The British Election

Posted on May 18th, 2015 in General by Robert Miller
Prime Minister David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron

I was truly shocked by the outcome of the recent British election. Not only was Cameron and the Tories returned to power, but they now control 331 seats (out of 650), giving them a clear majority without the need to form a coalition government. David Cameron and the Tories can now impose their drastic, austerity-driven, privatization policies which will include increased surveillance coupled with the jingoism necessary to promote these onerous policies and do so without significant opposition. Ed Miliband (Labour) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats) have now resigned as leaders of their parties. Unencumbered by the centrist Liberal Democratic coalition, the Tories will have free rein to advance their brutal politics of inequality. Here is what the Tories have imposed since Cameron came to power: under Tory rule, the number of food banks has already increased from 56 to 445, and, according to a University of Oxford study, the Conservatives’ cuts will force 2.1 million Britons to use food banks by 2017-18, double the current figure. When his government came to power in 2010, pledging to cut deficit spending, the budget reductions have only reduced government spending by 3 percent: the money cut from the services sector has in fact been recycled into lavish tax breaks for the rich—a 7-billion-pound prize (almost $11 billion) for returning Cameron to Downing Street. Cameron and the Tories want Briton to look a lot more like America when they are finished, with soaring income inequality, widespread poverty and giant holes in the social safety net.

Over the next five years a 10 percent cut in support of public schools will take place further accelerating income inequality. Stealth privatization of the national healthcare service (NHS) is underway. From an article by Roisin Davis published in Truthdig entitled Five More Years of Tory Government: What Fresh Hell is This?  “In March, Cameron signed the largest privatization deal in the system’s history, worth 780 million pounds ($1.2 billion), and increased NHS privatization by a staggering 500 percent in the last year. As an article in Open Democracy has pointed out, the U.K.’s transition toward the U.S. model was affirmed by Cameron’s Health and Social Care Act, which ended the government’s duty to provide its citizens with health care, a duty that had existed in some form since the NHS was created by Labour in 1948.”

Everywhere you look the Tories are destroying the social safety net by cutting the government spending that is vital to sustain these programs. But these cuts are all attended by jingoism, designed to convey just the opposite policy. For example Cameron has touted his policies to NHS saying that he is spending more money on this National Health Service program. But, by not including inflation into his math, he has in fact spent less than the erosion of the pound through inflation, so in fact the money spent by his government is actually a negative total. In this case more is less. The Tories have been told by the National Statistics Authority to stop their claim that more money is being spent on NHS.  Read eight reasons you can’t trust the Tories.  An article in the Guardian provides additional clarity on the budget cuts facing British citizens. Yet seemingly Cameron’s jingoism has worked: he got re-elected by a huge margin.

The Cameron government also intends to enhance surveillance on its own citizens. In January Cameron said “that there should be no form of communication that the government was [is] unable to read” The Tory plan is to force the internet companies to keep massive amounts of communication data available for government surveillance. This will lead to chaos among the many internet companies that use encryption to keep users’ data safe. The program, called Snoopers’ Charter was introduced earlier, but withdrawn because of liberal opposition. But now there is no liberal opposition and British citizens will see a punishing new form of government surveillance in the very near future.

From the Roisin Davis’ article “In this fresh hell, Cameron and his soon-to-be-unleashed radical agenda will preside over widening inequality and the further dismantling of social protections. As the shock subsides, inevitable questions will emerge about how Britain’s left will fight back. But with Miliband’s failed attempt at a slightly softer neoliberal agenda offering no real alternative, the next five years require a stronger fight than ever.”

Perhaps at the heart of Briton’s problem is that the opposition party is offering no real alternative; this is reminiscent of the our Democratic party here in America, offering no contrasting alternative. In America, the 2014 election for the Democrats was a disaster. Perhaps with Bernie Sanders, in the race as a Democrat, we will see an alternative that provides a true contrast for the American voter. But don’t hold your breathe. I expect Hillary Clinton to win with very little difference between her policies and those of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. Let’s face it, the Democrats have become very centrist party and require funding from Wall Street and big business to run the affairs of the USA and get re-elected. If there is ever a populist movement in this country, it will have to come from the public, as it did before the turn of the century, when we nearly had a true democracy. For  information that issue you can go here, here or here.

At the core of this problem is the failure of Briton to practice Keynesian economics. Following Keynes’ formula would have forced the government to become the principal spender of record until economic vigor could be returned. Many modern Nobel Laureates (Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz come to mind) have advocated for this kind of policy and it is the way we came out of the Great Depression under the leadership of FDR.

