The trouble with liberals is…..

Justin Trudeau, bless him. This is a man who built a whole brand on identity politics, changing laws in Canada to fit his political agenda. This is a leader who is happy to continue former PM Stephen Harper’s work, destroying Alberta in order to pursue only the dirtiest of methods to produce oil. In contrast Trudeau has constructed a government that is morally outraged if an individual is caught using the wrong pronouns regarding someone’s identity. This type of “faux pas” potentially can land you in big trouble under Bill C-16! So forgive me if I take some time out of my day to ridicule this man.

If you are going take the path of the identarian righteous, be sure to have no skeletons in your cupboard/closet or ensure that you’ve deleted any trace of being a fallible human being. It’s a little like “original sin” only Social Justice Warriors usually offer no form of redemption. I’d like to think that the SJW brigade will be as hard on him as they would be on any other cis gendered, white man, who transgresses across their puritanical boundaries, but alas, I suspect equal handedness is not an identarians strong point.

For those who have been living in a cave, or quite rightly have better things to do, you may have missed that Mr Social Justice dressed up as a genie nearly 20 years ago, complete with brownface. Some of you will be instinctively outraged and consider this as deeply racist. While the more pragmatic among us are probably thinking “well that wasn’t a smart thing to do, if you’re going to pursue a career in public office built entirely on identity politics”. Just for reference, you’ll find me in group two.

Do I think what he did was racist? Nah, it has to be put into context, but context appears illusive in this era of instant outrage. Under normal circumstances identarians both in the media and among the activists would devour him, but I guess Super Justin will get a pass. He’s already rocked up to the cameras while giving his best little boy lost impersonation and he may well cop a little flack, but in the end I’m sure he’ll live to fight another day.

This, however, is not an article on the exploits of Teflon Trudeau, but more about the hypocrisy of liberals and centrists in general. Firstly I acknowledge that the term liberal is as wide as the political chasm between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. It has quite specific meanings dependent on the country involved. In the US it can range from centre right often known as classical liberalism through to the centre left sometimes called modern liberalism, which includes social liberalism.

It’s a political stance that could be used to describe Tony Blair, Justin Trudeau, Hillary Clinton, Jo Swinson (Lib Dems UK), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP UK) and Joe Biden (US ex Vice President) among countless others. In short, a centrist makes an appeal to the public based on competency. The idea is to appear slick, media savvy and professional, a political insider if you will. This of course can backfire spectacularly if confronted with a populist or outsider such as Trump, as seen in the case of Hillary Clinton.

HRC smug

Many people have suggested that centrist politics in our current polarised political climate are dead, but not so quick with the obituary. Firstly, I’m going to propose a simple definition to make thinks easier when separating liberals from the left. My view goes as follows; if you embrace capitalism and promote it as the best way for society to proceed and flourish, then you are not on the left. To clarify, you could be stuck in a capitalist society working towards substantial change through democratic means, such as Corbyn, for me that’s fine. But, to not search or strive for a better system outside of capitalism is a departure from the left, in my opinion.

In recent times centrists, liberals, 3rd wayers or whatever you want to call them generally promote shades of a similar viewpoint. It goes roughly like this, they support capitalism, some more fervently than others and they routinely use social justice as a tool of control. The whole “liberal” thing can be baffling, from the Democrats in the US, the Liberals Democrats in the UK, the Liberal Party in Canada and even the confusingly named Australian Liberal Party, which describe themselves as centre-right. Simplistically, what all of these parties have in common is they have nothing to do with the left.

Of course there are a small group of politicians who are part of the Democrats and who proclaim to be on the left, however, the driving force is still very much from the liberal centrists or corporate Democrats. This was never more obvious, than when Bernie Sanders ran in the 2016 primaries and how biased the DNC were in favour of Hillary Clinton. In global terms many of Bernie’s proposals would be seen no more than common sense centrist ideas, hardly an extremist. Although, in the socialist phobic US he is laughably considered in some political circles as the reincarnation of Lenin.

In many ways I have more of a problem with liberals/centrists than I do with the Republicans (US), Conservatives (UK) and the National Party (NZ). With right-wingers you know where you stand, unless of course you are politically illiterate or simply uninterested. Take Boris Johnson, he is an upper class Conservative Prime Minister, who is a direct descendant from George II and a distant cousin of the present Queen. His full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, he was educated at Eton School and attended Oxford University. It doesn’t take a genius to work out he probably isn’t a man of the people or not people you and I know.

