Sunday, March 09, 2014

There are neo-Nazis in Ukraine’s new government. It’s not representative of the whole country – and it should accept autonomy for Crimea and pledge not to join the EU or NATO to avoid civil war or war with Russia

Summary: Putin’s talk of Ukraine’s transitional government as being entirely made up of neo-nazis who target Russians is an exaggeration, but there’s some truth in it. Ukraine’s new government includes neo-nazis of the Svoboda party and is not representative of the whole country.

EU sanctions are impossible as the EU relies on Russia for gas imports. Arming and funding western Ukrainian groups to fight Russia and its allies would only tip Ukraine into a Bosnian or Chechnyan style civil war. Russia will not back down on this issue as Ukraine was used as a base by its enemies in both World Wars and Chechnya was used as a base by terrorist groups far more recently.

Ukraine’s government should settle for granting Crimea, with its Russian majority, autonomy – and guaranteeing Ukraine will not join the EU or NATO in order to avoid such a war – and the US and EU should encourage them to make these concessions.

Most of the western media talk as though President Putin’s characterisation of the Ukrainian transitional government as neo-nazis who threaten the lives of Russians in Ukraine is purely propaganda.

There is some truth in Putin’s claims though, despite his exaggerations, and despite him being an authoritarian hard line nationalist himself, as well as a frequent propagandist.

The violent neo-Nazis in key posts in the transitional Ukrainian government

Photo: Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the Svoboda or 'Freedom' party, gives a Nazi salute

The largest party in the transitional government , the ‘Fatherland’ party, are not neo-nazis, despite their name. However the ‘National Socialist’ Svoboda (‘Freedom’) party, notorious for its anti-semitism and hatred of Russians and other minorities in Ukraine, has four ministries in the transitional government including Defence and Deputy Prime Minister (1) – (5).  

Svoboda also has 37 seats in parliament, which approved the Interim Prime Minister and President (6). It won only 10% of the vote nationally in the last elections, but over 40% in parts of Western Ukraine, with the party with the largest share of the vote in the East being the now overthrown President Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions (7).

Svoboda’s four ministries in the transitional government are clearly representative of its support in western Ukraine and a huge over-representation relative to its support in the country as a whole.

Svoboda members and some of its MPs still publicly celebrate the Ukrainian SS unit recruited by the Nazis during World War Two and the Ukrainian nationalist Stephen Bandera who allied with the Nazis (8) – (9).

The Deputy Secretary of National Security is Dmitry Yarosh, former head of the paramilitary Ukrainian nationalist group Right Sector, whose members fought against Russian troops in Chechnya (10).

The opposition majority in the Ukrainian parliament voted after Yanukovych’s overthrow to revoke a law which allowed Ukraine’s regions to use official languages of minorities such as Russians, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Tatar along with the Ukrainian language. Ukrainian was to become the only language which could be given official status (11).

Interim President Arseniy Yatsenyuk reversed this ruling. His party Batkivshchyna, or “Fatherland”, is the largest in the transitional government and parliament and luckily it is not as extreme as its name would suggest. Yatsenyuk is Jewish and comes from a family of mixed Romanian and Ukrainian descent (12) – (14).

Svoboda and other ultra-nationalist protesters included many armed with baseball bats, iron pipes and a few guns who still patrol Kiev. Medieval style trebuchet catapults were also used to fire rocks, bricks and petrol bombs at riot police. The last were mostly reported as being amusing, but would be quite capable of killing (15) – (18).

This violence by ultra-right militias may have led to the use of snipers by the government, if those were government snipers (various unsubstantiated rumours include that they were Russians, mercenaries hired by the opposition, or mercenaries hired by the US), though it certainly didn’t justify it.

Why Ukraine should grant the Crimea autonomy and pledge not to join the EU or NATO – and why the US and EU should not try to persuade them to do otherwise

Photo: Ukrainian Russians in Kiev protest against war over Crimea, one sign calling for Putin to protect her by withdrawing his troops

The transitional government is overwhelmingly made up of parties which want to join the EU. Russian actions in Crimea have been sending a message that, as Russian spokespeople put it, this is a “red line” for Russia.

The Ukraine has a large Russian speaking minority, Russian military bases, is right on the border of Russia, historically a close ally of Russia – and an invasion route for the French in the 19th century and the Germans in the First and Second World Wars.

More recently secessionist republics trying to leave the Russian federation, including Chechnya, were used as bases by terrorist groups for attacks inside Russia (though Russian military torture and massacres in wars against the secessionists contributed greatly to recruitment by these Islamist groups).

President Putin’s popularity in Russia is based on nationalism , restoring Russia’s pride after the collapse of the Soviet Union and economic collapse under Yeltsin’s experiments in an absolute free market that led to chaos. It’s also based on him being seen as a “strong” leader who will stand up to pressure from the US and its allies.

Putin is certainly no democrat, but its hard to believe that any other Russian government would have reacted any differently to a US backed revolution in one of its closest neighbours and allies which also contains strategically important naval bases. The threat to Russians in Ukraine only adds to this.

 If there had been a Russian backed revolution in Canada or Mexico, in which ultra-nationalists threatened US citizens, the US wouldn’t have responded any differently.

If the Ukrainian transitional government attempts to join the EU the likely result will be either civil war in Ukraine with the Russians and Americans each providing arms and training to their proxies there, or else a Russian invasion to install its own client government and prevent US-backed paramilitaries using it as a base, or both. This would not be good for the people of the Ukraine – not even the ones who survived it.

Nor would risking direct military intervention of the kind advocated by the right in the US be good for anyone. It is not wise to suggest potential escalation to World War Three between two nuclear armed powers.

