Archive for May, 2006

“No-one doubts the need for immigration controls, but it would be immoral to deport those already here that our economy depends on” -Jack Dromey Deputy General Secretary T&GWU (BBC article)

I am pleased that at least in part someone is finally questioning this ‘consensus’ on immigration and asylum. It is however only a moderate critique from within and I have to put forward 2 points of order here.

Firstly I do doubt the need for immigration controls. I guess it depends on your definition of need. It depends on what you see as a priority – whether it is people or possession. It seems to be an accepted fact that we cannot just have no control for this would open the floodgates and this is not a good thing. This is an interesting assumption, perhaps based at best partially on fact, there is after all no questioning that without any immigration control there would be more people seeking to live in this country. But I thought capitalism was about competition? Surely the competition for labour would in fact be good for business, it would streamline the workforce in a very Darwinist way. I am not saying that is a good thing from my perspective, I am simply pointing out that there is an anomaly when it comes to this isolationism rather like when it comes to the ‘Free Market’ which is in fact merely a series of trade tariffs and barriers to protect the rich countries from being undercut by the poorer ones.

The EU, or principally France has the Common Agricultural Policy, one of the biggest pieces of economic protectionism outside the US and what accounts for around 50% of the total EU budget. To illustrate the point even fellow EU countries that depend heavily on agriculture like Poland are not subject to the same protection as the French so it is a case of protectionism within protectionism. This does kind of pale into comparison with the US which has tariffs on almost anything of strategic importance and it uses political pressure to bring to bear weight on many other things. The US thinks nothing about forcing trade down routes that it controls or will profit from.

This is not strictly a post about trade, but it is a post about inequity and contradiction and expounding some myths that we tend to take for granted and the Western World’s idea of free trade is certainly a good example of that.

The second point of order to Mr Drobey’s comment is the economic premise that were there to be an amnesty (which is not going to happen but it is a point of debate) that the illegal workers currently employed within these borders would continue to be as much an asset to our economy as they currently are. This, I’m afraid is romantic idealism. The very reason illegal workers are employed here, just as there are so many Mexicans and other illegal aliens in the US is that these workers are not subject to the same legal protection offered to legitimate employees. They are not subject to the minimum wage standards nor national insurance or pension provision. This is clearly not the choice of the workers but that of the employers who can circumvent a great deal of red tape and save themselves a great deal of money both in the payment of paltry wages and the avoidance of insurance payments for every worker. Furthermore they are able to exploit worker productivity as workers can be sacked easily or threatened with being reported to the authorities if they do not tow the line.

The worker’s very disenfranchisement is their sole usefulness to the employers. Were any amnesty to be contemplated not only would employers prepared to take on illegal staff be potentially exposed but their cut-price labour would also be under-threat. If such an amnesty were put into place the workers as part of the amnesty would have lost what made them employable in the first place. There is every chance some may find new legitimate jobs but it would not stop the illegal trade in labour. Firms relying on low-paid workers would either go out of business or simply employ new illegal staff.

To stop illegal immigration it must be done at source and thus you must assess just what it is that causes it in the first place. On the one hand there is the intention of the immigrant. If one chooses to see an artificial differentiation between political or economic migrant one is distracted by a common smokescreen, it is an irrelevance the difference is merely in the detail and the source of persecution. The intent of the migrant is to seek a better life. No-one doubts the merit of the human desire to strive for self-improvement and yet in this case politicians and the media appear to be in complete denial of its existence or the force with which it can propel people. The greater the adversity the greater the hardship people are prepared to endure to alleviate suffering. To assume that by trying to stop people coming in we remove their reasons for uprooting is lunacy. The best way to stop people wishing to leave their homes is to make their homes places in which they are happy to stay.

If the richer countries were compelled to distribute their wealth to provide the same quality of life to the poorer nations as they enjoy themselves there would be far less immigration because there would be far less danger and dissatisfaction in countries of origin.

The second party in the illegal immigration is less to do with latent human self-advancement and self-protection and more to do with greed. Those that profit from the trafficking or slavery of people exploit misery, suffering and desperation for their own ends. And yet precious little money is spent by governments on stamping out these people, certainly a minute fraction compared with what is spent on preventing the individual immigrants from getting into or settling in countries. There are many companies that seek to increase profits by reducing overheads and reducing labour costs illegally is one way of doing so.

You can contrast the illegal labour situation with many criminal trades. Take the drug trade as one example. If you choose to apply the law primarily to users you may seek or even partially succeed in removing part of the market but you do nothing to reduce supply or potential new customers. If you focus only on the supply chain you may reduce the supply but not the demand. Efforts must be dual-focused to reduce the dependence on drugs thus tackling demand whilst at the same time removing the profitability of the drug trade and remove those that benefit the most from it thus tackling the supply.

