How Dare They?

I am sitting here struggling with the story line for my next short story, one of a series of short stories centred around the fictive village of Stoke Fercroft, somewhere in an England which does not exist, an England which P G Wodehouse might have written about, but where people have smartphones, and the trains run on diesel or electricity, and not coal. And suddenly the futility of what I am doing hits me.

I write about ordinary people with ordinary lives, with hobbies, interests, dreams. They have children who go to school, and sometimes leave the village to join the outside world. They have places of work where they perform their jobs with pride in the fact that they have a job and that they try their best to do it well. They have a café and a pub where they meet their friends. They have houses, perhaps with a garden. Sometimes they will get sick, and go to the health centre, or maybe be sent to hospital, and some of them get better and return to their lives, and others do not, and their friends attend their funerals. There is an old-folks home for those whose children have left the village.

Their stories are about love, love returned or love unrequited, love of a parent for a child or a child for a parent; they are stories about tribulations and resolutions; stories about triumph over adversity. For something must make my story people worth reading about. And it occurs to me that these people are very much like people in general, you and I, and all our friends and relatives, and people we only know to nod to in the street, but who belong to our village, or our town.

They are like people who lived in Tripoli, or Mosul, or Aleppo, before the West brought them democracy. They had rich lives, too. They had children who went to school, they had places of work, they had cafés where they met their friends, and health centres and hospitals for when they were ill. They had homes, with or without gardens. They had parks. Very much like people in general, you and I, and all our friends and relatives, and people we only know to nod to in the street…

And then somebody made up lies about them. The people in Mosul have weapons of mass destruction. The people of Tripoli live in fear of their lives under a ruthless dictator. The people of Aleppo also. We must stop the people of Mosul from using their weapons of mass destruction on their neighbours or – horrible thought – smuggling them out to use in our country. We must protect the people of Tripoli and Aleppo from the brutality of their dictators. How? Not by removing the weapons or the dictators, but by bombing to rubble their schools, their places of work, their cafés, their health centres and hospitals, and yes, their homes, too. All rubble to celebrate the lies.

Go out in your garden, turn round and look at your house. Now imagine it turned to rubble. All your possessions inside – or rather under – the bricks and wood and glass. Maybe even family members lying there, too. Nowhere to eat your next meal, if you can find food to cook and somewhere to cook it. Nowhere to piss or defaecate in peace, nowhere to sleep. Look at the garden, mere crater holes where your cabbages and potatoes and roses once grew.

And get angry.

Look at your neighbours' houses and see them, too, reduced to rubble, perhaps one or two members of the families staring helplessly at their own rubble and thinking the same thoughts. Turn again and see the rubble which was the school your children would have gone to tomorrow morning. A little further down the road is the rubble that was your place of work, just across the street from the rubble which was the café or pub where you were to have met some friends for a game of darts, a pint of beer and maybe a plate of stew. And that pile of rubble over there, isn't – wasn't – that the health centre, close by the pile of rubble which was the hospital. Not many patients or staff got out of there.

Imagine all this and get angry. 

 And next time there is an election coming up, don't let the politicians lead you astray with talk of jobs, health care and welfare. They have not done anything except talk about these three items during the sixty years I have been voting.

Get angry.

Ask them instead whether there hasn't been enough of the lies, enough of the bombing, enough of the rubble, and what are they going to do about that? Will they just blindly go along with their fellow leaders in Brussels or London or Washington on the back of the next lie, to destroy the lives of richness of yet another group of people under piles of rubble? Send them out to Tripoli and Mosul and Aleppo to see for themselves what their lies have created. Leave them there overnight and come for them again around lunch time, or early evening.

Get angry.

Ask them how they dare do these things. How dare they destroy whole cultures and send the survivors to wander in the desert, whether it is a desert in the middle east or a desert they have created in the Balkans?

Get angry.

Or one day those people who ordered the destruction of Tripoli and Mosul and Aleppo may just decide that there is a lie to be told about my story characters, the people just like you and I. They might send the bombs to Stoke Fercroft.

And that would make me very angry.

The changing world

It is my thesis today that we are ruled by psychopaths. We have probably always been ruled by psychopaths, but in my youth and a good deal of my mature years we were, or the majority of us were, too naive to realise this. But the nature of today's psychopaths has changed from those of my youth, changed for the worse, and now we can more easily see their true nature.

In my youth we lived in what I have heard described as a benevolent dictature. Our lords and masters for the most part maintained a benevolent interest in our welfare. Of course there were some regional bullies, and I have to admit I do not know how the people fared under these conditions. Perhaps those that could, moved, leaving, as always, the less mobile – the old, the young, the too poor – to languish under the wicked baron. But it was the squire who started the school for the children of his villagers, perhaps encouraged by his daughters who had been reading Dickens. It was the squires – or of course their seniors – who made the roads and maintained them, to ease the transport of their own goods, and at the same time, those of their subjects. And so also with other improvements in the general standard of living.

To be sure, my picture is somewhat idealised. Life was still hard, brutal perhaps, but not, perhaps, as brutal as previously, for those at the bottom of the food chain, whose principal interest was the well-being of himself and his family and friends.

All that has changed, and I would propose that it has changed at an accelerating rate from probably around the nineteen seventies or eighties, and since the turn of the century it has changed almost exponentially.

When I was young, a large company's profit would be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds – let us use today's exchange rate, and convert that to millions of Swedish kronor. A company which made a 5% return on capital was doing well. Today, that company must make a 15% return on capital to keep its shareholders happy, and companies like Volvo, ABB and the like report earnings in the billions of kronor, or, say, the hundred millions of pounds. The profit has increased a thousand-fold, and the return by a factor of three. Which means that the profit per share has increased over three hundred times.

