Tag Archives: Occupy movement

banned news involving attack on Iran leaked by Craig Murray

Here is an introduction by Craig Murray regarding his latest article:

I am going to publish the very important article on the plot to attack Iran at noon GMT on this site. Other sites are welcome to republish it, and I would be grateful if each and every reader can do whatever is in their power to get it seen, be that reposting it yourself, sending it to an outlet, retweeting it, facebook messaging it, emailing a link or just telling your mates or family to look at it.

To remind you, here is the extraordinary reaction from the mainstream outlets I write for regularly. I have left nothing out from the replies I received. Nobody found a single fact that did not check out, and nobody could claim it was not newsworthy. They simply prevaricated and passed it around various editors in a risible buck-passing exercise.

The extremely strong Israeli influence on the media is not a theoretical construct. It has a real existence, vast amounts of real money and physical mechanics of operation. Anybody who doubts this should read this recent leaked internal email from BICOM, a full time highly-funded Israeli lobby organisation which was closely linked to Adam Werritty. Their direct and day to day access to those making editorial decisions could not be more clear.

We can’t match anything like their funding, and they can block me from mainstream media effectively. But we have honesty and we have effort. Noon. Be ready.

*

Matthew Gould and the Plot to Attack Iran

by Craig Murray

This is Matthew Gould, second from right, British Ambassador to Israel, who was pictured speaking at a meeting of the Leeds Zionist Federation that was also the opening of the Leeds Hasbarah Centre. The Leeds Zionist Federation is part of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, motto “Speaking Up for Israel.” A collection was made at the meeting to send packages to members of the Israeli Defence Force.

On 29 May 2011 The Jerusalem Post reported: “British Ambassador Matthew Gould declared his commitment to Israel and the principles of Zionism on Thursday”.

Remember this background, it is unusual behaviour for a diplomat, and it is important.

The six meetings between British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould and Minister of Defence Liam Fox and Adam Werritty together – only two of which were revealed by Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell in his “investigation” into Werritty’s unauthorised role in the Ministry of Defence – raise vital concerns about a secret agenda for war at the core of government, comparable to Blair’s determination to drive through a war on Iraq.

This is a detective story. It begins a few weeks ago, when the Fox-Werritty scandal was first breaking in the media. I had a contact from an old friend from my Foreign Office days. This friend had access to the Gus O’Donnell investigation. He had given a message for me to a trusted third party.

Whistleblowing in the surveillance state is a difficult activity. I left through a neighbour’s garden, not carrying a mobile phone, puffed and panted by bicycle to an unmonitored but busy stretch of road, hitched a lift much of the way, then ordered a minicab on a payphone from a country pub to my final destination, a farm far from CCTV. There the intermediary gave me the message: what really was worrying senior civil servants in the Cabinet Office was that the Fox-Werritty link related to plans involving Mossad and the British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould.

Since I became a notorious whistleblower, several of my ex-friends and contacts have used me to get out information they wanted to leak, via my blog. A good recent example was a senior friend at the UN who tipped me off in advance on the deal by which the US agreed to the Saudi attack on pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain, in return for Arab League support for the NATO attack on Libya. But this was rather different, not least in the apparent implication that our Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, was engaged in something with Werritty which went beyond official FCO policy.

I was particularly concerned by this because I knew slightly and liked Matthew Gould, from the time he wrote speeches for Robin Cook. I hoped there was nothing much in it. But then Gould’s name started to come up as professional journalists dug into the story, and reported Werritty’s funding by pro-Israeli lobby groups.

I decided that the best approach was for me to write to Matthew Gould. I did so, asking him when he had first met Werritty, how many times he had met him, and how many communications of every kind there had been between them. I received the reply that these questions would be answered in Gus O’Donnell’s report.

But Gus O’Donnell’s report in fact answered none of these questions. It only mentioned two meetings at which Fox, Gould and Werritty were all three present. It did not mention Gould-Werritty bilateral meetings and contacts at all. To an ex-Ambassador like me, there was also something very fishy about the two trilateral meetings O’Donnell did mention and his characterisation of them.

This led me to dig further, and I was shocked to find that O’Donnell was, at the most charitable interpretation, economical with the truth. In fact there were at least six Fox-Werritty-Gould meetings, not the two given by O’Donnell. Why did GOD lie? I now had no doubt that my informant had pointed me towards something very real and very important indeed.

Matthew Gould was the only British Ambassador who Fox and Werrity met together. They met him six times. Why?

The first meeting to which O’Donnell admits, took place in September 2010. O’Donnell says this was

“a general discussion of international defence and security matters to enable Mr Gould better to understand MOD’s perspective.”

O’Donnell says Werritty should not have been present. An FCO spokesman told me on 21 October that

“Mr Gould’s meeting with the Defence Secretary was arranged by his office as part of his pre-posting briefing calls.”

All Ambassadors make pre-posting briefing calls around Whitehall before taking up their job, as you would expect. But even for our most senior Ambassadors, outside the Foreign Office those calls are not at Secretary of State level. Senior officials are quite capable of explaining policy to outgoing Ambassadors; Secretaries of State have many other things to do.

For this meeting to happen at all was not routine, and Werritty’s presence made it still more strange. Why was this meeting happening? I dug further, and learnt from a senior MOD source that there were two more very strange things about this meeting, neither noted by O’Donnell. There was no private secretary or MOD official present to take note of action points, and the meeting took place not in Fox’s office, but in the MOD dining room.

O’Donnell may have been able to fox the media, but to a former Ambassador this whole meeting stunk. I bombarded the FCO with more questions, and discovered an amazing fact left out by O’Donnell. The FCO spokesman replied to me on 21 October 2011 that:

“Mr Werritty was also present at an earlier meeting Mr Gould had with Dr Fox in the latter’s capacity as shadow Defence Secretary.”

So Gould, Fox and Werritty had got together before Gould was Ambassador, while Fox was still in opposition and while Werritty was – what, exactly? This opened far more questions than it answered. I put them to the FCO. When, where and why had this meeting happened? We only knew it was before May 2010, when Fox took office. What was discussed? There are very strict protocols for senior officials briefing opposition front bench spokesman. Had they been followed?

The FCO refused point blank to answer any further questions. I turned to an independent-minded MP, Jeremy Corbyn, who put down a parliamentary question to William Hague. The reply quite deliberately ignored almost all of Corbyn’s question, but it did throw up an extraordinary bit of information – yet another meeting between Fox, Werritty and Gould, which had not been previously admitted.

Hague replied to Corbyn that:

“Our ambassador to Israel was also invited by the former Defence Secretary to a private social engagement in summer 2010 at which Adam Werritty was present.”

Getting to the truth was like drawing teeth, but the picture was building. O’Donnell had completely mischaracterised the “Briefing meeting” between Fox, Werritty and O’Donnell by hiding the fact that the three had met up at least twice before – once for a meeting when Fox was in opposition, and once for “a social engagement.” The FCO did not answer Corbyn’s question as to who else was present at this “social engagement”.