Were borders to remain the immigration problem could only be tackled in the same two-pronged way. The only way I could see this happening and being a viable long-term policy is a sustained period of investment by the rich to redress the balance of global wealth coupled with a complete dismantling of all borders. The two must go hand in hand because the dismantling of the borders would act as a perfect incentive for countries to make damn sure that they do invest in poorer countries or else they may be faced with the sort of flood of immigration they have always been hyping up and predicting.

However were the borders to be taken down entirely, people’s concept of the space they have control or interest over becomes very different, as does the amount of people they feel represent a threat to their influence. Over time people’s notion of country will diminish and with it the sort of ridiculous patriotism so synonymous with it. Likewise the affinity they feel with people will be more confined to local issues and loyalties which tend to be more pragmatic. There would be no need for monarchies, duchies etc. People would be more likely to ensure that equality is taken on a local basis, it would be in their best interests to do so.

What is the actual foundation of national borders? What is there to say that they should remain in perpetuity? In fact taking Europe as but one example if we look at the shift in borders even over the last 100 years it proves the fluidity. After all whilst some islands consider themselves separate nation states, others form conglomerates either by diplomacy or military intervention. On a larger land mass like Eurasia there is no basis for divisions it is an arbitrary concept. The boundaries cross natural borders just as they often cross over traditional tribal boundaries. Along with religion these man-made constructed borders have caused some of the greatest strife of humanity and are still the basis of wars and bloodshed across the globes. These boundaries separate peoples as well as natural resources, they deprive some just as they endow others. The removal of these borders would be indeed an anarchic proposition and it would bring about the wholesale destruction of large-scale government in favour of more local representation. How this would work I do not know, I do not know if it could work entirely without some regional umbrella co-ordinating cross locality trades but the very dismantling of these borders would bring about a paradigm shift in the way we see ourselves and our place in the society around us. Living as we do in countries defined as large-scale land masses with populations of millions or billions we cannot fail to see ourselves as insignificant and unimportant. If however we were to judge ourselves based on our place within family or local groupings we would automatically see ourselves as having considerably more influence.

In fact the removal of borders is not entirely in the realms only of anarchist fantasy. The Benelux countries have for some time had an open border policy with one another and this has extended to the Schengen group of countries within the EU. The reason these countries feel able to do this is because they feel there is not a threat of people from within this group of countries immigrating en masse. It is therefore seen that the political and economic stability prevents the need for emigration. Were this to be replicated on a much wider scale it stands to reason that more borders could be removed.

I’ll grant you this is a long-term strategy, and one could not expect many of those currently in power to give it up willingly nor for people who have been educated and brought up under capitalism to be able to embrace a communal way of living overnight. For many years I wondered how on earth the anarchist principle of no borders could possibly work when actually that is not the important question at all. Not knowing how something is done does not make it impossible anymore than it makes it less interesting or valid to analyse. The crucial question in this instance is should or shouldn’t it be done? If one cannot think up any cogent reasons for not tearing down the borders, and by cogent reasons I mean ones that are of benefit to the vast majority not simply the rich minority, then it follows that this is a good proposal to strive to implement, therefore to write it off because we don’t know what comes next is mindless reactionary conservatism. I heard a former Conservative MP talk about how the Conservative party had changed the course of people in Britain by giving many people something to conserve, it became crystal clear that he could only think in materialistic terms and that those devoid of vast wealth or material possession could only be in the state of wanting vast wealth and material possession. What are the reasons for having borders if we really think about it?

Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace…

Of course the song goes on “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…” Quite.

Song Of The Day ~ John Lennon – Imagine

Original Comments:

Tabacco made this comment,
I commented the following at my blog. You reduced the whole subject of Amnesty to its bare essentials:


Jeux Sans Frontières – Future Shocks – Part 13 .htm

“The worker’s very disenfranchisement is their sole usefulness to the employers. Were any amnesty to be contemplated not only would employers prepared to take on illegal staff be potentially exposed but their cut-price labour would also be under-threat. If such an amnesty were put into place the workers as part of the amnesty would have lost what made them employable in the first place.”

Read the entire Article at website above.


comment added :: 21st May 2006, 17:30 GMT+01 ::

Since Hugo Chavez is currently in Britain I thought I’d publish this entry by John Pilger. The reason I do this is because many are not convinced that Chavez is to be supported citing him as a demagogue etc. etc. we’ve heard it all before with Fidel Castro, George Galloway amongst others. Pilger’s argument is based on his own personal meticulous research and is a great deal more reasoned and erudite than I could hope to be.

