Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Maybe a big lesson here for US and UK – where corruption in government and business is rife

China’s Antigraft Enforcers Take On a New Role: Policing Loyalty Credit: CHRIS BUCKLEY (NYT, OCT. 22, 2016)

The Communist Party of China’s anticorruption commission has assumed a growing role as political inquisitor, investigating the commitment of cadres to Mr. Xi and his agenda. Credit: Jason Lee/Reuters

BEIJING — The investigators descend on government agencies and corporate boardrooms. They interrogate powerful officials and frequently rebuke them for lacking zeal. Most of all, they demand unflinching loyalty to President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party.

They are the inspectors from the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and the humbling displays they have orchestrated recently in many of China’s most influential government agencies and largest corporations are the most prominent sign of their expanding authority.

Best known as the country’s anticorruption agency, the commission has lately assumed a growing role as political inquisitor, investigating the loyalty and commitment of cadres to Mr. Xi and his agenda, while cementing the commission’s role as his chief political enforcer.

“It’s not just anticorruption, but more powerfully about central control,” said Jeremy L. Wallace, a political scientist at Cornell University who studies Chinese politics.

Mr. Xi will press his demands for top-down obedience at an annual meeting of the party’s Central Committee in Beijing starting Monday. The committee is expected to issue new rules for “comprehensive and strict management” of the party, especially its top ranks, giving the discipline commission even more leverage to police and punish officials.

The move reflects Mr. Xi’s ambitions and fears as he prepares for a second five-year term as national leader, and has confirmed the rise of the commission and its formidable secretary, Wang Qishan, a longtime ally of Mr. Xi now seen by many as the second-most powerful official in China.

But nothing has illustrated the new order as bluntly as the commission’s intimidating inspections, which the commission calls “political health checks.” They have scrutinized prominent agencies like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the party’sDepartment of Propaganda and the nation’s biggest state companies.

The commission’s investigators have shown a taste for chastening displays of power in what has become a ritual of rebuke and repentance.

At the Ministry of Public Security headquarters in Beijing this month, for instance, hundreds of officers were marched into a cavernous auditorium to listen to investigators excoriate senior ministry officials for lacking “political judgment” and demand greater loyalty to Mr. Xi and the party.

Then their boss, Guo Shengkun, the minister of public security, rose to offer contrition, vowing to make his officers “even more steadfastly and conscientiously” obedient to Mr. Xi and other party leaders. “Loyalty to the party is the top political imperative,” he acknowledged.

Mr. Wang, the commission secretary, has pointedly warned officialsthat under his commission, “being red-faced and sweating will be the norm.”

Another notable target was the Propaganda Department, which the commission censured in June, saying that it “lacked vigor” and that “the political awareness of some leading officials has not been high.”

The criticism of such a powerful arm of the party fueled speculation of a factional rift at the top of Mr. Xi’s government. But dozens of other party and government agencies have faced similar reprimands.

The discipline commission has even taken a role in enforcing Mr. Xi’s economic policies, including efforts to cut back gluts of coal, steel and other industrial products.

But the core of its work is about loyalty to the party and its top leadership, referred to as the party center.

“The entire party must safeguard the authority of the party center,” Mr. Xi said in remarks featured recently on the commission’s website. “There can absolutely be no outwardly shouting that you’re in lock step with the party center while actually you’re not really paying attention.”

Underlying the push for stricter loyalty is fear, the leadership’s nagging nightmare of the Communist Party’s crumbling in a Soviet-style collapse.

“Rebuilding a disciplined hierarchical party organization is about avoiding the collapse Xi and other leaders observed in the Soviet Union,” said Melanie Manion, a political scientist at Duke University. “I think Xi views the stakes for China as very high, but the stakes for Xi as a leader are also high.”

The campaign appears to be timed to reinforce Mr. Xi’s grip on power as the Central Committee is about to set plans in motion to give himanother five-year term as party leader.

Some officials have been publicly swearing to uphold his “absolute authority.”

“Resolutely defend General Secretary Xi Jinping as the leading core of the party’s center,” Li Hongzhong, the party secretary of the port city of Tianjin, vowed at a meeting to respond to criticism of the city by discipline commission inspectors. “Resolutely defend the absolute authority of the leading core.”

For Mr. Xi, the commission has proved a versatile mechanism for fighting corruption, with its ancillary ability to take down or intimidate potential political opponents, and now to enforce loyalty. Its leader, Mr. Wang, is a trusted friend he has known since the 1960s, when the two were sent as youths to labor in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

The commission has long had the power to secretly detain officials without court approval, a contentious and feared tool. But past leaders lacked the authority to take on the corruption and abuses that have flourished since the economic liberalization of the 1990s.

Mr. Wang, with Mr. Xi’s backing, has freed the commission of organizational shackles that once allowed local officials to stymie it, and he has taken to the task with enthusiasm.

Photo

The anticorruption campaign appears to be timed to reinforce Mr. Xi’s grip on power as he anticipates another five-year term as party leader. Credit: Wu Hong/European Pressphoto Agency

“The challenge that worries us most comes from within, from within the People’s Republic of China and from within our own party,” he said in a closed-door speech to his inspectors last year that was leaked on the internet.

He told them that the pressure would not let up. “I’ve said there’ll be no end to this, because if there’s a backlash, there’ll be big problems,” he said.

The dual missions go hand in hand. Mr. Xi and Mr. Wang see corruption as a symptom of a breakdown of control in the party that also spawned disloyal cliques, resistance to policies and disillusionment. They worry that those undercurrents could undermine Mr. Xi and his plans to revive party power.

On a practical level, the anticorruption campaign has deprived thousands of local officials of illicit income, eliciting discontent that the loyalty campaign aims to eradicate.

“The anticorruption campaign has created a lot of resentment and disincentives among public officials,” Ling Li, a lecturer at the University of Vienna who has studied the commission, said in an email. “Political discipline is to repress that resentment and to recreate an incentive for public service.”

So far there have been no signs of public backlash to the campaign. But there are fears that it risks undermining Mr. Xi’s efforts to rejuvenate the economy.

As the discipline commission has taken a role in enforcing economic policies, censuring state-controlled companies and banks, foreign investors have become worried about the effects on their Chinese business partners and clients.

The number of Chinese corporations under investigation by the commission grew to at least 60 last year, from six in 2013, said James M. Zimmerman, the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

American businesses should not tolerate corruption, he said, but “we are very much concerned about the expanding scope and uncertain duration of C.C.D.I. investigations, which appears to have extended nationwide and to practically every sector of the economy.”

