The Labour membership should listen to the PLP.

July 24, 2016

The chamber of the House of Commons erupted at mid-day on Wednesday with the arrival of the new Prime Minister to her first PMQs. The Tory Party, torn apart by the EU referendum, was now seemingly united behind its leader. By contrast, the chamber fell silent on the arrival of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. His own backbenches, ignored after a no confidence vote, threatened with de-selection for disloyalty, constantly attacked as red Tories and Blairites for daring to criticise the leader, were understandably quiet. And yet, Diane Abbott took to the airwaves immediately afterwards to express surprise that the PLP isn’t dancing around like cheerleaders with Corbyn tattoos and unveiling massive statues to him around the World. Abbott, Corbyn, McDonnell, and members are unable to understand that the Labour leader cannot command any Parliamentary support, and that in itself is a massive problem.

Let’s quash the myth immediately that the Parliamentary Labour Party is in any way acting undemocratically in opposing the Labour Leader. It isn’t. When Jeremy Corbyn was a backbench MP and sought to dethrone both Kinnock and Blair, he was well within his right to do so. In 1988 when supporting Tony Benn’s campaign to oust Kinnock, Corbyn said:

“By having an election, we will force a debate about the direction of the party in which it will be more difficult for Kinnock to make everything an issue of loyalty to him.”

– Quite. One when or two Labour MPs rebel against the leadership, it’s easier to put down. But think of this recent rebellion as an entire Party of 1988 Jeremy Corbyn’s. The leadership simply cannot secure confidence in that environment.

Four years later, Corbyn was supporting a challenge against the next Labour leader he had no interest in supporting. In 1992, Corbyn insisted that John Smith had shown “no real opposition“. 10 years later in 2002, he did the same when asking for a challenger to Blair to come forward. In 2003, he demanded an annual leadership election. At no point did the hard-left accuse him of undemocratic disloyalty. Now that he has hold of the strings of power, their demand is loyalty or leave. Jeremy Corbyn was not undemocratic then, and the PLP are not undemocratic now.

Let’s also quash the myth that Labour MPs are not representative of Labour Party at large. Those Labour MPs were selected, cleared, and elected by constituents for the 2015 general election. They represent the Party as it was voted on by constituents. That is the epitome of Parliamentary democracy. Members were not trying to deselect those MPs when they were winning constituencies for Labour. New members may not represent the view of the 2015 Labour Parliamentary Party. They can change that in 2020 if they want. But right now, Labour is not a hard-left Parliamentary Party, it wasn’t elected as the main opposition party on a hard-left platform, and MPs should not be betraying the message they were voted on, to suit new members.

To be clear, the PLP’s first commitment is to maintain a Labour Party in Parliament as ready for government at any moment as the only way to legislate in favour of Labour principles. This means appealing to a broader coalition of voters, than simply the hard-left. This means being able to produce a full shadow cabinet with a reserve pool of talent as well. This means a leader that the PLP is willing to fully support. Everything the PLP has done has been democratic and with the aim in mind that in order to change the country, it needs to win an election. It has used a perfectly acceptable Parliamentary procedure to issue a vote of no confidence in its leader. Shadow Cabinet members tried to work for Corbyn, and it didn’t workout. For that, his supporters have abused and attacked them. The PLP then sparked a leadership challenge and asked for clarity on the rules. It will now run a leadership challenge on the basis of those rules. That’s it. That isn’t undemocratic.

On election of the leader, I would agree that the Parliamentary Party should listen to its members. The members vote for the candidate put forward by the PLP. Indeed, at that point the members haven’t challenged the idea that the PLP decides who can stand for leader. Their lack of challenge implies acceptance. They accept that the PLP has to have a form of power over the process of electing their leader in Parliament. I’d presume they accept this premise, because the Labour Party is a Parliamentary Party within a Parliamentary democracy. So clear is this, that The Labour Party’s own rulebook, Clause 1.2 says:

“Its purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.”

– It would seem clear to me, that if the Parliamentary Party that must be maintained and ready for an election cannot work with the leader nor has any confidence in the ability of the leader to win that election, it would relay this message back to the membership in the form of a vote of no confidence, and the membership then have a duty to return a leader that the people in Parliament – not the hard-left Parliamentarians they hope make up the majority of MPs – the ones elected on a far more moderate platform in 2015, can work with. At that point, it becomes the responsibility of the membership, to support the Parliamentary Party with a candidate they can rally behind. Continuously sending the same leader that the PLP decidedly cannot work with, implies that the membership care very little for actual political power – where societal and economic change happens – and only care for flexing hard-left muscles with the illusion of power.

