A place of politics, culture (!!) & random subjects from Airstrip One. Noel hopes it will be of interest and/or use to all sorts of voyagers in cyberspace!

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The Voice Of 40-Something Cynical Optimism!

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

If you fear the worst, it tends not to happen!

Next year will be good!

Peace & love & chocolate...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Kevin Carson on the C-word

This I found and kept from the Distributism egroup on Yahoo (I left after I realised that there are only so many apologies for Catholicism I can spend my life reading). It is mutualist Kevin Carson's take on the origins of "Capitalism" as a concept:

The funny thing is, the term "capitalism" was originally coined by early
classical liberals as a devil-term, referring to a system of statist class
privilege in which the government was controlled by capitalists and
intervened in the market on their behalf. I've been told, anyway, that
Thomas Hodgskin (who was both a free market radical and a Ricardian
socialist) was the first to use the term. The term "capitalism" was
"rehabilitated" by some free market libertarians in the 20th century, after
the mainstream of that movement had shifted into an apologetic for big
business interests.

That's one reason I like to push the slogan "free market anti-capitalism":
I'm trying to recover the original sense of the word.

Bring back the English Heptarchy!

To me, the idea of English regional government based upon the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy seems the only way forward for radical English regionalists to escape the political minefield of following Establishment models of regionalism AND accusations that we are part of a Brussels plot to "break-up" Britain. The following below came from the same Guildist League Yahoo e-group as in the previous posting.

Message: 1
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005 01:52:10 -0000
From: "eliadite"
Subject: Re: Capital idea

The word heptarchy refers to the existence of the seven kingdoms
which eventually merged to become England during the early1 0th
century, and comprising Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex,
Kent, Sussex,and Wessex. The term itself dates back to the twelfth
century, and the English historian Henry of Huntingdon.

The heptarchy continued as administrative areas after the formation
of England which, was generally a decentralised kingdom developed
closer to an "organic model". The parts of the heptarchy had their
own leading towns, which could be viewed as regional capitals. All
this was smashed to pieces when the Norman invasion imposed a
militaristic, centralised despotic regime in 1066.

The regional identity survived in the English at the cultural level,
all be it subtly. I've long been interested in the concept of the
basic model of the ideological and cultural superstructure being
determined by the economic base, but also and essentially that the
economic base is determined by environmental conditions. Therefore
the Norman essentially non-English, cultural model was ultimately
always unsuited to England and set in train a dysfunctional period in
English history. These type of dislocations also help to initiate
ecological despoilation, perhaps the most pressing concern of
humankind today.

The Heptarchy therefore represents the most recent (1,000 years ago)
system in England to which to refer for people wishing to see a
return to a decentralised organicism The idea of rotating capitals
amongst the heptarchal capitals is something I've dreamt up (though
it's probably not original). In this day and age of tele-networking,
video-conferencing, advanced encription I see no reason why not given
we're talking about devolving so much power down to the regions and
to the Guilds anyway.

A quick guide to Distributism

This is got from the Guildist League e-group on Yahoo. I put Distributism under the umbrella of Mutualism. The actual economics of Distributism I don't have much problem with. My problems with Distributism arise from its often extremely ultra-Catholic followers, which as a militant secularist, I find off putting. However, the following is worth reading, and if it floats your boat, go for it!


Distributism, also known as distributionism and distributivism, is an
anti-capitalist economic philosophy formulated by such Catholic
thinkers as G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc to apply the
principles of social justice theoretically articulated by the Roman
Catholic Church. According to distributism, the ownership of the
means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the
populace, rather than being centralized under the control of a few
state bureaucrats (some forms of socialism) or a minority of resource-
commanding individuals (capitalism). A summary of distributism is
found in Chesterton's statement: "Too much capitalism does not mean
too many capitalists, but too few capitalists" ("The Uses of
Diversity", 1921).

Distributism has often been described as a third way of economic
order besides socialism and capitalism. It is now sometimes seen more
realistically as an aspiration, which has been successfully realised
in the short term by commitment to the principles of subsidarity and
solidarity (these being built into financially independent local co-
operatives). However, the elimination therein of usury and similar
percentage-based profiteering in trade will need to be theoretically
justified (in terms of the laws of circulation), and legally
generalised (by restatement of business aims in company and banking
law), if this system is to be a stable "third way" in the long term,
rather than a strand in a mixed economy, forever defending itself
against predatory capitalists.


While the papal encyclicals were a starting point, Belloc and
Chesterton based much of their suggestions of what to change today by
analyzing what worked in medieval times before the development of the
capitalist philosophy as first articluated by Jean Quidort (d. 1306)
in the theory of homo economicus in De potestate regia et papali.

The articulation of Distributist ideas was based on 19th and 20th
century Papal teachings, beginning with Pope Leo XIII's Rerum
Novarum. Distributist thought is probably Biblical but certainly,
with hindsight, already evident in medieval practice; its modern co-
operative form is evident in the Jesuit 'reductions' in Paraguay, the
origins of what is now being called the European Union, the Mondragon
co-operatives in Spain and MacArthur's strategy for the post-war
reconstruction of Japan (copied by Taiwan).

In 1930s America, distributism was treated in numerous essays by
Chesterton, Belloc and others in The American Review, published and
edited by Seward Collins.

Distributist thought was later adopted by the Catholic Worker
movement, conjoining it with Peter Maurin's vision of a green
revolution, and the thought of Dorothy Day concerning localized and
independent communities. Its practical implementation in the form of
local co-operatives has recently been documented by Race Mathews in
Jobs of Our Own.

Private property

Under such a system, most people would be able to earn a living
without having to rely on the use of the property of others to do so.
Examples of people earning a living in this way would be farmers who
own their own land and related machinery, plumbers who own their own
tools, software developers who own their own computer, etc. The "co-
operative" approach advances beyond this individualist perspective to
recognise that such property and equipment may be "co-owned" by local
communities larger than a family, e.g. partners in a business.

Guild system

The kind of economic order envisioned by the early distributist
thinkers would involve the return to some sort of guild system. The
present existence of labor unions does not constitute a realization
of this facet of distributist economic order.


Distributism favors the elimination of the current private bank
system, or in any case, its profit-making basis. This does not
necessarily mean Nationalization. It does mean Governments accepting
their responsibility for ensuring justice, especially in the monetary

Social theory

The pioneers of the distributist movement wrote before the
Information Era; their Christian roots, however, were in the theory
of the Word of God. A forthcoming Distributist research program aims
to examine the theoretical implications of linguistic communication
capability being the specifically human basis of society, rather than
power relationships or specific institutions. Just as electrical
theory is the basis for the theory of operation of specific
electronic systems, so technical communication theory as it has
developed is envisaged as the basic theory of operation of specific
social systems. C.f. sociology.

The human family

Distributism sees the trinitarian human family of one male, one
female and their children as the central and primary social unit of
human ordering and the principle unit of a functioning distributist
society and civilization. This unit is however the basis of a multi-
generational extended family, which is embedded in socially as well
as genetically inter-related communities, nations etc and ultimately
in the whole human family past, present and to come. The economic
system of a society should therefore be focussed primarily on the
flourishing of the family unit, but not in isolation: at the
appropriate level of family context, as is intended in the principle
of 'subsidiarity'.

Society of artisans

Distributism promotes a society of artisans and culture. This is
influenced by an emphasis on small business, promotion of local
culture, and favoring of small production over capitalistic mass
production. A society of artisans promotes the distributist ideal of
the unification of capital, ownership, and production rather than
what distributism sees as an alienation of man from work.

Social security

Distributism favours the elimination of social security on the basis
that it further alienates man by making him more dependent on the
Servile State. Distributists such as Dorothy Day did not favor social
security when it was introduced by the United States government. This
rejection of this new program was due to the direct influence of the
ideas of Hilaire Belloc over American distributists.

It does not follow that social security as it exists now should be
simply eliminated: that is a fallacy (or cynical mis-use) of
naive "either-or" logic. Social security will remain necessary just
so long as people have no other means of acquiring a livelihood.
Study of time-based logic has suggested an alternative solution. If
everyone is paid before they work, they thus owe a fair share of what
work they can do which they can see needs doing (rather than an
employer owing [token] money just to those who have done work that he
has prescribed). If the wages (including trader's incomes and,
elsewhere, investment finances) take the form of interest-free loans,
the money will be repaid for recirculation simply by its return to
the bank when it is spent. Most people would want to continue earning
it in the usual way, but those not so working would be expected by
their local community to be doing a sufficient share of other
necessary or worthwhile work: child-rearing, education, artistic
creation, appropriate recreation etc., or voluntary work in the
community or natural environment. Business would no longer be for
monetary profit, but to create real benefits for the community. Crime
would no longer be attractive as a way of acquiring a livelihood. In
short, everyone would benefit from real social security without any
need for demeaning and inadequate state-run monetary "social

Political order

Distributism does not favor one set of political order over another,
whether it be from democracy to monarchism. Distributism does not
necessarily support anarchism, though some distributists, such as
Dorothy Day, were also anarchists. Distributism does not support
political orders that go towards extremes of individualism or statism.

Political parties

Distributism does not attach itself to one national political party
or another in any part of the world. There are some modern political
parties in England which espouse distributist views.


Distributists usually use Just War Theory in determining whether a
war should be fought or not. Historical positions of distributist
thinkers provides insight into a distributist position on war. Both
Belloc and Chesterton opposed British imperialism and the Second Boer
War. Cecil Chesterton fought in World War I.