In contrast liberals may sound like they care, they’ll talk endlessly about reducing gender wage gaps, and racial inequality. They may even look and appear empathic, but underneath the façade they are deeply committed to corporate capitalism. Former President, Barack Obama was the poster boy of centristism, known for his shapeshifting style of politics, consisting of all spin and no substance. Incidentally, he left the White House with the military still bombing 8 countries, more than George W, while stealing from the US treasury to enrich the corporate elite.

Obama didn’t invent identity politics, but he did manage to force it upon the mainstream’s consciousness. In brief, it is the notion that an individual’s varying identities shape their political views and is the primary method for which most parties now rally support. In many nations within the ‘anglosphere’ the idea of “one nation” or the notion of being “colour blind” or “group blind” is considered oudated and racist. However, this approach was born not out of ignorance for other people’s struggles, rather out of unity to fight against the tiny cabal of the ruling elite that continue to pull the strings even today.

Now, competing groups repeatedly fight for airtime, desperate to be recognised as more oppressed than the other. This moves away from inclusion and universalism towards a society punctuated by deep division. What transpires is exclusivity and a hierarchy regarding who can or cannot speak on certain matters based on their identity. As the game continues, groups split further, in their quest for the title of the least privileged. In general, when groups feel threatened and ignored they retreat into tribalism closing ranks, while becoming more authoritarian and punitive towards outsiders. This is occurring all over the political map and is quite clearly not a galvanising force.

In the US one of the major factors that separates the left from the right is identity politics. Even most political commentators will declare someone on the left or indeed the far left completely dependent on their views around social justice. In the US there is no coherent or forceful economic argument critiquing capitalism while envisioning an alternative path forward. All roads inevitably lead to identity politics, but this is a cul de sac offering no unified vision for a movement that could benefit the most amount of people.

Liberals and centrists are marinated in hypocrisy. They talk about equality, but only in the narrow corridor of identity be it; race, gender or sexuality. This conveniently ignores something that affects more people on a daily basis than any other factor. An issue that can cause premature death, an escalation in crime, poorer education, an increase in wars, a demise in social cohesion, destruction of our planet and an erosion of our wellbeing. This my friends is the gap in social economic status, both through relative poverty and general poverty. It has a profound effect on the quality of life and the cause is capitalism.

Returning to Trudeau and his liberal ‘credentials’. In 2018 Trudeau proposed to nationalise the Kinder Morgan pipeline running from the tar sands in Alberta to British Columbia. Trudeau stated to a room full of oil executives back in 2017, “which country would leave 173bn barrels in the ground”. My answer would be, a government and Prime Minister who truly cares about the planet including its inhabitants. This is a typical centrist strategy which they like to refer to as pragmatism. In truth Trudeau is playing politics, to not go ahead with his pro-oil stance could result in a damaging backlash in Alberta, thus jeopardising any future re-election hopes.

JT
Trudeau virtue signalling

Where Trudeau excels, is playing the equity card and his carefully crafted persona. He calls himself a feminist and was quick to assemble a gender-balanced cabinet, while appointing a significant number of people of colour to cabinet positions. Despite his posturing as a purveyor of all things social justice, Captain Fantastic is still happy to sell weapons to some of the most vicious and misogynistic countries in the world; Saudi Arabia and Columbia to name a couple. Trudeau is pro Trans Pacific Partnership and his main idea regarding reducing economic inequality as stated in Davos recently was to hire more women. He is the master of liberal deception, saying one thing but doing another.

People in the UK have seen first hand the empty rhetoric of a centrist in the form of Tony Blair, the master of spin, treachery and deceit. Like Obama, Blair managed to convince the working class after years of Thatcherism and then John Major that he could offer something different for the people. What Blair did do was market his product better than the Tories, while putting the financialisation of the country on steroids.

To his credit Tony Blair introduced to the UK Sure Start and the minimum wage, but he also ushered in university tuition fees and the “Academy Scheme”, consisting of schools that were publicly financed while privately administrated. In health he created an internal market within the NHS and used the Public Finance Initiative to fund reforms. This was a private-public partnership that has proved more expensive than any publicly funded solution would have been. Blair also deregulated the finance sector, while declaring the Bank of England independent. Most of these ideas were purposefully ripped straight out of the Milton Friedman playbook for a neoliberal economy.

