that Mr. Cain supported TARP and he has stated that there is no need to audit the Fed. This begs the question of who is more anti-capitalist, OWS or Herman Cain? One thing is for sure, Herman Cain’s Federal Reserve connection is his Achilles’ heel.

My 7-year-old understands “blowback” – so why can’t Rudy Giuliani or Rick Santorum?

September 27, 2011

In the GOP primary debates, with the exception of Ron Paul, it seems to be anathema to discuss how blowback was a major cause of 9/11. This is as much the case in 2011 with the likes of Rick Santorum as it was with Rudy Giuliani in 2007, with their ignoring of both a key finding of the 9/11 Commission and of CIA analysis. Blowback was a predictable response to US foreign policy decisions largely relating to the Middle East, be it support of autocratic regimes in Arab countries, military bases in Saudi Arabia or disregard for the plight of the Palestinians. One would assume that obliviousness to blowback betrays an ignorance that would be unthinkable for a President tasked with making the biggest decisions of state. I doubt that to be truly the case with a great many blowback deniers, the likes of Giuliani and Santorum are clearly smart guys, rather they are simply continuing their pandering as a matter of rote. Anything to appeal to the base to try and win the primary, no matter how outrageously ignorant they sound. But it doesn’t really work with the swing voter does it?
In talking to my 7-year-old about bullying, I asked him how he would respond. He said he would tell the bully to stop. “But what if he doesn’t stop?” “I’d tell my teacher.” “But what if that doesn’t help?” Long pause. “I’d trick him.” At 7 he knows that if you try to fight a bully fair and square, it ain’t going to happen and you will very likely get pummeled. You may deck him, but you’ll likely get jumped soon thereafter. Growing up in darkest Lanarkshire taught me that, but I was super impressed by my sons answer. “I’d trick him”. He is clearly way smarter than I was at the same age!
Is it really so hard for people to understand that people don’t attack us because “we are free” but because we are bullies? That we are letting ourselves be tricked into responding in ways harmful to our national security and ultimately self-destructive? That we are bankrupting ourselves, mortgaging our children’s future, polarizing our society and, by casting the Bill of Right onto its funeral pyre, destroying what makes America truly exceptional? Sure, I supported our response after the violence and fatalities of 9/11. But after we overthrew the Taliban we engaged in a militaristic adventurism that has fuelled further blowback. We let ourselves be tricked. After all, the primary goal of terrorism is not to kill as many people as possible. Rather, it’s to change the political environment in which the terrorists and their supporters are seeking to function. Be it the Stern Gang, IRA/INLA or Al Qaeda. This is not a difficult concept to understand. Look around the world today, and how America is regarded. With all the billions we expend on so-called national security and defense we routinely walk into traps that a 7-year-old can understand.
No blowback denier for me. I do not want a Commander-in-Chief that is a dupe and unable to grasp even the simplest manifestations of blowback, let alone to ultimately have the authority to one day send my son and daughter off to war. I do not want a President that is a blatant panderer that would blithely expend our strength on militaristic adventurism. I will never vote for such a candidate in 2012. I do want a President that recognizes the magnitude of the mess we are in and stops this madness.