At this point, it is the Labour membership that must return a Parliamentary leader the Parliamentary Party can support and unite behind. If the membership does the opposite, the membership is entirely to blame for handing the 2020 general election to the Conservative Party.

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Sarah Vine & Daily Mail land.

June 11, 2014

In the green pastures of Daily Mail land, where the year is perpetually 1950, Dvorak’s Symphony 9 plays on a loop, and everyone attends Church on a Sunday. Where someone with slightly darker skin in the village is a frightening novelty, morality and normality are defined by Christianity, gay folk are trying to destroy humanity, and someone with tattoos can only mean one thing; the decadent youth and their alien ways are throwing their lives away, destroying this once great country, and they don’t even know it. If only they’d suspend their critical faculties, and pick up the Daily Mail from time to time, the country could be great again!… Or something like that.

I woke up shocked this morning. Shocked that my life has been a lie. Thanks to Sarah Vine over at the ever illuminating and rational Daily Mail, I learnt this morning that my tattoos are simply a “hideous” form of self harm. This came as a shock, because up until now, I thought I had my tattoos as a form of self expression, that I chose them because I felt they represented me in a way that I wanted to represent myself, and that they had a certain meaning to me and me alone. I thought I was pretty happy when I had my tattoos. Of course, we all have our problems in life, but on the whole, I really fucking love me. At least, that’s what I thought. I thought I knew what my tattoos meant to me, because, well, I’m me. That all changed this morning when I read Sarah Vine’s column for The Mail (and Tory’s and the Mail are notoriously excellent at understanding young people) and discovered I have serious mental health issues that I address by harming myself with tattoos. I discovered my friends must be covering their intense inner sorrow, with outward displays of faux-happiness and joy. I discovered that the word “self-harm” can now be thrown around whenever we see someone doing something we personally wouldn’t do.

But then I thought, maybe it’s an ironic piece? I mean, there appears to be a noticeable irony in someone writing for the Daily Mail, and being married to Michael Gove having the nerve to refer to anything other than writing for the Daily Mail and being married to Michael Gove as “ghastly” and “self harm”. Perhaps it is Sarah Vine’s cry for help. I mean, she has her ears pierced; a needle pushed through the body, and a piece of metal shoved into the hole. Does this not also count as self harm? There can’t be much pleasure in writing for a newspaper famed for its tacit support for Fascism in the 1930s, and that recently hounded a transgender person – Lucy Meadows – to suicide, whilst married to a man universally hated by the profession he’s the Minister for. Perhaps at this point you’re thinking that I’m being incredibly judgmental in presuming that I get to tell someone else that their private life, their private loves, and the way they express themselves is “ghastly” or “self harm”. Yes… you’d be right. It’s pretty shitty and irrational of me, isn’t it?

There is a degree of irony in the article itself:

“Think of poor, frail Amy Winehouse, her emaciated limbs decorated like a navvy’s; think of the ethereal, fragile Peaches Geldof.”

– Yes. Think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’, like The Mail did when they plastered unflattering pictures of Amy Winehouse all over a completely irrelevant article, whilst needlessly poking fun at her, despite this being in the middle of her health issues:

“At first glance it may seem she had forgotten to get dressed.
But bra, shorts and ballet slippers almost count as overdressed for Amy Winehouse these days.”

– Think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’ like The Mail did with this article dedicated entirely to how ill she looked coming out of a restaurant:

“The Rehab singer looked worse for wear after dining at Balans restaurant in London and exposed a small pot belly after the meal.”

– Nothing says compassion and sensitivity for those suffering quite like having a gutter photographer selling you photos of every troubled moment, for a paper that gets a bizarre kick out of dehumanising those struggling. So yes, think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’ and the grotesque rag of shit with a business model that relies on perpetuating the suffering and misery of others.

The article goes on:

“When I was Barkley’s age, tattoos were the preserve of sailors, Hell’s Angels and ex-cons.”

– When my grandfather was my age, in the 1940s, writing for (or owning) The Daily Mail was the preserve of Nazi supporters and the British far right. Some things change, some things remain remarkably similar.

The article goes on, still:

“Twenty-year-old Ross Barkley, by contrast, has used his to illustrate his more contemplative side. On the outside of his arm, in Chinese script, the word ‘fengxian’, meaning ‘to devote’. And at the base of his hand, a quotation from none other than the Greek philosopher Aristotle: ‘No notice is taken of little evil. But when it increases it strikes the eye.’
Wow. Who knew that beneath that rugged exterior lurked the sensitive soul of a classicist?”

