by Martin Odoni

It is a small detail, but Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Miami proved that one very important change-for-the-better has happened in the USA in recent years, in amongst all the crudeness, chaos and cruelty of a Donald Trump presidency. That little beacon of positivity is that Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaigns over the last four or five years definitely do count, have made an enormous psychological difference, and have been completely worth every ounce of energy invested in them.

The issues Sanders spoke of during the 2016 Democratic Primaries were largely sneered at and dismissed by most in the US media, and by the Democratic National Committee – similar to how Jeremy Corbyn has been treated by media and Labour Right over here in the UK. But Sanders (and his excellent support base, some of whom are friends of mine) have shown fantastic perseverance, both during that campaign and subsequently. By dogged refusal to be side-tracked, Sanders and his supporters have kept discussions of Climate Change, healthcare that is free-at-the-point-of-delivery, workers’ rights, corporate abuse-of-power, wealth-inequality, public education, women’s rights – especially reproductive rights – and anti-warfare (among others) firmly in the public domain ever since. The genie is out of the bottle, and not only are these topics no longer sneered at, other Democratic candidates are now stepping up to the plate to speak about them, and even daring to propose the odd (relatively) radical solution, from time to time, as demonstrated during the debate by Elizabeth Warren.

Thus, Wednesday demonstrated that the window on real left-of-centre politics, which had been closed in the USA for about 35 years by the time Sanders emerged to challenge Hillary ‘Dollary’ Clinton for the 2016 Democratic Party nomination, is wide open again. With a prolonged and tireless four-year heave, Sanders forced it open, and he has made sure that the media and the corporate elites will not be free just to force it shut once more. These topics simply have to be tackled, regularly and with the fullest of candour, and without any more cheap attempts to distract from them. Way too many lives depend on finding real and lasting solutions to these crises, especially Climate Change, healthcare, and wealth inequality. Instead of looking for ways to get everyone to ‘ignore the problems away’, as has been the habit of the last four decades, there is now a real pressure for them to be properly addressed.

Now, some Democrats are daring to show ambition and no little backbone to speak openly about and pursue what they really believe in. That is Bernie Sanders’ legacy to the USA, and even if it is not as glamorous as, say, Barack Obama’s accession as the first Black President, it is at least as important. Sanders widened the Overton Window to allow in progressive ideas that have been kept silent for a long time, and which the aforementioned Obama would have been reluctant to consider. While Sanders claims to be a democratic socialist, he is in truth merely a social democrat. But as he forces old-style social democracy back into the world of the ‘thinkable’, he has opened the way for other, more radical forms of progressivism to take the American stage.

Even if Sanders never makes it to the White House, and my suspicion is that the DNC, by hook or by crook, will stop him again, his work over the last five years has still been worth every minute. This is because he accomplished something that had frequently looked impossible since Ronald Reagan’s time; Sanders managed to broaden the terms of public debate in a leftwards direction, instead of, as had happened persistently since the early-1980s, towards the ever-more-extreme right. Successfully pushing back against that tide is a supreme accomplishment in itself in an era that has become so right wing that even a television network like CNN is somehow viewed as a ‘progressive’ media outlet.

The accomplishment is more psychological than physical, perhaps, and it remains entirely possible that it will not lead to more progressive policies actually being implemented in the long run. It also may not hold the glory or pageantry of a Presidential Inauguration ceremony for Bernie Sanders. But the political conversation in the USA, normally marked by childish hysteria among Republicans, and cowardly blandness among Democrats, has been much-enrichened by Sanders’ rise to prominence. He has given a voice to those who most need one and who usually lack one, and has given the unreality of US politics a long-overdue anchoring in ordinary wisdom.

Four years of that are as great a gift as any number of years in residence at the White House, and are a tribute worthy of the best of politicians.

And it is quite a reassurance to be reminded that the best of politicians do occasionally exist.

by Martin Odoni

Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman, of the House of al-Saud, is a politician. That may sound like a grossly obvious description, but it is meant as a condemnation. He is a politician in the sense that so many professional politicians are capable of the most grotesque hypocrisy, moral inconsistency, and deliberate twisted logic.

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The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia exploits a terrorist attack to condemn Iran, while insisting that no one should condemn him for a murder he definitely ordered.

I am sure everyone is aware by now of the attacks on two tankers – one Japanese and one Norwegian – in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday. There has been a highly prejudicial and, obviously politically-motivated, attempt to blame the blasts that rocked the tankers on the regime governing the Shi’a Republic of Iran. Now, the evidence for this, presented in an undignified rush by Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, has been criticised as unreliable. It also runs contrary to eye-witness accounts provided by the crew of the Japanese tanker, who state that the ship was struck by an airborne object, whereas Pompeo’s presentation indicated that it was damaged by a limpet-mine that had been attached to its hull.

