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J.A. Hobson on Capitalism and Imperialism

One of the crimes for which Jeremy Corbyn was pilloried as an anti-Semite was that he had written a foreword for an edition of J.A. Hobson’s book, Imperialism. First published in 1903, Hobson’s book has become one of the classic critiques of imperialism. Hobson considered that the motive force behind imperialist expansion and overseas conquest was capitalism and the continual need to find new markets. The book influenced Lenin’s own analysis of imperialism, Imperialism: The Highest Form of Capitalism. Fifty years after the book was published it was praised by the great British historian A.J.P. Taylor, who said that ‘No survey of the international history of the twentieth century can be complete without the name of J.A. Hobson’ because he was the first to identify imperialism’s economic motives. Hobson has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Imperialism and the Anti-Semitism Smears against Corbyn

I think it’s because he believed that Jewish financiers were behind the Anglo-South Africa or ‘Boer’ Wars. I think the real force was the British desire to expand into the African interior,  retain the Afrikaners as imperial subjects and acquire the riches of the southern African diamond fields as well as Cecil Rhodes own megalomaniac personal ambitions. However, when the various witch-hunters were howling about how anti-Semitic Corbyn was for endorsing the book, others pointed out that it was a very well-respected text admired and used by entirely reputable historians. Yes, it was a bit anti-Semitic. A very small bit – there was only one anti-Semitic sentence in it. It was another case of the witch-hunters grasping at whatever they could, no matter how small, to smear a genuinely anti-racist politician.

Financial Capitalism, Imperialism and the Decline of Ancient Rome

There’s an extract from Hobson’s Imperialism in The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1988). This is a collection various writings protesting against a wide variety of issues ranging from indictments of the poverty of Edwardian England, to various wars, including Vietnam, Civil Rights and anti-Racism, as well as feminism, gay rights, the power of television and the threat of nuclear war. Yes, there’s an extract from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but there’s also a piece by the American Zionist rabbi, Stephen S. Wise, against the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany as well as other condemnations of Nazis and their horrific rule. The book very definitely does not endorse Fascism or the Communism of Stalin, Pol Pot and the other monsters.

The extract included in the book does identify financial capitalism and militarism as the force behind Roman imperialism, which led to the enslavement of Rome’s enemies abroad and the emergence of an immensely wealthy aristocracy, while impoverishing ordinary Romans at the other end of the social hierarchy, and compares it to the comparable development of the British imperialism of his own time. The extract runs

The spirit of imperialism poisons the springs of democracy in the mind and character of the people. As our free self-governing colonies have furnished hope, encouragement and leadership to the popular aspirations in Great Britain, not merely by practical successes in the arts of popular government, but by the wafting of a spirit of freedom and equality, so our despotically ruled dependencies have ever served to damage the character of our people by feeding the habits of snobbish subservience, the admiration of wealth and rank, the corrupt survivals of the inequalities of feudalism. This process began with the advent of the East Indian nabob and the West Indian planter into English society and politics, bring back with his plunders of the slave trade and the gains of corrupt and extortionate officialism the acts of vulgar ostentation, domineering demeanour and corrupting largesse to dazzle and degrade the life of our people. Cobden, writing in 1860 of our Indian Empire, put this pithy question: ‘Is it not just possible that we may become corrupted at home by the reaction of arbitrary political maxims in the East upon our domestic politics, just as Greece and Rome were demoralized by their contact with Asia?’

The rise of a money-loaning aristocracy in Rome, composed of keen, unscrupulous men from many nations, who filled the high offices of state with their creatures, political ‘bosses’ or military adventurers, who had come to the front as usurers, publicans or chiefs of police in the provinces, was the most distinctive feature of later imperial Rome. This class was continually recruited from returned officials and colonial millionaires. The large incomes drawn in private official plunder, public tribute, usury and official incomes from the provinces had the following reactions upon Italy. Italians were no longer wanted for working the land or for manufactures, or even for military service. ‘The later campaigns on the Rhine and the Danube,’ it is pointed out, ‘were really slave-hunts on a gigantic scale.’

The Italian farmers, at first drawn from rural into military life, soon found themselves permanently ousted from agriculture by the serf labour of the latifundia, and they and their families were sucked into the dregs of town life, to be subsisted as a pauper population upon public charity. A mercenary colonial army came more and more displace the home forces. The parasitic city life, with its lowered vitality and the growing infrequency of marriage, to which Gibbon draws attention, rapidly impaired the physique of the native population of Italy, and Rome subsisted more and more upon immigration of raw vigour from Gaul and Germany. The necessity of maintaining powerful mercenary armies to hold the provinces heightened continually the peril, already manifest in the last years of the Republic, arising from the political ambitions of great pro-consuls conspiring with a moneyed interest at Rome against the Commonwealth. As time went on, this moneyed oligarchy became an hereditary aristocracy, and withdrew from military and civil service, relying more and more upon hired foreigners: themselves sapped by luxury and idleness and tainting by mixed servitude and licence the Roman populace, they so enfeebled the state as to destroy the physical and moral vitality required to hold in check and under government the vast repository of forces in the exploited Empire. The direct cause of Rome’s decay and fall is expressed politically by the term ‘over-centralization’, which conveys in brief the real essence of imperialism as distinguished from national growth on the one hand and colonialism upon the other. Parasitism practised through taxation and usury, involved a constantly increasing centralization of the instruments of government, and a growing strain upon this government as the prey became more impoverished by the drain and showed signs of restiveness. ‘The evolution of this centralized society was as logical as every other work of nature. When force reached the stage where it expressed itself exclusively through money the governing class ceased to be chosen because they were valiant or eloquent, artistic, learned or devout, and were selected solely because they had the faculty of acquiring and keeping wealth. As long as the weak retained enough vitality to produce something which could be absorbed, this oligarchy was invariable; and, for very many years after the native peasantry of Gaul and Italy had perished from the land, new blood, injected from more tenacious races, kept the dying civilization alive. The weakness of the moneyed class lay in this very power, for they not only killed the producer, but in the strength of their acquisitiveness they failed to propagate themselves.’

