In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

The Scottish referendum and the decentralization of Britain

Posted by seumasach on September 28, 2014

Cailean Bochanan

28th September, 2014

When Nicola Sturgeon spoke back in January of the inevitability of change whatever the outcome of the referendum and appealed to the “No” campaign to come forward with their proposals for further devolution to Scotland she must have known that a response would be forthcoming. All political parties had been focused for some time on the issue of the decentralization of the British state and the referendum was to be the cue for these ideas to come to the fore. However, from the point of views of both campaigns this issue was to become the elephant in the room that no one wanted to see. The “Yes” campaign , notwithstanding Sturgeon’s remarks, continued to insist that it was all or nothing for Scotland, that not only was further devolution not on the agenda but that a “No” vote would see the rollback of devolution already conceded. The “No” campaign evoked the enduring stability of the union and an era of innocence in which good old Great Britain was not about to be eviscerated. As a result, it was only when “panicked” representatives of the leading UK parties came to Scotland late in the campaign, following polls suggestive of a “Yes” vote, that it became evident to all that further devolution was indeed on the agenda. The “panicked” UK leaders, far from making up policy on the hoof, were, however, merely putting forward what they had always intended in an opportune manner which would give themselves credit post-referendum. They were also shoring up the position of Alex Salmond and the SNP post-referendum who could claim that their campaign and a surge in support had forced the hand of the Westminster establishment.
That major constitutional change was on the cards was made clear in a speech in April by Labour leader, Ed Milliband, a speech which was studiously ignored by everyone. In it he blamed overcentralisation for all Britain’s ills and promised to devolve power and spending to English cities and regions. He also revealed the real point behind this “bringing of power to the people” as the Tories like to call it:
“With power of this sort comes responsibility.
These changes will only bring new jobs, greater prosperity, if the towns and cities are willing to put the private sector at the heart of decision making.”
Welsh Conservative leader Stephen Crabb was to pick up on the same theme as he launched the pre-panic, Tory devolution response in July,:
“I am very comfortable with the way devolution is developing. It is quite an exciting landscape that is emerging for devolution. So fiscal devolution I see as particularly important because of strengthening accountability for devolved government.”
This, he thought, would help to “challenge socialist orthodoxy” citing the influence of leading Thatcherite ideologue,Lord Brian Griffiths, in his conversion to devolution.

