Berlusconi’s Party Merges With Mussolini’s

The flames are going out all over Italy. Tomorrow, the flame which for more than 60 years has been the symbol of neo-Fascist continuity with Mussolini, will disappear from mainstream politics. The National Alliance, the last important home of that inheritance, is “fusing” with Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party to give the governing bloc a single identity and a single unchallenged leader.

According to Christopher Duggan, the British author of Force of Destiny, an acclaimed history of modern Italy, the fusion of the two parties does not mark the disappearance of Fascist ideas and practices but rather their triumphant insinuation. “This is an alarming situation in many, many ways,” he says.

“The fusion of the parties signifies the absorption of the ideas of the post-Fascists into Berlusconi’s party … the tendency to see no moral and ultimately no political distinction between those who supported the Fascist regime and those who supported the Resistance. So the fact that Fascism was belligerent, racist and illiberal gets forgotten; there is a quiet chorus of public opinion saying that Fascism was not so bad.”

One example of the way things are changing is the treatment of the veterans of the Republic of Salo, the puppet Fascist state ruled by Mussolini on the shores of Lake Garda in the last phase of the war. Under the thumb of Hitler and responsible for dispatching Jews to the death camps, Salo was seen by Italians after the war as the darkest chapter in the nation’s modern history.

But steadily and quietly it has been rehabilitated in the Italian memory. The latest step, before parliament, is the creation of a new military order, the Cavaliere di Tricolore, which can be awarded to people who fought for at least six months during the war – either with the Partisans against the “Nazi-Fascists”, with the forces of the Republic of Salo on behalf of the Nazis and against the Partisans, or with the forces in the south under General Badoglio.

In this way, says Duggan, the idea of moral interchangeability is smuggled into the national discourse, treating the soldiers fighting for the puppet Nazi statelet “on an equal footing morally and politically with the Partisans”.

Duggan contrasts the post-war process in Italy with that in Germany, where the Nuremberg trials and the purge of public life supervised by the Allies produced a new political landscape. Nothing of the sort happened in Italy.

“There was never a clear public watershed between the experience of Fascism and what happened afterwards. It’s partly the fault of the Allies, who after the war were much more concerned with preventing the Communists from coming to power. [Gladio]

“As a result very senior figures in the army, the police and the judiciary remained unpurged. Take the figure of Gaetano Azzariti, one of the first presidents, post-war, of Italy’s Constitutional Court, yet under Mussolini he had been the president of the court which had the job of enforcing the the race laws. The failure of the Allies to put pressure on Italy also reflects a perception that still exists: that the Fascist revival is not to be taken seriously because Italy is ‘lightweight’. Whereas if the same thing happened in Germany or Austria, you’d get really worried.”

The coalition of the shilling made us allies with (open) fascists-

Italy cannot escape blame, however, for its refusal to confront the true shame of what happened under Mussolini – his order to Badoglio, his commander in Libya, for example, to “employ any kind of gas… even on a massive scale”, which was duly carried out. When Berlusconi insisted that Mussolini was not nearly as bad as Saddam, he was voicing standard saloon-bar wisdom.

Happy Norooz!

Happy Norooz Persian peeps! Which also means it is officially Spring, vernal equinox and all. And Trita Parsi on Obama’s slick overtures-

In an unprecedented – if not historic – New Year’s message to the Iranian people and the government of Iran, President Barack Obama used the ancient Iranian New Year – Norooz – holiday to usher in a new beginning for US-Iran relations.

The video message, aired around 0800am in the morning in Iran, will be the topic of conversation at every Norooz gathering – in Iran as well as in America.

“For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained. But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together,” the President said.

Expressing deep admiration and respect for Iranian civilization – as well as the contributions of Iranian Americans to American society – Obama put forward a vision for a new era of US-Iran ties. In almost every aspect, Obama’s approach was the opposite of that of President George Bush.

First, he did not try to bypass the Iranian government by speaking to the Iranian people alone. Instead, he addressed both.

