Caesar’s Palace

18 Jun
this post also features in offguardian

Twitter, yesterday …

While debate rages on whether the statues of colonial plunderers should be tossed into rivers or otherwise removed as blots on civilised landscapes – and as we progressives virtue-signal our damning of racism while enjoying to varying degree its fruits1 – looting and sacking of the global south continues apace.

Only now we don’t call it colonialism. Direct rule of Asia, Africa and “Latin” America, which for all its horrors imposed a modicum of responsibility on Europe’s maritime powers, has largely gone.2 Now we have the arm’s length – market discipline – controls of imperialism, practised by the former colonial powers and a good few more, all in the global north.3

(Like ‘ruling class’, I ration my use of ‘imperialism’. It puts off readers who might otherwise be receptive to the things I say. And as with ‘ruling class’ – defined by its monopoly ownership of some essential of wealth creation – I offer a simple but robust core definition. Imperialism is the export of capital from north to south, and repatriation of profits in the reverse direction. These remarkably consistent flows are empirical facts, as IMF, WTO and World Bank data attest.)

As with colonial powers, the imperialist powers are either armed to the teeth (Britain, France, USA) or in half competitive cahoots (Germany, Japan) with those that are. Almost as important, their control of narrative and ability to manufacture consent, subject of a recent post, enables them to sell wars of profit, the victims overwhelmingly brown skinned, as altruistic intervention in the Gladstonian tradition, and/or as defensive moves to take out a Threat To Us All.

This is by way of scene setting. Yesterday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the world of a new round of sanctions dubbed, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment, the Caesar Act. It targets the last remaining Ba’athist state.4 Here’s a press release by the State Department, though Pompeo’s tweets give the gist.

But how do sanctions impact on people in the nations targeted? Why “Caesar” Act? Why trust a word of what Washington says about Syria? Why trust a word of what Mike Pompeo says about anything? What do America and its junior partners really want in Syria?

The rest of this post is dedicated to addressing these questions.

What harm do sanctions inflict?

For many a decade we’ve been nurtured in a view of sanctions (preferable to the harsher term, ‘blockade’) as almost benign – the gentle nudging by a caring parent to encourage a wayward child to mend her ways. The most serious puncturing of so naive and rose-tinted a view came when, it having emerged that half a million Iraqi children under five had died as a result of Bill Clinton’s sanctions, his Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defended them as “a price worth paying”.

Though their creators deny this, sanctions kill indiscriminately and are intended to do just that.

(Former National Security Advisor John Bolton, now a thorn in the side of the boss who cut him loose, let the cat out of this bag when he declared his desire to see ordinary Iranians suffer to the point where, in desperation, they rose up to overthrow the theocrats in Tehran.)

But they do have this one merit. Thanks to that naïve view of them – damaged but not fatally so by the utterances of Albright and Bolton, and by UN/WHO data few read – sanctions, unlike bombs and returning body bags, never bring people out onto the streets of Western cities.

Why is this round of sanctions called the Caesar Act?

This from a CounterPunch piece of March 2016:

On 20 January 2014, two days before negotiations about the Syrian conflict were scheduled to begin in Switzerland, a sensational report burst onto television and front pages around the world. The story was that a former Syrian army photographer had 55,000 photographs documenting the torture and killing of 11,000 detainees by the Syrian security establishment.

The Syrian photographer was given the code-name ‘Caesar’. The story became known as the “Caesar Torture Photos”. A team of lawyers plus digital and forensic experts were hired by the Carter-Ruck law firm, on contract to Qatar, to go to the Middle East and check the veracity of “Caesar” and his story. They concluded that “Caesar” was truthful and the photographs indicated “industrial scale killing”. CNN, London’s Guardian and LeMonde broke the story which was subsequently broadcast in news reports around the world. The Caesar photo accusations were announced as negotiations began in Switzerland. With the opposition demanding the resignation of the Syrian government, negotiations quickly broke down.

The piece goes on to list no fewer than a dozen “significant problems with the ‘Caesar torture photos’ story”. To be sure, the lies already proven of Western media and politicians in respect of Syria are huge. But for reasons I’ll go into, even if everything said of Assad and the Damascus “regime” were true, I’d still oppose imperialism’s dirty war on Syria.

But at least we know why it’s called the Caesar Act. Who knows? Maybe it’ll pop up, many years from now, in a round of Trivial Pursuits.