Sanctions on Russia would have little downside for the US, which could afford to play geopolitics with Russia in this way, but western Europe gets much of its gas for heating and electricity from Russia. Germany, the largest country in the EU, gets 25% of its gas imports from Russia.

While the Ukrainian parliament is elected, the transitional government is not. Only after new elections will there be a fully legitimate government representative of all Ukrainians.

The US government has repeatedly condemned changes to the consitutions of Honduras under Zelaya and Venezuela under Chavez when carried out by democratic referenda and elected constitutional assemblies. This leaves it looking more than a bit hypocritical when condemning the Russian government’s criticism of the transitional Ukrainian government as being in breach of Ukraine’s constitution.

The Russian majority in the Crimea voting by referendum to leave Ukraine would no more be against international law than Kosovo’s Albanian majority voting to leave Yugoslavia by referendum. The US government opposes the first and backed the second purely in order to expand its own influence and reduce Russia’s. It has no democratic principle behind its positions.

Minorities in Crimea justifiably fear repression under a Russian nationalist client regime, but the fears of Russians in Crimea of being ruled over by a government including Svoboda are just as real.

Given the massively greater military power of Russia and Russia’s fear of Ukraine being used as a base for its enemies, as it was in both world wars, the best deal the Ukrainian government is likely to get is to give up the Crimea in return for staying in power itself while agreeing not the join the EU.

(That’s before even taking into account Russian fears of Ukraine being used as a base for terrorist attacks into Russia, as Chechnya was by Islamic militants).

Giving western Ukrainians the false impression that the EU will use economic sanctions on Russia (which Putin might well choose to endure to maintain his strong man image and which would hurt the EU more than Russia) to tip the balance, would be misleading them and doing them no favours.

Ditto for pretending that the US will fight World War Three for them.

Arming and funding groups that include neo-nazis and so reducing their country to a Bosnian or Chechnyan style war in the name of “freedom” would be even worse.

There is no freedom for anyone except the killers in a civil war – and no freedom even when it ends if one side are Russian ultra-nationalist extremists and the other side Ukrainian neo-nazis.

(1) = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-Ukrainian_Union_Fatherland

(2) = Interfax Ukraine 27 Feb 2014 ‘Ukrainian parliament endorses new cabinet’,
http://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/193222.html

(3) = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yatsenyuk_Government#Composition

(4) = Channel 4 News (UK) 05 Mar 2014 ‘How the far-right took top posts in Ukraine's power vacuum’, http://www.channel4.com/news/svoboda-ministers-ukraine-new-government-far-right

(5) = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svoboda_(political_party)

(6) = Reuters 07 Mar 2014 ‘In Ukraine, nationalists gain influence - and scrutiny’,
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/07/us-ukraine-crisis-far-right-insight-idUSBREA2618B20140307?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews

(7) = The Nation 06 Mar 2014 ‘The Dark Side of the Ukraine Revolt’,
http://www.thenation.com/blog/178716/dark-side-ukraine-revolt#

(8) = See (7) above

(9) = BBC News 07 Mar 2014 ‘Ukraine's revolution and the far right’,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26468720 (see third photo down and text above and below it)

(10) = See (4)

(11) = IB Times 09 Mar 2014 ‘Watch Your Tongue: Language Controversy One Of Fundamental Conflicts In Ukraine’, http://www.ibtimes.com/watch-your-tongue-language-controversy-one-fundamental-conflicts-ukraine-1559069

(12) = See (11)

(13) = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arseniy_Yatsenyuk

(14) = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-Ukrainian_Union_Fatherland

(15) = BBC Newsnight 01 Mar 2014 ‘Ukraine: Far-right armed with bats patrol Kiev’,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26394980

(16) = BBC News 01 Mar 2014 ‘Ukraine: The far-right groups patrolling Kiev’,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26398112

(17) = ABC News ‘The Kiev Protests Look Apocalyptic’,
http://abcnews.go.com/International/photos/kiev-protests-starting-apocalyptic-22316896/image-pro-european-integration-protesters-build-catapult-throw-stones-22317002

(18) = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUvrKv0pHNY (BBC news report)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Salmond and Unionist politicians both talk as though theirs is the risk free option that will eliminate uncertainty about the future for Scots. Risks and uncertainty can only be reduced by recognising we can’t know for certain what the outcome of any choice will be and making plans for various possible outcomes

The SNP leadership and unionist politicians both talk as though if we just adopt the option they favour, Scots will face no uncertainties about the future and no risks. Salmond and Osborne are both stubbornly sticking with their own plan, with no plans on what to do if it doesn’t lead to the results they expect.

After the financial crisis, the Iraq war and the floods, continuing with no plans for different possible outcomes and just sticking to old assumptions will not do fine.

Eliminating risk and uncertainty is impossible, but by having plans prepared for various possibilities we can reduce both.

Scotland and the pound – Or the Euro?
Or its own currency?
Or staying in the UK? Every option brings risks

It’s true that the UK government couldn’t stop an independent Scotland using the pound, but that’s only half the truth. An independent Scotland would inherit its share of the UK’s assets and liabilities. That means it would inherit a share of the UK’s national debt – i.e an independent Scotland would be in debt. True, it would be at most no higher a debt as a percentage of GDP than the UK has.

However the UK has its own currency. If an independent, indebted Scotland didn’t have its own currency it would risk being in the same position as Ireland and Greece were after the financial crisis – forced to beg other governments or the IMF to provide them with pounds.  We might face the same harsh terms imposed on Ireland and Greece. If it joined the Euro it might have exactly the same problem.