Ultranationalist groups

Controversy in the Distributist community has occurred because of
associations of distributism with some ultranationalist groups. This
would include groups such as the British National Party which claims
to hold distributist views. The association of distributism with some
ultranationalist groups is more considerable in Europe where some
people see the usage of distributism to reflect an "old order" and
return to "nationalistic roots" of a country.

Many in the Distributist community are convinced that said groups are
trying to infiltrate the community, so as to co-opt them for their
own dark agendas.

Key texts
The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc
An Essay on The Restoration of Property by Hilaire Belloc
Utopia of Usurers by G.K. Chesterton
The Outline Of Sanity by G.K. Chesterton
What's Wrong With The World by G.K. Chesterton

Hilaire Belloc
Cecil Chesterton
G.K. Chesterton
Dorothy Day
Eric Gill
Fr. Vincent McNabb O.P.
Arthur Penty

Also look at :

Links favourable to Distributism Distributism Yahoo Group "The Distributist Review" weblog

I'm a Little Englander (original take)

Surely in a era where Britain, in tow to the USA, seems to interfere in the affairs of one country after another, there is a place for old fashioned military isolationism? After all, I think a lot of people here would be irate if outside powers were to send in their militaries to sort out the problems of Northern Ireland.

The original phrase used here for British military isolationism was "Little Englander". However, as the Wikipedia submission below suggests, a lot of incidental baggage has been attached, which clouds the waters ad infinitum.

Little Englander is a term dating from the time of the Boer War (1899 - 1901). The term then designated people who wished the British Empire to extend only to the borders of the United Kingdom itself, i.e., these were people who wished to end British rule over India, South Africa, Canada, etc., and to withdraw the empire to domestic borders.

Since those times, the term has come to mean any Englishman who sees only "Little England" and who is unaware of the wider world. From there, it has come to refer to naïve and bigoted English nationalism and middle class ignorance. It is often used by Scots, Welsh and Irish to describe English people who seem to be unaware, ignorant or intolerant of their own countries and peoples.

The political implications of the term have, therefore, changed. When introduced, a "Little Englander" was a radical and/or an anti-imperialist. This could be either from a left-liberal or a conservative direction. For example, G. K. Chesterton would count as a Little Englander; his party-political allegiance in the Edwardian period was to the Liberal Party, but his politics were always small-c conservative.

Now, a "Little Englander" is assumed to be either ignorant and boorish, or an extreme nationalist (chauvinist), typically with anti-immigration views. Various satires have been created to illustrate this character, one being Henry Root in Root Into Europe.

"Little Englanders" regard themselves as patriotic. Similar views can be found in many other countries, cf. United States isolationism.

Shouldn't there be a "Campaign For Real Little Englandism"?

Oceania & Eurasia get into bed together

Although I have absolutely no wish to be sent draft papers in order to protect Iran's oil fields on behalf of the Neo-Cons, let's be under no illusions- the new President of Iran is an A1 nutter. Holocaust denial and talk of wiping Israel off the face of the earth should not be supported.

At the same time as the White House sabre rattles about Iran's nuke programme, it is quite ready to let Iran have a de facto victory in Iraq. These two reports come from Robert Dreyfuss' website.

Bush's Shiite Gang in Iraq

More and more evidence is mounting that Iran's ayatollahs have their hands deep into the Shiite-led government of Iraq. Astonishingly though, the Bush administration and its allied phalanx of neoconservatives have turned a blind eye to Iran's influence in Iraq. That's because the Iraqi Shiites, who run the regime in Baghdad, are supposed to be the 'good guys', i.e., the ones we are defending in Iraq. As I've written before, the United States has 160,000 troops in Iraq serving as the Praetorian guard for that Shiite regime. We're killing hundreds of Sunnis all over western Iraq on their behalf.

Before we get to the latest reports of more torture prisons run by the Shiites, along with death squads, consider the following items from the news.

Knight Ridder, perhaps the single best news organization covering the war in Iraq and its political fallout, carried an important exchange in which the head of the Badr Brigade, the paramilitary force backed by Iran, flatly admits that his 20,000-strong secret army, which is the arm of the ruling Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) is funded by Iran:

Badr's leader, Hadi al-Amari, has denied maintaining ties to Iran, but in a fit of anger during a recent interview with Knight Ridder he admitted as much while striking out against U.S.-backed secular Shiite politician Ayad Allawi.

"Allawi receives money from America, from the CIA, but nobody talks about that. All they talk about is our funding from Iran," he said, raising his voice. "We are funded by some (Persian) Gulf countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran. We don't hide it."

And the report, by Tom Lasseter, includes this bombshell from General Casey:

"They're putting millions of dollars into the south to influence the elections ... it's funded primarily through their charity organizations and also Badr and some of these political parties," said Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. general in Iraq. "A lot of their guys (Badr) are going into the police and military."

In another breakthrough report, today's Washington Times carries an interview with a leading former Iraqi general who says that the network of torture prisons run by SCIRI, Badr, and the Iraqi interior ministry is overseen by an Iranian intelligence officer, Tahseer Nasr Lawandi, nicknamed "The Engineer". Here's the report, but read the whole thing:

An Iraqi general formerly in charge of special Interior Ministry forces said yesterday that a senior Iranian intelligence officer was in charge of a network of detention centers where suspected insurgents were routinely tortured and sometimes killed.

Gen. al-Samarrai said the Iranian intelligence officer, Tahseer Nasr Lawandi, works directly under the Kurdish deputy minister, Gen. Hussein Kamel, and is known throughout the ministry as "The Engineer."

"The Engineer was behind the torturing and killing in the ministry and was also in charge of Jadriya prison," said Gen. al-Samarrai, who left the ministry after a dispute with superiors and is now living in Jordan.

The Iranian officer not only masterminded interrogations, tortures and executions at the prisons, but also would take part in torture sessions, often using an electric drill, Gen. al-Samarrai said.

Some of the tortured prisoners were found in morgues with drill holes in their legs and eyes, according to another security source, who declined to be identified.

The general said Mr. Lawandi had worked with the minister and deputy minister to form a special security service to run the detention and interrogation operation and a separate group called the Wolf Brigade to capture suspects and bring them to the secret locations -- usually under cover of darkness.

This is critically important stuff, because it utterly destroys the Bush administration's contention that the United States is building 'democracy' in Iraq.

Today's New York Times has a story about the torture prisons, noting that a senior Iraqi interior ministry official denies that any abuse occurred, and it then quotes U.S. military officials contradicting him.

So the question is: when will hear the Bush administration's top officials start calling the Shiite fundamentalist regime in Baghdad "Islamofascists"? So far, they's applied that term only to the Iraqi resistance, tarring the Sunni-led insurgency by painting them as led by Al Qaeda-style terrorists, when in fact that they are mostly Iraqi nationalists, Baathists, and ex-military men. Their main grievance is that the United States is handing Iraq over to Iran. I'd say they're right.

Here is another little item, from Abdel Aziz Hakim, the former Badr commander who leads SCIRI, and who kindly offers "200,000" Badr troops to protect polling places on Thursday (from AP):

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, told about 1,000 tribal leaders who gathered in Baghdad's Jadriyah neighborhood that the military wing of his group - the Badr Brigade - was ready to help with election security.
"I declare that the Badr Organization is ready to mobilize 200,000 of its men in all parts of Iraq so that they can play a role in defending Iraqi and Iraqis," said the black-turbaned cleric, who is heading the strong Shiite United Iraqi Alliance slate.

Posted by Robert Dreyfuss on December 13, 2005 09:56 AM

Iran Stuffing Iraqi Ballots

Yesterday I blogged about Iran's influence in Iraq, and the long reach of Iran's secret intelligence service, including the apparent organizing of the torture prisons run by the Interior Ministry. It's getting worse.

The [New York] Times reports that Iran is shipping trucks full of counterfeit ballots into Iraq. The paper found a source at the Interior Ministry who revealed that the truck seized by police contained 'thousands of forged ballots, and it went on

The Iranian truck driver told the police under interrogation that at least three other trucks filled with ballots had crossed from Iran at different spots along the border.

Whatever else happens in tomorrow's election, it's important to remember that elections in Iraq are taking place under wartime conditions. Gangs, armed militias, mafia-like political parties, warlords, village chieftains, and tribal kingpins rule the vote. For every voter who takes his responsibility as an independent voter seriously, there are many more who vote the way they are told. And the big boss is Ayatollah Sistani, who is shepherding his credulous flock into supporting the Shiite religious party bloc.

Incidentally, the Times report is notable for the following flat statement, unsourced:

Agents of the Iranian government are believed to be supporting the two main Shiite political parties here -the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa Party - with money and other assistance.

Posted by Robert Dreyfuss on December 14, 2005 10:58 AM

It seems that the Bush-Blair axis doesn't give a monkeys that a bunch of religious loonies takes over Iraq (democratically of course- where has that happened before?). Of course, when fait accompli point is reached & a load of beards start running the show, Iran can be accused of "interfering in the internal affairs of another state" (& 160,000 troops stationed in Iraq isn't "interfering in the internal affairs of another state"?). Of course, a lot has got to down the Memory Hole before the next stage in The War Against Terror (the initials spell a quaint Olde Englysh terme) can be reached.

A word from the sponsors

Hello John, Got a New Motor?

I tried to get an image of Alexei Sayle from the video for his seminal 1984 hit with the above name, but I have had to settle with his Benito Mussolini routine from The Young Ones.

Anyway, I find cars the most boring subject on the planet, even though the first thing I ever said was "Kaa" apparently. Furthermore, when the oil runs out, they'll largely become artifacts for 30th Century archaeologists. At the same time, I try to help my friends, one of whom is Stuart Coster, who helps run the Democracy Movement.
Stuart also runs a 2nd hand car dealership on the Net. Kwik Guides is at:

"The capitalists would sell us the rope to hang them." -Lenin (supposedly).