The rise of Bush’s new enemy by John Pilger

I was dropped at Paradiso, the last middle-class area before barrio La Vega, which spills into a ravine as if by the force of gravity. Storms were forecast, and people were anxious, remembering the mudslides that took 20,000 lives. “Why are you here?”, asked the man sitting opposite me in the packed jeep-bus that chugged up the hill. Like so many in Latin America, he appeared old, but wasn’t. Without waiting for my answer, he listed why he supported Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: schools, clinics, affordable food, “our constitution, our democracy” and “for the first time, the oil money is going to us”. I asked him if he belonged to the MVR (Movement for a Fifth Republic), Chavez’s party. “No, I’ve never been in a political party; I can only tell you how my life has been changed, as I never dreamt.”
It is raw witness like this, which I have heard over and over again in Venezuela, that smashes the one-way mirror between the West and a continent that is rising. By rising, I mean the phenomenon of millions of people stirring once again, “like lions after slumber/In unvanquishable number”, wrote the poet Shelley in The Mask of Anarchy. This is not romantic; an epic is unfolding in Latin America that demands our attention beyond the stereotypes and cliches that diminish whole societies to their degree of exploitation and expendability.

To the man in the bus; and to Beatrice, whose children are being immunised and taught history, art and music for the first time; and Celedonia, in her seventies, reading and writing for the first time; and Jose, whose life was saved by a doctor in the middle of the night, the first doctor he had ever seen, Chavez is neither a “firebrand” nor an “autocrat”, but a humanitarian and a democrat who commands almost two-thirds of the popular vote, accredited by victories in no less than nine elections. Compare that with the fifth of the British electorate that re-installed Tony Blair, an authentic autocrat.

Chavez and the rise of popular social movements, from Colombia down to Argentina, represent bloodless, radical change across the continent, inspired by the great independence struggles that began with Simon Bolivar, born in Venezuela, who brought the ideas of the French Revolution to societies cowed by Spanish absolutism. Bolivar, like Che Guevara in the 1960s and Chavez today, understood the new colonial master to the north. “The USA”, he said in 1819, “appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty”.

At the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, US President George Bush announced the latest misery in the name of liberty in the form of a Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty. This would allow the US to impose its ideological “market” neoliberalism on all of Latin America. It was the natural successor to Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement, which has turned Mexico into a sweatshop. Bush boasted it would be law by 2005.

On November 5, Bush arrived at the 2005 summit in Mar del Plata, Argentina, to be told his FTAA was not even on the agenda. Among the 34 heads of state were new, uncompliant faces and behind all of them were populations no longer willing to accept US-backed business tyrannies. Never before have Latin American governments had to consult their people on pseudo-agreements of this kind; but now they must.

In Bolivia, in the past five years, social movements have got rid of governments and foreign corporations alike, such as the tentacular Bechtel, which sought to impose what people call total locura capitalista — total capitalist folly — the privatising of almost everything, especially natural gas and water. Following Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, Bolivia was to be a neoliberal laboratory. The poorest of the poor were charged up to two-thirds of their pittance-income even for rain water.

Standing in the bleak, freezing, cobble-stoned streets of El Alto, 14,000 feet up in the Andes in Bolivia, or sitting in the breeze-block homes of former miners and campesinos (peasants) driven off their land, I have had political discussions of a kind seldom ignited in Britain and the US. They are direct and eloquent. “Why are we so poor”, they say, “when our country is so rich? Why do governments lie to us and represent outside powers?” They refer to 500 years of conquest as if it is a living presence, which it is, tracing a journey from the Spanish plunder of Cerro Rico, a hill of silver mined by indigenous slave labour that underwrote the Spanish Empire for three centuries. When the silver was gone, there was tin, and when the mines were privatised in the 1970s at the behest of the International Monetary Fund, tin collapsed, along with 30,000 jobs. When the coca leaf replaced it — in Bolivia, chewing it curbs hunger — the Bolivian army, coerced by the US, began destroying the coca crops and filling the prisons.

In 2000, open rebellion burst upon the white business oligarchs and the US embassy, whose fortress stands like an Andean Vatican in the centre of La Paz. There was never anything like it, because it came from the majority Indian population “to protect our indigenous soul”. Naked racism against indigenous peoples all over Latin America is the Spanish legacy. They were despised or invisible, or curios for tourists: the women in their bowler hats and colourful skirts. No more. Led by visionaries like Oscar Olivera, the women in bowler hats and colourful skirts encircled and shut down Bolivia’s second city, Cochabamba, until their water was returned to public ownership.