This was also key because Gould’s other meetings with Fox and Werritty were being characterised – albeit falsely – as simply routine, something Gould had to do in the course of his ambassadorial duties. But this attendance at “a private social engagement” was a voluntary act by Gould, indubitable proof that, at the least, the three were happy in each other’s company, but given that all three were very active in Zionist causes, it was a definite indication of something more than that.

That furtive meeting between Fox, Werritty and Gould in the MOD dining room, deliberately held away from Fox’s office where it should have taken place, and away from the MOD officials who should have been there, now looks less like briefing and more like plotting.

My existing doubts about the second and only other meeting to which O’Donnell does admit make plain why that question is very important.

O’Donnell had said that Gould, Fox and Werritty had met on 6 February 2011:

“in Tel Aviv. This was a general discussion of international affairs over a private dinner with senior Israelis. The UK Ambassador was present.”

There was something very wrong here. Any ex-Ambassador knows that any dinner with senior figures from your host country, at which the British Ambassador to that country and a British Secretary of State are both present, and at which international affairs are discussed, can never be “private”. You are always representing the UK government in that circumstance. The only explanation I could think of for O’Donnell’s astonishing description of this as a “private” dinner was that the discussion was far from being official UK policy.

I therefore asked the FCO who was at this dinner, what was discussed, and who was paying for it? I viewed the last as my trump card – if either Gould or Fox was receiving hospitality, they are obliged to declare it. To my astonishment the FCO refused to say who was present or who paid. Corbyn’s parliamentary question also covered the issue of who was at this dinner, to which he received no reply.

Plainly something was very wrong. I therefore again asked how often Gould had met or communicated with Werritty without Fox being present. Again the FCO refused to reply. But one piece of information that had been found by other journalists was that, prior to the Tel Aviv dinner, Fox, Gould and Werritty had together attended the Herzilya conference in Israel. The programme of this is freely available. It is an unabashedly staunch zionist annual conference on “Israel’s security”, which makes no pretence at a balanced approach to Palestinian questions and attracts a strong US neo-conservative following. Fox, Gould and Werritty sat together at this event.

Yet again, the liar O’Donnell does not mention it.

I then learnt of yet another, a sixth meeting between Fox, Gould and Werritty. This time my informant was another old friend, a jewish diplomat for another country, based at an Embassy in London. They had met Gould, Fox and Werritty together at the “We believe in Israel” conference in London in May 2011. Here is a photo of Gould and Fox together at that conference.

I had no doubt about the direction this information was leading, but I now needed to go back to my original source. Sometimes the best way to hide something is to put it right under the noses of those looking for it, and on Wednesday I picked up the information in a tent at the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s cathedral.

This is the story I was given.

Matthew Gould was Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Iran, a country which Werritty frequently visited, and where Werritty claimed to have British government support for plots against Ahmadinejad. Gould worked at the British Embassy in Washington; the Fox-Werritty Atlantic Bridge fake charity was active in building links between British and American neo-conservatives and particularly ultra-zionists. Gould’s responsibilities at the Embassy included co-ordination on US policy towards Iran. The first meeting of all three, which the FCO refuses to date, probably stems from this period.

According to my source, there is a long history of contact between Gould and Werritty. The FCO refuse to give any information on Gould-Werritty meetings or communications except those meetings where Fox was present – and those have only been admitted gradually, one by one. We may not have them all even yet.

My source says that co-ordinating with Israel and the US on diplomatic preparation for an attack on Iran was the subject of all these meetings. That absolutely fits with the jobs Gould held at the relevant times. The FCO refuses to say what was discussed. My source says that, most crucially, Iran was discussed at the Tel Aviv dinner, and the others present represented Mossad. The FCO again refuses to say who was present or what was discussed.

On Wednesday 2 November it was revealed in the press that under Fox the MOD had prepared secret and detailed contingency plans for British participation in an attack on Iran.

There are very important questions here. Was Gould really discussing neo-con plans for attacking Iran with Werritty and eventually with Fox before the Conservatives were even in government? Why did O’Donnell’s report so carefully mislead on the Fox-Gould-Werritty axis? How far was the FCO aware of MOD preparations for attacking Iran? Is there a neo-con cell of senior ministers and officials, co-ordinating with Israel and the United States, and keeping their designs hidden from the Conservative’s coalition partners?

The government could clear up these matters if it answered some of the questions it refuses to answer, even when asked formally by a member of parliament. The media have largely moved on from the Fox-Werritty affair, but have barely skimmed the surface of the key questions it raises. They relate to secrecy, democratic accountability and preparations to launch a war, preparations which bypass the safeguards of good government. The refusal to give straight answers to simple questions by a member of parliament strikes at the very root of our democracy.

Is this not precisely the situation we were in with Blair and Iraq? Have no lessons been learnt?

There is a further question which arises. Ever since the creation of the state of Israel, the UK had a policy of not appointing a jewish Briton as Ambassador, for fear of conflict of interest. As a similar policy of not appointing a catholic Ambassador to the Vatican. New Labour overturned both longstanding policies as discriminatory. Matthew Gould is therefore the first jewish British Ambassador to Israel.

Matthew Gould does not see his race or religion as irrelevant. He has chosen to give numerous interviews to both British and Israeli media on the subject of being a jewish ambassador, and has been at pains to be photographed by the Israeli media participating in jewish religious festivals. Israeli newspaper Haaretz described him as “Not just an ambassador who is jewish, but a jewish ambassador”. That rather peculiar phrase appears directly to indicate that the potential conflict of interest for a British ambassador in Israel has indeed arisen.

It is thus most unfortunate that it is Gould who is the only British Ambassador to have met Fox and Werritty together, who met them six times, and who now stands suspected of long-term participation with them in a scheme to forward war with Iran, in cooperation with Israel. This makes it even more imperative that the FCO answers now the numerous outstanding questions about the Gould/Werritty relationship and the purpose of all those meetings with Fox.

There is no doubt that the O’Donnell report’s deceitful non-reporting of so many Fox-Gould-Werritty meetings, the FCO’s blunt refusal to list Gould-Werritty, meetings and contacts without Fox, and the refusal to say who else was present at any of these occasions, amounts to irrefutable evidence that something very important is being hidden right at the heart of government. I have no doubt that my informant is telling the truth, and the secret is the plan to attack Iran. It fits all the above facts. What else does?

Please feel free to re-use and republish this article anywhere, commercially or otherwise. It has been blocked by the mainstream media. I write regularly for the mainstream media and this is the first article of mine I have ever been unable to publish. People have risked a huge amount by leaking me information in an effort to stop the government machinery from ramping up a war with Iran. There are many good people in government who do not want to see another Iraq. Please do all you can to publish and redistribute this information.

UPDATE: A commenter has already pointed me to this bit of invaluable evidence:

“My government absolutely agrees with your conception of the Iranian threat and the importance of your determination to battle it.” Dealing with the Iranian threat will be a large part of my work here.” Gould said.

From Israel National News. It also says that he will be trying to promote a positive atmosphere between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, but the shallowest or the deepest search shows the same picture; an entirely biased indeed fanatical Zionist who must give no confidence at all to the Palestinian Authority. He must be recalled.

This article can also be read on Craig Murray’s blog.

