Naomi Klein V Trump 1

I saw the book title, ‘NO is not enough’ by Naomi Klein, read the blurb and thought this is my cup of tea. However, I was met with a cup of gloop. No doubt well-meaning and to some extent forward thinking. But! Then I hit the last pages and began nodding my head, yeah, I’ve hit hard core. Ooh! I was at last excited, Klein and I are on the same train heading to somewhere better. But!

The mention of dismay that Hillary Clinton failed and could not be, “…a role model…” (17) had me reaching for the megaphone to scream the title of the book. Clinton was and is an entrenched and fully paid up member of the establishment. Many in the Democratic Party did not support her and actively campaigned against Clinton as their candidate. The champion of the hour was Bernie Sanders.

In hindsight, perhaps, the ruling elite of the Democrats regret their decision to force Sanders off the ticket. He could have beaten Trump but the fat cats at the top did not want to wrestle with Sanders brand of politics.

Ms Klein to her credit supported the Sanders campaign but later found fault in his policy decisions. Notable was the decision on reparations for slavery. (125) Klein quotes Sanders that reparations would be ‘”divisive”’ and that that decision may have cost him a substantial black vote. Is she suggesting he play to the gallery just for votes? I disagree with her analysis and believe that Sanders showed more understanding of the big picture of what it takes to unite the people.

Opposition to Sanders on that issue points more towards a lack of understanding of the bigger picture, which has become characteristic of the ‘Left’ in politics. There are too many questions associated with the policy of reparations: would payments be generic or individual? How much overall? Who decides how to spend it? Spend on what? The whole episode could prove fractious in the extreme. Not to forget the rest of the poor looking on.

The ‘left’ get a policy idea and run with it without much, if any, debate. You are either with them or against them. It’s an assumption of righteousness. On the mild side it’s patronizing on the other it’s dictatorial. We know what’s best for you! They get so engrossed in pursuing their own agenda they don’t see the need to consult or feel the anxiety of the poor. It’s the Moses syndrome!

Isn’t ironic that Klein supports Sanders only to go nit picking when he fails. She should be having a go at the hierarchy of the Democratic Party for their lack of vision and courage, which she acknowledges (123). But then all the guys at the top think alike. They may sport different colour ties when they meet up at the country club but eat at the same table.

Going back to the possibility of Hillary Clinton as president would only have ensured a continuation of the same old policies. Gender has no bearing on what a leader does; it’s their politics, their belief system. A female leader does not ensure a more thoughtful or caring approach to policy.

My way or …

I’ll refer you back to 1979 in the UK and the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. Her policies battered the working class into submission and caused severe damage to the manufacturing base of the economy. Her approach involved the ‘shock’ attack of neoliberalism, economic thinking of the Chicago School.

And recently, we have the rule of

Better my way …

Angela Merkel, a so called centrist politician leading a left leaning coalition. Well!! If we are to believe Yanis Varoufakis, finance minister of the Greek government 2015 and no one has refuted his analysis of what took place.* The sting began with the bailout of €110bn to the Greek economy in 2010, the first of three. Varoufakis is adamant that as the money poured into Greece it was just as quickly siphoned off back to the German and French banks that were facing collapse.

*Yanis Varoufakis, Adults in the Room (34)

This blatant and shameless robbery of the people’s money to save the banks was one of the most audacious scams in our history. To pay the debt Europe was forced into austerity. Merkel used the clout of the troika* to impose the deal. A decade later the debt is still being paid. Europe has been put on a very strict diet while Germany feasts on its ill-gotten gains.

*European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Klein bemoans that Obama did not take the opportunity during the financial crisis (2008) to steer America in a different direction but no such condemnation of Merkel. Instead Merkel is commended for the creation of 400,000 green jobs (214) while coal still remains the basic energy provider for the nation. The decision to extend the green environment may have more to do with a dependency on Russian oil and gas.

Moreover, the ordinary people of Europe have paid an extreme price to bolster and maintain the German economy. Cracks are now appearing as the duration of the German plan continues to hurt. The EU is in deep trouble!

We must commend Ms Klein for accepting that Merkel’s raid on Europe was “merciless” (214). The actions of Merkel were a precursor to Trump’s campaign. Merkel put Germany first and had no concern for the needs of others. Trump has stated on numerous occasions that he will put America first come what may. Is he following Merkel’s lesson plan?

Merkel kicked democracy into the tall grass while she went about her business. Clear evidence can be found with the troika’s actions in Greece and Cyprus. Will Trump go that far?

Let’s leave the last word to Yanis Varoufakis:

I witnessed first hand what I can only describe as a naked class war that targeted the weak and scandalously favoured the ruling class.

The Great EU Swindle

I witnessed first hand what I can only describe as a naked class war that targeted the weak and scandalously favoured the ruling class. Yanis Varoufakis

Trust is a dead word! The EU political elite have sapped the hopes and aspirations of millions of ordinary people throughout Europe. Nearly a decade of austerity has cheated them out of €billions to save the French and German banks.

In a stampede to maximise their profit the European banks lead the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ into the cesspit of derivatives. They wanted their cut, to cash in in the quick buck world of finance. They stood to make €millions but, there is always a but, the 2008 financial crash squeezed their balls till they screamed.

Thoughtless in their pursuit of dosh (€/£/$) and fearing they might lose out and look like idiots to the rest of the financial mob, they galloped headlong into the fray. BOOM! BOOM! Their bonuses blowing in the wind they trundled back to beg governments to bail them out. Governments did at phenomenal cost and then passed the bill to the ordinary people. Austerity!

“I witnessed first-hand what I can only describe as a naked class war that targeted the weak and scandalously favoured the ruling class.”1

The Double Whammy

The people were bludgeoned twice. This was a heartless mugging; the subprime mortgage crisis left millions without homes, struggling to survive and then came a decade of austerity. Such is irony. Joseph Stiglitz shoots with both barrels when he states, “…U.S. subprime crisis meant exploiting the poorest and least-educated among us.”2

As the 2008 crisis hit the governments of the EU passed power over to the troika: the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). All decisions about bailing-out fell to them. The crisis appeared to suggest the collapse of the EU.

Angela Merkel berated the Americans for causing the debacle but soon had to eat her words as she handed over an initial €406 billion to German banks. She hadn’t realised they were burst too. Moreover, the German banks had previously loaned $477 billion to the weaker states of the EU.  Later, Merkel would hand over another huge amount.

The banks of France, Germany, Netherlands and UK had a $30 trillion exposure, which meant that if the slightest thing went wrong they would collapse. A massive bailout was needed and quick.3 The troika with their gang of technocrats were called to action.

The Sting

Five countries needed transfusions: Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Greece. In 2010 Greece received a €110bn loan from the troika. “As soon as the bailout loans gushed into the Greek finance ministry, ‘Operation Offload’ began: the process of immediately siphoning the money back to the French and German banks.”4

Of the money given over some 66% came from the EU taxpayer and 33% from taxpayers throughout the world. Thus the banks were salvaged at the expense of the people. Greece was left to cope. During the period 2010 – 2012 Greek government spending dropped by 15%. More bailouts required.5

A second then a third bailout was needed in 2012 and 2015. The Greeks got the blame for mishandling their finances as the people of Europe made snide remarks about the Greeks, not realising that it was Merkel and gang passing it on to the banks.