More broadly, the centralization of power, incessant inspections and demands for conformity have sapped the morale of government officials, experts and investors said. China’s past spurts of economic rejuvenation often came from letting officials take risks, but the relentless pressure for loyalty to the top has instilled caution.

Even the state-run news media and some supporters of Mr. Xi have begun to obliquely acknowledge that the pressure on the officials is taking a toll.

“Since last year, our politics have become very anxiety-ridden, and President Xi is facing passive resistance across the country,” Jin Canrong, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing, said in arecent speech.

“There is widespread inaction from local elites and local governments,” he said. “Nobody opposes, but nobody does anything.”

 

A superb piece from George Monbiot, covering a lot of ground about a system that some people are not even aware exists. It is important that people start to wake up to the this. We are sleep walking our way towards disaster, be it climate change, economic and social collapse or catastrophic war.


Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher at the White House.

 

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism.

The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, has no name.
Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug.
Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it.

Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?
Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises:
the financial meltdown of 2007‑8,
the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse,
the slow collapse of public health and education,
resurgent child poverty,
the epidemic of loneliness,
the collapse of ecosystems,
the rise of Donald Trump.

But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name.

What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers.
Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone.
Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it.

The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

  • Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising.
  • Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident.
  • Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault.

In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers. Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now.

The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938.

Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control.
Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as “a kind of neoliberal international”: a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists.

The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek’s view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way – among American apostles such as Milton Friedman – to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency.

Something else happened during this transition: the movement lost its name. In 1951, Friedman was happy to describe himself as a neoliberal. But soon after that, the term began to disappear. Stranger still, even as the ideology became crisper and the movement more coherent, the lost name was not replaced by any common alternative.

At first, despite its lavish funding, neoliberalism remained at the margins. The postwar consensus was almost universal: John Maynard Keynes’s economic prescriptions were widely applied, full employment and the relief of poverty were common goals in the US and much of western Europe, top rates of tax were high and governments sought social outcomes without embarrassment, developing new public services and safety nets.

But in the 1970s, when Keynesian policies began to fall apart and economic crises struck on both sides of the Atlantic, neoliberal ideas began to enter the mainstream. As Friedman remarked, “when the time came that you had to change … there was an alternative ready there to be picked up”.
With the help of sympathetic journalists and political advisers, elements of neoliberalism, especially its prescriptions for monetary policy, were adopted by Jimmy Carter’s administration in the US and Jim Callaghan’s government in Britain.

After Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took power, the rest of the package soon followed:
massive tax cuts for the rich,
the crushing of trade unions,
deregulation,
privatisation,
outsourcing and
competition in public services.
Through the IMF, the World Bank, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organisation, neoliberal policies were imposed – often without democratic consent – on much of the world.

Most remarkable was its adoption among parties that once belonged to the left: Labour and the Democrats, for example. As Stedman Jones notes, “it is hard to think of another utopia to have been as fully realised.”

It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan “there is no alternative”.
But, as Hayek remarked on a visit to Pinochet’s Chile – one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied –

“my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism”.

The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means;
the freedom to suppress wages.
Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers,
endanger workers,
charge iniquitous rates of interest and
design exotic financial instruments.
Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.

As Naomi Klein documents in The Shock Doctrine, neoliberal theorists advocated the use of crises to impose unpopular policies while people were distracted: for example, in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina, which Friedman described as; “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system” in New Orleans.

Where neoliberal policies cannot be imposed domestically, they are imposed internationally, through trade treaties incorporating “investor-state dispute settlement”: offshore tribunals in which corporations can press for the removal of social and environmental protections.

When parliaments have voted to restrict sales of cigarettes, protect water supplies from mining companies, freeze energy bills or prevent pharmaceutical firms from ripping off the state, corporations have sued, often successfully. Democracy is reduced to theatre.

Another paradox of neoliberalism is that universal competition relies upon universal quantification and comparison. The result is that workers, job-seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, stifling regime of assessment and monitoring, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers.
The doctrine that Von Mises proposed would free us from the bureaucratic nightmare of central planning has instead created one.

Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. Economic growth has been markedly slower in the neoliberal era (since 1980 in Britain and the US) than it was in the preceding decades; but not for the very rich.
Inequality in the distribution of both income and wealth, after 60 years of decline, rose rapidly in this era, due to the smashing of trade unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation.

The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income.
When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays.
The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel.

Those who own and run the UK’s privatised or semi-privatised services make stupendous fortunes by investing little and charging much. In Russia and India, oligarchs acquired state assets through firesales. In Mexico, Carlos Slim was granted control of almost all landline and mobile phone services and soon became the world’s richest man.

Financialisation, as Andrew Sayer notes in Why We Can’t Afford the Rich, has had a similar impact. “Like rent,” he argues, “interest is … unearned income that accrues without any effort”.
As the poor become poorer and the rich become richer, the rich acquire increasing control over another crucial asset: money.
Interest payments, overwhelmingly, are a transfer of money from the poor to the rich.
As property prices and the withdrawal of state funding load people with debt (think of the switch from student grants to student loans), the banks and their executives clean up.

Sayer argues that the past four decades have been characterised by a transfer of wealth not only from the poor to the rich, but within the ranks of the wealthy: from those who make their money by producing new goods or services to those who make their money by controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains.
Earned income has been supplanted by unearned income.

Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land, Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course.
Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.

The greater the failure, the more extreme the ideology becomes.
Governments use neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to;
cut taxes,
privatise remaining public services,
rip holes in the social safety net,
deregulate corporations and
re-regulate citizens.

The self-hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector. Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis.
As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts.
Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, “people can exercise choice through spending”.
But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle.
As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement.
Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.

Chris Hedges remarks that;

“fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the ‘losers’ who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment”.

When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation. To the admirers of Trump, for example, facts and arguments appear irrelevant.

Judt explained that when the thick mesh of interactions between people and the state has been reduced to nothing but authority and obedience, the only remaining force that binds us is state power.
The totalitarianism Hayek feared is more likely to emerge when governments, having lost the moral authority that arises from the delivery of public services, are reduced to “cajoling, threatening and ultimately coercing people to obey them”.

Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed.
But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement.
We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that
“in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised”.

The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations.
What “the market wants” tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want.

“Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things.

One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities,
the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains.

Using the same word for different activities “camouflages the sources of wealth”, leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.