Why should we trust what Washington says about Syria?

No good reason – but a few dreadful ones. By any number of metrics, America is the world’s foremost rogue state. What would your proverbial Martian make of its unique and militarily unnecessary5 use of nuclear weapons … proliferation across the planet of military bases which outnumber those of all other nations combined … the chilling extent to which armaments are key to the US economy … the non stop wars on the global south … the flouting of inconvenient UN resolutions … the underwriting of Israeli apartheid and backing of coups to install far more Washington friendly dictatorships than I can keep count of?

The enormous gap between what US leaders do in the world, and what Americans think their leaders are doing, is one of the great propaganda accomplishments. 

Michael Parenti

Why then is it given a free pass by so many of us? Why, in the face of overwhelming and quite damning evidence, is the good ol’ US of A seen as a force for good? I’ve gone into this question elsewhere and more than once. Here I’ll confine myself to the basics.

One, it helps that, thanks to a previous apex predator, English is the world’s lingua franca.  The advantage is incalculable as the hard propaganda of news delivery, and the soft propaganda of the entertainment industries, paint a nuanced but – as the final credits roll – ultimately glowing picture of Uncle Sam.

Two, America emerged from WW2 as the stronger of two new superpowers. Three, this reality was cemented by Bretton Woods, Marshall Plan – and, later, Nixon’s decoupling from gold, and arrival of the petrodollar system. All in the context of a cold war on the other superpower.

Other imperialist nations, as they more or less reluctantly withdrew from their colonies, had to choose between looking to Moscow or to Washington. This was a no-brainer, the occasional outburst of resentment – from France especially – notwithstanding. In a world divided between the Good Guys of a Free West, and the Bad Guys lurking behind the Iron Curtain and itching to enslave us all, Washington was our protector and saviour from Red Tyranny. Now things are a little more complex – not least because in the War on Terror it spearheads, America has a habit of covertly backing The Enemy in places like Syria6– but the legacy has life in it yet.

Why should we trust what Mike Pompeo says about anything?

Phew! I’m tired and wanting a coffee break. I needed an easy question.

What do America and its junior partners really want in Syria?

In Israel: a Beachhead for the West – see my review – Stephen Gowans says this:

The ultimate purpose of dominating another country is to secure opportunities for big business to accumulate wealth. The dominated country may provide direct opportunities for wealth accumulation, or be a stepping stone to profit-making opportunities in a third country, without offering attractive opportunities of its own. Such a country may become the target of an imperialist power because favorably placed. Perhaps it bounds important shipping lanes and is prized as a naval base from which the movement of goods can be protected from rival imperialist powers that might choke off the flow. Or perhaps the aim is to position military power at a shipping choke point. Or maybe the territory is close to enticing targets that could be absorbed through military coercion. Maybe the dominated country is close to another imperialism and attractive for encircling it. There are scores of reasons why an imperialist power might dominate a country that offers no immediate or direct economic benefit, but all are traceable to a perceived economic advantage for the dominating country’s major investors.

In fact Syria ticks most boxes. Direct opportunities for wealth accumulation? Not as obvious as in Venezeula or Iran7 but do see the piece I wrote, informed not least by The Economist, on oil in a Golan Heights illegally occupied by Israel and now test drilled by Genie Energy, its board taking in Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney, a former CIA director and others in the same club.

It’s a characteristically grubby story but is in fact eclipsed by a greater imperative. The more you look into the workings of capitalism with the brakes off, i.e. the capitalism of forty years of post Keynsianism, the harder it is to avoid concluding that the goal is to privatise the world. A once free public loo monetised … casualisation of British academics in a climate of bums-on-seats marketisation … cold war to bring down the USSR … market forces unleashed with devastating effect in Walewski’s Poland … crippling debts imposed on Mandela’s South Africa … victor’s spoils in post invasion Iraq8 … All and any opposition to that drive must, one way or another, be dragged into the light of a world run for profits – aka one run by and for the criminally insane.

With two Ba’athist states already reduced to chaos and terror but – hip hip hooray! – their evil statism vaporised, Damascus marks the final frontier.

Just kidding. There’s still Iran. And Venezuela. And Yemen. And Cuba. And China …

Gas pipeline? Syria, for the most part non oil producing, has warm water ports on the Eastern Mediterranean. These are ideally placed for a pipeline joining the big players with Europe, the world’s largest energy market. The southern route favoured by the West, through the Gulf, was eschewed in 2014 by Assad in favour of the northern route backed by Iran and Russia. Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar is good on this, though we should tread carefully. Other drivers of the dirty war on Syria are at least as important.

