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Issue #1610      September 11, 2013

Culture & Life

Threats, beat-ups, and bogus reports

The confirmation by intelligence analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden of the extent of US and British electronic snooping on their allies has had embarrassing repercussions in Germany. An embarrassed German government has had to cancel a long-standing pact to share surveillance operations with the US and Britain. The pact in fact dates from 1968 and was part of the so-called Cold War. Its cancellation is largely symbolic, intended to placate a very angry public.

The US State Department issued a “global alert” about an alleged terrorist threat posed by Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Meanwhile, the “threat” was so real and so urgent that right after Washington issued the alert President Obama went off to play golf.

Snowden’s revelations of US “total surveillance” activities – snooping on its own citizens and also on its allies – also provoked outrage in the USA itself. As more and more restrictions are placed on their once-cherished democratic rights, Americans of all political persuasions are worried about the activities of the country’s intelligence agencies.

Something had to be done to restore the public’s faith in the “intelligence community”. And lo and behold, at the beginning of August, the US State Department issued a “global alert” about an alleged terrorist threat posed by Al-Qaeda in Yemen. The Chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, announced that the threat was “more specific” than other recent threats. The State Department promptly closed US embassies and consulates in 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The US mass media drew attention to the fact that this supposed threat was “uncovered” by the National Security Agency, the same outfit that was responsible for the “total surveillance” scandal. Articles praising the NSA and its intercept program appeared in The Wall Street Journal and other right-wing papers.

Meanwhile, the “threat” was so real and so urgent that right after Washington issued the alert President Obama went off to play golf and then went to Camp David to celebrate his birthday.

“If this is such a serious threat, why did the President go to play golf? Why didn’t he address the American people?” said Michael Snopes, a police official and former intelligence officer in The Examiner. Snopes went on: “Maybe they are just trying to make mountains out of molehills to distract the media attention from Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service and NSA spyware?”

I’d say Mr Snopes was right on the money, wouldn’t you?

The United Nations’ Human Development Report, issued last month, showed that Britain is the most unequal country in the Western world, with a gap between the richest and poorest as big as that in Nigeria. The poorest 40% of Britons share only 14.6% of the national wealth, a lower proportion than in any other Western country. The only industrialised country to have a worse record is Russia.

As British Communist Daphne Liddle says; “Workers create wealth for their bosses and they are entitled to demand a fair share of it. In fact, they are entitled to take control of that wealth and collectively deploy it for the common good of all – which is the basis of socialism.”

But bosses have no interest in helping to advance the common good. Instead, they are engaged everywhere in an aggressive campaign to cut workers’ share of the national wealth still further. Wherever they can, they are automating workplaces so that they have no workers to pay at all. Elsewhere, they are cutting wages and lengthening the hours of work to increase their profits. As workers and lower middle class people are driven into poverty, the boss class heedlessly piles up its profits and “invests” in mansions, yachts and in taking over their competitors.

While workers are being squeezed to the point where they are finding it hard to continue functioning at all, the über rich are encouraged to treat national economies like some macabre casino, speculating on the rise and fall of share prices and futures contracts, regardless of the contribution – if any – that the companies in question actually make to the real economy.

For business people – big or small – workers have no rights, only such benefits as a munificent employer class bestows upon them out of the goodness of its heart. The British government recently commissioned a report into workers’ rights – from a venture capitalist, would you believe – and has used his report as the basis for new legislation making it much easier for bosses to sack workers on a whim.

The venture capitalist who authored the report, one Adrian Beecroft, subsequently admitted that he “didn’t have time for research”. Instead, his report was “based on conversations”. Labour MPs in the House of Commons accused him of producing a report based on opinions that “created an open door for bullying and intimidation”. Beecroft rejected that criticism, saying that the UK’s employment laws were a disincentive for firms to expand and that the case for making it easier for small businesses to hire and fire employees was “self-evident”.

Tony Abbott would no doubt agree with him.

Talking of Tony Abbott, I think my household received election bumf from him every single day for the last ten days before polling day – an achievement that did not signify a popular campaign with lots of helpers but spoke instead of a party with deep pockets. The big end of town is backing Abbott and they have much to gain from a Libs victory.

Driving around Sydney over the last few weeks one was struck by the identical nature of the campaigns: big full-colour photographs of each of the main capitalist parties’ candidates, with no policies. Just the photo and the name of the party. A cynic might say that is because they don’t have any policies, but of course they do. The just can’t tell the voters what those polices are because they are policies to aid and support big business at the expense of the common people, and they know that those policies won’t fly.

So instead, it’s all glossy surface (sorry, “personalities”) before any real substance. It’s true, isn’t it: we get the politicians we deserve?

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