Thursday, 24 February 2022

After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence from Ukraine, following referendums in which 90% of voters chose autonomy. These regions consist of roughly 70% native Russian-speakers.

An opinion poll carried out on the day of the referendum found that 94.8% of those who intended to vote would vote for independence, and even if you factor in those who did not intend to vote, 65.6% still backed independence. 

Ukraine argued that any referendum would only be valid if all Ukrainians were allowed to vote - a principle which flies in the face of the right to self-determination. Ukraine has since engaged in an eight year civil war which has resulted in civilian casualties on both sides - 80% (13,000) of those casualties on the side of pro-Russian separatists. Many were killed by the notorious neo-Nazi Azov battalion who are now equipped with state of the art US weaponry. You can see why the separatists are nervous.

The US has been talking about the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO since 2004, and in 2020, Ukraine joined NATO's enhanced opportunity partner interoperability program. From the Russian perspective, NATO bases are appearing all around their doorstep and they now face the threat of a US military base in Ukraine, just 800 miles from their capital. 

As Putin's former bodyguard Viktor Zolotov recently stated, "We don't have a border with Ukraine, we have a border with America, because they are the masters in that country".

NATO member states essentially become satellite states of the US empire. While we call them "freedom-loving democracies", they surrender a degree of their freedom to US corporatism in exchange for security. 

The US is basically an oligarchy and more imperialist than Russia, or as the popular meme puts it: the US is a corporation with an army. If you don't see this, you're probably one of the people living in a middle class bubble - the Waitrose army who would happily send working class kids into war to protect your lives of privilege.

Russia is hardly some blameless victim here, but the notion that Ukraine is a blameless victim and Russia the mindless antagonist is sorely lacking nuance, kind of like when we highlight the Russian/Georgian war in 2008 and fail to mention an EU report found that conflict was triggered by the illegal actions of Georgia. We can acknowledge truths like this without siding with Putin.

Russia is obviously wrong to be launching a military offensive against Ukraine, it's just a shame that neither Russia nor NATO seriously wanted to avoid war in this situation. 

Russia and the US have been engaging in cold war brinksmanship for the last two years. Hardly a week has gone by without the New York Times or Washington Post running a headline about how war with Russia (or China) might be inevitable. There has been a careful process of manufacturing consent for western intervention because NATO needs permission to take whatever action it feels necessary to stop the world's other superpowers threatening US global hegemony. Ten years from now, China will be the world's biggest economy, but a weakened Russia would mean a weakened China.

A drawn out war would be beneficial to the US in many respects - the sanctions and cancelling of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will hit the Russian economy, as will the cost of war itself. If Russia is sustaining large military casualties, this could impact Putin's popularity at home. The same country that wanted Putin in charge when they thought he was their man, now want him gone so they can install a puppet.

The main beneficiaries of this war will be western arms manufacturers whose share prices are soaring, and oil companies whose prices have jumped by 8% overnight.

While some on the left have mocked the overblown "Russia-gate" in which Russia interfered in elections by sharing a few dodgy memes on social media, only a fool would deny the concern about Russian oligarchs making huge donations to the Tory party. Russia certainly interferes in foreign elections, but then again, so does the CIA. It really is hypocrisy of the highest order when the west accuses Russia of what it too is guilty of. It is incredibly frustrating to see so-called moderates foaming at the mouth over the violation of Ukrainian territory while disregarding worse behaviours from the US and UK.

Many are calling for "robust sanctions" against Russia, whatever that means in practice, but they would never dream of calling for sanctions against the US, next time it decides to illegally invade a country. This is because while we say our sanctions only target figures connected to governments, in reality, they always cause hunger among civilian populations, as Afghans know too well. 

Too many have divided their world view into America = good, Russia = bad, and this is exactly the kind of attitude which enables the imperialist behaviours of the west. We are currently criticising Russia from a moral low ground as though our criticisms of their unacceptable behaviours somehow absolve ourselves of ours. See the problem here? To understand the belligerent attitude of Putin you have to also understand the image that we project on the world stage. We pose a threat to any country that refuses to bow to western imperialism, as every country in Latin America would  testify.

