In Praise of Alcohol

by craig on September 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

alcohol

Here is a record of my last few days alcohol consumption:

Wednesday 2 September Nil
Tuesday 1 September 1 Glass merlot
Monday 31 August 1 Champagne Cocktail
5 Glasses Puilly Fuisse
2 Glasses Remy Martin XO
Sunday 30 August Nil
Saturday 29 August 3 Glasses Pinot Grigio
Friday 28 August Nil
Thursday 27 August Nil

That is a pretty average week for me. Alcohol is among my pleasures. Like a great many people, I find it enhances good times and gives some solace in bad. I am therefore rather pleased that the European Court Advocate General has made observations thought to be generally unhelpful to the nanny state proposals of the Scottish government on minimum alcohol pricing. These proposals would not affect me, given what I drink. The proposal is a classical resurfacing of the middle class desire to regulate the behaviour of the working class. Life is tough enough. People should be allowed their small pleasures.

I have a great contempt for the anti-alcohol lobby, and particularly for the cultist doctrine that the only way to combat alcoholism is total abstinence. If alcohol were truly a physical addiction, why am I not addicted? I have had days where I drink 40 units over 24 hours. And I have periods particularly when writing where I don’t drink a thing for three or four weeks at a time. I can switch from one phase to the other, or any intermediate state, without ever the slightest shadow of a physical craving. My introspection tells me that the standard explanation of alcohol being physically addictive is impossible to reconcile with my personal experience. It is an imposed reality. Alcohol is very good for me. And it is very good for you too, whatever the do-gooders may say.

Slainte Mahth.

When the Politics Has to Stop

by craig on September 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

There are times when political considerations must give way to the relief of immediate human suffering. The current refugee crisis is one of those times and the UK must take genuine refugees on the same scale as Germany, starting immediately.

In the long term the influx of determined young people and families will in any event benefit our economy. We are strong and wealthy enough to shoulder the short term cost. Besides which, we bear a massive share of responsibility for the current disorder and devastation in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf despots, so beloved of the Blairs, also bear a great responsibility. They have been waging war and proxy war against non-Sunni Muslims at a high level of intensity all over the Middle East. Concerted diplomatic pressure must be put on them to provide funding on a massive scale to the European governments who are picking up the pieces. That pressure to include the threat of confiscation of assets.

Finally, Russia has been notably silent. Russia would benefit more than any other country from the potential immigration, given it is only just starting to recover from population decline and has massive natural resources. Russia must also be pressed to offer to take in very large numbers.

I met murder on the way
He had the mask of Theresa May

The Great Wealth Transfer to the London Elite

by craig on September 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

The Guardian has a fascinating piece on house prices which deserves to be read and studied in detail. In London in 2013 the median house price had reached 300,000 while the median salary was 24,600. House prices are 12.2 x salary. That means it is in practice impossible for working people, without inherited wealth, to buy a house.

But the point is, that it should be equally impossible to rent a house. Landlords look for a rental return of approximately 6% of rental value. So that would put median rent in London at around 18,000 pa, which is a realistic figure. But nobody on a salary of 24,600 before tax can pay 18,000 pa in rent. So we should be at a stage where it is impossible for Londoners who have not inherited homes to live there at all.

Very little of the apparent gravity-defying power of the London property market is due to foreign buyers. Their major effect is very much concentrated on the top end of the market. Very few wealthy foreign buyers are purchasing semis in Plumstead or Acton. For prices to be this distorted from the potential of local buyers to pay would require literally hundreds of thousands of foreign purchasers in all segments of the market. They just do not exist.

No what is causing this incredible distortion is the conjunction of buy to let and state housing benefit. The state pays out 18 billion pounds a year in housing benefit, and the vast majority of that goes straight into the pockets of private landlords in the South East of England. State housing benefit underpins the entire system.

Now the brilliance of the trick is that, as it is labeled a benefit, the left fight to keep housing benefit as though it benefited poor people. In fact this is a great illusion. It does nothing of the sort. What would truly benefit poor people is lower rent or affordable homes. Housing benefit goes straight into the pockets of the landlord class.

The landlord class of course encompasses the political class, many of whom (including Cherie Blair, famously) are also landlords. As housing benefit is paid for from general taxation, the entire system is a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, and above all from the North and West to the South and East. The landlord class benefit not only from the taxpayer giving them enormous rents, but from the possession of artificially inflated property on which they can raise further money for more speculation.

The problem is national but is much worse in London and the South East of England. The reason that IDS has not made a serious assault on housing benefit is that it puts money straight into the pockets of most of his Tory chums. The largest benefit recipients in the UK are the great landlords.

The policy mix to tackle this must include building much more council housing, but must also include a phasing out of the payment of state housing benefit to private landlords. Let me put this simply – given a 6% rental return, pumping in 18 billion pounds of state money a year to rents adds 288 billion pounds to property values. Let me say that again because it is very, very important but not that easy to follow.

Given a 6% rental return, pumping in 18 billion pounds of state money to rents adds 288 billion pounds to property values. That explains how you reach the apparently impossible situation of median property at twelve times median income.

The landlord class will endeavour to ensure that any phasing out of such benefit causes maximum dislocation pain to tenants. But correcting the situation is an economic necessity. Ultimately property values have to halve, and rents too. That will provide pain to not just the landlord class but the entire Ponzi economy that Blair built. The ratio of property prices to income almost trebled in the Blair/Brown years, and is the aspect of their economic charlatanry which still overhangs us.

