Thursday, 11 February 2021

Independence is an emergency task: Sturgeon has a political as well as public health duty to protect

When does a public health crisis become a constitutional emergency? 

In the case of Scotland, when there's clear evidence that continued exposure to a system of external rule is detrimental to human life.   

A year on from the start of the Covid crisis, the costs of Scotland's continual failure to observe safe political distancing from Westminster is now tragically clear. 

With now over 6500 registered Covid deaths in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon's decisions to follow most of the UK's lamentable agenda has proven to be deeply mistaken.

Primary culpability, of course, rests with Boris Johnson. It's staggering that someone who has led an advanced, wealthy state with the highest Covid death rate on the planet can still be sitting in office. 

Yet, it's only the scale and spectacle of Johnson's criminal negligence that's provided relative political cover for Sturgeon's own 'superior' performance. 

Sturgeon appears ascendant in the public mind over her hands-on management of the virus. But the essence of that approval lies in general perceptions of her more engaged presentation than actual delivery of serious alternatives. 

We've seen this over her government's early abandonment of test, trace and isolate (12 March 2020), its care home negligence, failure to control borders, and absence of quarantine measures, all in line with failed UK policies. 

More effective lockdown, and belated test and trace measures have had some mitigating effects. 

Yet while Scotland's Covid death rate has not exceeded that of England, most notably the main English cities, it has still, most particularly in the second wave, tracked fairly close to it. 

Sturgeon's latest decision to go beyond Johnson's curbs on international travel is laudable. But there's no easy flight from the bigger truth that both the UK and Scottish Governments have both been standing vacantly at the same open international gate, a year too late in imposing full and comprehensive restrictions.

In what could have been deduced by primary infants doing their home schooling, a major study has now confirmed the obvious consequences of the UK's open door policy since early last year:

"We found that international travel was the strongest predictor of mortality increase…very early restrictions on international travel might have made a difference in the spread of the pandemic in western Europe, including the UK.”

There's also overwhelming evidence that the main source of the second wave infections came through UK-approved summer travel to and from Spain, Greece, France and other European countries. At a point close to effective elimination of the virus in Scotland, yet warned of the consequences of opening up travel, why didn't the Scottish Government act even at this stage to close its airports and borders?

Preliminary findings on the possible inefficiency of the Oxford vaccine in protecting against the South African variant now only increases the urgency of such measures. 

Nor are Sturgeon's public sector commitments convincingly evident here. While pledging to defend the NHS and avoid Johnson's crony handouts to corporate friends, the Scottish Government has just handed a non-tendered £2 million contract to private-sector giant KPMG for 'vaccine advisory services'.

And so it's been since the start of the crisis: Sturgeon, in risk-averse mode, following much the same, 'safe' default line as Westminster. 

If the benchmark for successful public health interventions is New Zealand, a society almost free of Covid fatalities and largely back to normal, Sturgeon's actual record and readiness to act looks like a feeble, far-off failure.

A constitutional as well as public health emergency 

Sturgeon's aversion to taking bolder public health action in fear of political fallouts is mirrored in her consistent refusal - despite multiple mandates and the 'significant and meaningful change' for Scotland of Brexit - to make the decisive push for independence. This despite increasingly clear public support to do so.  

While the Tories still enjoy a coherent lead over Starmer - his 'New Variant Blairism' unable to put even a dent in a government responsible for such human carnage - Johnson and his ilk are widely reviled in Scotland. Poll numbers show those in Scotland desiring an end to Johnson, Tory rule and the Union itself are now consistently over 50 percent

And with this comes the increasingly vital question: when will Nicola Sturgeon finally do what's needed to deliver that 'protective political vaccine' against dangerous Westminster rule?

The Covid crisis may have taken obvious precedence here. But it has also allowed Sturgeon to keep the independence issue safely parked.   

Seemingly careful to avoid entry into any 'local' political fray, leading (independent) adviser to the Scottish Government Professor Devi Sridhar has nonetheless stated that Scotland would have done considerably better with the Covid crisis under independence. 