Blair also made a point of switching his target voters from the working class to the middle class, losing hundreds and thousands of core Labour Party members across traditional Labour heartlands. Millions of people in the North, the Midlands and areas such as South Wales felt marginalised or excluded from any economic prosperity. Despite all of this his worst decision undoubtedly, was taking Britain to war in Iraq on a lie centred around the illusive “weapons of mass destruction”. No politician’s reputation should remain intact after such a catastrophic move.

In the UK today still exists what is generally known as Britain’s 3rd party, the Liberal Democrats, a self proclaimed centrist group, currently led by Jo Swinson. The Lib Dem’s recent history is patchy at best, being complicit with the Conservatives throughout David Cameron’s austerity offensive during the time of the Con/Lib Dem coalition government. This saw their MP numbers reduce from 57 MP’s to 8, now however, they seem to be on the ascendancy thanks to their use of Brexit and splits within the two main parties.

New defecting MP’s such as Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger are prototypical centrists, careerist MP’s who fitted in well with New Labour, but not so snug in Jeremy Corbyn’s democratic socialist idea of the Labour Party. Supposedly pragmatic, they are slick, polished and completely driven by identity politics. Spending the best part of the last two years trying to oust Corbyn on fabricated and unfounded anti-Semitic allegations.

Head honcho Jo Swinson has aligned the Lib Dems as the primary remain party, the ultimate safe space for the middle class, bourgeoisie pious brigade. A group who insists on telling any ‘leave’ voter who will listen (or not) how wrong, racist and stupid they are. Without even considering the individual’s personal reasons for choosing Brexit, which incidentally was primarily a kickback against the neoliberal establishment, for which centrists are so wedded to. It’s important to note that during the coalition government, Swinson regularly presided over austerity and tax cuts for the rich. Just to clarify, here’s a portion of Jo Swinson’s voting record.

jo swinson voting record

I’ve written this article with the hope of reminding people that an enemy to the people doesn’t automatically possess diametrically opposing views. Sometimes they are parasitic politicians or parties awaiting a chance to latch on so they can benefit from a volatile situation, such as Brexit. Chameleon’s who will say one thing and do the opposite (Obama) or who will champion the requirements of the wealthy to the detriment of the poorest in society while furthering their own careers (Hillary Clinton).

In summary, centrists are made up of professional politicians who will meticulously groom their image and mould themselves accordingly in order to obtain the highest office. These are people who will never reveal what they truly believe, all we are provided with is the hollow shell of a purposefully manufactured, careerist politician. But sometimes, just occasionally like Justin Trudeau they get caught out. Which frankly makes me smile from ear to ear. Just don’t expect too much to come from it.

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The US, UK, Saudi Arabia and Israel, the unholy alliance. Is this a pathway to war with Iran?

In the last week, two Saudi oil facilities have been attacked by what is thought to be Houthi rebels in. These reprisals are considered to be a response to Saudi Arabia’s continuous attacks of Yemen. To confuse matters further the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Iran of conducting the drone attacks, which has been strongly denied by Iran. Meanwhile in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu continues with his “Greater Israel” quest, talking about illegally annexing Palestine’s Jordan Valley. This has been discussed under the guise of establishing the future eastern border of Israel, however, the area has been illegally occupied since 1967.

Netanyahu has proposed this annexe as a sound political strategy. He has an election on 17th September and is under considerable pressure. Criticism of him isn’t necessarily coming from a rejuvenated left or centrist dissent, but rather claims of a failure on the right. This includes both the far right and the ultra-nationalists inability to concoct a united agenda. To put this in perspective, Netanyahu’s main contender to the crown is Benjamin Gantz, from the supposedly centrist Blue and White Party. Gantz like Netanyahu strongly supports settlers, proposing an expansion throughout Palestine. Netanyahu, therefore, has no option tactically other than to trump this strategy, calling for the annexation of the West Bank.

In recent years Netanyahu has felt emboldened due to the support from Donald Trump, which has been highlighted by the US government moving their embassy to Jerusalem. A move which can be seen as the US legitmising the colonisation of Jerusalem. As the rich and powerful celebrated this move, just miles away in Gaza violence filled the air. Israel casually refers to the repeated attacks there as mowing the lawn. A tactic designed to keep Gaza’s economy on the “brink of collapse, with the last major campaign in 2014 claiming the lives of 2,300 Palestinians, 70% of which being civilians.