The right-wing has disgraced itself with the economic collapse of 2008; yet these same forces are still in power, when in fact they should have been eradicated with something like a 50 year dominance given to the Democrats. But as we all know this didn’t happen—-the Democrats have become center right and the Republicans are in a modern death spiral, determined to take the country down with them. Perhaps there is one bright prospect on the horizon by the name of Bernie Sanders. Running as a Democrat he may force Hillary Clinton to move further to the left and in the process save the presidential memory of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama: looking through the lens of the retro-spectroscope, both presidencies are in need of repair. Already she is on board for recognizing that our state and federal penitentiary system is in a serious state of disrepair, so much so that prison reform is now obligatory and not an option. Let us hope that whoever wins this next election, takes the issues, such as the war on drugs, prison and sentencing reform more seriously than ever before. While there are many issues that will occupy the next president, solving these two issues or making a significant dent in them will serve to calm the nation and help dissipate racial tension. This issue is front and center now and it cannot be ignored. It’s like the civil rights issue all over again. It is to our discredit that we cannot solve this issue and put it behind us once and for all. It seems like this will be our scarlet letter for all time to come.


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A death in the family

Posted on May 3rd, 2015 in General by Robert Miller
William Pfaff

William Pfaff

I just learned this morning that William Pfaff, longtime critic of American foreign policy, died in Paris yesterday from a heart attack after experiencing a fall. He was 86. For twenty-five years he was a columnist for The International Herald Tribune, now The International New York Times. He was an astute critic of U.S. Foreign policy and from his European vantage point (he moved to Paris in 1971) he effectively commented  on the European situation as well. He was a good writer and wrote several books, a few of which I own. He put out a weekly news article, which I found to be a must read. He wrote about the America we find today, confused about its role in international politics and delusional about what in fact America can do about it. He was critical about the Western overthrow of a democratically elected government in Ukraine and saw it as both dangerous and poorly thought out. I communicated directly with him from time to time, one of which was when I was in a kind of fanciful mood thinking about moving to Paris. He wrote back and said that even if I could afford the expense of living in Paris, the health insurance costs would be monumental. One of his last postings “History’s judgement on Obama” can be viewed here.  The New York Times obituary has been posted.

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War crime charges against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & “the gang”

Posted on May 2nd, 2015 in War by Robert Miller
Lawyer sitting with client Sundus Shaker

Lawyer Inder Comar sitting with client Sundus Shaker Saleh

Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi citizen who fled Iraq in 2005, as a result of the U.S. invasion, brought a class action law suit against members of the Bush administration, claiming that U.S invasion of Iraq in 2003 constituted a criminal war, one that was illegal under international law. She is basing her  suit on the Nuremberg trials against Nazi leaders  at the end of WW II—wherein it was established that wars of aggression were criminal—-so now should the same logic be applied to Bush and his cohorts for their criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003? My opinion is yes, though I’m against the death penalty, so long term prison sentences gets my vote. Saleh’s class action lawsuit names George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz; it was filed in California in March 2013. Her specific charge is that the invasion of Iraq was a crime of aggression and under U.S. law, which, based on the Nuremberg principles, could be punishable by death—-that’s the form of punishment that we meted out in the Nuremberg trials against Nazi leaders in 1946. The outcome of those trials resulted in many Nazis meeting their death by hanging. Goering himself was one of many scheduled to be hanged but  committed suicide the night before. Details of Saleh’s  complaint can be viewed here.

The suit is being pursued by Inder Comar, a California lawyer who normally does not handle class action law suites, and who is working pro bono; he saw something especially meritorious in Saleh’s complaint. Using the Nuremberg trials as justification for the suit, he has argued for the similarity between the Iraq invasion of 2003 and the Nazi invasions of WW II, which resulted in the death of millions (perhaps 70 million). The judgement of Nuremberg established  principles which guided judicial decision-making. The third principle of the Nuremberg judgement states “The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law, acted as Head of State or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.” The Saleh v. Bush complaint argues that Defendants Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were publicly advocating for invasion and regime change in Iraq since 1998, through individual actions as well as through their involvement in the Neoconservative think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The complaint cites evidence of this advocacy, including the following:

  • Several documents produced by PNAC between 1997 and 2000, urging the overthrow of then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. A letter signed in 1998 by Defendants Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to then President Bill Clinton requesting implementation of “a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power”, which should “become the aim of American foreign policy” [apparently leaders of the PNAC as well as Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz did not know international law, or maybe they did and decided to ignore it].
  • The letter argued that this strategy should include “a willingness to undertake military action,” and that “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council”
  • A letter signed in 1998 by Defendants Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott recommending the use of “U.S. and allied military power … to help remove Saddam from power”
  • Testimony given by Defendant Paul Wolfowitz in 1998 before the House National Security Committee on Iraq advocating “liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam’s tyrannical grasp and free Iraq’s neighbors from Saddam’s murderous threats”, and form a provisional government to “control the largest oil field in Iraq.”
  • The Project for the New American Century ceased to function in 2006.
  • (What would we give to reverse the situation and have Saddam Hussein back in power; think of the many lives saved and think too that we have lost a lot from of our treasury ($3 trillion))?

In December 2014  a federal judge dismissed a civil claim filed against George W. Bush and other high-ranking officials regarding their conduct in planning and waging the Iraq War, and immunized them from further proceedings. The difference between us and Nazi Germany is that we won the war and now, as Inder Comar says, the Nuremberg principles have been gutted.

The federal decision can be viewed here.


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