125 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. The interesting thing about the Cuban Missile crisis is that nobody ,including all 3 governments involved ,knew until many years later how close the world came to buttons being pressed . I think its hard to rule out such a situation existing here ,or one developing -although there is not yet an obvious Castro figure prepared to see his country annihilated totally (a sentiment Robert McNamara claimed to have verified years later with Castro himself) .

    Compared to most other places people here are good at seeing things from the others (in this case Russia’s) point of view .That doesnt mean you cant take sides. If anyone is taking sides it isnt in a thoughtless patriotic way .I think if not taking sides means trying to avoid war, that is a good thing in this case . There are no angels in this scenario anyway.

  2. @J-D

    In the 1950’s tibet was used by the USA. In the 1960’s the Vietnamese were used. In 1970’s the Chileans were used by USA. In 1980’s the Afghans were used by the USA. In the 1990’s Iraq was used b y USA.

    Its an old story.

  3. @alfred venison
    There is a difference between saying that the actions of the Ukrainians are partly explained by the efforts of the US to use them as tools of foreign policy and saying that the actions of the Ukrainians are wholly explained by the efforts of the US to use them as tools of foreign policy. To say that US words and deeds are part of the explanation for Ukrainian actions is highly plausible; to say that US words and deeds are all of the explanation for Ukrainian actions is highly implausible. This does not seem to me to be a hard distinction to grasp.

  4. @Ivor
    There is a difference between saying that the actions of Tibetans in the 1950s, Vietnamese in the 1960s, Chileans in the 1970s, Afghans in the 1980s, and Iraqis in the 1990s can be partly explained by the efforts of the US to use them as tools of foreign policy and saying that those actions can be wholly explained by the efforts of the US to use them as tools of foreign policy. To say that US foreign policy is one of the things you need to understand in order to understand what is going on in the world is highly plausible; to say that US foreign policy is the only thing you need to understand in order to understand what is going on in the world is highly implausible. This does not seem to me to be a hard distinction to grasp.

  5. @Megan

    In which case, if Ukraine 2014 is “Putin’s Bay Of Pigs” then surely Russia/Ukraine is playing the role played by Cuba – the US (Kennedy is Obama) and CIA are playing themselves, of course – and the US puppets are played in this re-make by Right Sektor, ‘Yats’ et al.?

    So rather than Putin, in fact Obama’s “effort has been substantially more effective than the Kennedy version”.

    Well no, not really. It’s a pretty laboured analogy of course, like the Cuban missile crisis analogy (in my view), and I didn’t intend it in a spirit of seriousness, as I’m sure you realise. But, to continue the discussion for interest’s sake, in my formulation of “Putin’s Bay of Pigs”, Ukraine plays the role of Cuba (BTW I’m not sure how you got “Russia/Ukraine” as an entity. Did you mean Crimea/Ukraine?), Putin plays the role of Kennedy, the US-backed government in Kiev plays the role of Castro’s revolutionary government (i.e. a new government, seen as hostile to the interests of the traditional hegemon), and the Russian-backed “self-defence volunteers” in Crimea play the role of Brigade 2506. Putin has been more successful than Kennedy in the sense that his acquisition of the Crimea is now a fait accompli, unlike Kennedy’s total failure.

    Of course, the analogy falls over in many ways. Castro’s revolution did not, as far as I am aware, come about with assistance from foreign powers, Putin has not invaded the whole of Ukraine, just Crimea, and Putin’s operation appears to have been bloodless.

    Of course, if you prefer to apply the analogy differently, with the Obama administration’s influencing the recent Ukrainian political turmoil standing in for Kennedy’s invasion, feel free. Analogies are very flexible things. 🙂

  6. @Ivor

    I have read @51 and I can see no such words.

    It seems you have rewritten other peoles posts.

    Well, alfred venison and I have exchanged several comments about it throughout the latter part of this thread. You can interpret my comments addressed to other people however you like, but to be frank, I don’t really see why I should care.