Scotland could issue its own currency, but if it issued its own currency immediately on independence it would increase the risk of being targeted by currency speculators. There are other options though.

First, keeping using the pound for a few years after independence, before issuing our own currency. We could issue our own currency once the recession caused by the financial crisis has ended, and after uncertainty among businesses and investors over how independence would affect them has become less intense.

Ireland kept using the British pound for many years after independence before issuing its own Irish pound.

Of course lacking our own currency for several years while in debt would restrict what the Scottish government could do until it issued its own currency.

Another option would be to issue our own currency (e.g Scottish Pound) pegged in value to equal to the British pound. We could ban international currency trading of it and large transfers of it outside the country for the first 5 years.

During the Asian financial crisis in the late 90s the IMF advised Asian countries to keep their currency markets open, continue deregulated markets etcetera. The result was disaster for most of them.

Malaysia managed to make the crisis much less bad for it by pegging its currency to the dollar, banning all international currency trading of it and imposing limits on the amount of currency Malaysians could take abroad to stop the run on its currency which was fuelled by speculators.

As with the US and European financial crises the cause was deregulation empowering fraud and speculation.

Some might ask, so why not stick with the pound and stay in the UK to avoid these risks? The pound is no guarantee for economic stability for Scotland or even England though. We had the pound and were in the union and suffered the banking crisis and the recession since it.

In the 1980s an economic boom in the city of London financial sector led the UK government to increase interest rates to double figures during a recession in Scotland and the North of England, whose economies were devastated as a result.

With a government led by a party which gets more than half its donations from banks and hedge funds, UK economic policy continues to be made for the benefit of the banks and hedge funds, not the whole country. So the status quo carries its own risks. Another crisis as bad as the banking crisis could happen at any time.

Independence would provide a chance of regulating Scotland’s financial sector properly, which would be an example UK governments would find it difficult to ignore.

A country’s size doesn’t make it safer from economic crises
Regulation and having its own currency do
So staying in theUK doesn’t guarantee our economic future

Unionists politicians often claim Scotland couldn’t have survived the financial crisis as an independent country, pointing to Iceland, Greece and Ireland as supposed evidence that small countries can’t make it.

This is confusing the causes of the crisis, which was nothing to do with the size of the countries and everything to do with deregulation and in Greece and Ireland’s cases with not having their own currencies.

Norway, which has a population of 5 million – similar to Ireland’s and less than Scotland’s – regulated its banks properly and has its own currency. As a result it didn’t suffer the financial crisis suffered by the UK with over 10 times its population or the US with over 40 times its population, nor did it suffer any recession as a result.

Safe and secure with small government, welfare cuts,
personal debt crises and deregulation?

Welfare cuts and public sector job cuts by successive UK governments of both parties have eroded the welfare state on the false assumption that the market, left to its own devices, will provide employment to all who want it.

The  Conservatives in the Coalition government have gone far further than Labour did with this, but most of the “reforms” being carried out under the Conservatives were already being planned under Brown and Blair, even if they might not have taken them to the same extremes.

As a result the number of people reliant on food banks has increased by a factor of 10 in the first 3 years of the Coalition government, many genuinely disabled people are denied enough money to survive. Is that certainty, security and lack of risk?

Neither unionist parties nor the SNP have put forward any plan to deal with the personal debt crisis facing millions of people in the Scotland and the UK, which could also lead to an economic crisis affecting even those who are not in debt as millions go bankrupt and default on their debts.

Neither have either side put forward any serious plan to reverse the growing inequality which, if it’s not changed, will make any economic growth irrelevant as only a tiny minority will benefit from it.

So the unionist claims that staying part of the UK automatically makes Scotland (or any of the rest of the UK’s population) safe and secure is ridiculous.

To even significantly reduce the risks and uncertainties most people live with we need several things. Proper regulation of the financial sector. An end to allowing banks and hedge funds to buy political influence through donations to political parties. Enforcement of anti-monopoly and oligopoly laws. A guaranteed comprehensive welfare state.

The floods in England again show how the minimal government neo-liberal theory backfires. Man-made climate change, cuts to the Environment Agency’s budget and relaxing of planning processes (especially on building on flood plains) led to disaster for thousands - and a government left impotent by its own small government agenda.

Acknowledging Uncertainty,
Planning for various possibilities

Yes and No campaigns, unionists and nationalists, alike, need to start acknowledging that they can’t be certain what the results of the choices they advocate would be - and providing a set of various plans to deal with each major possibility.

Politicians are frequently successful by telling people what they want to hear – and we all often convince ourselves that what we want to believe is the truth. But that often backfires with severe consequences for everyone. Better to face up to the facts, including the fact that there are many questions which we can’t be 100% certain of the answers to – and that it’s better to have planned various options to deal with various possible outcomes.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Buccaneering by Cameron's Bank and Hedge Fund Pirate Friends in the City is the reason many Scots and English people would like to get out of the UK

Prime Minister David Cameron says we must save the UK as it’s a “brilliant, buccaneering country” (1) – (2). That’s an interesting choice of words. Buccaneers were pirates. How appropriate from a Prime Minister whose party gets most of its funding from the banks and hedge funds who are the modern international, government approved, pirates, stealing billions from 99.9% of the world’s population (3) – (4).

The hedge funds and banks even buy up food and stockpile it to push the price up to make money on “futures trading”, starving the world’s poorest people for profits that go to already super-rich investors, stock market traders and senior managers (5). David Cameron and much of his party are not ashamed of this, but proud of it.