If we really want to stop war, it starts with acknowledging who we are and appreciating that our ongoing military expansion is wrong. A dictator like Putin is not going to back down because we threaten him with sanctions when he is starting a war precisely because he feels threatened. On the contrary, he is only going to feel antagonised into further aggression. 

Now you can yell all day long about how Putin ultimately started this war, but if we look beyond his bluster and the western hysteria about rebuilding the Soviet Union, what we see is a vulnerable man wanting a buffer zone between his nation and the US. If we can have a serious conversation about ending NATO expansion and allowing Russian separatists their democratic right to self-determination, then we might have a chance at restoring peace. But while we screech we will welcome whoever we like into NATO and insist on building endless military bases and look the other way as Russian separatists are killed, we can't sensibly say we did our best to stop war, can we?

Sunday, 20 February 2022

It is so frustrating how otherwise good people get sucked into western imperial narratives. The public are lied to about every conflict that Britain and America involve themselves in, yet every time, some people will tell themselves this one is different. This time intervention is necessary. Their gullibility enables consent to be manufactured, and ensures the anti-war movement is labelled as crazy (just like Stop the War right now), but the anti-war movement is vindicated every single time.

In 2001, if you questioned the narrative, you were pro-Al Quaida. In 2003, if you questioned the narrative, you were pro-Saddam and his WMDs. In 2011, if you questioned the narrative, you were pro-Gaddafi. In 2018, if you questioned the narrative, you were pro-Assad. 

Challenging your government when it's beating the war drum does not make you pro-Putin or anyone else. It's literally what every responsible citizen should do. And remember, the west is happy to support foreign aggression when it comes from one of their allies.

If the US and UK really care about the safety of Ukrainians, why aren't we extending those concerns to the people of The Yemen who are being killed by the Saudis with British and American bombs? If we are so opposed to brutal dictators, why are we training the military of Cameroon who are butchering their own people? If we are so opposed to annexation, why do we keep giving Israel a free pass?

The fact is the US and UK are okay with crimes against humanity that are committed by our allies, especially if there is an opportunity to make profit. Let's not forget that we helped install Putin because we thought he was our guy and we looked the other way when he was invading Chechnya. 

Putin is not a saint, clearly, but to pretend that anyone who opposes western intervention is Pro-Putin is simply absurd. History shows there are always consequences to our interventions and there is almost always a better way. Some of us don't want to rely on the benefit of hindsight this time and we don't want to be hypocrites.

Consider our illegal conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Would Russia have been justified in intervening then? Should they have given state of the art weaponry to Saddam or the Taliban to help them kill our troops? If your answer is no, but you support western intervention now, ask yourself why the double standard?

It's time to stop dividing the world into good and bad guys and try to understand the complicated reality. The truth is the behaviour of so-called defensive alliance NATO is aggressive expansion. After promising not to expand one inch east, they have been doing just that, installing US military bases in Europe and pointing their missiles at Russia. 

Remember when Russia installed a missile base in Cuba? That was the Cuban missile crisis and everyone agreed it was a huge act of aggression. Now imagine if Russia had also installed missile bases in Canada, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and half of Latin America. Imagine they were now pushing for a military base in Puerto Rico. Americans would feel pretty damn intimidated, wouldn't they?

Now let's bring this a little closer to home. Imagine that rather than NATO spreading into eastern Europe, a military alliance with Russia was spreading into western Europe. Imagine how you'd feel if that alliance wanted to move into Ireland. The thought is pretty claustrophobic, right?

You can argue all day long about how any country is free to join any military alliance it likes. This is true, but if you want to join such an alliance, it is foolhardy to not consider how your neighbours might react to such a move.

The behaviour of the Russians is so very far from perfect, but things are less black and white than is often portrayed by the media where nuance is sorely lacking. 

Many people in Eastern and Southern Ukraine speak Russian and there are many pro-Russian separatists. The US and UK are currently arming neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine who are chomping at the bit to butcher these people. Remember when we armed "friendly" rebel groups in Syria and it turned out we were really arming ISIS? Well, it looks like we are making the same mistake all over again.

Thankfully, the calmest head in the room is the Ukrainian president who is far from great, but at least calling out the hawkishness of the west and asking our media to calm down. He understands that we're inflaming the situation with our rhetoric, but there are reasons why we're talking the way we are.