In fact the biggest driver of all is also addressed by Escobar, in a piece – Battle of the Ages to stop Eurasian integration – which featured in my January reads post. I recommend reading it in full, preferably with a world map to hand. Meanwhile here’s a sample:

Russia is showing China how the West respects realpolitik power in any form, and Beijing is finally starting to use theirs. The result is that after five centuries of Western domination – which, incidentally, led to the decline of the Ancient Silk Roads – the Heartland is back, with a bang, asserting its pre-eminence …

… virtually the whole Asia-Pacific – from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean – now takes into full consideration Russia-China as a counter-force to US naval and financial overreach …

… Last summer, an Iran-Iraq-Syria trilateral established “the goal of negotiations as to activate the Iranian-Iraqi-Syria load and transport corridor as part of a wider plan for reviving the Silk Road.”

There could not be a more strategic connectivity corridor, capable of simultaneously interlinking with the International North-South Transportation Corridor; the Iran-Central Asia-China connection all the way to the Pacific; and projecting Latakia towards the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

What’s on the horizon is, in fact, a sub-sect of Belt & Road in Southwest Asia. Iran is a key node of Belt & Road; China will be heavily involved in the rebuilding of Syria; and Beijing-Baghdad signed multiple deals and set up an Iraqi-Chinese Reconstruction Fund (income from 300,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for Chinese credit for Chinese companies rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure).

Is Western imperialism spooked by all this? Or is it spooked by all this?

But, hey, let’s not get all fancy and complicated about things! Let’s just take Mike Pompeo – a fully paid up born again bible carrier; former deacon and Sunday School teacher to boot – at face value on his Caesar Act. Life’s a whole lot simpler that way.

* * *

  1. Racism was necessary to the West’s affluence. How else justify slavery, colonialism and the ethnic genocide on which the Americas and Antipodes were ‘discovered’ and settled? Oppression is always linked, though not necessarily in straightforward ways, to exploitation and class rule. (Let me add, apropos a FB exchange today with one who read my “virtue signalling” remark as an attack on BLM, that this isn’t my bag. Yes, I have criticisms of BLM but abhor sectarianism. And ‘virtue signalling’ is a tad harsh given the subjective sincerity of the many in the West who do care for social justice and do strive to do the right thing. Rather than rubbish BLM, I see a need to have out the kind of arguments set out here, but from a place of solidarity in opposing racism.)
  2. Only a few discreet colonies like Diego Garcia, prized not for their riches but their strategic location, continue, largely below the radar, to be ruled directly from afar.
  3. ‘Global north’ is not a strictly geographic term. It includes Australia, New Zealand and Israel and in my usage is synonymous with ‘the West’ and ‘imperialism’.
  4. Ba’athism is loosely defined as that mix of Pan Arab nationalism and state control of key sectors known as ‘Arab socialism’. For more, see my post, the Kurds in Syria.
  5. See in this respect Eisenhower’s comments. Was the real aim at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to show the Soviet Union, as cold war dawned, what the USA could do?
  6. Political economist Michael Hudson made this point in an essay prompted by the January assassination of General Suleimani, America Escalates its “Democratic” Oil War in the Near East. After Vietnam, US wars can no longer be waged by sending large conscript armies off to foreign lands. This leaves the US ruling class with two complementary options for imposing its will by military force: aerial supremacy and, on the ground, proxy forces which absolutely include terrorism. Hence Hudson’s depiction of Isis, Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra etc as “America’s Foreign Legion”.
  7. Speaking of Venezuela and Iran, Gowans’ important book on Israel makes the crucial point that for the USA – self sufficient in oil – controlling its production and (as with pipeline aspects of the war on Syria) distribution is not about securing a vital resource. It is about (a) direct profits and (b) dominating the world through the ability to turn off supply to disobedient states.
  8. The fates of Poland, South Africa, Iraq and other nations are comprehensively documented in Naomi Klein’s outstanding Shock Doctrine.