Every year since, people have fought a water or gas war — essentially a war against privatisation and poverty. Having driven out President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2003, Bolivians voted in a referendum for real democracy. Through the social movements they demanded a constituent assembly similar to that which founded Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, together with the rejection of the FTAA and all the other “free trade” agreements, the expulsion of the transnational water companies and a 50% tax on the exploitation of all energy resources.

When the replacement president, Carlos Mesa, refused to implement the program he was forced to resign. Next month, there will be presidential elections and the opposition Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) may well turn out the old order. The leader is an indigenous former coca farmer, Evo Morales, whom the US ambassador has likened to Osama Bin Laden. In fact, he is a social democrat who, for many of those who sealed off Cochabamba and marched down the mountain from El Alto, moderates too much.

“This is not going to be easy”, Abel Mamani, the indigenous president of the El Alto Neighbourhood Committees, told me. “The elections won’t be a solution even if we win. What we need to guarantee is the constituent assembly, from which we build a democracy based not on what the US wants, but on social justice.” The writer Pablo Solon, son of the great political muralist Walter Solon, said: “The story of Bolivia is the story of the government behind the government. The US can create a financial crisis; but really for them it is ideological; they say they will not accept another Chavez.”

The people, however, will not accept another Washington quisling. The lesson is Ecuador, where a helicopter saved Lucio Gutierrez as he fled the presidential palace last April. Having won power in alliance with the indigenous Pachakutik movement, he was the “Ecuadorian Chavez”, until he drowned in a corruption scandal. For ordinary Latin Americans, corruption on high is no longer forgivable. That is one of two reasons the Workers’ Party government of Lula is barely marking time in Brazil; the other is the priority he has given to an IMF economic agenda, rather than his own people. In Argentina, social movements saw off five pro-Washington presidents in 2001 and 2002. Across the water in Uruguay, the Frente Amplio, socialist heirs to the Tupamaros — the guerrillas of the 1970s who fought one of the CIA’s most vicious terror campaigns — formed a popular government last year.

The social movements are now a decisive force in every Latin American country — even in the state of fear that is the Colombia of Alvaro Uribe Velez, Bush’s most loyal vassal. Last month, indigenous movements marched through every one of Colombia’s 32 provinces demanding an end to “an evil as great as the gun”: neoliberalism. All over Latin America, Chavez is the modern Bolivar. People admire his political imagination and his courage. Only he has had the guts to describe the United States as a source of terrorism and Bush as Senor Peligro (Mr. Danger). He is very different from Fidel Castro, whom he respects. Venezuela is an extraordinarily open society with an unfettered opposition — that is rich and still powerful. On the left, there are those who oppose the state, in principle, believe its reforms have reached their limit, and want power to flow directly from the community. They say so vigorously, yet they support Chavez. A fluent young anarchist, Marcel, showed me the clinic where the two Cuban doctors may have saved his girlfriend. (In a barter arrangement, Venezuela gives Cuba oil in exchange for doctors).

At the entrance to every barrio there is a state supermarket, where everything from staple food to washing up liquid costs 40% less than in commercial stores. Despite specious accusations that the government has instituted censorship, most of the media remains violently anti-Chavez: a large part of it in the hands of Gustavo Cisneros, Latin America’s Murdoch, who backed the failed attempt to depose Chavez. What is striking is the proliferation of lively community radio stations, which played a critical part in Chavez’s rescue in the coup of April 2002 by calling on people to march on Caracas.

While the world looks to Iran and Syria for the next Bush attack, Venezuelans know they may well be next. On March 17, the Washington Post reported that Feliz Rodriguez, “a former CIA operative well-connected to the Bush family”, had taken part in the planning of the assassination of the president of Venezuela. On September 16, Chavez said, “I have evidence that there are plans to invade Venezuela. Furthermore, we have documentation: how many bombers will over-fly Venezuela on the day of the invasion … the US is carrying out manoeuvres on Curacao Island. It is called Operation Balboa.” Since then, leaked internal Pentagon documents have identified Venezuela as a “post-Iraq threat” requiring “full spectrum” planning.

The old-young man in the jeep, Beatrice and her healthy children, and Celedonia with her “new esteem”, are indeed a threat — the threat of an alternative, decent world that some lament is no longer possible. Well, it is, and it deserves our support.