But that's not just a retrospective truth. It's a present and pressing reality. 

Sridhar fairly praises Sturgeon for having a more caring, dedicated approach to the pandemic, and, more latterly, for seeing - as Sridhar has consistently advocated - the need for an actual elimination strategy.

Besides invaluable track-records on how to confront a public health crisis, Sridhar and others around her have also brought commendable, compassionate positivity in helping people through it. 

And we should view the pandemic challenges facing Sturgeon in similar human vein. Who would truly want that task? 

But that doesn't mean overlooking her administration's actual record. The same rational examination of Johnson's government must also be applied to Sturgeon's.

Yet, if seemingly reticent in seeing Sturgeon's own policy mistakes, Sridhar's key point still stands: that small independent countries like Norway and Denmark have done considerably better in confronting the pandemic.

So, even aside from the main political reasons, why isn't the actual need for independence being pushed by Sturgeon as an urgent public health issue?  

There's a perverse paradox here. As national leader, Sturgeon has been at pains not to be seen 'politicising' a public health crisis in order to give it her most urgent, caring attention.Yet, if independence offers better instruments and prospects for dealing with that public health crisis - namely, saving lives - then she has an absolute duty to politicise it by giving it that most urgent, caring attention.  

This is not the moment for political posturing or preening political profiles. It's a time for advancing every possible means of tackling a present and ongoing threat to people and society.  

Johnson's recent trip to Scotland, in blatant violation of Covid rules, shows that the establishment is once again mobilising for its own political emergency: to save the Union. 

Again, if only he had been so readily deployed to set about protecting the 113,000 and rising lives now so needlessly sacrificed. 

We must still hope for a day of reckoning for his reckless coterie and all the neoliberal, 'take it on the chin' hubris that allowed such a human catastrophe to unfold. 

Yet how convenient for a lame SNP leadership to use his buffoonery and negligence over Covid as cover for its own failings. 

How easy for Sturgeon to be lauded over this blustering Etonian. How impressive, it seems, for SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford to keep insisting that Johnson 'must respect democracy' and grant a section 30 order. How 'noble' they all sound in fostering notions of the SNP as the 'protective voice of Scotland'. 

Yet, on examination, how empty all those words are. What practical use of a party so rhetorically voluble from the green benches of Westminster, yet so lacking in decisive delivery at Holyrood? 

A little less condemnation, a little more action, one might say. 

The SNP has formed a Westminster bubble 

Much was made of Joanna Cherry's removal from the SNP's Westminster front bench, with many party and Yes figures expressing outrage over the sacking of someone so reputedly talented. Cherry made her own feelings clear in denouncing the decision. 

But it's her follow-on tweet, less well covered by the media, that carried the more uncomfortable truth: 

Westminster is increasingly irrelevant to Scotland's constitutional future and @theSNP would do well to radically re-think our strategy.

Here, Cherry has gone even more dangerously off-message in questioning the very purpose of her party's residence in a place where it holds no effective power or ability to advance independence.  

Of course, Cherry herself might have been rather more forthcoming on that view prior to her demotion. 

But her awkward observation does cast critical light on the SNP's party-first interests and posturing priorities. 

With its access to 'Short Money', parliamentary committees and other privileged remunerations, the SNP are not about to pass-up the 'coveted status' of official opposition.  

Consider just some of their pretensions to 'high office':  

Shadow Foreign Secretary – Alyn Smith
Shadow Defence Secretary – Stewart McDonald

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Peter Grant

Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary – John Nicolson

Shadow Home Secretary – Stuart McDonald
Shadow Justice & Immigration Secretary  – Anne McLaughlin
Shadow Scotland Secretary  – Mhairi Black
Shadow Northern Ireland/Wales Secretary – Richard Thomson
Shadow Attorney General – Angela Crawley

Shadow Leader of the House – Peter Wishart

Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office - Stewart Hosie 

Why does the main party of independence for Scotland need a 'Shadow Scotland Secretary'?

What UK militarist, Nato and Cold War interests is Stewart McDonald serving as 'Shadow Defence Secretary'?