– This came as a shock to me too, because I have a rose tattooed on my arm, and I haven’t even studied botany. There is absolutely no reason why Barkley would need to know the first thing about the classical period, to take away something meaningful from a pretty universal quote. Indeed, that is part of the timeless genius of Aristotle. You don’t have to be a connoisseur of classical Greek philosophy, to take something meaningful from a fifteen word quote. Similarly, Sarah Vine doesn’t have to be an expert in the art of jewelry making, to have a piece of metal shoved in her ear.

There is no single reason someone gets a tattoo. Do some people get tattoos as a form of self-harm? It’s a possibility, though I don’t know of anyone who has. For some, their bodies are a canvas for the art form. For others, a tattoo might commemorate a moment in time. For others, a tattoo might be a middle finger to a neat and tidy, soulless, and robotic business-defined culture they find to be so devoid of individuality. For me – as for all others – it is simply a form of self expression. I don’t care what someone else thinks of my tattoos. There is no hidden anguish in my choosing to be tattooed. Like the clothes I wear, the haircut (to an extent; though nature took away most of my hair) I have, the photographs I take, the words I write, the tattoos I have; all are forms of expressing myself, and myself alone. They mean something to me. We express ourselves in a variety of ways and what is important is that I decide what it is that represents expression to me. No one else. Certainly not a Tory journalist flippantly using the subject of mental health to explain away her personal dislike of tattoos, from the unbearably stagnant pastures of Daily Mail land.


The Frackers of Downing Street.

January 17, 2014

There are very few more pressing issues on the planet right now than climate change, and sustainable energy. For that reason alone, throwing dangerous chemicals down a well and splitting rocks to extract gas, leading to complaints of contaminated water supplies in Texas, and earthquakes in Blackpool, was always going to be a controversial topic. Without getting into the pros and cons of the industry and the practice, I thought I’d focus on the names and faces attached to fracking in the UK, who seem to be extraordinarily close to a government that is now suddenly fully embracing fracking.

Lord Browne is the Managing Director of Riverstone – a private equity firm that backs Cuadrilla Resources (of which Lord Browne in the Chairman). Cuadrilla is a Shale Gas operator that was found to be the likely cause of two minor earthquakes in 2011 through its drilling in Lancashire. Lord Browne is lead non-executive director – a Coalition advisor – at the Cabinet Office and a crossbench member of the House of Lords.

Also at Riverstone was Ben Moxham. Moxham was a vice President at Riverstone – the equity firm that backs a company responsible for a small earthquake – until 2011. Moxham was then a lead advisor for the Coalition on climate change issues, and a senior policy advisor for energy issues, to the Prime Minister. Moxham, like Lord Browne, was also at BP for a time.

The Senior Independent Director of of BG Group PLC is Baroness Hogg. BG Group is a British oil and gas company with interests across the planet, including shale gas in the US, where it claimed to be wishing to produce 80,000 barrels a day by 2015, growing up 190,000 barrels a day by 2020 through its shale production. Baroness Hogg was appointed Lead Non-Executive Board Member to the Treasury.

Sam Laidlaw is the CEO of Centrica. He was also Lead non-executive director on the board of the Department for Transport, and a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group . Also at Centrica for a time, was Tara Singh. In May 2013, Number 10 announced that Ms Singh would be the Prime Minister’s personal advisor on energy and climate change. This is the same Tara Singh whose previous role was Public Affairs Manager at Centrica – owner of British Gas. A few weeks after Singh was appointed to a government advisory role, Centrica – her former employer – bought a stake in Lord Browne’s Cuadrilla for its shale gas production. Singh has also worked for PR firm Hill & Knowlton, a firm that represents the Norwegian energy giant Statoil, a company with investment in fracking in North America.

Lord Green, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, was also non-executive director of chemical giant BASF. BASF supply gas-based chemicals for the fracking industry.

The Windsor Energy Group in March 2013 discussed, according to its own documents:

“…the energy revolution from shale gas and tight oil and other game-changers so far looking east, west and south…”

– This excitement was echoed by the Chairman of the Windsor Energy Group – Lord Howell – who told Parliament that the former colonies were ripe for picking:

“…wake up and realise where our future and our destiny lie…the new range of Commonwealth countries coming into the prosperity league either side of Africa, as they find through the shale gas revolution that they have fantastic raw energy resources and prospects.”

– Lord Howell – the Chairman of the W.E.G – also happens to be the father-in-law of Chancellor George Osborne. The Windsor Energy Group takes time on its website to thank Shell and BP for its support. It is unsurprising that two of the biggest players in the oil industry might choose to be close friends with an organisation whose chairman is the father-in-law of the Chancellor. Lord Howell was also former energy advisor to William Hague.