Little Cyprus suffered too at the hands of the troika. In 2013 Cyprus got a 10bn bailout but the strings attached were severe, the Popular Bank (Laiki Bank) was forced to close. Like other countries within the block Cyprus had to accept austerity. Wikipedia March 2013

Outside of the corridors of power the deal was condemned.

  1. Paul Mason, then a reporter for BBC Newsnight queried,

    “What is Germany doing? It triggered the Cyprus crisis and is playing hardball,…”

  2. Economist Richard D. Wolff described it as “blackmail”.
  3. Dr Jeffery Stacy believed “…it hurt Cyprus and Europe”.
  4. The economist magazine described the deal as, “…short-sighted and self-defeating.”

They were small, they were weak, they were used as a lesson plan to the rest; don’t step out of line! Democracy be damned – and it was! The BBC put the blame firmly in Merkel’s corner. While the Guardian newspaper warned that Cyprus would suffer.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18586532

www.theguardian.com/money/blog/2012/may/18/euro-crisis-cyprus-next

The bailout of Cyprus, “… raised profound questions about the democratic nature of EU decision-making.”

www.Ise.ac.uk/

The people had no say, democracy was ignored, the needs of the elite were met. Meanwhile the poor had to take the medicine without exhibiting any symptoms.

Anyone who reads Yanis Varoufakis book Adults in the Room and still believes in the EU need to see someone!!! But don’t take the word of Varoufakis. The German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble makes it as plain as daylight when speaking to Varoufakis:

“In the Eurogroup you are probably the one who understands that the eurozone is unsustainable. The eurozone is constructed wrongly.”6

The ‘powers’ may argue that they done what they did to save Europe for democracy. It was merely a temporary suspension and, strong arm tactics were necessary to achieve restitution. BUT!

  1. The cost was one-sided. Ordinary Joe paid in full.
  2. Banks were saved without consequential costs.
  3. Banks continue to make huge profits and top employees to make awesome bonuses.
  4. The ‘powers’ never explained their actions
  5. The ‘powers’ succeeded in smashing the concept of fairness.
  6. And succeeded in destroying trust.
  7. Political leaders could not think of an alternative plan.
  8. The elite went scot free!!!

Democracy was cast aside; kicked in the balls and dismissed as a troublesome kid. There can be no clearer evidence that the people were used as pawns to benefit the elite.

“It is unfair to accept benefits but refuse to pay.” The bankers did!!! Johnathan Wolff  7

  1. Yanis Varoufakis, Adults in the Room (481)
  2. Joseph Stiglitz, The price of Inequality (xlv11)
  3. Y V (38)
  4. YV (27)
  5. YV (19 + 499 note)
  6. YV (407)
  7. J. Wolff, Political Philosophy Third Edition (59)

 

 

Drawbridge Brothers: Nationalism

Nationalism is the closing of a door. The ideology gives off a strong penchant for isolationism and, a tendency to breed ethnic and racial discord, at times leading to hatred. If you think – ‘we must look after our own’ – it becomes a definitive barrier to a broader, more cosmopolitan outlook. It closes a chapter to a life that could be illuminating.

 

There’s much discussion about the origins and when it reared its ugly head. Francis Fukuyama1 (p187) cites two authors of the subject, i.e. Benedict Anderson who suggests nationalism emerged in the 16th century, whereas Ernest Gellner puts it at the 19th century. A third voice, Steven Grosby, Nationalism (p118) opines that it is difficult to determine.

Agreement is reached that it is a question of identity. Perhaps it could be construed as a need to belong. A powerful emotional state can be generated by the ideology. So strong are the feelings brought to bear that it can override rational thought.

It is widely agreed, Fukuyama (p191) that nationalism was ‘socially constructed’. Of course, it has mainly benefitted the elite but does have a base in tradition. However, tradition changes over the centuries. What was cultural norms and thought traditional in the 11th century is quite different to our cultural norms and way of life today. Tomorrow’s cultural norms will be different again; perhaps based more on equality and a move from borders.

The elite and political class have made good use of the powerful emotive pull of the ideology to their advantage. The consolidation of Germany as a nation following the 1871 war against France is an example. The First and Second World Wars with the call to arms ‘Your Country Needs You!’ had them lining up to enlist. An explosive cocktail of pride, – patriotism, jingoism, propaganda and manhood made it almost impossible to resist.

The European Union (EU)

The construction of the EU may seem as a step away from borders towards a new unity as noted by Fukuyama (p192) “… the European Union has been trying to construct a postnational sense of European citizenship since the 1950s.” Steven Grosby (p25) has a slightly different take on the issue when he writes that we are possibly seeing “… the emergence of the empire of the European Union.”

While the author’s intention may be more to do with semantics they do portray quite a contrast of view. Fukuyama hints at an all embracing natural development whereas Grosby has a more Machiavellian tinge to it with the use of the word ‘empire’.

My humble take is that it has more to do with erecting a force big enough to counter the emerging powers of India and China as well as to keep abreast of America. In effect the EU is a business model for economic survival. On present political course it may well become an empire.

However, the EU is not without problems, the UK has voted to leave and Spain already weak has a dilemma with the prospect of the Basque region breaking away. But Spain is not alone, in the UK Scotland threatens to divorce itself from the rest of the nation but wants to remain in the EU. Thus we have the EU trying to build an economic block to rival India, China and America while nationalism is snipping at its toes.

It is a peculiar situation that both Scotland and the Basque region want to break from their parent country but remain in the EU. Neither seems to see the contradiction that the EU wants a cohesive block with no borders but both the above want a separate border. It would seem that they do not understand the cultural shift that is envisaged for Europe.

Further afield in Canada, Quebec has a strong leaning to be independent. Some in Quebec and in the Basque area are prepared to use violence to secure their vision. Steven Grosby (p116) sums it up, “…the uncivil ideology of nationalism continues, often tragically, to have a hold, with varying degrees of intensity, on the imagination of humanity.” Read of the events of the Balkan Wars.

In all cases above, each see themselves as culturally unique in some way with different traditions, as an ethnic body. However, Alice Roberts in her book, Celts (p268) opines that there is no “…‘pure’ ethnic identity, from a genetic point of view.” She later concludes, “We’re all genetic mongrels.” In other words we are all part of a bastard race.

Throughout our history slavery has been a part of our society. People were traded all over the known world. I think of Rome which had an abundance of slaves, who did not scatter for ‘home’ when the empire collapsed, rather they were assimilated. Our history is full of conquests, of much rape and pillage. Slavery was a part of the economics of the old world as it is now with the despicable underworld of people traffickers.

Francis Fukuyama is unequivocal, “It is certainly correct that nationalism was a by-product of modernization, and that specific national identities were socially constructed.” The question is by whom? We can hopefully agree that it was not the march of the peasantry that consolidated Germany, or bound France, or Britain. Conquest, power, dosh (£ $) that was the key motivators. The peasantry did march but as enslaved soldiers of their masters.

A little bomb was left for others to get excited over by the writer Ernest Renan, cited by Fukuyama (p196) when he states, “Forgetting, I would even say historical error, is essential to the creation of a nation.” Hmm!

Nationalism has proven to be a tool in the hands of the unscrupulous, the elite and political class. They call upon it as a sheep dog to corral support for their next enterprise. Pride, a deadly sin, stirs the necessary response to action. Across the way, emotion rides past giving ‘the finger’ to intellect, rationale and reflection, who lower their heads.