Seen from Edinburgh, another reason to escape to Independence as quickly as possible. The problem is not nearly so acute in Scotland. In England the situation can continue for a while. The Conservative government is delighted with this massive transfer of money to the rich. But once interest rates start to rise, it will bring a crash of gigantic proportions.

Breaking the Depleted Uranium Ceiling

by craig on September 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

It is an astonishing fact that, despite near universal recognition now that the war in Iraq was a disaster, no major British social institution is headed by a single one of the majority of the population wo were opposed to the war.

Every Cabinet Minister actively supported the war. Of the fifteen Tory MPs who rebelled and voted against the war, not one is a minister. Civil servants officially have no politics but privately their opinions are known. There is not one single Permanent Under Secretary of a UK government department who was known to be against the war and most were enthusiasts. Simon Fraser, PUS at the FCO, was an active Blairite enthusiast for the war. Though no Blairite, the Head of MI6 Alex Younger was also an enthusiast.

The BBC was of course gutted following its revealing of the truth about Iraqi WMD, and the subsequent murder of David Kelly. Following the ousting of Greg Dyke, both Governors and Directors-Generals have been known supporters of the war. Of the 107 bureaucrats in the BBC who earn over 100,000 pounds pa, insiders estimate that only five were opponents of the war. Craig Oliver – who has now left the BBC for Cameron’s media operation – and James Purnell are absolutely typical of the BBC Iraqocracy.

Every current editor of a UK national newspaper supported the Iraq war. At the time of the war there was one editor opposed – Piers Morgan – who subsequently became a derided and marginalised figure. Not only are the editors firmly from the neo-con alliance, but the high profile commentators who cheered on the war – David Aaronovich, Nick Cohen, Melanie Phillips, John Rentoul, Rod Liddle etc. – have all seen their careers flourish. None has suffered from their appalling lack of judgement. There is no similar raft of commentators who were against the war who enjoy such constant media promotion and massive salaries. Many, like Peter Oborne, have suffered unexpected career glitches. There is no head of a major TV channel in the UK who was against the war in Iraq.

The theme runs through all the public professions. Of the hundreds of academics who took firm positions against the Iraq War, I cannot find a single example who went on to become a University Vice-Chancellor or Principal. By contrast actual war criminals Richard Dearlove and Valerie Amos were parachuted into academic leadership posts. The Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces were all true believers, compared to the massive scepticism that existed among senior officers.

The Iraq test even extends into the heads of institutions apparently quite unrelated, such as City of London banks and insurance companies. There are a tiny number of heads of FTSE 100 companies who were against the war.

It is not that there is an Iraq test. It is that Iraq is the touchstone for adherence to the neo-liberal consensus. All these professionally successful people share a number of attitudes, of which support for the Iraq War is a good indicator. There is a very strong correlation between support for the Iraq War and fierce Zionism. But there is also a strong correlation between support for the Iraq War and support for austerity economics. The strongest correlation of all lies in support for the Iraq War and for “business-friendly” tolerance of corporatism, TTIP, multinational tax avoidance, low taxation and marketization of public services including in education and health.

To return to where I started, the quite extraordinary thing is that there is a near-universal recognition in wider society that the Iraq War was both completely unjustified and a dreadful strategic blunder. Yet its support is a major pre-condition for membership of the governing elite.

The answer of course lies in its value as an indicator for a broad range of neo-liberal consensus attitudes. That is why both the SNP and Jeremy Corbyn provide such a threat to the Establishment, through denying those attitudes. The fascinating thing is that the SNP and the Labour Party could be the only public institutions in the UK of any note with an anti-Iraq War leadership. The significance is that, in slightly different ways, both the prominence of the SNP and of Jeremy Corbyn are the result of a public revolt which the Establishment has been trying, absolutely desperately, to cut off.

Ed Miliband did not actually vote against the Iraq War, contrary to popular myth. Having both the Labour and SNP parties led by people who reject the raft of values symbolised by the Iraq test, who have broken through the depleted uranium ceiling, is a massive, massive threat to the meritlessocracy. Institutional control appeared to be complete and impermeable. Suddenly they face the danger of the opinions of ordinary people carrying weight. Expect the media control mechanisms to whir into still greater overdrive.

Forget Faslane

by craig on August 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

With this country’s massive needs in housing and renewable energy, it is typical that the only public spending announcement the Tories wish to make is on more potential for death and destruction at Faslane. The politics of the ludicrous claims on employment creation are risibly transparent. Don’t vote SNP! Don’t Vote Corbyn! This is not an industrial or a services economy, its the WMD economy.

I was frustrated during the referendum campaign by the mealy-mouthed response to the unionists constant carping on about job losses at Faslane. Chucking out Trident will cause job losses. Good. Doing evil should not be sustained as a job creation scheme.

It is like arguing to keep the Spanish Inquisition going because of the workers it employs. Woodcutters gather the material for the burning alive of heretics. Skilled workers lay the faggots and construct the bonfires. Blacksmiths forge fetters and implements of torture. Then the torturers themselves have good steady jobs, and what of the clerks who write down the confessions? Ending the Spanish Inquisition would cause economic disruption.