15 Replies to “Caesar’s Palace

  1. One thing that has evaded my attention over the years is what the answer to the question:
    “Why are there no US military installations (to speak of) in Israel?”
    The quote from Gowan doesn’t really answer it, and it is not explored in your article review of the book. I wondered if he addressed the question elsewhere?
    It’s not something I have researched, but it seems to have been a consistent policy right from the days when Israel was founded and the region was a contested zone in the Cold War’s early period. Back then of course Israel itself had yet to develop its own military capabilities.
    If the US has expanded foreign military presence throughout the world as an enforcement tool of its imperialism, then why- if the model of Israel as imperial outpost holds water, didn’t America stuff it full of bases in the early days and continue its presence there as it has in Germany until this day ?

    • I don’t know nearly enough to give a definitive answer, crank, but this much I’ll hazard. One, US presence in Saudi Arabia (and a once dependable Turkey) is close enough to do the job of protecting what is geographically a tiny country. Two, Israel’s status as a nuclear power, and a formidably battle-hardened IDF – making worldwide military and counter insurgency training a big earner – are in any case fully dependent on the USA.

      Incidentally, the Hudson piece I link opines that Saudi Arabia is in the last analysis far more crucial to US imperialism than Israel.

      • Correction: for “fully dependent on the USA”, read “a highly capable as well as trustworthy ally of the USA”.

        • crank I belatedly see I missed an important part of your comment:

          why – if the model of Israel as imperial outpost holds water – didn’t America stuff it full of bases in the early days and continue its presence there?

          In fact – and again Gowans is good on this – the USA had scant interest in Israel until the 1967 War.

          Again I’m guessing, but we know that by the late sixties the CIA was beginning to worry that the rule of its puppet in Iran might not be secure. Should the Shah fall, another regional gendarme would be needed.

          I stress though, that this is guesswork on my part. But, again, Gowans argues strongly that US interest in Israel does not go back to 1948, far less the Balfour days.

  2. The role of Israel as an Imperial outpost long predates the State’s formation. It was part of the prospectus that the first Zionists used to gather support from the Powers, which were all imperial themselves.

    Philip makes the point that ‘sanctions kill indiscriminately and are intended to do just that.’ It is worse than that: they are designed to kill the weakest. It is no accident that Allbright’s victims were disproportionately children, whose deaths were designed to make others mad with grief and shatter the bonds holding the nation’s resistance to foreign domination together.

    Something I find interesting is the way in which we re-adjust ourselves to a world in which “Peak Oil” is being replaced by the realisation that there are vast undeveloped hydrocarbon deposits around. And many of them are unlikely to be developed in the foreseeable future.

    You are right about “privatisation” which is the essence of capitalist society and has been hiding, in plain site, since before the enclosure movements (and long before that in Rome probably .) What we are seeing now is the privatisation of ‘Commons” which have only recently., and in response to public demand, come into existence. Public Education for example and Health Services. We have also seen the ‘privatisation’ thanks to the internet of all manner of previously common information exchanges, leading to the replacement of publicly owned and operated networks, including public libraries, by online services.

    Any thoughts on how this works?

    • It is worse than that: [sanctions] are designed to kill the weakest.

      Uncanny. I had the same thought, on proof reading, and realised I should change “indiscriminately” for exactly the reason you give. “Nah”, I told myself as I gave in to laziness. “Somebody’ll pick up on it …”

      Any thoughts on how [replacement of publicly owned and operated networks, including public libraries, by online services] works?

      Fraid not. I know little about this aspect bevin, though privatisation has long been on my mind.

      • Interesting question.

        Back in the late nineties, when it took all night to download a file using a 256k modem over copper wire cable (I was back on the tools jointing the stuff by this time) a number of interesting things occurred.

        Bear with me here, because context is important.

        Having gone first hand through the first privatisation of a public utility of the Thatcher years some thirteen years earlier it had long become apparant the way in which the public sector ethos and philosophy was undermined and replaced by private sector methods, techniques and philosophy in public sector organisations from utilities to Local Authorities to health to education to transport.

        This occurred in any number of ways even prior to formal privatisation. From financial incentives for the top management cadre to support the organisational and philosophical changes of privatisation through to free shares. All accompanied over time by indoctrination via various flavour of the month management techniques. In the run up to to the 84 BT privatisation we had Tofflers “Future Shock”. Supplanted over the following ten years by “Quality Circles”; “TQM”; “Involving Everyone” and (I kid you not) “Big Fat Hairy Audacious Goals.”