This is the largest, planest instance history presents of the social parasite process by which a moneyed interest within the state, usurping the reins of government, makes for imperial expansion in order to fasten economic suckers into foreign bodies so as to drain them of their wealth in order to support domestic luxury. The new imperialism differs in no vital point from this old example. The element of political tribute is now absent, or quite subsidiary, and the crudest forms of slavery have disappeared: some elements of more genuine and disinterested government serve to qualify and and mask the distinctively parasitic nature of the later sort. But nature is not mocked: the laws which, operative throughout nature, doom the parasite to atrophy, decay, and final extinction, are not evaded by nations any more than by individual organisms. The greater complexity of the modern process, the endeavour to escape the parasitic reaction by rendering some real but quite unequal and inadequate services to ‘the host’, may retard but cannot finally avert the natural consequences of living upon others. The claim that an imperial state forcibly subjugating other peoples and their lands does so for the purpose of rendering services to the conquered equal to those which she exacts is notoriously false: she neither intends equivalent services nor is capable of rendering them, and the pretence that such benefits to the governed form a leading motive or result of imperialism implies a degree of moral or intellectual obliquity so grave as itself to form a new peril for any nation fostering so false a notion of the nature of its conduct. ‘Let the motive be in the deed, not in the event,’ says a Persian proverb…

Imperialism is a depraved choice of national life, imposed by self-seeking interests which appeal to the lusts of quantitative acquisitiveness and of forceful domination surviving in a nation from early centuries of animal struggle for existence. Its adoption as a policy implies a deliberate renunciation of that cultivation of the higher inner qualities which for a nation as for its individual constitutes the ascendancy of reason over brute impulse. It is the besetting sin of all successful state, and its penalty is unalterable in the order of nature.

(Pp. 15-18).

Financial Capitalism Operating to Exploit Former Colonies and Undermine Domestic Economy

While the British Empire has gone the way of Rome’s, the same forces are still operating today. The Iraq invasion was really to enable western multinationals to seize Iraq’s state industries, and for the American and Saudi oil industry to seize its oil reserves. They weren’t about bringing it democracy or freeing its citizens. Although our former African colonies are now free, they are still plundered through highly unfair trade agreements. At home manufacturing industry has declined because Thatcherite economics favours the financial sector. And the immensely rich now hoard their wealth in offshore tax havens or invest it abroad, rather than in domestic industry. Thus denying British industry investment and making millions of domestic workers unemployed. There’s a further parallel in that in the later Roman Empire, the senatorial aristocracy retreated to their estates rather than pay tax, and so the tax burden increasingly fell on the ordinary Roman citizen. This is the same as the way the Tories have given vast tax cuts to the rich, which have ensured that the tax burden must also be increasingly borne by the poor.

Conservatives have also drawn parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and today’s west. This has mostly been about non-White immigration, which they have compared to the barbarian invasions. But as Hobson’s Imperialism showed, capitalism and imperialism were connected and together responsible for Rome’s decline and fall. 

But strangely they don’t talk about that!

 

 

Tony Greenstein on What Corbyn Should Have Said to Andrew Neil

In his piece today demolishing the anti-Semitism witch-hunt against the Labour Party, and Jeremy Corbyn’s absolute capitulation to the liars and smear merchants behind it, Tony Greenstein suggests how Corbyn should have handled Andrew Neil in an interview he gave with the broadcaster on his politics show back in November.

Neil challenged Corbyn to apologise to the Jewish community for the anti-Semitism that was rampant in the Labour party and his failure to deal with it. Anti-Semitism was not rampant in the Labour party, and Corbyn had dealt very effectively with real anti-Semitism. Greenstein therefore rightly says that Corbyn should have refused, saying he had nothing to apologise for. And then he should gone on the attack pointing out Neil’s hypocrisy in asking the question. When Neil was editor of the Sunday Times, he hired David Irving to write a piece about the supposed Goebbel’s diaries. That’s the David Irving, who really was an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier and was proven in the court case he lost against Deborah Lipstadt. And then he could have raised the issue of Taki’s continuing employment with the Spectator. Taki really is an anti-Semite, who recently praised the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in the magazine’s pages. This would have been extremely uncomfortable for Neil, whose chairman of the board government the wretched rag. When Owen Jones raised this very issue when he was on one of Neil’s wretched programmes, Neil was visibly frightened and asked if he was trying to get him sacked. Greenstein writes

‘That Andrew Neil Interview and David Irving

Not once did Schneider, Milne and Carrie Murphy ask themselves why, if the ‘anti-Semitism’ offensive was genuine, that it was the Right who were its most ardent advocates? One of its most fervent supporters was BBC broadcaster Andrew Neil. Neil crucified Corbyn in an election interview in November 2019 when he asked whether Corbyn would apologise to the Jewish community for Labour anti-Semitism.

It was a predictable question and there was a simple response. ‘I have nothing to apologise for’. Corbyn could then have gone on to condemn Labour’s genuine racism, against Black people:

 ‘I do however wish to apologise to Britain’s Black community for Labour’s previous support for the ‘hostile environment’ policy and the Windrush scandal. Our decision not to oppose the 2014 Immigration Act was scandalous.’