I think that pushes the parallel far enough, but it is a sad comment on our moral relativism that anyone is allowed to talk of employment at Faslane as a bonus without being roundly ridiculed and socially shamed. As usual Osborne’s numbers are a trick of mostly totaling existing plans over a lengthy period. But even if this was genuine investment, he should be told where to stuff it. Scotland must not be a WMD based economy.

Serial Reject

by craig on August 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

I have just been rejected at vetting (again) by the SNP and therefore cannot put myself forward to fellow members as a potential parliamentary candidate. This time they added the somewhat gratuitous comment that I would not only be “unbecoming” as a parliamentary candidate, but as a member. They also suggested, in writing, that I owe a public apology to senior figures in the party. I have written back to ask to whom and why (I really have no idea). I have not received any reply to that yet. I have received a reply to a second query, and am told that the “unbecoming” comment does not indicate any desire or expectation that I should resign membership. Indeed they say they hope my contribution will continue, but as my sole contribution appears to be as a whipping-boy I can’t quite see why I should share that hope.

You will forgive my posting some videos which I think explain the case for my defence:

src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/GfbfldSrJ-0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Obviously this all causes me to think long and hard about my future political effort. My key focus is ensuring that neither excessive caution nor that most insidious temptation, managerialism and the comfort of power and office, prevents an early second referendum. It is very easy to convince yourself that you are doing good in your taxpayer-paid job. Status is seductive. The SNP is full of siren voices arguing that they should enjoy their spoils for a decade or two while maintaining a steady trudge towards independence. They whisper that we have to await a 60% Yes lead in the opinion polls before we try again as another defeat would be disastrous.

But the greater danger is that the momentum fades. You would have to be the greatest optimist in the World to imagine a more favourable conjunction of circumstances for Independence than an extremist Tory government at Westminster, a Labour Party in meltdown, the Liberals almost eliminated and the SNP supreme in Scotland. Plus the residue of the huge momentum of the IndyI campaign, which put on 14 points in 12 months.

This dream conjunction will not last forever. The great danger is letting the moment slip through our fingers. If pro-Indy candidates sweep Holyrood, having already swept Westminster, we would be quite entitled to declare independence without a referendum. As I repeat till I am blue in the face, the majority of countries in the world have become independent states in my own lifetime, and the vast majority of those without a referendum. There is no legal requirement for one, and it is essential that we retain the threat of UDI in case Cameron tries to refuse a referendum; otherwise we are accepting a Westminster veto on the will of the Scottish people.

A referendum in 2018 must be the goal, with the threat of UDI should Cameron refuse. That is what I want to work for. I am only an individual, actively disowned by the party of Scottish government. But nonetheless I shall dedicate my energies to this goal.

Beware of Chilcot

by craig on August 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

I am worried that the continued delay in the publication of Chilcot’s report is giving rise to expectations that it will be forthright and damning of Blair and his supporters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even though Blair plunged us into an illegal war with dreadful long-term consequences, the report has always been designed to be a typical Whitehall fudge. Mistakes made – errors of judgement – all in good faith – lessons learned. You don’t have to wait for it, that is it.

The Chilcot team was handpicked by Gordon Brown – himself up to his neck in guilt for the illegal invasion – and three of the five had been aggressive proponents of the war. The remaining two, Chilcot and Baroness Prasad, are “sound” for the Establishment. Let me remind you of my analysis of the committee members in 2009. Sir Lawrence Freedman was an active propagandist for the invasion while Sir Martin Gilbert (died while contributing to the committee) was so enamoured of the invasion he compared Bush and Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill. Rod Lyne was actively involved in selling the WMD lies and arguably in danger of war crime accusation himself.

None of the committee members had ever expressed the slightest doubt about the Iraq War while 60% had actively promoted it. Of Chilcot himself the eminent international lawyer Phillippe Sands noted:

“Sir John’s spoonfed questions give every impression of being designed to elicit a response from the attorney general that would demonstrate the reasonableness of his actions and those of the government.”

The point of the delay is to give the impression Chilcot has been absolutely painstaking and therefore the bucket of whitewash he will throw cannot be hiding anything.

Do not be fooled.

Down From the Mountain

by craig on August 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

It is hard to describe why I find DTRH such an uplifting experience. To quote this year’s Herald review “you’d have to be half-mad to dream up Doune the Rabbit Hole. Since 2010, the family-friendly Stirlingshire festival has appeared to shirk any nod to corporate sponsorship or commercialism, in favour of a home-grown hillside hoopla.” The “appeared to” hides nothing – it most definitely does shirk all sponsorship and commercialism, and that is a little it of its charm. Another element is, as Festival Director Jamie Murray put it “It’s only a pop-up community, but it’s a community nonetheless.” Great way with words, that man. Wonder where he gets it from?

It really is a community, and one in which former strangers talk to each other readily and sometimes profoundly. Add to that a delight in the skills of music creation of highly eclectic kinds, and you achieve this happy mix between the cider fair in Far From the Madding Crowd, a hippy sixties commune, and a very peculiar Glasgow night club. Throw in hundreds of very happy children and beautiful tranquil countryside, and you start to get the idea. I always return envigorated and somehow washed clean of the pollution of the corrupt abuses of power I analyse in the other 51 weeks of the year. I don’t pretend this makes sense. It’s magic.