Second, he referred to the “Islamic Republic of Iran,” the formal name of Iran after the 1979 revolution, indicating his acceptance of the revolution and the reality of the current government. This will likely be read in Tehran as an indication that the policy of the United States no longer is regime change. This does not, of course, mean that Obama opposes democratization in Iran – rather, it means that Washington will seek behavioral rather than regime change in Tehran.

Third, he recognized that threats will not help resolve US-Iran tensions. No more “all options are on the table” or the implicit or explicit threat of force as a stick to compel Iranian submission.

Fourth, he recognizes that all outstanding issues between the two countries must be addressed in an atmosphere of mutual respect. It is not just America’s concerns with Iran that will be addressed, but also Iranian concerns.

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, Obama signaled America’s strategic intent to achieve constructive ties among the United States and Iran. This is essential as he declared that the American end game is to have a positive relationship with Iran and that he intends to put the destructive enmity of the past three decades behind them. Signaling this intent will make any tactical cooperation with Iran in Afghanistan more likely and more fruitful, for reasons I have explained here and here. Absent this strategic signal, the Iranians would likely have refused helping the United States tactically in Afghanistan.

Sixth, within that strategic intent, Obama declared that the United States wants Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations – meaning an American acceptance of a prominent Iranian role in the region, granted of course, that Iran changes its behavior. Obama understands what the Iranians want – recognition and inclusion in the region’s political, economic and security structures – and he is willing to offer it if the Iranians change their policies. This is a significant break with the Bush Administration policies.

“So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek,” Obama said. “It’s a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce.”

Finally, by quoting one of Iran’s great poets, Saadi, Obama showed once more his respect and appreciation for Iranian culture – and that he understands that uniqueness of the Iranian nation. Iran is its own civilization – something the President of the United States appreciates and respects.

The Iranian people could not have wished for a better Norooz greeting. Yet, Obama cannot dance this tango alone. The ball is in Iran’s court. Tehran should be careful not to miss this opportunity to transform US-Iran relations from destructive enmity to constructive partnership.

Posted in Iran. Tags: , , . 2 Comments »

Iraq: 6 Years

If you take a one second silence for every casualty of the Iraq invasion (on all sides) you will be silent for 15 days, 7 hours, 58 minutes & 7 seconds. You only get to the non-Iraq casualties in the sixth hour of the sixteenth day.

Last year as part of the blogswarm I wrote- Withdrawal, Reparations, Prosecutions. So what d’you reckon?

Withdrawal– Nope, unless you figure 50,000 troops are negligible and the various get out clauses won’t be exploited by the Pentagon or Obama.

Reparations– Sorry, the financial sector got all your cash for generations to come, Iraqis may be able to sell some of the bullets shot at them for (radioactive) scrap.

Prosecutions– Sorry folks but Nuremberg happened because of a victorious allied occupation, after all it excluded European colonialism and the American use of the atomic bomb. So unless the coalition countries are invaded and subjugated by some other power allied with Iraq, seems human society isn’t able to enact justice where the ruling classes are concerned, it’s all just fine words. Keep pushing of course, we may yet become civilised. Still, you can book some of the main criminals for several (hundred) thousands to give you a speech.

Muntazer al-Zaidi is now in jail for 3 years after being beaten and tortured, he threw his shoes at George Bush, Bush laughed it off, both the act and and I am sure the knowledge of al-Zaidi’s abuse and coming years in prison, he likes that kind of thing. Our media continues to shy away from calling torture torture and the few mea culpas over pimping the lies that led to war have not changed their behaviour significantly, one consequence of this is a likely attack on Iraq’s neighbour Iran and a spreading war in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The humanitarian disaster in Somalia goes almost unmentioned as does the particular involvement of the US. Also unmentioned mostly is the Neocon/Zionist axis, but perhaps it is coming into the open a little more.

Mostly I think we are in the invidious position of still many people do not regard this supreme crime as a crime- nationalism, militarism and tribalism remain unexamined, and as such many see no need to stop it, make recompense and punish the guilty. Until that changes we are in for much more bloodshed, empire is a recidivist and the pantry is bare.

PS. I agree with James, an October 7th blogswarm is a good idea. Second’s silence maths below the fold.