  7. @Julie Thomas

    Yes, interesting to compare the official, prepared for publication views with the visceral, perhaps more authentic attitudes revealed in conversation: increasing taxes was “socialism” to Friedman. The film itself was of the “school project” standard, redeemed by the maker being the J&J heir, which has a door-opening advantage. Needs to be noted that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was the largest philanthropic trust in the US when I looked at it 15 years ago, dispensing almost half a billion dollars p.a. towards what seemed to me worthy projects, although I don’t know how it connects with the company. The film also revealed a diverse range of philanthropist views, from Gates Senior supporting death duties as a form of progressive taxation, and Warren Buffett disowning his daughter for her co-operation with the Johnson filmmaker.

    More discussion and reflection is needed on the the higher incidence of rich philanthropy nowadays, and how it can change priorities and distort institutions: eg. Bill Gates establishing a project in Africa is likely to suck resources and political patronage away from other worthy projects. Melinda seems to have a grounded perspective, and putting experts like Gus Nossal in charge must help, but avoiding failure in a foreign context is a notoriously difficult.

    Having seen on TV the other day news of an International Republican Institute seminar in Aceh, teaching them about democracy, the mind boggles. Quite apart from the cultural divide, US Republicans know about this?

  8. @J-D

    Unfortunately your “part” is not the main.

    Diem and Thieu would not have survived as long as they did except for US intervention.

    Allende would have survived longer except for US intervention.

    By all means – add in other parts when relevant – The Ukrainian situation was discussed on Mandy Vanstone’s ‘counterpoint’ ABC program. She broadcast one view that Ukrainian situation was in part caused by English speaking middle class activists who usurped the Government elected by the majority.

    The problem with – part-mongering, is that the US operates in part overtly, and in part covertly. You only know what really happened when all the documents are released. But we can learn from history.

  9. @kevin1

    For me the impressive bit was that there was, as you saw, an ‘attitude’ that was very different and revealing than the one that is prepared for public consumption. I thought it was because Mr Friedman was talking to ‘one of his own class’ rather than a socialist enemy and so even though the camera was there, he spoke ‘honestly’ to the young man and revealed himself as an intolerant stupid old man unable to defend his ideas.

    The home grown project aspect of the doco is for some young people I know the impressive thing about it; they can identify with this young man’s attitude and objection to the hypocrisy he sees in the old people. The young people I shared it with, saw it as an honest account and even though they live in a different economic universe from this bloke, their social life style does overlap.

    Her painting were crap lol and all parents are hypocritical so they share something real and understandable with this person even though he is of the 1%. I think is better or a necessary part of the ongoing project of getting rid of ‘them’, or their power over us, for us to see them as deluded people in need of a character injection, rather than the enemy.

    The rest of the doco was unconvincing as an argument for any real issues, and to people who know about this stuff it was boring. But there was enough information at a level that starts people who have been uninterested in the topic until now, looking for more evidence or at least being able to talk to their friends about what is happening.

    So true that the philanthropy aspect is a problem and “avoiding failure in a foreign context is a notoriously difficult” project. These things can’t be done by ‘individuals’ carrying out their own idiosyncratic ideas about what the world needs. How bizzare is that? It’s so obvious to anyone but those deluded by their privilege to think they are special, that the existing culture is where one starts, to do good, from the bottom-up not top-down.

    And the end bit of the doco where the Dad just couldn’t explain the reasoning that had convinced him not to persist with his ‘alleviating poverty’ project, was a nice ending.

  10. @Ivor
    I have no idea what you mean by ‘part-mongering’. I also don’t know what you mean when you write that my ‘”part” is not the main’. There isn’t any part that is specifically my part.

  11. @Ivor
    I understood the part about the US operating covertly, but it’s not only the US that operates covertly, and obviously whatever is being done covertly (by the US or anybody else) you don’t know about, or it wouldn’t be covert.

