Archive | October, 2005

tygerland archives

29 Oct

If you would like to read more commentary from tygerland please follow the below link: –

http://www.20six.co.uk/tyger

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Why Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is proof the UNSC needs reform?

29 Oct

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  محمود احمدی‌نژاد

It is clear from the abject inaction by the UN Security Council – in the handling of several ‘rogue states’ – that the member veto should be dropped in favour of simple majority rule.  It is this geostrategic manoeuvring that so hinders international action and progress.  Basically the world is a board game with all the major nations squaring up their energy supplies for the next few decades.  Iran – at least in the short term – is a major player and as such is courted by China.  Also let’s not forget China’s insidious involvement in Sudan etc.

Iran is also cash rich and is contracting Russian expertise to build its ‘civilian’ reactors.  So its therefore belligerent posturing is under the perceived assumption that the US is emasculated by Iranian support in the UNSC.  Neo-Conservative hawks within Washington (& Langley) look to subvert the UN and unshackle the US.

This is why the UN is in such need of reform; it allows the Neo-Cons all the evidence they need for unilateral action.  Without the UN international law would collapse and elements within the US administration would run ramshackle over the rest of the world.  Thankfully there are still internationalists within Washington that understand that imperial hegemony creates as many problems as it solves.

Iran should be dealt with but we must not allow/force the US to deal with it alone.  This is in direct contradiction to the Iraq war where the perceived threat was fabricated, and inflated.

We must also remember that – a la Iraq – military action (in the guise of invasion) would create a power vacuum, which we would have fill to ensure stability (of oil supplies).  The Balkanisation of Iraq has helped shore up hatred of the west and damaged our credibility in the eyes of the world.  Iraq – as I have argued so many times – was senseless.

Sanctions first – sanctions that are strict and controlled.

Scooter boy

29 Oct

It’s all incredibly enjoyable to see the very Republicans
who revelled in Clinton’s woes are now squirming in the face of
mounting legal difficulties.  The excuses and deflections are
coming think and fast, constant referrals to the Clinton case on Fox
News clearly express the rattled conservative establishment.

I. Lewis Libby
Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby

Scooter Boy

29 Oct

It’s all incredibly enjoyable to see the very Republicans who revelled in Clinton’s woes are now squirming in the face of mounting legal difficulties.  The excuses and deflections are coming think and fast, constant referrals to the Clinton case on Fox News clearly express the rattled conservative establishment.

I. Lewis Libby
Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby

An argument for the managed market-economy – Ordoliberalism.

24 Oct

There is a mute point about the market system that cannot be reconciled with examples of economic growth, that of pure economic efficiency.

If the economic problem is:

How to best allocate the Earth”s finite resources to best satisfy the infinite desires and wants of consumers – society at large?

Why is there such inequality in the world?

*****

Why Capitalism works?

The primary goal of Capitalism (the Market System) is economic growth, through the interest gained on its economic decisions. For example does the country use its resources (Land, Labour, Capital, and Enterprise) to build missiles or hospitals?

Missiles can be sold on the world markets for a significant profit, allowing the country to build many hospitals. So should a country decide to build one hospital (instead of exploiting its skill in building high-value weapons), one could measure easily the opportunity cost of not building missiles. How would this be economically efficient for the country to build the hospital?

The country would be far better served if it concentrated on its skills, and profited from this intelligent resources management, and trading on the international market to satisfy other needs. It is the queering of this process at national level that drives the Capitalists to argue for a global Free-Market.

‘Economics is the study of how society decides what, how and for whom to produce’ (Ian Begg London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)

This makes perfect sense – or does it?

*****

So what”s wrong?

Where this argument falls down is if we consider human progress as a collective endeavour to offer the greatest standard of living to everyone – or how best to allocate Earth”s finite resources to the betterment of the global community. If we choose to examine economics in this way the Free-Market Capitalist system begins to unravel.

Example: How can the advertising industry, which consumes billions of dollars per annum possibly, be an efficient allocation of resources? Now Capitalism argues that in order for the consumer to make an informed decision (i.e. an efficient one) he/she must have access to the relevant product knowledge. But advertising conversely seeks to misinform, to convince the consumer – often through product placement and celebrity endorsement – that he/she “needs” the product. Why does a person with limited income, who works in a restaurant “need” $100 running shoes? In truth they don”t – Nike sells around 200,000,000 pairs of sneakers in a good year.

