World news

When will America stop participating in Yemen's genocidal war? | Mark Weisbrot

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/11/2018 - 1:56am in

Sooner or later, the Trump administration will be forced to withdraw from this war. But how many people will die before it happens?

On Wednesday the Republican leadership briefly transformed the US House of Representatives into a theater of the absurd in order to block a debate and vote on US military participation in a genocidal war.

In an odd spectacle, representatives went back and forth between speaking about wolves, who kill other animals, to the Saudi monarchy, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people – mostly civilians including children – and pushed 14 million people to the brink of starvation.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington and the president of Just Foreign Policy, is the author of Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy (2015, Oxford University Press).

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Oh for the days when it was all Brussels’ fault! | David Mitchell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 29/07/2018 - 7:00pm in

Jeremy Hunt blamed our Brexit shambles on the EU – the favoured whipping boy that has served British politicians for decades. That won’t wash any more…

Who would have thought Jeremy Hunt was such a massive nostalgic? I mean, he’s not called Jeremy Hostalgic! Seriously though, it turns out he’s a real old softie and I fancy there must have been a tear in his eye on his visit to Berlin last week.

I’m not saying he misses the Nazis! Honestly! I know hyperbole is fashionable at the moment, so it’s probably worth making clear that I don’t think Jeremy Hunt is a Nazi. I mean, he’s not called Jeremy Hazi! Seriously though, the man’s not a fascist, even if I don’t much like his politics. Having said that, English is all about usage and I reckon the word fascist is regularly used online to mean “someone whose politics you don’t much like”. Which, oddly, makes it a synonym for communist.

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Post Truth by Matthew D’Ancona and Post-Truth by Evan Davis review – is this really a new era of politics?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/05/2017 - 4:30pm in

Lying as the norm has been with us for a while. Is the idea of post-truth another example of liberals understanding people wrongly?

“In practice,” Evan Davis writes, “we evidently are quite happy to believe untruths.” Davis is stating what is, perhaps, the most indisputable fact regarding what has been trumpeted as the rise of a new kind of “post-truth” politics. Shrewdly, he describes the belief that we a living in a post-truth era as “an expression of frustration and anguish from a liberal class discombobulated by the political disruptions of 2016”. A catch-all term used by today’s liberals to describe upheavals that confounded their most basic beliefs, “post-truth” politics is like “populism” in implying that these unexpected shifts occurred because reason had been subverted. Duped by demagogues deploying new information technologies, voters disregarded argument and evidence in favour of manipulated emotion and fake news. The idea of truth was lost in a morass of relativism, and the politicians who controlled government for decades were abruptly dislodged from power.

Related: Fake news: an insidious trend that's fast becoming a global problem

Contrary to those who think 'peak populism' has come and gone, despair will continue to fuel extremism in Europe

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What scares the new atheists | John Gray

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/03/2015 - 5:00pm in

The vocal fervour of today’s missionary atheism conceals a panic that religion is not only refusing to decline – but in fact flourishing

In 1929, the Thinker’s Library, a series established by the Rationalist Press Association to advance secular thinking and counter the influence of religion in Britain, published an English translation of the German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s 1899 book The Riddle of the Universe. Celebrated as “the German Darwin”, Haeckel was one of the most influential public intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; The Riddle of the Universe sold half a million copies in Germany alone, and was translated into dozens of other languages. Hostile to Jewish and Christian traditions, Haeckel devised his own “religion of science” called Monism, which incorporated an anthropology that divided the human species into a hierarchy of racial groups. Though he died in 1919, before the Nazi Party had been founded, his ideas, and widespread influence in Germany, unquestionably helped to create an intellectual climate in which policies of racial slavery and genocide were able to claim a basis in science.

The Thinker’s Library also featured works by Julian Huxley, grandson of TH Huxley, the Victorian biologist who was known as “Darwin’s bulldog” for his fierce defence of evolutionary theory. A proponent of “evolutionary humanism”, which he described as “religion without revelation”, Julian Huxley shared some of Haeckel’s views, including advocacy of eugenics. In 1931, Huxley wrote that there was “a certain amount of evidence that the negro is an earlier product of human evolution than the Mongolian or the European, and as such might be expected to have advanced less, both in body and mind”. Statements of this kind were then commonplace: there were many in the secular intelligentsia – including HG Wells, also a contributor to the Thinker’s Library – who looked forward to a time when “backward” peoples would be remade in a western mould or else vanish from the world.