How quaintly part of the establishment fold now is Pete Wishart as 'Shadow Leader of the House'?

And what pompous prestige does Stewart Hosie enjoy as Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster? 

What a collective shadow they, indeed, cast - over their supposed roles as advocates for independence.   

As many 'common' street voices for Indy now ask, just how does such patronage, occupancy and posturing titles assist the primary task of constitutional change this party was supposedly founded to deliver?  

Purging the discontents


But questioning the SNP's cosy Westminster tenure is only part of a now much deeper disenchantment.

Sturgeon's decision to move against Cherry shows that she and her cabal are now ready to purge any dissent. Blackford's 'reshuffle' also saw the exclusion of Kenny MacAskill and Angus MacNeil, like Cherry, both allies of Salmond and critics of Sturgeon’s performance on independence.

It's a desperate attempt to halt a leading challenger and contain the three-fronted threats to Sturgeon's authority which Cherry now so openly represents: her hostility over the SNP's gender reform policy; her support for, and help in exposing the fitting-up of, Alex Salmond; and her close alignment with a brooding Yes movement over Sturgeon's failure to progress independence.

Sturgeon is now on the back-foot on all three counts, deploying her inner guard in a toxic fight for survival. Again, much of this is being conveniently hidden by the daily Covid crisis.  

Meanwhile, her acolytes attack and ridicule all those 'malcontents' for 'feeding division' and failing to get behind the party. But they attach no such blame to the party itself in creating such discord. 

There's no recognition that the leadership is responsible for allowing this war over gender to commence, fester and explode. It's the leadership and its calculating aides that moved, with disastrous results, to purge and persecute Salmond. And, after five years of mandates and promises, it's the same leadership directly responsible for the failure to advance independence  

If the leadership thought that there wouldn't be respondent rancour and division on all these counts, what does this say about the actual competence, never mind motives, of such leadership? 

Reality of divisions, exposure of abuse and entitlement

With a major element of the party and invigorated Yes movement now pushing to make the May election an effective independence referendum, the stakes couldn't be higher for Sturgeon and her circle. 

Nor has her faux '11-point Plan for independence', produced in seeming haste to fend-off discontent, quelled the rebellious mood. 

Unionists and an establishment media will, of course, play such divisions to obvious effect. But, as yet another impressive poll shows, there's little reason to suggest that the fallout will adversely affect actual popular demand for independence.           

It's uselessly dishonest to pretend that such divisions don't exist or can be easily repaired. Indeed, any real politics of change will throw up major conflicting views and positions. 

This is not actually unhealthy. What's really unhealthy is a leader and careerist select trying to enforce its rigid 'discipline', protect its own back, cover its deepening corruption, and pour scorn on anyone threatening to withhold yet another 'vital' mandate.

Whatever conflicts and schisms in plain view of the electorate, it's safe to say that it still comprehends the more fundamental case for independence. And the pandemic has been vital in focusing minds on the urgent benefits of escaping the Union.  

Sturgeon will no doubt lay claim to that shift. Fine. Let her take such (undeserved) 'credit'. But, in doing so, she must also accept large responsibility for all those Westminster-shadowed policies. 

Like the failings of her administration over Covid, none of this can now be hidden or conjured away. 

A party and administration for so long now luxuriating in high office, safely complacent in its own sense of entitlement, is now seeing all that laid bare, its authority stripped away. 

The deeper truth is that the SNP has now become ensconced in the same entitled way as Old Scottish Labour, and policy-shaped in the same neoliberal centrist ways as New Blairite Labour. 

This is a party that's been crafting centralised forms of control, where "the focus is on maintaining the power of the Leader and her supporters, as opposed to the primary aim of the constitution – independence."

From Westminster to Holyrood, the SNP has become a ruling establishment rather than a vehicle for meaningful social change. 

To "cover its failures" after 14 years in power, it "has opted instead for government by announcement and a series of applause breaks."

And, most damningly, it's a hierarchy that has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the independence task - an elite that cannot even bring itself to partake in an actual indy rally. 