A century ago, the nouveau riche were disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Entrepreneurs sought social acceptance by passing themselves off as rentiers. Today, the relationship has been reversed: the rentiers and inheritors style themselves entrepreneurs. They claim to have earned their unearned income.

These anonymities and confusions mesh with the namelessness and placelessness of modern capitalism:

The anonymity of neoliberalism is fiercely guarded.
Those who are influenced by Hayek, Mises and Friedman tend to reject the term, maintaining – with some justice – that it is used today only pejoratively. But they offer us no substitute.
Some describe themselves as classical liberals or libertarians, but these descriptions are both misleading and curiously self-effacing, as they suggest that there is nothing novel about The Road to Serfdom, Bureaucracy or Friedman’s classic work, Capitalism and Freedom.

For all that, there is something admirable about the neoliberal project, at least in its early stages. It was a distinctive, innovative philosophy promoted by a coherent network of thinkers and activists with a clear plan of action. It was patient and persistent. The Road to Serfdom became the path to power.

 

Theresa May wants the UK to quit the European Convention on Human Rights.

Any questions?


UK security agencies unlawfully collected data for 17 years, court rules Investigatory powers tribunal says secret collection of citizens’ personal data breached human rights law

The judges said both the collection and holding of personal data breached people’s right to privacy. The judges said both the collection and holding of personal data breached people’s right to privacy.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/17/uk-security-agencies-unlawfully-collected-data-for-decade

British security agencies have secretly and unlawfully collected massive volumes of confidential personal data, including financial information, on citizens for more than a decade, top judges have ruled. The investigatory powers tribunal, which is the only court that hears complaints against MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, said the security services operated secret regimes to collect vast amounts of personal communications data, tracking individual phone and web use and large datasets of confidential personal information, without adequate safeguards or supervision for more than 10 years. The ruling said the regime governing the collection of bulk communications data (BCD) – the who, where, when and what of personal phone and web communications – failed to comply with article 8 protecting the right to privacy of the European convention of human rights (ECHR) between 1998, when it started, and 4 November 2015, when it was made public. It said the holding of bulk personal datasets (BPD) – which might include medical and tax records, individual biographical details, commercial and financial activities, communications and travel data – also failed to comply with article 8 for the decade it was in operation until its public avowal in March 2015.

“The BPD regime failed to comply with the ECHR principles which we have above set out throughout the period prior to its avowal in March 2015. The BCD regime failed to comply with such principles in the period prior to its avowal in November 2015, and the institution of a more adequate system of supervision as at the same date,”

the ruling concluded. The House of Lords is debating the final stages of the investigatory powers bill – the snooper’s charter – which will put mass digital surveillance activities on a clear legal footing for the first time since the disclosure by Edward Snowden of the extent of state surveillance in 2013. Chaired by Mr Justice Burton, the IPT ruling revealed that security agency staff had been sent internal warnings not to use the databases containing the vast collections of information to search for or access details “about other members of staff, neighbours, friends, acquaintances, family members and public figures”. It also revealed concerns within the security agencies about the secretive nature of their bulk data collection activities.

In February 2010, a Mr Hannigan, then of the Cabinet Office, wrote:

“It is difficult to assess the extent to which the public is aware of agencies’ holding and exploiting in-house personal bulk datasets, including data on individuals of no intelligence interest … Although existing legislation allows companies and UK government departments to share personal data with the agencies if necessary in the interests of national security, the extent to which this sharing takes place may not be evident to the public.”

The campaign group Privacy International said the ruling showed that despite this warning internal oversight failed to prevent the highly sensitive databases being treated like Facebook to check on birthdays, and “very worryingly” on family members for “personal reasons”.

The IPT ruling included the disclosure from an unpublished 2010 MI5 policy statement that the BPDs included material on the nation’s personal financial activities. “The fact that the service holds bulk financial, albeit anonymised, data is assessed to be a high corporate risk, since there is no public expectation that the service will hold or have access to this data in bulk. Were it to become widely known that the service held this data, the media response would most likely be unfavourable and probably inaccurate,” it said.

The legal challenge centred on the acquisition, use, retention and disclosure by the security services of BCD under section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 and the use of BPDs under a variety of legal powers. The tribunal noted the highly secretive nature of the communications data regime, saying “it seems difficult to conclude that the use of BCD was foreseeable by the public when it was not explained to parliament”.

Mark Scott, of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, who was instructed by Privacy International in the legal challenge, said: “This judgment confirms that for over a decade UK security services unlawfully concealed both the extent of their surveillance capabilities and that innocent people across the country have been spied upon.”

Millie Graham Wood, legal officer at Privacy International, said:

“[The ruling is] a long overdue indictment of UK surveillance agencies riding roughshod over our democracy and secretly spying on a massive scale.”

She said the use of BCD carried huge risks. “It facilitates the almost instantaneous cataloguing of entire populations’ personal data. It is unacceptable that it is only through litigation by a charity that we have learnt the extent of these powers and how they are used.

“The public and parliament deserve an explanation as to why everyone’s data was collected for over a decade without oversight in place and confirmation that unlawfully obtained personal data will be destroyed.”

Privacy International said the judgment did not specify whether the unlawfully obtained, sensitive personal data would be deleted.

A government spokesperson said the ruling showed that the regimes used to hold and collect data since March and November 2015 respectively were legal.

“The powers available to the security and intelligence agencies play a vital role in protecting the UK and its citizens. We are therefore pleased the tribunal has confirmed the current lawfulness of the existing bulk communications data and bulk personal dataset regimes.

“Through the investigatory powers bill, the government is committed to providing greater transparency and stronger safeguards for all of the bulk powers available to the agencies.”

A further hearing of the case is scheduled for December to consider a number of outstanding issues.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said the ruling showed “mass spying on the British people should be replaced with targeted surveillance of specific individuals suspected of wrongdoing”.

He added:

“Allowing the state to collect endless amounts of personal data is not just a gross invasion of privacy, it is a waste of precious resources. Every pound the government spends monitoring people’s emails, text messages and calls is a pound taken away from community policing.”

 

 

opposition research (noun)
investigation into the dealings of political opponents, typically in order to discredit them publicly.

 

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” (Sun Tzu, The Art of War)

What is opposition research?