Now, there are all manner of reasons, beyond the differing testimonies of the people who were actually there, to treat Pompeo’s story with skepticism. The video provided – purportedly of Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen removing evidence from the hull of the Japanese tanker – is suspicious at best, given it seems unlikely that US surveillance would have been monitoring the tankers so closely at the moment the pictures were supposedly captured, unless they already knew the mines had been fastened to the ships. If that was the case, why did they not send a warning to the tanker captains?

It is still possible that Iran was behind the attacks, but that is not a conclusion that can be drawn with honest confidence on present information.

With this in mind, Jeremy Corbyn, always maligned as a ‘fool’ and yet in practice always on the side of sensible and rational caution, has warned against blindly following the American lead. The response to this has been a predictable tidal wave of social media attacks on Corbyn, especially from Tory MPs, implying his insistence on critical thinking and evidence-based assessment demonstrates some kind of moral failing. Even to the extent of contradicting themselves.

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Jeremy Hunt showing his usual moral and intellectual solidity.

In all of this nausea-inducing hypocrisy, it should be impossible to judge whose knee-jerk deceitfulness is the worst. But the House of al-Saud specialises in being abhorrent in ways few other parts of the world can rival, and sure enough, bin-Salman has found a way.

The current Crown Prince is often lauded by Western Governments and media as a ‘liberal reformer’ leader, and less of a brutal autocrat than his predecessors. This is technically true, but all that really demonstrates is what horrific dinosaurs the previous generations of Emirs and Crown Princes were. By any standards, bin Salman is bloodthirsty, aggressive, and reckless, and his ‘modern outlook’ has little to do with a respect for human rights and individual liberty. Instead, he is just open-minded enough to recognise that Saudi Arabia has a lot of catching-up to do in the world of science and technology, especially if it is to survive in a relatively near-future in which Anthropogenic Climate Change is likely to force an end to the Oil Age. Hence his reforms; he wants efficiency, not justice.

Sure enough, bin-Salman’s reaction to the tanker attacks has been absolutely textbook opportunist-politics. While offering no more evidence than the US has provided, he has publicly accused Iran of being behind the attacks.

We do not want a war in the region… But we won’t hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests… The Iranian regime did not respect the presence of the Japanese prime minister as a guest in Tehran and responded to his [diplomatic] efforts by attacking two tankers

Now, it is quite vomit-inducing enough that Saudi Arabia is trying to claim some kind of moral superiority in any situation. Sure, Iran is a very repressive country, and its regime clearly has links to a number of Shi’a terrorist groups in the Middle East. But Saudi Arabia is also a very repressive country, and has at least as many links to Wahhabist-Sunni terrorist groups across the region, and probably all around the world. Quite what bin-Salman thinks the attacks even have to do with Saudi Arabia is very unclear too.

But worse than this, less than twenty-four hours after exploiting the tanker attacks to score points against the Ayatollahs, bin-Salman has issued a statement obliquely criticising officials in the Turkish Government. The reason? Bin-Salman seems convinced that the Turks are “exploiting” the horrifically bloody murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Autumn last year (yet another Saudi atrocity that receives the sort of muted response from British politicians that a similar Iranian deed would never get).

That murder in itself is enough to sever any contact the Crown Prince has with the moral high ground for the rest of his life. But for him to criticise political exploitation of an atrocity less than a day after he was committing the same crime gives off an unholy stink of hypocrisy that spreads around the world. I mean, at least we have ample reason to be confident that Saudi Arabia was behind the Khashoggi murder. At present, there is no confidence that Iran is behind the tanker attacks.

The Iranian Government is a hideous regime, no one is disputing that. But the circle the West cannot square is its hostility to Iran going hand-in-hand with its closeness to the House of al-Saud.

All the evidence of the two years since bin-Salman became Crown Prince shows that he is not the man to ‘launder’ that relationship.

NOW UPDATED TO INCLUDE PHOTOS FROM THE MANCHESTER DEMO THE PREVIOUS EVENING.

TheCritique Archives

by Martin Odoni

If evidence were needed that Theresa May is an arrogant, out-of-touch Prime Minister, we have it in the shape of her determination to welcome and do deals with the US President, Donald “Darth Satsuma” Trump. While Trump repeatedly insists that “the Brits love him”, there is far more visible animosity towards him than affection on this side of the Atlantic. His narcissism, his xenophobia, his climate change denialism, his misogyny, his deceitfulness, and his racism hardly need pointing out. But his incredible stupidity outstrips (“trumps”, dare I say?) all of these, and it makes a mockery of the US Government that he could be its Head.