Our governments need the public to be afraid - this is how they obtain consent for increased military budgets and fund our proxy wars. Our governments need former Soviet states to be afraid - this is how to push them into the arms of NATO and the EU. And I haven't even gone into the politics surrounding gas pipelines, but needless to say, we have economic and strategic interests, which are not necessarily the same as Ukrainian interests. 

If military conflict does break out, then we will continue arming the Ukrainians and position ourselves as their selfless allies. We will tell our public that our motives are to keep the Ukrainian public safe, rather than increase profits for Lockheed Martin and BAE. We will hail the conflict as proof that Putin was the only villain in the equation and we will infantilise the public who will sadly lap this up. However, armed conflict would be entirely unnecessary, and if the west just backed off and let Russia and Ukraine talk, we'd probably find diplomatic efforts went a lot more smoothly.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

Facebook is accusing its users of spreading fake news if they dare mention that some companies are enjoying record profits during inflation. The thing is, Facebook is not disputing that these companies are enjoying record profits during inflation because that claim is factually correct. Instead, they're saying that inflation is not caused by the record profits, therefore, the posts are false or missing context.

Here's the thing, Facebook: You do not need to be an economist to see that any company enjoying record profits has no need to inflate their prices. If they are doing so, they are doing it because of corporate greed. At this point, any external factors become irrelevant.

What's particularly disturbing here is how Facebook does not seem to be making a sincere attempt to counter fake news at all. It looks like the latest in a long line of attempts to control the narrative. Rather than allow genuine pluralism on their platform, they're pushing a centrist, pro-corporate but socially liberal agenda to create the illusion of balance. They're pissing off both the left and the right wing under the false notion this is equivalent to objectivity. Yet it's the very opposite of objectivity. It's manipulation.

I fell foul of Facebook's "fact checkers" myself last year when I made a post which was labelled as fake news, even though the gist of the post was correct. I had facetiously suggested Serco had "magically disappeared" the £37 billion test and trace budget, but what I was essentially doing was questioning where the money had been allocated. Only a fool could have taken that line literally. Facebook did, saying the post had "no basis in reality" and they reduced the visibility of my Facebook group as a result. To this day, if I post in my own group, the visibility of my posts is much lower than they used to be.

Here is the screenshot of the original post that I'd shared from Twitter onto Facebook:

If I'd changed the words "that Serco magically disappeared" to "allocated to the test and trace program", my post would have been 100% accurate. Instead, Facebook said it had no basis in reality. With a few Google searches, you can check my claims yourself and find out if they have any basis in reality.

It gets even better. Serco personally thanked Full Fact on Twitter for doing their "fact check" on me. It genuinely looked like someone had put them up to this.

This is not tackling fake news. That would come with only targeting posts that make objectively false claims, like for example, if I said Joe Biden had just kicked a puppy on national TV, you could say that statement is objectively false. But then again, what if the post was satirical?

Facebook should not be intervening when there are ambiguities and when posts stray into subjective opinions or satire. Only in the most clear cut cases of fake news, should they be applying a warning label or de-boosting someone. Instead, their staff are going into every political group and page and applying these questionable warning flags. This is a huge attack on free speech.

Sunday, 6 February 2022

He is like a turd that will not be flushed.

Sorry to be crude, but you know immediately who I'm talking about, don't you?

He refuses to be flushed, even though no one wants him, even though his approval ratings have fallen through the floor and his staff are fleeing from the sinking ship like rats. Okay, I'm mixing my similes now, but whatever, he has been an unmitigated disaster.

Thanks to his leadership, or rather lack of leadership, we are facing a cost of living crisis. Well, by we, I actually mean middle-class people. Us working class folks have always been facing a cost of living crisis and now millions of middle-class people are joining us, so hi, welcome to the club!

You're about to learn what we've been banging on about for years. You're about to understand all the issues you ignored because you thought you knew better (socialists excluded). You're about to learn everything you previously understood to be common sense was bullshit and the people you called loonies were right all along.

By now, you can probably see how bat-shit insane someone like Kirstie Allsopp sounds when she insists poor people can easily get on the housing ladder, as long as we're willing to move to cheaper areas, like we're not already living in those cheaper areas, on minimum wage and zero hours contracts with no chance of saving for a deposit. 