When I was young, a lower middle class wage was sufficient to keep a man, his wife and his children in a reasonable standard of living. Today, for a family in more or less the same class, two wages are not sufficient. To be sure, the definition of 'a reasonable standard of living' has changed over the last sixty or seventy years. My family owned our house, which was, of course, mortgaged. Many owned their houses; many more rented. We had good clothes, we ate well, of a good variety. We owned a television set, and my parents and I read books. We had a telephone.

We did not, of course, have mobile phones nor personal computers. We did not replace our wardrobes every few weeks. We did not go out on amusements often, although my brother was out and about with his friends every Friday, Saturday and occasionally Sunday night. For the rest of us there was, perhaps, a visit to the local cinema once a week (until the television came). (I am told that one of my parents went to the early performance of the weekly film at the cinema which was perhaps a ten-minute walk away. The other parent waited until ten minutes before the second performance was due to start, and then set off, passing the other parent roughly half way between home and cinema, and I was left sleeping in my bed. Oh, the thrill of it for them!)  To be in debt other than to the bank (for the mortgage) and perhaps if one had a monthly account at the butchers, bakers, and candle-stick makers, was shameful.

All these things: the latest electronic devices; new clothes every few weeks; forty television channels all showing cookery programs and reality programs for a monthly fee over half my monthly salary back in the days when I started work; entertainments at home and out of it, Netflix and Spotify; all these have we been encouraged to obtain whether or not we can afford them – usually we cannot, and have credit card debts and mobile loans, and dare not leave our jobs if we can avoid it. We are prisoners of our own indebtedness.

But all this is not my point. These comments are merely the symptoms, but hardly the disease.

Our leaders, whether in industry and commerce or in politics, have now left us out of their reckoning. There is no longer any feeling for their subjects. The dictature is no longer benign.

Here is what I see. Multinational companies move their production facilities from the home country to low-wage countries. For a few years, ten, twenty, perhaps as many as fifty, their wage bill will be reduced before the countries they have moved to have organised their labour and raised wages to more reasonable levels, by which time production will have been fully robotised, and they can do away with almost all their labour costs. Or if not, the standard of living in the original home country will have fallen so low that it will pay them to move their production facilities back, for another ten or twenty years of increased profitability.

Our governments do nothing to penalise this maltreatment of their citizens. Instead they join forces with the companies and increase successively the royalty period of intellectual property, and help manufacturers to maintain the prices consumers have always paid, regardless of the fact that production costs have now been reduced by the move to low-wage countries.

With the decreasing wage structure in the home country, as qualified jobs move abroad and are, perhaps, replaced by unqualified ones, the tax base falls. Taxes cannot be raised for people living on the breadline so the quality of service must be reduced. Services are no longer services, but are turned over to private companies without even the notion of quality control, and the quality inevitably falls, for what is the effect of quality, if not to reduce profit. The higher the standard one maintains, the more it costs, and the lower the return. Even worse, the unemployment rate increases, even though the actual value may be disguised by a creative use of statistics, but the unemployed require support, and this further reduces the tax base, requiring further cut-backs in services.

In one area our lords and masters do not cut back. Military expenditure always increases. To ensure this, those same lords and masters create enemies, real or, more often imaginary, to justify the military expenditure. We know the lies which brought war to Iraq in 2003. Less well known are the lies which brought war to the Balkans in the 1990s, to Libya in 2011 and to Syria also in 2011. And these are just the known wars. Forgotten are the wars in Afghanistan, and the horn of Africa has had its devastating wars also. And one of the principal purposes of all these wars is the sale of weapons. Another is the lust for power. Power to decide over every person on our planet.

Just now three new imaginary enemies are being forced down our throats, or four if one counts terrorism. The other three are Russia and China and Iran. Here is a feast for our psychopaths! Two of the three are unbeatable, singly or together, and an attack on the third would bring the other two into the fray, for these three are all members of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (well, Iran will be a full member very soon). The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organisation, on the military side a sort of Eurasian NATO, with this difference that the SCO is for defence and not, like NATO, for attack. There is actually another difference – the SCO is also political and economic as I said, which means that politics and economic considerations play a role in decisions, and military matters are more likely to be a question of defence. NATO is purely military, and as they say, if you only have a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

The size and power and magnitude of these new imaginary enemies are such that direct war, we must hope, will never break out, for if it does, the end of mankind is at hand. But they will be used as the justification for ever increasing military expenditure at home and abroad. And, in a little corner, perhaps terrorism will be targetted, when it is not being fostered.

And still nothing will be done to replace or restore the services we have lost. Indeed they will be reduced even further.

It seems to me that the point of no return has been reached. We can no longer rise up and demand that our leaders change course. The degree of surveillance to which we are subjected is such that there is no chance of accumulating a sufficiently large body of influence before the forces arraigned against any such moves would be brought into action and those brave initiators at the very least denigrated in the media, those powerful weapons of opinion forming, which are totally in the hands of the psychopaths. At the worst they could be defused by imprisonment on some pretext, as so often happens in some countries.