Related: New atheists are not scared, but they are angry | Letters

It’s inconceivable that a professed unbeliever could become president of the United States

If only the world wasn’t plagued by these troublesome God-botherers, they are always lamenting

“It is not only possible, but, on present evidence, probable that most conceptions of the good, and most ways of life, which are typical of commercial, liberal, industrialised societies will often seem altogether hateful to substantial minorities within these societies and even more hateful to most of the populations within traditional societies … As a liberal by philosophical conviction, I think I ought to expect to be hated, and to be found superficial and contemptible, by a large part of mankind.”

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The truth about evil | John Gray

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/10/2014 - 4:00pm in

Our leaders talk a great deal about vanquishing the forces of evil. But their rhetoric reveals a failure to accept that cruelty and conflict are basic human traits

When Barack Obama vows to destroy Isis’s “brand of evil” and David Cameron declares that Isis is an “evil organisation” that must be obliterated, they are echoing Tony Blair’s judgment of Saddam Hussein: “But the man’s uniquely evil, isn’t he?” Blair made this observation in November 2002, four months before the invasion of Iraq, when he invited six experts to Downing Street to brief him on the likely consequences of the war. The experts warned that Iraq was a complicated place, riven by deep communal enmities, which Saddam had dominated for over 35 years. Destroying the regime would leave a vacuum; the country could be shaken by Sunni rebellion and might well descend into civil war. These dangers left the prime minster unmoved. What mattered was Saddam’s moral iniquity. The divided society over which he ruled was irrelevant. Get rid of the tyrant and his regime, and the forces of good would prevail.

If Saddam was uniquely evil 12 years ago, we have it on the authority of our leaders that Isis is uniquely evil today. Until it swept into Iraq a few months ago, the jihadist group was just one of several that had benefited from the campaign being waged by western governments and their authoritarian allies in the Gulf in support of the Syrian opposition’s struggle to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Since then Isis has been denounced continuously and with increasing intensity; but there has been no change in the ruthless ferocity of the group, which has always practised what a radical Islamist theorist writing under the name Abu Bakr Naji described in an internet handbook in 2006 as “the management of savagery”.

Most western leaders reject the insight that destructive human conflict is rooted in flaws within human beings

Aiming to exorcise evil from the modern mind, secular liberals have ended up constructing another version of demonology

“Most Germans, so far as I could see, did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of their splendid culture was being destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work were being regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation … On the whole, people did not seem to feel that they were being cowed and held down by an unscrupulous tyranny. On the contrary, they appeared to support it with genuine enthusiasm.”

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Why Dilma Rousseff could win Brazil’s presidential election | Mark Weisbrot

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/10/2014 - 9:13pm in

The country has widely reported problems, but improvements in income and conditions for many workers mean a lot of Brazilians have done well over the past decade

When challenger Marina Silva pulled ahead of incumbent Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff in the polls a few weeks ago there was a lot of excitement in the US business press, and Brazilian financial markets.

Rousseff’s Workers’ party (PT) has been in power for 12 years, and a lot of rich and powerful people were ready for a change. Fortune seemed to favour them: the Brazilian economy, having slowed considerably over the past few years, officially went into recession this year – something that would spell the end for many incumbent presidents. Before that, there were street protests over the rising cost of public transport and government spending on the World Cup, and the event itself ended in disaster with a humiliating 7-1 defeat for the national team at the hands of Germany.