To them Elizabethan England with its state approved pirates, or “privateers” like Sir Francis Drake, is a wet dream they want to bring back – and through privatisation, lack of regulation and eroding the welfare state, they are succeeding.

Big banks, hedge funds, energy companies and supermarkets are the privateers of our day, buying the right to steal from millions and avoid taxes in offshore tax havens through donations to party funds. They’re worse than the privateers, because at least the privateers were stealing from other governments and rich merchants, while the modern privateers steal from the vast majority including the very poorest.

The Coalition government has blocked even modest EU attempts at increased regulation and restrictions on bankers’ bonuses. Chancellor George Osborne has gone to court to block EU caps on bankers’ bonuses. For Cameron and Osborne there must be no restrictions on buccaneering. Cap benefits for the poorest, but bankers have to be able to pay themselves whatever they like (6).

With the number of people reliant on food banks in the UK having increased from under 50,000 to around half a million in the first few years of their government, they are also heading us back towards Elizabethan era levels of poverty and inequality. Like Tony Blair, they are very relaxed about this, as they’re not the ones who have to go hungry or watch their kids go hungry (7) – (8).

And this is the kind of thing David Cameron thinks will make Scots want to stay part of the UK? Even many English people would like to escape that kind of organised kleptocracy. Buccaneering isn’t popular when the buccaneers are the super-rich, stealing from the majority and making the poorest go hungry.

The best thing Scots can do to end this is vote Yes and go independent, both to save our own people, and to provide an example of supposedly impossible alternatives working; an example that no UK government would be able to ignore.

 (1) = www.guardian.com 07 Feb 2014 ‘David Cameron sets out 'emotional, patriotic' case to keep Scotland in UK’, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/07/david-cameron-scottish-independence-referendum-olympic-park

(2) = www.gov.uk 07 Feb 2014 ‘The importance of Scotland to the UK: David Cameron’s speech’, https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-importance-of-scotland-to-the-uk-david-camerons-speech  (see paragraph near end of speech which begins ‘And I passionately hope that my children’ – final sentence of paragraph reads ‘Our great United Kingdom: brave, brilliant, buccaneering, generous, tolerant, proud – this is our country.’)

(3) = BBC News 9 Feb 2011 ‘More than half of Conservative donors 'from the City'’,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12401049

(4) = Bureau of Investigative Journalism ‘Tory Party funding from City doubles under Cameron’, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2011/02/08/city-financing-of-the-conservative-party-doubles-under-cameron/

(5) = Independent On Sunday 01 April 2012 ‘The real hunger games: How banks gamble on food prices – and the poor lose out’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/the-real-hunger-games-how-banks-gamble-on-food-prices--and-the-poor-lose-out-7606263.html

(6) = Guardian 25 Sep 2013 ‘Osborne bats for bankers' bonuses citing risk to City from EU cap’, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/sep/25/osborne-bankers-bonuses-eu-cap

(7) = BBC News 30 May 2013 ‘Food bank reliance in the UK triples, says Oxfam’,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22715451

(8) = www.parliament.uk 18 Dec 2013 ‘MPs debate Accident and Emergency Services and Food Banks’, http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2013/december/opposition-day-18-december-2013/

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Energy company executives are lying about their costs and ever increasing profits - here's the proof - time to nationalise the energy industry

The energy companies claim their profits are not increasing. Yet Scottish Power’s own 2012 accounts show it more than doubled its net profits from £267 million in 2011 to £648 million in 2012 (1)

The energy companies claim the vast majority of any profits they do make are re-invested in new generation capacity. Yet in February Scottish Power’s parent company Iberdrola announced it was spending £890 million from Scottish power revenues on share dividends (2) – (4).

It also spent £23,000 sponsoring Labour, Conservative, SNP and Plaid Cymru conferences and events in 2012 (5). An investment to ensure no real regulation or renationalisation maybe? If so, cheap even if it had been ten times that.

Accountants who looked at the Big Six energy firms’ accounts, interviewed by Channel 4’s Dispatches, found they all issue similar share dividends of hundreds of millions of pounds a year (6).

The accountants also found the firms’ claims on their profit margins include only retail, excluding big profit margins on generation and wholesale of energy, with all six firms being generators as well as retailers (7).  

Office of National Statistics and Ofgem figures show that while wholesale energy costs increased by 38% between 2005 and 2010, customers bills increased by 73%, almost twice as much. Add in that the companies were making profits on generation and wholesale and energy costs can’t possibly account for the increase in bills (8).

A study by Manchester University in 2011 found the big six energy firms systematically profiteering over years by raising their prices by the full amount every time wholesale gas costs increased, but, when costs fell, delaying passing on the savings to customers and only passing on part of them when they did (9).

Ofgem, the energy regulator, recently estimated that energy companies have been increasing prices by up to 10% a year while wholesale gas costs are falling (10).

It also estimates that their profit margins have doubled in the last year , while infrastructure costs, wholesale energy costs and green levies have added just £35 to the average bill in the same period (11) – (12).

It's not the green levies -
they're under 4% of the average household’s bill

The energy companies, PM David Cameron and the Daily Mail want you to believe that the main cause of rising bills has been “immoral” green levies added to them by the last government (13) – (15).

Yet most of these levies have nothing to do with renewable energy or reducing CO2 emissions. They’re to reduce energy bills for the poorest households.

Only four are ‘green’ measures – the Renewables Obligation, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the Carbon Price Floor, and Feed In Tariffs, which allow consumers to save on their bills by generating electricity using small wind turbines or rooftop solar panels. The four together put £50 or about 3.95% on the average household’s annual bill of £1,267 a year (16) – (17).