1Francis Fukuyama   Political Order and Political Decay

 

Europe: Death Throes


Europe is at a crossroads and its survival may depend on the route taken. It is very clear that large numbers of ordinary folk have fallen out with the concept of ever closer integration, and with mass migration. Multinational companies are advocates of the EU, according to the analysis of focus-economics.com. This body paints a bright picture of vibrant colours for the immediate future of the Eurozone.
While the few, (big boys) find it exhilarating, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of the poor throughout the EU fear the dark and unappealing clouds. Who is right and why the divergence of opinion?
Since the crash of 2008 not a lot has changed for the poor. Unemployment remains persistently high at around 11% for the Eurozone as a whole. The only country doing well is Germany with the lowest unemployment rate in 25 years.  www.focus-economics.com/germany
In contrast France has seen its unemployed rate rise above 10% as recently as December 2016. In Italy it’s almost 12%. In Spain youth unemployment is a persistent 24%. As the economist.com points out, there is “…high unemployment almost everywhere.” (October 2016).
Therein lies a major problem and to compound it we have the arrival of significant numbers of migrants. The figures vary, according to Frontex the EU border agency 1.8m came to Europe in 2015 with an estimated further one (1) million illegal entrants. Significant numbers continue to arrive. It really doesn’t matter whether you think it is a good idea, the humanitarian thing to do, or not. The crucial point stems from the impact. And the impact has proven seriously negative for the poor.
In highlighting the negative we need only look at the UK and that 73% of local councils take few, while councils in the most affluent areas take no migrants. Whereas, places like Boston in Lincolnshire has witnessed a huge influx. In consequence 72% of the electorate voted ‘Leave’ in the referendum of June 2016. Thus the burden of coping with migration has been firmly placed in areas with a high concentration of working class people. A class issue?
It is slowly being accepted that such an influx of numbers has a direct effect on: housing, rented accommodation and the cost of rent, school places, dentists, doctors’ appointments and the NHS especially the accident and emergency (A&E) departments. The same difficulties are not a part of daily life for those who castigate the poor for stating the obvious.
Therefore, it is the poor who carry the burden of migration. The well-off and the political elite berate the poor for moaning, and are unconcerned by the growing frustration and mounting anger of the people. As a means of demeaning and controlling any outbursts from the lower classes the establishment and their luvvie bedfellows demonize them as: ‘ignorant, uneducated, stupid or racist’ as experienced by Lord King, former governor of the Bank of England. (Daily Mail 2017/02/10)
A blind adherence to their prescribed agenda by the political class and their groupie acolytes has served only to alienate millions of voters. The consequence is now obvious.
Similar patterns are to be found throughout Europe. In Germany the altruism of Angela Merkel and her subsequent rise to fame has waned considerably. When the emotional high withers the harsh reality, the practical everyday environment comes to the fore. Germany was magnanimous but the rise of opposition has increased steadily. The AfD (Alternative for Deutschland) has been growing and estimates that it can now command roughly 25% to 30% of the electorate with an anti EU policy.
Now the Social Democratic Party (SPD) with their new leader Martin Schulz ex EU President, think they can muster a campaign. The youth movement of the party JuSos are filled by enthusiasm and think they could actually steal the election in September. www.theguardian.com/      15/02/2017
However, there are more fundamental consequences as many of the migrants are now feeling trapped in camps. Thousands complain that they cannot find work and their frustration and anger grows. Those who find work are usually a source of cheap labour paid below the minimum wage. Illegal workers are simply used and abused.
Nonetheless, the true horror comes from the sheer number of single male migrants, hundreds of thousands who have needs beyond that of shelter and food. Existing brothels will not cope with the increased need and so the void is likely filled by people traffickers to help satiate the overload. In consequence, thousands of women and children will be brought in and forced to meet the demand.
The sanctimonious will continue to berate their opposition with their abusive language and remain immune to the tragedy behind the closed doors. I’ve met their friends who accompany them everywhere they go:  see no evil – hear no evil – speak no evil! It’s unfortunate but reality cannot by itself break down a fixed ideology.
Throughout Europe there is fallout from the high unemployment, the migrant crisis and the deafness of the political class. In Sweden, once considered the hallmark of social democrat achievement has fallen foul to these undercurrents. In the city of Malmo the local police have asked for national assistance to combat the steep rise in crime.
One area particularly affected is the district of Rosengard which has an 80% migrant population but less than 40% of the total population have a job. A growth in social unrest, gang warfare and multi-ethnic violence has led to eleven (11) murders, 80 attempted murders and a spate of shootings, arson attacks and bombings. Little wonder that the local guys want additional help. (Reuters)
Si se puede
Meanwhile, a Spanish member of the EU parliament (MEP), Javier Lopez has written a piece on the ‘defense of democracy’. By democracy he means the maintenance of the existing order as he abhors the “bigoted populist movements”. Along social democratic lines he is calling for the reconstruction of the EU to incorporate a fiscal branch, harmonization of taxes, a minimum income throughout the Eurozone and better public services.
Lopez believes such a programme will curtail the build-up of populism. However, his ideas will necessitate closer integration which is the opposite of what many of the new parties in the EU want. Also, the Guardian newspaper, (theguardian.com October 2014) points to political scandals and corruption as prime reasons for the existing political parties losing ground.
In his homeland of Spain, has seen the rise of Podemos (We Can) founded in March 2014 and now the second largest party in Spain with a membership of 456,000 as of April 2016. It is also the third (3rd) largest group in the Spanish parliament. The party is a strong left leaning organisation that wants an end to austerity and changes to the Treaty of Lisbon. But to Lopez’s logic all members of Podemos and all those who voted for them are ‘bigoted populists’. Unfortunately for Lopez the motto of Podemos is – se si puede – Yes We Can!
www.socialeurope.eu/2016/12/europe-globalization-unrest
Of course all eyes are on Greece at this time and whether it can meet its debt repayment plan. There is little understanding from the ‘powers’ in Brussels of the political reality in Greece. The parties that once held sway, PASOK, centre left and New Democracy could look forward to 70% – 85% of the vote at elections.
Such numbers create a self-assuredness and in consequence a relaxed approach to the everyday needs of the electorate. The vote for PASOK has fallen to 5% at points and their joint vote to 31% at the May election of 2014. It is difficult to understand how such a change can go unheeded by the Brussels politburo.
The Greek economy has fallen by 25% which is equivalent to the 1929 crash in America. The country is on its third (3rd) bailout with the forth due soon. In the summer it has a debt of €7.5bn to repay before receiving its next tranche.
There is now an open rift between the IMF (International Monetary Fund)) and the ECB (European Central Bank) over how Greece should be bailed out. The debt problem of 184% of GDP which equals some €350bn means it will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pay off any of its debt. The IMF says the debt is ‘unsustainable’.
If Greece had a vibrant economy it could possibly reschedule its debts. However, the country is still in the doldrums; high unemployment, poor investment levels, poor productivity and the fact that the people don’t have a lot to spend means it’s between a rock and a hard place.
Hence the IMF wants the next bailout package to include some debt relief. But, the ECB want more austerity and are really none too happy that the Prime Minister Tsipras gave a Christmas bonus to pensioners and free school meals to children of the poor.
Now you’re aware of the priorities of the ECB and the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Of course they may argue that the poor in Greece will be better off in the longer term but that don’t help when you’re hungry now. And that don’t help if you’re a political party trying to stay in power. And that don’t help unless it’s a stone cast guarantee!
www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2017/feb/05/                   (A good read.)
BBC Business News 2017/02/15
Poor Greece (literally as well as metaphorically) has suffered years of austerity. And while other nations get a boost from retail sales Greece doesn’t have that luxury. Instead it is under pressure to cut pensions again which would be the thirteenth (13th) time. Unlucky for some – no pun intended. Therefore the Greek debt problem is a headache and perhaps, that’s why the German newspaper Bild has suggested that the German government would welcome Greece leaving the EU.
www.marketwatch.com   www.taieitimes.com/news/editorials/  (2017/02/06)
According to the economist Paul Krugman forcing Greece to suffer austerity which comes with every deal, “…it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for.”
https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/killing-the-european-project/?_r=0
CIAO Italy? (chow)
Another nightmare stirring in the background readying to wake the dead is Italy. This nightmare can truly disturb the sanity of the EU: dozing, dozing, dozing; alarm! The banks are described as “…an inexhaustible source of financial instability”. Unemployment hovers around 12%. It has the highest inflation rate (Feb: 2017) since 2013. Public debt continues to rise and there is no sign as yet of any economic recovery.
Interestingly, none of the major rating agencies: Standard & Poor, Moody or Finch is prepared to give the country a rating. The reasoning may be because the country’s debt stands at 132.6% of GDP the second largest in the EU. Bonds sold to keep Italy afloat are not being bought by private investors but by the ECB. Aggressively!!