"It's not rubbish- it's post-modern"

The following is the basic gist of Marc Glendening's speech at the Bruges Group. Very good stuff. I can't stand post-modernism, which I consider along with post-marxism, post-structuralism and deconstructionism as ultra-pretentious ways in which clapped out "leftie" academics can still claim radical kudos. However, I have tended to treat post-modernism as unserious and undangerous as a world-view. However, I now realise that it is precisely the obscure & gibberish nature of post-modernism which makes it so dangerous.

Anyway, without further ado...Marc's magnum opus.


In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dominant view in the West was that liberal democracy had won a decisive, final victory. According to Francis Fukuyama we were witnessing the ‘end of history’. No illiberal ideology, including militant Islam, he argued, would from now on be capable of seriously threatening representative government. (1)

This view should now be viewed as dangerously complacent. We are experiencing the emergence of what can be described as Post-Modern Authoritarianism (PMA). This description refers to both an empirically observable condition, the way in which the institutions of modernist parliamentary democracy are being hollowed out through the transfer of powers to a range of unaccountable agencies, and as an ideological device for advancing this silent revolution. European political integration is a major component of this process, but PMA goes considerably beyond it. The anti-democratic virus has spread within the British body politic and this is why EU-critics can no longer continue to deal with the European question in isolation. The expansion of Brussels power is not a foreign conspiracy against Britain, rather it is one symptom of the way in which a large part of the domestic political class is abandoning liberal democracy, as Frank Furedi in his important new book, The Politics of Fear, argues. (2)

The intensity with which the likes of Neil Kinnock, Ken Clarke and Denis MacShane not only dismissed the significance of the ‘No’ votes in France and Holland, but also opposed giving Europe’s voters a say on the EU Constitution in the first place, is one indication of the Counter-Enlightenment now taking place. Andrew Duff, Liberal Democrat MEP, showed his respect for democracy with the following outburst: “The experience [of the French and Dutch referenda] begs the question of whether it was ever appropriate to submit the EU Constitution to a lottery of uncoordinated plebiscites…The rejectionists are an odd bunch of racists, xenophobes, nationalists, communists, disappointed centre-left and generally pissed-off”. (3) Chris Bryant MP, chair of the Labour Movement for Europe, thinks that “Although a referendum might be appropriate for ‘Pop Idol’… it is unsuitable for examining a treaty”. (4) These responses demonstrate a dangerous contempt for citizens outside the political class.

In contrast to earlier and more openly anti-democratic currents, the Post-Modern Authoritarians (PMAs) adopt a subtle ‘passive-aggressive’ strategy based upon undermining the foundations of the nation state – the only viable mechanism for holding the ruling elite to account – whilst simultaneously denying the reality of the system they are building. The act of illusion the PMAs are seeking to pull off is to leave the physical structures of modernist democracy still standing while divesting them of actual decision making meaning. Post-modernism is the perfect underlying framework for a duplicitous political project that cannot afford to reveal its true nature. This is because it rejects the modernist idea that ideologies can and should be based on attempts to identify connecting truths that enable something fundamental about the totality of an issue to be said. Post-modernists contend, for reasons that will be given later, that the age of the ‘grand narrative’ is dead and that only stories about fragments of existence can be communicated. Thus, the PMAs, like a guerrilla hit-and-run army, try to avoid direct, large-scale confrontations.

Chris Tame has observed the fascistic way in which the new authoritarianism places great emphasis on the aesthetics of politics at the expense of honestly engaging with the political content of competing world-views. (5) This leads, on the one hand, to attempts to associate the EU with pleasing cultural images and, on the other, to wage McCarthyite, black propaganda campaigns against opponents, associating them with negative attributes such as xenophobia and philistinism.

Organisationally speaking, PMA is also difficult to identify because it is not based upon a modern-era style mass visible movement. It draws together a wide network of political elites across the political spectrum. It is remarkable that Czech president Vaclav Klaus is the only politician in office from across all the twenty-five member countries to oppose the EU Constitution. This broad political alliance is bolstered by client interests such as big business, NGOs and, of course, an army of legal activists based in law firms like Matrix Chambers that directly benefit from the diminution of parliamentary politics.

The post-modern state that is taking shape has not been the product of a self-conscious ideological project. Instead, it has been the culmination of the actions undertaken by a variety of forces with different agendas over a thirty year period. The Thatcher and Major governments placed heavy restrictions on local democracy and were responsible for a proliferation of Quangos, which Blair has added to. Successive generations of national politicians have handed over new powers to Brussels, fully conscious of the gaping democratic deficit they were plunging their citizens into.

The causes of the development of political post-modernity have therefore predated the emergence of a complementary ideological consciousness. But there is now evidence that post-modernism is being deliberately employed by those in the intellectual vanguard of the project to emasculate national democracy. Robert Cooper, the Director-General of Politico-Military Affairs for the Council of Ministers in Brussels, is the author of The Post-Modern State and the World Order in which he advocates a ‘new imperialism’. (6) One of the high priests of New Labour, Anthony Giddens, in The Third Way, contends confusingly, but predictably, that ‘nations will retain … considerable governmental, economic and cultural power over their citizens’ but will nevertheless have to immerse themselves in a system of ‘cosmopolitan democracy’ or ‘fuzzy’ sovereignty. (7) He believes that the EU provides a model of governance that should be replicated globally and that the UN International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction ‘should extend widely over relations between states and their citizens’. (8) So, which powers exactly does Giddens think should be exercised exclusively by national democracies?


The post-modern state has three key defining features:

First, unlike modern forms of government, power is dispersed to a multiplicity of agencies. Just as modernists wanted to de-mystify the workings of the natural world through free scientific exploration, so too did Enlightenment thinkers want the political process made intelligible to citizens. The locus of ultimate political authority in the modern democratic state was clear-cut and this facilitated accountability. In contrast, the system that is succeeding it is fractured (or ‘fuzzy’ to use Giddens’ highly appropriate term). Citizens are being confronted, as in pre-modern times, by an increasingly opaque power system.

*At a national level, the political class has been transferring policy making powers to Quangos, to civil servants through an expansion in the number of statutary instruments and by giving judges the effective capacity to make public policy through their interpretation of human rights legislation.

*Nations are also being enmeshed in a growing number of international treaties that at any one time restrict the room for manoeuvre of elected parliaments. The UN is now beginning to develop some characteristics of global governance through the creation of the International Criminal Court.

*The last method of democratic emasculation being employed by the political class across our continent is the transfer of powers to the European Union. The vast majority of the 20,000 plus EU directives have been implemented without full parliamentary debate through the use of statuary instruments.

Second, what makes this multi-layered system a significant discontinuity from the modern era is that the national political elites have come together and handed over powers to a supreme law making authority above their own states. This has been compared by John Laughland, in relation to the EU, to the creation of a political ‘cartel’. (9) By subordinating their own countries in a growing number of policy areas to the central, collective decision-making process, the political class is able to effectively by-pass local electorates.

Third, the way in which the post-modern institutions operate is clearly at variance with the value of the rule of law. Quangos and ministers using ‘enabling’ legislation often exercise powers that there is no capacity to challenge. NATO engaged in military aggression against Yugoslavia contrary to its own charter. The UN International Criminal Court was created without a proper legal basis. EU officials, including Europol agents, have been granted immunity from criminal prosecution. So, the post-modern era looks suspiciously like the pre-modern period in relation to the unpredictable and selective use of power.


The post-modernising of the British centre-left is a long story beyond the capacity of this article. However, a quick-fire recounting needs to be attempted if the way in which New Labour seeks to advance its European policy is to be better understood.

The ideas that had gained momentum within the French left since the 1960s, based on the work of Lyotard, Derrida and Foucault and others, started to come into fashion in Britain in the 1980s as the previously socialist intelligentsia searched for an alternative theory. They needed an approach that could simultaneously lay the seeds of left recovery and maintain their own class position as intellectuals. Post-modernism fitted the bill because it provided a grandiose-sounding justification for ditching ‘big picture’, economistic socialism. Post-modernism contended that all truth claims about the world were the product of subjectively derived ‘texts’. The Enlightenment belief that there could be a one-to-one correspondence between representations of reality and reality itself, the basis of inductive science, was challenged. All such interpretations, it was said, were the product of the particular subjective perspectives of those advancing the theory. Thus, ‘the signifier’, the means by which reality is represented, is more important than ‘the signified’, the object or idea identified.

This approach chimed with the emerging feminist, environmentalist, gay and black groups that were gaining ascendancy within the Labour Party as the trades unions were losing influence. These new left tendencies argued that the way ahead was to abandon class based politics and instead build a coalition that took into account their particular demands and experiences of oppression. It was in this era that the notion of ‘group rights’, later (and misleadingly re-branded as ‘human rights’) came to replace social democracy as the dominant left discourse.

The other great attraction of the ‘anything goes’ post-modernist approach for the younger generation of emerging Labour politicians was that a party free of its ideological straitjacket would be able to make whatever economic compromises were necessary to attract swing voters and big business. This was to have implications for Labour’s Europe policy. Now that pursuing a distinctively leftist programme was no longer an objective, Brussels ceased to be perceived as the threat it once was. The EU’s corporatist approach – the social chapter and the single market – dovetailed perfectly with New Labour’s Third Way profile. The democratic culture of the Party came to be abandoned as the Blairites, having lost whatever ideological commitments they may once have had, adopted Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ thesis. Politics was now primarily about technocratic administration, holding on to office ruthlessly and extending your party’s base of patronage. Neil Kinnock’s personal journey from rhetorically anti-EU leftist firebrand to European Commissioner, and now lobbyist for powerful shipping interests in Brussels, presents a marvellous metaphor for Labour’s political journey over a twenty-year period.

