Thursday, December 4, 2008

Layer 95 No Way Back; Banks, Tax & Iraq.

Seamus Milne is in optimistic mode in today’s Guardian, and ends his column with a bold statement:

“The government has started a journey from which there is no way back.”

I hope he’s right. Logically he ought to be. Truth and Justice both demand that we all learn the lessons of the past 30 years and recognise that unregulated ‘market’ economies DO NOT promote social justice, or the eradication of poverty, or even the wellbeing of capitalism itself.

Strangely enough, some of us still care about social justice and poverty, and we’d quite like to see the worlds of commerce and business working for the benefit of the working classes, instead of being preyed upon by the fat cats and asset-strippers who see a factory as something to be bought up, knocked down and sold off to property developers for instant fat profits.

Only a government OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people cares to run the economy so as to ensure that the economy works for the benefit of everybody and not just a few. New Labour has seen the failure of trickle-down theory, deregulation and laissez-faireism, and must now do things differently.

We can see the fruits of deregulation and laissez-faireism in the devastation all around us, which would be truly hellish were it not for the intervention of governments, on behalf of all of us, using OUR money.

Therefore this New Way ought to ensure that the worlds of finance and business work on OUR behalf and for everyone's benefit since it's OUR money that has rescued the planet from the devastation that would otherwise have ensued, thanks to the unbelievable greed and stupidity of the bankers and financiers.

Logically those people should now be made to earn their crust by being put on OUR payroll after the majority of the banking sector is taken into public ownership and refashioned to become institutions that earn money for US, and in time ensure that the investment WE have ploughed into them is generating substantial incomes for US, not private shareholders - the people who are already incredibly rich, and didn’t have the wit to ensure the banking sector behaved responsibly, let alone in the interests of the nation as a whole.


Having started down this optimistic road, let’s continue with a mention of what’s being proposed for Iraq. Last Thursday’s Guardian published a very uplifting article by the highly respected Jonathan Steele, who has written with great distinction about the Middle East for very many years.

“Two victories in a single month. Amid the encircling economic gloom, it's hard to believe we deserve such good news. First, of course, Barack Obama's election win. And now Iraq's unexpected deal with the American government for the occupation to end at last.

Debated by the Iraqi parliament today, the agreement has been virtually ignored in many left-liberal circles as well as by most of the mainstream American media. We are so inured to thinking that the US will always get its way in Iraq, thanks to its enormous investment of troops and treasure, that any potentially contrary development is dismissed. The US has agreed to leave Iraq. "You must be joking," comes the response. "Why would they build 14 mega-bases if they didn't intend to stay for decades?" The US is allowing Iraqi courts jurisdiction over crimes committed by American troops. "Give me a break. You can't believe that," I hear the sneer.

Well, look at the agreement's text. It is remarkable for the number and scope of the concessions that the Iraqi government has managed to get from the Bush administration. They amount to a series of U-turns that spell the complete defeat of the neoconservative plan to turn Iraq into a pro-western ally and a platform from which to project US power across the Middle East.

The agreement stipulates that "all US forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31 2011". More remarkably, all combat troops will leave Iraqi towns and villages and go back to base by the end of June next year. Pause for a moment and take that in. Six years and three months after the invasion, Iraqi streets will be a US-free zone again.

Iraq will have a veto over all US military operations. A clause added at the last minute after pressure from Iran says that Iraqi land, sea and air may not be used as a launch pad or transit point for attacks on other countries.

Under the withdrawal agreement, no Iraqi can be arrested by US forces except with permission from Iraqi authorities, and every Iraqi who is arrested in these circumstances must be handed to Iraqi forces within 24 hours. The tens of thousands of detainees in US custody must either be released or turned over to the Iraqis immediately. US troops may not enter or search any Iraqi house without an Iraqi judge's warrant, except if they are conducting a joint combat operation with the Iraqi military.

The deal gives Iraq's national resistance almost everything it fought for.

From the American point of view, the main thing the pact does is to allow the US to withdraw with dignity. No hasty Vietnam-style humiliation, but an orderly retreat from an adventure which was illegal, unnecessary, and a disaster from the moment of conception. Like most Iraqis, I am content with that.

American neoconservatives will declare victory, as Frederick Kagan, one of the architects of the "surge", did this week. But the fact is that Bush and his ideologues wanted to make Iraq a protectorate and stay indefinitely so as to intimidate Iran and Syria. Now they have been forced to give up, and a newly confident Tehran has been helping its neighbouring Shia-led government in Baghdad to show them the door.

It’s interesting to consider the role of the rich Right in the USA in all of this - in that their stupidity and greed has caused the financial melt-down, and as a result of that the USA can no longer AFFORD to wage a war and continue with an occupation that’s been wasting trillions of dollars.


It’s quite hard to get your head around what seems to be happening in a world we’ve become accustomed to thinking about in a wholly negative way. Can these things be real? Unrestrained capitalism being replaced with intelligent Keynesianism? The USA effectively nationalizing its banks, insurance industry and motor industry? The USA agreeing to withdraw completely from Iraq? The USA kicking out the disgraced Bush and electing Obama!!! The death of neo-conservatism? The death of New Labour? The elimination of tax havens?

Ẁake me up somebody!

Ken Livingstone also wrote an excellent piece in the Guardian last week - Death of the Old Dogmas.

Back in October Ken also wrote this piece on the need to nationalise the banks,


Tax Havens

I never thought I’d live to see the day that anyone started to talk seriously about nationalising banks, and neither did I think I would ever be around to read that political leaders in the USA (including Obama) and Britain have started to talk about getting rid of tax havens, including Britain’s own disgraceful tax regime. But this seems to be what’s happening. See last Saturday’s Guardian editorial:

"Havens are the 70 or so territories that serve as the boltholes of tax avoiders, who enjoy low tax rates and no questions asked. Companies who set up shop (or shopfront, since hardly any real business is done) in these places duck their financial obligations to their host societies. Tax havens thus rob poor countries of vital income. They also nurture the shadow banking system, that web of shoddy deals and bad faith which grew so quickly during this decade's boom in obscure financial instruments. If good business practice is defined by openness, accountability and social responsibility, tax havens are in the opposite corner. Barack Obama certainly thinks so. The French and Germans agree, while Alistair Darling is looking into the issue."


White Cat Bulletin

One-eared Cancer Cat has moved on again, and has finally gone into sheltered accommodation. Daughter couldn’t really cope with her special needs, so she’s back in my conservatory, living in a cosy box, venturing out of it just to eat, drink and use the litter tray. Her whole world consists of an area about 4 square metres in size (given that she stays at the bottom end of the conservatory), and she’s clearly quite content with her situation, her minimalist existence. Life goes on.

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