The Times also reports that Italy has gained little from the euro. The paper also claims that the poorer countries in the EU can’t reach their potential because of poor growth and poor investment. Such a scenario may have fed into the logic of the Mediobanca report that states that many parts of the EU are caught in a “mouse trap” and adds “Without a major restructuring of the Eurozone, there is nothing you can do under these rules”
. www.focus-economics.com/countries/italy   www.times.com/2017/02/08/business/
Business Insider in discussing the problems of the EU concludes that “Actually, a lack of reforms, slow growth, a troubled banking sector and high government debt in Italy may be a bigger risk for the Eurozone.” Than Greece! www.businessinsider.com
La France – la sortie?
France the second biggest economy of the Eurozone has many of its own problems. Unemployment is up above 10% again and tales of political corruption have been in the headlines for a number of years. Add migration and terrorist attacks and the government is under severe pressure.
Since Hollande came to power taxes have risen to an all-time high at 47.9%, the highest in Europe. The real indicator of the well-being of the country is summed up thus, “… no significant economic improvement over the past five years”.
In terms of trade France exports 17% to Germany but imports 19% from the Germans. Their deficit is also high, while debt stands at around 102% of GDP. That only leaves Germany with a positive outlook.
www.ndtv.com/world-news/   citing an article by Reuters 2016/12/04.
It doesn’t look promising as the IMF say that the euro is about 15% undervalued but their analysis suggests that based on the French economy it is 6% overvalued. This is a problem faced by all the economies of the Eurozone but that of Germany. How would the other nations fare if the euro was 15% higher? The alternative is to leave the EU and devalue or a complete overhaul of the EU.
The French election should be an interesting one, Emmanuel Macron standing as an independent is now running high on the polls aided no doubt by the corruption scandal surrounding Fillon the right-wing conservative candidate.
Unfortunately for the French workers Macron is proposing more austerity with a package that includes cutting pensions and severely restricting trade unions to operating at company level rather than across the whole industry. Maggie’s back in town!
Marine Le Pen seems the likely opponent of Macron. The National Front programme is to leave the euro and devalue. Or create bedlam along the way.
Generally, the economic picture is not one to win investment and the policy of austerity has proved a disaster, so much so that it has been abandoned by some countries. Therefore there is no common policy to deal with the desperately slow growth that hangs over the Eurozone like a huge dark and brooding cloud as far as the eye can see.
The chief European economist for Goldman Sachs Huw Pill suggests at best the EU will stumble along making small gains. However, he warns that the EU needs ‘institutional and structural’ changes to overcome the weaknesses of the block.  www.goldmansachs.com
A further nail in the coffin comes from the economist.com (October 2016) and their assessment that there are “…deep flaws in the single currency’s design.” Flaws in the currency have been known for some time through the work of J Stiglitz and Paul Krugman both Nobel Prize winning economists.
Having already bailed out Greece, Spain and Ireland; the question must be how long can this process carry on. How long before the moneymen run for the hills?
On the political front the EU is open to severe attack from several flashpoints. In Austria Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party lost the presidential election by a mere 0.6%. The latter is far-right politically as is the AfD in Germany and other such movements have sprung up in many areas of the EU.
Austria’s new chancellor Christian Kern has made it abundantly clear that he expects the Eurozone to make big changes. He at least recognises that the writing is on the wall unless the people’s wishes are given a hearing.
The Danish People’s Party has increased its vote by 50% in eight years. In the Netherlands the far-right party of Geert Wilders the PVV with its anti-EU stance could possibly win in the next election. In Italy the Five Star Movement (M5S) has gained the mayor ships of Rome and Turin and is polling nearly 30% of the electorate. www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/25/
Just over a year ago Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament was quoted as saying, “The worst nightmare for the European project is an outbreak of populism or political upheaval in Germany. Now it is looking like a real possibility.” He went on to say that the Schengen area is ‘buckling’. www.express.co.uk/news/world/ (2016/01/15)
Which road will the politicians take? It seems that they have run out of rope but are afraid of the consequences once their actions become apparent. A Hungarian commissioner Sandor Lederer has demanded to know why the EU Commission has not released the extensive report on corruption.
He is of the opinion that “Corruption is rampant in Europe” and that transparency should be a “…top priority at all levels of governance.” Frans Timmermans reputedly told the Civil Liberty Committee that he sees no point in releasing the document. Hmm, interesting!
www.euractive.com/section/justice-home-affairs/opinions
Corruption stories keep coming up all over the continent and yet there are no sackings, no heads roll, it’s a carry on as usual syndrome. Meanwhile, ordinary Joe goes to prison for fraud. Hmm, interesting! The stories of corruption are causing a dust cloud.
It is little wonder that the populace have a growing contempt for the politicians. It doesn’t matter the party in power they follow roughly the same line of thought; it’s just different shades of grey.
There is a sweeping antagonism and a deep mistrust of the politicians and of the opaque bureaucracy they have installed. No one is accountable. No one takes responsibility for any wrong doing. No one admits to failure. Everything is fine in La La Land!
The most telling point comes from an 86 year old Frenchman Maurice Beauzac from Chartres during a street poll held by Reuters:
 “We are living at a time when the word integrity is becoming meaningless to our politicians.”
www.uk:reuters.com   2017/02/09
The crossroads has roadworks! Trapped in the mire of their own making all the politicians can think to do is attack with ever more disparaging language. Sad isn’t?
This year is one of crucial elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands the outcome could seal the fate of the European project.
If we assume that the establishment parties win by whatever margin will they read into the result a clear acceptance of their programme? Or will they note the size of the opposition, an opposition that did not exist a few years ago and concede that change must follow?
It may well be that they will carry on down that same road and continue with the policy of austerity. They may turn a blind eye to the exposé of corruption and continue their role as the proverbial ostrich.
Meanwhile, several notable commentators, Goldman Sachs, Mediobanca have called for serious institutional and structural change. The Economist magazine notes a weakness of the euro as have several leading economists. Many have commented on the sluggish performance of most of the economies of the EU and see few prospects in the near future.
The most recent set of stats from the German official statistical office Destatis paints a bright picture for Germany and the Eurozone. Germany it concludes has achieved 1.9% uplift in activity in 2016 making it the fastest growing of the top 20 nations, due to higher exports and the weak euro.
For the Eurozone it suggests the highest lift since 2011. Destatis also points to the French service sector as ‘booming’. However, this contrasts with France24.com when they highlighted that tourism, a major contributor to the French economy, had a steep decline and that Paris had seen a drop of 1.5m visitors alone.
Martin Baccardax, The Street 2017/02/23  reported in msn.com/news
Unemployment is too high throughout Europe it’s a persistent harbinger of poverty and causing a persistent distrust of the politicians. Ordinary Joe is not feeling any upsurge in their personal well being and there are few good signs on the horizon.
Note the point by the New York Times: 50% of all new jobs since 2010 are temporary jobs in Europe. It’s a job but one without prospects and one that simply keeps the debt man (raptors) from the door.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/09/business/europe-jobs-economy-youth-unemployment-millenials.html?smid=tw-nytimesworld&smtyp=cur&_r=1
Part time work feeds many problems down the line. If people are barely managing then how can they save for a rainy day? They cannot contribute to a pension for their retirement, a tab that will in all probability have to be picked up by the state. Tax increases?
Big business is screwing ordinary Joe now with part-time work and zero hour contracts. And will screw Joe later when Joe has to rely on a pittance of a pension from the government to survive.
Alternatively, people just fuel their own debt by taking out loans at exorbitant rates of interest and spend. Keeping up with the Jones’ is such fun – until the bubble bursts.
Nonetheless, at some point a state of listlessness creeps in, anxiety increases, stress leads to a host of other problems: break up of relationships, increase in violence fed by a growing anger, illness and crime.  Add a less than causal approach to productivity, all of which help to dampen the economy and force more fuel into the fire of discontent that has been growing.
Add to the mix the migrant crisis. These are people with as many aspirations as anyone else but many are finding that Europe is not the Promised Land. Lack of employment, trapped in camps, their culture clashing with local beliefs and other migrant groups. Desperate for the good life many enter illegally and too many become sub-human cheap labour for the profit hungry businesses.
“…traffickers are increasingly bringing in vulnerable people for the sex trade and as slave labour.”
Such is the problem created by traffickers that Frontex recognises that they are a       “…significant threat to the EU”.
On integration: “The high numbers of economic migrants – mostly with low educational qualifications and with a different cultural background – are not truly integrated into European societies. This causes social conflicts and critical perceptions of migration.”  http://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Publications/Risk_Analysis/Annula_Risk_Analysis_2016.pdf