Lord Howell – the Chairman of the W.E.G and father-in-law of the Chancellor – is also the President of the British Institute of Energy Economics. The BIEE is sponsored by Shell and BP. In 2013, Howell was appointed President of the Energy Industries Council.

It comes as no surprise then, that in July 2013, Howell’s son-in-law Chancellor George Osborne announced a massive tax break for the fracking industry, setting the rate at 30% for onshore shale gas production, as opposed to 62% for new production of North Sea Oil. Echoing the wording by his father-in-law, and the Windsor Energy Group that his father-in-law Chairs, Osborne referred to fracking as a revolution:

“This new tax regime, which I want to make the most generous for shale in the world, will contribute to that. I want Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution”

– But it isn’t just Osborne. Vince Cable, whose Party spent the best part of the last decade insisting it was the party of green energy, took to TV news to defend the tax breaks. The fact that Cable here suggests that fracking would have to be heavily regulated and watched, must raise eyebrows as to its potential dangers. It is worth noting that Vince Cable was the former Chief Economist at Shell (supporters of the W.E.G, and financial backers of the BIEE, both run by George Osborne’s father-in-law) and that Malcolm Brinded – the former Chief Executive of Shell Upstream International – referred to Cable in a letter to the Secretary of State as the “Contact Minister for Shell”. Here:

shell
– Shell is positioning itself to be a major player in the UK Fracking industry. It’s also worth noting that William Hague worked for Shell UK before entering Parliament.

The tax breaks must have felt like a wonderful victory, not just for Shell and Osborne’s father-in-law, but for everyone’s favourite soulless lobbyist Lynton Crosby. The Prime Minister’s election advisor and strategist founded the lobbying firm Crosby Textor, which lobbies on behalf of The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, and fracking is one of its main objectives. One of the members of The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association is Dart Energy, whose UK subsidiary holds a fracking licence in the UK.

So to summarise, Lord Browne from Cuadrilla is a coalition advisor, and Tara Singh from Centrica who own a stake in Cuadrilla is a coalition advisor, and Sam Laidlaw – the CEO of Centrica – was a coalition advisor. Baroness Hogg – a lead non-exec. board member to the Treasure – is Senior Independent Director at a company with huge interests in fracking in the US Ben Moxham – an advisor to the Prime Minister on climate change and energy – was at an equity firm that backed Lord Browne’s Cuadrilla. Lynton Crosby whose firm lobbies on behalf of the fracking industry is a key strategist to the Conservative Party. George Osborne’s father-in-law is the President of a group financially backed by BP & Chairs another organisation supported by Shell among others that pushes for the fracking industry at the same time that his son-in-law announces incredibly generous tax rates for the fracking industry. And the Business Secretary is referred to as the “Contact Minister for Shell” by a former Shell CEO. It is an incredible state of affairs.

Those who are in a position to be making a very large amount of money from fracking, also appear to be at the centre of a government that will make the key decisions on the future of the industry including its regulations and safety procedures. By contrast, there don’t appear to be any members of local communities close to proposed fracking sites, at the centre of government. For a Tory Party needing to shed its image as the Party of big business, this isn’t helping. The fracking industry hasn’t even taken off in the UK to any great extent, and yet it would appear its representatives are well placed right at the very heart of government.


Abusing the Filibuster: Some Stats.

November 28, 2013

800px-Rand_Paul_Filibuster

It has been an interesting week since Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option to ensure Presidential nominees are no longer blocked by an increasingly power-hungry Tea Party minority. From the right of the Republican Party, there appears to be a constant “We’re a republic! Not a democracy!” odd little tantrum, in a curiously weak attempt to justify their horrendous inability to accept that they lost the election. It should be noted that the US is indeed a republic, framed by the Constitution, which, in the case of Congressional rule changes quite clearly states:

“Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.”
Article 1; Section 5; Clause 2.

– Also, when it comes to Presidential nominees to executive branch positions, the President has that right. As long as those nominees are qualified, they are entitled to be confirmed, with the President shaping his administration as he sees fit. The Senate traditionally is there to advise and consent, to block only in the most extreme of conditions, and not to usurp that power and use it for fringe-partisanship. The filibuster not only gives a voice to the minority (who are entitled to that voice, via debate), it gives that minority far more power than both the majority party in the Senate, and the President combined.

That being said, it’s true that both President Obama and Harry Reid condemned the nuclear option during the Bush administration, whilst Democrats were the minority party in the Senate. But it is equally true, and needless to point out that President Bush wasn’t facing the sheer force of extreme obstructionism facilitated by the filibuster that the Obama White House faces today.