When Neil responded, listing examples of Labour ‘anti-Semitism’, such as the attempts to deselect Louise Ellman and Zionist diva Luciana Berger, there was a very simple response.

Corbyn could have told Neil that he had no intention of taking lessons on anti-Semitism from someone who, as Editor of the Sunday Times had hired a holocaust denier, David Irving, to examine the Goebbels Diaries which had just been discovered in a Moscow archive! As Jewish historian David Cesarani commented: ‘David Irving denies the gas chambers. Anyone who deals with him is tainted with that.’

And whilst Neil was spluttering Corbyn could have mentioned the fact that when Boris Johnson was Editor of The Spectator he hired Taki, the owner of Takis magazine for whom David Duke of the KKK wrote. Taki himself was no slouch when it came to anti-Semitism.  As his biography records:

‘He (Boris) could have dispensed with Taki… but consistently chose not to, despite entreaties from many critics, including his own father-in-law Charles Wheeler. It is down to Boris that Taki was able to run columns on ‘bongo bongo land’, West Indians ‘multiplying like flies’ and one on the world Jewish conspiracy, in which he described himself as a ‘soi-disant anti-Semite’.

Even the right-wing owner of the Spectator Conrad Black, asked Boris to dismiss Taki after he had criticised Black for marrying a Jewish woman. Boris refused. Taki wrote for the Spectator for as long as Boris was editor. And who was Chairman of the Board of Press Holdings Media Group which owns The Spectator? Andrew Neil!

Of course, having accepted the ‘anti-Semitism’ narrative, Corbyn had no response. Not once did he point out the hypocrisy of Britain’s racist tabloids and the BBC for having ignored the Windrush Scandal, in which Black British citizens were deported to their death, instead concentrating on Labour ‘anti-Semitism’ which didn’t hurt a single Jewish person.’

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/04/pt-2-labours-leaked-report-sad-sorry.html

This is all absolutely correct. Anti-Black racism is far more prevalent than anti-Semitism, and far more respectable. There would have rightly been a storm had May’s government similarly rounded up Jews of foreign parentage on the same grounds. But Cameron and May felt able to deport the Windrush migrants, who had every right to remain in this country, because of anti-Black racism.

Unfortunately Corbyn caved in to Neil and the other smear merchants in the media and Conservative political establishment. And in doing so he not only allowed himself to be ousted, but also decent anti-racists and his own supporters, people like Livingstone, Mike, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni, Marc Wadsworth, Cyril Chilson, and Greenstein himself, to be smeared and expelled.

Forget about the “Corona Bond.” Should the ECB Purchase Eurozone Government Bond ETFs?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/05/2020 - 8:50am in

By Elham Saeidinezhad | In recent history, one of a few constants about the European Union (EU) is that it follows the U.S. footstep after any disaster. After the COVID-19 crisis, the Fed expanded the scope and duration of the Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF) to ease the fiscal conditions of the states and the cities. The facility enables lending to states and municipalities to help manage cash flow stresses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In a similar move, the ECB expanded its support for the virus-hit EU economies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Initiatives such as Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) allow the ECB to open the door to buy Greek sovereign bonds for the first time since the country’s sovereign debt crisis by announcing a waiver for its debt. 

There the similarity ends. While the market sentiment about the Fed’s
support program for municipals is very positive, a few caveats in the ECB’s
program have made the Union vulnerable to a market run. Fitch has just cut
Italy’s credit rating to just above junk. The problem is that unlike the U.S.,
the European Union is only a monetary union,
and it does not have a fiscal union. The investors’ prevailing
view is that the ECB is not doing enough to support governments of southern
Europe, such as Spain, Italy, and Greece, who are hardest hit by the virus.
Anxieties about the Union’s fiscal stability are behind repeated calls for the
European Union to issue common eurozone bonds or “corona bond.” Yet, the
political case, especially from Northern European countries, is firmly against
such plans. Further, despite the extreme financial needs of the Southern
countries, the ECB is reluctant to lift its self-imposed limits not to buy more
than a third of the eligible sovereign bonds of any single country and to purchase
sovereign bonds in proportion to the weight of each country’s investment in its
capital. This unwillingness is also a political choice rather than an economic
necessity.

It is in that context that this piece proposes the ECB to include the
Eurozone government bond ETF to its asset purchasing program. Purchasing
government debts via the medium of the ETFs can provide the key to the thorny
dilemma that is shaking the foundation of the European Union. It can also be
the right step towards creating a borrowing system that would allow poorer EU
nations to take out cheap loans with the more affluent members guaranteeing the
funds would be returned. The unity of EU members faces a new, painful test with
the coronavirus crisis. This is why the Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte
warned that if the bloc fails to stand up to it, the entire project might “lose
its foundations.” The ECB’s decision to purchase Eurozone sovereign debt ETFs
would provide an equal opportunity for all the EU countries to meet the COVID-19
excessive financial requirements at an acceptable price. Further, compared to
the corona bond, it is less politically incorrect and more common amongst the
central bankers, including those at the Fed and the Bank of Japan.

In the index fund ecosystem, the ETFs are more liquid and easier to trade
than the basket of underlying bonds. What lies behind this “liquidity
transformation
” is the different equilibrium structure and the
efficiency properties in markets for these two asset classes. In other words, the
dealers make markets for these assets under various market conditions. In the
market for sovereign bonds, the debt that is issued by governments, especially
countries with lower credit ratings, do not trade very much. So, the dealers
expect to establish long positions in these bonds. Such positions expose them
to the counterparty risk and the high cost of holding inventories. Higher price
risk and funding costs are correlated with an increase in spreads for dealers.
Higher bid-ask spreads, in turn, makes trading of sovereign debt securities,
especially those issued by countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, and
Greece, more expensive and less attractive.