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the City of London: “Plutocracy, pure and simple”

Well it seems that Occupy London have managed to open up a real can of worms. Not only have they revealed just how closely tied the Church of England is to the financial establishment (which is something for the disestablishmentarians to get their teeth into – and it’s not often you get chance to say that!) but they have also brought mainstream attention to the murky twilight zone that is the City of London.

It’s a funny thing isn’t it, when somehow you can know all aspects surrounding the truth, yet never usefully piece them together into a complete picture; and so it is with the City of London.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve known that there are actually two cities in “London”, and that the bigger part of London should more properly be referred to as the City of Westminster. This is common knowledge and the kind of information that wins pub quizzes. For nearly as long again, I’ve also known that the City of London (or more commonly “The City”) is a pseudonym for “the banks”; simply because, or so I presumed, the Square Mile is the major business and financial district in the country. But for some reason, during all those years, I’ve never actually thought to put two and two together and look behind the labels. Well now, at last, the beans have been spilled, and thanks to some extent to George Monbiot.

In previous posts, I have been strongly critical of Monbiot with regards to his dismissive response to the catastrophe at Fukushima, and his significant, if presumably accidental part in the subsequent government/industry cover-up. But one should give credit where credit is due, and on this occasion Monbiot must certainly be applauded:

“It’s the dark heart of Britain, the place where democracy goes to die, immensely powerful, equally unaccountable. But I doubt that one in 10 British people has any idea of what the Corporation of the City of London is and how it works. This could be about to change. Alongside the Church of England, the Corporation is seeking to evict the protesters camped outside St Paul’s cathedral. The protesters, in turn, have demanded that it submit to national oversight and control.”1

So begins Monbiot’s article from Monday [Oct 31st] which goes on to outline how the City of London is run as a shadowy plutocracy where in over 80% of the electoral wards:

“…the votes are controlled by corporations, mostly banks and other financial companies. The bigger the business, the bigger the vote: a company with 10 workers gets two votes, the biggest employers, 79. It’s not the workers who decide how the votes are cast, but the bosses, who “appoint” the voters.”

A place where even to qualify to become an elected representative of ‘the Corporation’, from ‘common councilmen’ all the way to the post of Lord Mayor, requires that you are a ‘Freeman of the City’, which in turn means that you will need to belong to one of the City livery companies:

“medieval guilds such as the worshipful company of costermongers, cutpurses and safecrackers. [Whilst] to become a sheriff, you must be elected from among the aldermen by the Livery. How do you join a livery company? Don’t even ask.”

Might it involve rolling up a trouser leg and giving a dodgy handshake? Well, that was very definitely the comparison drawn by Labour MP John McDonnell in November 1999, during a parliamentary debate on the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill, in which he described ‘the backwoodsmen of the City corporation’ as ‘the lodge of lodges’, adding that ‘it is not the last bastion of privilege and freemasonry in this country, but it might be the biggest’.2

Meanwhile, and according to the Corporation’s own website 3 , the official role of the Grand Cyclops… sorry, I mean Lord Mayor, whose position is apparently ‘unpaid and apolitical’, is to:

open up new markets for city businesses, and to open doors at the highest levels for the accompanying business delegation.

Whilst:

In private meetings and speeches, the Lord Mayor expounds the values of liberalisation and expands on those factors which have underpinned London’s success, such as probity and transparency, open markets, corporate governance, Common Law, welcome for skilled people from around the world, support for innovation, proportionate taxation and regulation.

But as Monbiot explains, “this isn’t the half of it”…

The City of London is the only part of Britain over which parliament has no authority. In one respect at least the Corporation acts as the superior body: it imposes on the House of Commons a figure called the remembrancer: an official lobbyist who sits behind the Speaker’s chair and ensures that, whatever our elected representatives might think, the City’s rights and privileges are protected.

With suitably arcane title, the remembrancer (try saying it as Vincent Price would) is a gatekeeper; he who prevents the fancy of mere mortals from encroaching upon the auspices of that other world…

Monbiot again:

The City has exploited this remarkable position to establish itself as a kind of offshore state, a secrecy jurisdiction which controls the network of tax havens housed in the UK’s crown dependencies and overseas territories. This autonomous state within our borders is in a position to launder the ill-gotten cash of oligarchs, kleptocrats, gangsters and drug barons.

Monbiot also proposes a cure for such corruption, saying:

If you’ve ever dithered over the question of whether the UK needs a written constitution, dither no longer. Imagine the clauses required to preserve the status of the Corporation. “The City of London will remain outside the authority of parliament. Domestic and foreign banks will be permitted to vote as if they were human beings, and their votes will outnumber those cast by real people. Its elected officials will be chosen from people deemed acceptable by a group of medieval guilds …”

The Corporation’s privileges could not withstand such public scrutiny. This, perhaps, is one of the reasons why a written constitution in the United Kingdom remains a distant dream.

But here I would say that Monbiot is mistaken in two ways. Firstly, in Britain we already have our written constitutional laws in the form of multiple documents which include the Magna Carta and our lesser known Bill of Rights (from 1689); and secondly, even if we might produce a more condensed, up-to-date and familiar constitution – and right now, I dread to think who might be put in charge of such a project – this newly established constitution could still be overridden.

Take America, for example, which has the most famous “written constitution” of all, and consider the case of the founding of the Federal Reserve System. The Federal Reserve, for those who don’t know already, is the privately owned and controlled central bank of America. It was set up on the basis of plans agreed at a secret meeting of – would you guess? – bankers, that took place on Jekyll Island – you can’t make it up – exactly one century ago (Nov 1910), and was then smuggled into law as the Federal Reserve Act, just a couple of days before Christmas in 1913. This private takeover happened in spite of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5, of the US constitution, which explicitly states that it is Congress that has the power “to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin”, yet in spite of its conspicuously unconstitutional origins, the Federal Reserve has remained in charge of US monetary policy ever since.

However, what we most certainly do need, and getting back to our own private banking takeover, is for continuing exposure of, and growing pressure on, the self-serving banker-occupied enclave that is the City of London. So well done to Monbiot for helping to set the ball rolling, and perhaps now he’s got a taste for the more exotic, he might also try to lift the veil on a few more ‘private’ clubs and organisations – Bilderberg would be top of my own list, although there are plenty of other shadowy, anti-democratic agencies to choose from.

I also hope that plenty of Londoners and others will take up Monbiot’s call for more directed action:

It happens that the Lord Mayor’s Show, in which the Corporation flaunts its ancient wealth and power, takes place on 12 November. If ever there were a pageant that cries out for peaceful protest and dissent, here it is. Expect fireworks – and not just those laid on by the Lord Mayor.

1 From an article entitled “The medieval, unaccountable Corporation of London is ripe for protest: Working beyond the authority of parliament, the Corporation of London undermines all attempts to curb the excesses of finance”, written by George Monbiot, published in the Guardian on October 31, 2011. http://m.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/31/corporation-london-city-medieval?cat=commentisfree&type=article

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shocking police brutality galvanises ‘occupy’ protesters

Corporal Scott Olsen, 24, was wounded Tuesday night [Oct 25th] after a non-lethal projectile was fired into his face during a raid on Occupy Oakland. Worse then followed, as fellow protesters who gathered to help the seriously injured Olson, were hit by a stun grenade deliberately aimed to disperse them. The whole incident was captured on video:

Suffering from a fractured skull and brain injuries, Olsen, who remains in hospital, is said to be in a stable condition. In response and in support, thousands of demonstrators across America and even abroad have since rallied with the message that “We Are All Scott Olsen!”