The nuclear option, in short, means that nominees by the executive branch require a simply majority of 51 votes for appointment, rather than the 60 votes needed if filibustered.

So, why did Harry Reid feel that he had to use a procedural measure to prevent further nominee filibustering in the Senate? Well, it’s quite obvious when you look at the past three years.

Let’s start with the most staggering.
Number of Presidential nominees filibustered over the course of US history: 147.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered before Obama took office: 68.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered since Obama took office: 79.
More than half of all filibustered nominees for executive branch positions – since before the White House was even built – have taken place during President Obama’s five years as President. This stat alone should be more than enough to convince anyone of the need to curb the abuse of power by a minority wing, or a minority party, that could not win the Presidential election, nor the Senate, nor the popular vote for the House. But in case you’re still on the fence, here are a few more stats:

Between 1949 and 2008, 20 cloture votes had been held to end filibusters, and push for a three-fifths majority vote. In 59 years, 20 votes. Between 2008 and 2013 – just five years – cloture has had to be invoked 27 times.

In President Bush’s two terms, the number of cloture votes for Presidential nominees was 7. In President Clinton’s two terms, the cloture votes for Presidential nominees, was 9. By early 2013, 16 of the President’s executive branch nominees had required cloture votes. In one Presidential term alone.

Interestingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who seems to have no problem with the obscene amount of obstructionism his party is willing to adopt in preventing the appointment of Presidential nominees, wasn’t too happy with it when the shoe was on the other foot. During the Bush Presidency, McConnell said:

“To correct this abuse, the majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedents to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It is time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.”

– Ironically, McConnell is now the King of the obstruction he harshly condemned in 2005.

Damningly for McConnell, on top of the 16 cloture votes by March 2013, we see the situation getting worse. Between March 2013, and November 2013, a staggering 11 more cloture votes – taking the total to 27 – for executive branch positions were required after being targets of filibusters from Senate Republicans.

75 executive branch nominations, to incredibly important positions, have waited an average of 140 days for confirmation. The obstruction in the Senate, leads to gridlock across agencies. This isn’t just unfair, it is dangerous. There is absolutely no need nor requirement for the Senate to demand a super majority for Presidential nominations.

And that’s just on nominees. Motions to end a filibuster by procedure during George Bush’s term, and when the party in the White House also controlled the Senate stood at 130 over two terms. Over just one term, and six months of President Obama’s Presidency, that number stands at 307. The era of block-over-debate had to come to an end.

These incredibly telling figures represent another wing – after the ill-considered Republican shut down – of the Republican strategy to destabilise the operation of government departments that people count on every day, simply because the election did not go their own way. The nuclear option was both necessary and inevitable. The reaction from the Republican camp to Reid’s decision has been predictable. Harry Reid – they claim – had choked democracy. This was the end of America as we know it. The usual hyperbole.

Strangely, the same Republicans didn’t react with equal venom when on September 30th of this year, House Republicans changed House rules to take the power to end a government shutdown away from all members of the House, and bestow it upon the House Majority Leader only. It’s a curious hypocrisy, but nevertheless completely expected from that section of the delusional right that holds nothing but contempt for democracy when it goes against them.


Kennedy, Obama, and the Tea Party extremists.

November 26, 2013

THISLAND JOHN BIRCH

The intensity of paranoid right winged hysteria that faces everything the President says, everything he does, and everywhere he goes has grown substantially over the past few years. From those demanding a birth certificate, to public office holders invoking the image of slavery and Stalin whenever they disagree with any policy coming out of the White House. It is all anchored by a paranoid fear of an imminent communist take over. The intensity of the vitriol is growing… but it isn’t new, nor are the people behind it.

In November 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech in which he warns about the “discordant voices of extremism” on the far right fringes, Kennedy said:

“They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with communism. They object quite rightly to politics’ intruding on the military — but they are anxious for the military to engage in politics.”

– Echoing these thoughts, the former President, Eisenhower – a Republican – also in 1961 registered his concern about the growing tide of right winged paranoia and extremism that the President and the country were facing in the early ’60s. He expresses concern over what he calls the “super-patriot” and that they tend to wish to:

“…go back to eliminating the income tax from our laws and the rights of people to unionize… [and those] advocating some form of dictatorship.”

The far right attacks on Kennedy grew during the early ’60s, and by November 22nd 1963, the Dallas Morning News printed this full page advertisement attacking the President:

jfk_24_flyer1
– It is a page dedicated to the subtle hinting that Kennedy was soft on communism and must be resisted by Constitution loving Patriots. For example, one “WHY” on the list reads:

“WHY have you ordered or permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership?”