So green measures are under 4% of the average bill ; apart from the fact that as global demand for fossil fuels is rising faster than supply, if we don’t invest in alternatives to increase supply, energy prices will rise faster.

The other two main government levies on fuel bills, the Energy Companies Obligation and the Warm Home Discount, reduce bills for people on low incomes. The final two, and smallest, are for Smart Meters and Better Billing to reduce all consumers’ energy bills. These four non-green levies add £61 a year to the average bill or 4.81% (18) – (19).

Privatisation is only a success for the 1%
at everyone else’s expense :
time for renationalisation

Privatisation of the energy industry is only a success for the wealthy executives and major shareholders of the companies, at everyone else’s expense.

The average income of the majority of people in the UK relative to inflation has been falling ever since the financial crisis ; by 2% in this year to August alone (20).  

Almost one in four people in the UK are spending their savings to pay energy bills, one in six have gone into debt to pay them. Thousands are estimated to die each winter due to illnesses caused by cold due to being unable to afford to heat their homes (21) – (22).

Yet the energy companies’ executives are still increasing their profits and spending them on dividends. That kind of massive redistribution of wealth from the vast majority to a tiny and already wealthy minority is unacceptable. Nationalisation must follow.

Even with the economy growing again, so much existing and new wealth is being taken from the majority by a small majority that economic growth is not stopping the majority continuing to get worse off. Unless we want to end up like Brazil, with a tiny wealthy elite and everyone else in poverty, we have to reverse the inequality.

What you can do

 

 

  • Email letters or text messages to newspapers, magazines and radio and TV programmes when they’re discussing energy prices to call for renationalisation

 

Sources

 

(1) = SCOTTISH POWER UK PLC DIRECTORS’ REPORT AND ACCOUNTS

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2012, page 3,
http://www.scottishpowerrenewables.com/userfiles/file/Consolidated_Report_%26_Accounts_Scottish_Power_UK_plc_2012.pdf

(2) = BBC News 11 Jul 2013 ‘Profits soar at Glasgow-based Scottish Power’,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-23270146

(3) = Financial Times / ft.com 17 Feb 2013 ‘Iberdrola defends £890m UK unit dividend’,
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b020833a-78fb-11e2-b4df-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2jiPiV4Q5

(4) = thisismoney.co.uk 17 Feb 2013 ‘Spanish owner takes £900m dividend from Scottish Power despite pushing through a big increase in bills for British customers’,
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-2280170/Scottish-Power-defends-900m-Iberdrola-dividend.html

(5) = SCOTTISH POWER UK PLC DIRECTORS’ REPORT AND ACCOUNTS

FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2012, page 14,
http://www.scottishpowerrenewables.com/userfiles/file/Consolidated_Report_%26_Accounts_Scottish_Power_UK_plc_2012.pdf

(6) = Channel4.com 04 Nov 2013 ‘Dispatches delves into the accounts of the Big Six energy suppliers’, http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/dispatches-delves-into-the-accounts-of-big-six-energy-suppliers

(7) = See (6) above

(8) = BBC News 11 Jan 2012 ‘Energy bills explained’,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15352599

(9) = Guardian 02 Dec 2011 ‘Big six energy firms face fresh accusations of profiteering’,
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/dec/02/energy-firms-accusations-profiteering-electricity

(10) = Guardian 29 Oct 2013 ‘Energy firms raised prices despite drop in wholesale costs’,
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/29/energy-firms-raised-prices-as-wholesale-costs-fall

(11) = Independent 29 Oct 2013 ‘Big Six energy producers under fire over excessive profits ahead of grilling by MPs’,
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/big-six-energy-producers-under-fire-over-excessive-profits-ahead-of-grilling-by-mps-8909608.html

(12) = Guardian 29 Oct 2013 ‘Energy firms 'overcharge by £3.7bn a year'’, http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/29/energy-firms-overcharge-accusation

(13) = Telegraph 29 Oct 2013 ‘Scrap green tax and energy bills will fall, say Big Six’, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/10413396/Scrap-green-tax-and-energy-bills-will-fall-say-Big-Six.html

(14) = theguardian.com 23 Oct 2013 ‘David Cameron pledges to reverse 'green charges' on energy bills’,
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/23/energy-industry-competition-test-cameron

(15) = Daily Mail 13 Oct 20134 ‘Red Ed's great green obsession... and the real reason YOUR bill has gone through the roof’, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2456760/Red-Eds-great-green-obsession--real-reason-YOUR-gone-roof-The-hidden-subsidies-household-pays-year-thanks-Milibands-laws.html

(16) = theguardian.com 23 Oct 2013 ‘Green energy levies: how much do they cost and will they be cut?’, http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/oct/23/green-energy-levies-how-much

(17) = Full Fact 23 Oct 2013 ‘How much do 'green taxes' add to energy bills?’,
http://fullfact.org/factchecks/energy_bills_green_taxes-29250

(18) = see (10) above

(19) = See (11) above

(20) = guardian 16 Oct 2013 ‘UK unemployment data: 0.7% average pay rise dwarfed by inflation’,
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/16/uk-unemployment-average-pay-rise-inflation

(21) = see (6) above

(22) = BBC News 19 Oct 2011 ‘Rising energy bills causing fuel poverty deaths’,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15359312

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Would Kerry support a military coup like that in Egypt in the US, against Obama, where millions of birthers, racists and Tea Party-ers would support it?

US Secretary of State John Kerry claims the military coup against elected President Mohammed Morsi was “restoring democracy” because it was supported by millions of people (‘Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood 'disappointed' by John Kerry's remarks’ Guardian 1st August)  (1).