Banksy

And the sanctimonious speak to their best friends: – see no evil – hear no evil – speak no evil!   Happy to smile for the cameras while playing politics with people’s lives!

Such is the political cauldron we live in today. There is but a tinge of hope that one day a door will open and objectivity will enter but alas – don’t hold your breath.
Do some good join – Robin Hood!

The Rape of the Poor

 

Try not to live as a pretender,

But so try to manage your affairs

That you are loved by wide expanses,

And hear the call of future years.

Boris Pasternak – It is not Seemly to be Famous – stanza 3

It is now well documented that while the super rich have grown richer the poor have travelled in the opposite direction. According to several economic writers the blame lies squarely with the neo-liberal economic model*, and, that its demise signals the last rites for capitalism. It’s a stretch to suggest that because one economic model has failed that we must prepare for a new world order.

However, there is one truth and that is that the poor have been raped. They have been raped of income, of opportunity, of prospects, of their self-esteem and of their very dignity. Let’s draw our picture with a few succinct and powerful quotes from notable writers.

The USA, under neoliberalism, boosted profits by impoverishing its own citizens.” Paul Mason (p19)1

“…income inequality has reached extreme levels not seen since the 1920s, and before that, the 1890s.” James Rickards (p236)2

The general thrust of these quotes are supported by other economists that I have previously quoted in earlier posts: Stiglitz, Chang, Rodrik, and Krugman. There can be no doubt that the poor have not kept pace with the distribution of wealth that has been generated. The push to globalization and its fellow rider free trade have cost the poor of the western nations much.

*www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism    

 Multinationals have simply used their capital to invest elsewhere, mostly in Asia and China in particular, to utilise the cheap and at times slave labour. A prime example, quoted in several books is that of Apple. This company pays to have its phones etc. manufactured in China by cheap labour but when the finished product comes back to USA and Europe, Apple charge a price that would equate to the phones being manufactured in America or Europe. The company makes huge profits from such an arrangement. Huge!

We are all now aware why the big boys have been promoting globalization and free trade; it’s of great benefit to their profit margin. The rest of the populace can go take a hike!

Banksy

But wait! The hoi polloi have not sauntered off with their cap between their legs. No, they’ve used their democratic right to vote against the elite. They have done what our politicians have been afraid to do.

Stunned, the elite stare in amazement at the audacity of the low-life. Some have voiced their anger at this popular wave of sentiment: the Brexit vote in UK, the Trump victory and the referendum outcome in Italy. Shit! they cry. The bastards are ganging up on us! However, the real reason is that the elite have been blinkered by “decades of denial” Rickards (p230) Paul Mason (p258)

Nonetheless, the elite have sent out their Stormtroopers to defend their rights. Politicians of various hues have marched to the given tune. Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission has made it clear that events should not be dictated by populism. John Major, ex-Prime Minister of Britain bemoaned the “tyranny of the majority” (John Stuart Mill 1859). Meanwhile, Labour MP Chuka Umunna, speaking on the BBC News channel spoke of the “elective dictatorship”.

·         These little men are so full of their own self-importance.

Let’s try and explain to these political hacks why populism is so in vogue:

“Once the election is over, voters are ignored and winning elites carry out preconceived plans”. Rickards (p238) Ring a bell? Been here before?

This leads nicely to philosopher Michael Sandel, (p13) 3

“Disillusion with politics has deepened as citizens grow frustrated with a political system unable to act for the public good, or address the questions that matter most”.

I would make one quibble with Sandel with his use of the word ‘unable’; I would have used the adjective ‘unwilling’.

Michael Sandel’s book was published in 2012 and was probably written therefore in 2011, if not before. Five years later and the elite still had not grasped the significance of what was happening right under their noses! The logical explanation is that they couldn’t give a shit. And now the shit has hit the fan!

One can only learn if willing to. It seems our political masters are unwilling. Their attack on democracy, for that’s what it amounts to, is a clear attempt to diminish the power of the majority. We cannot as a society, have a democracy that does not adhere to the majority vote, whether we agree with the vote or not. Let those who talk of the “tyranny of the majority” stand up and demand a dictatorship.

I appreciate that Karl Popper in his work the Open Society had a dilemma accepting a majority vote in favour of a fascist party. My response to his concern is that society should never get so low down that it is faced with such a prospect. A democratic society has failed if it reaches that stage.

In the midst of a crisis people hanker for a solution, a solution with the least trouble. The question is should people push forward in a direction of which they are unsure, full of doubt but advised to dare. Or will people be more cautious and look for something vaguely familiar or perhaps rely on the political party that appears to know what it wants and how to get everyone there. The road to fascism!

Democracy: The Only Road Forward

In the general election of 2015 in the UK, the Conservative Party polled 36.9% of the public vote and secured power as the next government. The Labour Party won 30.4% of the popular vote and is now trying to override a majority decision of 52% that voted to leave the EU.