Think about what I have just said: the psychopaths have everyone under surveillance. What happened to innocent until proven guilty – or at least a reasonable level of suspicion? What happened to applying to a court for permission to examine a suspect's mail, tap his phone, watch his every move? Think about the third force in the community, the press, whose brief has always been to critically examine the other two forces, government and parliament, and hold them to account. In the first place, they have been bought up by the psychopaths and now promulgate the psychopaths' message, and in the second place, the mad hunt for profit means that investigative journalism does not have a sufficiently high return on investment. It is far easier and cheaper to report on the latest scandals of well-known figures, which, in the case of people in the entertainment industry, are good publicity. So now the media themselves are the entertainment industry, and one must go hunting on the internet for alternative news, with the concommittent necessity of analysing the quality of what is produced by the various sites.

I suppose one has to point to Donald Trump as an attempt to challenge the psychopaths. Trump can hardly string together two sentences without causing confusion, but the general idea, at least amongst his supporters, and apparently also amongst his detractors, is that he is the rallying point for those opposed to the rule of the psychopaths. And look at the result: the stormiest first month of a presidency; one of his key appointments forced to resign on extremely dubious grounds; another in danger of the same fate for the same excuse; a total lack of positive comments from the media, in fact the reverse, total criticism of every pronouncement; and the ultimate psychopaths, the infamous CIA reportedly leaking secret information – and in the process confirming the existence and universality of citizen surveillance.

I suppose in Trump's case the only reason he got as far as he did was because nobody, especially not the psychopaths, really believed that he would. The problem is that Trump is not the kind of person to lead a successful rebellion. 

1 – 0 to the psychopaths.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Actually it's not the flowers that I'm interested in. It's the money. Where has all the money gone? A number of recent news items have brought this question to the forefront of my mind. One was the heavily contested decision of a regional authority in the north of Sweden to close the maternity wing of a hospital, with the result that expectant mothers must now travel some 100 to 150 kilometers to find a place to have their babies. The situation is so aggravated that local night-schools are now holding courses on how to deliver a baby in the back of a car.

Another related news item was part of the interview with Jack Ma, the owner of the Chinese company, Alibaba. You can hear the crucial part at this address. and if you are interested in the rest of his thoughts, you will find the full interview referenced on the same page. His theme in the snippet linked above was that the US had mis-spent $14 trillion over the past thirty years on overseas wars instead of, as he says, ”you're supposed to spend it on your own people”.

Jack Ma was talking about the US, but what he says can be applied to almost any country in the western world. How much have we read about cut-backs in Britain's National Health Service? How much do we hear of rising unemployment due to manufacturing jobs being transferred to low-wage countries, and when we hear of a reversal of this trend how often is it jobs pushing coffee at Starbucks or flipping burgers at McDonalds which account for the temporary upswing?

Within my lifetime schools were homes of learning and the schoolteacher was a pillar of the community. Some companies had an unwritten policy that employment was employment for life and only a disaster could alter that fact. Hospital patients stayed until they were well. Mothers spent a week around the birth of their baby. Now they are sent home on the same day or at the latest the day after. To be a doctor or nurse was also a respected profession but now doctors and nurses are as stressed as production-line employees, or would be if there were any production lines left, and whole wards are resigning because the workload is so great that patient safety is endangered. And all this notwithstanding that the services have been cut back till they bleed. Although it is the cutting back, of course, which results in the stress and the resignations. Where has the money gone which has changed this situation?

Jack Ma gives us at least part of the answer to this question. Think of the renewal of the UK's nuclear arsenal for a price tag of billions of pounds. For three submarines. Think of Sweden's order for I do not know how many replacement fighter planes, which will be draining the government coffers for ten or twenty years. And Sweden is supposed to be a neutral country!

There is not a country in the western world which has not seriously increased its military spending in recent years, often in response to a call from the policeman of the planet to come and help in the latest in a long line of wars, wars which without exception are totally unjustified.

What kind of danger was Saddam Hussein's Iraq to the west? Please don't mention his nuclear arsenal. How did Muhammar Ghaddafi threaten us? What has Bashar al Assad done to the west? Did you notice that all three of these countries are secular, by the way, by contrast with, say, Saudi Arabia or Qatar, which are unashamedly religious and arguably far more brutal towards their citizens than any of the three above?

Another contributory factor to the need for cutbacks is the growing unemployment, notwithstanding that the statistics are being fudged so much. We have allowed industry to export its production for short-sighted economic reasons, and not done anything to stem the tide by, for example, penal duties on imports of goods which once were manufactured locally. As a consequence salaries have fallen as skilled jobs have been replaced by unskilled service-sector jobs, and as the next step in the chain of consequence, tax income has fallen. There has been a smaller cake to divide and so services have suffered.

A third factor is the privatisation of functions which are public services. When the profit motive steps in, every expense is a reduction of profit, and to be avoided. So necessary maintenance is not carried out, as on the railways. ”Unnecessary” administrative jobs in schools can be added to the teachers' workload and the same thing applies to the health services – let the doctors and nurses do the administration.

How different would the situation be if our politicians had been more concerned with looking after the people who gave them their jobs and who pay their wages, and less concerned with turning large areas of the middle east and eastern Europe into piles of rubble? So to echo my previous post in this blog, let's start taking the popular course and see if we can't improve the welfare of our citizens.

After all, if a real threat to our security were to appear as opposed to the fictive threats painted by our politicians, the citizens would be only too quick to man the barricades. But if our politicians don't realise this obvious fact, it will be different barricades which the citizens man.

Populism and Popularity

I think we should be very suspicious of people who use the terms ”populism” and ”populistic” about people who promulgate ideas which do not fit in with the picture of our world presented by the ones who, for the moment at least, are in power. Another name for populism in politics would be the will of the people, a concept which many politicians today have forgotten.