Gaza bombed.jpg

The US’s support of Israel, exemplified by US ambassador David Friedman’s comment that “Israel has the right to some of the West Bank”, plus cross party support in Israel for ‘settlers’ has led to recent violence across the region. Crowds of 1,200 settlers backed by Israeli soldiers were witnessed harassing Palestinians and international activists in Hebron. While in East Jerusalem 1,700 settlers stormed the Al-Asqa Mosque enabled by the Israeli police. As usual the international community have been conspicuous by their absence. In truth, all that Israel requires to proceed with this bullying behaviour is the continued support of the US.

By supplying weapons, the US and UK have pledged their support to the Saudi regime’s systematic destruction of Yemen, who claim the Houthis are backed economically and militarily by Iran. In this context this can be seen as a conflict between Sunni ruled Saudi Arabia and Shia ruled Iran. What is worth noting is that Yemen is strategically important, sitting on the strait that links the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and is a primary passing point for most of the world’s oil shipments.

Since 2015 in Yemen 7,025 civilians have been killed, with 65% of these linked to Saudi led coalition air strikes. Approximately 80% of the country’s population of 24 million need humanitarian aid and assistance, yet we rarely ever hear about this crisis in the media. It is clear that the hands of the US and the UK are bloody, with both nations heavily involved in the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia.

Between 1999 and 2017 the US had sold $115bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, with Trump signing off on another order reportedly worth $110bn (US) over the next 10 years. The UK has also capitalised on the war as they account for 23% of all arms imported to Saudi Arabia. Since 2015 the UK have sold weapons to the value of $6.4bn (US) effectively supporting the Saudi led campaign in Yemen.

Another interesting aspect regarding these allies is the emergence of a Saudi-Israeli alliance. To be blunt, the two nations have one thing in common and that is Iran. In 2003 the removal of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni Muslim regime altered the balance of power in the region, with the now Shia dominated Iraqi government establishing closer links with Iran. The increasing influence of Iran in the region has been troubling for both of these nations, who fear an Iranian corridor running from Tehran all the way through to the Mediterranean. This is probably the main reason why relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have changed over the last 10-15 years.

muslim map

As well as strategical reasons for Saudi Arabia to team up with Israel, there is of course a religious element to all this. Saudi Arabia sees itself as the primary Sunni Muslim nation and for many years the leader of the Muslim world. This was challenged following the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979, which gave birth to a theocratic state. Since 2011 both sides have exploited the Arab uprisings, predominently in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria in an attempt to influence the region.

Up until this point both Saudi Arabia and Iran have resorted to proxy wars such as the war in Syria, however, the recent attack on Saudi soil could indeed alter how this power struggle continues. It’s distinctly possible that Saudi Arabia feels more vulnerable following these fresh events and of course to complicate matters we always need to include the Trump factor.

It could be argued that segments of the US government and the deep state have been spoiling for a fight with Iran for decades. Even Hillary Clinton (do you remember her?) stated that if she was president she would attack Iran. Relations with Iran are clearly not helped by Trump’s recent rhetoric suggesting the US is “locked and loaded”. What is meant by this, metaphorically or otherwise who knows. Aside from all the posturing, however, the US government’s bold claims that the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia were planned and executed by Iran have as yet not been supported by any evidence.

Like many other countries in the world Iran have a history with the US, which generally starts from the lead up to events in 1953, culminating in the CIA and UK intelligence overthrow of democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. It’s of no surprise that tensions rose when Mossadegh revealed that he wanted to Nationalise Iran’s oil industry, which occurred in 1951. Previous to this, Iran’s oil was controlled by the British owned Anglo Iranian Oil Company. Following the coup and the instalment of the Shah who went on to brutally rule for the next 26 years, the US secured themselves a share in Iran’s oil wealth.

This isn’t all, in 1979 the US backed Shah of Iran was forced to leave the country, paving the way for the return of exiled Ayatollah Khomeini. The Islamic Republic of Iran was declared on April 1st 1979 following a referendum. In November 1979 the US embassy in Tehran was seized and American hostages were held for 444 days, the last 52 being freed in 1981. While in England, London saw their own hostage crisis in 1980, when six gunmen opposing Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime took control of the embassy demanding the release of 91 political prisoners. This all came to an abrupt end following the now famous raid by the SAS, killing 5 of the 6 gunmen.