Any doubts about major constitutional change were dispelled in Cameron’s speech following the announcement of the referendum result. He called for English votes on English issues, effectively a call for English devolution. It also launched the 2015 election campaign with a shot across the bows of the Labour as Cameron sensed blood and seized the moment when the Labour/Tory duopoly gives way to a Tory/SNP axis which could dominate Britain for a long time to come. Labour’s hesitancy regarding English devolution doesn’t mean they won’t support it: they have no choice, but they wish to delay it beyond the next election. If Milliband has written their suicide note in the above mentioned speech they can be forgiven for pacing the room in a state of high agitation before finally putting the bullet through their head.
The British ruling class have embarked upon a major transformation of Britain. Milliband’s speech gives an indication of what they have in mind. The essence of this change is more easily grasped within the context of US politics and the politics of the Republican right. The goal is the end of Big Government. As Britain heads towards another crisis resembling that of 2008 it will face similar dilemmas to those they faced then. In 2008 they bailed out the banks without taking control of them. This time overwhelming popular pressure could force their hand and result in nationalization. Similar pressures could lead to renationalization of the utilities and even land and the housing stock. These measures are unacceptable and dangerous to the post-Thatcherite oligarchy. By devolving spending and tax raising powers to the regions they are vetoing that particularly noxious, in their view, outcome. Admittedly, the state is bankrupt anyway but they will not be presiding over the bankruptcy of Britain with the tax-payer as the priority creditor, the state taking on our assets and our debt to our international partners being resolved through intergovernmental negotiation as I have been proposing for some time. Instead, they will proceed through “the market”.
It could be objected that there is little left to privatize. But Britain’s privatization programme is really just a corporate welfare scheme whereby public funds are transferred to private companies. The companies would not otherwise be making money. This process is inordinately expensive to the British state and is not sustainable. The British state will then withdraw its largesse and as it does so foreign states or their agencies will take its place. This process is already well underway as James Meek has documented and is about to accelerate dramatically. The British oligarchy instead of going down for a very, very long time have opted to be bought out by the Chinese and retired to the Cayman Islands.
It is a great irony that the “yes” campaign regard further devolution as a well earned consolation prize and continue to shout betrayal in the form of its non-implimentation. They have been joining in the fun too, dancing on the the grave of the Labour Party but it is also the grave containing the corpse of their neo-Keynesian spending strategies. The active component of the “yes” campaign is basically on the left, contemptuous of Scotland’s national status except when referring to it, hilariously, as “one of the richest nations on earth”, and these heady days have been like the last faint echo of Blair’s, 1997 “Things can only get better” surge, before we finally sink into the abyss. So they’re celebrating their own demise too: it’s just one internal contradiction too far.
That the coming crisis of Western imperialism will have a neo-liberal solution is at first sight dismaying but it has its logic. I was a struck by the insistence of a Chinese academic, speaking at at Glasgow University’s Confucius Institute, on the resolution of Britain’s debt and current account deficit with China via the market. What, I thought, did we have to sell back to them. Not much, but we can let them relocate factories which produce for our market to Britain. That way, they don’t have to accept sterling fiat money in payment and we can start to correct our trade deficit. That is definitely win-win. They can also facilitate this by taking control of our utilities and building other essential infrastructure. Finally, they can take over our banking system, after its major shareholders and creditors have taken the hit,opening up control of a significant portion of Britain’s land and real estate for re-industrialization. The British government has already taken us some way down this path and we have signed a formal strategic partnership with China and are now proud issuers of Renminbi-denominated UK government bonds. Other sovereign wealth funds will, of course, participate. Just as free-market ideology furnished us with a cover for imperialism in the 18th and 19th century, so it now provides a cover for a policy for end of empire. This is anxiously sought by the Chinese and the Global South and their investments will not be just about profit but drawing the sting out of Anglo-American imperialism. In exchange for life-saving inward investment Britain will de facto renounce its imperial or hegemonic project and become a neutral, demilitarized state. Perhaps Scotland could become a Chinese concession just as we once had concessions in China. That would be poetic justice and leave us staring survival in the face.
The constitutional transformation will go through and it will also be as many have pointed out a dog’s dinner. But the goal is purely negative from the point of view of the British oligarchy: to veto Big Government. However, it contains other potentialities as Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein was quick to grasp when he pointed out that, despite the “no” vote, “the British state is not static”. Britain is not suitable for federalisation and the regionalization of England is a completely synthetic agenda which is being foisted on a reluctant people. Hence another irony: the “No” vote may be the real “break up of Britain” agenda. The constitutional agenda compromises Britain’s sovereignty and at a certain point when all the wars and tumult of empire are a fading memory that issue of sovereignty will return and, in all likelihood, resolve itself as four sovereign nations in these islands.

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West beats retreat in Ukraine

Posted by seumasach on September 25, 2014

M.K.Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

24th September, 2014

Considering the huge lift that the White House gave last week to the visit by the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — ‘rare honor’ of addressing a joint session of the US Congress, et al — one would have thought the Barack Obama administration was getting into a heightened mood of belligerence vis-a-vis Russia. But a close reading of President Obama’s remarks after the bilateral meeting with Poroshenko last Thursday in Washington creates doubts in the mind. 

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Game, set and match to Russia

Posted by seumasach on September 6, 2014

Cailean Bochanan

6th September, 2014

The unfolding events in Ukraine are of world-historic significance and the West has responded as unconscious players do: with a stunned silence and the delusion of business as usual. In one fell swoop the entire Western narrative on Ukraine has fallen apart.

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The Grand Saudi Reversal

Posted by seumasach on September 1, 2014

To complete the picture presented here by Meyssan we have to look at the conflicts inside the USA. It is interesting to see how Hagel comes to the fore now and Kerry fades from the scene, the one playing a winning game against the IS and the other taking the booby prize after the disastrous intervention in Ukraine. So on the one hand we have the constitutional or national state with the military at its core and , on the other, the deep or imperial state with the State department at its core. Between the two Obama equivocates but as commander-in-chief will ultimately go with the former. It wasn’t for nothing that the British backed the Confederacy and opposed the Presidential Republic! The deep state is now outmaneuvered in Iraq where the  dirty game of backing Al-Qaida networks can no longer be played. As Meyssan points out things have turned around so fast that some players are still dancing even though the music has stopped.

Thierry Meyssan

Voltairenet

1sr September, 2014

While for the past 35 years Saudi Arabia has supported all the jihadist movements to the most extremist, Riyadh seems suddenly to have changed policy. Threatened in its very existence by a possible attack grom the Islamic Emirate, Saudi Arabia has given the signal for the destruction of the organization. But contrary to appearances, the EIS remains supported by Turkey and Israel who sell their looted oil.