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2 Million

and rising, and New Labour are acting like Tories attacking welfare (rather than make tax avoiding corporations pay up even as they bail them out). The 80’s again already? Except this bust is way more than that decade’s and we’ve run out of planet. I know of a second home that just went for half a million, the new owners turned up in their Porsche and Minis, capital’s going one way and suffering’s coming the other.

Anger is an energy.

If Afghanistan is Vietnam

Is Pakistan going to be Cambodia? Actually those sort of comparisons aren’t really useful or apposite, other than to point out the Empire just never stops bombing shit… ever.

Most American taxpayer money is actually spent on the troops, not, of course, on poor Afghans. In fact, with Pentagon expenditures in Afghanistan running at about $36 billion a year, the annual aid allocation for the 387,000 people who live in Bamiyan Province is outstripped every single hour by the money spent on 30,000-plus American troops and their weaponry.

Posted in War. Tags: . 8 Comments »

St. Neoliberal’s

Hundreds of patients suffered and died unnecessarily as a result of appalling emergency care at a flagship foundation trust, the government’s health watchdog said today in the most damning report ever on an NHS hospital in England.

• Patients arriving in A&E were assessed by unqualified receptionists to determine whether they needed urgent attention. One patient with an open fracture of the elbow had to wait for more than four hours, covered in blood and with no pain relief, because the receptionist failed to give the case priority

• There were too few consultants in A&E to provide on-call cover all day, every day and junior doctors were not adequately supervised

• There were not enough nurses to care for emergency patients. A review of staffing levels in 2007/08 found the trust was short 120 nurses, of which 17 were needed in A&E, 30 in the surgical division, and 77 on the medical wards

• Nurses in the emergency assessment unit were not trained to read cardiac monitors and sometimes turned them off. Patients did not always get the correct medication. Nurses on the wards were not always able to identify when patients were deteriorating after an operation, for example, by monitoring vital signs

• Call buttons were not always answered when patients were in pain or needed the toilet. Relatives claimed patients were left, sometimes for hours, in wet or soiled sheets, putting them at increased risk of infection. Patients at risk of developing pressure sores did not get appropriate care. In one ward, 55% of patients were found to have pressure sores when only 10% had sores on arrival

• Delays in operations were commonplace, especially for trauma patients at weekends. Sometimes a patient’s operation might be cancelled four days in a row, and they would receive “nil by mouth” for most of the day, four days running

The commission analysed the trust’s board meetings from April 2005 to 2008. It found discussions were “dominated by finance, targets and achieving foundation trust status”. When the infection rate of Clostridium difficile doubled in the early months of 2006, the information was not released to the board or the public.

Read the rest.

Write to Hicham Yezza

On Friday 6 March, Hicham was sentenced to a nine-month custodial sentence after being convicted of ‘securing avoidance of enforcement action via deceptive means’. He is currently being held at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes.

Letters been keeping Hicham’s spirits high. Please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your letter so that Hich can reply. Try and write more than once if you can. Even if you don’t know Hich, a few words in a letter can make a big difference.

Write to: Hicham Yezza, XP9266, HMP Woodhill, Tattenhoe Street, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom, MK4 4DA.

If you can’t post a letter, you can write to Hicham via: http://www.emailaprisoner.com/, which costs 25p per message. Bear in mind that this method is less reliable than post and messages can take longer to reach Hicham.

Details of legal fund here.

Barclays Tax Scam

Barclays Bank gags Guardian over leaked memos detailing offshore tax scam

*cough* Wikileaks.

‘In a financial market devastated by the credit crunch, the SCM (Structured Capital Markets) team is one of the only teams still aggressively hiring to increase further its reach and ability to structure more trades. Where the world sees turmoil and destruction, the leaders of SCM see opportunities arising from tax loss exploitation and corporate restructurings throwing up all sorts of new and juicy areas of the tax code which can be profitably exploited.’

‘Even John Varley (Barclays chief executive) now attends meetings in Jenkins’ (chief executive of SCM) office, walking across to the offices at the other end of Canary Wharf, a sign of the shifting of power within the bank.’

‘Normally a man who has made the study of the taxes act and the accounting legislation a priority above all other things in life would be looked upon with some surprise. But within SCM these men are Masters of the Universe, commanding multimillion pound bonuses and publicly humiliating those of lesser knowledge.’