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Isis: an apocalyptic cult carving a place in the modern world | John Gray

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/08/2014 - 4:00pm in

History has witnessed millenarian violence before. But Islamic State’s modern barbarism is a daunting new threat

The rapid advance of Islamic State (Isis) through Iraq has produced panic in the west – not all of it irrational. In part this comes from a dawning recognition of the scale of the disaster that western intervention has inflicted throughout the region. By dismantling Saddam’s regime the west broke the Iraqi state. There were no jihadist groups operating in Iraq before regime change. Now the country has been torn apart by one of them. The same is true in Libya, where the overthrow of Gaddafi has produced a complete collapse of government and an “Islamic Emirate” was recently declared in Benghazi. Grandiose schemes of regime change aiming to replace tyranny by democracy have created chaos, leaving zones of anarchy in which jihadist forces can thrive.

Western intervention played an important role in the rise of Isis. By backing the Syrian rebels against Assad – another secular despot – the west gave the group an impetus it would otherwise not have had. With jihadist forces including Isis being funded from Saudi and Qatari sources, there was never much chance of a “moderate opposition” taking over in the event of Assad’s defeat. A radical Islamist regime, another failed state or some mix of the two were – and remain – the likeliest upshot. As things stand, there is not much the west can do to disable Isis in any lasting way. No one can seriously believe that this now self-financing, media-savvy and militarily skilful organisation will be snuffed out by a bombing campaign. At the same time the prospect of being sucked into an unending ground war is deeply disturbing.

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Glenn Greenwald: how the NSA tampers with US-made internet routers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/05/2014 - 7:39am in

The NSA has been covertly implanting interception tools in US servers heading overseas – even though the US government has warned against using Chinese technology for the same reasons, says Glenn Greenwald, in an extract from his new book about the Snowden affair, No Place to Hide

The explosive day we revealed Edward Snowden's identity
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For years, the US government loudly warned the world that Chinese routers and other internet devices pose a "threat" because they are built with backdoor surveillance functionality that gives the Chinese government the ability to spy on anyone using them. Yet what the NSA's documents show is that Americans have been engaged in precisely the activity that the US accused the Chinese of doing.

The drumbeat of American accusations against Chinese internet device manufacturers was unrelenting. In 2012, for example, a report from the House Intelligence Committee, headed by Mike Rogers, claimed that Huawei and ZTE, the top two Chinese telecommunications equipment companies, "may be violating United States laws" and have "not followed United States legal obligations or international standards of business behaviour". The committee recommended that "the United States should view with suspicion the continued penetration of the US telecommunications market by Chinese telecommunications companies".

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The world has nothing to fear from the US losing power | Mark Weisbrot

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/05/2014 - 10:00pm in

As China looks set to overtake the US as the world's largest economy, a multipolar world can only be good for democracy

The news that China will displace the US as the world's largest economy this year is big news. For economists who follow these measurements, the tectonic shift likely occurred a few years ago. But now the World Bank is making it official, so journalists and others who opine on world affairs will have to take this into account. And if they do so, they will find that this is a very big deal indeed.

What does it mean? First, the technicalities: the comparison is made on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, which means that it takes into account the differing prices in the two countries. So, if a dollar is worth 6.3 renminbi today on the foreign exchange market, it may be that 6.3 renminbi can buy a lot more in China than one dollar can buy in the US. The PPP comparison adjusts for that; that is why China's economy is much bigger than the measure that you have most commonly seen in the media, which simply converts China's GDP to dollars at the official exchange rate.

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The truth about Venezuela: a revolt of the well-off, not a 'terror campaign' | Mark Weisbrot

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/03/2014 - 1:35am in

John Kerry’s rhetoric is divorced
from the reality on the ground, where life goes on – even at the barricades

Images forge reality, granting a power to television and video and even still photographs that can burrow deep into people’s consciousness without them even knowing it. I thought that I, too, was immune to the repetitious portrayals of Venezuela as a failed state in the throes of a popular rebellion. But I wasn’t prepared for what I saw in Caracas this month: how little of daily life appeared to be affected by the protests, the normality that prevailed in the vast majority of the city. I, too, had been taken in by media imagery.

Major media outlets have already reported that Venezuela’s poor have not joined the right-wing opposition protests, but that is an understatement: it’s not just the poor who are abstaining – in Caracas, it’s almost everyone outside of a few rich areas like Altamira, where small groups of protesters engage in nightly battles with security forces, throwing rocks and firebombs and running from tear gas.

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