Song Of The Day ~ Nerina Pallot – Everybody’s Gone To War

Original Comments:

john made this comment,
I’ve been reading a lot about Chavez and I like the above piece by John Pilger. I think that I also like Chavez.
-Redbaron responds – For me Pilger’s opinion carries enough weight as to be almost Chomskian, I will always take what he says seriously as I know he will have reseached it meticulously himself. I know Chavez has his flaws but I think he is far better for Venezuela than some pro-Yanqui right-wing bigot who just flogs all the oil cheap to the US. Chavez realises that he has some chips to play at the big table and he is going to use them to get Venezuela a better deal.-

comment added :: 18th May 2006, 16:35 GMT+01 ::

“The greatest state corruption since the Second World War and Western governments and banks are turning a blind eye to it.” Robert Amsterdam, lawyer for Mikail Khordakovsky. Khodorkovsky seems to have many people who will say what a good person he is, not just Robert Amsterdam who is in his pay of course, in fact if you hear his supporters speaking you’d be forgiven for wondering if this were not the second coming of the Messiah. This is unsurprising and hardly an objective state of affairs but of course he is very rich and powerful and consequently can afford to get people to do this for him. This is not new or rare, in the modern business world he would be very much the exception to the rule if he did not employ people to do this for him. Khordorkovsky has every angle covered, he has his parents to tell the media that he isn’t interested in material wealth and that he pays himself just enough to fund a modest family life. It does strike me as a little strange for a billionaire to claim that he’s not in it for the money. Is this a new movement of the caring and sharing oil baron, the antithesis of the Bush family? I’ll leave you to decide that one. Khordorkovsky has the very best lawyers on the case as well as a well-heeled PR machine, anyone with serious power does not give it up lightly and the Russian oligarchs are no exception.

If you chose to see things from a completely orthodox socialist/communist perspective you could respond by saying that these oligarchs in Russia are the same as so many magnates and moguls in the West and they themselves are in the situation they are in based on wholesale rape of resources and moral as well as usually physical corruption. Thus I could simply choose to say that’s the system as it stands, deal with it. But I like the sound of my own text too much for that!!! And besides perhaps I’m biased, though I would like to state here and now I am not some apologist of the Russian regime in some Svoiet-revisionist policy. I am however an anti-capitalist and I see many reasons for my stance as such, not least for the fact that capitalism doesn’t work in the long-term and it is delusional to think otherwise.

I do see something of a paradox in the Khordokovsky situation. Many companies are taken over in hostile fashion and this is seen as the system in operation in fact perhaps at its most latent and voracious. All bets are off though when the state intervenes for any reason, this is seen as interventionism or steps to renationalisation and stopping the system organically expanding the way it would if unfettered, despite that expansion generally resulting in the same circumstances with moderately different protagonists. Strange then that the same sort of rhetoric is not applied to hostile takeovers by private companies on each other, the big fish devouring all the smaller fish in the area. What people don’t seem to acknowledge is that if the state is responsible for the people within it then it has a duty to ensure that things are done as best possible for those in its care and if this includes interventionist policy then to my mind so be it, would one rather something functioning for the few or the many? Personally I do not agree with State Capitalism and I question whether many states do genuinely have the best interests of their citizens at heart but this is a totally seperate issue, one could debate the nature of Hegelian benevolent state and whether or not it can or will exist until one is blue in the face.

I find it a little rich to hear Robert Amsterdam talking about how when governments feel themselves above the law everyone should worry, when in the private sector companies have felt themselves above the law for many decades, especially when it comes to oil companies. Perhaps had they been a little less latent and exploitative they would not have left themselves open to such reciprocal behavour. Ethical capitalism, bollocks, no such thing, you cannot put reins on a system like this because the free marketeers will claim this is a ‘restriction on the free movement of capital and goods’ and all that shite. These are of course the same free marketeers who ensure that their products are subject to tariff protections so as not to face competition from cheaper, often better and usually more ethically produced 3rd world imports. Look into how protectionist that great land of the free America is, start with the steel industry and work back.

Khodorkovsky cites the retired employees of Yukos, who will suffer from the state’s takeover of the company, that he says have been treated unfairly. This is a slightly new tack on a hackneyed type of defence, after all how many times have we seen such workers shafted by the same industrialists without the cries of foul. I don’t think the Daily Mirror employees would be particularly inclined to agree with the notion that big company bosses have set a precedent of compassionate capitalism. Look closer into the company Yukos and its directors, many of them American – these are people with large amounts of money like CEO Stephen Theede and such people generally possess a strong desire to protect their interests. It is for this reason that they have sought to embroil the US court in the dispute and thus sour US and Russian relations. Interestingly one of the opposers to their case in the US was Deutsche Bank not reknowned for its social democratic stance. Yukos parent company, Group Menatep, has sued Russia in Europe for $28.3 billion in financial damages, and the company is also seeking $20 billion in a separate U.S. lawsuit against Rosneft Oil Company and Gazprom for their role in the sale of Yuganskneftegaz, the company’s key production asset. This does not sound to me like the action of a company or individuals primarily concerned with the welfare of former employees, after all these directors retain their large fortunes and there appears to be no sign of them magnanimously giving any of that personal wealth up for the common good. The misappropriation of a genuine concern to appear better in the PR stakes is just another tool that magnates wield in the pursuit of their aims, one should treat it with the suspicion and contempt that such a callous approach deserves.