On the contrary, the ETFs, including the Eurozone government bond ETFs, are
considerably more tradable than the underlying bonds for at least two reasons.
First, the ETF functions as the “price discovery” vehicle
because this is where investors choose to transact. The economists call the ETF
a price discovery vehicle since it reveals the prices that best match the
buyers with the sellers. At these prices, the buying and selling quantities are
just in balance, and the dealers’ profitability is maximized. According to
Treynor Model, these “market prices” are the closest thing to the “fundamental
value” as they balance the supply and demand. Such an equilibrium structure has
implications for the dealers. The make markers in the ETFs are more likely to
have a “matched book,” which means that their liabilities are the same as their
assets and are hedged against the price risk. The instruments that are traded
under such efficiency properties, including the ETFs, enjoy a high level of
market liquidity.

Second, traders, such as asset managers, who want to sell the ETF, would not
need to be worried about the underlying illiquid bonds. Long
before investors require to acquire these bonds, the sponsor of the ETF, known
as “authorized participants” will be buying the
securities that the ETF wants to hold. Traditionally, authorized participants
are large banks. They earn bid-ask spreads by providing market liquidity for
these underlying securities in the secondary market or service fees collected
from clients yearning to execute primary trades. Providing this service is not
risk-free. Mehrling
makes clear that the problem is that supporting markets in this way
requires the ability to expand banks’ balance sheets on both sides, buying the
unwanted assets and funding that purchase with borrowed money. The strength of
banks to do that on their account is now severely limited. Despite such balance
sheet constraints, by acting as “dealers of near last resort,” banks provide an
additional line of defense in the risk management system of the asset managers.
Banks make it less likely for the investors to end up purchasing the illiquid
underlying assets.

That the alchemists have created another accident in waiting has been a fear
of bond market mavens and regulators for several years. Yet, in the era of
COVID-19, the alchemy of the ETF liquidity could dampen the crisis in making by
boosting virus-hit countries’ financial capacity. Rising debt across
Europe due to the COVID-19 crisis could imperil the sustainability of public
finances. This makes Treasury bonds issued by countries such as Greece, Spain,
Portugal, and Italy less tradable. Such uncertainty would increase the funding
costs of external bond issuance by sovereigns. The ECB’s attempt to purchase
Eurozone government bonds ETFs could partially resolve such funding problems
during the crisis. Further, such operations are less risky than buying the
underlying assets.

Some might argue the ETFs create an illusion of liquidity and expose the affluent members of the ECB to an unacceptably high level of defaults by the weakest members. Yet, at least two “real” elements, namely the price discovery process and the existence of authorized participants who act as the dealers of the near last resort, allows the ETFs to conduct liquidity transformation and become less risky than the underlying bonds. Passive investing sometimes is called as “worse than Marxism.” The argument is that at least communists tried to allocate resources efficiently, while index funds just blindly invest according to an arbitrary benchmark’s formula. Yet, devouring capitalism might be the most efficient way for the ECB to circumvent political obstacles and save European capitalism from itself.

Elham Saeidinezhad is lecturer in Economics at UCLA. Before joining the Economics Department at UCLA, she was a research economist in International Finance and Macroeconomics research group at Milken Institute, Santa Monica, where she investigated the post-crisis structural changes in the capital market as a result of macroprudential regulations. Before that, she was a postdoctoral fellow at INET, working closely with Prof. Perry Mehrling and studying his “Money View”.  Elham obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Sheffield, UK, in empirical Macroeconomics in 2013. You may contact Elham via the Young Scholars Directory

The post Forget about the “Corona Bond.” Should the ECB Purchase Eurozone Government Bond ETFs? appeared first on Economic Questions .

Yanis Varoufakis on Larry Summers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/04/2020 - 5:29am in

More Larry Summers content. with him much in the news as a Biden adviser.

From Yanis Varoufakis’s Adults in the Room, pp. 21–24:

Determined to delay the serious business ahead of us a few moments more, I signalled to the bartender for a whiskey of my own and said, ‘Before you tell me about my “mistake”, let me say, Larry, how important your messages of support and advice have been in the past weeks. I am truly grateful. Especially as for years I have been referring to you as the Prince of Darkness.’

Unperturbed, Larry Summers replied, ‘At least you called me a prince. I have been called worse.’

For the next couple of hours the conversation turned serious. We talked about technical issues: debt swaps, fiscal policy, market reforms, ‘bad’ banks. On the political front he warned me that I was losing the propaganda war and that the ‘Europeans’, as he called Europe’s powers that be, were out to get me. He suggested, and I agreed, that any new deal for my long-suffering country should be one that Germany’s chancellor could present to her voters as her idea, her personal legacy.

Things were proceeding better than I had hoped, with broad agreement on everything that mattered. It was no mean feat to secure the support of the formidable Larry Summers in the struggle against the powerful institutions, governments and media conglomerates demanding my government’s surrender and my head on a silver platter. Finally, after agreeing our next steps, and before the combined effects of fatigue and alcohol forced us to call it a night, Summers looked at me intensely and asked a question so well rehearsed that I suspected he had used it to test others before me.1

‘There are two kinds of politicians,’ he said: ‘insiders and outsiders. The outsiders prioritize their freedom to speak their version of the truth. The price of their freedom is that they are ignored by the insiders, who make the important decisions. The insiders, for their part, follow a sacrosanct rule: never turn against other insiders and never talk to outsiders about what insiders say or do. Their reward? Access to inside information and a chance, though no guarantee, of influencing powerful people and outcomes.’ With that Summers arrived at his question. ‘So, Yanis,’ he said, ‘which of the two are you?”