Shamefully, with all the resources at its disposal, the SNP hasn't even sought to test the legal case for holding a referendum, the job left to a crowd-funding campaign and still being pursued through the courts by activist Martin Keatings

Yes resolve and unity of purpose  

Such resilience shows that, whatever the multiple failings and self-inflicted war now raging within this party, a strong unity of purpose still prevails across the wider Yes movement. 

The momentum for independence is plainly evident, as is the refusal to accept either the UK state's dogged refusal to grant it, or Sturgeon's apologetic excuses for not pursuing it. 

Constitutional change is the immediate goal. But the work of radical independence goes on simultaneously. And that has to be driven by a serious class politics rather than the contrived identity politics that has so invaded this administration and constrained real progressive change.

The SNP is now, more than ever, a means to an eventual end. The point is to use it accordingly and then let it seek its own better function or retirement.

The more immediate viability of the SNP as a coherent political body now depends on its readiness to make this coming election the real moment for independence. 

Not permission for independence, not even a demand for independence, but an actual declaration of independence.  


And the critical pandemic situation we now face should be used as a decisive means of driving-up consensual public support for it.  

Rather than Sturgeon's ad hoc interventions and comforting words, rather than passive acceptance of more alien rule and human loss, this is the moment to raise collective awareness that this public health crisis is a political issue requiring an expedited constitutional solution.

With the staggering level of daily UK fatalities has come a seeming 'normalisation' of death rates. As Dr Rachel Clarke so pointedly asks:

"When did we become so inured to mass casualties, so blasé? These are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers. Loved and treasured human beings. Please don’t accept it. Please fight for better."

Here in Scotland, and in service to others elsewhere, what more urgent, non-accepting and fighting response to that plea than to seize the independent means of making it better?    

The tragedy of so many of our lost and loved souls, with worryingly more to come, is reason enough to make that emergency call. Now. 


Friday, 15 January 2021

Liberal authoritarians and big-tech are the true winners of the Capitol Hill 'coup'

In the fading days of his chaotic presidency, the 25th amendment threat and impeachment moves against Donald Trump seem like poetic justice for a craven narcissist who not only refused to accept election defeat but played his political base to the very last as a pitchfork mob. 

Yet while media reports breathlessly covered the 'spectacle of insurrection', with journalists aghast at the storming of America's 'hallowed house of democracy', the much more central and ignored story here has been the cynical weaponising of the Capitol Hill 'coup'.

Liberal outrage

Following House leader Nancy Pelosi, most 'mainstream' media bewailed the invasion of Congress as an assault on the very ideals of the Republic. 

Ashen-faced liberal Anne Applebaum lamented that American democracy had been "badly damaged," with "a loss of prestige, status and influence."  

Twitter liberals exploded, one calling it the "most evil" behaviour ever by an American president, seemingly blind to the graphic imagery of past US and presidential crimes

Twitter's own eventual removal of Trump's account was cheered to the liberal rafters.   

And with this has come a wider play to liberal leftist outrage and authoritarian responses.  

The seduction of such voices has been a spectacle to observe, a kind of political coup in itself.

Silicon seizure

Silicon Valley oligarchs' longstanding endorsement and financial support for the Democratic Party already weighs heavily here. 

But big-tech, with its state accomplices and liberal authoritarian permissions, has now used the muting of a madman to grant itself even greater Orwellian powers to close down any part of the public square it chooses. 

Press TV, with it's four million followers, is the latest 'suspect' to be targeted without warning by Facebook. 

And you can be sure that, with the now raised approvals of liberal centrists, the heaviest axe will continue to fall on the 'awkward' left and selected foreign enemies.

The real consequence of Capitol Hill is less about the 'insurrection' of an unwieldy mob than a consolidation of liberal authoritarian power.

For Glenn Greenwald

"That is because the dominant strain of American liberalism is not economic socialism but political authoritarianism. Liberals now want to use the force of corporate power to silence those with different ideologies. They are eager for tech monopolies not just to ban accounts they dislike but to remove entire platforms from the internet. They want to imprison people they believe helped their party lose elections, such as Julian Assange, even if it means creating precedents to criminalize journalism."