Could partly just be exhaustion of course – I put in one 20 hour shift organising and running the bar, and at one stage had 13 hours sleep in 96 hours. Many readers of this blog were there as volunteers or just soaking it in, and a special shout out to Clark, Nevermind and Bill who all put in an astonishing amount of unpaid labour. It is worth pointing out that none of the directors, organisers or volunteers is paid or remunerated. The bands are.

This nice little video from Stirling Council gives some idea of the daytime atmosphere

While there is a lovely gallery here from the same source.

I love this video, which briefly features a head shaking Nadira and gives a broader perspective:

Finally this little snippet gives an idea of the audience experience in the evening:

The challenge now is to keep its special atmosphere and amateur community nature as the festival gets bigger every year. Part of this is eschewing plastic commercial music acts. The continued involvement of the readers of this blog is another part. Planning for next year has already started. I have just about come down from the experience now, but feel buoyed amidst a sea of troubles.

The UK Hits Moral Rock Bottom

by craig on August 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

I return from summer break with a shock as the UK hits moral rock bottom. On the day that it is revealed that 2,380 people in three years died within 14 days of being declared fit to work by an ATOS assessment and having benefit stopped, we also have 45 of the most appalling members of the political class elevated to trough it for life in the House of Lords, at a possible cost to the taxpayer of 67,500 pounds per week in attendance allowances alone.

It is worth remembering that it was the Red Tories who brought in ATOS, and Yvette Cooper, to be precise, who ordered the extreme tightening of the unfit to work assessment which has resulted in death for thousands and dreadful stress and misery for hundreds of thousands. Ian Duncan Smith may have also gleefully implemented it, but this particular horror was entirely inherited from the Guardian’s favourite leadership candidate.

The House of Lords appointments are so horrible it is difficult to comment. The most utterly objectionable of all is one of the least known to the public. Stuart Polak becomes a Lord for services to the Conservative Friends of Israel. That you can, unelected, become a legislator of the UK based on your loyalty and service to another state is appalling.

Others are more obviously dreadful. Lord Hogg now has a title that befits the moat of his home, which he had cleaned by the taxpayer prompting much rage in the expenses scandal. Tessa Jowell benefited from hundreds of thousands of pounds of corrupt money from the sordid Berlusconi, claiming she did not read the mortgage documents in which his cash paid off her house, before she signed them, and going through an entirely risible pretence of temporary separation from her husband, David Mills, who escaped a corrupt Italian justice system. David Willetts was rejected by his constituents because of extreme expenses scamming, and walks grinning back into the Lords.

Michelle Mone is rewarded for her opposition to Scottish independence. The woman sold out the workforce who made her fortune by expensively covering her crotch and now comes out as a Tory knicker saleswoman. Darling also is ennobled for services to the union, after being too cowardly to face the electorate in May. The Lib Dems get more legislators today than they could manage at the general election. That is simply astonishing.

The conduct of the political class is utterly shameless. Meantime they indulge their fantasies of stripping workers of all protection and of stopping aid to the needy, and while the politicians gorge and gorge, the poor are quietly being slipped away to die.

Kezia Dugdale Got Just 5,217 Votes

by craig on August 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

The Labour Party is being remarkably coy about releasing the actual result of its Scottish accounting unit leadership election, giving only a percentage. The entirely complacent unionist media is complicit in what amounts to a deception. The stunning truth is that in a one person, one vote election among the entire membership of the Labour Party in Scotland plus trades union supporters, Dugdale won with 5,217 votes (out of a claimed electorate of 21,000, many of whom do not exist or could not be arsed to choose between two right wing numpties).

UPDATE: A second Labour figure just rang me to assure me my information – which was from a good source – is wrong. She would not give the actual figure and only said it was “higher”. I offered to take down the post and publish an accurate figure if she would give it, but this was declined.

Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP

by craig on August 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

Today on my first full day back in Scotland (and only my fourth day in the UK in the past 8 weeks) I went to Jeremy Corbyn’s rally in Edinburgh. I have shared platforms with Jeremy, particularly for Stop the War, fairly frequently and had a number of conversations and email exchanges, but I would not claim to be a friend. I have the impression he is quite a private man.

I was impressed by Jeremy’s talk and by the energy in the room. Jeremy was at his strongest when referring to the need for basic human decency and respect in our treatment of those in need for aid from the state, including the homeless and refugees. His basic human empathy and compassion really shone through. He was contemptuous of austerity, marketisation and the neoliberal consensus. His denunciation of Iraq and of Trident galvanised the room. He can talk with a genuine moral authority. He is certainly not a great orator, but sincere and fluent.

All that you already know. But what to me was really interesting was the lack of focus on Scotland. Many (including I think Iain MacWhirter from a brief conversation afterwards) interpreted this as lack of interest in Scotland. I read it very differently.

Despite being surrounded by the most tribal of Labour cliques (including Katie Clark and Neil Findlay on the platform) Jeremy Corbyn said not one word – not one word – in favour of the union. His only mention of the SNP (not by name) was complimentary, in reference to their opposition to Osborne’s welfare cuts. He contrasted this with strong condemnation of the Labour establishment’s failure to oppose the welfare cuts. He then went on to call for united opposition across parties at Westminster, and suggested it would be great if working with other parties and a few Tory rebels, the first act of a reinvigorated opposition would be to halt the benefit cuts which would so damage the vulnerable. In short, Corbyn was plainly taking the hand proffered by Mhairi Black.