So if the consumer is misinformed – or brainwashed by semiotic sophistication – how can he/she make an informed decision? Even more baffling is the high-value children/teen markets where the immaturity of the consumer automatically puts the legitimacy of their economic choice in question.

Such is the maturity of the market system – especially in Western countries – there is very little scope for economic decisions to be justifiably efficient.

*****

Waste and why?

The whole Western model of Conspicuous consumption (Thorstein Veblen, 1889) is a wasteful exercise in over-consumption. Where is the macro-economic efficiency in individuals collecting vast wealth while others starve in poverty? Why should half-eaten burgers be thrown away in the West, while Africans travels tens of miles for a cup of grain?

How is the western model efficiently allocating the worlds resources?

The historical foundation of the current model is in Europe”s laissez-faire past. The feudal European states eventually embraced democracy, while maintaining the concept of state sovereignty. Sovereign decisions were made to suit the internal populations of these nations through elections, and the reality of resource scarcity meant that nations would have trade to maximise prosperity. They would also fiercely defend their own prosperity, often to the detriment of others.

The pre-1914 global economy was the blueprint for the global free-market being constructed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), The World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The competition for scarce resources – manifested in the growing military prowess of nations – led ultimately to The Great War, and the collapse of the first free-trade experiment. The contemporary experiment seeks to cement stability through a global web of economic co-dependence underpinned by the international capital markets (an example would the financial relationship between the superpowers of the US and China).

*****

Guilt & Remedy

The Capitalist model seeks to use the concept of charity and aid to remedy the ethical concerns of its populations, global media now highlights the massive inequalities the capitalist systems produces. The demand for interest on investments (Return on Capital Employed: ROCE) pushes those in developing countries into low-paid factories, where hours and standards would be unacceptable to westerners. Also powerful corporate lobby groups look to close markets to oversees imports, denying developing markets access to western prosperity.

However a modern and entirely natural market solution is becoming the phenomena of the C21st macroeconomy. The emergence of consumer-driven ethical capitalism is starting to address many of the inequalities around the world. While developing economies still make decision based on cost, many western consumers are buying produce that meets their ethical requirements. The international coffee market (historically a pure commodity) is being revolutionised by the Fair-Trade initiative. The global media has an important role as watchdog in ensuring that consumers are informed and not misled.

*****

Conclusion

The only conceivable conditions where the current global economic model could collapse are cataclysms, where significant deterioration of human prosperity occurs: –

1 – Rapid unplanned exhaustion of primary resource – chiefly oil

2 – Intercontinental conflict – probably over access to resources

3 – Acute global recession brought on by collapse of financial markets (either terrorists attack or complete government insolvency)

All of which are not beyond comprehension in the current political climate.

If the Capitalist system is to continue unremittingly we must ensure it is driven not by trans-national corporations, but by democracy. The market must serve the people, and only through the management of the national economy by democratically elected governments can the will of the people be instigated. This means some regulation and control.

The self-correcting market – led by consumer demand – will change to ensure that the demands of the neo-Middle Classes (fair trade, environmental & ethical corporate responsibility) are heeded. However this is dependent on a non-corporate media, freedom of speech, and open lines of communication.

OPEC should ensure responsible reporting of oil reserves so national government can avoid any shocks to supply, and ensure alternative energy supplies.

International institutions such as the United Nations should be reformed and strengthened, to ensure they represent more than the closeted self-serving UN Security Council. This should ensure sovereign states adhere to international laws, fostering long-term stability.

The recent trend of trans-national corporations holding nations to ransom must be resisted through organisations such as the EU (example: Microsoft vs. European Union) that demand competition, financial accountability, and good corporate governance. However equally the EU is guilty of corrupting the market though tariffs, import quotas, and subsidies – these must also be stopped. The United States must also follow its
own advice and cease protectionism.

It is this ongoing review and refinement of the global Market System that will ensure that it survives into the future, providing stability and human progress.

US ‘intercepts Zawahiri letter’

17 Oct

The Pro-Bush media has seen the letter that was released by the office of John Negroponte on The 7th September, as a major political coup for the Whitehouse, but questions have been raised about its legitimacy ever since. Al Qaida has stated that the letter is a forgery and suggested an American ruse – the western response naturally enough is that they would say that, wouldn’t they?