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Gotcha!

Posted by seumasach on August 16, 2014

Cailean Bochanan

16th August, 2014

Finally, the smoking gun: journalists from the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers, two western news sources of unimpeachable integrity, have spotted a Russian military column inside Ukraine. According to an update in today’s Guardian:

“It was impossible to verify the destination or ultimate fate of the convoy, or monitor how long it stayed on the other side of the border.”

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The West on the wrong path

Posted by seumasach on August 9, 2014

The publication of this article could be a key moment in this unfolding crisis. It reveals not only German self-interest but German self-awareness, the latter a much rarer commodity amongst today’s nations.

Gabor Steingart

Handelsblatt

9th August, 2014

Düsseldorf. Every war is accompanied by a kind of mental mobilization: war fever. Even smart people are not immune to controlled bouts of this fever. “This war in all its atrociousness is still a great and wonderful thing. It is an experience worth having“ rejoiced Max Weber in 1914 when the lights went out in Europe. Thomas Mann felt a “cleansing, liberation, and a tremendous amount of hope“.

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Modi’s WTO stance annoys US

Posted by seumasach on August 4, 2014

M.K.Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

4th August, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has drawn big criticism from the United States on account of the firm stand India took at the World Trade Organization negotiations, insisting that its concerns about food security needed to be accommodated if India were to go along with the so-called trade facilitation agreement. Overnight the smile has vanished from Uncle Sam’s face.

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Heads must roll!

Posted by seumasach on July 26, 2014

Cailean Bochanan

26th July, 2014

Within a week or so, we have seen the resignation of Hague and Yatsianuk as well as strong indications that Merkel will be standing down rather than completing her current term as promised. Is the stress of backing a faltering Nazi “anti-terrorist operation” in Ukraine beginning to tell?

Things do indeed look desperate on the Eastern front in the West’s attempt to rerun WW11 with a different outcome. Last week the Kiev authorities gave the go-ahead for a civilian airliner to fly over a war zone and then immediately “knew” the identity of the culprit after it was shot down. The culprit, of course, was Russia. Am I alone in finding this all rather transparent? Still, let’s not preempt the findings of the inquiry that the Anglo-Americans are going to try and cook. But, if, for the sake of argument, we assume that it was an  false flag, then that would indicate that things on the military front were going very badly indeed. If Kiev’s military really were advancing as portrayed in the media then it would only be a matter of time before Russia was forced into direct intervention and the the neo-cons would have  their pretext for further conflict without the need to resort to murky stratagems. As it happens, there are reports on the ground which reveal catastrophic reverses for the Ukies, as they’re known.

The collapse of the Ukraine project is indeed bad news for its sponsors, but it could be very good news for those who wish to see Europe finally cast off its vassalage to the “United States of America and Britain”. Such a desirable outcome would of course involve changes of personnel: heads would have to roll, heads such as those of Hague and Merkel, but of many others also. Names such as Barroso, Ashton, Rasmussen(already coming to the end of their terms), Hollande, Fabius and Steinmeier come immediately to mind.

The utter, destructive uselessness of the NATO entity is being laid bare for all to see. Its life span has been artificially extended well past senility. How the hell can this monster still be stalking planet earth over twenty years after the end of the cold war? Here the right to die is indeed appropriate although not the right to be forgotten- may their abominable crimes be remembered forever!

The Western media is also on the way out having imploded into an infantilism which cannot correspond to popular opinion, however negative your views on Western citizenry are- we deserve better than this! The collapse of the Kiev regime is the collapse of the West as we know it: the Western unipole is set to be relegated to the status of a pole amongst others in a multipolar world order.

Posted in Coup d'état in Ukraine | 5 Comments »

Return of geopolitics

Posted by seumasach on November 22, 2014

Maleeha Lodhi

The News

18th November, 2014

A dominant theme at the recent World Economic Forum summit was that the return of geopolitics, turbulence and volatility were combining to shape today’s fraught strategic environment.