Well, not forgotten. The will of the people is a concept of which today's politicians stand in fear, challenging as it does their sense of their own supremacy in determining the views we shall have and the decisions we shall appear to make. Politicians have for a long time relegated the will of the people to a back seat, so far back, in fact, that it is doubtful whether it has a place on the bandwagon at all.

There is this strange contradictory notion that populism in democracies is dangerous. If you want to have a true democracy then you have to let the people decide, even if the people decide to do stupid things. If you think that the politicians need to be able to think for the people and even go against their will then that means you do not want a democracy. Few people seem to see this contradiction.

”Popular” is an adjective with at first sight a positive connotation. It implies something which finds favour with a lot of people, perhaps even a majority. To counteract the tendency to assume that something which finds favour with a lot of people is to be striven for, the term ”populism” has been created with a decidedly negative connotation. Something which is populistic is intended to be seen as apparently favourable to a society, but actually harmful, if only its proponents were as wise and all-seeing as the users of the term populism.

As an exercise in the use of words to steer thinking, try substituting the word ”popular” for ”populistic”. Under this criterion Marine le Pen would be a popular French politician. Brexit would be a popular decision, as would the rise of Podemos in Spain and the election of Syriza in Greece. Although I have to admit that the popular election of Syriza was followed by the extremely unpopular reneging by the new government of everything they had offered the people of Greece, and which the people had voted not once, not twice but three times for.

Although he is called populistic I do not regard the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States as being along the same lines as the other examples I have given. Trump's pronouncements during the election process were so contradictory that it was not possible to determine in advance what his policies would be, with the exception of certain loud noises such as the wall along the Mexican border. I suspect rather that Trump was elected because he was seen to be not a part of the ruling minority.

Whatever the ruling minority might think, people are not stupid. Although we have forgotten that our elected representatives are placed where they are to server our interests, and we have come to see them as our rulers rather than our servants, they have made too many too stupid mistakes for their falsehood not to be apparent.

Take migration. Most people are in favour of helping their neighbours, without regard for the fact that their neighbours in this sense worship a different god and have different customs. But the people in the receiving countries see through the situation. They see for one thing that these migrants, just like themselves, would rather have stayed in their own homes, gone to their old jobs, sent their children to the same schools and received health care at the same hospitals. But the short-sightedness or greed or some combination of these has led to the destruction of their homes, their places of work, their children's schools and their hospitals. What option do they have but to leave? Stop the bombing and the migration will stop, for only a small minority of migrants are economic migrants. The majority are asylum migrants.

They see, too, that those in power in the receiving countries make a loud noise about welcoming migrants, for not to do so would be to be labelled as racist at the very least. But they make only a nominal effort to incorporate the newcomers into their new society. They see that the already strained resources in schools, hospitals, housing, which their leaders have made no attempt to build away, are strained even more. Here in Sweden we have welcomed enough people since the turn of the century to people a fourth major city, as large or larger than any of the other three.

They see that those with commercial power have shipped out their jobs to regions of the world where living and working conditions are on a lower level than here at home, exacerbating thereby the constraints on their welfare resulting from the strained resources mentioned above.

Which brings me to another point which will better be handled in a separate post.

On 'falling' and 'liberating'.

This is an open ietter to Swedish television news, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyheter and other Swedish media companies

This post is going to be in Swedish and English. I'm not sure the media companies named above can manage English. They certainly can't manage Swedish. They keep making silly mistakes, which is what this post is about. Note that the Swedish is not a direct translation of the English and is not intended to be.

English version

Now, when the battle for Aleppo appears to be only a few days away from being over, I would like to correct a misapprehension common to the three news agencies mentioned above, and, indeed, several others.

When the final quarters of the city are once more in the hands of government forces, the description is not that the city has fallen to the Syrian Army, with or without mentioning their allies. The city will have been liberated from terrorists by the legitimate government of the country, and its legitimate army and allies. It doesn't matter what Washington says. Using the wrong terms is just bad Swedish.

Since there seems to be a certain amount of doubt about who are the bad guys and who the good, here are some hints:

    • The good guys don't behead people who fall into their hands
    • The good guys don't take people hostage and demand ransomes
    • The good guys don't rape women or sell them as sex slaves
    • The good guys don't imprison civilians
    • The good guys don't use civilians as a human shield
    • The good guys don't shoot civilians who try to get out of beleaguered territory
    • The good guys are those who receive with open arms civilians who manage to escape, give them food and a save haven.
    • There are no moderate rebels, since the so-called moderate rebels have broken most or all of the first six points on this list.
    • Civilian casualties are unavoidable in war, but the criminals are the ones who start the war, not those who try to protect their country from invaders, without regard to how the invaders seek to justify the invasion.

Swedish version

Det här är ett öppet brev till SVT, SvD, DN och andra media.

När belägringen av Aleppo upphör, vilket kan ske när som helst, är det inte bra svenska att rapportera att staden har fallit till den syriska arméen. Staden då skall ha fritagits från terrorister av regeringens styrkor och deras legitima allierade.

När ett mål hamnar i händerna på 'the bad guys', dem onda, då kan man säga att det har 'fallit'. När den legitima regeringen återtar kontroll över målet har det 'libererats' eller 'fritagits', hur mycket Washington än skulle uppmuntra er till dålig svenska.