In looking for votes from Scottish Labour, I am not surprised nor concerned that Corbyn did not refer by name to cooperation with the SNP, but he could have meant nothing else.

Jeremy has for his political life been a strong advocate of a united Ireland and a doughty campaigner against the injustices heaped upon Republicans by the state. He is in no sense a unionist. He is certainly not a British nationalist. Doubtless he would prefer a left wing Scotland to help forge a socialist state within the United Kingdom, but I have no doubt whatsoever that he respects those of us who see Scottish independence as the same anti-Imperial struggle that motivates Irish republicanism.

In short, I am hopeful that a Corbyn leadership will moderate the tribal hatred between Labour and SNP which poisons Scottish politics. Whatever else you may think of Jeremy, he certainly is not a Red Tory. Whether he will be able to clear out the Red Tories who control Scottish Labour is a fascinating question. But I must say, that I am deeply saddened by some of the partisan attacks on Jeremy by fellow SNP members which I see online. Jeremy Corbyn is a good man. In the fight to end the obscenity of the extreme and burgeoning gap between rich and poor, to counter the dwindling of public provision and public ownership, Corbyn is on the side of the angels. As we would put it when I was young, we are on the same side of the barricade.

I still believe Scottish independence remains the key to social regeneration, and indeed had not the SNP shown you can defeat the neo-liberal consensus electorally, then the Corbyn phenomenon would never have happened. But I still claim Jeremy as my comrade, and am proud to do so.

In Safe Hands

by craig on August 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

I am in Tbilisi at the moment, where I spent this early morning drinking tea with some of the 2,000 strong Yazidi community. They see their religion as much more closely descended from Zoroastrianism than appears in most accounts I have read.

I very much enjoyed a visit to Tsinandali which was most useful for gaining a Russian perspective of the Great Game. I don’t have my books with me and am suffering a mental block as to whether it was Connoly, Abbott or Malcolm who visited Tsinandali. I had not realised that Griboyedov was married to a daughter of the house, Nina Chavchavadze. The murder of Griboyedov, Russian Ambassador in Tehran, by a mob rates little more than a footnote in British accounts of the Great Game, even though the British had bribed the religious authority to stir up the riots. What revisionist history there has been, has come from the Iranian side and falsely tried to obscure the fact that the refugees Griboyedov was sheltering were runaway slaves from harems.

This is a neglected recurring theme. When Shuja agreed the treaty already negotiated between Macnaghten and Ranjit Singh, the main stipulation he sought to add was that the British would return to him any runaway slave girls. The immediate motive for the ringleader of the attack on Alexander Burnes was that Burnes had refused to intervene to return a runaway slave girl who had sought the protection of another British officer. My fellow anti-imperialist historians have in general been guilty of emphasising rapaciousness by the British in these incidents and overlooking or excusing the slave status of the girls. Both aspects need to be faced squarely to write honestly the full facts of history. Tellingly, it is generally impossible to recover names of the girls involved.

Griboyedov deserves to be remembered for much more than his murder. An accomplished playwright and poet, he was a friend of Pushkin and had links to the dissident groups who attempted revolution in 1825. His murder left Nina a widow at either 17 or 19 by different accounts, and pregnant. She lost the child on hearing of her husband’s death, and never remarried. It is a tragic story which came alive to me in visiting the family home.

Griboyedov had fought Napoleon in the 1812 campaign, but had helped those Napoleonic adventurers Allard and Ventura evade a British blockade and go into service with Ranjit Singh. Griboyedov’s successor as Russian Ambassador to Tehran, Simonicz, had actually fought on the Napoleonic side against Russia, presumably in the Polish Legion. Nina’s sister was to marry a Murad nephew of Napoleon. The political elites of Europe melded quickly after the convulsion.

With which clumsy segue I shall note that the battle against the entrenched political elites of the UK appears to be going extremely well without me. I cannot express without a welling up of real emotion how happy I am that all I have been saying about the stultifying neo-liberal consensus and exclusion of dissent, and appalling burgeoning wealth gap between rich and poor, has found such massive traction between Jeremy Corbyn in England and the SNP in Scotland. I may have gone AWOL for a few days, but the cause of social justice appears in extremely safe hands.

Aaronovitch Blusters to a Well of Silence

by craig on July 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

Why Rupert Murdoch considers it worth his while to pay David Aaronovitch a large six figure sum for such puerile antics as tweeting that I am insane, is a conjecture I find difficult to resolve. Today this exchange occurred on twitter:

David Aaronovitch: This suggestion that if elected Corbyn could be quickly ousted is utter bollocks. Democracy allows Labour to commit Hara Kiri.

Mark Doran: @DAaronovitch I hope everyone is watching how these servants of the micro-elite try to paint “attracting popular support” as “committing suicide.”

Mark Doran: @DAaronovitch Craig finds the elite-serving contortions every bit as funny as I do

David Aaronovitch: @MarkJDoran I tend to find Craig Murray unpersuasive on the grounds of him being unhinged. I can see why you like him, though.

Mark Doran: Says the man who managed to find Bush and Blair credible. I can see why you liked them, though.

It is remarkably ironic that on being referred to an article which argues that views outside a very narrow neoliberal establishment narrative are marginalised and ridiculed by the media, the Murdoch hack’s response is that the author is unhinged. Aaronovitch could not have more neatly proved my point.