The Scottish nationalist with 4.7% of the national vote are busy screaming in alto from the upper circle; joined by the Liberals who saw their percentage of the vote fall by a staggering 16%. The refrain of this unlikely choir is, ‘All we are saying, is let’s stay in’. They’ll still be singing as the gravy train goes rolling down the track – out of sight.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

We have reached an impasse, will the political class respond positively and accept that the times are changing or must they be pushed to the wayside. Will it be the death knell of capitalism as espoused by Paul Mason and James Rickards? There is little doubt that neoliberal policies have proved a nightmare for the overwhelming majority. Those at the top end of the table had a feast out of neoliberalism. The question is are they now willing to share?

Perchance they will remain in denial as both Rickards and Mason state. If so what are the consequences? I doubt the elite can carry on much longer on their present course. The deep frustration with the elite will turn increasingly to anger which will beget activist groups taking up the cause of the people.

Such a scenario will not strengthen the elite as the use of force against these factions will break down quickly. It will not bring out the silent majority against the perpetrators. That old reliance was only solid when there was trust and most people felt good about their lifestyle. The rise of populism is a clear indication that many are genuinely feeling downtrodden.

Many of the elite may feel just as Mitt Romney does, “…inequality is the kind of thing that should be discussed quietly and privately.” J Stiglitz (p33)4  Those days I’m afraid are gone, if they ever existed outside the comfort of elite homes and country clubs.

Winter for all Seasons

According to Paul Mason (p262) quoting from a survey from the OECD that world development will be weak for the next 50 years and that inequality will rise by an estimated 40%. If these figures are anywhere near accurate then winter is going to be all year round for the poor. And if winter is all year round people are going to get mighty fed-up! Guy Fawkes might get reinvented for real.

Mason also states that the only way to keep globalization and free trade is by having the costs borne by the poor. Again if he is right – its winter! He gains support for his view from James Rickards (p227) who argues, “Yet free markets and free trade are flawed in theory, non-existent in practice.”

This assertion is proven when we look again at the practises of Apple and other conglomerates. Such businesses gain comparative advantage because their money buys more in China and the cheap labour make it a double whammy. China also gains comparative advantage by having the investment and the jobs. Who loses? The workers in America and other western nations!

Further examples are the manipulation of the Chinese currency the yuan or of their interest rates. Other nations have also made great use of the manipulation of both as well as the corporate tax which for example, is due to reduce from 28% in 2010 to 17% in the UK by 2020. Therefore there are no free markets or free trade; everything has a fix.

Nonetheless, the lack of truly free markets or trade does not spell the end of capitalism. The system has witnessed upheaval before, several times, and by hook or crook the system has mutated or morphed and we carry on. In living memory for some is the horror of the 1920s and 1930s – ‘Buddy can you spare me a dime’.

Another period of uncertainty was in 1968 when many of the young at the time believed they were on the brink of revolution particularly in France. In the USA there was the anti-Vietnam protests, civil rights, the rise of the Black Panther movement, and woman’s lib. The Prague Spring, trouble was brewing all over the world. “Many protests were a direct response to perceived injustices…”

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protests_of_1968

Most recently the 2008 financial crash has kicked many, right where it hurts. Ouch!

What is increasingly likely is turmoil in the EU. The euro () has never been stable and the single market is hurting many countries. These nations: Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland among their number have been on the receiving end of the slump that followed the 2008 crash. For eight (8) years they have held to the philosophy of the single market but, and it’s a big but, for how much longer.

Paul Mason (p261) argues that the EU is just one ‘political accident’ away from collapse. In this I would be in agreement with him. The self-interest of politicians from one of the nations mentioned above may be the trigger in a struggle to stay in power.  Moreover, the euro () was a political construct not a financial one and therefore weak from, GO. The bureaucracy is too big, and wields too much political power. A bureaucracy should never hold political influence; otherwise we enter the realm of Stalin.

However, any possible collapse can and should be managed. The EU needs to reinvent itself and those in power must surely be aware of the need for radical reform. The euro is but a starting point. It’s about the political class’s ability to face reality. If not – KA-POW!

Moreover, Mason and Rickards are not the first economic writers to predict the fall of capitalism. Joseph Schumpeter (1883 – 1950) had a whole school of economics named after him and prophesied the evolution of capitalism into socialism. It didn’t happen, as you are aware.

Schumpeter recognised that capitalism adapted and adopted but felt that the very nature of the system and the changes it goes through would cause its mutation.  Schumpeter  termed it ‘creative destruction’ thus the process of regular change and the growth of multinationals and management teams would stymie the entrepreneur, as a result  the system  would lose its dynamism and, the bureaucracy and the State would play a greater part in the new socialist world.

Of course others preceded Schumpeter. We can look back to Marx and Engels, to the world of Lenin and Trotsky, to Mao and the likes of Ho Chi Minh. With the exclusion of Marx and Engels, the other attempts at the promised land directed by the state from the centre came crashing down. The failure in all these enterprises was the insistence on ‘democratic centralism’ – basically the central committee told everyone what to do. It was the vision of the Politburo or nothing.

The other side of the coin of failure was trying to control development and trade in a predominately capitalist world. In essence they could not compete which forced their leaders to become increasingly totalitarian. And as usual the workers paid the price!

Market Economy?

Nonetheless, the state has a role in the capitalist system. Neoliberalism may want a minimalist state but we’ve never heard the big boys moan when regularly bailed out. In every economic downturn or crash as in 1929 and 2008 the state stepped in with tax payers’ money to prevent the catastrophe that would have followed in consequence.

Ha-Joon Chang (p456)5 is adamant that the state has a crucial role and may even be critical in maintaining a society for the public good. “The economy is much bigger than the market. We will not be able to build a good economy-or a good society-unless we look at the vast expanse beyond the market.” He cites Herbert Simon of the Behaviourist School, that 80% of economic activity happens inside organizations not in the market. (p159)

So what can the state do to help rebuild our broken economy? Many jobs can be created by investment especially by improving infrastructure: build more and better roads etc. Even Donald Trump threatens to help America get going again by infrastructure programmes.   

Retreat is another way to help our economy, retreat to the Bretton Woods agreement of July 1944 and claw back the free rein given to the banking sector through deregulation by Reagan, Bush and Clinton. Perhaps there’s a need for another clever intervention as with the New Deal 1933-1938 which held back the growing tide of anger at the depth and extent of poverty at the time. Of course the economy really took off with the Second World War but I’m not advocating a third.

The Bretton Woods agreement was an attempt to bring lasting stability to the world economy, and it worked until dismantled. The team which drafted the programme described the world of finance as “…a casino instead of a driver of economic well-being.” Rodrik (p97)6 Rodrik (p111) after examining a lot of evidence, stated, “The inevitable conclusion is that financial globalization has failed us.”  

Trade globalization can also be restricted and more power shifted to domestic governments. Let’s leave it to economist Ha-Joon Chang (p446) to lay down the case for a rethink:

“In the last three decades of hyper-globalization, economic growth has slowed down, inequality has increased, and financial crises have become far more frequent in most countries.”

Michael Sandel (p64) adds, “Economists often assume that markets do not touch or taint the goods they regulate. But this is untrue. Markets leave their mark on social norms. Often, market incentives erode or crowd out nonmarket incentives.”

Sandel argues that to put a price on everything diminishes the human interaction. He gives several examples such as the selling of kidneys and blood. Such enterprises hurt the lower class the most; it is therefore unfair, as here survival often necessitates the action. His philosophy demolishes the logic of neoliberal economists that we are all motivated by self-interest.