Political campaigns are mostly defined according to the opponent. The observation of opponents is a key instrument of political strategy and, for over two decades, a professional part of election campaigns, particularly in the USA. Some party-people still resist opposition research – “Why do we need it? We have no money and no people. We prefer our own, positive message; let’s concentrate on this.” But it is an unavoidable fact that, in the coming years, the consistent observation of opponents will be an integral part of any campaign. This concerns in particular publicly accessible information. So it does not involve the invasion of privacy, baseless allegations or snooping! Opposition research detects developments and projects at an early stage, but also the opponents’ conflicts and contradictions. It is important to know how that information can be used for one’s own campaign.

Opposition research is not just about the opponent’s weaknesses; it can also serve to anticipate attacks. It is crucial to recognise one’s own potential weaknesses in communication and to ward these off with appropriate responses (arguments, counter-attacks, or ignore them).

There are 3 main activities of opposition research:
Planning of scenarios / analysis of opponents:

  • Monitor strategies of the opponents in order to plan your own activities
  • Understand the opponents and their ‘script’: what persons, messages, strategies, arguments are used in direct confrontation?
  • Analyse past election campaigns and election results
  • Understand the communication strategy of the others
  • Observation: what should be observed?

Reading newspapers is not enough! Overall media monitoring is required

  • Portraits and profiles of opponents
  • Campaign material
  • Direct contacts (mail, canvassing, activities on the streets)
  • Events
  • Networks, trade unions
  • Online media (social media, blogs, etc.)
  • Political attacks and allegations by opponents directed at the Greens

Documentation

  • Archives are worthless if you can’t find any information
  • Material should meet three criteria: correspond to the truth/ be open to the public/ have political relevance

Negative Campaigning

Negative campaigning is a tactic that attacks the opponent directly – with or without comparison to the alternative(s) proposed by one’s own party. In some countries, the Greens are subjected to massive amounts of negative campaigning. Negative campaigning is likely to become an increasingly decisive element of campaigning. Both in day-to-day political debates and in communication networks, polarising statements will get on to the agenda more easily. The sustained success of negative campaigning for campaigners is open to question, however. In the meantime, the negative campaigning in election campaigns has itself become a topic of discussion (e.g. dirty campaigning). In any case, it is crucial to know about attacks by opponents in advance.

 

 

When Lynsey German and the Stop the War Coalition raised the issue of US allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia funding ISIS, they were attacked as lunatic conspiracy theorists…
but, at the time (2014), the US government backed Saudis and their Sunni allies were supporting Isis and al-Qaeda-type movements.

In a leaked US State Department memo, dated 17 August 2014, says they drew on “western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region” and there was no ambivalence about who is backing Isis, which at the time of were butchering and raping Yazidi villagers and slaughtering captured Iraqi and Syrian soldiers.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/hillary-clinton-wikileaks-email-isis-saudi-arabia-qatar-us-allies-funding-barack-obama-knew-all-a7362071.html

We finally know what Hillary Clinton knew all along – US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding Isis

There is a bizarre discontinuity between what the Obama administration knew about the jihadis and what they would say in public

Patrick Cockburn

@indyworld

isisflag.jpg

 

 

It is fortunate for Saudi Arabia and Qatar that the furore over thesexual antics of Donald Trump is preventing much attention being given to the latest batch of leaked emails to and from Hillary Clinton. Most fascinating of these is what reads like a US State Department memo, dated 17 August 2014, on the appropriate US response to the rapid advance of Isis forces, which were then sweeping through northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

At the time, the US government was not admitting that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies were supporting Isis and al-Qaeda-type movements. But in the leaked memo, which says that it draws on “western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region” there is no ambivalence about who is backing Isis, which at the time of writing was butchering and raping Yazidi villagers and slaughtering captured Iraqi and Syrian soldiers.

The memo says: “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.” This was evidently received wisdom in the upper ranks of the US government, but never openly admitted because to it was held that to antagonise Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and Pakistan would fatally undermine US power in the Middle East and South Asia.

For an extraordinarily long period after 9/11, the US refused to confront these traditional Sunni allies and thereby ensured that the “War on Terror” would fail decisively; 15 years later, al-Qaeda in its different guises is much stronger than it used to be because shadowy state sponsors, without whom it could not have survived, were given a free pass.

It is not as if Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and the US foreign policy establishment in general did not know what was happening. An earlier WikiLeaks release of a State Department cable sent under her name in December 2009 states that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan].” But Saudi complicity with these movements never became a central political issue in the US. Why not?

The answer is that the US did not think it was in its interests to cut its traditional Sunni allies loose and put a great deal of resources into making sure that this did not happen. They brought on side compliant journalists, academics and politicians willing to give overt or covert support to Saudi positions.

The real views of senior officials in the White House and the State Department were only periodically visible and, even when their frankness made news, what they said was swiftly forgotten. Earlier this year, for instance, Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic wrote a piece based on numerous interviews with Barack Obama in which Obama “questioned, often harshly, the role that America’s Sunni Arab allies play in fomenting anti-American terrorism. He is clearly irritated that foreign policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally”.

It is worth recalling White House cynicism about how that foreign policy orthodoxy in Washington was produced and how easily its influence could be bought. Goldberg reported that “a widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as ‘Arab-occupied territory’.”

Despite this, television and newspaper interview self-declared academic experts from these same think tanks on Isis, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are wilfully ignoring or happily disregarding their partisan sympathies.

The Hillary Clinton email of August 2014 takes for granted that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding Isis – but this was not the journalistic or academic conventional wisdom of the day. Instead, there was much assertion that the newly declared caliphate was self-supporting through the sale of oil, taxes and antiquities; it therefore followed that Isis did not need money from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The same argument could not be made to explain the funding of Jabhat al-Nusra, which controlled no oilfields, but even in the case of Isis the belief in its self-sufficiency was always shaky.

Iraqi and Kurdish leaders said that they did not believe a word of it, claiming privately that Isis was blackmailing the Gulf states by threatening violence on their territory unless they paid up. The Iraqi and Kurdish officials never produced proof of this, but it seemed unlikely that men as tough and ruthless as the Isis leaders would have satisfied themselves with taxing truck traffic and shopkeepers in the extensive but poor lands they ruled and not extracted far larger sums from fabulously wealthy private and state donors in the oil producers of the Gulf.

Going by the latest leaked email, the State Department and US intelligence clearly had no doubt that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding Isis. But there has always been bizarre discontinuity between what the Obama administration knew about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and what they would say in public. Occasionally the truth would spill out, as when Vice-President Joe Biden told students at Harvard in October 2014 that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates “were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war. What did they do?