Pied Piper Syndrome: Pandering & Propaganda

August 22, 2011

I was listening to a local talk radio show a few mornings back and the very last caller had the usual generic complaints about politicians and finished with the following statement, “Candidates will say what they think will best sell them to the voter”.
This is a statement of the obvious. At candidate forums in the village closest to my Appalachian idyll, I have heard it degenerate into guys talking about how they’d “played basketball in that very hall”. “Yep, I am just like you guys”; hard not to roll your eyes at even the relevance of such twaddle. A time machine that could take me back 40+ years to fact check something so insipid would really be pretty pointless. As the stakes get higher, how candidates talk and act transitions into way higher levels of blatant pandering. In my experience, this seems to be particularly true for primary elections here in the United States. Just listen to most of the current/recent GOP presidential candidates. Be it Herman Cain stoking anti-Muslim hysteria with his comments on Sharia law, Rick Santorum trashing LGBTs, Donald Trump on birth certificates, and on and on………. The Democrats are not immune from such grandstanding, either.
I have long since concluded that the key campaigning strategy for primary candidates is to shamelessly pander to their prospective voters, telling them what their audience wants to hear, rather than the unvarnished truth about the actual state of the nation. After all, why tell them uncomfortable truths about the wars, bail-outs, deficits or economic meltdown when you can focus on flag burning, gay marriage, birth certificates or the 2nd amendment. When the big issues of state ever get discussed at all there is a transition into outright propaganda, where candidates (consciously or not) begin using the techniques described by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA), namely “Assertion”, “Bandwagon”, “Card Stacking”, “Glittering Generalities”, “Lesser of Two Evils”, “Name Calling”, “Pinpointing the Enemy”, “Plain Folks”, “Simplification/Stereotyping”, “Testimonials” and “Transfer”. The IPA operated in the late-1930s; its function being to help people recognize fascist/communist propaganda (see an earlier post on this). Some definitions/examples are shown below for quick reference.
“Assertion” we’d have statements that should be unquestionably accepted as fact. “There are WMDs in Iraq”; “China holds most US Treasury debt”; “I pledge to uphold the Constitution” (when the legislative history typically shows that our Congressmen, Senators and Presidents routinely wipe their ass on the Bill of Rights).
“Bandwagon” would imply that almost everyone believes/supports x, y or z, so you should, too. “Obama in 2007/2008”; “Perry in 2011/2012”.
“Card Stacking” is the presentation of only one part of the story, selective omission. Just think about how we were sold on invading Iraq. Given how many of our politicians talk so aggressively about Iran, how many people know we overthrew their democratically elected government in 1953 and we’ve endured the blowback since? Why should we be surprised they distrust our intentions?
“Glittering Generalities” are the use of words associated with what individuals prize, or reject, and their linkage to whatever the propagandist is spouting. “Christian conservative”; “Islamic terrorist”. (I am not saying that either of these can’t exist, I am talking about their use in pandering/propaganda.)
“Lesser of Two Evils” would be the presentation of, say, two options with the least offensive one pushed the hardest, with no mention of other possible scenarios. “Bomb Iran”; “Do nothing and they get the bomb”. What about engagement?
“Name Calling” would involve using (perceived to be) negative labels to describe those that oppose you; or using (perceived to be) positive labels to describe those in support. “Socialist, communist, fascist, ACLU member, sheeple (guilty of using this myself), fundamentalist, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Patriot, Great American Hero, etc.”
“Pinpointing the Enemy” would inevitably involve scapegoating a particular group. “Jews, Muslims, LGBTs, Irish Catholics.” When I was living in the UK, particularly from my experiences living in the Orange groves of Lanarkshire, conversation with friends from Northern Ireland and visits to Kilburn in London, it was obvious how this led to a serious marginalizing of this latter group and actually drove people to at least turn a blind eye to the IRA/INLA. Unchecked scapegoating leads to persecution. In Northern Ireland this led to internment, now recognized as the best recruiting tool the IRA/INLA ever had. Yet are we not in severe danger of repeating these mistakes with Muslims?
“Plain Folks” would be using accents and idioms in combination with appeals to populism. President George W. Bush was totally the best at this, as he was really an old money blue blood. (So am I making propaganda by assertion? You decide!) I have never accepted that his mispronunciation of “nuclear” was anything other than contrived.
“Simplification/Stereotyping” constitutes the presentation of complex issues as simple black and white choices, rather than in shades of grey. Just think of practically every foreign entanglement we’ve been involved in since WWII, or how we talk about healthcare.
“Testimonials” corresponds to linkage of popular individuals to particular politicians or issues. Country singers on air talking approvingly about the Iraq war/occupation; did these performers never for once think about how they were being cynically used?
“Transfer” is linkage between something the propagandist is spouting and what the propagandee holds dear, this may be as simple as association with a symbol and can be used positively or negatively. The conflating of faith and war is an alarming manifestation of this and has been used throughout history, be it the Cross, Crescent or Star of David.
Individuals would be well served to think about these propaganda techniques when listening to our prospective and actual Congressmen, Senators and Presidents; the same applies at the State level, too. Note that in all of the above cases the success of the propagandist is dependent on the compliance of the propagandee, that he or she will accept whatever they are told without delving further.
But there is more, how this affects overall discourse has an even worse and more pernicious effect that is akin to a Pied Piper Syndrome.
The shear dominance of pandering and propaganda masks the voting public from the fundamental, core issues we need to be discussing relating to the wars, corporatist cronyism, bail-outs and how the $ is being debased. To varying degrees, propagandists are aided and abetted by the corporate media – from Fox to MSNBC. Indeed corporate media is a huge part of the problem. Many of their “pundits” are guilty of pandering and acting as propagandists themselves, and are certainly highly economic with the truth. (At least sometimes they get called out by the likes of “The Daily Show” or “Colbert Report”. Just look at how Ron Paul was treated after the recent Ames straw poll followed by Jon Stewart’s trashing of the corporate media for their lack of journalistic integrity immediately after the event.) In a warped sort of way, the most gifted of these propagandists act like some sort of Pied Piper, leading large chunks of the public away from the issues and leaving the rats to have a field day.
How do we counter this? As individuals, we need to be critical of what we are being told, rather than gullible when it comes to those that seek to propagandize. Be aware of the snake oil we are being sold. Our economy, society, future and our children depend on us to speak out. Be it in public or private. We must break the grip of the Pied Pipers.