The trafficking of women and children for sex is a clear example. The kidnappers / sellers are self –interested as are the men who pay to use these unfortunates. But can it ever be justified? Would we or should we ever permit it as a legitimized trade transaction?

The human factor cannot be discounted from any understanding of how the world works. Money is but one example of a motivator. However, it’s also regarded as the ‘root of all evil’. Somebody knew something. Economists don’t like nouns like ‘altruism’ because they can’t quantify it and therefore can’t add it to their constructed model.

Let’s refer once again to the philosopher Michael Sandel (p130)

“Altruism, generosity, solidarity, and civic spirit are not like commodities that are depleted by use. They are more like muscles that develop and grow stronger with exercise. One of the defects of a market-driven society is that it lets these virtues languish.”

This is an area that I don’t think Mason has fully taken on board; emotion is a most powerful part of our makeup and can lead us in many directions. I’m thinking of religion and its hold over people and their decision making. Any move to socialism may be blocked, unless we let God in, because religion can be very intractable.

Obviously, the market is not all that the neoliberal /classical economists would have us believe. But is the capitalist system doomed as Mason and Rickards suggest. I have an alternative view of what is taking place. I believe it’s a war of the elites.

Clash of the Titans

Wealth creation has a direct relation with power and consequently the Middle East has become one of the richest areas on the planet. Therefore, presumably, it could become the prime powerhouse of the globe and its elite the most powerful group. Add to that scenario the emergence of China and its record breaking productivity which casts it into a power player. Then of course, we have the West, led by America.

On the outskirts of this game lies Russia, rejected by the elite of the West because Putin won’t play ball by the set rules. Putin cannot be trusted to conform to the big picture. So, Russia gets up to as much mischief as it can in an attempt to be heard and still retain some credibility as a big player.

So here we have it, three main players at the table and an outcast screeching on a bench nearby. The Middle East has vast wealth and can turn on a tap to get as much as it wants. China has been accumulating significant wealth over the last few decades and can screw its people for more if needed – bang goes their saving plans.

The West has a fair back up but needed a whole lot more, hence the rape of the poor. It needed to replenish the coffers to make the banker feel good. But the West had an ace up its sleeve; it could cause big trouble in little China and particularly in the Middle East.

War! The Iraq war was only partially about oil and more about destabilizing the region. The Arab world was then encouraged to turn against each other. In Libya, under the guise of introducing democracy the West invaded – the nation is still torn apart. A similar ploy was utilized in Syria. For generations the different brothers of Islam, Shiite and Sunni lived in calm cohesion, now there is nothing but killing of their brothers.

 China has built a powerful industrial base but this has been on the back of Western capital. The multinationals can at any time transfer their allegiance back to their home nation leaving China with a major industrial wasteland.

It may seem that the West have the resource to come out on top. Perhaps, but the rise of populism has taken the gloss off their cosy abode, unless they come up with something new damp and rot will set in and they could lose any advantage.

Therefore the contention is that the world is in trouble because the elites are at war. Once this battle is resolved it will be back to business. Thus capitalism is not falling apart; it is being used by the elites to fight their respective corner.

There is so much more to this theory: industrial espionage, the deliberate interference on manufacturing of products. In this war some industrial giants are being forced to recall damaged goods which have been sabotaged, costing them $ millions. It’s nasty out there!

Notwithstanding, neoliberalism has proven a disaster movie: the steadfast, independent and strong individual (read – elites) have fought off the greedy bandits’ (read –poor) and secured world domination. Not quite! Ordinary Joe is back with a new army armed with the knowledge that:

·         Financial globalization has failed

·         Trade globalization has failed

·         That inequality has greatly increased.

The people want a better managed, more fair, more decent society than the ‘grab what you can mentality’ of the present system. Citizens want a ‘civic spirit’; they want to flex those ‘muscles’ to strengthen the positive values to take us forward. The people want a fair share of the goods they help produce.

So we are getting close to the crossroads, there will be change but I don’t think it will be revolutionary, it will be a while yet before the end to the capitalist system. Capitalism will not meld or morph into socialism; we are simply not ready intellectually for that stage of development. How damned unfortunate!

Instead governments will spend as Keynes advised. They will also introduce a degree of protectionism while continuing to promote free trade. Currency, corporate tax and interest rates will be manipulated. The financial world will be regulated as before. This will be a period of stabilizing the economy. Government investment will become a crucial element in future development.

Much may be determined by the political class. Whether they have the nous to change, the strength of will, the character, and a sense of civic duty. Or will they besmirch the aspirations of the people and cry foul as have British politicians over the Brexit vote.

We move on, perhaps a tad slower than before but hopefully happier.

1.       Paul Mason        POSTCAPITALISM A Guide to our Future.

2.       James Rickards The Road to Ruin

3.       Michael Sandel                 What Money Can’t Buy

4.       J.E.Stiglitz            The Price of Inequality

5.       Ha-Joon Chang Economics: The User’s Guide

6.       Dani Rodrik         The Globalization Paradox

 

Bubble Wars

thXJDRNI6Q

Bubble Folk are the creation of a lack of reliable informative information the cause of which is mass media and political spin. It also has to do with peoples need to be a part of something. Television and newspapers promote the views of those who own them or who run them (BBC). Thus the predominant opinions we are given are those of the elite.

It’s increasingly difficult to find an objective opinion out there. Without a truly independent analysis of events that uses ‘why’ at the beginning of each question we never get to the crux of the matter. Basically we are treated as cannon fodder by the elite. We the public don’t need to know the ins and outs of an issue; it is their job to look after our interests. They ain’t doing a good job!

A Case in Point:

Recently after the Brexit vote in the UK and the general rise of people power across Europe I’ve heard Jean-Claude Juncker the EU commissioner state on three different occasions that they, the political elite, should not be held back by the rise in populism. Such statements suggest a number of things to me:

  • He does not accept democratic accountability.
  • There is by association the view that people have no idea what they need or want.
  • The political class see themselves as an elite.
  • That he and his ilk are Bubble Folk!!!
  • They have no desire to listen and no intention to act on the public vote.

 

Thinking.

Thinking.

Notwithstanding, we can only make decisions on the bases of the information we receive. Being bombarded by one view or by two strongly opposing views makes it all the more difficult to reach a rational, objective conclusion.

The other problem is that time on TV isth1zoq2kiv restricted and so much of what we get comes down to political sound bites. We have become the peoples of puerile language: texting, twitter and Facebook and all the rest. Billions of text messages are sent every day, much of the content of little relevance. I know I’m one of the culprits! E.g. what’s for dinner? Put the kettle on etc.etc.. I fancy a pint?

Moreover, politicians are their own worst enemy when it comes to presenting a point of view. Invariably they do not answer the question put to them but chose to state the message they want to get across. In so doing promote their own belief and their political party. They are cheap car salesmen! However, people have started to doubt whether politicians know what the truth looks like.

th13r6b7kgEventually political spin wears thin and the electorate switch off when the politicians start to speak. This acquired deafness is now a worldwide phenomenon as people realise that the political elite represent themselves. Reality of their living situations has forced ordinary Joes to recognise this simple truth.

 

Case in Point:

EU – Canada trade deal due to be signed this month, October 2016. The package was worked out in secret its conditions to be imposed on the populace. Business gets what it wants and the people, well, there might be some jobs created. But others will be lost! There will be some scraps left on the table.

