What’s good for the Greeks is good for EU ganders

peterbatt:

It’s barely two weeks since the Greeks elected an anti-austerity government, but the dominant economic and political establishment is looking to quietly dissipate its energy and dynamism so it can return to unsustainable-debt-enforcement-as-usual.
UK chancellor George Osborne, along with David Cameron, has led the criticisms of Greece’s ‘far-left’ led coalition, but this is every bit as much to do with his own austerity agenda than any particular concern he has for the Greeks, who have suffered six years of painful, self-defeating economic retrenchment.
That’s because Osborne, more than most other national leaders, is wedded to an austerity agenda as the pretext for cutting the state to a pre-1930s rump – a state that would, to all intents and purposes, be powerless to resist the power of corporations.
Any credible popular revolt against austerity threatens Osborne’s real motivation: to remove the state, over the long term, as a democratic system and as a mechanism able to implement any form of wealth redistribution.

Originally posted on SHAREverything.com:

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Greece’s standoff with Eurozone governments and international creditors poses a greater threat to the global economy than conflict in the Middle East, climate change and rising tensions between Russia and the West, UK Chancellor George Osborne says.

* * *

He warned that tensions between the Greek government and the architects of its IMF-EU imposed bailout pose a “rising threat to the British economy,” and that a path of “competence over chaos” in Europe is paramount.

Why such pessimism and alarm? For one thing, I would argue that at least where the Middle East and Russia are concerned, it’s controlled chaos, where the West is both controller and instigator, and they could stop at any time, whereas Syriza’s victory in Greece and their decisive courage and determination comes as a complete and utter surprise. But there’s more to his concerns. Osbourne has an agenda in Britain that he cannot have derailed.

Osborne said the…

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UK braced for heavy and persistent rumours of snow

daily express snow

Britain is about to be hit by the most severe blizzard of winter weather alerts ever seen, mediaologists have warned.

With temperatures hovering around 7°C, newsrooms across the country have been gripped by predictions that Britain is about to disappear under a giant, 10ft-deep snowdrift.

And many hardy Brits have responded to the dire warnings by stocking up on vegetable soup, turkey twizzlers and blue vodka, in a bid to see out the horrific blanket coverage of cheeky kids unexpectedly out sledging with their estranged parents.

City worker Norah Parks is just one commuter who opted to stay warm at home today with Judge Judy, Jeremy Kyle and a band of preposterous, over-sized Americans digging for treasure.

She said: “It’s bad enough getting caught in conversation about the soaking effects of fine drizzle. But faced with the real and present threat of a news apocalypse, I simply didn’t have the willpower to force my front door open.

“And even if I could get out, I wouldn’t risk travelling to work in these conditions. Much better to stay at home and get pissed.”

According to the Met Office, fears of an impending media storm have made the prospect of approaching gale force winds, heavy rains and snow an almost unbearable test of endurance.

A spokesman said: “In just three weeks, we’ve had 27 front-page newspaper headlines screaming about the risks of Home Counties residents becoming cryogenically trapped by glaciers surging down from the North.

“We predict further flurries of dire speculation over the coming days, with winter warning fatigue spreading to all parts of the country within a week,” he added.

Meanwhile, a north-east Kent council is fighting back against the media’s wintry onslaught with a scheme of imagination, daring and innovation.

Thanet council is constructing a temporary £2.5m Caribbean wall of sound along the length of the Wantsum river, which separates the ‘Sunshine Isle’ from the rest of snow-traumatised Britain.

Dubbed the Great Wall of Jah, more than half a million Rastafarians will bash out a 24-hour-a-day stream of heart-warming ragga-soca, calypso and reggae tunes from a two-storey steel structure running the length of the Thanet boundary.

In an impressive logistical operation, the council will sustain the Rastafarians with a constant supply of rice and peas, jerky chicken and plantains. Due to a shortage of rum, however, the Rastafarians will have to make do with the local drink of choice: Jägerbombs.

Said Thanet council’s Arthur Nurgs: “We expect the Wall of Jah to repel all but the most virulent winter terror attacks.