Privately-educated Kirstie had to go without her gym membership and ask for a little help from her father, Charles Allsopp, 6th Baron Hindlip to get on the housing ladder, aged 21. It's that easy.

Hands up everyone who has never been able to afford a gym membership, let alone a mortgage deposit?

If you've recently gone from middle-class to struggling, you're about to find out just how unbearably patronising Tories like Kirstie Allsopp can be. Prepare to not be as polite and measured in your responses as you once were because poverty can make people cranky.

You see, the art of conservatism is to give us the absolute bare minimum they can get away with and only offer a little more if we kick up an almighty fuss. And even then, they don't give us a fraction of what we need and they brag about their generosity like we should be grateful. 

Why do we accept this? Why are we always grateful for the absolute bare minimum when rich people are doubling their wealth? Well, we don't actually and we're not. It's just that we've always been outnumbered by people like you who sided with the likes of Kirstie Allsopp or Boris Johnson. Hopefully, we are reaching a tipping point and that is about to change.

It seems astonishing that after all the terrible things Boris Johnson and other Tory leaders have done, that a few parties are what could finally bring him down, but in another way, it makes perfect sense. People get mad when they see other people having the freedom to do things they can't, and middle-class people seeing someone holding parties when they couldn't hold parties filled them with rage. 

Now think about how mad you'll be when you can't afford to put the heating on, but your MP is claiming £3,500 for his heating bill on expenses.

The prime minister told us our heating bills would come down after Brexit and they are going through the roof. He told us unemployment had dropped by 440,000 when it's gone up by 600,000. He told us crime had dropped by 14% when it's actually gone up by 14%. He omitted fraud to come to that last figure, which is ironic when you consider Rishi Sunak has written off £4.3 billion of fraudulent Covid loans, many of which seemingly went to the Tories' mates. 

Don't forget these fuckers are introducing a national insurance rise throughout this utter shambles and the non-stop pathological lies. And even worse, any politician who has the balls to call out their lies gets kicked out of parliament. Imagine that! Imagine the prime minister being free to lie in parliament and the people who highlight the lies facing punishment. That's our "democracy" for you.

We live in a country where only the rich and powerful have representation because they buy that representation through "donations", but amusingly, this doesn't always work out for the corrupt billionaires. 

Take Telecoms mogul Mohamed Amersi, for example. He donated £200,000 to the Tories and now wants a refund because he got nothing in return! Amersi says he was excluded from "elite gatherings" and denied "prizes" like breakfast with Boris Johnson. He is complaining that he attempted to buy access and the Tory government ripped him off. If this doesn't show how corrupt our system is, I don't know what does.

But it's a mistake to call the system broken because this is capitalism working exactly as intended. The reality is the economy is doing fantastically. It's just that it's doing fantastically for them. It was never really your economy and it was certainly never ours. They just let you have a little more than us so you would side with them against us. Thanks for that.

But anyways, you're on our side now, so time to do some thinking.

Have you noticed how whenever the country is in a crisis, the working class are always asked to go without? We could easily ask the rich to pay their way, but instead, we must have a cold house in winter so they can keep getting richer. The entire system is a massive scam and now you're one of the people being scammed so you don't think the scam is fair anymore.

If anyone still needs proof of the contempt they hold us in, just look at the way Tory MP Karl McCartney spoke to Andy Burnham recently, actually coming out and saying Burnham was not representing his constituents because he dared criticise the government. "Do not bite the hand that feeds you," he said.

Some of us have been living this shit our whole lives and we wanted better too, but we were cut out because there wasn't enough room in the middle-class. Making room would've meant the rich sacrificing too much wealth - and by "too much", I mean not even enough to put a meaningful dent in their lifestyles. We mean that little to them.

There was a caller on This Morning recently who was desperately explaining how she couldn't feed her kids because her financial situation was impossible. Rochelle Humes and Alison Hammond agreed to send this poor woman £500 to help her out and some idiots were presenting this poverty porn as a feel-good story, rather than a scandal this was happening in the 6th richest nation on Earth.

Imagine believing there was no better way to allocate the nation's resources than the way we are now. Ordinary people deserve leadership from a compassionate and competent government. We deserve policies. We deserve hope, but instead we are told our living standards will continue to fall, and for those on the breadline, a further fall in living standards would mean destitution. Welcome to Boris Johnson's golden age.