Alarm, he notes, has even been expressed by other world leaders:

"German Chancellor Angela Merkel, various French ministers, and especially Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador all denounced the banning of Trump and other acts of censorship by tech monopolies on the ground that they were anointing themselves “a world media power.”"

As Greenwald also shows, in resisting anti-trust penalties and providing the convenient pretext for eliminating a rising commercial competitor, liberal cheering for an authoritarian online clampdown was the very excuse giant tech monopolies Apple, Google and Amazon needed to close down the alternative chat platform and app, Parler.

Of course, this censorship has been steadily building. For example, notes Greenwald, since 2016:

"Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials."

But the move on Trump has taken the issue of arbitrary removals to a whole new and incendiary level.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has acknowledged that his firm's decision to ban Trump permanently has set a "dangerous [but necessary] precedent", while hoping for a new climate of healing and civil discourse.

Yet this looks more like damage limitation and commercial appeasement than any true concern over the enormous power such corporations now hold.  

Liberal authoritarian power grab

The exploiting of Trump's provocative conduct has now given this big-tech/liberal authoritarian alignment even greater impetus. 

And with this is coming an extended Patriot Act and domestic set of War on Terror enforcements.

Jonathan Cook spells out the wider implications: 

"In this case, however, the ones deciding which users get to speak and which are banned are the globe-spanning tech corporations, the wealthiest companies in human history. Facebook and Twitter have justified banning Trump, and anyone else, on the grounds that he violated vague business “terms of service” – the small print on agreement forms we all sign before being allowed access to their platforms. But barring users from the chief means of communication in a modern, digitised world cannot be defended simply on commercial or business grounds, especially when those firms have been allowed to develop their respective monopolies by our governments."

Those leftists urging on corporate big-tech are, thus, doing progressives and alternative media no long-term favours. 

Pushed on by Biden's incoming neoliberal administration, already closely aligned with the Silicon giants as they manoeuvre to avoid anti-monopoly break ups, curbs on free speech won't end with Trump. 

The purging of left and dissenting platforms will now intensify, all underwritten by new extended 'terms of service'.

Nor is this even just about the key issue of free speech. It's about the deepening sovereignty of corporate-political speech and its unprecedented ability to cancel others' speech.

False calls to arms

Likewise, those liberals shouting for harsher police powers against the Capitol Hill 'insurrectionists' are only inviting further War on Terror restrictions on left mobilisation and expression. 

Anyone on the left who thinks the state will use these powers mainly against the far-right needs a sharp reminder of how more selectively it has already targeted Black Lives Matter, Antifa and other leftist forces to such brutal effect. 

Any new powers accruing to the Biden administration will be utilised just as ruthlessly.  

And those taking satisfaction at the shooting of a Trump supporter inside the Congress building should also be aware that they are not only lauding extrajudicial killing, police powers and gun law, but giving succour to a politics of zero-sum violence.

Just resistance to oppression, state violence and reactionary forces may often turn into armed action. But the wishful expression of violence and killing carries no moral value and promises no just ends. Beware, deeply, the clarion calls of 'vanguard leftists' shouting for 'against the wall' solutions in the name of 'smashing fascism'. 

The need to challenge hate-filled white supremacists and fascist elements is abundantly clear. But that won't be advanced by cheering on either more state or civil violence. 

Hype on the Hill

The main enemies of peace and justice are resident within Capitol Hill, not outside it. 

It's precisely from within these 'shining chambers of democracy' that directives are being rubber-stamped for insurrections and coups against other parliaments and peoples around the globe. 

If rather less effectively, the 'MAGA mob' were just following the US playbook on coup-inciting, fascist-supporting, anti-democratic invasions elsewhere:

"The US is a world leader in the coup business. No other country has devoted such resources and committed so much effort in perfecting the art and science of regime change."

One of Mike Pompeo's last acts has been to put Yemen's Houthi insurgents on a terror list, at the behest of terror state Saudi Arabia. Again, this was: 

"not a perverse performance in Trump’s frantic end game but rather an exercise entirely consistent with the foreign policy followed by every US administration over decades."