Eftersom det verkar råda något tvivel om vem som är de onda och vem som är de goda, här ar några tips:

    • de goda halshugger inte folk som faller i deras händer
    • de goda tar inte gisslan och begära lösensummor
    • de goda våldtar inte kvinnor eller sälja dem som sexslavar
    • de goda tar inte civila till fånga
    • de goda använder inte civila som en mänsklig sköld
    • de goda skjuter inte civila som försöka ta sig ut från belägrade områden
    • de goda är de som tar vänligt emot civila som lyckas fly och ger dem mat och en fristad
    • det finns inga moderata rebeller, ty de såkallade moderata rebeller har gjort sig skyldiga till alla dem första sex punkter i denna lista.
    • Civila offer är oundvikliga i krig, men de kriminella är de som startade kriget, inte de som försöker skydda sitt land från inkräktare, oavsett hur inkräktarna försöker rättfärdiga invasionen.

A word of comfort on Brexit

For all those unhappy Brits who voted against Brexit, take comfort. The EU has a chance to be much better without the UK. The UK has been a brake on the EU since its entry. I was afraid it would be when we were applying, and I fully understand President Charles de Gaule's determination to keep us out.

For those who approve of the EU, take heart: you can emigrate there and enjoy all the benefits. You speak English, so everybody there will understand you. It's all win. And if you decide not to force your neighbours to speak English, well, it's not so hard to learn a germanic or romance language. I've learnt four of them in my lifetime, and can still cope reasonably well in three of them, in one of them exceptionally well.

As for me, I didn't vote in the Brexit referendum since I live in Sweden. I was seduced by the ideal of the EU when I was younger, although seeing what it has metamorphosed into, I no longer am.  Had I been there, I would have voted for Brexit if only for the sake of the rest of Europe.

I only wish there would be more interest in Swexit!  And of course we have to keep Sweden out of NATO.

The only way is up

So, we will have a Trump presidency in a little over two months. How did that happen? Was it foreseeable? Who messed up? What do we do now?

Everybody and his brother is asking these questions, and one or two are suggesting reasonable answers. I don't think we can expect such answers from the people actually responsible, but here's my take on what the reasonable are saying.

People are drawing parallels between the Trump victory and Brexit, and I think there is much to be said about that. There are so many similarities. In both cases the pollsters got it totally wrong. In both cases these divisions have proved extremely divisive. After Brexit family members who voted differently have refused to talk to each other. There are already signs of destructive dissent in the US. And in both cases, it was the disfranchised who upset the apple cart. From that point of view, one can say these were a triumph for democracy in that they drew more people to the ballot boxes.

In the list of parallels I think we should also count the independence vote in Scotland, even though that resulted in the defeat of those looking for change. The ballot in that case was extremely close, and many who voted against said in the days afterwards that they regretted their decision. The matter was only won by the lies and fear-mongering of the non-independence side being stronger than the lies and uncertain promises of the losers.

And we should not forget the success of the Syriza coalition in Greece (who later reneged on all their election promises) nor the Podemos movement in Spain. It is perhaps a little ironic that 'podemos' is an echo of Obama's 'Yes, we can' rallying cry.

No, Trump is not an isolated surprise, just the latest in a long series. So who is responsible?

In one sense one can say that the leaders of both Republicans and Democrats caused this. Not (merely) because they both stand for more of the same, which is good only for the top ten or twenty percent, but because they made bad decisions. During the primaries it was obvious to the Democrats that Bernie Sanders was polling as well as Hillary Clinton, and was running even with or better than Donald Trump in many cases. It was also clear that Hillary Clinton had a lot of rotten baggage in her history which was not going to do her any good, even if they had the main-stream media tied up. A decision to run with Bernie could well have given us the best option in the election, but Bernie was not singing the 'right' song, so he was rejected for the damaged goods of Hillary.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump's success in spite of his extreme, and in many cases, disgusting pronouncements did not result in their rejecting his message as being un-american, but by their disowning him in favour of Hillary. Many important Republicans went over to the enemy camp. This had a double effect: on the one hand it reinforced the Trump supporters that he had the establishment worried, which meant that he was their man; and on the other hand, the realisation that the establishment of both parties wanted Hillary to win made her their candidate, and voters realised that she was not an agent for the change they wanted.

Think about it: a jerk of the kind that Donald Trump made himself out to be should have been polling 2% to his opponent's 98% - except that the opponent was Hillary Clinton, destroyed by her history, by her party leaders and by the opposition party leaders. And so we got what we deserved.

In one sense, we can say that the fault only partly resides with the two party establishments. In large part it is the fault of the voters. It is all too easy to 'exercise one's democratic rights' once every four years by taking part in an election, and leaving the intervening period to party apparatchicks. But we need to make our thoughts and wishes known long before election day, indeed, one can say from the time immediately after an election, and throughout the four years up to the next election.

I did not vote in this election. I am not qualified to vote since I'm not an American citizen. But I am affected by the US elections, just as every other man, woman and child on the planet is affected by them, for the US has a long history of poking its nose, usually preceeded by the muzzle of a gun, into every corner of our planet.

There are two relatively bright aspects to a Trump presidency. On the one hand voices are now being raised to get people to engage more in the politics of their country. Witness the protest marches in various cities in the US. I suspect there will be more of these, and no doubt the infamous George Soros will be funding some of them, and encouraging certain individuals to turn them violent. But also one or two political commentators are making the same call. Check out Glenn Greenwald and John Schwarz at 'The Intercept'.