        Of course, a public sector organisation did not need to be formally sold off on the stock market to effectively become a privatised operation. Local Authorities, Public Transport, Health, Education, Youth Services, Social Services, Educational Institutions, Government Departments and so on simply had the public service ethos replaced by a private sector one. With all that entailed. Including what is described here.

        By the time Blair was elected in 97 the convergence of telecommunications with computing was starting to coalesce and kick off. Only four years previously Ian Vallance as Chair of BT at the time had waxed lyrical to staff at an open invitation meeting at the Harrogate Conference Centre on the eve of the Company AGM shareholders meeting that this convergence would mean no more travelling to work. A hollow claim for many BT workers right up to be present day as units were and continue to be sold off or centralised leaving the choice of daily commutes of several hours each way or redundancy for an increasing number of affected workers.

        At the 96 LP Conference Blair announced the incoming NL Government had brokered a deal with BT that in return for BT being permitted to offer entertainment services across its network (forbidden under Thatcher’s assymetry rule which amounted to a kind of pseudo- competition) BT would invest the £20 billion necessary to build a ‘Broadband network of the future” using fibre optic technology (which was already being slowly introduced for the 20% of subscribers/customers who generated 80% of the revenue).

        By 2003 we were being briefed as employees that the ‘network of the future’ was already here (ours took place in the local Novotel on Arundel Gate). It was the old 20th century copper network using ADSL technology at the Exchange end to squeeze more out of the system for most of the peasantry. If you were too far from the Exchange, or were fed by thinner 0.4 diameter cable, or used the system at the same time as everyone else on the street when you all came home from work you got some problems. But that’s what you had to put up with if you were in the 80% who only produced 20% of the revenue.

        So what happened?

        Well. First of all the investment disappeared. It disappeared in two key tranches. The first was almost instantaneous on NL ‘s election as Browns first budget raided the pot by introducing the one off utilities tax. This was followed by the 3G auction of bits of the radio spectrum for mobile phone Comms which swallowed up some £30 billion of investment. Recall that at the time of the deal in 96 the entire country would have been fed by fibre optic for around £20 billion.

        Of course a few got burnt by that venture into mobile technology. Not least of which was BT who actually suffered losses in that period resulting in the appointment of a Dutch Chairman who actually knew his arse from his elbow and who turned things around.

        In the years following the 2003 OFCOM/OFTEL? Review which decided to introduce more pseudo competition (don’t get me started on that aspect) by breaking up the organisation the network has been gradually expanding the fibre network. However, leaving aside the length of time taken, much of this has been done via various ‘partnership’ arrangements – many with Local Authorities – using various pots of money (see below); being largely piecemeal (resulting in some rural areas and farming communities ploughing in their own ducts and cables; and still leaving the last 100 metres or so from a premises to the fibre street cabinet (courtesy of Huawei) fed by copper cable that’s been in the ground for decades.

        Granted, it’s possible to find some well heeled and we’ll connected rural areas fed by overhead fibre cable strung along a route of telegraph poles and a lot of measures are now fed direct with fibre. However, for the majority of the populace the final section of the network is still copper.

        At the same time the UK, or at least the poorer abandoned traditional former industrial parts scarred by Thatcher’s scorched earth policies, were being earmarked for EU regeneration funding. Initially via monies for former coal and steel producing areas and subsequently larger amounts of Objective One funding.

        The official formal criteria from Europe and it’s institutions was local control via community groups and those of us involved in such Community Partnerships at the time learned some harsh lessons in how privatised politics works in the UK, regardless of political party.

        One of the projects I was trying to fund at the time (1999-2001) was a local community network involving local schools, community centres, youth centres, the library and the college. Remember, this was prior to ADSL and most people were still reliant on 256k modems. The promised investment from Blair’s deal had been largely pissed up against the wall and wasted and the only alternative to waiting years for decent speeds and access via the much trumpeted and overhyped so called competitive market was to piggy back a community network into a single cable to the benefit of a number of key players.

        This was being done via a City wide initiative out of the Sheffield College called Citinet (via a chap by the name of Seb Schomler). The idea was that local community led initiatives across the city would bid via Citinet for network upgrades to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the technology for other community led initiatives which focused on collective rather than individual benefits.

        This is where we hit a brick wall. The first problem was institutional. Everyone, ie the larger organisations and institutions such as the College, Library Services, Universities, Local Council etc wanted the money to fund their own organisational networks. One fibre network for the Library; one for education (I think it had the acronym JAYNE or JANE?) one for the LA and so on.