By 1985-86 the Iran-Contra scandal surfaced, whereby, the US shipped weapons to Iran, in return Tehran would help to free US hostages held by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The profits from these transactions were used to support the anti-government Contras in Nicaragua to fight against the socialist Sandinistas. In 1988 an Iranian jetliner was shot down by a US warship in the Gulf killing all 290 people on board. It was claimed by the skipper of the USS Vincennes that the Airbus A300 was mistaken for a jet fighter.

Relations in the 90’s were relatively peaceful, however, tensions returned in the 2000’s when President George W Bush described Iran as part of an “axis of evil”. Great diplomatic relations George! Never have so many lies been told in one speech. Orwellian doesn’t even begin to describe this overt act of sabre rattling, egged on by members from the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2002.

Following allegations of Iran developing nuclear weapons, a period of sanctions ensued imposed by the US, UN and the EU. As a consequence of this Iran’s currency lost two thirds of its value in 2 years. But during Obama’s leadership ties between the two nations started to improve. In 2015 Iran agreed to a long term deal to limit its sensitive nuclear activities, allowing international inspectors to observe in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Any tentative goodwill created by Obama was scrapped in 2018 when President Trump abandoned the nuclear deal reinstating sanctions on Iran. Since then 6 oil tankers have been struck by explosions in the Gulf of Oman in June 2019, with the US accusing Iran of carrying out the act. The most recent events in Saudi Arabia occurred just a few days ago disrupting 5% of the worlds oil production, this too has been pinned on Iran despite nothing to support the claim. All of this goes to show that even without the war-monger-in-chief John Bolton the US government is still more than capable of foreign policy brain farts. The UN Yemen envoy has told the Security Council that it is not entirely sure who is responsible, but stated that the strike would increase the chances of regional conflict and instability.

GULF-SHIPPING-OIL-US-IRAN-JAPAN-NORWAY-DIPLOMACY

So what this have to do with us? These are major events and any escalation could affect even some of the least offensive nations on the planet. In my home country of New Zealand, like many things such as sport this small country punches well above it’s weight and diplomacy is no exception. But foreign policy is a tricky discipline as we clearly don’t live in vacuum. If this was the case it would be easy for Prime Minister Ardern to condemn Netanyahu’s wet dream of annexing the Jordan Valley. It would also be an elementary decision to distance New Zealand from Trump’s posturing on affairs in the Middle East, including his recent unfounded accusations towards Iran.

There are, however, two problems. Despite New Zealand having a proud history of condemning Israel’s humanitarian violations against the Palestinian people, Israel are the undisputed champions of propaganda and misinformation, known as Hasbara (meaning ‘explanation’ in Hebrew). This can be highlighted by the repeated baseless anti-Semitic claims against the UK Labour leader and supporter of Palestinian human rights Jeremy Corbyn. Israel has utilised every anti Corbyn back bencher, mouth piece and pro Jerusalem organisation in order to discredit and destroy a socialist inspired Labour Party led by Mr Corbyn. If NZ are going to stand up to Israel and by proxy the US, they need to do this with their eyes wide open.

A second issue is New Zealand is a member of the 5 eyes, which is under the UKUSA agreement going back over 70 years. This brings together Canada, US, Australia, UK and NZ, which is generally regarded as the world’s most comprehensive intelligence alliance. Under Trump it is not inconceivable that he would threaten expulsion from ‘five eyes’ if New Zealand didn’t toe the line. There has been a taste of this over the 5G Huawei saga, whereby the company was to be allowed into New Zealand’s 5G network via Spark. In response, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in 2018 that “the US will not share any information with a country which allows the Chinese company into ‘critical information systems'”.

Maybe all this is too “big picture” for some and I’m sure people will say “well there’s nothing we can do about it anyway”. I notice a similar response when writing about climate change or poverty, it seems to overawe people into some catatonic state. In contrast, if something is written about Brexit then all hell breaks loose on all sides. Or worse still, more people are likely to tune into claims of sexist remarks made by Donald Trump 10 years previous, but global instability? Not so much. The truth of the matter is, all of this affects the security of the planet and proves why democracy needs to change rapidly. Collectively we need to stop the US and co from dominating with their usual interventionist style of foreign policy for the good of our home.