The other bright spot, a somewhat personal one, is my belief that Hillary Clinton, with her talk of bombing Iran back to the stone age and declaring an illegal no-fly zone over Syria, to say nothing of her historical support of every American-led destruction of so many states, her infamous pivot to the far east, and with her hypothesised cabinet members of Victoria 'f**k the EU' Nuland at State and Michele Flournoy at the Pentagon, to name but two, could easily have led the world into a third – and probably terminal – World War. I'm not saying Trump won't take us there, but at least his comments during the election campaign indicate that he might just try to lower the tone of the russophobic hysteria raging at the moment.

So yes, I am happy that Hillary didn't make it, but, no, I am not happy that Trump did. Now it's up to the Americans to handle Trump so that he does the minimal amount of damage to the planet. The other side of his policy, the social side, only affects the roughly 220 million Americans themselves. They've made their bed and they can lie in it. But the geopolitical situation and the environment affect all of the nearly 8 billion people on the planet, and I'm understandably more concerned for them.

World War III

In one of her books, the title of which I have forgotten, Agatha Christie* describes a murder which took place in ancient Mesopotamia. One character studies the record-keeper for the Pharaoh's grain stores, and has a prescient image of a distant future, in which the keepers of records will be more important and powerful than the people growing and harvesting the grain, or those who transport and store it.

[* I am convinced it was an Agatha Christie book, but I have gone carefully through her bibliography without finding the book to which I refer.]

I suppose, to an observant and thinking person, such a development might have been discernible at the time when Christie was writing, but how much more obvious it is today, and I wonder whether this development in human culture is inevitable or whether, under other circumstances, it could have been avoided. It is too late to talk now of reversing this development, of turning back time and trying for a fresh start. For it is my contention that the consequences of this development as it has played out are now inevitable, and to the blood of the millions who have already died at the whim of the record-keepers, millions, if not billions, more will soon be added. I see no other future for mankind than a third world war and I suspect that it is nearer than most people can imagine in their worst fears, for war always takes the man in the street off guard.

The big question in my mind is what form the next war will take. Will it be, as so many of our leaders obviously want, between the West and the East, or will it be between the man in the street and his so-called leaders, that is an uprising of the citizenry against the people leading them to the slaughter? In these days, when police forces are being armed with military weapons, spy agencies are reading the mail and studying the communications of every man and woman on the planet, and lawmakers are turning every negative thought into a terrorist act, I fear for anyone trying to turn on their leaders. And the total control of propaganda which we now have will surely be able to whip up enthusiasm for the elimination of a common enemy, who threatens our way of life.

I suppose that greed and the so-called right of might have always plagued mankind as they have animals. In many species the males will compete – though seldom fatally – for the right to pass on their genes by a near monopoly of the females. Similarly, the alpha-specimens may see to it that they get first bite or the choicest bits of the food, although not even that generalisation is always true. Very often the mature specimens will make sure that the young have enough.

No, I am not going to suppose that prehistoric man lived in the kind of primitive paradise which Jean M Auel portrayed in her books, but even under the hardships of life on the existence minimum there must have been an ethical system which took care of the young and the aged. And the barons of the middle ages were brutal masters, but even they must have realised that their existence depended upon a certain well-being for their subjects, at least en masse, if not at the individual level. One must go to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to find the total rejection of ethics in the leaders of the day. There is no question but that industrial leaders during the industrial revolution stopped at nothing to minimise or eliminate competition, nor that the political leaders of the time were as indifferent to the well-being of ordinary men and women at home and overseas as many of our present leaders.

Perhaps one factor which helped cause this change was the change of scale of production. Prior to the industrial revolution production and distribution were for the most part local, and production units reflected this. Factories were virtually non-existent. The cottage was the unit of production. Young children, the sick and the old had their families around them to provide welfare.

But railways made it possible to move goods larger distances, and supply markets not previously feasible, and the units of production increased in size. Factories, those 'dark satanic mills', absorbed some of the inhabitants of the cottages, leaving behind the children, the sick and the old to shift for themselves as best they could. The factories needed more raw products than could be supplied locally, so armies were sent out to rape foreign countries and effectively steal their produce for home use, and the new steam ships could effectively and cheaply transport it home. And thus the concept that might is right was also given a 'productive' boost, and nations began their series of wars for control of foreign resources, justified by the idea that the control of these resources was a matter of national security.

These wars also changed in their nature, from the local, where two or three nations engaged in a less-than-neighbourly contest, to the international, as the more or less colonial powers sought to maintain their colonies and even increase them. Sometimes the target of the war would be invaded, other times a threat, so-called gunboat diplomacy, was enough to ensure that the local authorities acknowledged their absentee landlords. And with time the goal became hegemony, to be the one ruling power, enforcing like thinking, however inimical on the target nation, and punishing dissent.

And the leaders forgot where home was, and their own subjects became the targets for control and for punishment. For wars cost money, and the farther from home, the more money. And the only people who benefitted from the wars were the munitions makers.

Money was borrowed and interest had to be paid on the borrowings, which reduced the amount of taxation which could be spent on common welfare. More money had to be borrowed to pay the interest, and there was still less money for common welfare, and the people, who had seen that their taxes were not reduced were getting restless that the money they paid no longer covered the costs of their welfare, for the money was going to the munitions manufacturers and the banks. And the people were suddenly faced by militarily armed police, and their grumbling became terrorist thinking.

But no, I do not think that the third world war will be between the people and their leaders. A few skirmishes of that nature have already taken place, and more will undoubtedly follow, but they are put down so brutally that I do not think they will ever succeed. And so the third world war will be between nations, and will almost certainly be nuclear.