But something else struck me about the twitter record. Aaronovitch’ twitter account claims to have 78,000 followers. Yet of the 78,000 people who allegedly received his tweet about my insanity, only 1 retweeted and 2 favourited. That is an astonishingly low proportion – 1 in 26,000 reacted. To give context, Mark Doran has only 582 followers and yet had more retweets and favourites for his riposte. 1 in 146 to be precise, a 200 times greater response rate.

Please keep reading, I promise you this gets a great deal less boring.

Eighteen months ago I wrote an article about Aaronovitch’s confession that he solicits fake reviews of his books to boost their score on Amazon. In response a reader emailed me with an analysis of Aaronovitch’s twitter followers. He argued with the aid of graphs that the way they accrued indicated that they were not arising naturally, but being purchased in blocks. He claimed this was common practice in the Murdoch organisation to promote their hacks through false apparent popularity.

I studied his graphs at some length, and engaged in email correspondence on them. I concluded that the evidence was not absolutely conclusive, and in fairness to Aaronovitch I declined to publish, to the annoyance of my correspondent.

Naturally this came to mind again today when I noted that Aaronovitch’ tweets to his alleged legion of followers in fact tumble into a well of silence. I do not even tweet. The entire limit of my tweeting is that this blog automatically tweets the titles of articles I write. They are not aphorisms so not geared to retweet. Yet even the simple tweet “Going Mainstream” which marked the article Aaronovitch derided, obtained 20 times the reactions of Aaronovitch’s snappy denunciation of my mental health. This despite the fact he has apparently 10 times more followers than me. An initial survey seems to show this is not atypical.

In logic, I can only see two possible explanations. The first is that my correspondent was right and Aaronovitch fakes twitter followers like he does book reviews. The second is that he has a vast army of followers, nearly all of whom find him dull and uninspiring, and who heartily disapproved en masse of his slur on my sanity. I opt for the second explanation, that he is just extremely dull, on the grounds that Mr Aaronovitch’s honesty and probity were never questioned, m’Lud.

Going Mainstream

by craig on July 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

For a decade, this blog has argued that democracy in the UK is dysfunctional because an entrenched party system offers no real choice. The major parties offer political programmes which are virtually indistinguishable. As I put it in lectures, if the range of possible political programmes were placed on a linear scale from 1 to 100, the Labour and Conservative parties offer you the choice between 81 and 84.

This exclusion of political possibility is reinforced by a corporate media structure, led by the BBC, in which ideas outside the narrow band of establishment consensus are ridiculed and denigrated. Therefore even political ideas which have the consistent support of the majority of the population, such as nationalisation of railways and other natural monopolies including utilities, simply cannot get an airing. Of all the broadcast coverage of the Iraq War, less than 3% gave time to anti-war voices, despite a majority opinion against the war.

This phenomenon explains why a large majority of both Conservative and Labour MPs are members of the Friends of Israel when public opinion consistently sympathises more with Palestine. It also explains the quite extraordinary media onslaught against Scottish independence.

I pointed out that Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance in the TV leadership debates was the first major airing of an anti-Trident argument on broadcast media in England for a decade. Actually hearing anti-austerity arguments led to a huge surge in support for the SNP in England as well as Scotland.

Now Jeremy Corbyn, having obtained a platform where on occasion he has been able to have his views broadcast direct without media mediation, is experiencing a massive surge of support. Ed Miliband’s lasting achievement is that he managed to put the ordinary people who marched against the Iraq War in charge of the Labour Party, not the careerist Blairite committee manipulators. The result is stunning.

The sheer panic gripping the London elite now is hilarious to behold. Those on the favoured side of Britain’s enormous wealth gap are terrified by the idea that there may be a genuine electoral challenge to neo-liberalism, embodied in one of the main party structures. This is especially terrifying to those who became wealthy by hijacking the representation of the working class to the neo-liberal cause. The fundamental anti-democracy of the Blairites is plainly exposed, and the panic-driven hysterical hate-fest campaign against Corbyn by the Guardian would be unbelievable, if we hadn’t just seen exactly the same campaign by the same paper against the rejection of neo-liberalism in Scotland.

I think I am entitled to say I told you so. Many people appear shocked to have discovered the Guardian is so anti-left wing. I have been explaining this in detail for years. It is good to feel vindicated, and even better that the people I have repeatedly shared platforms with, like Jeremy and Mhairi, are suddenly able to have the genuinely popular case they make listened to. Do I feel a little left behind, personally? Probably, but I would claim to have contributed a little to the mood, and particularly my article on the manufactured myth that the left is unelectable has been extremely widely shared – by hundreds of thousands – in the social media storm that is propelling the Corbyn campaign.

There has been very little comment on the impact a Corbyn victory would have on the SNP. Indeed, despite being unbendingly unionist, the Scottish media have been unable to avoid representing by omission the fact that the Labour leadership contest is taking place almost entirely in another country with another political culture. But there is no doubt that a Corbyn-led Labour Party would be more attractive in Scotland than the Tory lite version, although the paucity of Labour’s Scottish leadership would be a constant factor. Much would depend on the wider question of how the careerists who make up most Labour MPs and MSPs would react to a Corbyn victory.