While there were many na├»ve liberals and socialists who backed the coup, there were also large numbers of former members and even MPs from Mubarak’s NDP party (2) – (4).

The Tamarod movement which ran the petition against Morsi didn’t even realise it’s main funders were businessmen who supported Mubarak’s regime (5).

Some of Tamarod’s members left the movement shortly before Morsi’s overthrow, saying it had been infiltrated by Mubarak supporters and secret police (6).

Morsi was accused of “mismanaging the economy” resulting in petrol shortages and electricity black outs. Yet these crises miraculously disappeared as soon as Morsi was overthrown – because they too were organised by pro-Mubarak businessmen and probably the military, which owns much of the Egyptian economy, including many petrol stations (7) – (8).

There are millions of birthers, tea-party-ers and racists in the US who would support a military coup against President Obama, who they also continually claim is acting unconstitutionally and undemocratically. Would that make it legitimate?

Kerry also claims “the military did not take over”.

General Sissi has made himself Commander in Chief of the military, Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (9).

Sissi appointed the interim President, Adly Mansour, originally made a judge by Mubarak, who lifted the ban on members of Mubarak’s dictatorship standing in elections (10).

The Chief Prosecutor sacked by Morsi for acquitting Mubarak’s security officials of ordering protesters killed is back (11) – (13).

Secret police units disbanded after Mubarak was overthrown are back too (14).

So the military and officials from the old dictatorship are back in power.

Some of the supposedly liberal and democratic opposition also seem more personally ambitious than concerned with democracy. For instance the head of the Tamarod movement told General Sisi that holding a referendum on whether Morsi could stay on as elected President was unacceptable – he had to be “recalled” or overthrown. This leader has also said he has an ambition to be President of Egypt himself (15).

Having some civilians, some of them dupes from among the secular protesters, who naively believe they are in charge, the rest former dictatorship members, as a fig leaf for military rule is something any impartial observer should be able to see through.

The coup government has killed more protesters in a month than died in a year under Morsi – and unlike under Morsi, when each side’s protesters were killing the other, with as many pro as anti Morsi protesters killed, this time almost all the dead are anti-coup protesters and Morsi supporters.

As long as the Obama administration continue supporting the military coup and bloody counter-revolution by the military and old regime any claims Obama makes of supporting democracy or human rights are empty.

 

(1) = Guardian 03 Aug 2013 ‘Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood 'disappointed' by John Kerry's remarks’,
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/02/egypt-muslim-brother-john-kerry-remarks

(2) = Wall Street Journal 05 Jul 2013 ‘Egyptians Open Door to Mubarak's Allies’,
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324260204578587872719316196.html ; see 4th, 17th, 19th , 20th paragraphs ‘Mohammed Abul Ghar, the head of Egypt's secular-leaning Social Democratic Party and a leader in the National Salvation Front, the leading opposition group to Mr. Morsi…After Mr. Morsi claimed authority over Egypt's judiciary in November, many of the young secular activists behind the revolution against Mr. Mubarak made common cause with Mr. Shafiq's supporters and other NDP loyalists… The party decided to accept former NDP members who weren't close to Mr. Mubarak and whose records were clean of corruption allegations… Gamal al Zini, a former NDP parliamentarian from the Nile Delta city of Damiet, said he has had regular meetings with local youth activists, Tamarod leaders and members of Mr. ElBaradei's Constitution Party since May..

(3) = Egypt Independent 20 Feb 2013 ‘Former NDP members to form new party’,
http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/former-ndp-members-form-new-party

(4) = Ahram Online 11 Feb 2011 ‘NDP Offshoots’,
http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/33/104/26897/Elections-/Political-Parties/NDP-Offshoots.aspx

(5) = NYT 10 Jul 2013 ‘Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi’, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/11/world/middleeast/improvements-in-egypt-suggest-a-campaign-that-undermined-morsi.html?_r=2&

(6) = Reuters 08 Jul 2013 ‘The Egyptian rebel who "owns" Tahrir Square’, http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/07/08/egypt-protests-tamarud-idINDEE96702M20130708 ; ‘One Tamarud activist who spoke to Reuters said she resigned three days before the giant protest because she was concerned that the secret police and former Mubarak supporters were infiltrating the movement. …"Many of the people I'd worked with left, and some of the new faces I knew were felul (remnants), nostalgic for Mubarak, or justifying the work of state security."

(7) = (5) above

(8) = Al Jazeera 15 Feb 2012 ‘Egypt military's economic empire’,
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/02/2012215195912519142.html

(9) = Independent 24 Jul 2013 ‘Showdown in Cairo: Egyptian general demands permission to take on the ‘terrorists’’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/showdown-in-cairo-egyptian-general-demands-permission-to-take-on-the-terrorists-8729903.html

(10) = BBC News 04 Jul 2013 ‘Profile: Interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour’,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23176293

(11) = Al Ahram Online 04 Jul 2013 ‘Prosecutor-general sacked by Morsi reinstated’,
http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/75698/Egypt/Politics-/Prosecutorgeneral-sacked-by-Morsi-reinstated.aspx

(12) = Amnesty International 02 Jun 2013 ‘Egypt: Mubarak verdict fails to deliver full justice’,  http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/egypt-mubarak-2012-06-02 ; ‘However, the acquittal of all the other defendants, including senior security officials, leaves many still waiting for full justice…Six senior security officials, including former head of the now-disbanded State Security Investigations service (SSI), were acquitted…Corruption charges against two of Mubarak’s sons, Gamal and Alaa, and his business associate Hussein Salem, who was tried in absentia, were dropped.