‘With a new administration burdened with two wars, economic meltdown and the choice of new drapes for the White House, SCM management is banking on the administration taking their eye off the ball.’

‘It is a commonly held view that no agency in the US or the UK (and least of all the European agencies) has the resources or the commitment to challenge SCM. SCM has huge amounts of resources, the best minds rewarded with millions of pounds. HMRC recently advertised for a tax and accounting expert with the pay at £45,000.’

Posted in Corruption, Media. Tags: . Comments Off on Barclays Tax Scam

John McDonnell on the Attack on Welfare

Via HarpyMarx

Out of the suffering of the 1930s, Britain built a civilising society, based in large part on the important lesson that unemployment is rarely the fault of individual malingering but the structural consequence of governments allowing the free market to rule our lives. Labour leaders such as Clem Attlee learnt this when he worked among the poor and unemployed in the East End. Many Labour MPs in his government knew it from bitter personal experience. Popular revulsion swept away the outdated Poor Law that had stigmatised the unemployed with its brutal means-testing and demeaning forced labour. Benefits became rights and entitlements, not charity. The democratically accountable state became responsible for providing the entitlements of the unemployed, replacing the distribution of alms by charitable bodies.

Tragically today, as thousands again find that through no fault of their own they can lose their job and very quickly find everything they thought secure placed at risk, the government has forgotten the lessons of the 30s. As people look to it for assistance in a dismal economic climate, it seems perverse that the government’s answer is a welfare reform bill with a bloody-minded focus on New Labour’s twin obsessions of penalising the unemployed and privatising public services.

With 2 million unemployed and vacancies drying up, already 10 people are chasing every vacancy. Jobcentre staff have been commended for rising to the challenge of helping people through this difficult period. In fact in the government’s recent green paper, Jobcentre Plus was described as “one of the best back to work agencies in the world”.

This new bill would undermine this positive work. The “work for benefits” scheme contained in the legislation would force long-term unemployed people (disproportionately with disabilities, ethnic minorities and, increasingly, lone parents) to work for their benefits. This workfare scheme would oblige claimants to work for £1.73 an hour.

The government initially said the prime aim of the scheme was to offer work experience to assist people getting back into employment. Yet work experience schemes already exist on a voluntary basis, and a Works and Pensions Department study found evidence that workfare schemes do not increase the likelihood of finding work. Last week James Purnell, the work and pensions secretary, conceded that a central objective of workfare is to discourage fraudulent claims, yet benefit fraud is officially at its lowest level to date, with the investigation system successfully reducing fraud by 66% since 2001.

The bill also renews New Labour’s obsessional targeting of lone parents. As soon as a lone parent’s child reaches the age of three they will become a jobseeker and lose benefits unless they take part in work-related activities. This is despite the government acknowledging the widespread lack of both job opportunities and adequate childcare.

Privatisation dogma is also at the heart of the bill. Private companies and voluntary sector organisations are to be handed contracts for providing services to the unemployed, with jobcentres not allowed to bid. To date, 33 out of 34 contracts have gone to private sector companies, and so the reality is that the new contracts will be awarded to large private corporations.

These companies were attracted by the prospect of profit calculated according to the number of people they placed in work. Large-scale unemployment threatens their profit margin and so they are frantically renegotiating the terms of the deal, insisting on at least double as much money up front. Despite this, and despite leaked reports showing the public sector outperforming its private competitors two to one in getting people into work, the government charges on bullishly with its privatisation plans.

The welfare reform bill is just another example of a government that has lost its way, a government increasingly cut off from the real world of unemployment and deepening insecurity.

‘A doctor was usually also present’

Uncle Sam is way kinky…and rapey-

I was taken to another room where I was made to stand on tiptoes for about two hours during questioning. Approximately thirteen persons were in the room. These included the head interrogator (a man) and two female interrogators, plus about ten muscle guys wearing masks. I think they were all Americans. From time to time one of the muscle guys would punch me in the chest and stomach. Here cold water from buckets was thrown onto me for about forty minutes. Not constantly as it took time to refill the buckets. After which I would be taken back to the interrogation room.