  12. March 10, 2014 via Morning Star
    Dr Tomasz Pierscionek is editor of the London Progressive Journal


    The initially peaceful and middle-class led protests in Kiev, which later gave way to fascist-orchestrated violence, did not begin solely because of President Victor Yanukovych’s refusal to accept a paltry offer of aid from the EU in exchange for opening up Ukraine’s markets for plunder by a cash-strapped and desperate alliance.

    Such an act would have almost inevitably led to the collapse of industry in the east of Ukraine alongside a westward leaching of the country’s wealth.

    Yanukovych was undoubtedly aware of what EU loans have meant for Greece.

    Other factors also likely played a role in his reluctance to be strong-armed by the EU.

    Ukrainian oligarchs, who control much of the industry in eastern Ukraine, may have pressed Yanukovych not to accept any deal as they would have lost out to competition from the wealthier and more organised capitalist forces of the EU.

    Additionally, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer of €15 billion (£12.4bn) compared to the EU’s €1bn (£830 million) and Putin’s power to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine could have played a role in Yanukovych’s decision.

    The challenge to the old order in Ukraine follows two decades of falling living standards.

    Ordinary Ukrainian citizens were finding it harder to survive as wealth inequalities grew, leading to an increasingly impoverished majority alongside an ever wealthier elite.

    Some in the latter group had been members of the Communist Party of Ukraine pre-1991, having joined to advance their career prospects rather than through confidence in the scientific method of Marxism-Leninism and a genuine desire to improve the lot of the majority. They found the transition from party bureaucracy to bourgeois democracy relatively straightforward.

    Yanukovych and his cronies represent a faction of the Ukrainian ruling class that faces towards Moscow in contrast to the pro-EU faction led by darlings of the West Yulia Tymoshenko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko.

    Klitschko himself has lived in Germany for many years yet manages to be head of the Udar (Punch) party in Ukraine.

    In the final analysis, neither wing of the Ukrainian elites had anything of substance to offer the impoverished and demoralised majority.

    The Obama regime in the US, undoubtedly still seething at Putin’s role in forcing the US to suspend plans for bombing Syria coupled with Russia’s sheltering of US National Security Agency truth-teller Edward Snowden, seized the opportunity to wade in and spread “democracy.”

    Nato – read the US – has long harboured plans to expand its influence eastwards into former Soviet territory and tried to do so during the Ukrainian “orange” revolution of 2004 and the 2003 Georgian “rose” revolution.

    A Nato-backed puppet government installed in Ukraine could lead to the loss of one of Russia’s most strategically important naval bases, the headquarters of the Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol in the Crimea.

    In the early days of the demonstration, top-level politicians from the US, including former presidential candidate and Republican Party senator John McCain and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, travelled to Kiev to hand out cookies and give the protests a stamp of approval.

    For those with any understanding of history and politics, alarm bells must have started to sound.

    If the Kiev protest movement had truly represented the interests of the working people of Ukraine, top neocons would not have been seen fraternising with protesters.

    While its politicians were interfering in Ukrainian affairs, the US warned Russia that any intervention in Ukraine would be a “grave mistake.”

    One can only speculate on the US State Department’s reaction if a member of Yanukovych’s party, or indeed a Russian politician, had travelled to New York at the height of the Occupy Movement to express public support for the 99 per cent.

    Despite sporadic fighting between protesters and police, violence rapidly intensified around the weekend of February 22-23.

    A day before the escalation Yanukovych had signed a compromise deal with opposition leaders.

    Shortly after the agreement, remarkably well-organised and armed far-right street gangs sprang into action attacking police, occupying government buildings and easily wresting control from the protest leaders.

    In the absence of a genuine working-class alternative, the most organised and fanatical forces in Ukrainian society sprang forth to fill the vacuum.

    Leaders of far-right paramilitary organisations such as Oleg Tyahnibok, leader of the neonazi Svoboda movement, who has a history of fighting alongside Chechen militants against Russian forces, installed themselves in key government positions.

    Several Svoboda leaders were appointed to the cabinet, three of whom were declared to be ministers of education, culture and justice.

    Other cabinet members hail from the centre-right Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) and Udar parties.