I do not agree with Spetznatz raiding orphanages like the one funded by Khodorkoshky, however whilst it is no justification for such actions it is well known that in order to hide money many capitalists will go to almost any lengths, particularly in terms of money laudering in seemingly benign projects to protect it from the state and their agents, the taxman. I would be very cautious in assuming that just because the subject in question is an orphanage that the reasons for the purchase are completely altruistic. Let us not forget that Khordorkovsky put his parents in charge of the orphanage in question and thereby killed multiple birds with one stone, he sank money into a project that should be safer from state intervention than his personal or corporate bank account, whilst at the same time safeguarding a pension for his parents. In my experience billionaires whatever their country or method of riches do not get or maintain where they are by being romantic idealists. After all Roman Abramovitch has been especially shrewd in his investment pumping his money into one of the most high-profile offshore transactions possible. I am not aware of him having been a die-hard Chelsea fan previous to his investment. In fact he invested in CSKA Moscow first before deiciding to go more for pan-global domination. This is a clever business deal because should Putin or the Russian state choose to pursue Abramovitch it is one thing to freeze Russian assets, after all he might have thought that since Putin thinks nothing of moving the Spetznaz into an orphanage Abramovitch’s CSKA Moscow investment may have been in the balance, naturally it would be quite another thing to order that players at Chelsea football club are sold to pay back money removed from the population of Siberian provinces. Any hint of such a move from Russia would be sufficiently unpopular, not to mention a complete crossing of legal jurisdiction, to render it highly unpalatable in the extreme to the British jurisdiction

In the midst of all this one must not forget that oil is a natural resource, perhaps the Russian govt has a reason for wanting control, the re-appropriation of the countries assets for public ownership and the good of the population, ok that may be a little far-fetched but perhaps it is to ensure that the Russian economy is balanced rather than the books of wealthy trans-national private corporations.

Companies have for many years done whatever they could to push the boundaries, people whether, workers, customers or bystanders have been treated appalingly, now the state is accused of being the gangster. It astonishes me that the richer the investor the greater the self-righteous indignation when something goes wrong. These people are not keen on the system biting back and they think they are immune on account of the wealth they have ammassed. One does not hear the same outcry when middle class individuals lose their money on the stock market, or when small companies go bust or when national economies are brought to their knees by currency speculators, so why is it that a select few people should feel that the value of their investments should always go up instead of down?

Attempts by the Khodorkovsky PR machine to portray that he is being poisoned, his fingernails taken to Prof Henry, world-renowned toxicologist at St. Marys hospital London, no evidence found of any poisoning.

After Khordorkovsky’s trial verdict Sen Tom Lantos and colleagues issued statement saying they would propose motion to have Russia removed from G8 – interesting coming from group of Americans who think nothing of the defying countless UN resolutions or free-trade agreements.

Why has the US government not intervened more publicly, well my hypothesis is that as usual they are acting in the interests solely of the US businesses they represent. With the increasing dependence on the Russian oil and gas reserves to safeguard the US’s long-term supply and need to provide an alternative to Venezuela since attempts to remove Hugo Chavez have proven ineffectual, the US government finds itself in something of a quandry. Many of its business friends are obviously lobbying for Khordorkovsky’s release, many of the US businesses have investments to lose if Russia decides to go all “commie” again. Leaving aside the morals of the wholesale rape of Eastern European resources by greedy Western Trans-Nationals, the US government must consider who it would rather deal with. As a trading partner and member of the G8 the Russian government has considerable influence but it’s post-Soviet infrastructure meltdown also requires continued US investment, the US can still exact pressure on Russia should it need to do so and energy provision is the one area where the US will exert whatever pressure it deems necessary. A private individual or business has less of an allegiance to any world affairs and is more interested in hard currency. Therefore it is perfectly plausible that Yukos could decide that the US is not the only market it wishes to satisfy, of course the US government would not stand for this unopposed but it would be more difficult for them to do anything about this without being accused of interventionism, something they would face criticism for from all sides as both the businessmen and Russian government would likely be against the involvement. Thus the current solution is ammenable to the US, the Russian government takes all the flack whilst the US can portray itself as incandessant and take the moral high ground without actually having to do anything.