Instinct urged me to respond with a single word; instead I used quite a few.

‘By character I am a natural outsider,’ I began, ‘but,’ I hastened to add, ‘I am prepared to strangle my character if it would help strike a new deal for Greece that gets our people out of debt prison. Have no doubt about this, Larry: I shall behave like a natural insider for as long as it takes to get a viable agreement on the table – for Greece, indeed for Europe. But if the insiders I am dealing with prove unwilling to release Greece from its eternal debt bondage, I will not hesitate to turn whistle-blower on them – to return to the outside, which is my natural habitat anyway.’

‘Fair enough,’ he said after a thoughtful pause.”

“Powering through the watery curtain in pristine solitude, I took stock of the encounter. Summers was an ally, albeit a reluctant one. He had no time for my government’s left-wing politics, but he understood that our defeat was not in America’s interest. He knew that the eurozone’s economic policies were not just atrocious for Greece but terrible for Europe and, by extension, for the United States too. And he knew that Greece was merely the laboratory where these failed policies were being tested and developed before their implementation everywhere across Europe. This is why Summers offered a helping hand. We spoke the same economic language, despite different political ideologies, and had no difficulty reaching a quick agreement on what our aims and tactics ought to be. Nevertheless, my answer had clearly bothered him, even if he did not show it. He would have got into his taxi a much happier man, I felt, had I demonstrated some interest in becoming an insider. As this book’s publication confirms, that was never likely to happen.

Beeb Attempts to Refute Tory Sock Puppet Allegations

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 5:22am in

This morning I caught a brief item by the Beeb tackling what they called the ‘rumours’ of the Tories using fake Twitter accounts to post messages supporting Boris Johnson and pressing for a return to the herd immunity policy. When this became difficult for them to justify outright, they simply retreated into calling for the lockdown to be lifted. Which would pretty much be the same policy. It just wouldn’t describe itself as ‘herd immunity’.

The plot was uncovered on Monday by John O’Connell of Rightwing Watch, a site which I think tackles Fascism and right-wing extremism. Which would, judging by the Tories horrendous policies and long history of flirting and supporting extreme right-wing parties and ideologies, naturally include them, and particularly Boris Johnson. O’Connell believed he had found 128 fake Twitter accounts posing as NHS staff. These seemed to come from the DHSC through a marketing company that had only one client, the DHSC, four staff, all ex-DHSC. The accounts themselves had been posted by a single person, who was herself on secondment from government.

O’Connell presented as evidence a Tweet purporting to be from a deaf junior doctor, Susan, who said that she was transitioning this year. She said she was fighting Covid-19 with other LGBTQ+ people. ‘Susan’, however, didn’t exist, and the photo of her was an NHS paediatric nurse from Greece. O’Connell contacted the Department of Health and Social Care to get their response. There was absolutely none, and his offers to go through their data was refused. When he tried again, they told him it was also misinformation, and if you repeated it, you were harming our common attempt to battle the Coronavirus. And the messages themselves all mysteriously disappeared.

From the details O’Connell gave, it sounds like he has the government bang to rights, including the very identity of whoever posted the tweets. And it’s not like Boris hasn’t done it before. The Tories did, using Cambridge Analytica for Brexit, and Dominic Cummings was unmasked by the Absurder as the noxious personality behind the Twitter account @toryeducation, which abused the government’s critics and opponents. This was when Cummings was a mere spad at the department of education under Gove. And I think Boris has been using a bot army more recently too.

The Beeb, however, in their wisdom decided to give the story no credence. The government and Twitter had both denied that these fake accounts had been created, and O’Connell had not handed over his data. The only evidence was the Tweet from ‘Susan’ and the 128 deleted accounts. ‘Susan’ was, the Beeb’s correspondent explained, a genuine fake account. But the character with its LGBTQ+ identification looked like it was by someone trying to discredit Boris by posting a fake identity that looked like it came from him or his supporters. And so the Beeb decided that the claims were just rumours after all.

At no time was it mentioned that Boris, Cummings and the Tories have used such bot accounts. O’Connell wasn’t even named, let alone interviewed to present his side of the argument. Perhaps the Beeb contacted him and he was unavailable for comment. But somehow I doubt that. Another Tweeter had tried to get the Beeb in the form of Laura Kuenssberg, as well as Robert Peston and a number of websites and news organisations interested, including Zelo Street and Novara Media. Mike and Zelo Street put up articles about it, but the lamestream media had zero interest when Zelo Street put up their articles yesterday.

I don’t know, but it seems to me that O’Connell is correct, and the Tories and Twitter are lying. As for the Beeb, they now have such an extreme pro-Tory, anti-Labour bias that I don’t think they can be trusted on stories like this. O’Connell has said that he doesn’t want to be crucified like the people, who revealed Cambridge Analytica. He’s therefore waiting for the evidence to be ‘gold-plated’ before he reveals it in full. It’ll be very interesting if and when he does.

In the meantime, the Tory supporters were out on Twitter screaming that he was a crank, and, unsurprisingly, a left-wing anti-Semite. Yes, we’re back to the anti-Semitism smears again. The fact that the smear merchants were reduced to name calling and smearing once again to me acts as another factor in his favour.