On one occasion during the interrogation I was offered water to drink, when I refused I was again taken to another room where I was made to lie [on] the floor with three persons holding me down. A tube was inserted into my anus and water poured inside. Afterwards I wanted to go to the toilet as I had a feeling as if I had diarrhoea. No toilet access was provided until four hours later when I was given a bucket to use. Whenever I was returned to my cell I was always kept in the standing position with my hands cuffed and chained to a bar above my head.

New York Review of Books- US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites
By Mark Danner
ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody by the International Committee of the Red Cross

Also see Invictus.

…And Then The BBC

So where was I? Oh yeah blogging. Well it seems the banning of the DEC appeal on Gaza was symptomatic of something much more insidious, the BBC now have editorial policy that extends across all aspects of the institution and they are rejecting a play on the same grounds of ‘impartiality’. I sort of understood the DEC thing was angled that if they aired it it would compromise their news operations, which of course was nonsense, but seems they might have been a bit fibby, because now it appears the rapprochement with the Israeli government that began in 2003 is across the entire institution so that creative works will also be censored-

The BBC has declined to broadcast a radio version of Caryl Churchill’s controversial new stage play about Israeli history, claiming it needed to remain impartial ‑ the same reason given for declining to air the Gaza emergency appeal.

In a move likely to resurrect the row over the BBC’s refusal in January to broadcast the appeal to help the people of Gaza, Radio 4 rejected an unsolicited manuscript of the play, Seven Jewish Children, which recently finished a short run at the Royal Court theatre. BBC sources suggest that a significant factor in the decision was awareness of the controversy stirred by Seven Jewish Children during its theatre run and the fact that the BBC has only recently survived the onslaught of criticism for its refusal to broadcast the Gaza appeal. In an email seen by the Guardian, Radio 4’s drama commissioning editor Jeremy Howe said that he and Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer thought Churchill’s play was a “brilliant piece”.

But Howe wrote: “It is a no, I am afraid. Both Mark [Damazer, Radio 4 controller] and I think it is a brilliant piece, but after discussing it with editorial policy we have decided we cannot run with it on the grounds of impartiality – I think it would be nearly impossible to run a drama that counters Caryl Churchill’s view. Having debated long and hard we have decided we can’t do Seven Jewish Children.”

Ironically the author wrote this short letter about the DEC appeal ban-

I couldn’t believe I’d heard right when Channel 4 news said the BBC had refused to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Gaza. But here it is in the Guardian (BBC refuses airtime to Gaza aid appeal, 23 January). I don’t think the BBC objected to the appeal for Darfur, wondering if they were being unfair to the Janjaweed. Perhaps their problem would be solved if a tiny proportion of the money were spent on the tiny proportion of Israeli wounded. The phone number for complaining to the BBC is 03700 100 222.
Caryl Churchill
London

The play has already been attacked by the usual suspects who try to equate anti-zionism with anti-semitism (even as shock horror! a mainstream US newspaper actually broaches the subject albeit with subsequent regulation ‘balance’ piece) and has drawn intelligent repudiations. The play ‘Seven Jewish Children’ is being performed (only as a reading, it is radioactive much like the play drawn from Corrie’s diaries/emails which was blacklisted out of theatres)  in New York today on the anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death (and as another US activist Tristan Anderson has been shot by the IDF). The implications of the BBC now extending its weird ‘impartial’ bullshit to all BBC output is utterly wrong and creatives need to stand up to this censorship. But as the Chas Freeman kerfuffle has also demonstrated the crushing of dissent is all the zionist lobby have left, which sort of gives away they know the strength of their arguments are somewhere between weak and complete rubbish.

Update: Pulse post the script of the play and details should non-profit groups wish to perform it.

Friday! Chris Morris, Jam- Doctor/Lob Rate

My lob rate should return to normal soon, so blogging should resume in a bit (if there’s any evil left in the world, I’m sure it could all be sorted out by then, good faith abounds).

Friday! David Bowie- Dead Man Walking

Also a splendid acoustic version here.