At Westminster, I can see no reason at all why Liz Kendall, Chuka Umunna and their like cannot simply cross the floor and become Tories. Cameron is astute enough to find junior ministerial positions for them and the Tory ranks would be elated enough to swallow it. But most of the careerists will look at their new constituency members and suddenly discover left wing principles. It will be less bloody than people expect.

In Scotland, a Corbyn victory will bring some swing back to Labour from the SNP, but most of the old Labour demographic have now set their hearts on independence. Should Corbyn actually look set to win a UK general election in 2020, that would very possibly dent the enthusiasm for independence at the margins. It would in no sense reduce my own desire for independence, but even I would feel it less urgent. A Corbyn led UK would not cause the same feeling of moral revulsion. All of which is a good argument for having the next referendum early.

Should Corbyn not win the Labour leadership, the effect will be opposite. The SNP will be boosted by the death of the last hope that the Labour Party might actually mean something again, rather than be a vehicle for soulless careerists spouting management-manual jargon. If Corbyn loses, the Labour Party in Scotland really might as well wind up. The cause of independence will be furthered.

So what do I want to happen? I want Jeremy to win, of course, deeply and sincerely. I am an internationalist and not a Machiavellian. I want the chance of a just society and an ethical foreign policy for England and Wales. Like me, Jeremy wants to see Ireland eventually united. I have never discussed Scottish independence with him, but I am quite sure his opposition is not of the Britnat imperialist variety.

You can be sure that the security services are heavily targeted on the Corbyn campaign. Allow me one last “I told you so”. I came in for much ridicule when I stated, from certain knowledge, that MI5 were targeted on Scottish Nationalists (I had actually been shown the tasking). This comes into the category of obvious truths which the media and political consensus seeks to deny. The ridicule even came from some within the SNP – which, like any other organisation deemed a threat to the UK, is itself penetrated by the security services. Well, now that truth has become mainstream too. I do not anticipate any apologies.

Mob Morality Again

by craig on July 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

Nobody has more contempt than me for the House of Lords or for cronies of Tony Blair. But I shall not join in the pillorying of John Sewel over his private life. If he wants to take cocaine and spend time with prostitutes that is entirely his own business. Britain’s periodic outcries over private morality are contemptible. There is no legitimate reason why the activities of consenting adults in their own homes should be of concern to the rest of us. Not the least unpleasant aspect is that those journalists and politicians who whip up such witch hunts are for the most part hiding secrets about themselves. That in 2015 we still have not come to terms with the most ordinary sexual desire or formulated a more rational policy response to use of narcotics, is unfortunate.

I expect if I dug around I could find a lot of things to dislike Sewel for, in terms of the policies he has supported. But to attack political opponents over their private lives – assuming the necessary factors of adults and consent – is low.

Something to Read in the Meantime

by craig on July 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

I have returned after a stressful and hard-working, though ultimately successful, period in Ghana, in serious need of recuperation.

I very much enjoyed reading this from the Belfast Telegraph.

Embarrassing Pasts

by craig on July 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

It says a huge amount about the confidence of the royal family, that they feel able to respond to their Nazi home movie with nothing other than outrage that anybody should see it. They make no denial they were giving Nazi salutes, no statement that the royal family did not support the Nazis. Of course the young children had no idea of the implications. But the adults most certainly did. The missing figure is the cameraman, future King George, who was filming his wife and brother displaying the family sympathies.

The royal family were of course German themselves – completely so. Since George I every royal marriage in line of succession had been conducted in strict accordance with the Furstenprivatrecht, to a member of a German royal family. The Queen Mother, who was of course not expected to feature in promulgating the line of succession, was the first significant exception in 220 years. She was evidently trying hard to fit in. But I am not sure German-ness has much to do with it. Nazi sympathies were much more common in the aristocracy than generally admitted. Their vast wealth and massive land ownership contrasted with the horrific poverty and malnutrition of the 1930’s, led the aristocracy to fear a very real prospect of being stood against a wall and shot. Fascism appeared to offer social amelioration for the workers with continued privilege for the aristocrats. It is completely untrue that its racism, totalitarianism and violence was unknown in 1933-4. They knew what they were doing.

Happily fascism was defeated. The royal family is of course only the tip of the iceberg of whitewashed fascist support – without even starting on industrialists, newspaper proprietors, the Kennedys, etc. etc. But the Buckingham Palace option of outrage that anybody should ever remember is very sad – still more sad that such a position gets such popular support.

We never did get round to shooting the aristocrats.

I am an optimist in politics. My experience of life has taught me that altruism is a far stronger human urge than selfishness. Modern political fashion is based on the denigration of the urge to cooperation, and I do not believe will survive.

Which leads me to believe we are now living in an embarrassing past. Future generations will look back at the massive and exponentially expanding gap between rich and poor, at the super state security services and near total surveillance, at the violent wars waged in ill-disguised annexation of resources, and be amazed that people could support it. I also think that enormous shame will attach to all those who support the excruciatingly slow genocide of the Palestinians. That will be part of our embarrassing past.