O’Connell’s probably right, as the abuse directed against him shows that certain people are very, very worried.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/20/more-coronavirus-propaganda-hundreds-of-fake-nhs-social-media-accounts-set-up-by-health-dept/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/nhs-fake-twitter-accounts-exposed.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/tory-twitter-dirty-tricks-warning-from.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/fake-tweeters-shoot-messenger.html

Tories Create Sock Puppet Twitter Accounts to Push Anti-Lockdown Propaganda

The Tories don’t get any better. The party that spent public money on the Institute for Statecraft and its wretched Democracy Initiative, or whatever the wretched organisation was called, to put out anti-Labour, anti-Corbyn propaganda from its army of sympathetic hacks on Twitter has once again been exposed using pretty much the same reprehensible tactics. The pretext for giving the Democracy Initiative our hard earned tax money was to defend democracy against Russian on-line influence. In reality this meant targeting any British or European politico that the right didn’t like. This time there seems to have been absolutely no excuse whatsoever. They did it simply to push propaganda. And when caught the sock accounts were deleted and the Department for Health and Social Care went on the attack, vehemently denying they had done any such thing, and shouting that it was all misinformation that would damage the common effort to combat Coronavirus. Rubbish. The Department was caught red-handed, and it’s got the weaselly paw-prints of the man Zelo Street calls ‘Polecat’ Dom all over it.

Mike put up the story last night. John O’Connell, of the awesome Rightwing Watch, had discovered 128 fake accounts, 9 probable fakes and a further 14, possibles, which had been created by someone at the Department. 43 of those fake accounts used photographs of real NHS staff. One of these was for a deaf NHS junior doctor, ‘Susan’, who was due to transition into someone of the opposite gender. ‘Susan’ gave a shout out to the LGBTQ+ community, and praised Boris Johnson. The photograph used for the Tweet was identified by John Scott as that of Mia Magklavani, a paediatric staff nurse from Greece. The fake accounts were trying to push for the ‘herd immunity’ solution to the crisis, although this changed and instead they were arguing that the lockdown should be lifted.

The DHSC created these sock accounts through a marketing company set up a few months ago. This company apparently only has one client – the DHSC, and a staff of three, all ex-DHSC. The posts were sent using the mass-posting tool Hootsuite, whose account was registered to one person with four assigned contributors. That person is a government employee on temporary secondment to the department.

O’Connell contacted the DHSC about this, naturally making some inquiries. They refused to comment. He also offered to provide all his data to them to help them with an internal inquiry, which they declined. He also asked to deal directly with their Soc Med and Comms teams to work through their data. They refused that offer too. When he asked for further comment, he got this reply from the Department:

These claims are categorically false.

To share disinformation of this kind undermines the national effort against coronavirus.

Before anyone shares unsubstantiated claims online, use the SHARE checklist to help stop the spread of harmful content:
➡https://sharechecklist.gov.uk/ 

O’Connell makes it very clear that no-one should be surprised by these tactics. They’re what the Tories did when they were pushing Brexit with Cambridge Analytica. And at the general election First Draft, a monitoring body, found that they issued 5,952 political ads on Facebook that they called ‘indecent, dishonest and untruthful.’ The Labour Party didn’t issue any deceitful advertising.

Mike in his article on this squalid little tactic advises people not to use the ‘sharechecklist’ link, as the Tories at the changed their publicity department’s monicker to ‘FactCheckUK’ at the election. This purported to be an independent fact-checking organisation, and calmly reassured anyone who used it that the Tories were telling the truth, and Labour were lying. Which was more lies, of course.

John O’Connell further states that the DHSC and various NHS trusts have shown no interest in the welfare of the 43 NHS staff whose photos were used. He naturally wonders if this runs contrary to their duty of care. And Mike concludes his article about this by asking rhetorically

And why would anybody use a government website to check whether content is harmful, when it’s the government that is accused of creating it?

The danger is that the Tory government is undermining trust in the institutions we need to be able to trust. It is deadly dangerous – but the Tories are playing the fool.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/20/more-coronavirus-propaganda-hundreds-of-fake-nhs-social-media-accounts-set-up-by-health-dept/

Zelo Street added further information, noting that another Tweeter had tried to alert various media figures to the scandal, like Laura Kuenssberg, Robert Peston, Peter Jukes of Byline media, and Novara Media, The Skwawkbox, Zelo Street itself, and Carole Cadwalladr. Unfortunately, although Peter Jukes responded stating that it looked very much like Cambridge Analytica/ Russian bot farm tactics, the other major media figures appear to be uninterested. Zelo Street suggested that it might be because they’re afraid of Polecat Dom.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/nhs-fake-twitter-accounts-exposed.html

Zelo Street followed up their piece with a further article arguing that Dominic Cummings was very likely behind this torrent of sock puppetry and falsehoods, as the Polecat has previous. He was rumoured to be the man behind an abusive account, @toryeducation, when he was but a lowly Spad working for Michael Gove in the education department. This Twitter account poured scorn and abuse on politicos like Margaret Hodge, Chris Patten, Tristram Hunt, Hannah Richardson, Robert Peston, the Beeb, as well as Zelo Street and Tom Barry of Boris Watch.

Cummings denied he was behind these tweets, but Toby Helm, at that time a hack at the Observer, revealed that the Department had taken steps to stop the Twitter feed issuing any more abuse against its opponents. He also stated that the Observer had said that two contributors to it were Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete. Under the code governing spads, disseminating party political material and personal abuse were sackable offences. Cummings and de Zoete had not denied they contributed to the feed, merely saying that they were not @toryeducation.