– Interestingly, you will note that the name on the bottom of the ad is Bernard Wiessman. During the 60s, Wiessman was a member of the infamous ultra-right ‘John Birch Society’. The society continues to this day. Their website lists Fred Koch – the father of the Tea Party bankrolling Koch Brothers – in its “list of significant figures”. Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society. The society has played host to some particularly unsavoury characters, not least Fred Koch himself, who laid the seeds for his wealth by building Soviet oil infrastructure, and training Soviet engineers. The Koch family has only ever been interested in increasing its own power and wealth. The same is true today.

Haroldson L.Hunt, the Texas millionaire was a keen member of the John Birch Society during the 1960s. Hunt frequented the radio waves of Texas often to warn of the terrible consequences of President Kennedy’s support for Medicare:

“The plan provides a near little package of sweeping dictatorial power over medicine and the healing arts—a package which would literally make the President of the United States a medical czar with potential life or death power over every man woman and child in the country.”

– According to Hunt – the John Birch member, and someone who clearly doesn’t understand the word ‘literally’ – Medicare would lead to dictatorship, and death panels. According to Tea Party today – including groups with links to the John Birch Society – the Affordable Care Act will lead to dictatorship and death panels.

A ’60s associate of the society, Reverand Billy James Hargis wrote:

“This nation today is in the hands of a group of Harvard radicals who have long ago been “hooked” by the insidious dope of socialism and view human life from the international standpoint – They are a dangerous scourge – and they are so deeply entrenched in power that they can be removed only by a nationwide upsurge of conservatism.”

“They are liberals; liberals are socialists; and Khrushchev himself said that socialism is ‘the first phase of communism.'”

– Hargis headed the fifth annual convention of the Christian Crusade against Communism, which included Robert Welch – the director of the John Birch Society.

In 1961, a report by Congressman Morris K. Udall noted another significant member of the John Birch Society:

“For example, the testimony revealed that Gen. Walker is a member of the John Birch Society, an organization whose leader says former President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and other high officials of our government have been Communist dupes. Also, it was revealed that Gen. Walker made public statements which were derogatory of other present and former officials of our government. Such statements, of course, are wholly out of keeping for a military officer.”

– General Walker – also a guest at the Christian Crusade against Communism convention – was using his position as a General to amplify his far-right, aggressive John Birch Society beliefs. According to further testimony to the Warren Commission by the aforementioned Bernard Wiessman, Walker was driving around with copies of this in his car, shortly after November 22nd 1963:

TreasonFlyer.jpg.CROP.original-original
– Anti-Christian, Communist race rioters, betraying the Constitution, treason. Familiar vitriolic terms you will still note coming out of the same far right, largely funded by the same Koch family in 2013.

On October 18th, 1963 – just over a month until the assassination – the Delaware State News ran an editorial:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. His name right now happens to be Kennedy. Let’s shoot him, literally, before Christmas.”

– The fear driven, violent rhetoric is the same. But in 2013, the John Birch Society and its Tea Party has just as much – if not more – power than it had in the 1960s. The dangerous conspiratorial tone that a Marxist takeover of government is imminent, now infects legislative bodies across the US. For example, In March 2012, the Tennessee House Republicans drafted House Joint Resolution 587 that read:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth”

– The wording is eerily similar to a John Birch Society mock-up Bill which reads:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded by society and the environment which would be accomplished by a socialist/communist-style redistribution of wealth”

– When I say “eerily similar”, I mean “exactly the same”.

At a Tea Party rally back in 2010, a speaker from Corpus Christi passionately told the crowd that President Obama’s:

“…goal is to do whatever he can to reinvent the United States of America into the aggressively, militantly, secular socialist and post-Christian state he wants it to be. This means … deconstructing the Constitution however he pleases.

Also in the more recent past, Republican darling Ron Paul was not only the first chairman of ‘Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE)’ which was founded in ’84 by David and Charles Koch, and is now ‘FreedomWorks’ – he was also a key speaker at the John Birch Society’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Wisconsin in October 2008. Interestingly, one of ‘FreedomWorks’ main financers is Crow Holdings, LLC. Crow Holdings has contributed $20,000 to Senator Cruz so far for 2014. This, on top of the $25,000 from Koch industries. 50 years of Koch family promoted vitriol and paranoia, through their hired mouthpieces in Congress.