They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world”. Biden poured scorn on the idea that there were Syrian “moderates” capable of fighting Isis and Assad at the same time.

Hillary Clinton should be very vulnerable over the failings of US foreign policy during the years she was Secretary of State. But, such is the crudity of Trump’s demagoguery, she has never had to answer for it. Republican challenges have focussed on issues – the death of the US ambassador in Benghazi in 2012 and the final US military withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 – for which she was not responsible.

A Hillary Clinton presidency might mean closer amity with Saudi Arabia, but American attitudes towards the Saudi regime are becoming soured, as was shown recently when Congress overwhelmingly overturned a  presidential veto of a bill allowing the relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government.

Another development is weakening Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies. The leaked memo speaks of the rival ambitions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar “to dominate the Sunni world”. But this has not turned out well, with east Aleppo and Mosul, two great Sunni cities, coming under attack and likely to fall. Whatever Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the others thought they were doing it has not happened and the Sunni of Syria and Iraq are paying a heavy price. It is this failure which will shape the future relations of the Sunni states with the new US administration.

 

 


This article (The US War on Terror Has Cost $5 Trillion and Increased Terrorism by 6,500%) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Darius Shahtahmasebi and theAntiMedia.org.

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http://theantimedia.org/us-war-terror-5-trillion/

September 14, 2016   |   Darius Shahtahmasebi

(ANTIMEDIA) On September 11, 2001, one of the most tragic events in recent American history took place. Close to 3,000 civilians lost their lives in horrific terror attacks that took place on American soil. Fifteen years later, it is time to ask the question: have our counterterror efforts helped to reduce the amount of terrorism in the world? Or at the very least, have they tried to make the world safer?

According to a report released by Dr. Neta Crawford, professor of political science at Brown University, spending by the United States Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and Veteran Affairs since 9/11 is now close to $5 trillion USD. Before we have the chance to ask how a country that has racked up over $19.3 trillion USD in debt can spend $5 trillion USD on war, the focus of this article is to ask:

What has all of this spending achieved?

As Reader Supported News reported at the end of last year, terrorism has increased 6,500 percent since 2002 (they probably should rename it “the war of terror”).

In 2014, the outlet noted, it was reported that 74 percent of all terror-related casualties occurred in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Syria. As stated by Paul Gottinger, a staff reporter for Reader Supported News, out of the aforementioned countries, “only Nigeria did not experience either U.S. air strikes or a military occupation in that year.”

Omitted from that assessment is the fact that the U.S. has been meddling in Nigeria for some time now. Why wouldn’t they? Until recently, Nigeria was Africa’s largest oil producer, as well as the continent’s largest economy until last month.

Hillary Clinton herself refused repeated requests from the CIA to place Boko Haram, the al-Qaeda and ISIS-linked terror group wreaking havoc across Nigeria (statistically they are far more deadly than ISIS), on the U.S. official list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Further, it was Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya that helped catapult Boko Haram into the menace it is today. In 2009, Boko Haram was a small-scale group with very limited weaponry. Following the invasion of Libya and the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan armories were looted, and much of the weaponry was sent over to Syria. However, Boko Haram was able to capitalize on these looted weapons and the instability that rippled throughout Africa following the NATO-led war in Libya. As Peter Weber stated in The Week:

“[Boko Haram’s weaponry] shifted from relatively cheap AK-47s in the early days of its post-2009 embrace of violence to desert-ready combat vehicles and anti-aircraft/ anti-tank guns.”

Boko Haram is just one example of an unforeseen consequence, right?

At least we removed a dictator who was going to massacre his own people in Libya, right?
Despite one’s thoughts on Gaddafi’s moral compass, he was able to transform Libya into Africa’s most prosperous democracy with the highest standard of living on the continent. Since then, Libya has fallen massively in the U.N. Human Development Index ratings (in 2015 alone, Libya fell 27 places). According to UNICEF, there are two million Libyan children out of school in a country that is now plagued by militants, civil war, and extremism. What are the chances of those children out of school being swayed to join a militant group?

Last year, four former U.S. air force service members wrote a letter to Barack Obama warning him that the single most effective recruitment tool for groups like ISIS was the drone program being implemented across the Muslim world, courtesy of the president himself. In fact, three former U.S. air force drone operators have even backed a lawsuit against the state, brought by a Yemeni man who lost members of his family in a drone strike in 2012.

According to Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s “Untold History of the United States”:

“When the U.S. began its Yemeni drone campaign in 2009, Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula had fewer than 300 militants in Yemen.

By mid-2012, that number had jumped to over 1,000.”

Still believe there is no relationship between bombing a country to death and the resulting extremist groups that emerge from the rubble?

It seems as though recent history is just repeating itself over and over — not to mention the cruel and unnecessary havoc unleashed on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. As Ben Swann, an investigative journalist and outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy, stated:

“Before the 2003 U.S. invasion, do you know how many suicide attacks there were in Iraq? None. In the country’s history there had never been one. But since the 2003 invasion, there have been 1,892.

“In Iraq, prior to the start of the Iraq war, there were reportedly just over 1.5 million Christians living in that country. And yet shortly after the war started, more than one million of them fled to Syria. That didn’t work out well. Today fewer than half a million Christians remain and yet are being exterminated by groups like ISIS.”

The list of ways in which the $5 trillion USD effort to stamp out terrorism has either caused more terrorism or done nothing remotely towards curbing terrorism is endless. Even College Humor, in their show “Adam Ruins Everything,” put together an informative piece on how the TSA is almost completely useless, having never prevented a single terrorist attack – ever.

Yet how much money has been flowing into these programs – and still is today?

It’s time for a realistic talk about our counterterrorism efforts. One can only assume the U.S. establishment is not genuine in their bid to fight terrorism across the globe given that they have continued policies that merely exacerbate terrorism and have created a world less safe for future generations.

The first step in preventing future terrorism would be to admit that our current strategy isn’t working.

Anyone who believes otherwise — or who decides to run for president on the promise they will further expand these failed policies — is not only wasting our time, but will be wasting countless lives in the process.

The Tories, under an unelected Prime Minister without a mandate, Theresa May, have today normalised xenophobia and Fascism in Britain.

See: http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2016/10/05/the-tories-have-finally-become-ukip

Don’t worry re: the announcement by Amber Rudd that foreign workers should be registered/listed. It’s not like its without harmless precedent is it? (jk!)