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UK: Independent reveals extent of foreign takeover

Posted by seumasach on November 22, 2014

This is a tendency that can only intensify as Britain devolves control of finance. This effectively means we’re giving up our credit card since no regional or devolved administration is sovereign and will not be able to issue sovereign bonds as before. Nor will the UK government itself since it no longer controls its tax base. The SNP has already  pointed out that Scottish government borrowing will be within a context of a balanced budget rather than the traditional rolling over of debt and coverage of interest charges only. This end of  Keynesianism is accompanied, logically, by the demise of the Labour Party and the left.The UK is and has been for  years totally dependent on capital inflows. However, the form these take is changing: rather than going into government bonds they are going into direct investment and purchase of assets.

Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services

Independent

20th November, 2014

Foreign governments are making hundreds of millions of pounds a year running British public services, according to an Independent investigation highlighting how privatisation is benefiting overseas – rather than UK – taxpayers.

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‘Anti-offshore’ law to bring billions back to Russian economy

Posted by seumasach on November 22, 2014

RT

19th November, 2014

Russia’s upper house of parliament has approved an “anti-offshore” law requiring individual and corporate taxpayers to foreign profits. The Russian government aims to prevent capital outflow via “offshores,” estimated at $200 billion in 2014.

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Medvedev: ban GMO

Posted by seumasach on November 22, 2014

Russian Prime Minister Calls for Complete Ban of GMO Food, Wants Organic Production

Russia Insider

21st November, 2014

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently announced that Russia will no longer import GMO products, stating that the nation has enough space, and enough resources to produce organic food.

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Euromaidan 1st birthday: How the Kiev coup grew

Posted by seumasach on November 22, 2014

RT

21st November, 2014

It’s been a year since thousands of peaceful protesters took part in the initial Euromaidan rallies in Kiev, hoping for a brighter future. Since that optimistic start, the state has been torn to shreds and now its very future is in doubt.

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Australia, China see opportunity in free-trade pact

Posted by seumasach on November 15, 2014

WSJ

13th November, 2014

CANBERRA, Australia—A free-trade pact between Australia and China likely to be signed within days is expected to provide new sources of growth for Australia, which is struggling to counter a rapidly slowing mining boom, while aiding China’s push for a broader role in regional trade agreements.

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China has its way on APEC free-trade deal

Posted by seumasach on November 15, 2014

The US-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is now dead in the water. The same fate can be expected for the TTIP, the corresponding US-backed free trade deal with Europe.

IBN

11th November, 2014

Beijing: APEC leaders agreed to work towards possible adoption of a “historic” free-trade deal proposed by China, in a victory for the Communist giant as it strives for a bigger role in formulating global trade policy.

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The hawks’ solution to everything

Posted by seumasach on November 15, 2014

 

Throw More Weapons at the Problem

American Conservative

10th November, 2014

The Republican foreign policy agenda in the new year promises to be lousy:

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Israel’s Iran bluster won’t unnerve Obama

Posted by seumasach on November 12, 2014

M.K.Bhadrakumar

Indian Punchline

12th November, 2014

Between optimism and pessimism stands ‘cautious optimism’ in the lexicon of diplomacy. But ‘relative optimism’? Yet, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Rybakov, one of the sharpest minds in the Moscow diplomatic armory, would have weighed his words with care and ingenuity when he remarked on Tuesday following the 2-day talks of the P5+1 and Iran talks in Muscat, Oman, that he is “relatively optimistic” about a nuclear treaty being concluded by the November 24 deadline. He added: “The glass is half full; (but) it’s not half empty.” 

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China aims for official gold reserves at 8500 tonnes

Posted by seumasach on November 11, 2014

Zero Hedge

9th November, 2014

China should accumulate 8,500 tonnes in official gold reserves, more than the US, according to Song Xin, President of the China Gold Association, General Manager of the China National Gold Group Corporation and Party Secretary. He wrote this in an opinion editorial published on Sina Finance July 30, 2014. Gold is money par excellence in all circumstances and will help support the renminbi to become an international currency as “gold forms the very material basis for modern fiat currencies”, Song notes. In the short term the Chinese will not back the renminbi with gold (establish a fixed renminbi price for gold), but support it with gold so it has sufficient credibility for the world to accept it as a trade and reserve currency.

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The West’s Fatal Russia Mistakes: 1989-2014

Posted by seumasach on November 11, 2014

Russia Insider

10th November, 2014

As Germany and many other nations celebrate the 25th anniversary of the demolition of Berlin Wall, the event which symbolized the end of the Cold War, it is important to analyze why U.S. – Russia relations are presently at an even more confrontational state, and why Francis Fukuyama’s famously-proclaimed the “end of history” due to West’s triumphal victory over USSR was just wishful thinking by a great philosopher.

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