        It was like pitching the idea, and going for it, of building a separate road network for each car manufacturer. One for Ford vehicles, another for Citroen, Volvo, VW, Vauxhall and so on.

        And that’s more or less what happened with the direction and the control of the Blair Government. As with every other bit of this EU funding across the UK the local political establishments of all parties created their own front organisations in communities to undermine and destroy every genuine community controlled initiative bidding for these funds.

        Citinet as I recall, was earmarked to come under the control of what was initial!y the University for Industry (rebranded as Learndirect). The College pulled out of the local area completely, ending not only formal courses in the valley but also a range of traditional non formal courses such as craft skills, working class history, etc. What money was accessed locally was done via a local Training and Enterprise Partnership with strong links to the local LP MP at the time.

        Potential community led development of local regeneration using the newly emerging internet was effectively privatised (along with everything else) as EU money was lobbied away on business and enterprise projects and associated infrastructure to benefit the private sector lobbyists who Blair served (like Sheffield Airport which ended up being closed and sold by the City council fo a £1).

        Instead of coming together collectively to look at ways this technology and its systems could be used across the community the development has followed a preset pattern in which only individual benefit has been allowed to develop.

        Twenty years on the local library and the leisure center only remain open as a result of volunteers. The funding for youth services and the local Youth Club has been drastically cut. The last bank branch closed in 2018 and is now a firearms store.

        It could have been different. We could by now be running a local community bank and a Local Electronic Trading Scheme ( LETS) in the valley with our own local currency keeping value circulating around the community rather than being sucked out. People could have been brought together and used this technology for collective ends rather than being atomised and in silos.

        For sure, we have the the new retail park at Fox Valley. However, much of the employment is low wage compared to what was earned at the local steel works (which 40 years ago employed over 4000). The local property entrepreneur/lord of the manor who developed it with some assistance from EU funds is getting a good deal of income from rentierism and switched from being a LP member to the Conservatives a while back. Maintaining the rent on the Constituency office in his new development with the switch in local party MP after the departure of Smith and Wilson.

        As always, ‘where there’s money, there’s a fiddle’ (© my old and late workmate John Shelton). As with most everything else we are we where we are on this question as a result of a deliberate devolving of control rather than democracy down to the lowest level.

        The last word should go to Dylan on this matter.

        • A characteristically thorough answer to bevin’s question, you old stakhanovite! I’ll read more closely tomorrow but I like the street level view of the neoliberal death star.

          • Have now read more thoroughly. If you were interested in turning this into an ATL piece – you might have to do a bit more handholding of the reader in places – it has potential for the much sought after steel city guest post status!

            Meanwhile, a random thought or three:

            “Big Fat Hairy Audacious Goals” is splendid! Have you seen Peter Kaye’s Car Share? There’s a long scene where a regional manager on speaker phone utters cliché after management cliché – “hit the ground running” … “run that up the flagpole and see who salutes” … It’s hilarious in much the same way Ricky G’s The Office is. Except it’s lighter than Office (which I can’t watch if I’m a bit low – it’s too close to the bone).

            TQM was pioneered in post war Japan and is one aspect of that country’s ‘economic miracle’. As with Germany, the bigger part was that these countries were singled out by Marshall Plan for lead creditor-nation status in the new Free World Order – much to the chagrin of some wings of the US and British ruling class, who saw it as rewarding the aggressor nations. And of course, lucky nations tend, like lucky individuals, to downplay material underpinnings of their good fortune and big up an idealised account. When German bankers lecture Greece on its “Southern European fecklessness” they really are, I’m sure, fully signed up to the self-serving notion that the Protestant Work Ethic is root cause of their own ‘economic miracle’.

            The acronym you’re after is JANET – Joint Academic Network. I too remember those days!

            • The old hands just extracted the urine when confronted with this managementspeak. I recall a session around 2007-8 on an away day in Staffordshire where everyone turned up with a preprinted buzzword bingo page off the net (not saying who distributed it).

              More seriously, out in the real world this tick in a box mindset and approach had real consequences. People being instructed to carry out work inefficiently on the grounds of management dictact. Managers running operations like it was their personal fiefdom – much like politicians even down to the local level to the present day. Engineers with decades of experience told to smash a newly laid gas pipe where contractors for SID (remember him?) had smashed the telecom duct and damaged the cable.

