Tag Archives: ISIS

Orwell’s Faded Lion

orwell

Orwell’s Faded Lion
The Moral Atmosphere of Britain 1945 – 2015
By Anthony James
Imprint Academic £14.95/$29.90

The later consequences of the Bush and Blair invasion of Iraq became clear in June 2014. The extreme group ISIS had conquered and occupied large swathes of Iraq, showing themselves to be considerably more ferocious, murderous and ruthless towards many Iraqis than Saddam Hussein had ever been, as well as a potentially far greater danger to the West. Tony Blair’s own self-justifying comments on this development were puerile and detached from reality. The one thing that Blair could never admit is how much the original American-British invasion had fuelled support for ISIS.

(‘Who Controls The Past Controls The Future’).

Having reviewed a number of books on Tony Blair over the years, I’ve always found myself being inadvertently confined to his way of thinking. To be sure, I’ve always found the tentacles of his varying in depth arguments and interviews inherently far reaching. Not to mention plausible, believable and down-right influential.

No wonder he made for such a superlative politician.

Lest it be said that to certain a degree, the former Prime Minister still knows how to cajole and hold-court; which is just one of the many, many reasons, why I really cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Orwell’s Faded Lion – The Moral Atmosphere of Britain 1945-2015 by Anthony James, is a tough, gritty, honest and at times, bleak overview of Britain’s political morass since the end of the Second World War. Although what accounts for its most readable quality (I couldn’t help but read the entire book in the best part of two sittings), is its clear and concise, rightful apprehension of the truth.

There’s no woolly, flim-flam, thank-you-mam approach to that of it’s political endeavour. Like George Orwell himself, hence the title, these 148 pages pack a super-suave punch, right into the smug and superfluous face of spin and impeccable lies.

For where else in this soulless day and overtly jaded age of social implosion, would you read: ”[..] with adult memories of Britain before 1979, I find it difficult as a parent to convey fully to my daughter […] the depth and scale of the changes in British society, many of which have turned out to be permanent and irreversible […] Britain after Mrs. Thatcher has been radically different and considerably worse and has not shown any sign yet that it can escape from the mould she imposed upon it […]. Her revolution, like all revolutions, was driven by an idea: you run the affairs of a country (it is not appropriate to say ‘society,’ the existence of which she denied) like a business, according to the instincts of businessmen and businesswomen […]. Although Mrs Thatcher lacked any understanding of the Marxism she hated, Karl Marx had given an enduring description of the spirit of her revolution in The Communist Manifesto, almost a century and a half earlier.

[Capitalism] has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. ‘It has resolved personal worth into exchange value… In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.”

(‘Who Controls The Past Controls The Future’).

Each of this books five chapters are grounded in such unwavering writing(s) as that above, which, regardless of political persuasion, makes for a thunder-bolt of an awakening call.

One of the most compact and satisfying of reads so far this year (I can’t wait for the sequel).

David Marx

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The Curse of Cash

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The Curse of Cash
By Kenneth S. Rogoff
Princeton University Press – £22.95

Has the time come for advanced-country governments to start phasing out paper currency (cash), except perhaps for small denomination notes, coins, or both? A huge number of economic, financial, philosophical, and even moral issues are buried in this relatively simple question. In this book, I argue that, on balance,, the answer is ‘yes.” First, in making it more difficult to engage in recurrent, large, and anonymous payments would likely have a significant impact on discouraging tax evasion and crime; even a relatively modest impact could potentially justify getting rid of most paper currency.

Try telling that to the countless old ladies around the (predominantly western) world, who stash cash under the mattress; AWAY from the countless greed riddled, money obsessed bankers, who’d sooner sell their own family members down the river than lose out on a lucrative deal.

There again, the author of The Curse of Cash, Kenneth S. Rogoff, is the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, and unsurprisingly, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. So it could be argued that he is bound to want to do away with the filthy odour of cash – as his continuation makes clear: ”Second, as I have argued for some time, phasing out paper currency is arguably the simplest and most elegant approach to clearing the path for central banks to invoke unfettered negative interest rate policies should they bump up against the ”zero lower bound” on interest rates. Treasury bill rates cannot fall much below zero, precisely because people always have the option of holding paper currency, which at least pays zero interest.”

Divided into three parts (‘The Dark side of Paper Currency: Tax and Regulatory Evasion, Crime, and Security Issues, ‘Negative Interest Rates’ and ‘International Dimensions and Digital Currencies’), it does need to be said that most of this book’s fourteen chapters are clearly and concisely written. They also come replete with a viable under-current, wherein Rogoff is perhaps, more than prepared to listen to the flip-side of arguments that are counter to that of his own.