The opposition to both Kennedy and Obama from the fringe of the right wing has never been a reasonable opposition built on democratically scrutinising ideas. Their brand of opposition has been consistent for the past 50 years; to present any policy slightly to the left of father Koch, as ‘unamerican’, as ‘communist’, as a threat to the fabric of American society, needing to be dealt with outside of the democratic process if necessary, and to spend an obscene amount of money sponsoring candidates and running “Welcome Mr Kennedy” ads to help spread the paranoid fantasies of one far-right family, whilst presenting itself as “grassroots”.

The Tea Party in 2013, and to a growing extent – the Republican Party in 2013 – is the John Birch Society of the 1960s. The same meaningless yet vicious and provocative manipulative and paranoid phrasing, bankrolled by the same family for the sake of the power of that one family, and working to inspire the same reactions from those who suffer the most from its manipulations. They inhabit the realm of paranoid fantasy that is usually considered fringe. It has been key to the far-right’s 50 years of manufacturing false and delusional hysteria, and as of 2013, the power of John Birch-style extremism had the power to shutdown the government in September. That’s a worrying development.


The United States House of Wall Street.

November 25, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

An interesting vote took place in the House of Representatives at the beginning of this month. A vote completely overshadowed by constant Republican tantrums over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. A vote that has potentially serious consequences in the future.

The Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank) included Section 716, which ensured that banks insured Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, move their ‘swaps’ (a certain derivative) into non-bank arms of the business that aren’t insured by FDIC; not eligible for bail out funds. It ensured protection for the consumer’s savings, and ensured protection for the taxpayer, by enforcing banks to place their more risky derivative deals outside of the realm of Federal assistance.

At the end of October 2013, House Resolution 992 passed the House by 292 votes to 122. The Bill – H.R.992 – or The “Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act” – severely limits the reach of Section 716 of Dodd-Frank, ultimately striking down a key regulation that Dodd-Frank implemented back in 2010. The implication, simply put, is that incredibly risky Wall Street behaviour surrounding the dealing of derivatives could be backed by a taxpayer funded bailout – for exchanges that are not at all related to banking – if it all goes wrong again.

Despite the Treasury raising concerns about striking down such an important provision, the House – including many Democrats – voted to pass H.R.922. But why? What is the motivation? Well, one only has to look at the lobbying on this Bill to understand just how this may have come about.

Contributions to House members from interests groups who expressively support H.R.992 are rather eye watering. On the list of top contributions to House Members, Jim Himes (D-CT4) – a co-sponsor of the Bill – received $437,179 from special interests in favour. More than any other Democrat in the House. The second ranking figure in the Democrat House Leadership chain of command, Steny Hoyer (D-MD5) received $266,510 from Wall Street supporters of the Bill. The most expensive ‘Yes’ vote for Wall Street comes to us via Eric Cantor (R-VA7), who received $525,400. The main sponsor of the Bill Randy Hultgren (R-Ill) received more contributions from the Securities and Investment industry than any other industry, at $136,500.

In all, special interests supporting H.R.992 contributed 5.9 times more to House members than those groups that opposed it. Wall Street has been staggeringly influential in ensuring regulations from 2010 are struck down. Citigroup were among the contributors. Citigroup also wrote ‘recommendations’ that appeared to be reflected almost word for word in the final draft of H.R.992. The Citigroup recommendations reads:

(d) Only bona fide hedging and traditional bank activities permitted. The prohibition in subsection (a) shall apply to any covered depository institution unless the covered depository institution limits its swap or security based swap activities to:
(1) Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(2) Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, unless–
(i) such structured finance swap is undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Unsurprisingly, given just how much money Wall Street has spent buying its Congressional support for the Bill, H.R.992 reads:

(A) Hedging and other similar risk mitigation activities.
Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(B) Non-structured finance swap activities.–
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps other than a structured finance swap.
(C) Certain structured finance swap activities.
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, if–
(i) such structured finance swaps are undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance swaps is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Practically word for word. In fact, according to the New York Times, 70 of the 85 lines in the Bill were penned by Citigroup. A Bill that deregulates the risky aspects of the financial industry – and spreads the risk of failure and the obscene costs of such, to the taxpayer if it all collapses again – was written by the financial industry. Welcome to the House of Wall Street.

The Bill passed the House, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs at the end of October. It is unlikely to pass the Senate, though if somehow it does, it is unlikely to be signed by the President. The White House has already registered its opposition to the Bill, though stopping short of threatening a veto. It might be worth noting that Jack Lew – current Treasury Secretary – worked as Citigroup’s Chief Operating Officer between 2006 and 2008, overseeing the Alternative Investments unit that invested in a hedge fund that had bet on the housing market to collapse.