“We’ve commissioned the Rastafarians to perform in rolling shifts every day until March 20, when we expect the risk of further media storms to have finally subsided.”

The scheme has put Thanet council in the unusual position of winning praise for its well thought out approach to Jah, in which – to everyone’s surprise – every single angle seems to have been covered.

Nurgs added: “One issue we had to consider right from the start was how local people might respond to the arrival of half a million Rastafarians.

“But then we decided that, as they’ll all be off their faces on ganja, they’ll barely even notice the Rastafarians are here.”

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Think Russell Brand is ugly? You’ve seen nothing yet.

So Canterbury was the scene of one of the most rowdy editions of the BBC’s flagship political discussion programme Question Time for some years. Well, it was always likely to happen with UKIP leader Nigel Farage pitted against self-appointed revolutionary Russell Brand on the panel.

The contest created a great deal of heat and passion. What is interesting, however, is how far someone likes a man or woman is a determinant to whether we actually hear what they say.

Looking at the reaction to last night’s broadcast on Facebook, or on news sites ranging from the Huffington Post, the Express, the Independent and the Telegraph, their relative performances appear to have merely confirmed what people had already thought about them: Farage is the racist, uber-establishment scumbag, and Brand the millionaire fool.

Farage faced hostility from the moment he started talking – both from Brand and large parts of the audience, some of whom hailed from the South Thanet constituency he will be contesting at next year’s election.

This didn’t faze Farage at all, however, and he remained articulate and determined on his core issues of immigration and the failures, as he sees them, of the political establishment. Contrary to what Farage apparently stands for, much of what he actually said could have been voiced by any number of Tory ministers and MPs.

As a battle-hardened professional politician whose threat to the Conservatives and divisive agenda always places him in the line of fire, the UKIP leader handled the barracking relatively calmly. Though turning on sections of the audience, describing them pejoratively as Brand’s natural voters, was probably ill advised.

Brand was his usual uneven combination of quotable soundbite flourishes – such as his depiction of Farage as a ‘pound shop Enoch Powell’ – and feeble retorts to direct challenges, particularly from the audience. He’s rousing and infuriating in equal measure, but then it’s still churlish to complain: he’s not a politician. Shouldn’t we at least listen to voices outside the trained, on-message establishment?

And it’s not as if Brand’s arguments have no merit, and many of his ‘true news’ YouTube programmes, The Trews, are reasonably well-constructed pieces of comment journalism.

Still, back to Canterbury. Farage probably beat Brand on points, if only for being more controlled under attack. That fact alone probably gave him the higher moral ground in many people’s eyes, while Brand’s passion rendered him uncomfortably inarticulate at times.

Beneath the clash of personalities, however, are two powerful narratives which are struggling to find an outlet. Both relate to the perceived detachment of and betrayal by the Westminster political establishment.

The first is immigration, on which there are two competing arguments: that immigration is good for the UK economy, and especially from within the EU (a view supported by various bits of research, most notably this study); and the claim that the numbers coming to Britain are too high.

On the second point, there is considerable anecdotal and some research evidence to suggest that immigration has hit the economic fortunes of the poorest 20% in our society. While immigration has had little impact on average earnings across the UK, the Migration Advisory Council (MAC) agrees that it has had a “notable” impact on income inequality.

In a review of current immigration research, the MAC concludes: “The literature suggests small impacts of migration on average wages but notable effects across the wage distribution. The studies … broadly agree that migration is more likely to increase wages at the top of the distribution, and reduce wages at the bottom. Consequently, migration may have caused the pay distribution to become more unequal than it otherwise would have been.”

Being at the bottom of the economic scale, those directly impacted by immigration are also likely to be the less well educated, skilled or articulate sections of society. Among this social segment, which might appear to some as quite unfashionable, are people who are more likely to have been cut adrift by the Westminster machine – particularly under the Coalition government’s drive against welfare benefits.

Indeed, having targeted much of his austerity at the most vulnerable people in society, chancellor George Osborne has signalled his intent to slash benefits for those of working age if the Tories are re-elected. So much for helping the ‘working poor’.