              In that incident the five engineers on site silently handed the Rupert the necessary tools, parked the vehicles down the road and sat supping a brew to see what would happen? Back then common sense kicked in. Today? There’d be a big hole in the High Street, no question.

              What was fascinating was studying all this at PG level whilst actually experiencing it a daily basis. The Japanese reference is interesting. Apparently Frederick Taylor’s ‘Scientific Management’ theories on management were out of favour in the West by the close of WW1 (though it did not stop us unloading this off the shelf approach to managing industry to Lenin and his Soviets to modernise the Russian industrial economy).

              What replaced it, Personal Management, eventually went the same way by WW2 and we unloaded that flavour of the month on the Japanese who rebuilt their post war economy on it in the 50’s and 60’s and ended up selling their variants of it back to us as a so called “new” approach (you have to admire the way narrative works in these cases) in the 70’s and 80’s.

              What goes around comes around. Let’s go round again as The Average White Band used to sing.

              Today, we seem to be back where we were a century ago with Taylorism on steroids courtesy of computing technology which allows management the ability to demand and get real time updates on how work is processed as an engineer in the field has to constantly provide a running digital update of how much work has been done whilst at the same time doing the work.

              Treating the external world as an enclosed factory production line in which the initial velocity of work is set at 100 mph for eight hours a day and goes up in increments of 20mph every quarter. You wouldn’t treat a car like that.

              And they say blokes can’t walk and chew gum (duel process) at the same time? No doubt this is familiar in the Higher Educational field given how it seems to have taken over the world.

              On the matter of the Marshall Plan I discovered recently (since retirement) that after WW2 Britain actually received more in Marshall Aid from the US than Germany.

              Unlike Germany we pissed it up against the wall keeping a military presence around the globe in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Aden, Malaysia, Kenya and so on. Yes, even under Atlee.

              Which says it all really. Lions led by donkeys?

              We continue to be led by Muffin The Mule.

    • I was pondering the idea that we share a common immune system. Our immune responses are not just determined by our own health as individuals but by the exposure and developed immunity of those around us. We live in a collective biome that could in a sense be considered a ‘commons of community immunity’. The predictions of some immunologists that – because our collective immune system is hampered by reduced social contact and kept sharp by the exchange of microbes and viruses in normal human interactions, lockdowns will diminish our bodies’ ability to defend themselves (espeicially in children). In this sense the Gates vaccine cabal are trying to privatise the commons of our immune systems, and sell us back an inferior and dangerous substitute. Classic capitalist expansion.
      Those vast undeveloped hydrocarbon deposits will largely remain undeveloped. The investment required to get them out and use them will remain too much to make it worthwhile. Peak oil has caught many people wrong footed. The inevitable decline produces some counter-intuitive effects, as described so patiently by Gail Tverberg.

      We’re going to burn this country to the ground – BLM speaker, NY

  3. It seems serendipitous that, before reading your post about the new dual power structure between the centres of America and China, I alighted on this WSWS article about the US using India as a tool to gain more power in the east. Which has this chilling observation:

    But nowhere is the threat of a crisis-ridden government and ruling class being “tempted” by war more palpable than in America. US imperialism is today led by a fascist-minded oligarch and would-be tin-pot dictator, its political elite is at war with itself, its massive military remains its one residual strength over its rivals, and last and most importantly it faces increasingly militant opposition from the working class.

    The word “tempted” seems to link in with your footnote about Eisenhower’s comments: “Was the real aim at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to show the Soviet Union, as cold war dawned, what the USA could do?” The contentious word here is “could”. The real aim of the strikes on Japan were to show the Soviet Union what America WOULD do i.e. the emphasis is not on owning the necessary technology but on demonstrating the “macho” resolve to use it. Thus the US must display the psychopathic determination to do the “manly” thing.

    • Well it’s said that Nixon, pace Machiavelli, thought it an excellent idea to terrify the Soviet leadership by simulating madness!

      As with Hamlet, we’re left with three questions. Is he mad? Is he pretending to be mad? Does he go mad through pretending to be mad?

      More seriously, the waning of US power makes it as dangerous as a wounded bear. As I’ve said before, that all American hero Jack Reacher – tellingly a British creation – is fond of the maxim, “get your revenge in first”.

      Interesting times.

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