Matthis Chiroux, a US veteran and anti-war activist, spoke to Russia Today about how one of his own close friends and another US veteran had also had his skull fractured during an earlier peaceful protest, and how he felt shocked and saddened on hearing the news of Scott Olsen:

“Well, it reminds me that the United States stands ready to do violence against anybody – especially its own citizens, even if they’re veterans. Being a veteran makes absolutely no difference, when it comes to be brutalised by the police, demonstrating and protesting in this country.”

Asked what he thought about the fact that so many veterans, after leaving the military, actually become police officers, Chiroux replies:

“That’s absolutely true, and in fact it’s a very easy transition I would think, generally, from one violent arm of the US state to another violent arm of the US state. Fundamentally, the only difference between the cops and the military, is the military is taught to do violence against people overseas. The police are taught to do violence to the people right here…”

“The police protect and serve the one percent. They themselves may be the ninety-nine percent, but they protect and serve the one percent. They don’t take their orders from us, they take their orders from them.

“And look, it was just like when I was in the military, and I was justifying the crimes I felt complicit in. To me, it was just a job… I don’t wanna maybe go beat this guy, but it’s just a job. And I need to make money. I need to make money to feed my family… You know, it’s a twisted logic.”

The Russia Today report also shows police forcibly removing demonstrators from protests in Nashville and San Diego.

[Interview with Matthis Chiroux is 3 mins from start]

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the erosion of our civil rights can’t come fast enough

The government’s latest plans ‘to toughen sentencing’ are about to be voted on by MPs tomorrow. Aside from savaging the legal aid system, the proposed legislation will also mean the criminalisation of trespass and squatting:

Kenneth Clarke has moved to toughen up his controversial sentencing bill by criminalising squatting and strengthening the law of self-defence for those who confront intruders in their own homes.

Which will sound reasonable enough to many perhaps, but are Clarke’s amendments actually for the protection of home-owners, or might there be an ulterior motive…?

The decision to ban squatting in residential buildings has been taken despite warnings that making trespass a criminal offence could also affect sit-ins and occupations and lead to an increase in the most vulnerable homeless people sleeping rough.1

Then yesterday, less than a week since Clarke’s announcement, and rather in the spirit of Clarke’s new proposals, Home Secretary Theresa May came out on Sky News to say that she hopes the authorities will be able to remove the Occupy London “squat” outside St Paul’s:

“It is important people are able to make peaceful protest but it becomes a bit different when it becomes a squat,” she said.

“I think we do need to look at the powers available. I would hope that the St Paul’s authorities, the Corporation of the City of London and the police will work together to ensure the protesters can be moved as soon as possible.”2

Yes, all these “squatters” are a terrible embarrassment, aren’t they?

Meanwhile, some opponents to the proposed anti-squatting legislation decided to take part in a “sleep-in” outside parliament. But — and here is a wonderful illustration of how our laws are actually applied — they were forcibly removed by police under “terrorism rules” that restrict protests to within a 0.6 mile (1km) radius.

Click here to watch a video of the protest available on the Guardian website.

As one protester puts it:

“I just feel sad that people’s rights are being slowly eroded little by little by little by little… and unless people do start wanting to change the system and insisting that the system changes, we’re just going to end up with no rights whatsoever.”

1 From an article entitled “Kenneth Clarke reveals plans to toughen sentencing bill”, written by Alan Travis, published in the Guardian on October 26, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/oct/26/kenneth-clarke-plans-toughen-sentencing-bill?newsfeed=true

2 From an article entitled “St Paul’s Suspends Legal Action Over Protest” published by Sky News on November 1, 2011. http://news.sky.com/home/uk-news/article/16100585

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the 99% of Britain: it’s time to turn on, tune in and stand up!

Populist movements are gathering around the world. People from different generations, ethnicities, and multifarious backgrounds taking to the streets and public spaces to express collective outrage at what is happening to them. Thus the rumour of a ‘global revolution’ is spreading. So these are exciting times, though also perilous times. Revolutions have a habit of being derailed and going bad; that’s history. But I admire the optimism, the enthusiasm, and the courage of all those now actively resisting the increasingly apparent slide into outright economic and social breakdown.

A week last Saturday [Oct 15th] signified the first day of truly international dissent. 15-O, which had been called for by los indignados, was marked not only by huge protests in Spain (half a million in both Barcelona and Madrid), as well as Greece and the other “PIGS” (to use the vile and frankly racist acronym so freely attached in the press), but by many in other European countries, as well as throughout the United States, and as far afield as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mumbai, Canada, parts of South America and Africa. Click here to read a list of the 15-O “occupy” protests around the world.

Media attention inevitably focused on the rioting mobs in Italy, where the protests had been infiltrated by a substantial element of anarchist hooligans, rather than on the relatively peaceful protests elsewhere; in some cases remaining non-violent in the face of rather extreme police provocation. And the widespread police tactic known as ‘kettling’ is inherently provocative; a kettle, of course, being an object that has a singular purpose of bringing a substance to boiling point, which is precisely what confining any crowd of people in a tight area is likely to do to them. But as Democracy Now! reported, the New York police went further still, sending mounted officers into already ‘kettled’ crowds. That no-one was actually trampled to death during this incident was simply due to the self-restraint of the crowd and pure good fortune:

Mass strikes, marches and demonstrations can, of course, only take any movement so far. For real victories, a more cutting political edge is required; clear demands for a realistic and realisable alternative. Only then can any movement either steer the policies of established parties, or else, and given that almost all current political parties seem to be sold-out to identical interests, begin to build new political parties that offer genuine and viable change for the better. The simple fact is that to change the course of a country, let alone the whole world, means sooner or later picking up the reins of power. You have to get your hands dirty in the end.

But when I come to Britain, I am puzzled. My home city of Sheffield, the once proud ‘Steel City’, its name engraved on cutlery throughout the world, was also renowned for being a hot-bed of ‘Old Labour’ socialism, and yet after more than a year of deeply unpopular government ‘austerity measures’, there have been just two significant protests. One when the Lib-Dem Spring conference showed up in town, and the other, a trade union march and rally against the cuts. When the Jarrow March came through the city a fortnight ago, it was welcomed by less than a hundred people. We were there to applaud them:

The Jarrow March in Sheffield

Whilst on 15-O there was no protest at all in Sheffield, and Sheffield was far from alone – did you hear of any action that took place in Birmingham, or Newcastle, or even Liverpool?

Last Wednesday [Oct 19th], I attended a public meeting with a friend. It had been organised by Britain’s largest civil service trades-union, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), and was also supported by the Sheffield Anti Cuts Alliance. We were two newcomers of the around thirty people who turned up; the great majority being experienced and committed activists, and about a half of those attending being on first name terms with one another.