Immigration has long benefited the UK as a whole, culturally as well as economically. But given the overall context of injustice in the UK, the anger within the bottom 20% is completely understandable. And as sections of this group tend to also be socially quite conservative, their anger finds a natural home with Nigel Farage and UKIP, who sees lower economic growth as a price worth paying for lower immigration.

But it is the same context of injustice from which Brand’s arguments arise. Because while the poor is penalised in the wake of a financial crash that was not of their making, the corporate elite – and especially the banking sector – has been given complete cover by the state from the consequences of its own idiocy.

So, while George Osborne suggests that UK taxpayers should be spared the £5bn a year burden of paying out Jobseeker’s Allowance, he has no such qualms about the £14bn a year subsidies and grants that go directly to businesses, nor the £85bn a year paid to large corporations and the banks in corporate tax benefits and cheap credit. In other words, while attacks on social welfare threaten whole sections of society with destitution, corporate welfare is to remain unchallenged.

Look at the absence of any criminal action or banking sector reform, and the conclusion is inescapable that the state and the political establishment has not only been captured by that corporate elite, but has also become its guard dog. To the captured state, we can probably also add the legal system and most of the press and media.

You might not like Russell Brand, but what he has to say about corporate power is overdue and well-made. And Brand is not the only one saying these things: many other commentators far more equipped and ‘respectable’ than Brand have been making the same arguments for some time.

Unless the political establishment begins to address the issue of corporate power and impunity, then the state’s legitimacy will be increasingly threatened. If you think the brand of political debate displayed in Canterbury yesterday was ugly, well you’ve seen nothing yet.

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Manston airport saga takes unexpected turn

manston passenger terminal

Two passenger airplanes have been circling the skies above Thanet, north east Kent, for three weeks waiting for clearance to land at Manston airport, it has emerged.

PanAmanian flight BSE227A from New York and HopefulAir’s UFO97/3 from the Central African Republic have been stuck in a holding cycle over the Sunshine Isle since November 19 because of continuing wrangles over Manston’s future.

And in a dramatic bid to break the deadlock, PanAmanian’s flight captain Bob Parker made an emotional appeal for a deal to be brokered so his Boeing 747, seven staff and 347 passengers could finally land.

Fighting back tears of boredom, Capt Bob radioed this heartfelt message: “Please! Please, I call on all decent Thanet people to do what they can to settle this now. It’s purgatory up here. Three hundred and twenty seven Scooby Doo re-runs is surely enough for anybody.”

Manston’s Kent International Airport has been a global aviation hub for centuries, but was precipitately closed in May just as it was about to celebrate its 200th paying customer.

But international confidence grew that the airport would reopen when Thanet District Council and a host of local politicians stepped in to compulsorily purchase the site and restore it to its previously open but largely deserted state.

Two global airlines were so keen to use the airport that they immediately chartered flights to Manston in the certain knowledge that the runway would be ready for them by the time they arrived.

Instead, the airport purchase plan faltered and the two flights have been stuck in the air for three weeks, with only 20 gallons of spirits to relieve the tedium of the in-flight entertainment – the 12th series of Scooby Doo and The Hottie & The Nottie, featuring Paris Hilton’s film debut.

Air Traffic Control’s Roger Rodger said the whole saga has created an unusual logistical nightmare, not least because both planes have to be refuelled in mid-air at least once a day.

“We’ve been able to manage it so no one on the ground has noticed the crisis going on above,” said Rodger. “We directed the planes to refuel over Birchington, whose population is largely oblivious to the outside world.”

With negotiations ongoing, the authorities are poised for action immediately Manston reopens. All the arrivals will be treated to a selection of local delicacies – mainly cauliflowers – at a special reception party in the airport terminal, before being bussed to Gatwick, where there are reasonable transport links to London.