“We call on Muslims not to pay attention to this cheap propaganda and to remember that the media will always be the infidels’ sole weapon until the end of the battle,”

Abu Maysara

Juan Cole (one of America’s predominant experts on the Shiite brand of Islam) suggests the letter was written in a Shiite voice, not using the language of a Sunni Egyptian like Zawahiri.

Cole suggested that the letter was of either of US or Iranian origin:

My gut tells me that the letter is a forgery. Most likely it is a black psy-ops operation of the US. But it could also come from Iran, since the mistakes are those a Shiite might make when pretending to be a Sunni. Or it could come from an Iraqi Shiite group attempting to manipulate the United States. Hmmm.

The Iranian link is explored my David Ignatius in today’s Post:

We see, finally, that Zawahiri is being squeezed by Iran. He tells Zarqawi to stop his crazed anti-Shiite attacks because the Iranians are holding more than 100 al Qaeda prisoners, many of them old members of the leadership or part of Osama bin Laden’s family. Zarqawi’s bloodthirsty assault on the Shiites, he says, “compels the Iranians to take countermeasures.”

So this would lead me to believe that the letter was a deliberate attempt to undermine Zarqawi in the eyes of the Muslim world, which would aid the Shiite cause that is close to the heart of Iran. It is understandable that Iran would have a vested interest on the outcome in Iraq, and would view the bombing of fellow Shiite’s as unacceptable. Having fought a long bloody war with Iraq only a generation ago it has no desire to see a weak Shia population unable to fight the threat of the insurgency.

Many in the West who view Iran as the next target for forced regime change like to make the link between the Iranians and al-Qaida, however this makes no sense to anyone with even the most basic understanding of Islam. The Salafist objective of imposing a Sunni Caliphate across the Islamic world holds little water in Tehran.

Fundamentalist Sunni’s view Shia Islam as a sub-order, an affront to the faith. There is nothing to suggest that the Shiite theocracy in Tehran would support the murder of their kith and kin. The level of misunderstanding and suspicion in western political thought is staggering to many Muslims.

The letter – if Iranian in origin – would be employed as a rebuke of Zarqawi’s tactics, representing an embarrassment to the whole al-Qaida movement. Both the Whitehouse and the Iranian leadership would welcome this discomfiture within the al-Qaida chain of command, and the subsequent muddling of communication the letter may have created. The suggestion of a forgery becomes more likely if you apply the age-old principle of qui bono (who benefits?).

With President Bush on the political ropes, this letter came as a ray of good news during an otherwise bleak period in his presidency. A flush of criminal investigations has hit the Republican Party. G.O.P. control of the Senate and Congress has been weakened by legal action against Bill Frist and Tom DeLay. The Whitehouse itself has not been without scandal as Karl Rove, and Scooter Libby have been called before the Grand Jury. Bush facing mounting pressure on his handling of the war needed this good-news story.

In January ’04 a similar letter was ‘intercepted’, the authenticity of this document was never established.

It’s right to be suspicious of opportunism from the Bush administration. Only last week the Whitehouse was discovered to have staged a televised question and answer session between the president and US troops in the region. Such tactics were perfected during the President’s staged ‘town hall meetings’ while selling Social Security reform to the nation. This letters timing could not have been more welcome…qui bono?

So how should we view the letter?

There is little doubt that unless the document can be verified beyond doubt, then it should be dismissed as a ruse by either Tehran or the Pentagon.

New Labour or Neo-Labour?

3 Oct

It’s party conference time, and as is customary the debates have begun about the internal mechanisms of each of the parties. The Liberal Democrats have questioned the leadership and direction of Charles Kennedy’s tenure. The Conservatives are not just discussing their leadership race but have also discussed how they are going to discuss their leadership. No wonder they call this the silly season.

The most important debate without doubt, is the ongoing one within the Labour Party, or more accurately within the New Labour Party? Labour having secured its third consecutive term of governance is looking to cement control and pave the way for a smooth succession once Tony Blair abdicates.