At the meeting, all opinions were welcomed and respectfully listened to, and overall the meeting was frank and informative. Having said this, however, and after more than two hours of discussion, the only decision made was that we needed another meeting…

But a meeting about what exactly? That was what my friend and I couldn’t actually fathom. Although there was a clue in the title of the leaflet promoting the event. WELFARE, it read in large friendly letters, and beneath: “a campaigning and organising meeting for workers and unemployed people”. But campaigning and organising to what precise ends? A simple enough question, and one raised during the meeting, with someone respectfully asking what other speakers precisely meant by saying “we” all the time. It was a question that went all but unheard by most in the room.

And why was the meeting only called “for workers and unemployed people”? Workers and unemployed people as opposed to who exactly?

There is a sense that the anti-cuts movement in Britain is about to repeat the mistakes of 1980s all over again. The traps are set, the population having been so effectively divided against itself thanks to the policies of Thatcher and Blair. For if opposition to the ‘austerity’ programme is to be successful, then it needs to be engaging with more than just the ‘Old Labour’ old guard; we really need to find support within the other sections of the 99%.

So what exactly am I saying here? That in Britain, the left is too wrapped up in itself. That it talks to itself all the time, sometimes with good intention, other times wistfully reminiscing, and still with a significant minority fixated on the Marxist dialectic. On this occasion the only Marxist to speak up, explained very eloquently how the welfare system was just another symptom of the sickness of Capitalism, which was perhaps not the most helpful contribution under the circumstances. But, in any case, what leads some on the left to suppose that the masses of unemployed and workers are about to be won over by oblique and antique instructions laid down in Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto? Writings from the nineteenth century that most people never read and never will. I increasingly fail to understand why the left feels this need for philosophic validation to justify or promote their own visions of social justice. As Orwell pointed out, the notion that society should be fairer is really just a matter of commonsense. And Marx sort of said the same, albeit in a more roundabout and convoluted fashion, which is presumably why so many academics love him so much.

Meanwhile, many of the ‘Old Conservative’ right are also disaffected, but those of the disaffected right form into different groups like UKIP and talk to themselves about how the country is being sold down the river by Eurocrats. In this they are correct, the Eurocrats being another big part of our problem. Membership of the EU is costing the nation £45 million each and every day, and for what?

Others on the right try to make their opinions heard via groups like The Taxpayers’ Alliance, complaining about the increasing rates of personal taxation and how their standard of living is dropping. And in this they are correct too, but instead of seeing that their money is being stolen by the super-rich, they wrongly point the finger of blame downwards to those scraping a living at the bottom of the social heap; the irony being that they are suckered into the same phoney class war as many on the left.

And here, we ought not to forget the Greens, who talk to themselves about saving the planet. And good for them, because it’s only the insane who willingly destroy their own world. But do they really think they can halt the devastation by tinkering with a corporate system as corrupt as ours? Right now by far the most important thing being to reverse the escalating economic crisis before our society breaks down entirely (as appears to be happening in Greece). This should be the immediate goal for all of the disaffected and since this requires a mass resistance to the social and economic measures being imposed, the disaffected on all sides must urgently establish some common ground. For once there is much to agree about.

I might have said some of this at the meeting last week. It might even have been politely applauded, as many of the contributions were. Although I never quite understood exactly what we were meant to be talking about, and so I kept my thoughts to myself. I suppose what I was really burning to say was something like this: you cannot stop the cuts to welfare until you take on the hedge funds and the bankers. But I also wanted to say please, please, please look beyond the local issues – the fine details – we need to understand the bigger picture to get a proper perspective on what’s going on right now.

And we need to learn from the many ‘occupy’ movements, which though to some extent crossing the traditional party political allegiances are stuck in another way. They have trapped themselves in a strait-jacket of the “consensus model”, which means, at best, wasting precious hours deliberating over details of where to go and what to eat, and at worst, letting the voice of a few dissenters call the tune. The simple and expedient truth being that every democratic movement needs to accept some kind of majority rules and decision-making. That said, the gathering thousands who are now camping out in Wall Street and elsewhere have set their sights on the real enemy; and in this respect, at least, the protests abroad are well ahead of ours in Britain.

On 15-O, there were indeed some brave souls who made the decision to pitch camp in London, and good luck to them, though camping is perhaps an unlikely method for gathering popular support in Britain, especially now that it’s almost November. Quite frankly, I think we may need a somewhat different strategy to one adopted during a Mediterranean Spring, which in any case hasn’t as yet forced any significant concessions from their own government’s brutal austerity programmes. The important thing is not to automatically copy the action of others, but that in some way we begin taking a more visible and collective stand. We need people speaking up and joining in.

Here’s a great example from Real Democracy Now Berlin/GR, with protesters directly confronting and challenging President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Jean-Claude Trichet:

This moment in history is an extraordinary one. A dire time that is also an opportunity for the most extraordinary transformation of our society since the war. I believe that such a transformation is coming whether we choose it or not. If we do nothing then our nation will undoubtedly be torn apart, sold off and slowly taken over by a small criminal syndicate – the tiny banking and corporate elite who caused this economic crisis and now sneer over us as masters might their slaves – a ruling elite that probably doesn’t even amount 1%.

I’d wanted to say some of this at the meeting. How we shouldn’t only be talking about jobs and welfare, as vitally important as such issues are, because the situation we face is much worse than most can yet imagine. The rescue of our nations requiring nothing less than a sweeping overhaul of our venal and oppressive political and economic systems. An end to globalised systems in which usefulness is all that counts, and after that we can all go to hell. We, the 99%, need acknowledge our common grievances, to pool our dissent, to think bigger, and we need to act urgently… so how about another meeting next week, anyone?

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William Black on how our financial system became a Ponzi scheme

William Black, Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is a former financial regulator and a white-collar criminologist, who helped to expose Congressional corruption during the Savings and Loan Crisis in the late 1980s, by accusing then-house speaker Jim Wright and five US Senators, subsequently known as the Keating Five (who included John Glenn and John McCain), of doing favors for the S&L’s in exchange for contributions and other kickbacks. Although the senators only received a slap on the wrist, Charles Keating — after whom the so-called “Keating Five” were named — had sent a memo that read, in part, “get Black — kill him dead.”

Based on his experiences, Black wrote a book entitled: “The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.

In April 2009, William Black was interviewed by Bill Moyers on PBS. He explained how the banks and the credit ratings agencies were together committing fraud, with the result that the financial system “became a Ponzi scheme”:

BILL MOYERS: So if your assumption is correct, your evidence is sound, the bank, the lending company, created a fraud. And the ratings agency that is supposed to test the value of these assets knowingly entered into the fraud. Both parties are committing fraud by intention.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Right, and the investment banker that — we call it pooling — puts together these bad mortgages, these liars’ loans, and creates the toxic waste of these derivatives. All of them do that. And then they sell it to the world and the world just thinks because it has a triple-A rating it must actually be safe. Well, instead, there are 60 and 80 percent losses on these things, because of course they, in reality, are toxic waste.