Meanwhile, you don’t have to wait for Manston to reopen to enjoy living next to an aviation hub, thanks to the enterprising Nott family. Based in Thanet, their new company, Nott Landing, has launched the innovative Aircraft & Aerodrome Simulator kit. Which, according to daughter Maybee, is an “experiential system offering all the authentic sights, sounds and aromas of living under the flight-path of a major international airport”.

Retailing at just £499.95, it costs a fraction of the proposed compulsory purchase order, and includes an 84-CD box set with soundtracks of all the frequent, low-flying aircraft one could wish to hear during any given week. The standard pack also includes a month’s supply of kerosine vapour spray, so aviation buffs can even do a bit of jet fuel dumping in and around their own homes.

For an extra £30, enthusiasts can choose the Superior version, which includes a barrage balloon in the shape and size of a Boeing 737. Once secured, tethered and inflated, you can let it float above your house for the genuine dwarfed-by-an-airliner effect.

And, for an additional £50, you can opt for the Premium product, which includes a four-gun, radio-controlled kerosine spray system. It might sound complicated, but setting it up is simplicity itself: just place each loaded kerosine gun in a different corner of your garden, insert CD1 in your music centre, turn up the volume, press play … et voila!

Maybee’s brother, Rhatha, has used the Premium kit at his home near Ellington Park, Ramsgate, for the last two months.

“It’s just like living by Heathrow,” he said, “particularly since I spent £15,000 on a new stereo system, complete with floor-to-ceiling speakers and sub-woofers. Now I get the full vibrational impact of each and every passing aircraft. Nice!

“Admittedly, we did have a few teething problems, most notably on syncing the kerosine guns with the CD player. Fortunately, we quickly sorted that out. Now, when I’m out in the garden with the wife and kids and we hear a plane approaching, we know we’ve got three seconds to run for cover.”

However, sleep deprivation and jet fuel poisoning haven’t diminished Rhatha’s love of his five-minutely aviation interludes.

“On the minus side,” he said, “I still have to go downstairs three or four times a night to change the CD – although, obviously, if we actually had a busy airport nearby, we wouldn’t get any sleep at all. So that’s okay.

“But on the plus side, I don’t have to worry about the gardening any more as I no longer have any weeds, and my lawn, flower beds, shrubs and trees are all dead.”

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Everything you know about Hamas is wrong

peterbatt:

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. This book – Hamas: A Beginners Guide – is enlightening and timely. We have seen the vilification of groups representing oppressed people so many times in history that we really should be more discerning when confronted with this. Indeed, years after the conflict is over, Nelson Mandela was hailed as a hero by the very same establishment and corporate media that were happy to see him castigated as a terrorist during his resistance against apartheid. Likewise, Hamas is not the organisation it is portrayed to be. The media runs with claims that Hamas routinely uses civilians as human shields, even though there is little or no evidence to support this. There is also no challenge to the claim that Hamas is purely an extremist organisation, but the Hamas leadership has shown arguably more interest in pursuing a lasting peace with Israel on the basis of a two-state solution – which includes an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza – than Israel has. Take the example of ‘Hamas hardman’ Ahmad Jabari, who has assassinated in 2012 by the Israelis soon after receiving the draft of a comprehensive peace agreement he was intimately involved in negotiating. If Israel was really interested in peace, why would they murder the very person who could have delivered it?

Originally posted on Tim Holmes:

Two Minutes Hate

Alright, not everything. And no, not you, smart-arse. Still, it’s been alarming to be reminded over the past month just how delusory much western public conversation on Hamas is. A common perception is that Hamas are in essence recalcitrant fundamentalist extremists, hell-bent on destroying Israel by any means possible. Virulently anti-semitic, misogynist and genocidal, they use whatever weapons they acquire to murder Israeli civilians and perhaps even attack Western targets internationally, without compunction or restraint. There is little awareness in this discourse that Hamas differ in any significant way from the Jihadists of ISIS or Al-Qaeda.

Probably the most valuable basic text in dispelling these delusions is Khaled Hroub’s Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide, which takes on most of the major confusions and misconceptions surrounding the group’s seldom-explained ideology and modus operandi. Hroub is a senior research fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Centre of Islamic Studies…

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