And, like the 128 sock puppets John O’Connell discovered, @toryeducation also mysteriously vanished. It was registered as an official Tory account on Twitter until the day after the Observer told the world who was behind it. And a year after this all occurred, bloated badger-haired Libertarian Fascist Guido Fawkes revealed that it was indeed Cummings who had been the Twitter account while discussing a spat between Gove and Clegg over free school meals.

Zelo Street concludes

‘Cummings is not, it seems, subject to the controlling hand of his current boss right now, and restored to health following his brush with Covid-19. And by complete coincidence you understand, the Twitter fakery is firing up again. As Private Eye magazine might have put it, I wonder if the two are in any way related? I think we should be told.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/04/tory-twitter-dirty-tricks-warning-from.html

It seems O’Connell has got the Tories bang to rights, right down to the personal identity of the woman behind all these fake accounts. And it really does look like Dominic Cummings is also behind it, although given their record of flagrant, gross mendacity, he doesn’t seem to have broken any established Tory patterns of conduct whatsoever. It would be rather more surprising if they told the truth instead.

But it also shows the Tories are afraid. Very afraid. According to polls, 65 per cent of the public think that Johnson is doing a good job, which shows how effective media spin and propaganda is. But with the death toll increasing and medical staff running out of PPE, that spin appears to be wearing very thin.

And so they’ve started lying again, to cover up their massive failures and the deaths for which they’re responsible.

The sock puppets’ support for the discredited ‘herd immunity’ policy and an end to the lockdown also shows how worried they are about their donors’ interests. The party’s backers clearly want the lockdown ended so that they can continue making big bucks.

Even though this policy could lead to 40,000 deaths, or even as many as 200 – 250,000.

But still, Murdoch and those hedge fund managers must have their billions.

 

 

 

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/04/2020 - 3:19am in

Tags 

Radio, eu, greece

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

April 16, 2020 Yanis Varoufakis talks about life under COVID-19, the economic crisis, vultures stripping Greece, and democratizing the EU (includes bonus audio clip of Jim Cramer recalling his Trotskyist past)

Viktor Orban Uses Pandemic to Become Dictator of Hungary

The onward march of the extreme right in eastern Europe takes another fateful goosestep. Viktor Orban, the already very authoritarian president of Hungary, has used the Coronavirus crisis as the pretext to pass legislation destroying the last vestiges of the democracy there, establishing him as the country’s virtual dictator.

On Monday, Zelo Street posted a piece based on an article in the Groaniad, reporting that Hungary’s parliament, dominated by his xenophobic Fidesz Party, was expected to grant him sweeping powers. These will give Orban the ability to rule by decree. Elections will be banned. The speaker of the Hungarian parliament and parliamentary groups will be informed of the government’s actions. However, spreading false information will become a criminal offence punishable by a long prison sentence. It will be prerogative of Orban’s Fidesz MPs to decide when the emergency is over. Orban has said that when it is, he will surrender all his powers without exception. However, there’s absolutely no guarantee of this, as the laws he passed in 2016 against asylum seekers, which were also supposed to be temporary, are still in place. It’s therefore possible that a compliant parliament will allow Orban to hang on to some or all of them.

Zelo Street stated unequivocally that the EU should expel Hungary because of this seizure of power. The Sage of Crewe pointed out that when the EU was the EEC, and only consisted of France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries – Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the dictatorships to the east and west of the bloc stood absolutely no chance of getting. This meant the Fascist dictatorships of Portugal and Spain, Greece under the military rule of the colonels, Ceausescu’s Romania and the DDR (East Germany) under Erich Honecker. He remarks that Hungary’s continued membership of the EU has been a test for its remaining member states, one that they have so far failed to tackle. He concludes

‘Viktor Orbán may be more Chaplin than Hitler. But if the values of the EU are to mean anything, the Union cannot permit a dictatorship within its club. So expel the SOB.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/03/eu-must-now-expel-hungary.html

Zelo Street describes this legislation as an ‘enabling law’. The reference is to the Enabling Act which formally made Adolf Hitler dictator of Germany and suspended parliamentary democracy. And the Nazis, and the Italian Fascists before them, also seized power in response to a crisis. Fascist governments are crisis regimes. In the case of Italy and Germany, the crisis was first of all the breakdown in parliamentary democracy, as the pillars of the liberal regime in those nations stopped cooperating. In Germany this led to the president, Hindenburg, ruling by decree. This was succeeded by the recession caused by the Wall Street Crash and the massive uncontrolled inflation that saw the Mark as worth far less than the paper it was printed on. This discredited capitalism for millions of Germans, leading to a surge in votes for the Nazis and the Communists. And finally there was the Reichstag fire, which allowed the Nazis to declare a state of emergency and begin rounding up subversives. Which meant anybody who didn’t cede power to Hitler, and particularly Communists and the democratic socialists of the SPD.

Fidesz is extremely xenophobic and, like many political parties in the former eastern bloc, in particular anti-Semitic and islamophobic. I’ve no doubt Orban would be overjoyed if he could somehow blame the pandemic on Gypsies, Jews, homosexuals and Muslims. And I’m afraid that where Orban’s gone, other countries will follow, such as Poland under the Law and Justice Party. Or even Britain, where Boris has also passed legislation granting him extraordinary sweeping powers to deal with the pandemic emergency.