Bubble Orgasm:

The political class were stunned by the recent referendum decision to ‘Leave’ the EU, June 2016. The ‘Remainers’ were apoplectic, overcome with convulsions of disbelief, some wanted to storm the barricades of working class areas and beat the …. out of them. It seems democracy is only permitted when the electorate vote according to diktat.

Those who voted to Remain cannot accept the vote and cannot give up on the issue, so convinced are they that the people have made a mistake. Little or no thought is given to why 17 million voted to Leave. Here in lies the crux of Bubble Folk – only they can be right.

  • Why did so many people vote to leave?
  • Why did they feel so disillusioned?
  • Why had this disillusionment not been addressed before?
  • Why have the ‘elite’ not shared more of the nation’s wealth?
  • Why were the ‘Leavers’ lambasted as racist etc.?

I‘ll go back to a point made earlier that the reality of their living situationthII1V3PKP forced the electorate to think of their needs and not those of the elite. There is a lesson in this situation for the elite to comprehend: – when you treat people like …. they will react.

 

Abortion: the Bubble War

There are few other issues that raise blood pressure more than abortion. This is trench warfare in the modern age. No middle ground, no room for compromise, not even a smattering of space for dialogue. No game of Christmas football here. The antagonists are trapped in their respective bubbles.

While there is logic in both arguments it is absent in the antagonistic approach each side has towards the other. There concrete stance has become the home of intolerance. It has become a war of attrition.

In political terms support in the Houses of power is determined by the numbers in each district. Whichever group has the largest number gets the politician’s backing. In these circumstances democracy is pushed along not by what is best for all of society but who has the loudest gob.

New Picture (1)Shout loud and shout long seems to be the best route to get your way. One more reason why ordinary Joes are fed up with the political system is that they are not heard but any minority with a loud gob is.

 

 

We Trust in God:

All religions are made up of bubble folk. Many use their belief system to promote their political aspirations but cannot identify the hypocrisy in so doing.

It’s a Long Way to Tipperary:

So the old song goes. It may well be a long way but it’s even longer to get to true democracy. It’s a steeplechase with so many ditches and a host of hurdles. We are transient folk, all of us, but politicians take it to a different level by their pre-election pledges that quickly become obscure and the newly elected abstruse when in power.

Our failure to make progress comes from the sheer lack of information that the people receive as to what is best for the whole of society as opposed to the demands of the elite. We have tranche after tranche of interest groups intransigent in their defence of their patch. There is much talk about the need of interest groups in a pluralist society.

Of course very few would like to live in a Stalinist environment or any fascist state. However, when groups become adamant in their approach and almost puritanical in outlook they become a hindrance to progress as they develop Stalinist tendencies.

Numerous environmental groups of various hues claim to have the best interest of society as their prime concern yet never stand together. Their interest seems parochial and in this sense serves the interest of the establishment and not that of society as a whole. They are the bubblers! thm83e71td

Driven Mad

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Two guys in the USA looking at car emission issues were puzzled as to why American cars waltzed through the tougher emission testing whereas the European cars had difficulty. They decided to carry out a number of tests to see if they could come up with an easy solution, and to prove that cleaner cars could be efficient and still retain their power. They tested Volkswagen vehicles. The storm began!

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/11883343/

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen­_emissions_scandal

The exposé of Volkswagen over the emissions from their diesel cars has led to a bonanza of enquiries about emissions.  We are all now aware that we have been systematically lied to for decades by the automobile industry.

An examination of the testing techniques employed to determine the degree of emissions by Which?  consumer group has revealed a devastating picture of deceit by all the leading manufacturers. The extent of the deception is quite staggering when laid adjacent to the number of deaths associated with the pollution from cars.

Incredibly, 97% of all diesel cars give out nitrogen oxide (NOx) a highly toxic substance. The Which? sponsored tests by Emissions Analytics (EA) under the auspices of Imperial College London (ICL) has burst the protective bubble around the manufacturers. Which? describes the previous lab-tests as, ‘so seriously flawed they’re meaningless’. www.theguardian.com  January 2016.

Another dynamic of testing is that in colder conditions the emissions become worse, e.g. below 18C. A mechanism in the engine closes down which in turn facilitates more miles per gallon (mpg) but at the expense of greater toxicity. Obviously the manufacturer will highlight the better mpg and say nothing about the toxic emissions. Beware marketing!! Professor Ricardo Martinez-Botas of the ICL was taken aback and ‘shocked’ by the findings.  Daily Mail 23/06/2016

The Guardian further reports that by 2020 London will introduce an ultra-low emission zone.

Q? Why ultra-low, why not a definitive NO! Why wait until 2020?

Both car producers and politicians have been aware of the adverse effects of NOx and yet we wait to take action. The technology exists to produce cars of nil NOx emissions!! Note the words of Sir Malcolm Green professor of respiratory medicine when he says that such pollution is ‘shortening people’s lives’.

We may never know the full extent of the death rate from car pollution or how badly it affects asthma sufferers. Particulates from diesel cars are the deadliest form of air pollution and can easily trigger an attack of asthma. We know it brings on emphysema and bronchitis but what else.

  • The number of diesel cars in UK has risen from 1.6million 1994 – 12 million to date.

thE0TWUDA5The death toll is frighteningly high. The Mail online January 2016 suggests a figure of 30,000 annually with 23,500 directly related to diesel cars. The Guardian 2014 gave figures of 42,000 with 29,000 associated.

  •   NOx levels in UK are ‘far above safe levels for human health’. Mail online
  • NOx is at illegally high levels in several British cities. Guardian April 2016

Q?  Why have our politicians allowed this travesty to continue?

The answer may surprise you. Since 1993 the EU has introduced directives (E) to mitigate the pollution. In 2005 E5 was passed, in 2015 we had E6, therefore as far as the politicians are concerned the car industry has been pushed decidedly in the right direction. Hurrah? NO!

  • Those suffering from the effects of the pollution are not dancing in the street.

Taking the sum of 30,000 deaths per annum in UK, add some 40,000 from France and then the rest of Europe and we have well over 100,000 deaths due to exhaust pollution. One hundred thousand + deaths per year! If these souls were war dead, major ceremonies would have been held, plaques would have been placed in various venues and bronze statues raised in honour of our dead. But hey, most deaths are just a scattering of ordinary Joe’s.

thIQB7HPADA staggering death tally and the silence of our politicians’ hammers home a truth, a terrible truth – profit before people. As the death toll rises the EU is set to permit double the official limit of toxic emissions until 2021 and at 50% above thereafter. (Guardian) These targets I can only assume are based on the lab-tests so discredited by Which?.

Our leaders may suggest that their rationale is governed on the available science.

  • They encouraged people to buy diesel.
  • They are allowing the continuation of the pollution, beyond 2021.
  • We have the technology to build better engines. Now!
  • Since 1993 they have had knowledge of the cause and effect of car pollution.
  • The death toll is rising.
  • The number of cars on our roads will continue to increase. Pollution? Dah!

Roads

Roads go on

While we forget, and are

Forgotten like a star

That shoots and is gone.

Edward Thomas 1878 – 1917

The failure to insist on the use of better technology is an act of disdainful arrogance by the parties, the manufacturers and the politicians. The only conclusion to be drawn is that they are in cahoots. That our politicians skewed the advantage to industry is a surreptitious abrogation of their elected responsibility. It illustrates in graphic detail their utter contempt for the concept of democracy.

Q? What was the industry’s motivation? Profit!

Q? Will it ever end? Volkswagen is to pay $15 billion in compensation to USA drivers. Is this the necessary sting in the tail?

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