As Peter Oborne argues in The Rise of Political Lying, post-modernism provided New Labour in the national context with an important tactic, crucial to its culture of ‘spin’ and ‘triangulation’. (10) While it claimed that ideologies like Marxism or liberalism could not establish themselves on a bed of empirical truth, post-modernism asserted that they could nevertheless be ‘deconstructed’ by the exposure of their inner contradictions. In the European sphere, the grand narrative the PMAs wish to destroy is that of the nation state. They seek to do this in a variety of different ways, including the assertion that independent nations lead to war (even genocide) and cannot cope with issues that transcend national borders. But, true to their passive-aggressive mindset, the PMAs refuse to articulate their own ‘grand narrative’, namely transnational governance. Thus, Robert Cooper, in a recent debate on Europe’s future, said that there was “no big idea” now associated with the EU (11), something you cannot imagine Giscard d’Estaing, to his credit, saying.

The primary purpose then of the post-modern approach is to erect a wilderness of mirrors around the central issue of where power is located. The trick the PMAs have to execute in the European context is to simultaneously argue that the EU must be more than a free trade area (otherwise how could they justify Brussels being legally supreme and having its own police force?) but that it is less than a state in the process of being created. The classic formula they use is to contend that the EU is, as Giddens puts it, “pioneering forms of governance that do not fit any traditional mould”. (12) Anything to avoid the dreaded (and objectively true) ‘S’ word. In this ‘cosmopolitan democracy’ the physical borders between nation states and the division of powers between themselves and Brussels are ‘fuzzy’. This is a classic example and a reciting of the post-modernist assertion that there are no clear and stable boundaries between different entities. Everything is in a state of flux. This, of course is self-serving nonsense. In the objective world hard decisions are ultimately taken by specific, authorised individuals, somewhere.

New Labour’s shameless deconstructing of reality was taken to extremes when Europe minister Peter Hain even claimed that the EU Constitution was ‘a tidying up exercise’ and not really what it itself purported to be. With post-modernism we are in 1984 ‘Newspeak’ territory. Anything can be the opposite of what it actually is. This particular spin was described by Labour MP Rodger Godsiff as “an insult to everybody’s intelligence”.

The other great political virtual reality claim the PMAs make is that in the globalised world we can have ‘multiple identities’. We can simultaneously be citizens of our regions, countries, the EU and the World. It’s not a case of ‘either/or’, that’s old-fashioned dualistic thinking, apparently. Political identity is dishonestly being spun here as if it were directly analogous to one’s capacity to appreciate the contrasting joys of both, say, Thrash Metal and trad jazz. As members of governed societies, we have to choose where we believe ultimate, end of the line, political authority should lie and which is the political community we give our allegiance to. Music lovers don’t face such necessary choices.

The way in which the EU based system operates at present is post-modernism made flesh because it obscures who is responsible for what. Its Byzantine quality enables it to be represented in a way that conceals its essence. As Mark Leonard of the Centre for European Reform (a Brussels financed think-tank), in a moment of rare and beautiful candour puts it: “Europe’s power is easy to miss. Like an ‘invisible hand’, it operates through the shell of traditional structures. The British House of Commons, the law courts … are still here, but they have all become agents of the European Union implementing European law. This is no accident. By creating common standards that are implemented through national institutions, Europe can take over countries without necessarily becoming a target for hostility… Europe’s invisibility allows it to spread its influence… Europe lacks one leader, being a network of centres of power that are united by common policies and goals.” (13)

Everything you examine about the EU lends itself to this anti-democratic quest for obscurity. Instead of the rule of law associated with classic modern nation states, many of the articles in the Treaty are so loosely drafted that nobody really knows what their legal implications actually are until the Commission and the ECJ interpret them. Likewise, with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which includes Article II-112 that permits ‘limitations’ of the preceding rights if these are ‘necessary and genuinely meet objectives of general interest’. So what, exactly, is the meaning of this Charter of ‘rights’? ‘Subsidiarity’ implies the decentralisation of power, but in reality, to quote Lord MacKenzie Stuart, a former President of the ECJ, it is “a rich and prime example of gobbledygook” (14) that, like the concept of a ‘Europe of the regions’, enables, again, the political class in actuality to centralise decision-making.


Here are three suggestions for how to fight Post-Modern Authoritarianism:

The first necessary step is to do what the PMAs desperately want to prevent: the creation of a ‘big picture’. We must attempt to show how the various streams through which political power is being drained away eventually meet up in a big, fast-flowing post-democratic river. The various connections have to be spelt out and the entire process labelled. Clarity is always the enemy of deliberate opaqueness. Resistance to old style totalitarianism was possible because the threat could be identified, understood.

Second, if it is accepted that PMA is an internal, as well as an external, phenomenon, EU-critics cannot continue presenting the project of expanding Brussels power as an ‘alien plot’. We must stop analysing the European issue through the prism of nationality. There is no ‘magnificent Westminster model’ to defend against ‘the scheming Europeans’. Our real struggle is against a Pan-European political class that has a distinct set of interests from those of the citizens of all the Member States. (14)

Third, and closely related, EU-critics need therefore to go beyond seeking a decentralisation of power from Brussels and placing limitations on the UN. Douglas Smith has put forward the idea that mechanisms such as ‘citizens initiatives’, on the Swiss model, whereby voters can force referenda and take control of the agenda, must to be explored as a means of breaking the power of the PMAs within the context of the nation state. (16) As was seen in the case of the EU Constitution, referenda are now to the political class what crucifixes are to vampires. They provide searing moments of political truth that cannot be deconstructed away, even by post-modernists.

Marc Glendening is campaign director of the Democracy Movement

1.Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, Penguin, 1992

2. Frank Furedi, The Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right, Continuum Press, 2005

3.Andrew Duff MEP, quoted in Liberator, issue 303, July 11, 2005

4.Chris Bryant MP, quoted in The Sun, November 13, 2003

5.Chris Tame, personal interview, London November 10, 2005

6.Robert Cooper, The Post-Modern State and the World Order, Demos, 2000

7.Anthony Giddens, The Third Way and the Renewal of Social Democracy, Polity, 1998, p32

8.Anthony Giddens, ibid, p146

9.John Laughland, The EU and the Problems of Democracy: the potential consequences of the Nice Treaty, Prepisy Prednasek, January 22, 2002

10.Peter Oborne, The Rise of Political Lying, Free Press, 2005

11.Robert Cooper, comment in debate, Europe: Where is the Big Idea?, Institute of Ideas, October 30, 2005

12.Antony Giddens, op cit, p142

13.Mark Leonard, Europe’s Transformative Power, Centre for European Reform, Bulletin 40, February/March 2005.

14.Lord Mackenzie Stuart, quoted in Aiming for the Heart of Europe: A misguided Venture, Bruges Group Paper No.33, 2003

15.Sean Gabb, presentation, The Cultural Revolution: Culture War, Libertarian Alliance International conference, November 20, 2005

16.Douglas Smith, Direct Democracy, The Ecologist, July/August, 2004

Joseph Stalin- election pundit

"It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything."

Which bring us to the Grinning Chimp's victory at the last US Presidential Election...

Please send as far and wide as possible.

Robert Sterling
Editor, The Konformist
Elections & Voting
Ohio's Diebold debacle: New machines call election results into
question By Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
Online Journal Guest Writers
Nov 25, 2005

Massive Election Day irregularities are emerging in reports from all
over Ohio after the introduction of Diebold's electronic voting in
nearly half of the Buckeye State's counties. A recently released
report by the non-partisan General Accountability Office warned of
such problems with electronic voting machines.

E-voting Machine Disasters

Prior to the 2005 election, electronic voting machines from Diebold
and other Republican voting machine manufacturers were newly
installed in 41 of Ohio's 88 counties. The Dayton Daily News
reported that in Montgomery County, for example, "Some machines
began registering votes for the wrong item when voters touched the
screen correctly. Those machines had lost their calibration during
shipping or installation and had to be recalibrated. . . ."

Steve Harsman, the drector of the Montgomery County Board of
Elections (BOE), told the Daily News that the recalibration could be
done on site, but poll workers had never performed the task before.

The city of Carlisle, Ohio, announced on November 22 that it is
contesting the results of the November 8 general election as a
result of Montgomery County vote counting problems. Carlisle Mayor
Jerry Ellender told the Middletown Journal that the count on the
city's continuing $3.8 million replacement fire levy is
invalid "since they are not sure if Carlisle voters received the
right ballots on the new electronic voting machines."

Harsman, according to the Journal, said, "poll workers incorrectly
encoded voter cards that are used to bring up the ballots on the
electronic machines in precincts in Germantown and Carlisle."

At least 225 votes were registered for the fire levy in precincts
with only 148 registered voters, according to the Journal. In
addition, 187 voting machine memory cards were lost for most of
election night in Montgomery County, according to the Dayton Daily

In Lucas County, election results appeared more than 13 hours after
the close of polls. The Toledo Blade cited "'frightened' poll
workers," intimidated by the new "touch-screen voting machines."

The Blade found that despite an $87,568 federal grant to the Lucas
County Board of Elections for "voter education and poll worker
training . . ." only $1,718.65 was spent from the grant.

The Blade also reported that 10 days after the 2005
election, "Fourteen touch-screen voting machines have sat unattended
in the central hallway at the University of Toledo Scott Park
Campus." The GAO report warned that touch-screen machines are easily
hacked and should be kept secure at all times.