The EU’s failure to do so is an indictment of the hypocrisy of its leading politicos. Years ago Private Eye published an account of the EU’s dictatorial attitude towards the states then seeking membership in its ‘Brussels Sprouts’ column. The terms and conditions were very detailed and were not open to negotiation. Or at least, not very much. One of the countries joining was the Czech Republic. It’s president, Vaclav Klaus, was so outraged by his country’s dictatorial treatment, and told the EU negotiating team that his country had not suffered such treatment for nearly 30 years. This was in the late ’90s – early 2000s, so he was probably referring to the Russian invasion which ended the Prague Spring, the attempt by Czech premier Anton Dubcek to make Communism popular and democratic. This infuriated two of the EU’s team, the French former radical, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and a German MEP. They immediately climbed on their high horses and started angrily shouting about how the EU was the opposite, and was the champion of democracy. And I can remember how, about ten years ago, the EU managed to leave many people highly unimpressed when it sanctimoniously awarded a peace prize to itself, claiming that it had successfully kept the peace in Europe. Well, possibly. But I also think NATO and a general fear across the continent of another war had played a major party. If the EU is unable, or unwilling, to do anything about Orban’s seizure of power, then all the verbiage about defending democracy is simply empty, vacuous nonsense. As readers of this blog will know, I am absolutely no supporter of Brexit. But it is true that EU is an immensely flawed institution.

It’s too much to claim that the EU is some kind of authoritarian superstate, an EUSSR, as the Kippers and Brexiteers liked to describe it, or some kind of successor to the Third Reich or Napoleon’s empire. But with Orban seizing dictatorial power, it is true to say now that the EU is no bulwark of democracy either.

 

Tory Cuts Destroyed Our Preparedness Against Pandemic Threat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/03/2020 - 8:01am in

On Friday, Mike put up a piece commenting on and reporting a devastating article from the Huffington Post. This revealed that the Tories’ cuts, imposed in the name of austerity and cheap government, had destroyed or discarded the plans previous governments had drawn up against the threat of a global pandemic.

The Cabinet Office had apparently been drawing up a National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies, listing the possible threats to the United Kingdom. At the top of the list in each document was pandemic flu. Mike states clearly that the British government knew an event like the present global emergency was coming. However, the strategy to cope with it was written in 2011 and not updated. And it gets worse. The government’s plan for getting the right messages across to the public during a pandemic, the UK Pandemic Influenza Communications Strategy, was written in 2012. It is now very out of date in its assumptions about how and where people get their information. The guide to dealing with the pandemic’s fatalities, which names key contacts, was written four years before that, in 2008. And the government abolished the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Team, a section within the department of Health, was abolished in 2011. The Tories thus got rid of the very organisation, which would have had the expertise to deal with the pandemic because they were so keen on inflicting cuts.

As a result, according to the HuffPo, “the government has had to either make policy up as it has gone along or is having to beg, borrow and steal from other countries who have been better prepared”.

This is in stark contrast to one of BoJob’s announcements today. Our glorious leader, or one of his minions, declared that Britain was a world leader in tackling the virus. Now this claim was made in the context of the amount of money the government was going to devote to the international effort to develop a vaccine – £500 million. But the statement could be taken to mean that Britain leads the rest of the world in combating the pandemic. Which we don’t. The Chinese are reporting no new cases, or were, and half of the new cases reported in South Korea are of foreigners. It would appear that these countries, which imposed a lockdown much earlier, have been far more successful than we have in tackling it. And other countries have been far less impressed with Johnson. The Greek newspaper Ethnos declared that BoJob was a worse danger than the Coronavirus and reported that he had publicly and essentially asked Britons to accept death. This is in reference to his speech where he declared that Britons were going to lose their loved ones before their time. As he said this, the government was only issuing guidelines but had not imposed a lockdown. The Irish Times stated that Boris was gambling with the health of his citizens. He was. He and his adviser, Dominic Cummings, had decided that they were going to deal with the threat by allowing the disease to spread. The British people would develop herd immunity and the economy would be allowed to continue unharmed by a lockdown. And it was just going to be too bad if a few old people died. The Irish government is relieved that BoJob has at last seen sense. Boris was apparently forced to impose the lockdown because Macron told him he would close the French borders to us if he didn’t. And the mayor of Bergamo, the Italian town hardest hit by the virus, Giorgio Gori, was so frightened by Boris’ complacency and inaction that he flew his two daughters home, because he believed they’d be safer.

Also states that Boris’ singular lack of action on the virus, and the way he dragged his heels before doing anything, bears out criticisms that the Tories have a eugenicist attitude to the poor, the weak and the disabled. They regard them as useless eaters, biologically unfit, who do not deserve to live.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/03/26/the-tories-axed-their-defence-against-coronavirus-years-before-it-arrived-deaths-were-inevitable/

And the Tories long-term attitude towards the poverty and mass death inflicted by austerity really does suggest that attitude. They seem to believe that the state is only wasting resources by supporting them and they should be allowed to die, so that the biologically superior, meaning the rich and especially the corporate elite, should be left free to do as they wish without government interference and the high taxes required by a proper welfare state

Scientists have been worried for decades about the threat of a pandemic. Some of this fear comes from previous viral outbreaks, such as AIDS in the 1980s, and avian flu and swine flu in the 1990s and early part of this century. I guess that the Tories decided that because these diseases did not require the current measures, such precautions weren’t necessary and could be scrapped.

It was a massively short-sighted decision that has undoubtedly cost lives that could otherwise have been saved. 

 

Coronavirus: The only thing spreading “exponentially” is fear

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/03/2020 - 7:00am in

Kit Knightly Shall we start off this little overview with some cold hard facts? Not the ones about death rates, and the flu, and clinical diagnosis. We’ve done that. A lot. No this is just simple maths; There are, according to official estimates, fewer people with coronavirus today, than yesterday. That has been true every …

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