BILL MOYERS: You’re describing what Bernie Madoff did to a limited number of people. But you’re saying it’s systemic, a systemic Ponzi scheme.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Oh, Bernie was a piker. He doesn’t even get into the front ranks of a Ponzi scheme…

BILL MOYERS: But you’re saying our system became a Ponzi scheme.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Our system…

BILL MOYERS: Our financial system…

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Became a Ponzi scheme. Everybody was buying a pig in the poke. But they were buying a pig in the poke with a pretty pink ribbon, and the pink ribbon said, “Triple-A.”

He also pointed out that the policies of Obama administration remained in violation of the law:

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. Are you saying that Timothy Geithner, the Secretary of the Treasury, and others in the administration, with the banks, are engaged in a cover up to keep us from knowing what went wrong?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: You are.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Absolutely, because they are scared to death. All right? They’re scared to death of a collapse. They’re afraid that if they admit the truth, that many of the large banks are insolvent. They think Americans are a bunch of cowards, and that we’ll run screaming to the exits. And we won’t rely on deposit insurance. And, by the way, you can rely on deposit insurance. And it’s foolishness. All right? Now, it may be worse than that. You can impute more cynical motives. But I think they are sincerely just panicked about, “We just can’t let the big banks fail.” That’s wrong.

Click here to read a complete transcript of the interview.

Two and a half years on, William Black says on Democracy Now! that nothing has changed:

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has to happen now? And what does this have to do with the Occupy Wall Street protests that have expanded here in Kansas City and across the globe? There are more than a thousand demonstrations that have been held in the last weeks.

WILLIAM BLACK: Well, we have companion problems. We’ve got to stop this dynamic that’s producing recurrent, intensifying crises. I mean, this one has devastated the nation. The next one would probably be equivalent to the Great Depression. And part of that answer—but only part of it—is to hold the folks accountable, especially the most elite, who caused this crisis. And they did it through fraud, and they did it through fraud in what we call the “C-suites” —the CEOs, the COOs — so, the absolute top.

AMY GOODMAN: And how would these powerful financial entities be held accountable? What exactly should happen?

WILLIAM BLACK: It all starts with the regulators, which is why it’s all not started here, because we have, of course, the wrecking crew, Bush’s wrecking crew, what Tom Frank called them, in charge, and they stopped making criminal referrals. So our agency, in the savings and loan crisis, made over 10,000 criminal referrals to the FBI. That same agency, in this crisis, made zero criminal referrals. If you don’t get people pointing the way and pointing to the top of the organization, you don’t get effective prosecutions. So, in the peak of the savings and loan crisis, we had a thousand FBI agents. This crisis has losses 70 times larger than the savings and loan crisis. And the savings and loan crisis, when it happened, was considered the largest financial scandal in U.S. history. So we’re now 70 times worse. And as recently as 2007, we had 120 FBI agents—one-eighth as many FBI agents for a crisis 70 times larger. And they looked not at the big folks, but almost exclusively at the little folks.

AMY GOODMAN: William Black, you mentioned Bush’s wrecking crew, but we live in the time of President Obama.

WILLIAM BLACK: And we’ve been living for some years in the time of President Obama, and he has done absolutely nothing to reestablish the criminal referral process. And as a result, there are virtually no prosecutions of any elites.

He was also asked about what the message from Occupy Wall Street should be:

Well, first, of course, I don’t speak for that movement, and indeed they don’t have official spokespersons with clear plans. So that part is true. They think of that as one of the great strengths of democracy now, right? That things bubble up, and they have different ideas. However, if you look, not just nationwide, but worldwide, you will see some pretty consistent themes developing.

And those themes include: we have to deal with the systemically dangerous institutions, the 20 biggest banks that the administration is saying are ticking time bombs, that as soon as one of them fails, we go back into a global crisis. Well, we should fix that. Right? There’s no reason to have institutions that large. That’s a theme.

That accountability is a theme, that we should keep—put these felons in prison, and there’s no action on that.

That we should get jobs now, and that we should deal with the foreclosure crisis. So those are four very common themes that you can see in virtually any of these protest sites. And they have asked me, for example, to come to New York to talk about some of these things. So, I think, over time, you won’t necessarily have some grand written agenda, but you’ll have, as I say, increasing consensus. And it’s a very broad consensus. It’s not left, it’s not right; it’s not Republican, it’s not Democrat.

Click here to read the full transcript.

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analysis of US ‘Occupy’ protests and the curious case of Patrick Howley

“This is an incredibly significant moment, I think, in U.S. history. In fact, it might be a turning point, because this is the first time we’ve seen an emergence of a populist movement on the left since the 1930s.”

says Dorian Warren, assistant professor of political science and public affairs at Columbia University, who was invited by Democracy Now! on Monday to put the events of the last three weeks into historical perspective:

It is the first anti-authoritarian populist movement in this country. The previous populist movements had leaders, usually charismatic leaders. This is very different. We’ve never seen anything quite like this, and I think we’re in uncharted territory… I think it’s unique, and I think it’s quite promising to be a transformative social movement, if they can keep those progressive groups out of the decision making and hold onto what’s the core democratic nature of this movement.

In response to Herman Cain, one of the front-runners for nomination in the Republican Presidential campaign, who has accused the protesters of being anti-Capitalist and even anti-American, Warren said:

Well, there’s so much to say about Herman Cain. First of all, if the protesters are anti-capitalist and anti-American, that would mean the Tea Party protesters a few years ago are also anti-American for protesting the seat of American government and the presidency.

But more important than that, all the time, whenever populist and left-wing people get involved in protesting and making demands for social justice, it’s always painted as anti-American. So that was the case in the 1930s. That was the case in the 1890s. So this is a continual trope to discredit those legitimate protesters throughout American history.

Democracy Now! also spoke with Kevin Gosztola, independent journalist who writes for a blog called “The Dissenter” at the Firedoglake website. Gosztola, who has been reporting from the occupations in Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., said:

It’s part of a wider movement that they call Occupy Together, and they have inspired cities. So, in Chicago, Occupy Chicago started, and they went out in front of the Federal Reserve, and they tried to establish a space there. Now, the police have been harassing, and they haven’t allowed them to be there. …

In D.C., they’re in McPherson Square. Occupy DC is in McPherson Square. And there’s a little synergy that came from this weekend with the October 2011 action in Freedom Plaza. But there’s mostly 75 to 100 young people who just sleep in McPherson Square. And the one thing I would tell viewers is that they are woken up every morning at 5:00 a.m. by police for—for no reason. They can’t come up with a justification for this. …

Gosztola also spoke about the remarkable case of the assistant editor of The American Spectator, Patrick Howley, who, having clashed with security guards at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on Saturday [Oct 8th], later revealed in an article that, as Gosztola puts it, “he himself had consciously infiltrated the group to discredit the movement”. Here is a report on the same events published in the Washington Post1:

Patrick Howley, an assistant editor at the American Spectator, says that he joined the group under the pretense that he was a demonstrator. “As far as anyone knew I was part of this cause — a cause that I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine in the pages of The American Spectator,” Howley wrote. (The language in the story has since been changed without explanation.)