There are however, as Neal Lawson outlined in the pages of The Guardian, more ideological decisions that cannot be ignored. The festering divisions within the Labour Party will over the course of this government be squared. No longer can the Socialists and Blairites be reconciled; no longer can the ideological schism be papered over in the spirit of ‘unity’. Labour must decide who it is, where it wants to be, and more importantly how it plans to get there.

As Lawson argues:

New Labour has refused to create a progressive electorate in the image of left values. Ten years on it still panders to the Daily Mail and Rupert Murdoch. Enlightened neo-liberalism is as good as it gets for neo-Labour. Now is never a good time for them to be progressive because they never want to be. Every measured word Brown now utters is not to win the leadership (that’s in the bag), but the next election. Briefing to the right in the Sunday papers and talking left to the Labour conference on Monday is a worrying sign that the Labour tent will never be strong enough to resist the political winds.

When we assess a political dynasty we look to irreversible reforms that will shape the future. What long-term legacy can New Labour point to? Thatcherism fundamentally changed British Politics. Thatcher began the dissolution of council housing with the Housing Act of 1980 (Right to Buy), which meant that more working class people were buying their own homes. Home ownership created a society where individuals have assets, which ultimately contributed to our high-debt society; families are now increasingly subjective to market conditions as they now have a stake in the economy.

In practice ‘Right to Buy’ created a generation of Economic Conservatives.

Gordon Brown, the likely successor to Blair, is undoubtedly an advocate of Thatcher’s ownership society. Speaking from a central London nursery in April of this year Brown explained the ideological foundations of his Child Trust Fund initiative:
But the new frontier for children is about more than income and a wider range of services; it is about insisting that in future not just some but all people have assets too.

With an initial investment of £250 per child and £500 for poorer children the child trust fund will ensure in time that at 18 every single teenager and not just the richest will have their own fund to invest as they choose in their future.

This rather perverse brew of government provided capital to be invested into the market is endemic of Blair’s take on Third Way politics, which looks to marry social provision and fiscal conservatism. The Third Way is the consensus politics of management not philosophical leadership; this leaves New Labour without a utopian dream. While Ordoliberalism is the most effective economic model in providing economic growth while maintaining or improving social stability, it lacks a clear tendency to indoctrinate the electorate.

This inability to create a generation fuelled by ideology is why ultimately the Clinton era (another Third Way administration) failed the Democrats, when Clinton’s two terms were up the electorate had little ideological reason to remain with Al Gore. When the great communicator Blair steps down why should the country rally to Brown’s cause? In management politics – devoid of ideals – it’s not parties that win elections, but Leaders. The dour Scot may well find himself up against a charismatic leader such as Ken Clarke; whom will the voters warm to? There is no doubt that without an ideological belief in their government voters are more likely to be whimsical during elections.

Either New Labour must define itself – inevitably shedding obdurate socialists – or shift decidedly back to the left.

********

The major problem with the Social Market Economy is that it’s invariably Socialists, who see the centrist compromise as a clear path to electoral success, who adopt it. When Tony Blair bewitched Labour with the chance of success, they sold out their commitment to collectivism for a taste of power. Those Socialists remain in the party, frustrated by the lack of progress in addressing the inequalities of the Thatcher government, their dissent growing louder at every annual conference.

This contract was a two-way compromise; Blair had to ensure that the left of the party was placated; after all he needed the Labour Party as much as they needed him.

The Third Way followers needed a vehicle to gain power, and the post-Kinnock Labour Party – having been devastated by the death of new leader John Smith – was rudderless and had failed to deliver an election win for two decades. The marriage of mutual necessity was consummated in 1997 when the first of New Labours landslides promised a brighter future for Britain to the chorus of D:Reams Things Can Only Get Better.

As the years of sound economic growth, and slow progress in reconciling the inequalities left by the neo-liberal excesses of the eighties passed, the realities of government began to toll. Old Labour backbenchers began to question the pace of reform and the lack of delivery in remedying the vast disparities in wealth. They revolted against market led initiatives in the NHS and state infrastructure, which they saw as selling-out. Blair’s huge majority looked more and more precarious with every contentious parliamentary vote, he was losing the heart of the Party.