“A strange thing has happened the government has become the biggest oligarch” editor of Novaya Gazzetta, himself a close associate of another disgraced oligarch Boris Berezovsky. The paper did not exercise the same critique of the oligarchs when they were at the height of their power, so if that’s the system is anyone surprised just that the government plays it better and uses the tricks at its disposal, after all the Russian Godfathers have very much shown it the way since the collapse of the Soviet Union, just as so many Western companies have in Eastern Europe, why is it more acceptable for a private individual to play such a strategy as opposed to a government?

Song Of The Day ~ Editors – The Diplomat

Original Comments:

John made this comment,
They can’t get at his money. It’s right here next to me on some computer in this tax haven, in a trust fund for his family. To think, if he bought a football club it’d all be okay again…
comment added :: 14th May 2006, 01:27 GMT+01 ::

Apologies that this entry is rather long and convuluted, it is a product of many writes and re-writes as I attempt to get back into a pattern of fluency again.

There seems to have been a lot of talk of late about serious crime and in particular the age-old debate about the death penalty and the possibility or not of reform of violent criminals. Following on from a very heated debate I participated in at The Very Idea, myTwin has also added fuel to what I would term the liberal authoritarian argument. By this I mean people who are not law and order conservatives but consider themselves on the whole to be liberally-minded but hold strong views when it comes to a certain level of crime, particularly involving emotive violence like that against children or women especially if involving a sexual over-/ undertone

I do have to raise a little question, perhaps in slightly Devil’s Advocate fashion, as to whether the furore would have quite the same intensity were the perpetrator a woman. After all whilst Myra Hindley is hated for her part in the brutal Moors Murders she is regarded as having been very much under the influence of Ian Brady, the male protagonist, and whilst this may be true it is certainly accepted with little scrutiny. I have heard a number of times the questioning of “how could a woman do such a thing, it isn’t natural” as if some how the man’s participation is expected. We will return to the other question that point raises shortly. It would be wrong to assume that crimes against children are all carried out by men, in fact in cases involving very young children it is more often women than men who are the perpetrators. This is perhaps because of the nature or reason for the committing such a crime. For a man to be able to assert power there has to be at least some element of conquest, and so it must come down to where a man sees himself in the pecking order.

Most of the men who carry out these crimes fit broadly similar profiles. It is not surprising to me that men emasculated metaphorically have in themselves a serious problem with regard to the way they view their role in society. One must remember that we still live, rightly or wrongly, in an acutely patriarchal society where behaviour deviating from the gender stereotypical norm is not generally well-tolerated in society at large. The expectations on women remain often that a more traditional role should be undertaken whilst leaving the man to be the bread-winner, the high-earner, the “head of the household” Likewise this places an expectation on men to be masculine, macho, the dominant ones, the effects of upbringing, circumstance and individual personalities ensure that there will always be a vast difference between some men’s ability or willingness to fulfill this role. For those who cannot but feel duty bound to do so the problem is clear and frustration however it vents itself will out.

Different people react in different ways to the stimuli that life throws at us, so whilst one child will burst into tears when hit in the playground, another will hit back and a third will run away, equally though there may be times where this behaviour will overlap and where the child usually prone to tears may decide to run away or to hit back whilst on a given day the child more prone to hit back may decide not to do so. The same is very much true in adulthood as you might expect. Hence we cannot assume that a certain person with a certain background will always react in a certain definable way. Likewise we cannot assume that their reaction will be rational or predictable, after all rationality is a subjective concept anyway. As individuals we would not even carry out the same actions ourselves given the same set of circumstances on the same day, perhaps the weather is different, or our breakfast was burnt or we found a pound coin in the street earlier etc.

Therefore it is a non-argument to say “well, I’m poor, or I’m black or I’m a disenfranchised product of an ambivalent society and I don’t…” Everybody has their breaking point and some reach it sooner than others. We may also reach it in certain ways without actually being fully aware of it. In this modern age there are many laws which we arbitrarily assign ourselves the right to break. Motoring offences, particularly speeding or the going through shall we say ‘late amber’ traffic lights, are practically the norm, we decide that this is either not a law that applies to us because our own personal logic deems it appropriate or because we are prepared to risk being caught and facing the consequences because the probability of being caught is low. Furthermore many people will avoid paying taxes wherever possible, you will find few people in a society who will work out everything they have earnt from personal ebay sales over a given financial year so as to declare it for tax.