There were small local demonstrations around the UK against Trump’s presence in the country on Monday, before a massive national demonstration in London on Tuesday.  I was at the local demo in Manchester on Monday, and the national demo on Tuesday…

View original post 697 more words

by Martin Odoni

If evidence were needed that Theresa May is an arrogant, out-of-touch Prime Minister, we have it in the shape of her determination to welcome and do deals with the US President, Donald “Darth Satsuma” Trump. While Trump repeatedly insists that “the Brits love him”, there is far more visible animosity towards him than affection on this side of the Atlantic. His narcissism, his xenophobia, his climate change denialism, his misogyny, his deceitfulness, and his racism hardly need pointing out. But his incredible stupidity outstrips (“trumps”, dare I say?) all of these, and it makes a mockery of the US Government that he could be its Head.

There were small local demonstrations around the UK against Trump’s presence in the country on Monday, before a massive national demonstration in London on Tuesday.  I was at the local demo in Manchester on Monday, and the national demo on Tuesday. Here are some pictures I took.

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Due to a camera problem, this was initially the only photo from the Manchester demo I was able to keep. But I have recovered the other photos from Manchester and they are now available below.

And now, from the next day’s gathering at Trafalgar Square; –

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End Austerity… now.

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Subtle reminder for Trump of his old nemesis, the late John McCain.

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The problem is that whenever Morgan goes over there, he keeps coming back again.

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Sadly, politicians often make pretty lousy politicians too.

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I think Trump is already helping with that…

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Not Britain’s friend. In fact, he sounds like a British aristocrat.

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A truly hideous bromance.

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Really ancient sci-fi pun though it is, I must confess this one made me snigger.

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I’m not sure which of these two politicians I detest more, if I’m honest.

Then, everyone marched down Whitehall, where there were speeches by Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Caroline Lucas, Richard Burgon, and others. (Sadly, I was unable to get into a position where I could get a view of the stage); –

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Never mind Downing Street or the House of Commons. THIS is the real centre of British Government.

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Outside the Whitehall Museum was where I came to a halt in the crowds to hear the speeches.

 

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The statue is of the eighth “Duke of Devonshire”. And as we all know, there is no such county as ‘Devonshire’. It’s called ‘Devon’ and it’s also an Earldom, not a Dukedom or Duchy. Take that from someone who was born there.

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My vantage point was quite useless for getting a view of the stage.

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George Washington could not tell a lie. Tricky Dicky could not tell the truth. Dimwitted Donald cannot tell the difference.

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My original placard sadly disintegrated in the rain, but I soon obtained another one.

Then we marched down Horseguards Avenue, past the Ministry of Defence, along the riverfront of the Thames past Scotland Yard, and onto Parliament Square.

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You let Penny Mordaunt in THERE?! Britain! What are you thinking?!

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Truth to tell, science has found little evidence of chlorination being all that dangerous, but we still don’t really want it here.

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The presence of the police did not deter anybody.

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The climate, more than the weather.

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No doubt about it, the Queen Elizabeth Tower does look a little pathetic when ‘undressed’.

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The lady in the middle is Róisín McDermott of Unite the Union. And no, I have no idea how any of them got in there.

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And finally, some other interesting pics I got while on Parliament Square; –

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We’ll forgive you eventually.

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Not witty, but certainly gets the irrefutable point across.

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Ronald McDonald has written to protest in the strongest possible terms that he finds comparisons with Donald Trump excessive and derogatory.

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NO! THAT’S VILE! I don’t want to risk getting Donald Trump all over my poo!

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Trump’s hands are portrayed as much too large in this picture.

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Tommy Robinson is reported to have wet himself when he saw this placard.

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There does seem to be a loud note of American embarrassment coming across at this demo.

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Again, there’s some real American embarrassment coming across at this demo.

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Sadly, some Brexiteers were there, having got it into their fallacy-addled heads that being pro-Leave is compatible with being anti-Trump, despite Trump repeatedly speaking out in favour of Brexit.

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That’s a bit insulting to gorillas, isn’t it?

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The slight ‘dominatrix’ overtones of the girl’s leather-heavy costume here might be meant to imply something iffy about Trump’s sexual tastes. And is therefore probably true.

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Ivanka apparently uses vape.

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The idea that climatology is a conspiracy, and that contrary information from the oil industry is not, is so idiotic that it’s hardly worth the bother of explaining why.

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The little-known title of the Star Wars film that was ultimately never made, because George Lucas suddenly realised that a rancor would be scarier than a domestic tabby.

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The UK has a relationship with the USA of close, personal subservience.

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The first word is ‘hell’.

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This is a very poor impression of Trump, because all of the words are spelt correctly.

Yes, Donald. The Brits love you. We can really see that.