Ref: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/04/jeremy-hunt-nhs-doctors-theresa-may-conservative-conference-live/

Himmler and foreign workers.jpg

Amber Rudd revealed that companies could be forced to publish the proportion of “international” staff on their books in a move which would effectively “name and shame” businesses which “are failing to take on British workers” in here words.

This decision by the Tories is utterly abhorrent and has echoes from history that I find chilling. CuBNHtnXgAAijp-.jpg

IMHO, Employers must decide to refuse to comply with this crypto-fascism. She has adopted the manifesto of the BNP!
If you’re in any doubt as to where on the political spectrum Theresa May’s ideas fall, here’s French National Front Marine Le Pen giving them her seal of approval!

CuAw0TxXYAEFktP.jpg

Ct_SKFxWIAAbp8_.jpg

What particularly sent a shiver down my spine was as May announced she would derogate the British military forces from the ECHR, the European convention on Human Rights, seeing the reaction of the Tory conference, rabidly clapping and cheering, the loudest cheer at Conservative Party Conference 2016 was to May slamming Human Rights lawyers for trying to expose potential war crimes!

This writer thinks derogations from the ECHR (which is nothing to do with Brexit from the EU but is commonly assumed to be by Brexit voters) will make the UK look like hypocrites on the World stage in it’s (self assumed) role as World’s Policeman.

May is only doing this because the MoD has been forced to settle hundreds of cases of abuse and mistreatment on the battlefield that we, the UK, as arbiters of Human Rights in the “Free World” should be trying to eradicate, not permit.

UK armed forces will still be subject to the Laws of Armed Conflict, the Geneva Conventions and UK Service Law, as I’m sure you know?

But none of those treaties and conventions stopped guys like Sgt Andrew Blackman committing war crimes in the battle field of Afghanistan (convicted of murder and imprisoned in 2015 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34267936).

What is genuinely concerning me most, is the way the Tories rabidly greeted the announcement and so, the way the sentiment that many will draw from it, especially as the “Overton Window” of media and political argument has shifted so far to the Right in the UK.

Oh, and by the way. I’m an ordinary working class person from a long line of ordinary working class people… and I HATE when politicians use the phrase “ordinary working class people”!


This was Jeremy Corbyn’s angry response to Theresa May’s speech.

“Conservative Party leaders have sunk to a new low this week as they fan the flames of xenophobia and hatred in our communities and try to blame foreigners for their own failures.

Drawing up lists of foreign workers won’t stop unscrupulous employers undercutting wages in Britain.
Shutting the door to international students won’t pay young people’s tuition fee debts,
and ditching doctors from abroad won’t cut NHS waiting lists.

The Conservatives will instead foster division and discrimination in our workplaces and communities.
Once again, they are making false promises on immigration they can’t deliver. Instead of turning people against each other, ministers should take action now to deal with the real impact of migration.

They should stop the abuse of migrant labour to undercut pay and conditions, which would reduce numbers.

They should support communities with high levels of migration and they should set out a positive agenda for fair migration rules as part of the Brexit negotiations for a new relationship with the European Union.”


Theresa May has been accused of “pure nationalism”

Theresa May has been accused of “pure nationalism” as members of the public began a backlash against parts of her closing speech at the Tory conference.

Mrs May sparked controversy when she said; “if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere” during an attack on international corporations.

It came as the Prime Minister declared “change” was needed as she pledged to transform Britain in the wake of the Brexit vote.

But her comments were described as “pure undisguised nationalism” as critics queued up on social media to attack her over the “divisive” comments.

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/theresa-may-sparks-twitter-backlash-over-citizen-of-the-world-remark-in-conservative-party-a3361701.html

Well, Sorry, Terroriser May!
I’m a homo-sapiens, resident of a planet called ‘Earth’ also known to its inhabitants as the “World”. And this world wasn’t created with notional boundaries.
Boundaries were imposed by other controlling hominids!


TheresaMay is selling bombs to Saudi Arabia who are committing War Crimes in Yemen & supporting al-Qaeda & ISIL/Daesh terrorists in Syria pic.twitter.com/Txs9RyDyhX

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I have shared this important article under “fair use”, with full recognition to the author)

Vice News article: By Samuel Oakford April 19, 2016 | 8:05 pm

https://news.vice.com/article/ungass-portugal-what-happened-after-decriminalization-drugs-weed-to-heroin

As diplomats gather at the United Nations in New York this week to consider the future of global drug policy, one Portuguese official, João Goulão, will likely command attention that far outstrips his country’s influence in practically any other area. That’s because 16 years ago, Portugal took a leap and decriminalized the possession of all drugs — everything from marijuana to heroin. By most measures, the move has paid off.

Today, Portuguese authorities don’t arrest anyone found holding what’s considered less than a 10-day supply of an illicit drug — a gram of heroin, ecstasy, or amphetamine, two grams of cocaine, or 25 grams of cannabis. Instead, drug offenders receive a citation and are ordered to appear before so- called “dissuasion panels” made up of legal, social, and psychological experts. Most cases are simply suspended. Individuals who repeatedly come before the panels may be prescribed treatment, ranging from motivational counselling to opiate substitution therapy.

“We had a lot of criticism at first,” recalled Goulão, a physician specializing in addiction treatment whose work led Portugal to reform its drug laws in 2000, and who is today its national drug coordinator. After decriminalizing, the first inquiries Portugal received from the International Narcotics Control Board — the quasi-judicial UN oversight body established by the UN drug convention system — were sharp and scolding.

“Now things have changed completely,” he went on. “We are pointed to as an example of best practices inside the spirit of the conventions.” Indeed, Werner Sipp, the new head of the board, said as much at the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna earlier this year.

‘It was the combination of the law and these services that made it a success. It’s very difficult to find people in Portugal who disagree with this model.’

Though often narrowly assessed in reference to its decriminalization law, Portugal’s experience over the last decade and a half speaks as much to its free public health system, extensive treatment programs, and the hard to quantify trickle down effects of the legislation. In a society where drugs are less stigmatized, problem users are more likely to seek out care. Police, even if they suspect someone of using drugs, are less likely to bother them. Though at least 25 countries have introduced some form of decriminalization, Portugal’s holistic model and its use of dissuasion panels sets it apart.

The rate of new HIV infections in Portugal has fallen precipitously since 2001, the year its law took effect, declining from 1,016 cases to only 56 in 2012. Overdose deaths decreased from 80 the year that decriminalization was enacted to only 16 in 2012.