I’m still ill, in fact I have new drugs and apparently as the doc put it ‘a touch of pleurisy’ to go with the exhaustion and utter despondency, woohoo! So enjoy your Friday, someone should.

Posted in Music. Tags: , . 8 Comments »

Po Po UK

Hurray, the police state marches on as the Grauniad reports what sites like Fitwatch have been saying for ages-

Police are targeting thousands of political campaigners in surveillance operations and storing their details on a database for at least seven years, an investigation by the Guardian can reveal.

Photographs, names and video footage of people attending protests are routinely obtained by surveillance units and stored on an “intelligence system”. The ­Metropolitan police, which has pioneered surveillance at demonstrations and advises other forces on the tactic, stores details of protesters on Crimint, the general database used daily by all police staff to catalogue criminal intelligence. It lists campaigners by name, allowing police to search which demonstrations or political meetings individuals have attended.

• Activists “seen on a regular basis” as well as those deemed on the “periphery” of demonstrations are included on the police databases, regardless of whether they have been convicted or arrested.

• Names, political associations and photographs of protesters from across the political spectrum – from campaigners against the third runway at Heathrow to anti-war activists – are catalogued.

• Police forces are exchanging information about pro testers stored on their intelligence systems, enabling officers from different forces to search which political events an individual has attended.

The National Union of Journalists has been assured that members of the press were not being targeted after it took concerns to the Home Office and senior police officers. The union documented at least eight protests since last March where its members were “routinely” photographed and filmed by police. Several journalists said police officers they had never met knew their names. “We have put this to police and the Home Office several times but they have always denied the practice or sought to avoid answering the question,” said Jeremy Dear, the union’s general secretary. “With this evidence there is no credibility in doing so any longer.”

Police have not disclosed the number of activists on the database. But court testimony by surveillance officers has confirmed the existence of a large intelligence system which, according to one officer, contains “thousands” of campaigners.

Overt surveillance by police forward intelligence teams (Fits) or evidence gatherers (EGs) is designed to record potential criminal activity and gather useful intelligence. Pioneered by the Met’s public order branch in the late 1990s, the technique is used regularly across the country. Surveillance officers use “spotter cards” to identify activists. Police have always denied surveillance is conducted for the purposes of storing information on a database.

Evil Empire

So opening the (already open) stable door after the horse has bolted while presenting a media friendly -Stable door closing –charade. Or in other words-

CIA Director Leon Panetta says agency employees who took part in harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects are not in danger of being punished.

Panetta delivered that message to CIA employees in an e-mail Thursday, reiterating what he told Congress last month. He said then that he would oppose prosecutions of any CIA employee who adhered to their legal guidance on interrogations.

He sent the message after the Senate Intelligence Committee announced its review of the CIA’s interrogation and detention program under President George W. Bush.

The committee will look at how the CIA decided whom to interrogate, whether it told Congress the truth about the program and whether it was legal. It will also try to determine whether the harsher methods the CIA used elicited valuable intelligence. (ht2 Chris Floyd)

And what goes with state torture and unaccountable and uncontrollable forces? Disappearances!

“We can make a person disappear,” a high-level ICE official told the audience at the 2008 Police Foundation conference. Jaws dropped. ICE is the Homeland Security agency in charge of deporting immigrants from the nation’s interior. The spokesman was alluding to ICE’s extraordinary powers under civil immigration law. Although “civil” sounds less serious than “criminal,” civil immigration law has fewer constitutional protections than criminal law. Civil immigtion arrests can happen without probable cause of a crime; the arrestee facraes trial without a public defender; and there’s no statute of limitations. (ht2 Otto)

But the empire is large and has client states, states where black lists of left wing activists are traded in order to victimise them-

‘Do not touch’ – the covert database that kept union activists out of work
• Ian Kerr built blacklist from Droitwich base
• Business ordered to close after files seized in raid

It appears that Kerr has spent many years compiling databases on workers. He did not wish to comment on a report in the Guardian 15 years ago which said he had been working for the Economic League, a controversial vetting agency which accumulated files on thousands of people it considered subversive between 1919 and 1993.

Will the numerous companies listed (see below) who used his expensive blacklist services be prosecuted?

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