(13) = VOA News 08 Jun 2013 ‘Anger Erupts in Egypt Over Mubarak Retrial’, http://www.voanews.com/content/anger-erupts-in-egypt-over-mubarak-trial/1677958.htmlAnger erupted Saturday in the Egyptian court retrying ousted president Hosni Mubarak for complicity in the killings of hundreds of protesters, after a judge barred the participation of lawyers representing families of those killed.

(14) = Guardian 29 Jul 2013 ‘Egypt restores feared secret police units’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/29/egypt-restores-secret-police-units

(15) = Reuters 08 Jul 2013 ‘The Egyptian rebel who "owns" Tahrir Square’,
http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/07/08/egypt-protests-tamarud-idINDEE96702M20130708

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Baradei and the secular opposition need to make common cause with Morsi's supporters before they become the military's next targets themselves

El Baradei and much of the secular opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi in Egypt either don’t understand the meaning of democracy or else don’t believe in it. El Baradei rejected every offer of negotiations and compromise with Morsi, the elected President, blocking talks when other opposition leaders and groups like liberal Ayman Nour agreed to them. The demands of the opposition were ludicrous; including that Morsi, the elected President, resign before negotiations even begin (1) – (2).

Democracy doesn’t mean one faction getting everything their own way. In a democracy that’s impossible. It’s the opposite of democracy. Real democracy is a compromise between every single person in a country in which each has an equal say in the negotiated compromise reached.

By refusing any compromise or negotiations; and by welcoming a military coup that placed Mubarak’s people and the military back in power, El Baradei and much of the secular opposition have also made themselves powerless dupes (3).

There is only one way for them to redeem themselves and restore a chance of preventing a counter-revolution in which General Sisi will be the new Mubarak in all but name; they need to call for the military to release the elected President and the hundreds of other members of the Brotherhood arrested since the coup and then begin immediate negotiations with them.

When both Morsi protesters and their opponents were killing each other in ones and twos at a time El Baradei was claiming that Morsi had given up any right to remain in power.

Now the army and their hired thugs with swords and knives have killed hundreds of protesters against the military coup, the vast majority of whom were peaceful and unarmed.

They are likely the same thugs working for Mubarak’s people and the military who attacked anti-government protesters under Morsi . The opposition believed what they wanted to believe and have been taken for fools by the dictatorship and the military (4).

The military has introduced censorship, closing down every Muslim party’s media outlets as well as Al Jazeera Egypt and arresting their staff. This allows state TV to prevent Egyptians seeing that the protests against the coup are just as big as the pro-military and pro-coup protests (5).

 They’ve even taken cameras from CNN reporters to prevent them filming. If there’s nothing to hide why would they do this?

They’ve used live ammunition to massacre protesters twice – and showed their continued dishonesty by claiming they hadn’t (6) – (7).

Yet somehow this is all supposed to be acceptable because the elected President who was overthrown came from a Muslim party and the protesters are mostly from religious Muslim parties.

Everything is supposedly forgivable because those doing it are secular. Mubarak was secular. The military are secular and have killed, tortured, sexually abused and raped more protesters than any other group in Egypt. Stalin was secular. Pinochet was secular. Saddam was secular. Assad is secular. Hitler was secular.

I’m an agnostic and would never, ever vote for a religious party, but many Egyptians voted for Morsi and Muslim parties and their votes should count. Being secular does not make you automatically right and being religious does not make you automatically wrong.

Some point out that many voters in the Presidential elections in Egypt were voting against Shafiq, Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, rather than for Morsi. That’s true, but unexceptional. In pretty much every democracy with a first-past-the-post system a large proportion of voters are voting against the other party or candidate as much or more than for the person or party they vote for.

This winner-takes-all version of democracy is far from ideal in my opinion and not full democracy, which should involve every vote counting equally, for instance by a multi-member executive to give everyone equal say.

However it does not make a military coup, the jailing of the elected President and the massacre of protesters against this coup legitimate.

Protesters in Egypt who claim it wasn’t a coup are frankly full of shit. They are basically saying democracy is them getting their own way, by whatever method. They’re also fooling themselves if they believe they have any real power now.

The military and Mansour (Mubarak’s man) and the Chief Prosecutor (ditto) and General Sissi have the real power as long as they can play the secular opposition to the military and Mubarak off against the Muslim parties’ opposition.

Mansour (the interim President) has given the Prime Minister the power to call a state of emergency and the secret police units disbanded after the revolution are back (8). General Sissi, who lead the coup, has made himself not only Commander In Chief of the armed forces, a position only held by elected heads of government in a democracy, but also Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (9).

So if the Prime Minister refuses to call a state of emergency, Sissi just gets Mansour to sack him – and Sissi, as Deputy Prime Minister, becomes Prime Minister and calls a state of emergency.

I hate the current Conservative government in the UK and didn’t vote for them. I’m completely against most of what they’re doing and so is most of the country. I was equally opposed to about 60 or 70% of the last Labour government’s more right wing policies. I don’t believe elections should be a blank cheque that let governments do whatever they want till the next election comes either. Does that mean a military coup and massacring those parties’ supporters would make it all better?

Only an idiot would think so. The same is true in Egypt. Negotiations, power sharing and referenda on major issues are the way to real democracy – not backing military coups and massacres by the old guard of the dictatorship.

Those who claim that Islam and democracy are incompatible are wrong, because there are multiple interpretations of Islam, many of them progressive enough to be entirely reconcilable with democracy.
For instance El Tayeb, the head of the Islamic University in Cairo, which was given the power to rule on the meaning of sharia and Islam by the constitution passed by referendum under Morsi,
is a moderate who has said women should not wear hijabs or head coverings as there’s nothing in the Quran about them (10) – (11).