    The Svoboda movement – until 2004 called the Socialist-Nationalist Party of Ukraine – is descended from Stepan Bandera’s Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists which fought alongside Hitler’s forces after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and was responsible for mass exterminations of civilians.

    At that time, Bandera issued a manifesto which stated: “Moskali [Ukrainian slang for Russians], Poles and Jews are hostile to us and must be exterminated in this struggle.”

    Many of Svoboda’s current members had fathers and grandfathers who fought in Bandera’s organisation.

    The next several days saw far-right protesters in Ukraine wielding flags of the German-led EU as they marched through the streets suppressing democracy, intimidating supposed rivals and openly making threats to Jews, Russians and other ethnic minorities.

    Yet EU and US officials still claimed that the protest movement spearheaded by the far-right was somehow a move towards democracy and for the most part did not condemn what was effectively a coup d’etat.

    If even a fraction of the violence seen during the weekend of February 22-23 had occurred on the streets of Britain or the US, there can be little doubt that live rounds would have been used – in the US martial law might even have been declared – and the state-serving media would have likened the protesters to the spawn of Satan.

    In the US, even a peaceful movement such as Occupy Wall Street was met with massive brutality.

    An example of this, caught on camera and broadcast around the world, was the sight of NYPD officers assaulting and spraying seated and handcuffed protesters in the face with pepper spray.

    In Britain, a document produced by the City of London police listed the Occupy Movement alongside violent organisations, such as Farc in Columbia and al-Qaida in Pakistan.

    Recently leaders of the Jewish community in Ukraine issued a warning to their 200,000-strong community advising them to leave the area in the wake of increasing threats from far-right groups.

    Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman of Kiev stated: “I told my congregation to leave the city centre or the city altogether and, if possible, the country too.”

    There were also calls from the far-right to ban Russian as a second language in Ukraine alongside other threats to other minority groups.

    At the beginning of the month the Russian Parliament voted to approve a request by President Putin to use military forces to protect ethnic Russians living in the east of Ukraine should they come under attack from fascist paramilitary forces making good their threats.

    Earlier, the lower house of Russia’s Parliament had requested that Putin “take measures to stabilise the situation in Crimea and use all available means to protect the people of Crimea from tyranny and violence.”

    Without hesitation British and US media went into overdrive, spouting myths of Putin’s desire for a new cold war and pretending that Russia had invaded Ukraine.

    Such an example of lying by omissions ignore the fact that Ukraine and Russia have longstanding mutual agreements which permit Russia access to Ukrainian airspace and allow for Russia to maintain up to 25,000 troops in its bases in the Crimea.

    Although Russia has sent troops to Crimea in recent days, at the time of writing it is estimated that there are only half the permitted numbers of Russian soldiers in Crimea.

    In the mainstream media little mention was made of the role the US and EU played in instigating the crisis and no mention was made of the very real invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya undertaken by Western forces.

    Additionally, US and European governments should be asked how they would act if an actual hostile force was issuing threats to their expat communities, bearing in mind the destruction wrought on a non-threatening country such as Iraq.

    Many genuine criticisms of Putin could be made but warmongering is not one of them, especially since the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact was disbanded following the end of the cold war while the West’s “defensive alliance” of Nato continues to behave aggressively.

    With Crimean citizens forming their own self-defence committees to protect against any aggression from paramilitary forces in Kiev, one has to ask whether Ukraine could go the way of Yugoslavia and descend into internecine conflict. Ukraine is also on the verge of a economic collapse – that word default here again – and the IMF is only too ready to ratchet up the poverty level with offers of “aid” in exchange for various “concessions,” as in Greece.

    One positive piece of news is that sections of the Ukrainian armed forces have refused to follows orders given by the unelected cabal in Kiev, leaving open the possibility of the isolation of the Kiev-based politicians and paramilitaries (if they don’t receive a shot in the arm from the West, that is).