Sometimes, I think back to when I was a kid, when I would lie under my bed and daydream about the hoverboards and flying cars of the future. I wasn't sure if we would have those, but I knew technological advance would surely lead to the advancement of humanity. I knew economic growth would be shared among all. I knew we were leaving the old ways behind. It never occurred to me, the first thing we would do with robotics was create killer robodogs (yes, they're real), but that's the world I ended up in. A world of control through intimidation with a veil of democracy that anybody could see through, if they were willing to admit their privilege was based upon lies. 

Back then, way back in the 90s, everyone understood the old ways were wrong; they could see plain as day the damage they had done to our region, our livelihoods. At least everyone I encountered understood, and the other people who'd voted for this, they weren't that bad, surely. They could see what they'd voted for had not worked out as promised. How could they not see?

Fast forward to today and those 10 to 15 years of failed neoliberalism have become 43 years of failed neoliberalism. It was Albert Einstein who said: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." But we were forced to keep doing the same thing over and over because it was the only way, according to the selfish and the gullible.

"Boris Johnson saved us from Corbynism!" they insist as everything bad they claimed would happen under Corbyn, happens on their watch, but at least we didn't get universal fibre broadband, that would have been terrible. Policies are not supposed to help the poor.

Remember at the start of the pandemic, when they were giving the middle-class vouchers to eat in restaurants? Now they're making the working class skip meals to repay loans to energy companies they never agreed to take out. £200 loans that some people will never receive, but still have to pay back. Yes, you read that right! People will be repaying energy loans they never actually received. First time customers, for example.

The Tories deliberately have this upside-down because their ultimate goal is a system in which the working class are voiceless. They yearn for a time before the union movement when we just had to do as we were told. The bastards would bring back workhouses if they could.

In 1979, our society was split in two by Thatcherism and the post-war social democratic consensus was destroyed. The country became dog-eat-dog. It was not enough for the 2/3 of boomers who voted Tory to enjoy their free higher-education and buy their own home at a bargain price. They had to buy up the other homes at bargain prices too, before their peers had a chance to get on the housing ladder. They absolutely shit on their own working class peers so they could leave them behind. And what came next?

In the blink of an eye, a huge chunk of a single generation turned itself into a parasitical class. They became the landlords who took half our wages, voted away our working rights and rigged the system against us. It was so easy to rationalise though. The system had rewarded them for their hard work, so if the kids dare highlight the issues they face, they're just being "woke". They're starting a "culture war".

Can these idiots even hear themselves? They would not last two minutes in today's job market, but they don't need to, of course, they escaped the clutches of capitalism so fuck everyone else's material needs. They know they need us, but they don't care about what we might need from them. In a fair system, the people who tell us to earn our way would have to earn their way too and it would be hilarious to see them try.

Millennials and gen Z don't get to have anything. They must forever be trapped in this cycle of negative money, working constantly, never having time to see their friends. And now the system boomers created, the system they refused to acknowledge was failing, is crumbling. That system is finally hurting some of you and soon enough, it will be hurting them too. It took for the middle-class to get a taste of the working class experience for some of you to consider we might be human beings too. The situation became unacceptable when you were personally affected for two fucking minutes.

The working class have been living this shit for 43 years. Choosing between heating and eating is nothing new to us. I remember living in my bachelor pad in my twenties and wrapping myself in a blanket, mid-winter, while I was fully clothed and still freezing. My neighbours were clearly doing the same because I was living in an apartment block and I sure as hell wasn't receiving any warmth from their apartments.

So yeah, this cost of living crisis is just called normal life for us and now it's becoming normal life for you too. So here's the deal: we need to fight this together, and whatever solution we find cannot take us back to the status quo where you're okay and we're being shit on. Going forwards, we need systemic change so roll your sleeves up because they're going to come for you like they came for us. The best way to overcome that is to stand in solidarity, to recognise that we are all ultimately working class. Yes, even you

In reality, there are just two classes in society - the capitalist class and the working class. You kidded yourself that you were closer to them until they inevitably shit on you too. You sided with people who would turn you into human batteries if they could, if that would make them money, if they thought they could get away with it. You sided with people who only protected your privilege, to protect their own, to stop you finding your class consciousness and demanding change. Don't make that mistake again.