In Miami County, the Board of Elections fired the deputy director,
Diane Miley, following a 20-minute closed-door session reviewing the
November 8, 2005, general election.

The Free Press had reported that in the 2004 presidential election,
Miami County was cited in the seminal Moss v. Bush election
challenge case. The county was specifically cited for an early
morning influx of 19,000 additional votes, mostly for Bush, after
100 percent of the vote had been reported.

The AP reported additional irregularities in the 2005 election in
Ohio. In Wood County, election results were not posted until 6:23
a.m., after poll workers at four polling places accidentally
selected the wrong option on voting machines preventing the machine
memory cards from being automatically uploaded, according to the
Board of Elections Deputy Director Debbie Hazard.

In five counties -- Brown, Crawford, Jackson, Jefferson and Marion --
using Diebold machines, there were problems with the counting of
absentee ballots as a result of "the width of the ballot," the AP

In Scioto County, the vote count was not finished until 4:30 a.m.
Board of Elections Director Steve Mowery informed the Portsmouth
Daily Times that, as a result of machines undergoing insufficient
testing and absentee problems, things went "poorly."

Many counties used "roving employees" assigned to pick up memory
cards from voting machines. In Lucas County, these "rovers"
traveled "to multiple locations before delivering the cards to the
election office at Governmental Center." The polls closed at 7:30
p.m. but, "The final memory cards were delivered to the Board of
Elections office just before midnight," according to WTOL Channel 11
News, Toledo.

Toledo's WTOL Channel 11 News posed the simple question: "Did the
delay in returning memory cards to the election office open the door
to possible vote fraud?"

Amidst these massive glitches, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth
Blackwell, who personally negotiated the deal for the Diebold
machines that he called the "best in the nation," insisted through
his spokesperson Carlo LaParo that "The new touch-screen systems
went well."

Odd Results for Election Reform Initiatives

The Reform Ohio Now (RON) campaign saw polls throughout the state
showing two of its four election reform issues to be passing easily.
Both the Columbus Dispatch and University of Akron Bliss Institute
polls predicted victories for Issue 2 and Issue 3, only to see them
go down to sudden and statistically unexplainable defeat. Issue 2
allowed for early voting in Ohio and Issue 3 reduced the amount of
money an individual can give a candidate from $10,000 to $2,000.
Both were predicted to pass with 59 percent and 61 percent of the
vote, respectively.

The Bliss Institute of Applied Politics' survey was completed on
October 20 at the University of Akron Survey Research Center, and
found that Issue 2 seemed likely to win approval with more than
three-fifths of likely voters.

The Dispatch mail-in poll was completed on Thursday Nov. 3, just
prior to Election Day. The Dispatch poll is so accurate, that at
least two academic studies have been published about it in the
Public Opinion Quarterly (POQ). The first paper documents that the
Dispatch poll between 1980-1984 was far more accurate than telephone
polling. The study showed the Dispatch error rate at only 1.6
percentage points versus phone error rates of 5 percent. A companion
study published in POQ in 2000 dealt specifically with the question
of statewide referenda. A quote from the study: "The average error
for the Dispatch forecast of these referenda was 5.4 percentage
points, compared to 7.2 percentage points for the telephone surveys."

The academic study concluded that the Dispatch's mail survey
outperformed telephone surveys for both referenda and candidate's

The fact that the Dispatch was nearly 30 points off in predicting
the "YES" vote on Issue 3 should raise concerns.

Dispatch Associate Publisher Mike Curtin shrugged off the worst
polling performance since the infamous Literary Digest predicted
that Alf Landon would beat FDR in 1936. In an email obtained by the
Free Press, Curtin told California voting rights activist Sheri
Myers, "There is no evidence of any irregularities in Ohio's 2005
voting results." Curtin, according to election attorney Cliff
Arnebeck, had also dismissed anyone who raises issues about Ohio's
2004 presidential election results as "conspiracy theorists."

Curtin co-authored the scholarly papers on the Dispatch's legendary
polling accuracy. Editorially, the Dispatch has not endorsed a
Democratic presidential candidate since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

Curtin pleaded with the voting rights activists, "Please don't buy
into the conspiracy theories without any shred of evidence." Curtin
did not deal with the specifics about how the polling, which he was
so proud of, was up to 40 points off on certain issues for the first
time ever. In another email explaining the unprecedented Dispatch
polling debacle, Dispatch Editor Darrel Rowland told a Tribune Media
Services columnist that, "I also can't imagine voting technology is
to blame, when both Democrats and Republicans are involved in every
crucial step of the way."

Under oath testimony at public hearings sponsored by the Free Press
after the 2004 presidential election revealed that election workers
admit that they have little or no knowledge of how e-voting
technology works and are totally reliant on private vendors for vote
counting inside the "black box." Ohio's other major newspapers
routinely suggest what Rowland "can't imagine."

Rowland did note that despite the Dispatch's recent embracing of its
unprecedented incompetence at polling that, "Over the years we have
found that the people who return our mail poll are likely voters --
the holy grail in political polls. Our track record in gauging
public opinion in this state regarded as a national political
bellwether is unparalleled.

Don McTigue, the attorney for RON, told the Free Press that
Blackwell had issued a ruling barring RON volunteers from the county
vote counting rooms on election eve. McTigue and the RON volunteers
had filled out a request form to view the counting 11 days prior to
Election Day, but Blackwell had added a new form to verify which
group was representing the issues. This new form was not filled out,
McTigue admits.

Matt Damschroder, the Franklin County Board of Elections director,
allowed the RON observers in anyway, despite their being barred from
the vote counting rooms in other counties.

This is the second straight election in which the polling
organizations were spectacularly wrong in Ohio. In the 2004
election, the media consortium exit polls, as well as the Harris and
Zogby polls, all declared Kerry the winner on Election Day.

Democracy in Jeopardy

One of the first times electronic voting machines were used, in the
1988 New Hampshire presidential primary, former CIA director George
Herbert Walker Bush pulled off a stunning and unpredicted upset. The
last poll before that primary showed Senator Bob Dole winning with 8
percentage points. Bush won by 9 points, a startling 17-point shift.
Bush's e-voting victory allowed him to claim the White House and
paved the way for his son to become the United States' chief

Diebold electronic voting machines use non-transparent, proprietary
software to count the votes. Diebold's CEO Wally O'Dell is one of
President Bush's major donors and fundraisers.

Election Day news coverage from the 41 counties that adopted Diebold
touch-screen machines makes it clear that poll worker ignorance
about how to use the high-tech equipment and machine glitches were
widespread problems in 2005. Diebold technicians in many areas were
key in producing the final vote results.

Use of e-voting machines has resulted in two elections with
improbable results in Ohio, with potentially catastrophic outcomes
for American democracy -- especially if they are ignored.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP
STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at, and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO, to be published this spring by The New Press.

Support the tax payer- smash big business!

This gem from George Monbiot...

The Corporate Begging Bowl: They bleat about the free market, then insist that we subsidise them.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 13th December 2005

Never underestimate the self-pity of the ruling classes. Since Labour took office in 1997, the Confederation of British Industry has been engaged in one long whinge. It doesn’t matter that our taxes are among the lowest and our regulations among the weakest in the developed world. It doesn’t matter that the rich are richer than they have ever been. The CBI is the monster with a thousand stomachs, that will never be satisfied.

In the submission it made to the Chancellor’s pre-budget report it demanded that the government spend less on everything except business(1). The state should cut its planned spending on health, social security and local authorities, and use some of the savings to protect and enhance its “support and advisory services for trade and businesses.” Our higher education budget should be used to supply free research for corporations. The regional development agencies should “expand their activities to support more extensive business-to-business networking and collaboration”. Further road taxes should be abandoned, and the climate change levy “should be frozen”, but the government should help businesses by building more roads and airports. This is what the CBI means by free enterprise.

I mention it to provide some context for the extraordinary revelations published by the Guardian last week. Felicity Lawrence used the Freedom of Information Act to discover who has been receiving the European Union’s farm subsidies(2). The biggest beneficiaries, she found, were not farmers but food manufacturers. In 2003 and 2004, the sugar company Tate and Lyle was given £227m of taxpayers’ money. Nestle was paid by you and me to export milk: I wouldn’t be surprised if that includes its ever-popular sales of powdered milk to the third world. Gate Gourmet, the airline catering company, took half a million pounds from us for the little sachets of milk and sugar it puts on passengers’ food trays: because they leave British airspace, they qualify for export subsidies. KLM received a farm subsidy for “rural restructuring”: turning part of the Dutch countryside into a runway. GlaxoSmithKline, Boots, Eton College, Heineken, Grolsch, Shell and the tobacco company Philip Morris have been given millions of pounds of farm subsidies, and at least one of them (Eton) doesn’t even know why.

The British government can’t be blamed for this. Mr Blair has been trying for years to cut the money handed out under the Common Agricultural Policy, and for years has been thwarted, principally by France and Germany. At the European summit this week, France and Germany will doubtless ensure that nothing changes until at least 2013, undermining everything they claim to be striving for at the simultaneous trade talks in Hong Kong. But what bothers our government is not that the poor are giving to the rich, but that the Common Agricultural Policy represents a general and unnecessary drain on state resources. How do I know? Because when Britain provides its own agricultural aid, the same thing happens.

On Thursday the research organisation SpinWatch published a report on the outcome of the government’s Curry Commission, which was supposed to help farmers recover from the foot and mouth epidemic(3). When the commission released its findings in January 2002, it claimed that the measures would help to reconnect farmers with their market, reconnect food production “with a healthy and attractive countryside” and reconnect consumers “with what they eat and where it has come from”(4). The government put aside £500 million to make this happen, then used the money to make sure it didn’t.