In the US, by comparison, more than 14,000 people died in 2014 from prescription opioid overdoses alone. Portugal’s current drug-induced death rate, three per million residents, is more than five times lower than the European Union’s average of 17.3, according to EU figures ( http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/attachements.cfm/att_239505_EN_TDAT15001ENN.pdf).

Related: Here’s What to Expect at the Big Drug Meeting This Week at the UN

When Portugal decided to decriminalize in 2000, many skeptics assumed that the number of users would skyrocket. That did not happen. With some exceptions, including a marginal increase among adolescents, drug use has fallen over the past 15 years and now ebbs and flows within overall trends in Europe. Portuguese officials estimate that by the late 1990s roughly one percent of Portugal’s population, around 100,000 people, were heroin users.

Today, “we estimate that we have 50,000, most of them under substitution treatment,” said Goulão before adding that he’s recently seen a small uptick in use of the drug, predominantly among former addicts that got clean. This reflects Portugal’s tenuous economic condition, he contends.

“People use drugs for one of two reasons — either to potentiate pleasures or relieve unpleasure — and the types of drugs and the type of people who use drugs carries a lot according to the conditions of life in the country,” he remarked.

Parallel harm reduction measures, such as needle exchanges and opioid substitution therapy using drugs like methadone and buprenorphine, he said, serve as a cushion to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and a rise in overdoses even if the number of users injecting heroin happens to increase for a period of time.

“I think harm reduction is not giving up on people,” said Goulão. “I think it is respecting their timings and assuming that even if someone is still using drugs, that person deserves the investment of the state in order to have a better and longer life.”

Such statements, once considered radical, are becoming more appealing to drug officials in other countries. Decriminalization and harm reduction lends greater attention to the human rights of users while allowing law enforcement resources to be spent elsewhere. And though it’s a major shift, Portuguese decriminalization is not a revolution in terms of international law.

Drugs are still illegal in Portugal, drug dealers and traffickers are still sent to jail, and the country has carefully kept itself within the confines of the UN’s drug convention system that inform national drug laws. For decades the three treaties were seen as prescribing jail time for users, but experts have long contended — and governments now increasingly recognize — that they give countries wide latitude in how to treat and police users.

When Portugal decriminalized, UN member states were just years removed from a 1998 special session of the General Assembly that convened under the fanciful pretext of eliminating drug use worldwide. On Tuesday, member states adopted a new outcome document that is meant to reposition drug policy. It stops short of what many advocates would have liked, excluding the actual words “harm reduction” while failing to address the death penalty for drug offenders, which member states noted repeatedly on Tuesday. The document reflects both an evolution in drug policy in many parts of the world over the last two decades, but is also a testament to the continued influence of conservative countries that still favour interdiction.

Related: How Russia Became the New Global Leader in the War on Drugs

Goulão himself is skeptical of some aspects of marijuana reform in places like the United States, which he says can conflate medical use with recreational markets. “Sometimes I feel the promoters of this discussion are mixing things together using a lack of intellectual seriousness,” he said.

Though heroin use is often highlighted to show the efficacy of Portugal’s model, today most users that come before panels are in fact caught with either hashish or cannabis, said Nuno Capaz, a sociologist who serves on Lisbon’s dissuasion panel. Between 80 to 85 percent of all people who report to the panels are first-time offenders and deemed to be recreational users, meaning their cases are suspended.

For those who have been repeatedly caught or are identified as addicts, the panels can order sanctions or treatment. Recreational users may face fines or be ordered to provide community service. If an addict refuses treatment, they are required to check in regularly with their “family doctor” — the medical professional in the person’s locality that provides checkups and other services to them under Portugal’s free national healthcare program. Such a close, pre-existing relationship between medical professionals and Portuguese residents is another feature of the model, and one that could be hard to replicate in a country like the US.

“If the person doesn’t show up at the doctor, we ask the police to personally hand them a notification so they know they are supposed to be in a specific place,” said Capaz. “The important part is to maintain the connection to the treatment system.”

The role of police coordinating with health officials to ensure treatment demonstrates the altered relationship between them and drug users over the past decade and a half, and one that contrasts dramatically with how police orient themselves in countries like the US.

“This small change actually makes a huge change in terms of police officers’ work,” said Capaz, referring to decriminalization. “Of course every police officer knows where people hang out to smoke joints. If they wanted to they would just go there and pick up the same guy over and over. That doesn’t happen.”

Working in parallel to government efforts, non-profit groups play a role in providing clean needles and even distributing crack pipes as a way to entice drug users into the network of state service providers.

Ricardo Fuertes, project coordinator at GAT, an outreach organization founded by people living with HIV, works at one of the group’s drop-in centers, nestled in a residential building in Lisbon. The location, he says, is a sign of the decrease in stigma towards drug use.

“It’s very obvious that it’s a place for people who use drugs. It’s very open, but we don’t have complaints,” said Fuertes, referring to the drop-in center. “The general population even comes to get tests done. I think it shows this isn’t a ghetto service.”

But care and outreach providers and the people they help have felt the pinch of Portugal’s economic troubles. In 2011, the country was bailed out by the European Union and the IMF, and later passed austerity measures that imposed considerable cuts on public services.

Related: Here’s How Zero-Tolerance Drug Policies Have Damaged Public Health Worldwide

Goulão said that drug treatment programs have been relatively insulated, but funds for job programs that could help employers pay the wages of drug users were decreased. Fuertes went a bit further, saying that some providers have had to lower costs. He explained that government funding may be allocated only for a year at a time, making long-term planning difficult.

“It’s not easy for many people, and of course people who use drugs are not the exception,” he said. “We see many of our clients facing very difficult situations.”

Portuguese health workers refer to Greece as a cautionary tale. Wracked by a budgetary crisis and the austerity conditions of repeated bailouts, Greece experienced an explosion of HIV transmission rates after budget cuts left health programs drastically underfunded. According to EU figures, only Greece and Latvia experienced larger cuts than Portugal to its public health services between the period of 2005 to 2007 and 2009 to 2012.

And yet Portugal experienced no discernable rise in HIV transmission — the cushion effect in action.

“Usually the focus is on the decriminalization itself, but it worked because there were other services, and the coverage increased for needle replacement, detox, therapeutic communities, and employment options for people who use drugs,” said Fuertes. “It was the combination of the law and these services that made it a success. It’s very difficult to find people in Portugal who disagree with this model.”

In the run-up to the UN General Assembly’s special session, Goulão cautioned that countries had to consider their own domestic environments first in learning from Portugal’s experience.