It's also from within the Capitol's 'representative' halls of power that the American people have been denied the rights to medicare and the other basics of human existence. And that includes Trump supporters.

The 74 million who voted for Trump aren't all KKK clones, QAnoners and proto-fascists. A vast part of this base carry legitimate grievances against a neoliberal-driven, Wall Street-supporting liberal/Dem class responsible for the 2008 economic calamity, big bank bailouts, mass austerity, social insecurity and foreign warmongering.

Beyond all the media hype and liberal disdain, this is not an undifferentiated electoral mass. Nor, for all its flag-waving, muscular ugliness, was this a force ready or able to mount a major militarised putsch, as many amongst the Capitol Hill 'insurrection' showed. 

The limited police presence, apparent collusion, and ease with which the Trump mob entered the building, compared with the mass-militarised assaults on peaceful progressive gatherings, certainly tells us all we need to know about the priority responses of the US 'security' state.

But this doesn't render the attack on the Capitol building a coup or an insurrection in any meaningful sense, nor can it all easily be labelled ’terrorism’, even if some may well be prosecuted as such under the Pence-devised Patriot Act: 

“One has to separate out those few who appeared ready to arrest members of Congress or use pipe bombs, from the vast majority of protestors who entered the Capitol. Smearing them all as “extremists” and even worse as “terrorists” is inflammatory. It is leading to a wholesale reaction that is further deepening the crisis.”

Yet how readily Biden, Pelosi, Obama, the Clintons and this whole sanctimonious elite are using the Capitol event and Mad Orange Man moment to shroud their own crimes and extremities. 

How readily a service liberal media fete them as figures of normality and stability. 

How easily they even invoke the Butcher of Baghdad, George W Bush, as an 'exemplary' ex-office bearer, rolled out to deify the 'shining Hill' and plead for an 'orderly transition'. 

The posturing is as shameless as anything snake-oil salesman Trump could muster: 

“Such Democratic hypocrisy was underscored on 60 Minutes Sunday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump “deranged, unhinged, and dangerous.” But is he any more “deranged, unhinged, and dangerous”  than Democrats who joined Republicans to vote in 2003 to invade and occupy a nation that posed no threat to the United States?”

Unlike what may yet face Trump after his departure, none of their crimes of office - Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and so much more - will ever be treated as prosecutable or post-impeachable offences

Nor, recall, did Twitter think to pull down Trump's account for inciting war against Iran, or for bombing Syria - an action for which he was duly hailed by liberals as a 'true president'.  

Warmongering liberal interventionism, it seems, is not only tolerated as online chat, but rendered noble.  

A Hill too far  

Rather than his perverse stream of tweets these past four years, Trump is now paying the price for his much more awkward bluster on Capitol Hill.  

Trump's real crime in the eyes of the establishment was to undermine the fiction of US 'decency and stability' in pursuit of his own personal preservation.

The US ruling elite at large are now united in punishing him for violating that most sacred notion, the confected aura of America as a 'beacon of democracy' for the world.

This is the illusion that must always be protected, alongside the truth that must remain hidden, that can't be aired in corporate newsrooms or talking-head studios: that America isn't in any meaningful sense a democracy at all. It's an oligarchy

And not only has Trump failed to uphold the 'noble Hill' and its 'bastion' mythology, his desperate grasping for power has 'tainted' it with neo-fascist imagery for all the world to see. 

Yet this is a system of elite control that has been veering towards political-corporate fascism long before Trump. His is but a more naked and openly vulgar expression of it.  

Divisions, 'healing' and control

Much has been made of the 'divisions' Trump has fuelled across American society. And there's little doubt that he has played every calculating, self-serving card in whipping up fear and hatred. 

Yet the resulting uproar and fallout crises has also served to open up the real chasms of economic wealth, class division and racial injustice across America.  

And this upheaval worries the ruling class much more. 

The refrain that 'America is a divided society' is a crucial system-sustaining narrative in itself. 