Iran and Ron Paul – Time for Fresh Thinking

August 15, 2011

In listening to last week’s debate in Iowa, the general attitude seemed to be to attack Iran to stop them getting “the bomb”. The sole voice against was Ron Paul, citing recent history such as our 1953 overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government, related blowback that led to the 1979 revolution and regional realities.
The reality for the other GOP candidates for President is that a position to attack Iran to prevent the regime there from building “the bomb” is very likely to result in the opposite. In a nutshell, the regime in Iran is likely to want to hear more such saber rattling from potential post-Obama presidents. Such talk provides abundant material for the Iranian regime to propagandize its people about the “Great Satan”. Even more importantly, Iranian physicists, engineers, chemists and metallurgists would be more readily browbeaten into developing an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Basically, what other GOP candidates offer is more of the same. Recall, too, that we emboldened and backed Saddam Hussein to attack Iran. Talk to Iranians and a great many will tell you that this ensured that, hardly surprisingly, people rallied to repel the Iraqi invasion and allowed the post-‘79 Iranian government to cement itself in place. A great many of the key demonstrators against the Shah found themselves again in jail – even executed – after the revolution. So why would we expect an attack to be anything other than counter-productive for long-term national security?
So what should we do? To borrow a title from one of Dr Paul’s books we should adopt “A Foreign Policy of Freedom”. As we have done with the likes of Vietnam and China, we need to take a completely new tack. More of the same will simply not work. Expecting a different outcome would be madness. We need to look to offer the opportunity to develop friendship; if not with the regime itself then by by-passing it and by going directly to the Iranian people, the young and educated are clearly hurting under the existing regime; particularly women. This will make it all the less likely the Iranian government can propagandize its people and all the more likely that they can eventually succeed in overthrowing the current theocratic regime. Secondly, it’s extremely hard for Iranians to get visas to come to America to study and do research. Even when it rarely happens, our consular staff will not think twice about denying a visa for the person’s spouse. (Canadian academics love this as they have virtually no competition when it comes to attracting some of Iran’s brightest young scientists and engineers). Make sure Iranian scientists and engineers can have the opportunity to come here to pursue research, build bridges through scientific collaboration. That will make it even less likely that the fundamentalists can browbeat their brightest into building them their bomb.
After almost 60 years of failed policies being applied to Iran, it is time for fresh thinking.

Social cohesion becomes impossible when there is one law for the rulers and another for the ruled

August 10, 2011

Saw an interesting headline in the Daily Telegraph online this morning:
“PM blames riots on moral decay”
What about headlines like this?
“PM blames tabloid phone hacking scandals on moral decay”, “PM blames police corruption on moral decay”, “PM blames lying us into war on moral decay”, “PM blames bankster greed on moral decay”, etc. Don’t expect to see any of these headlines anytime soon?  Shades of hypocrisy?
The reality is that we have become societies of men rather than of laws. Failure to adequately investigate and prosecute those that hacked phones/electronic devices, lied us to wars, took backhanders or manipulated the financial system shows that there is one rule for the powerful and rich, another for everyone else. Social cohesion becomes impossible when there is one law for the rulers and another for the ruled, so we should not be surprised by what is happening. Be it hacking, graft, warmongering, fraud or rioting.
I have unqualified condemnation for the rioters. I also have unqualified condemnation for corrupt so-called “news” organizations, “politicians” and “bankers”. These people have led us into an economic and social abyss.