This may explain why Linda Yueh, who is the author of China’s Growth: The Making of an Economic Superpower has herself felt compelled to ask: ”Should we become a largely cashless society? Kenneth Rogoff makes a strong case that we should in this wide-ranging book, which touches on history, crime, technology, and monetary policy.”

The Curse of Cash does indeed touch on these varying robust, important issues:
”There is little question that cash plays a starring role in a broad range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, racketeering, extortion, corruption of public officials, human trafficking, and, of course, money laundering. The fact that large notes are used far more for illegal services than legal ones long ago penetrated television, movies, and popular culture. Policymakers, however, have been far slower to acknowledge this reality.

Cash also plays a central role in the illegal immigration problem that bedevils countries like the United States. It is incredible that some politicians talk seriously about building huge border fences, yet no one seems to realise that a far more humane and effective approach would be to make it difficult for US employers to use cash to pay ineligible workers off the books and often below the minimum wage. Jobs are the big magnet that drives the whole process. More generally, cash is an enabler for employers who would skirt employment regulations and avoid making Social Security contributions.”

Hmm, the above two paragraphs alone, warrant an abundance of examination.

Surely the biggest illegal behaviour to have happened in recent years, took place within the actual financial world itself, who not only siphoned off trillions and trillions of dollars, but were ultimately responsible for the credit crunch crisis of 2008. So were it not for a few pathetic dollars hidden in cupboards and under beds, an array of overtly corrupt banker scum, could well have made life even more miserable for millions of people, the whole world over.

So personally, I’m not buying it.

Yes, there is a lot of wrong with cash; just like there is a lot wrong with religion. And a lot wrong with politics. But what are you going to do? Totally get rid of them too?

To be sure, there’s a lot to be said for getting rid of the odious likes of Donald Trump, not to mention the even more odious, fundamentalist organisation that calls itself ISIS – but at the end of the day, it’s all down to people.

People are ultimately responsible for fucking things up – especially when it comes to power, greed, corruption and money.

As Bob Dylan once said: ”Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

David Marx

Superpower

superpower

Superpower – Three Choices for America’s Role In The World
By Ian Bremmer
Portfolio/Penguin – £14.99

The crux, if not the most jarring component of Ian Bremmer’s geopolitical dissertation, Superpower – Three Choices for America’s Role In The World, rears its repetitive, somewhat convoluted head throughout much of the fourth chapter.

Entitled ‘Moneyball America – To Protect and Promote American Value,’ the author appears to inadvertently back himself into an undeniable corner of self-inflicted stasis by professing one thing, yet advocating another. With regards Saudi Arabia and Iran for instance, he writes: ”Building mutually profitable commercial and investment relationships with both of these countries will give Iranians the chance for prosperity they want, make it more difficult for their government to isolate them from the rest of the world, and give the Saudis the confidence they need to avoid a conflict with Iran that could ignite the entire Middle East.”

Well unless Bremmer has been living in isolation with a platoon of pygmies for the last two years, he may have noticed that the Middle East has already ignited. If not, then how many more harrowing deaths and futile beheadings amid the abattoirs of ISIS warped sense of humanity is it going to take, for Bremmer to ascertain that acute ignition has already taken place? And even if Saudi Arabia’s utter disregard for human rights is deplorable – a nation with whom both the U.S. and the UK readily do blood splattered business – it, along with Iran, really isn’t the only nation state in the region worth monitoring. Surely Syria has long since surpassed even its own record of sublime human cruelty?

But returning to ‘Moneyball America,’ Bremmer continues:”[…] America should help bolster the security of Israel, the only reliable U.S. ally in the region, but Washington need not back every Israeli action against Palestinians. The Israelis have every right to kill those who threaten their citizens, but Israel’s willingness to inflict mass casualties on Palestinian civilians does not serve U.S. Interests. Americans need a stable balance of power in the Middle East, and only America can support one.”

Can it?
Can only America support a stable balance of power in the Middle East?
How about the aforementioned two nations which Bremmer (rather confusingly) writes about, whom so desperately need to strike a balance of mutual understanding and dialogue: Saudi Arabia and Iran?

Or have I missed something here?

As for ”Israel’s willingness to inflict mass casualties on Palestinian civilians does not serve U.S interests;” why(?) why(?) why(?) is U.S. interests, always, always, always; of such ultimate, paramount importance?

I’m fully aware of the second part of the book’s title (Three Choices for America’s Role In The World), but the varied discrepancies throughout this particular chapter (if not much of the book’s 204 pages as a whole), is tantamount to a staid, somewhat solipsistic, one-sided argument. An argument, which, coming from the author of The End Of The Free Market, is disappointing top say the least.

David Marx