It preserves the vital notion that it's the people themselves who are the problem, unable to unite and heal, not the elite-serving system which feeds economic division, political polarisation and social unrest. 

This has all long been safely locked down by a phoney politics of 'party choices'. And while Trump's caustic theatre has helped solidify those party divisions, the very intensity of his base-playing has threatened to tear the whole fragile illusion of 'exemplar democracy' apart. 

It's in this more system-disrupting sense that Trump has become a most dangerous liability, spooking the ruling order by over-extending those divisions and fanning more threatening mass mobilisations. 

Biden's entrance to office will, thus, come with all the standard rhetoric of 'healing the divide'.   

Likewise, the Democrats' late impeachment move is an attempt to prop-up and prettify its battered image, an ongoing effort to avert attention from its own mass crimes and failings.

Same system up on the Hill

As Trump exits the political stage, whether through coercion or consent, any moment of relief should be tempered by these more system-searching thoughts. 

Trump was the Frankenstein creation of a rampant neoliberal, deeply undemocratic, failed state, a symptom of this much more insidious system.

The Clinton/Obama Dem class must still answer for the resultant political disenchantment that paved the way for Trump the 'outlier'. 

Trump has not only been a wrecker of lives and social-serving institutions, but, more worryingly for the corporate liberal establishment, a volatile force which has ruptured the very illusion of the 'democratic order' on which that continuous power depends.        

Rather than the 'coup' on Capitol Hill, his presiding over the great Covid calamity alone should be grounds for high prosecution. 

Yet the mass death count Trump has overseen is but one key illustration of a wider corporate-first, business-as-usual 'reality' that has relegated human life to power-serving, transactional politics. 

Beyond promised stimulus packages and other token interventions, that won't change in any fundamental way under Biden or any other set of corporate-serving officers. 

What this incoming administration has gained, however, is even greater authoritarian scope for closing down all difficult and dissenting voices, not just residual Trumpists. 

As with Obama, this supposed 'return to decency' politics is really just another re-branding of the same oligarchic system, a continuation of the same core priorities, peddled promises and political failures, offering no hope of meaningful change.

That will take mass rejection of all this illusion and deceit, a true and peaceful people's insurrection against the real political and corporate forces running the show up on 'shining Capitol Hill'.  



Please see this devastating assessment from Chris Hedges, setting out the real contextual issues behind Trump and his base, the events on Capitol Hill, the dangers of big-tech controls over free speech, the betrayals of a corporate-serving Democratic Party and the rise of liberal authoritarianism. Truly educational.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Neon Global blight upon green Glasgow site

Here's a dispiriting site to behold. The completion of two giant electronic advertising structures at a well-known green spot on Glasgow's southside. 

As previously detailed, an application by Global Media advertising for this brutal edifice was approved by Glasgow Council without any apparent local consultation or regard for its invasive environmental impact.    

It may not seem the most pressing issue right now. But it's still heart-sinking to see this corporate-imposed eyesore finally standing there, blocking out a beautiful mature tree and pristine hillside. 

Instead of an unbroken green vista, we now have this brash construct pulsing out its neon mediocrity and demanding our attention. 

And, with the COP26 eco-summit coming up in Glasgow (November 2021), isn't this just a great advert for the city's grand claims to be 'curbing' car culture and carbon-polluting consumerism?

It's the brazen enforcement of such ugliness that's so disturbing, the sense in which people's thoughts and aesthetic feelings are somehow just deemed irrelevant, all subsumed to corporate priorities. 

Imagine this kind of blight being sited near the wealthy homes and leafy locales of Global executives. 

Yet their arrogant blindness to the degradation of others' environment in the name of profit is matched only by the myopic jobsworths that pass themselves off as 'planning officers'. 

Again, it's notable that not an apparent word of concern was raised against this application by a council proclaiming its eco-principles and commitment to green urban living. 

A blot on the landscape and an embarrassment of vision. Think of these crass structures as 'monuments' to the greed, ignorance and servility of all involved.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Seasonal adjustment and mindfulness

Late November. Northern climes. Dry crisp mornings and rustling floors of park leaves giving way to damp, darker days as nature's clock ticks us towards early winter. 