It spent £2.3m on setting up something called the Food Chain Centre, which would “help build more effective and efficient supply chains”(5). The centre is run by the Institute of Grocery Distribution, a research group working for the food manufacturers and superstores. All but one of the IGD’s board of trustees come from companies which could be accused of helping to break the connections between farmers and the market, the market and the countryside and consumers and the food they eat: Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Compass, Nestle, Heinz, Procter and Gamble, Bernard Matthews, Kraft and Unilever (6). (The exception, whose presence on the board is something of a mystery, works for the razor company Wilkinson Sword). The Food Chain Centre helps companies to reduce their costs and enhance their profits, and we pay for it.

A further £1.4m has gone to the Cereals Industry Forum, which is run by the food industry’s big lobby groups. The government has given £6.8m to the Red Meat Industry Forum, which, among other public services, has been helping Tesco to find cheaper ways of producing pork sausages (7). So it goes on. But when the National Association of Farmers’ Markets, which did exactly what the Curry Commission recommended, applied for £150,000 from the government, it was told to get lost. It collapsed soon afterwards. Doubtless the money had already been spent on helping Tesco find new ways of destroying its competitors.

There is nothing unusual about these handouts for private companies. In his book Peverse Subsidies, published in 2001, Professor Norman Myers estimates that when you add the direct payments US corporations receive to the wider costs they oblige society to carry, you come up with a figure of $2.6 trillion, or roughly five times as much as the profits they make(8). As well as the $362 billion the OECD countries were paying for farming when his book was published (or rather, as we have seen, for activities masquerading as farming) they were shelling out some $71 billion on fossil fuels and nuclear power and a staggering $1.1 trillion on road transport. Worldwide, governments pay companies $25bn a year to destroy the earth’s fisheries, and $14bn to wreck our forests.

The Energy Policy Bill the Bush administration drove through Congress this summer handed a further $2.9bn to the coal industry, $4.3bn to nuclear power and $1.5bn to oil and gas firms(9). According to the Democratic congressman Henry Waxman, the oil subsidy “was mysteriously inserted in the final energy legislation after the legislation was closed to further amendment … Obviously, it would be a serious abuse to secretly slip [in] such a costly and controversial provision”(10). Most of the money, he discovered, would be administered by “a private consortium located in the district of Majority Leader Tom DeLay … The leading contender for this contract appears to be the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America consortium” whose board members include Marathon Oil and our old friend Halliburton. “There is no conceivable rationale for this extraordinary largesse. The oil and gas industry is reporting record income and profits … the net income of the top oil companies will total $230 billion in 2005.” It would be tempting to hold Bush responsible for this, but that would be only half right. The oil firms were scooping up taxpayers’ money long before they put their robot in the White House: Norman Myers reports that between 1993 and mid-1996, “American oil and gas companies gave $10.3 million to political campaigns and received tax breaks worth $4 billion.”

This week the rich countries gathering for the World Trade Organisation meeting in Hong Kong will tell the poor ones to open their economies to the free market. But the free market does not exist. In every nation, the corporations hold out their begging bowls and tax-payers line up to fill them. We are the ragged-trousered philanthropists of the 21st century, the comparatively poor obliged to sponsor the rich.


1. The Confederation of British Industry, October 2005. CBI Recommendations for the Autumn 2005 Pre-Budget Report.
Submission to HM Treasury.

2. Felicity Lawrence, 8th December 2005. Multinationals, not farmers, reap biggest rewards in Britain’s share of CAP payouts. The Guardian.

3. Andy Rowell, 8th December 2005. The ‘Big Food’ Takeover of British Agriculture.

4., quoted by Andy Rowell, ibid.

5., quoted by Andy Rowell, ibid.

6. The Institute of Grocery Distribution, viewed 11th December 2004. IGD Board of Trustees.

7. The Food Chain Centre, 8th June 2004, viewed 12th December 2005. 20% Savings to be had in Sausage Supply Chain.

8. Norman Myers and Jennifer Kent, 2001. Perverse Subsidies: how tax dollars can undercut the environment and the economy. Island Press, Washington DC.

9. Eg Carol Werner, 29th July 2005. Subsidies: historic, current and the skewing of market signals. Environmental and Energy Study Institute.

10. Rep. Henry Waxman, 27th July 2005. Letter to the Honorable J. Dennis Hastert.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Yuletide!

I hope anyone reading this has had a peaceful Festive Season. I hope to get some stuff up in the next few days.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Birthday & backlog

I wanted to get more done this week on the blog, but I've had a lot of distractions. I want to go on a blogging bender and add lots of interesting stuff which people may find useful & possibly entertaining.

I'm off in about 10 minutes to Chester where a good mate of mine lives for my 36th birthday shindig. I'm 36 tomorrow- frightening! Food, drink, fun- it will be good to get out of London for a few days.

I hope people have a good weekend!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The oil depot fire

Well I didn't hear the explosion, and as it was heard 100 miles away I feel that I missed something. Seriously, it is good that no-one died. Around 9 o'clock Sunday morning there was a big black cloud to the north which I assumed was carrying rain. Only afterwards did I realise what it was.

It has still to rain in London, as far as I can tell, and I read in one of the papers that we should expect black rain. Very Hiroshima 1945. Just as well it wasn't a nuclear power plant.

Credit where credit's due

They say great minds think alike. Perhaps that's the reason so many so-called "Individualists" think they're so clever ("We're all Individualists and we all think the same"). At the same time there are a lot of things floating around in my head & I can't remember where I heard them first- or I attribute them to the wrong person(s). For instance, the (very good) phrase "No man is good enough to be another man's master". I got the impression in the past that it was something said one of the Levellers in the English Civil War. However, when I typed the phrase in a search engine, it was attributed to George Bernard Shaw.

However, recently I came across phrases which I use which were used by people before me, which obviously registered in my mind, but when I was blogging erroneously thought were my own. So I'm going to give credit here.

First, "Actual Existing Capitalism". That comes from Kevin Carson, and used in his aforementioned essay "Austrian and Marxist Theories of Monopoly Capitalism: A Mutualist Synthesis" which I read about a year ago (it could have been Boxing Day- it is good Boxing Day reading) on the Libertarian Alliance website and which I obviously picked up in my mind. Basically "AEC" is the horrible corporate system we live under, as opposed to the nirvana/idyll which fills economic textbooks and the speeches of mainstream politicians.

Second, "Far Centre". This come from an article in the Europe-wide EU-critical mag These Tides, available from either the Estonian think tank UKVE or the Democracy Movement. The article from the Vol.III No.4 (2001ish) issue of These Tides was written by Jim Wild, who has the dubious privilege of being the person who persuaded me to join the Greens (over a few beers after the Bruges Group meeting I wrote about recently). Jim uses the phrase "Far Centre" in the following context:

"Some political commentators call EU-critics extreme, and on the far something or other but something unites Blair, [Ken] Clarke and [the late Ted] Heath and it appears to be a similar belief in corporate capitalism of which the EU and globalisation are a part. They should perhaps be called the far-centre, as they appear to be moderates except that they have a very different idea of democracy to us sceptics. They appear to prefer rule by unelected committees, bureaucrats and bankers."

So that's my intellectual debts sorted!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Conspiracist Nonsense

"In some ways she was far more acute than Winston, and far less susceptible to Party propaganda. Once when he happened in some connection to mention the war against Eurasia, she startled him by saying casually that in her opinion the war was not happening. The rocket bombs which fell daily on London were probably fired by the Government of Oceania itself, 'just to keep people frightened'. This was an idea that had literally never occurred to him." George Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four (try looking in Part II, Chapter V).

The following below made me wonder more and more about the whole "War on Terror" malarkey (my word of the day). Simply, there is a lot more going on that we can possibly imagine. My own view about the attacks on September 11th is the Bush Admin knew something was up. If it was a day for cock-ups on a massive scale, (where was the US air force until it was too late?) people should have been reprimanded, sacked, court martialled and so on. No-one was!

Anyway, here's the piece.

Tomgram: Dreyfuss on Bush's Deadly Dance with Islamic Theocrats

During his embattled summer vacation in Crawford, Texas, George Bush managed to launch a new promotional ditty for his war in Iraq: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." Since then there has been much commentary from the administration, from military officials, and from the media on the question of how successfully the Iraqi military is actually "standing up." (Not especially successfully is the usual answer.) There has, however, been scarcely any serious discussion about what that new Iraqi army, heavily infiltrated by Shiite and Kurdish militiamen from the ruling parties in the Iraqi government, is actually going to stand up for. And yet this is an important question.

Only recently, for instance, American forces uncovered some striking evidence of what our new Iraq has increasingly come to look like. In a bunker in Baghdad they discovered a detention and torture center run by the Interior Ministry, itself headed by Bayan Jabr, a senior member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. SCIRI is the main Shiite religious party in the government and has a 20,000-man strong militia, the Badr Organization. While the bunker's discovery caused an uproar here (and in Iraq), it is but the tip of the iceberg. In some sense, it is not even a new story.

For well over a year now, Human Rights Watch has been cataloguing Interior Ministry abuses and warning about a human rights catastrophe unraveling in "our" Iraq. Last July, Peter Beaumont of the British Observer revealed that the Shiite religious/political powers-that-be had set up not one detention-and-torture center but a whole "ghost network" of them -- in some cases, he gave locations – in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, partly financed by British and American funds originally intended for the rebuilding of the police force. In these centers, torture methods "resurrected from the time of Saddam" were being used; and the centers, in turn, were connected to paramilitary commando units (and police units) -- basically kidnapping and death squads -- being run by the Interior Ministry as well as by the Shiite religious parties. Such units are increasingly engaged in a war of revenge with Sunni insurgents and in an ever growing campaign of assassinations, summary executions, and disappearances in Sunni neighborhoods which months ago reached "epidemic levels." Human rights organizations in the country have hundreds of cases of disappearances on their lists -- as well as assassinations, torture of every sort, and an endless raft of human rights violations.