Likewise it is not relevant to use the personal analogy that if somebody did something to your family you’d want to kill them etc. etc. This may very well be true however justice is not about providing satisfaction to the wronged individual in the form that they see fit. It is not about assuaging the anger or sadness of a victim, it cannot be because it cannot really provide any use in that context, you cannot unmake a crime. It is about providing an adequate system of legal governance that has in place a structure to deal with transgression to punish the perpetrator, if necessary to remove the perpetrator to protect society and where possible to provide the example to others so as to reinforce the acceptable moral code of conduct. Were anything to happen to my family I would expect to be very angry, perhaps even murderous, I would also expect society and the judicial system to ensure that I am not made a criminal as a result of my wrath and this it does by punishing those responsible.

When it comes to putting someone to death to my mind every sinew of my being cries foul. There is neither chance of redemption for the perpetrator nor retribution for the victim(s). The risk of killing an innocent cannot be ruled out nor can it be redressed if it is proven to have taken place. You cannot in a judicial system allow a situation to exist where by the very nature of the law a crime can only go unpunished and this is exactly what a case state murder of an innocent person would be. We must also acknowledge that guilt and absolute crime are rather subjective terms and can shift in different societies and era. We have no problem condemning the Nazis for their use of the death penalty, which was part of their system, because we see that system as unacceptable and those that died as having been innocent. It may well be that in the future our system may be seen as being a strain of the same barbarism. (There are some of us, ahead of our time if you like, who see are current system already as being a strain of the same barbarism!) Add to this the fact that it would be an unwise person to ever assert that a judicial system in any country would ever always prosecute or execute the guilty. The real purpose of the death penalty is to remove the problem from view, it does not act as a deterrent, it does not help the victim of the crime it merely serves to make certain people feel better that society’s failure is brushed under the carpet. If you think that’s acceptable then fine but let’s not try to make of it something that it isn’t.

If one is to assume that the individual is always solely to blame for his/her actions then there can be no mitigating circumstances for any crime, but we do not believe this which is why there are in all judicial systems varying gradients of severity of crime generally down to the level of pre-meditation. This level of pre-meditation of course assumes a mind in healthy order, and yet we would not under general circumstances be so blasé as to believe this to be the case of everyone in society. The proportion of the population who will experience depression alone is far higher than you would think, the US National Institute for Mental Health estimates that in a given year some 9.5% of Americans will experience some form of depressive disorder. They define depressive disorder as:

“A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things.”

The key point here is the affecting of the way one thinks about things. This is not a surprise, any form of mental imbalance can have such an effect whether temporary or permanent. It is difficult for us to state with any certainty just how much of an imbalance this may cause because each individual and each trigger is different. However if we take the statistic that 1 in 10 is likely to have a problem at some point in a year it’s probably a fair bet to say that 1 in 100 of those may have a serious problem. That is only 1 in 1000 people overall, it’s hardly a tiny minority, by that reckoning in any given city of 1 million people there would be 1000 having serious mental health problems. What are we actually doing about this problem, not as much as we need to be. If 1 in 1000 had a serious infectious disease that involved spots or death for a minority of sufferers you can bet your arse we’d be demanding something were done about it.

I have always found it odd that Americans particularly can stand up to defend the rights of an unborn child and yet they are happy do nothing for those already born. Do these people believe that a child is spotless and untainted, a tabula rasa? If so then by that argument people doing bad things are doing so because of their nurture and they cannot be held solely responsible for that. If not then should abortions be allowed for criminal families, or blacks, or the poor, or illegal aliens? Would people advocate that? Some certainly would and whilst some of them go around burning crosses and wearing German WWII insignia, it is only a century ago that many such views were rather more mainstream across the Western World.

“The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the feeble-minded and insane classes, coupled as it is with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate… I feel that the source from which the stream of madness is fed should be cut off and sealed up before another year has passed.”

This sounds as if it could be lifted from a modern argument against immigration, however it is taken from a 1910 British Home Office memorandum to the then Prime Minister Herbert Asquith from a Home Office minister, one Winston Spencer Churchill.

If you truly believe that you are immune from being in a situation where you would commit serious crime then you are deluding yourself. Your threshold may be greater than some but everyone has their limit, whether it be within the framework of what we currently consider mitigating circumstances is another matter. The voices told me to do it is not generally considered thus and yet it is like as not very real to the person experiencing the voices.

Do the violent and the mentally unbalanced need to be incarcerated to protect society from them, very probably, but it is equally valid to assert that they need to be locked away to protect them from society after all it is society that has damaged them to such an extent in the first place.

Song Of The Day – The Cribs – Mirror Kissers