Our little earth rock rotating with relentless cosmic efficiency. Its less climate-trusted species, alas, now blurring the lines between once distinct meteorological seasons.    

Adjustments of the season, adjustments of the mind. For many, a disordered and difficult process. 

We lament the shortening sun, the dwindling light, but find gradual comfort in the alternative splendour of the cold starry night sky, reconstituted, for those fortunate enough, in our warm inner sanctums.

And from here we might discover some more expansive time for mindful and healing reflection.

On how to keep better pace with the rhythms of seasons and planet.

On how to soothe our troubled thoughts.  

On how to reconcile this landmark year now tilting to a close.  

Pandemic. Climate breakdown. Darkening political clouds. Deepening economic anxiety.

Beyond basic human concern, how might we find some mental retreat from all this fear, crises and dislocation?

It can seem coy to speak about the importance of mindfulness as multiple conflicts and problems rage all around. 

We may find comfort in relativising it all: things could be much worse; my worries are but a speck when set against the troubles of war-torn and broken others. 

All good, laudable thoughts. Yet anxiety and insecurity are, for most, a default part of daily life. All humans experience them in one form or another. 

Of course, extending one's concern for others doesn't mean accepting their views or condoning their actions. On the contrary, resisting wrongful and unjust conduct is a fundamental part of compassionate mindfulness. 

The idea, however, is to infuse all such thoughts with a more universal equanimity, to be more 'metta-minded'.

Meditating on extended loving kindness, showing empathy for the stresses, fears and unhappiness all humans endure, can act as an antidote to more toxic thoughts, serving our own mental wellbeing. 

It's a way of setting down, letting go, the heavy weight of conflict, discord, anger, worry.  

And as winter closes in this particular year, all such palliatives seem even more relevant. 

Increased understanding of Seasonal Affective Disorders show just how much our minds can be laid low by the 'winter blues'. Even as we embrace the beautiful shifting of the seasons, the dilution of sunlight, our natural source of vitamin D, can have a deep impact on mood and energy levels.

Extended public health restrictions will make this seasonal transition even more arduous. The social interactions that help sustain us through the lonelier winter months will be heavily curtailed, adding to an already rising mental health crisis.

Figures showed a significant surge in 'lockdown loneliness' as the clocks changed at the end of October. This includes particularly high numbers of younger, as well as older, people. Coping with long dark nights of detachment and isolation will be a new and challenging experience for many.

The worries we harbour over recent events, what's going on, and what's yet to come can often seem overwhelming. 

When feeling like this, it's good to avoid excess exposure to repetitive news, adversarial social media and other mind-burdening output. 

Reflect, instead, on the commonality being shown by others, the enduring support of family, the selfless friends helping to keep us going, the kindly acts of a neighbour. 

Exercise regularly, if possible, do balance and yoga-type stretches, take outdoor walks, put on background music, dance, and do any diversifying thing that promotes an easy, uplifting and positive mindset. 

Putting down some notes on feelings and emotions may help too, even writing little messages or a letter to a loved one.

Short meditations through the day and night can bring particular welcome respite and alleviation of anxiety. 

Mindful contentment can be hugely beneficial to our overall psychology, helping to boost our immune systems and general health. 

Restrictions on the festive season will also affect many this year. Yet might this be a most useful moment to take a more mindful view of the whole stressful enterprise? 

Perhaps this season's limitations on the great festival of consumption can bring a more appreciative sense of all the things we really don't need, and the true value we place in the greater gifts of good health, nature and human connection.

How much nicer to move with the slow instruction of the turning earth than the rushing dictates of the manic market.

Light some candles and mark the mystical winter solstice, as the shortest day and longest night gives gradual way to returning sunlight.

And as we watch the changing days, extend that sense of loving kindness not only from yourself and towards others, but to all species and our bountiful planet, breathing in calm, rhythmic meditation with the cycle of all its wondrous seasons.