Doune the Rabbit Hole

by craig on July 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

This year’s Doune the Rabbit Hole Festival will be at the Cardross Estate near Port of Menteith again from 21-3 August. As our long-term readers know, while there is no formal link between this blog and Doune the Rabbit Hole, and the festival has no political view, the general tone, tenor and atmosphere of the event is one likely to appeal to people who enjoy this blog, and I shall as ever be running the bars.

dounefun

I can’t quite describe what makes this little festival more appealing than others. It has an extraordinary sense of community and idealism, and I always find it seriously refreshing and uplifting, with confidence in my fellow human beings restored. The bands are very eclectic, and a reminder that great live music is made all over Scotland by people that largely you have never heard of. A particular selling point is that it is very family friendly, and it is not just that there are one or two examples that enable you to say the age range is 9 weeks to 90, it really is like that.

To say that it is a not for profit event is an understatement. We need people to buy tickets, and you can do so here. If you can afford it, you really will have fun. For those short of cash or free to enjoy hard graft (and it is quite tough), readers of and commenters on this blog make up a high proportion of the volunteers who are needed to make it happen at all.

I do hope many of you will come again this year, either as guests or volunteers. Lifelong friendships are forged, and it is great for me to meet you in real life rather than virtually, though I am more free to pull you a pint than engage in profound discussion. The bar – the Whistleblower’s Arms – will have an even wider range of superb local ales and ciders. I can taste it already.

I am happy to tell you that a month’s consultancy work has mended my personal finances, and I shall be back from Africa next week. We shall therefore avoid the need for a donate button to keep the blog going after all, rather to my relief. I should have been at Julian Assange’s birthday party in the Ecuador Embassy today, and am sorry to miss it. Happy Birthday, Julian. There is a good exposition of the state of his case here, for those interested in fact rather than derogatory mainstream media slogans. Julian, Chelsea and Edward have done so much to improve human understanding and resist the powers of the corporate state, and each has had a normal life denied them.

The Mainstream Discovers Mhairi Black

by craig on July 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

Having spoken alongside Mhairi at a few meetings, and much admired her, it is rather strange to find her in danger of becoming an object of cult veneration. Just as with Nicola Sturgeon, it seems the shock of seeing the coherent and intelligent articulation of views outside the narrow consensus manufactured by the corporate media and political class, really does strike home to people. They almost never get to hear such views put; Mhairi is being given a hearing because of her youth in her position, but the marginalisation and ridicule will soon kick back in. Above all, Mhairi should remind us of how the Labour Party has completely sold out those they used to represent, and abandoned the task of proposing an intellectually compelling alternative to trickledown.

Jeremy Corbyn and the small group around him are of course an honourable exception.

You will recall that I managed to fall asleep on the platform in Perth while Mhairi was answering a question, embarrassingly revealed when the chairman passed the question to me! It really was nothing to do with Mhairi, I was exhausted. The question, as it happened, was asked by Joanna Cherry, who also just made a first class maiden speech.

The Labour Party has finally woken up to oppose something the Tory Party is doing, in the new draconian and unnecessary anti-union legislation. This is not because they really want to protect workers; the only thing that has motivated Labour to action is a threat to their own funding.

The Tory anti-union proposals are shocking. Criminalising peaceful secondary picketing is an infringement of the right of free expression and undoubtedly open to challenge under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The proposal that not just a majority of those voting, but 40% of the qualified electorate must vote yes for a strike to go ahead, is beyond belief, coming from a government who have an absolute majority on the basis of the votes of just 23% of the electorate. The hypocrisy is absolutely stunning.

The part of the proposed legislation I do support is on party political funding by unions. It should be by opt-in not opt-out. A majority of members must vote for a donation to a political party. That seems to me absolutely right and fair.

Precisely the same principle should be applied to company shareholders, of whom a majority should specifically have to endorse a political donation by the company. Where a shareholder is institutional, that shareholder must too base its vote only on a vote taken by a majority of its own shareholders specifically in each case, or its members if a mutual.

So if Tesco wants to donate to the Tory party, that must be specifically approved by a majority of Tesco shareholders. If Aviva is one of those shareholders, Aviva can only vote for Tesco to donate, if a majority of Aviva shareholders vote to do so. And so on down the chain ad infinitum.

That would be entirely fair and strike a massive blow at the corporate state/political party nexus. Then more real people like Mhairi would be able to become prominent in public life.

Iran Breakthrough

by craig on July 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

I am really very pleased at the agreement reached with Iran. Coming as it does against a background of widespread and Western exacerbated Sunni/Shia conflict, it is one of very few hopeful recent international developments.

Liberalisation of Iranian society continues to go forward at an achingly slow pace. The human rights situation, role of the military and theological power structure remain, frankly, appalling. But insofar as there is movement, it is for improvement. Normalisation of its international situation will certainly help.
Taking the long view, Iran is the classical case of a great culture perverted to destruction by western power interference and the reaction to it. But I believe the enormous potential of the Iranian people will now start to reassert itself.

The danger of course is the Zionist militarists in Congress and the US media who will do all in their power to scupper any peaceful move. But for once, Bush’s extension of executive power might do some actual good. There is a parallel danger in Iran. The Iraq War was totally unjustified and illegal, but Saddam Hussein might nonetheless have evaded it had he boxed a bit more cleverly and allowed some foolish inspectors to wander around his palaces prodding at the teaspoons. Yes the inspections regimes will be galling, even humiliating. But patience will have its rewards. There is real danger though that the hardliners on the Iranian side will be able to muster sufficient local points of power to hamper inspections, thus giving the US and Israeli hardliners an opportunity.

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