Tayeb has also condemned the killing of Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-coup protesters by the army.

Not only are those saying Islam and democracy are irreconcilable wrong though, they are helping out Al Qa’ida and similar extreme Jihadist groups who also condemn any involvement in elections and democratic politics as un-Islamic (12).

Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the head of Al Qa’ida has claimed that elections “did not follow Sharia” (i.e Al Qa’ida’s extreme version of Islamic Sharia law) (13).

True, in the month or so before the coup Morsi did begin to appoint and ally with some extreme Sunni Islamist groups and clerics. This was foolish but likely an act of desperation after over a year of trying to get the opposition to agree to negotiate had failed and when these groups seemed like his only allies against a military coup.

The opposition to Morsi claim that if Morsi had been allowed to remain in office Egypt would no longer have been a democracy. Obama’s opponents in the US make the same claims about him with as little evidence.

If this coup is allowed to stand and the current line among the media and governments that the Muslim Brotherhood must “be reasonable” and “make concessions” which are to include accepting the overthrow of the first democratically elected President in Egyptian history, the jailing of members of his party and the massacre of peaceful protesters, then it makes Al Qa’ida’s propaganda about how we don’t really mean it when we say we support democracy, about how secularism is corrupt and hypocritical, about how Islam and democracy are irreconcilable seem true.

Then there will be a lot more radicalisation of Muslims in Egypt and worldwide, more terrorist attacks like the one that killed the police recruits and civilians recently. General Sisi and the Egyptian military like to pretend the coup and the killing of protesters is a response to this terrorism. In fact they’re the cause of it (14).

It’s just like Tony Blair and George Bush’s ludicrous nonsense about how it was necessary to invade Iraq to stop Al Qa’ida, who weren’t even in the country until after the invasion.

Compulsive liars, dishonest rulers and those who can’t tell the difference between reality and what they want to believe will all try to pretend that the relationship of cause and effect can just be reversed wherever they feel like it. As the White Stripes pointed out, they can’t.

El Baradei and the rest of Morsi’s opponents need to wake up, see their own faults and stupidities which are as severe as any of those of Morsi or the Brotherhood. They need to call for his release and sit down to negotiate before the revolution is over and Sisi place as a new version of Mubarak, this time the puppet master controlling the President rather than the President himself, is so firmly entrenched in power he can turn his guns on the secular opposition, having crushed the Muslim opposition.

The US government meanwhile can shut up about how it promotes democracy and human rights as long as it keeps funding the coup regime and refuses to even call the coup a coup.

(1) = AP / Independent 11 Dec 2012 ‘Masked gunmen attack opposition protesters as crowds gather for rallies in Egypt’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/masked-gunmen-attack-opposition-protesters-as-crowds-gather-for-rallies-in-egypt-8405979.html , 12th paragraph, ‘Cracks in the opposition's unity first appeared last weekend when one of its leading figures, veteran opposition politician Ayman Nour, accepted an invitation by Morsi to attend a "national dialogue" meeting. On Monday, another key opposition figure, El-Sayed Badawi of the Wafd party, met Morsi at the presidential palace.’

(2) = LA Times 08 Dec 2012 ‘Egypt protesters demand that Mohamed Morsi step down’, http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/08/world/la-fg-egypt-rallies-20121208

(3) = CNN 08 Jul 2013 ‘ElBaradei: Morsy's ouster was needed so Egypt cannot 'fail'’, http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/04/world/meast/egypt-elbaradei

(4) = LA Times 28 Jan 2013 ‘Egypt protests continue; opposition rejects talks with Morsi’, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/28/world/la-fg-wn-egypt-protests-opposition-rejects-talks-morsi-20130128

(5) = Al Jazeera 04 Jul 2013 ‘Egypt's military shuts down news channels’, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/07/2013740531685326.html

(6) = Guardian 18 Jul 2013 ‘At the second kneel of the prayers, the attack began’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/18/egyptian-security-attack-on-morsi-supporters

(7) = NYT 27 Ju 2013 ‘Hundreds Shot in Cairo Attack on Morsi Rally’, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/world/middleeast/egypt.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

(8) = Guardian 29 Jul 2013 ‘Egypt restores feared secret police units’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/29/egypt-restores-secret-police-units ; 5th paragraph ; ‘Ibrahim's announcement came hours before Egypt's interim prime minister was given the power to place the country in a state of emergency – a hallmark of Egypt under Mubarak.

(9) = Independent 24 Jul 2013 ‘Showdown in Cairo: Egyptian general demands permission to take on the ‘terrorists’’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/showdown-in-cairo-egyptian-general-demands-permission-to-take-on-the-terrorists-8729903.html

(10) = The National Review 06 Jul 2013 ‘Elections Are Not Democracy’, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/352778/elections-are-not-democracy-andrew-c-mccarthy

(11) = The National (UAE) 21 Mar 2010 ‘Mubarak appoints a new chief of Al Azhar’, http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/africa/mubarak-appoints-a-new-chief-of-al-azhar#page1

(12) = CRS Report for Congress May 2005 ‘Al Qaeda: Statements and Evolving Ideology’, http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RL32759.pdf ; see pages 10 to 11

(13) = Egypt Independent 29 Jul 2013 ‘’, http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/07/06/al-zawahiri-calls-for-victims-and-sacrifices/

(14) = guardian.co.uk 24 Jul 2013 ‘Egyptian general calls for millions to protest against 'terrorism'’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/24/egypt-general-sisi-protest-terrorism