Yes, apparently Howley’s original article keeps on disappearing – here are two updates added to the bottom of the same Washington Post article:

* Update: This post has been updated to clarify who was involved in the pepper-spray incident. The American Spectator also appears to have taken down the story, which is no longer available online. I have contacted both Howley and the Spectator’s editor-in-chief for comment. You can read the full text of Howley’s original story here. [you won’t find it – I’ve looked]

* Second Update: Howley’s original story is still not available online. However, a second, edited version has been posted in the blogs section of the Spectator’s website. There are changes to Howley’s narrative, but it retains his claim to have been the sole member of the group to enter the museum itself: “They lack the nerve to confront authority. From estimates within the protest, only ten people were pepper-sprayed, and as far as I could tell I was the only one who got inside the museum.”

Click here to read the full article.

Monday’s Guardian also reported that Howley’s story “has since been altered”, presumably to remove his incriminating admissions, and that some are calling for him to face a criminal prosecution:

Removed from the new story is any mention of Howley’s motive to “mock and undermine” the protesters, or his disdain for their “lack of nerve”. Instead, he says his involvement was intended for journalistic purposes, and that he rushed inside the museum “to find a place to observe.”

Charlie Grapski, a citizen journalist and activist, accused the American Spectator and Howley of breaching journalistic integrity, and of criminal acts – and called for them to be investigated and charged.

Grapski said: “It is not journalism. This goes against every tenet of ethical journalism. Howley was doing it in order to ‘mock and undermine’. His actions shows that the protesters were not out to disrupt, but that chaos and disruption followed his actions. Not only has he distorted the story to discredit others, he has engaged in criminal acts.”

“They should be charged with criminal acts and inciting a riot.”

Grapski added: “The changes to the story are designed to eliminate the admission of guilt and to eliminate his role as provocateur.”

Kenneth Lipp, an activist at Occupy Wall Street, also called for Howley to be charged with inciting a riot.

“If any of the protesters had done that, they would be charged,” Lipp said.

He said that there were “obvious provocateurs” in the movement, and that a committee had been set up to identify them, and to warn others about them.2

Click here to read the full article.

Click here to read a full transcript of the broadcast.

Yesterday’s Russia Today also featured a debate about the ‘occupy’ protests now sweeping across America: Peter Lavelle hosting a lively (if at times chaotic) discussion about whether or not the Occupy Wall Street protest movement represents a new force in politics on Crosstalk, with Jason Del Gandio, an Assistant Professor of Public Communications at Temple University in Philadelphia; Kevin Zeese, a political activist and one of the organisers of October2011.org; and, Tony Katz, a radio talkshow host and Tea Party organiser:

1 From an article entitled “Conservative journalist says he infiltrated, escalated D.C. Museum protest” written by Suzy Khimm, published in the Washington Post on October 10, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/conservative-journalist-says-he-infiltrated-escalated-dc-museum-protest/2011/10/09/gIQAIKxCYL_blog.html

2 From an article entitled “Washington Protest: American Spectator condemned over article: Patrick Howley claimed he infiltrated Saturday’s DC protest in order to discredit it – but account has since been altered.” written by Karen McVeigh, published in the Guardian on October 10, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/10/washington-protest-american-spectator-patrick-howley?newsfeed=true

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Occupy Wall Street: where is it leading and what comes next?

As the Occupy Wall Street movement now enters its fourth week, there are many asking if the protests are being hijacked, and given what has happened in the case of some other recent uprisings, these are certainly valid concerns.

Undoubtedly the most egregious example of how the Arab Spring has been derailed is the developing situation in Egypt. The old Mubarak regime having been ousted, but only to be replaced by a “military committee” that now shows no more interest in stepping aside than Mubarak did:

Egypt’s ruling military generals have unveiled plans that could see them retain power for another 18 months, increasing fears that the country’s democratic transition process is under threat.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took control of Egypt after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak in February, and initially promised to return to their barracks within six months. But since then the “roadmap” to an elected, civilian government has been beset by delays and controversies, fuelling speculation that the army could be buying time in an attempt to shoehorn one of their own senior commanders into the presidency.1

Of course, in Egypt, Mubarak himself sent in the cavalry, which is the final act of many a despot, and such overt repression is unlikely to be deployed to stem the tide of protests in either Europe or America. Instead, perhaps the most immediate threat facing the protest movements within our western democracies is that they will be steered off-course or else completely usurped by the very interest groups they are seeking to overthrow.

A wonderful example of how effective this tactic can be is the so-called Tea Party. And contrary to what many, and especially those of the left, have come to believe, the Tea Party certainly began as a genuine grassroots movement, and with genuinely ambitious demands to restore the constitution and “End the Fed”. Unfortunately, however, the Tea Party movement quickly fell under the influence of the billionaire Koch Brothers, with their ultra-“free market” agenda and with ties to such groups as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. The rest as they say is history –

So what about the people now gathering in New York and in many other cities across America – how can they avoid being duped in a similar fashion? Here is some analysis offered by independent researcher and writer Andrew Gavin Marshall:

For the Occupy Movement to build up and become a true force for change, it must avoid and reject the organizational and financial ‘contributions’ of institutions: be they political parties, non-profits, or philanthropic foundations. The efforts are subtle, but effective: they seek to organize, professionalize, and institutionalize a movement, push forward the issues they desire, which render the movement useless for true liberation, as these are among the very institutions the movement should be geared against.

This [movement] is not simply about “Wall Street,” this is about POWER. Those who have power, and those who don’t. When those who have power offer a hand in your struggle, their other hand holds a dagger. Remain grassroots, remain decentralized, remain outside and away from party politics, remain away from financial dependence. Freedom is not merely in the aim, it’s in the action.2

Marshall also made similar points on Russia Today:

The danger that any movement faces becoming professionalised and institutionalised is real enough, and has clearly happened in the case of countless NGOs. Basically, it’s always wise to assume that he who pays the piper calls the tune:

In order to survive as a movement, money will become a necessity. Do not turn to the non-profits and philanthropic foundations for support. The philanthropies, which fund and created the non-profits and NGOs, were themselves created to engage in ‘social engineering’: to ‘manufacture consent’ among the governed, and create consensus among the governors. The philanthropies (particularly those of Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller) fund social movements and protest organizations so as to steer them into directions which are safe for the elites. The philanthropies are themselves run by the elite, founded by bankers and industrialists striving to preserve their place at the top of the social structure in the midst of potentially revolutionary upheaval. As the president of the Ford Foundation once said, “Everything the foundation does is to make the world safe for capitalism.”

Click here to read Andrew Marshall’s original article.

Such under-the-counter assaults are more or less inevitable, and almost certainly happening. The Soros funded MoveOn.org (see my earlier post), for instance, have officially joined in the OWS protest on Wednesday [Oct 5th], although it seems that they are also trying to steal a piece of the action with their own “Rebuild the Dream” campaign. Given their staunch support for Obama’s first presidential campaign, we must suspect that such involvement is intended to simply reignite support for his re-election. And if that happens, of course, then the moment will have passed; a moment that may never come again.