When Blair aligned himself with Bush’s Republican Party, in the hope of maintaining the Special Relationship that he had fostered during the Clinton era, Blair lost many of the modernisers that had supported his reforms. In spite of deep misgivings within his party Blair also followed Bush into Iraq, further marginalising not just MP’s, but grass-roots Labour supporters. Membership since 1997 has slumped to 200,000 (from a peak in 1951 of a million); the financial implications of this demise in support, and the migration of funds from the trade unions, have meant the revenue needed to support a C21th political party is simply not in place. New Labour has increasingly had to cosy up to corporate donors for sustenance, which has further marginalised support.

The debate within the Fabian Society – the intellectual power behind the democratic Labour movement – is one of dismay: –

“If that decline were to continue unabated, the last party member would be turning out the lights by around 2010.”

[…]

Fabian General
Secretary Sunder Katwala and Research Director Richard Brooks blamed a “mutual distrust” between party leaders and activists.

********

So in which direction should the Labour Party take? Should they return to their historical position as the home of British Socialism, or continue the path of centrist modernisation?

The problem with this third-term Blair government is that it has been bitten by reality and the grand promises of 1997 are destined to be unfulfilled. Two decades of Conservative rule had left the public services horrendously under-funded, with a culture of obstinacy. Even with a Labour government in power the public sectors were never going to welcome the business world concept of performance measurement, intrinsic to the ‘accountable’ politics of the Third Way. The adage “what gets measured, gets done” did not placate the heavily unionised teachers who felt their profession undermined by league tables. Blairism was starting to grate with the unions.

Tangibility is vitally important in instigating change. Changes – however incremental – must be monitored to ensure goals are reached. Modern business techniques are built on the concept of measure, report, review, and react; this enables change to be implemented via an adaptable organic process. This proven technique comes unstuck in the world of politics, as its greatest asset becomes its great liability. The problem with targets (the foundation of performance management) is that they can be missed.

Politics is characterised by grandiose promises and the subsequent avoidance of accountability. When performance is measured in tangible terms, the public and more perilously the media can hold politicians accountable. When you promise to eradicate poverty and improve literacy you can’t hide when your own statistics point to failure. If only Labour had suffered a more competent opposition they could have been ridiculed and discredited on their record of delivery.

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So where does this leave New Labour? Should they sate the hunger of their leftist backbenchers and return to their roots, if they do they must relinquish the centre ground, allowing other parties political oxygen. Liberal urbanites will undoubtedly flock to the Liberal Democrats, unable to accept the social excesses of a traditional Labour government, yet equally turned off by the party of Thatcher. Those who remain, those whose priorities begin and end with mortgages, children, and holidays in the sun, will return to the Conservatives.

Labour must rediscover the Third Way ideology that propelled them to power in 1997. It must dislocate itself from the discredited Blair, whose war in Iraq has damaged both the party and our international reputation. While Blairism should be embraced, Blair himself should be put out to pasture. Blair’s time is gone; Labour must make a clean break.

There is no doubt that Brown is surrounding himself with talented individuals. Ed Balls and Ed Milliband look set for key roles. Blair has surrounded himself with compliant apparatchiks, and has become disconnected from reality. Brown must engage with the public, he must reconnect. If he does not reconnect he will lose the next election.

Of course by severing its socialist links the party will suffer a further decline in membership, and some of the more determinedly leftwing MP’s may leave. But this is the difficult choice ahead, and one that cannot be avoided any longer. It must move forward not back, it must be a party for the twenty-first century not the twentieth.

Furthermore the Third Way acolytes must find their Utopia, and define who they are. Merely occupying the centre will not be enough; they must claim it for good. Only a future where the benefits of the market are enjoyed, but its inevitable inequalities are addressed, can be a real progressive future. Ordoliberalism is the only choice for developed western democracies, and if Labour does not remain the Third Way party of Britain then another party will adopt it and sail to power. A Brown government needs bright, energetic, and adaptable ministers who can achieve targets and deliver change. No more spin and excuses, Labour needs to start delivering or the electorate will give up on the Third Way for good, returning to the economic instability of the diametrically opposed ideologies of market fundamentalism and socialism.

So while the other political parties are having a dialogue with themselves, New Labour must have a dialogue with the British People and define the Ordoliberal Utopia of market-led efficiency and social responsibility, a Utopia of respect, tolerance, modernity, and progress.

Can you see the future?