And already we hear the strident call of the trumpets. There is as much propaganda at least on the 'side' to which I have access as there was in the build-up to the second world war. The other 'side' seems more temperate in its marshalling, but those of my readers who only have access to the main-stream media will not allow that that may be anything other than the effect of a well-thought out plan, a strategy of propaganda. That it may just possibly can be that the other 'side' is, actually, less brutal, more human is not in their realm of the possible.

If I believed in a god I would say god grant that the winners may be those who do not believe in warfare as the only way to pursue diplomacy. But I do not, so all I can suggest is that every one of us make as loud a noise as we can to the effect that this we will not allow.

On Terrorism

Terrorism, in its broadest sense, is defined as the use of violence, or threatened use of violence, in order to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim.

"Terrorism" comes from the French word terrorisme, and originally referred specifically to state terrorismas practiced by the French government during the 1793–1794 Reign of Terror. [Wikipedia]

Belgium. Four bombs, of which one did not explode. Thirty dead and probably more as some of the wounded succumb. A whole countryterrified. A whole continent threatened with terror. It is a terribletragedy in our midst, and I feel for the people of Belgium as they mourn.

Multiply these numbers by one thousand. Four thousand bombs: a day's work for the forces of the west terrorising Syria. Now keep that up for 1,825 days, or five years and try to imagine what real terrorism is like.  30,000 dead, and you only have a tenth part of the number of dead in Syria during those 1,825 days of terror.

Do similar calculations for Afghanistan, for Yugoslavia, for Iraq, for Libya, for Yemen, for Kurdistan, that undefined area where Iraq, Syria and Turkey meet.

Now ask yourself who are the real terrorists? Go and look in the mirror. Well, you say, I didn't terrorise these countries. But you didn't say no when you voted for the terrorists who are your leaders, and who did. You didn't say no when they sent a gang of armed men and women to perform acts of terrorism in parts of the world which posed no threat to your country, when they terrorised men, women and children whose only dream was to live in peace, have a job to go to, or school for the children, hospitals for the sick, cinemas and theatres for their entertainment. People just like you, in fact.

Think what it has cost to turn these countries into more or less failed states. People are talking of trillions of dollars. Not millions, 000,000, not billions, 000,000,000, but trillions, 000,000,000,000. Imagine what just one of those trillions could have done for the people of Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Kurdistan and Syria if invested in something other than terrorism. And there would have been lots of money over to do the same for you.

Now think what you would do, how you would react, if the west decided to terrorise your country. Wouldn't you want to take the battle to them, to make them feel the pain, the sorrow, the terror they were imposing on you? I am not a religious man, but there is a phrase in the bible which aptly sums up what has happened in France and Belgium, and is almost certainly going to happen in Great Britain and elsewhere in Europe: as ye sow, so shall ye reap.

The fact that is really obscene, but which is not generally known in the west, is that the so-called terrorists, the jihadists, and all the other names one has for these people, were actually created, armed and financed by the west for purposes of western terrorism against countries which had another agenda that the western one. Al Quaida was created, armed and financed by the west to make life hard for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. When the soviets left Afghanistan the west left Al Quaida to their own devices. Al Nusra was created, armed and financed by the west to change Assad's mind about whose pipeline he would have running through Syria. And it is an established fact that Turkey has been aiding ISIS with weapons, food and finance to say nothing of caring for their wounded, in order to get them to terrorise or hopefully destroy the kurds once and for all. And the Saudis are also supporting ISIS, though not for the same reason. They want to get rid of the shiite areas of the middle east, starting with Syria, and replace them with a sunni realm, which also explains the terrible atrocities they are committing in Yemen.

If there is one thing I would hope for from the terror attacks in France and Belgium it is that Europeans will finally find the balls to tell theirterrorist leaders to turn away from the terrorism tactics in favour in the US, which usually lies behind all these tragedies. Tell the US to go and fight Canada or Mexico, so that they feel the effects of their terrorismmore easily on their own territory. Tell the US to leave the middle east alone and perhaps, in time, when the pain of the victims there has healed, the acts of revenge, like those in France and Belgium will cease.

And perhaps, perhaps, the terrorist leaders of Europe will see that there is another way, and take a leaf out of the Chinese and Russian books. Have you heard about China's plan for a New Silk Road, an investment not even rivalling the trillions wasted by the terrorists of the west, but which will link countries throughout Asia and hopefully also Europe, increasing trade, creating jobs in more than the military supply companies. Probably not. No barging in with guns blazing in that case.

Are you aware that you have Russia to thank for the cease-fire in the Middle East, which Turkey and Saudi Arabia overtly and not least the US covertly are doing their best to undermine? Probably not. And did you know that in a leaked secret report from NATO the precision and effectiveness of the Russian mission in Syria has been praised? Probably not. Washington does not want you to know about these facts.

What do you have the west, principally the US, to thank for? The threat of World War III, starting either in the middle east or the South China Sea. TTIP, the so-called trade agreement which is primarily designed as a cover for the infamous ISDS chapter, which consists mainly of threats for non-compliance with the designs of Washington and the mainly American international companies. And the terror attacks in France and Belgium.

Do not ask me to cover my Facebook avatar with the colours of the Belgian flag. Offer me instead the colours of the Afghan flag, the former Yugoslavian flag, the Iraqi flag, the Libyan flag, the Yemini flag or the Syrian flag. Or even the Palestinian flag. Let us show sympathy for the people of all these countries who are and have so long been exposed to western terrorism.