When asked about these practices by the Washington Post's Ellen Knickmeyer, Abdul Aziz Hakim, head of SCIRI, responded with complaints that the Bush administration wasn't letting his men act aggressively enough. The United States, he insisted, "is tying Iraq's hands in the fight against insurgents" -- oddly enough the very (tortured) image Vice President Dick Cheney recently used in opposing Senator John McCain's anti-torture amendment in the Senate. (The amendment, he said, "would bind the president's hands in wartime.")

This week, just as Saddam Hussein went back into court, a new voice was added to the discussion about the "collapse of human rights in Iraq" -- that of Iyad Allawi, the former Iraqi Prime Minister in the American-sponsored Interim Government. Running for office again in the upcoming elections, he accused the Iraqi government -- essentially the Shiite religious parties -- of sponsoring "human rights abuses in Iraq [that] are now as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein and are even in danger of eclipsing his record." He told the Observer's Beaumont that "the brutality of elements in the new security forces rivals that of Saddam's secret police," and added, "We are even witnessing Sharia courts based on Islamic law that are trying people and executing them." The former American favorite "now has so little faith in the rule of law that he had instructed his own bodyguards to fire on any police car that attempted to approach his headquarters without prior notice, following the implication of police units in many of the abuses."

All this, by the way, from a man, who was the head of an exile organization, the Iraqi National Accord, which, according to a little noted June 2004 front-page article in the New York Times, planted car bombs and other explosives in Baghdad in the 1990s in an attempt to destabilize Saddam's regime -- and did so under the "direction" of the CIA.

Robert Dreyfuss has a particularly vivid way of catching the strange dilemma George Bush's war has left us in today. American forces in Iraq, he writes below, are now "the Praetorian Guard" for a radical right-wing Iraqi theocratic government in Baghdad, one deeply indebted to that full member of the "axis of evil," Iran. Dreyfuss is the author of a remarkable new book, The Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. It's a striking history of how, for the last half century, successive American administrations have bedded down with right-wing Islamic movements. James Norton, former Middle East editor for the Christian Science Monitor, recently called the book "a chronicle of mistakes made, opportunities lost, and lessons most vividly not learned. It's also the story of the historical error that has come to define U.S. foreign policy in the Muslim world: the Machiavellian use of political Islam as a sword and shield against communism and Arab nationalism… Devil's Game records the long and sordid history of right-wing and hard-line elements in the U.S. government finding common cause with fundamentalist groups in the Middle East… By feeding the monster of militant Islamism to fulfill short-term goals, Dreyfuss argues, the United States helped unleash the most challenging foreign policy crisis of the new millennium" It is a must read. In the meantime, consider his latest take on the Bush administration and the Islamic right. Tom

Political Islam vs. Democracy
The Bush Administration's Deadly Waltz with Shiite Theocrats in Iraq and Muslim Brotherhood Fanatics in Syria, Egypt, and Elsewhere
by Robert Dreyfuss

Nearly three years into the war in Iraq, the Bush administration tells us that it wasn't about weapons of mass destruction or Iraqi ties to Al Qaeda, but about America's holy mission to spread democracy to the benighted regions of the Middle East. However, postwar Iraq is anything but a democracy. In fact, if Iraq manages to avoid all-out civil war, it is likely to end up with a government that is fiercely undemocratic -- a Shiite theocratic dictatorship that rules by terror, torture, and armed might.

What President Bush has wrought in Iraq is just the latest in a long string of U.S. efforts to make common cause with the Islamic right. But like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, the Mickey Mouse character whose naïve and inexperienced use of magic blows up in his face, American efforts to play with the forces of political Islam have proved to be dangerous, volatile, and often uncontrollable.

The problem goes far beyond the Shiites in Iraq. In the Sunni parts of that country, the power of Islamism is growing, too -- and by this I do not mean the forces associated with Al Qaeda but the radical-right Muslim Brotherhood, represented there by the Iraqi Islamic Party, and other manifestations of the Salafi- and Wahhabi-style religious right. In Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere, the radical religious right is also gaining strength. Meanwhile; sometimes deliberately, sometimes by sheer ignorance and incompetence, the Bush administration is encouraging the spread of political Islam. Were we to "stay the course," not only Iraq but much of the rest of the Middle East could fall to the Islamic right.

Does this mean that Al Qaeda-style fanatics will take power? No. Whether in the form of Iraq's Shiite theocrats or the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and Egypt, the Islamic right cannot be compared to Al Qaeda. Yet, just as the U.S. Christian right has its clinic bombers, just as the Israeli Jewish right spawned the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin and settler-extremists who kill dozens at Muslim holy sites, the Islamic right provides ideological support and theological justification for more extreme (and, yes, terrorist) offspring. Even the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization with a long history of violence, which once maintained a covert "secret apparatus" and a paramilitary arm, has not convincingly renounced its past, nor demonstrated that it sees democracy as anything more than a tool it can use to seize power.

Shiite "Islamofascists" Rule Iraq

The case of Iraq could not be clearer. In 2002, as Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the White House and the Pentagon inexorably toward war, it was increasingly obvious to experienced Iraq hands that post-Saddam Iraq would be ruled by its restive Shiite majority. It was no less obvious that the dominant force within that Shiite majority would be the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, and a parallel force associated with Al Dawa (The Islamic Call), a forty-five year-old Shiite underground terrorist party. From the mid-1990s on, and especially after 2001, the United States provided overt and covert assistance to these organizations as part of the effort to force regime change in Iraq. Like Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, with which both worked closely and which had offices in Teheran, SCIRI and Dawa were based in Iran. SCIRI, in fact, was founded in 1982 by Ayatollah Khomeini and its paramilitary arm, the Badr Brigade, was trained and armed by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Certainly, to the Bush administration, SCIRI and Dawa were known quantities.

David Phillips, the former adviser to the State Department's war-planning effort and author of Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco, has assured me that, in the run-up to the war, many of his colleagues were well aware that SCIRI-type Islamists, not Chalabi, would inherit post-Saddam Iraq. Other insiders, too, have told me of foreign-policy professionals and Iraq specialists in the U.S. intelligence community who warned (to no avail) that SCIRI would be a major force in Iraq after any invasion. The point is, whether they bothered to pay attention or not, the Bush-Cheney team was informed, well in advance, that by toppling Saddam there was a strong possibility they would be installing a Shiite theocracy.

Today, the unpleasant reality is that 150,000 U.S. troops, who are dying at a rate of about 100 a month, are the Praetorian Guard for that radical-right theocracy. It is a regime that sponsors Shiite-led death squads carrying out assassinations from Basra (where freelance reporter Steven Vincent, himself murdered by such a unit, wrote that "hundreds" of former Baathists, secular leaders, and Sunnis were being killed every month) to Baghdad. Scores of bodies of Sunnis regularly turn up shot to death, execution-style.

The latest revelation is that SCIRI's Badr Brigade, now a 20,000-strong militia, operated a secret torture prison in Baghdad holding hundreds of Sunni detainees. There, prisoners had their skin flayed off, electric shocks applied to their genitals, or power drills driven into their bones. SCIRI and Al Dawa are the senior partners in an Iraqi government which has imposed a unilateralist constitution on the country that elevates the power of the Shiite-dominated provinces and enshrines their vision of Islam in the body politic. Two weeks ago, during his visit to Washington, D.C., I asked Adel Abdul Mahdi, a top SCIRI official and Iraq's deputy president, about the charges of death squads and brutality. "All of the terrorists are on the other side," he sniffed. "What you refer to is a reaction to that."

Perhaps the ultimate irony of Bush's war on terrorism is this: While the President asserts that the war in Iraq is the central front in the struggle against what he describes as "Islamofascism," real "Islamofascists" are already in power in Baghdad -- and they are, shamefully, America's allies.

Of course, among the Iraqi opposition, too, the Islamic right is growing. The forces of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq have gained some limited support from Iraqis, and Zarqawi is using the war in Iraq to rally support from jihadists throughout the region. More broadly, the U.S. occupation is pushing ever larger numbers of Sunni Arabs toward support for Islamists. In Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood is represented by the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP). Although it draws much of its strength from radicalized Sunnis who hate the occupation, the IIP has shown itself to be the part of the Sunni opposition most willing to cooperate with the U.S.-allied Shiite theocrats. It has, from time to time, taken part in the various interim governments that the United States has set up in post-war Iraq; and, in October, the IIP endorsed the ersatz Iraqi constitution, setting itself apart from the vast majority of Iraq's Sunnis. (For that, its headquarters in Baghdad was attacked by the resistance, and many of its offices around the country were blown up or assaulted.) Still, the growth of the IIP and other similar manifestations of the Islamic right among Iraq's Sunnis has encouraged some Shiite theocrats to envision a Sunni-Shiite Islamist partnership in the country. However unlikely that may be, given the passions that have already been inflamed, the growth of the radical right among Sunnis cannot possibly be a good thing for Iraq, for the region, or for U.S. interests.

Syria: The Muslim Brotherhood Waits

Now, consider the broader issue of Bush's supposed push for regional democracy. That effort, it should be noted, is being coordinated under the know-nothing supervision of none other than Elizabeth Cheney, the vice president's daughter. She is currently the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs and is charged with the task of democracy-building in the "Greater Middle East."