  13. J-D :
    @alfred venison
    If the description of one in three of the present Ukrainian cabinet as fascists is not inflated rhetoric, partisan polemic, or subjective interpretation, but fact, then it should be possible to support it with evidence.

    oleksandr sych – deputy prime minister – leader of svoboda – fascist.

    oleh makhnitskyy – chief prosecutor – svoboda – fascist.

    andriy nokhnyk – ecology – svoboda – fascist.

    ihor shvaika – agriculture – svoboda – fascist

    tetyana chornovol, journalist – anti corruption – una-unso (now part of right sector) – fascist.

    andriy parubiy – head, national security council – currently fatherland party, founded far right social-national party with oleksandr sych, svoboda leader – fascist.

    dmytro yarosh – deputy, national security council – leader of right sector – fascist. -a.v.

  14. A good quote from Tony Benn, 2005:

    Five questions to ask the powerful

    What power have you got?

    Where did you get it from?

    In whose interests do you exercise it?

    To whom are you accountable?

    How can we get rid of you?

    Only democracy gives us that right. That is why no-one with power likes democracy and that is why every generation must struggle to win it and keep it; including you and me, here and now.

  15. Some comments on the various manifestations of the “social utility” of the ABC.

    The Checkout continues to be the most unbridled and least compromised ABC show, where the external political environment gets the respect it deserves: none at all.

    • Being of consumerist orientation, it’s of great utility to Left and Right critics
    • Drags in many objective experts to validate its points
    • Snappy and well-produced; this is a program which knows how to communicate

    The Victorian anchor for the weekly 730 Report is Josie Taylor, a brave reporter (as the state govt. could decide to blackball her) who doesn’t give ministers a soft ride; the result is that dissenters/renegades come to her (like DHS whistleblowers) cos they know her loyalty is to the public; good on you Josie!

    Also, the public media comments and poll prohibitions which operate now in SA and Tas. – what’s the point, if commenters can say what they like? Is there an ongoing contradiction here?

    Another issue, heading out to Left field (or maybe to the training ground) is that, listening to coaches talk about their players, and how they “love” them (or at least have a close relationship), is how different is this to capitalists or their agents who see workers as impersonal production ciphers.

    While professing interest in productivity, what sort of productive response can bosses expect when they treat workers as functionally equivalent to tonnes of inputs, or dollars of machinery? Especially in “service” industries, where the worker influences the product so strongly.

  16. @Megan

    I haven’t had time to catch up on the incredible history of this posh guy who threw his lot in with the working class a long time ago. He didn’t do it for self-interest (I hope readers will reflect on what this means for social change strategies), and used his talents (arguably fostered by his privileged upbringing) to support radical change.

    A great man, of unflinching determination and loyalty to the working class who bravely betrayed his (royal) class. He is a once-er, who mixed it with his peers to fight for us.

  17. Interesting that Wikipedia (which, shock-horror, can be wrong!) gives 4 reasons for Tony’s move to the left (I’m calling him Tony rather than Benn cos this is a guy of rare sincerity, who deserves the greatest respect):

    “Benn attributed his move to the left to four lessons: 1) how “the Civil Service can frustrate the policies and decisions of popularly elected governments”; 2) the centralised nature of the Labour Party allowing to the Leader to run “the Party almost as if it were his personal kingdom”; 3) “the power of industrialists and bankers to get their way by use of the crudest form of economic pressure, even blackmail, against a Labour Government”; and 4) the power of the media, which “like the power of the medieveal Church, ensures that events of the day are always presented from the point of the view of those who enjoy economic privilege.

  18. @Jim Rose

    In a rare response to you, I will say:

    The virtue of the iconoclastic Left is that it is a thinking not a tribal Left: its loyalty is to pragmatic and over-arching principles and benefits, not subservient to repressive “principles”. One reason why I have always been a revolutionary but never described myself as a communist – hitching my wagon to other people’s “gods on earth” is a bridge too far.

  19. @Tim Macknay


    Here is the same concept in a different quote from him (I like this one better):

    “If one meets a powerful person – Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler – one can ask five questions: what power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.”

    I’m guessing the Murdoch press won’t spend much time covering the passing of this great man.

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