“We don’t assume that this is the silver bullet, but in my view it has been very important because it introduced coherence into the whole system,” he said. “If our responses are based in the idea that we talking about addiction, that we are talking about chronic disease, talking about a health issue — to have it out of the penal system is a clear improvement. It was really important for our society because it allowed us to drop the stigma.”

Follow Samuel Oakford on Twitter: @samueloakford

 

An Eight Point Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting)

By John Halle and Noam Chomsky
JohnHalle.com, June 15, 2016

*****

1) Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites.

2) The exclusive consequence of the act of voting in 2016 will be (if in a contested “swing state”) to marginally increase or decrease the chance of one of the major party candidates winning.

3) One of these candidates, Trump; denies the existence of global warming, calls for increasing use of fossil fuels, dismantling of environmental regulations and refuses assistance to India and other developing nations as called for in the Paris agreement, the combination of which could, in four years, take us to a catastrophic tipping point.

Trump has also pledged to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, offered to provide for the defense of supporters who have assaulted African American protestors at his rallies, stated his “openness to using nuclear weapons”, supports a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and regards “the police in this country as absolutely mistreated and misunderstood” while having “done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order.”

Trump has also pledged to increase military spending while cutting taxes on the rich, hence shredding what remains of the social welfare “safety net” despite pretenses.

4) The suffering which these and other similarly extremist policies and attitudes will impose on marginalized and already oppressed populations has a high probability of being significantly greater than that which will result from a Clinton presidency.

5) 4 above, should constitute sufficient basis to voting for Clinton where a vote is potentially consequential-namely, in a contested, “swing” state.

6) However, the left should also recognize that, should Trump win based on its failure to support Clinton, it will repeatedly face the accusation (based in fact), that it lacks concern for those sure to be most victimized by a Trump administration.

7) Often this charge will emanate from establishment operatives who will use it as a bad faith justification for defeating challenges to corporate hegemony either in the Democratic Party or outside of it.
They will ensure that it will be widely circulated in mainstream media channels with the result that many of those who would otherwise be sympathetic to a left challenge will find it a convincing reason to maintain their ties with the political establishment rather than breaking with it, as they must.

8) Conclusion: by dismissing a “lesser evil” electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve.

 

Preamble to the above:

Among the elements of the weak form of democracy enshrined in the U.S constitution, presidential elections continue to pose a dilemma for the left in that any form of participation or non participation appears to impose a significant cost on our capacity to develop a serious opposition to the corporate agenda served by establishment politicians.

The position outlined in this list is that which many regard as the most effective response to this quadrennial Hobson’s choice, namely the so-called “lesser evil” voting strategy or LEV.

Simply put, LEV involves, where you can, i.e. in safe states, voting for the losing third party candidate you prefer, or not voting at all. In competitive “swing” states, where you must, one votes for the “lesser evil” Democrat.

Before fielding objections, it will be useful to make certain background stipulations with respect to the points in the list.

The first is to note that since changes in the relevant facts require changes in tactics, proposals having to do with our relationship to the “electoral extravaganza” should be regarded as provisional. This is most relevant with respect to point 3) which some will challenge by citing the claim that Clinton’s foreign policy could pose a more serious menace than that of Trump.

In any case, while conceding as an outside possibility that Trump’s foreign policy is preferable, most of us not already convinced that that is so will need more evidence than can be aired in a discussion involving this statement. Furthermore, insofar as this is the fact of the matter, following the logic through seems to require a vote for Trump, though it’s a bit hard to know whether those making this suggestion are intending it seriously.

Another point of disagreement is not factual but involves the ethical/moral principle addressed in 1), sometimes referred to as the “politics of moral witness.” Generally associated with the religious left, secular leftists implicitly invoke it when they reject LEV on the grounds that “a lesser of two evils is still evil.” Leaving aside the obvious rejoinder that this is exactly the point of lesser evil voting-i.e. to do less evil, what needs to be challenged is the assumption that voting should be seen a form of individual self-expression rather than as an act to be judged on its likely consequences, specifically those outlined in 4).

The basic moral principle at stake is simple:

not only must we take responsibility for our actions, but the consequences of our actions for others are a far more important consideration than feeling good about ourselves.

While some would suggest extending the critique by noting that the politics of moral witness can become indistinguishable from narcissistic self-agrandizement, this is substantially more harsh than what was intended and harsher than what is merited. That said, those reflexively denouncing advocates of LEV on a supposed “moral” basis should consider that their footing on the high ground may not be as secure as they often take for granted to be the case.

A third criticism of LEV equates it with a passive acquiescence to the bipartisan status quo under the guise of pragmatism, usually deriving from those who have lost the appetite for radical change. It is surely the case that some of those endorsing LEV are doing so in bad faith-cynical functionaries whose objective is to promote capitulation to a system which they are invested in protecting. Others supporting LEV, however, can hardly be reasonably accused of having made their peace with the establishment.

Their concern, as alluded to in 6) and 7) inheres in the awareness that frivolous and poorly considered electoral decisions impose a cost, their memories extending to the ultra-left faction of the peace movement having minimized the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency during the 1968 elections. The result was six years of senseless death and destruction in Southeast Asia and also a predictable fracture of the left setting it up for its ultimate collapse during the backlash decades to follow.

The broader lesson to be drawn is not to shy away from confronting the dominance of the political system under the management of the two major parties. Rather, challenges to it need to be issued with a full awareness of their possible consequences. This includes the recognition that far right victories not only impose terrible suffering on the most vulnerable segments of society but also function as a powerful weapon in the hands of the establishment center, which, now in opposition can posture as the “reasonable” alternative.

A Trump presidency, should it materialize, will undermine the burgeoning movement centered around the Sanders campaign, particularly if it is perceived as having minimized the dangers posed by the far right.

A more general conclusion to be derived from this recognition is that this sort of cost/benefit strategic accounting is fundamental to any politics which is serious about radical change. Those on the left who ignore it, or dismiss it as irrelevant are engaging in political fantasy and are an obstacle to, rather than ally of, the movement which now seems to be materializing.

Finally, it should be understood that the reigning doctrinal system recognizes the role presidential elections perform in diverting the left from actions which have the potential to be effective in advancing its agenda. These include developing organizations committed to extra-political means, most notably street protest, but also competing for office in potentially winnable races.

The left should devote the minimum of time necessary to exercise the LEV choice then immediately return to pursuing goals which are not timed to the national electoral cycle.

By John Halle.