Undeterred by the failure of the U.S. experiment in installing democracy in Iraq, next on the chopping block -- that is, next to receive the benefits of U.S.-imposed democracy -- is Syria. That small, oil-poor, militarily weak state is, at the moment, feeling the full force of Bush administration pressure. Its army and security forces have been driven out of Lebanon, at the risk of sparking civil war in that country again. It has been targeted by the Syrian Accountability Act (reminiscent of the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act) and hit with related U.S. economic sanctions. It has been accused, by John Bolton and other neoconservatives, of maintaining a weapons-of-mass-destruction program far beyond the very limited chemical arms it probably possesses. It is accused, by many U.S. officials, including our ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, of sponsoring the resistance fighters in Iraq -- though there is nearly zero evidence that it is doing so. Liz Cheney and other top U.S. officials are already meeting with Chalabi-like Syrian exile leaders to plot "regime change."

As in Iraq, where Islamic fundamentalist Shiites stepped in to fill the vacuum, so in Syria the most likely power waiting in the wings to replace the government of President Bashar Assad is not some group of Syrian secular democrats and nationalists but Syria's Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is an underground secret society with a long history of terrorism and the use of assassination. With financial and organizational help from Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi establishment, the Brotherhood has spread to every corner of the Muslim world. Although it now officially eschews violence, in recent years it has given succor to, and even spawned, far more radical versions of itself. One of its chief theoreticians, Sayyid Qutb, created the theological justification for Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda. Even today, the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda are at least fellow travelers. It is far from clear how to draw the line between the Muslim Brotherhood and other forces of "conservative" political Islam and those associated with radical-right, violence-prone Islamists. Certainly, many experienced U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers disagree about where one stops and the other starts.

Because Syria -- with a mostly Sunni population (though, as in Iraq, highly complex with a rich mix of minorities) -- is a closed society, it is impossible to say just how powerful the Muslim Brotherhood is there. But with an exile leadership in London and other cities in Western Europe, with a network of supporters among the Sunni Arab petit bourgeoisie, and with power centers in a string of cities from Damascus to Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, it is widely considered a major player in future Syrian politics. Recently, the Brotherhood joined with secular intellectuals and others in an ad hoc, anti-Assad coalition, but the rest of the coalition has few forces on the ground. Only it has "troops." In that, this coalition is reminiscent of the one that formed in 1978 to overthrow the Shah of Iran. After the Shah's fall, Ayatollah Khomeini's gang picked off its erstwhile allies one by one -- the communists, the National Front (the remnant of the nationalist forces associated with Prime Minister Mossadegh in the 1950s), the intellectuals, and finally the moderate Islamists such as President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr -- to establish the authoritarian theocracy that is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It cannot be that the Bush administration is unaware of the power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. Rather, they evidently simply don't care. Their enmity for the Assad government is so all-powerful that, as in Iraq, they evidently are willing to risk an Islamist regime. How can it be that Mr. War on Terrorism blithely condones one Islamic extremist regime in Baghdad and courts another in Damascus?

History shows that there is precedent. In the 1970s and early 1980s, two U.S. allies -- Israel and Jordan -- actively supported the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in a bloody civil war against the government of President Hafez Assad, Bashar's father. The Israeli- and Jordanian-sponsored terrorists killed hundreds of Syrians, exploded car bombs, and assassinated Soviet diplomats and military personnel in Syrian cities. All of this was known to the United States at the time -- and viewed benignly. The Syrian civil war came to a brutal end when Rifaat Assad, the president's brother, led elite units of the military into Hama, where the Muslim Brotherhood had seized power and where hundreds of Syrian government officials had been dragged from their offices and murdered. Rifaat Assad carried out a massive repression in which many thousands died. Yet the forces of the Brotherhood recovered, and today the Bush administration seems content to squeeze the brittle Assad government until it collapses, even if it means that the Muslim Brotherhood takes power.

Middle Eastern Dominos?

Aficionados of the Cold War domino theory often suggested that communism, allowed to topple a single state, would then be able topple country after country; that if communism was victorious in South Vietnam, then Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and other distant lands would follow. That may have been silly, but in the Middle East a domino theory might actually have some application. At the very least, it is important to understand that the Muslim Brotherhood is a supranational force, not simply a country-by-country phenomenon. From Algeria to Pakistan, its leaders know each other, talk to each other, and work together. In addition, the virulent force of religious fanaticism, fed by anger, bitterness, and despair, knows no national boundaries.

Egypt, the anchor of the Arab world and by far its most populous country, is threatened with a Muslim Brotherhood-style regime. Virtually all observers of Egyptian politics agree that the Muslim Brotherhood is the chief opposition party in Egypt. Mere prudence suggests that the United States should not press Egypt too hard for democracy and free elections, given how difficult it is to transition from an authoritarian state to a democratic one. Moreover, it is arguably none of America's business what sort of government Egypt has. The very idea that democracy is the antidote for terrorism has been proven false, most authoritatively by F. Gregory Gause in his essay, "Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?" in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.

Yet the Bush administration is pushing hard for its brand of democracy. Two weeks ago, at a regional forum in the Gulf, Egyptian officials bluntly rebuffed the imperial U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who seemed stunned that the government in Cairo did not want meddlers from the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, and other agencies pouring money into Egyptian opposition groups. President Mubarak, a long-time American ally, was considered indispensable by a succession of administrations during the Cold War. A fierce anti-communist who kept the peace with Israel and helped the United States in its anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and again in the 1991 Gulf War, is now regularly denounced as a dictator by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Richard Perle.

Because of Egypt's history as an ally, no Bush administration official (and not even many neocons) dare say that they want "regime change" in Cairo, but that is precisely what they do want, and many of them may be willing to risk the creation of a Muslim Brotherhood-style regime to get it. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a leading neoconservative strategist and former CIA officer who is now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote the following in his book The Islamic Paradox, comparing Ayatollah Khomeini favorably to Mubarak:

"Khomeini submitted the idea of an Islamic republic to an up-or-down popular vote in 1979, and regular elections with some element of competition are morally essential to the regime's conception of its own legitimacy, something not at all the case with President Husni Mubarak's dictatorship in Egypt. … Anti-Americanism is the common denominator of the Arab states with ‘pro-American' dictators. By comparison, Iran is a profoundly pro-American country."

True, Mubarak rigs Egyptian elections, but in recent parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood still showed tremendous strength. With a third round of elections still to go, it is on track to win up to a quarter of the seats in the new national assembly. Gerecht isn't worried: "It is certainly possible," he writes, "that fundamentalists, if they gained power in Egypt, would try to end representative government. … But the United States would still be better off with this alternative than with a secular dictatorship."

In the 1950s, British intelligence and the CIA worked with the Muslim Brothers against Gamal Abdel Nasser, the founder of modern Arab nationalism. Said Ramadan, the son-in-law of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, who set up the organization's global nerve center in Geneva, Switzerland, was a CIA agent. Twice, in 1954 and in 1965, the Brotherhood tried to assassinate Nasser. From this period to the present, the Brotherhood has received financial support from the ultra-right Saudi establishment.

A Formula for Endless War in the Middle East

Iraq, Syria, and Egypt are not the only places threatened by fundamentalism. In recent Palestinian elections, Hamas -- the official branch of the Muslim Brotherhood there -- has shown remarkable strength, threatening to undo the Palestinian Authority's accomplishments and wreck any chance of a Palestinian-Israeli accord. Ironically, a great deal of Hamas' present power exists only because of the support offered its founders by the Israeli military authorities in decades past. From the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 well into the 1980s, Israel supported the growth of Hamas-style Islamism as a counterweight to the nationalists in the Palestine Liberation Organization. Ahmed Yassin, Hamas' founder, was backed by Israel during those years, as his followers clashed with PLO supporters in Gaza and the West Bank. Too late, Israel recognized that it had created a monster and began to wage war on Hamas, including assassinating Yassin.

From Israel and Palestine to Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and beyond -- in Algeria, Sudan, the Gulf states, Pakistan, and even Saudi Arabia -- the region is beset by Islamist movements. The right way to combat this upsurge is not through military action or a Bush administration-style Global War on Terrorism. That, as many observers have pointed out, is likely to further fuel the growth of such movements, not subdue them.

Only if the temperature is lowered throughout the region might the momentum of the Islamic right be slowed and, someday, reversed. Unfortunately, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have raised that temperature to the boiling point. So has the long-term American military build-up in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. So have the proclamations from President Bush & Co. about a nonsensical "World War IV" against "Islamofascism." So has the Israeli policy of expanding settlements and building a giant barrier that virtually annexes huge swaths of the West Bank for Greater Israel. All of these policies cause Islamist sympathies to grow -- and out of them bubble recruits not only for organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, but for Al Qaeda-style terrorist groups.

The Bush administration has put into operation an utterly paradoxical and self-defeating strategy. First, its policies inflame the region, feeding the growth of political Islam and its extremist as well as terrorist offshoots. Then, as in Iraq -- and as seems to be the case in Syria and Egypt -- it seeks "regime change" in countries where it knows that the chief opposition and likely inheritor of power will be the Muslim Brotherhood or its ilk. This is a formula for endless war in the region.

Robert Dreyfuss is the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. He covers national security for Rolling Stone and writes frequently for The American Prospect, Mother Jones, and the Nation. He is also a regular contributor to, the Huffington Post, and other sites, and writes the blog, "The Dreyfuss Report," at his web site.

The only other thing to say (and it should be so obvious that is shouldn't need saying) is that religious loonies have a lot more in common with each other (and have the same sort of common enemies- ie independent minded women, homosexuals, Marxists) than they would care to admit.