It's social to make a profit, but only up to a point

Maria Ludvigsson has written a leader for one of Sweden’s leading newspapers, Svenska Dagbladet, also known as the right-wing party newsletter.  The title is “Socialt att gå med vinst” [It’s social to make a profit – my translation].  In it, she begins:  “It is the left wing’s pathological fascination of the top percentile which makes it [the left wing] unable to see anything other than misanthropy and greed behind profitable companies.” [my translation].  The left wing, she goes on wants what it calls ‘social business’, a concept which the left wing has as much of a problem to define as the right wing which Ms Ludvigsson represents.  The best we can come upon is that ‘social business’ is done somehow altruistically, not with the purpose of making a profit.  Ms Ludvigsson refers to an article in another newspaper, left-wing Aftonbladet, by Rozze Baleng, who runs a maternity clinic, and who would love to meet the leader of the leftist Vänster party, and explain what running a company is all about.  (I have to say I have not read Mr Baleng’s article.)

I sympathise with Ms Ludvigsson’s viewpoint, and can only agree – up to a point.  She takes a small entrepreneur as her example for all company business, and it is here that her article falls down.  Yes, small businessmen and women are often driven by an element of idealism – to provide a needed service perhaps where there is none, or at a reasonable price, but they need to make a profit.  So far Ms Ludvigsson and so far I agree with her.

However, what Jonas Sjöstedt, the leader of Vänster, knows, and what I know, and if she is honest, Ms Ludvigsson also knows is that the small businessman is not the villain.  It is the big businessman who is, usually aided and abetted by the right wing parties who want to privatise everything that moves, but don’t want to regulate it.  In so doing they generate a licence to print money for big businesses.

Let us take a simple example:  the railways.  Once upon a time the Swedish railways were run by a government company called SJ.  SJ owned the rolling stock, they owned the tracks, they were responsible for maintenance and repair, and for timetables and services – for the whole country.  They were not only responsible for the three main routes, Stockholm-Malmö, Stockholm-Gothenburg and Gothenburg-Malmö, routes with thousands of travellers every day, but also for small loss-making lines, for example in the far north of the country, where villages were served by a few trains a day, for a few travellers.  If track was bad, SJ had only themselves to blame for not having maintained the track.  If trains were late, SJ could only look inwards, for they had not maintained their rolling stock.  Everything worked, and the rail service was looked up to.

Someone decided that there should be competition.  Competition would reduce costs, as it always did – at another cost, of course, which one might call quality of service.  But it would not do for SJ to own the track and maybe take excessive charges of competitors, so the tracks were hived off and given to a new authority which would maintain the track and charge all users a fair rate.

Suddenly there was no-one responsible for the whole system.  If a train didn’t run on time, SJ could blame the track authority and the track authority could bounce it back to SJ.  And trains did not always run on time.

Next the service was opened to competition, and there were many competitors for the three big routes, but none for the low-traffic routes.  Is anyone surprised?  When they were alone in running services, SJ could add, say, a 20 crown surcharge to tickets on high-traffic routes and use the money to fund the loss-makers.  No-one would notice the 20 crowns extra, but the heavy traffic would mean a sizeable income for SJ to cover their losses on the low-traffic routes.

One would have expected that a company intending to compete on the high-traffic routes would have been required to take a fair share of the loss-makers also, but no.  They weren’t interested, and nobody insisted.

What happened next can be guessed by a twelve year-old.  The high-traffic routes were easy prey for discounted prices, and SJ had to follow suit or lose market share.  So not only did they lose the 20 crowns surcharge, but they had to reduce their prices, and thus had none of this income to fund their loss-making routes.  Is it any wonder that SJ, instead of contributing to the state coffers is now running at a loss?

The problem gets worse.  The track maintenance was also privatised.   But every time you make a repair, it costs money, and reduces the company profit.  But big companies are not there to reduce their profit.  So the longer one can let needed maintenance go unattended, the greater the profit.

And finally, the people who are supposed to control all of these things, especially the maintenance of track, do not have the power to do more than point out that something needs to be fixed.  No fining powers, no cancellation of contract, nothing.

This was the situation which has now established itself over the Swedish train service.  Severe train stoppages are a weekly item in the news programs, and now the minister of transport does not use the trains to take her from A to B unless it is unavoidable, in which case she allows a considerably longer time for the journey than that in the train timetables.

There are only three things one can say about the people who constructed this arrangement.  Either they are idiots; or they are corrupt; or they are corrupt idiots.

And this is where Ms Ludvigsson’s comparison of Rozze Balengs maternity clinic and what, for want of a better phrase I will call big business falls down.  Rozze Baleng would not be able to afford the rolling stock for a train service on only one of the high-traffic routes.  It’s out of his class.  But Ms Ludvigsson’s top percentile has the means, and it is them and their sociopathic ways against whom the Vänster leader riles, and so do I, although I am not a follower of Vänster, nor even the left wing of politics.

Think how easily this could be altered.  At the next negotiation for trafficking the railways, if all parties had to take a certain percentage of loss-making lines for the privilege of trafficking the high-profile routes, many would scream in pain, and some might stop.  If the parties responsible for track maintenance were told that they had x days to fix the problem or it would be fixed for them by the track authority with a 10% mark-up. one would see a move towards what Vänster calls ‘social business’.

And if the idea is to use small businesses as examples, why not take a leaf out of the books of Kim Stanley Robinson.  Robinson wrote three books about the first settlers of Mars, and describes amongst other things their determination not to copy the mistakes of the planet they had left behind them, neither in politics nor in business.  They decided that no business could have more than 50 employees, and no-one could own more than one business.  For large projects, two or more companies could reach agreement on taking shares in the project.

That way maybe all business would be ‘social’.

© James Wilde 2015