The US is still recovering from the destruction wrought by, among others; Citigroup. In 2013, Citigroup and Wall Street have successfully managed to lobby Congress into ensuring that incredibly risky derivatives deals – that helped to cause the problems in the first place – are now fully exposed to a risk of a future bailout. This, despite the Federal Reserve reporting in 2012 that Citigroup was one of four financial institutions to fail its ‘stress test’; a test of the institutions ability to withstand another crisis like that of 2008. Also in 2012, Citigroup had to settle an investor lawsuit for $25,000,000 for allegedly misleading investors over the nature of its mortgage-backed securities. Why on earth is this institution allowed anywhere near the strings of government, to shape policy that has such far reaching implications?

Under such circumstances, Citigroup’s lobbyists must be in for a huge Christmas bonus. They’ve certainly earned it.


Accommodation Expenses of Tory MPs who voted for the Bedroom Tax.

November 15, 2013

The Party of duck-houses and moat cleaning expenses voted this week to ensure that the most vulnerable families in the UK struggle to live, with the perpetuation of the hideous Bedroom Tax. So, it’s worth noting exactly how much those same Tory MPs have claimed in their own accommodation expenses.

(For reference, ‘accommodation’ according to IPSA covers
Accommodation, Rent, Home Contents Insurance, Telephone Installation, Approved Security Measures, Internet, Telephone, Usage, Buildings Insurance, Mortgage Interest, Telephone Usage/Rental, Council Tax, Other Fuel, Television Installation/Rental, Electricity, Residential Deposit Loan, Television Licence, Gas, Routine Security Measures, Water, Ground Rent, Service Charges).

Karen Bradley Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, voted against Labour’s motion to repeal the Bedroom Tax, thus voting to cut £16 a week from the budgets of the hardest pressed families. Presumably to help plug the Treasury hole arising from her own accommodation expenses, seen here:

conservatives expenses, karen bradley expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax mps

Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. He also once blamed civil servants for the failure of certain government projects, and is particularly interested in investigating the causes of government overspending. Here, he claimed £22,000+ in accommodation expenses for a very short space of time, whilst voting to take away accommodation expenses from the most vulnerable:

richard bacon mp, mps expenses, bedroom tax tories, tories expenses, conservative party expenses

Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Morgan once told a room full of students at a debate I was at, that business owners make the best MPs. She got a huge boo from the audience. But I agree with her…. in a Parliament that is dedicated to the very wealthy, those sympathetic to the very wealthy to the detriment of the everyone else make the best Corporate-MPs. That’s true. For the rest of us, they are a nightmare. The Bedroom Tax is testament to that hideous Corporate-MP mentality. Anyway, Morgan, whilst ‘Economic Secretary to the Treasury’ and voting to uphold the misery that has lead to so many tragic incidents like that of Stephanie Bottrill, claimed the following in her accommodation:

nicky morgan mp expenses, nicky morgan mp bedroom tax, bedroom tax mps expenses, mps expenses, conservative party mps expenses

Alistair Burt, MP for North East Bedfordshire and former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Here are his accommodation expenses:

alistairburtMP, alistair burt mp expenses, mps expenses, mps accommodation expenses, bedroom tax debate

Ian Liddell-Grainger MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset and great-great-great Grandson of Queen Victoria (as well as the great grandson of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone) claimed £166,109 in 2007/08. After the rule change in 2010/11, Liddell-Grainger claimed £147,004, making him the 6th most expensive MP in Parliament for that year. His wife and two eldest children are registered as his staff. He also voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Here are his accommodation expenses:

liddell-grainger expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax, bedroom tax tories, ian liddell-grainger vote

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and The Deepings, was chairman of the All Party group on Disability. Apparently it did nothing to soften what seems to be an inherent desire to strip those with disabilities of much needed help, whilst himself claiming a small fortune in accommodation expenses:

john hayes mp, john hayes mps expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax, bedroom tax vote

Together, the expenses of these six alone could pay to lessen the horrific burden that austerity – caused by the most affluent – has placed on those who cannot afford it. We have become a country that grotesquely judges its success by how protected those with everything are, rather than those with nothing. The accommodation expenses of almost every Tory and Lib Dem MP who voted against the repeal of Bedroom Tax comes in at hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions. Here is the full list posted on change.org. If your MP voted against the repeal of the Bedroom Tax, thus voting to uphold such a cruel attack on the nation’s most vulnerable, get in contact and ask why they believe themselves justified in claiming thousands upon thousands in accommodation expenses, whilst their constituents struggle to afford to live.