There is also the risk of infiltration of another kind. From anarchists, other radicals or agent provocateurs. Any use of violence by the protesters will inevitably discredit the cause of a movement, making it appear to outsiders as no more than the gathering of a bunch of troublemakers. Peaceful dissent and disobedience is the only certain way ahead, as the powers-that-be know only too well.

Importantly, Wednesday also saw the OWS movement boosted by the arrival of a number of key trade unions including the Transport Workers Union (TWU Local 100), the United Federation of Teachers and United Auto Workers. This is hugely significant, bringing structure and sheer numbers to an already rapidly expanding mass movement. But the arrival of such comparatively powerful institutions brings dangers too, with the leadership of those unions potentially able to co-opt the movement in another way. As union activist and journalist Mike Elk said on Russia Today, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens:

One of the many banners at the Wall Street occupation read “The People are TOO BIG TO FAIL”, but unfortunately history refutes that opinion. And without agreed strategies and a programme for reforms, it’s not easy to see how the people are yet in any position to win at all. There is, therefore, an urgent need for concrete demands from OWS – preferably ones that fall under the popular umbrella: that Wall Street must pay for the crisis it created, with the bailouts stopped and an end to austerity; that the Federal Reserve should be audited and the credit rating agencies subjected to criminal investigation; that the wars must end; and that the anti-constitutional Patriot and Homeland Security Acts be repealed. It’s not difficult to decide on these broader issues, but there also needs to be some flesh on the bones. What are the finer details of the programme? Then, and so long as the movement can remain true and vigilant to its popular cause, it will undoubtedly continue to grow, until, sooner or later, it must indeed prevail.

But who the hell am I to tell the Americans what they need to do. So far I’m just delighted that so many are suddenly standing up for themselves, whilst also wondering when the folks back home in Blighty will join in the fight to save our own sorry skins.

1 From an article entitled, “Egypt’s ruling generals accused of buying time to stay in power” written by Jack Shenker, published in the Guardian on October 6, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/06/egypt-military-accused-buying-time

2 Taken from “Against the Institution: A warning for Occupy Wall Street” written by Andrew Gavin Marshall, posted on October 3, 2011. http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2011/10/03/against-the-institution-a-warning-for-occupy-wall-street/

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‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests spread to other US cities

A wave of public discontent in the US shows no sign of abating following weekend protests against corporate greed which saw hundreds of peaceful demonstrators arrested, sparking accusations of heavy-handed policing.

Defiant anti-Wall-Street activists are refusing to back down, saying more marches against corporate greed and social inequality are in the pipeline.

A new season in a different nation: the Arab Spring has become America’s Autumn.1

so begins Russia Today‘s report on the arrests of nearly 800 peaceful protesters who had tried to march across the Brooklyn Bridge; one of the largest arrests of non-violent protesters in recent American history:

Democracy Now! also reported on how the “Occupy Wall Street” protests, which began in the financial district a fortnight ago [Sept 17], had taken such a dramatic turn on Saturday:

Some protesters claim police lured them onto oncoming traffic on the bridge’s roadway; others said they did not hear instructions from police telling them to use the pedestrian walkway. Meanwhile, similar “Occupation” protests have spread to other cities, including Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles, where hundreds of protesters are now camped out in front of City Hall.

Yesterday’s Democracy Now! broadcast also featured a roundtable discussion about the protests with Marisa Holmes, an organizer with the main organizing group of Occupy Wall Street (called the General Assembly), Marina Sitrin, an attorney who is part of Occupy Wall Street’s legal working group, and Laurie Penny, a writer and journalist who reported on protests in London earlier this summer:

Coverage on the mainstream channels has, of course, been more muted, although even the BBC found time to put together a short piece covering the events of Saturday, albeit from a somewhat more surprising angle. It begins:

Billionaire investor George Soros says he can sympathise with the ongoing protests on Wall Street, which have spread to other US cities.

He said he understood the anger at the use of taxpayers’ cash to prop up stricken banks, allowing them to earn huge profits.2

That’s the same George Soros who, back in March 2009, told the world that he was having “a very good crisis”:

“It is, in a way, the culminating point of my life’s work,” the 78-year-old says in his heavy Hungarian accent during an interview at his London mansion.3

Now doesn’t that make you feel all warm inside.

1 From an article entitled “’Occupy Wall Street’: Obama’s term is four more years of Bush” published on October 3, 2011 http://rt.com/news/occupy-wall-street-obama-887/

2 From an article entitled “George Soros’ sympathy for Wall Street protesters” published by BBC news on October 3, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-15155046

3 From an article entitled “George Soros interview: A very good crisis” written by Peter Wilson, published in The Australian on March 19, 2009. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/a-very-good-crisis/story-fna7dq6e-1225689823416

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David Graeber on debt and why it must be cancelled

Back on September 10th, David Graeber, a lecturer in anthropology at Goldsmiths College, and the author of several books, including his latest, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (published in July), talked to Max Keiser about the relationship between money and debt, and what he sees as historical shifts from credit systems to cash systems and back again.

Graeber claims that this current “virtual money” credit era, which began about forty years ago, is not radically new, and only different in that during former times there were periodic debt jubilees. That in today’s system, without such regular debt cancellation, there is no safeguard against an otherwise inevitable descent into a debt trap.

And Graeber believes that the banking crash of 2008 has radically altered many people’s perspectives on money. He told Keiser that the world isn’t short of smarter ideas for economic alternatives, which is one of the reasons he remains optimistic about what’s now happening in Europe and elsewhere:

“I mean what we have in Greece, what we have in Spain, and it’s beginning to spread to other countries. The way I like to think of it is – I think in 2008 they kinda let the cat out of the bag. You know, for all these years they’ve been saying that markets run themselves and the people in charge, they know what they’re doing – they might not be very nice people but they’re incredibly competent. In fact they’re the only people who know how to run an economy.

And of course we were also told debts are sacred and have to be repaid. What we learned with the crash was that none of those things were true. People had no idea what they were doing; they did get bailed out; the markets didn’t run themselves.

So once we understand that money is actually a political arrangement – it’s a social set of promises that people make to one another – well, if trillions of dollars worth of debt can be made to disappear, if that’s convenient for the big players, then I think what people are saying is: well, alright fine, if those are the new terms that makes sense, but if democracy is going to mean anything now, it’s means everybody gets to weigh in on how promises are made and how they’re renegotiated. And that’s what people are calling for and demanding and I think it’s very promising for a sort of new political movement.”

Graeber has been personally involved in organising the “Occupy Wall Street” protest, as he explained on yesterday’s Democracy Now!

And with regards to precedents for debt cancellation, Graeber says:

Well, the interesting thing is that most of the developing nations have actually pulled themselves out of the situation. Structural adjustment has come home to Europe and America. I think it would be a great idea. I think it would bring home that we really are in a different age, that money doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to. And there are people who have tried it. Saudi Arabia, actually most dramatically, that was their reaction to the Arab Spring: they declared a debt cancellation. So there are precedents. I mean, they kind of don’t want people to know that they did it, for obvious reasons, but they did.

Click here to read earlier posts on the #occupywallstreet protests.

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Filed under debt cancellation, Europe, Greece, Max Keiser, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Uncategorized