What does it mean to be a climate denier?

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In the ‘coming soon’ notice announcing this article I said that “[t]here aren’t any real climate deniers anymore”. I was mistaken and there are a very few people like Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers Corbyn. I’ve only met and spoken with him once but I’m satisfied that he’s genuine in his beliefs despite them being misguided. He and others like him have the right to believe whatever they like and he’s harmless enough – while he may persuade a few people the vast majority will understand that he’s mistaken and wrong.

Image of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reads 1% RICHEST 100% CLIMATE DENIER
Image of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reads 1% RICHEST 100% CLIMATE DENIER

So apart from Piers Corbyn and a few similar people, there is no such thing as a climate denier nowadays. The Capitalists profiting from climate destruction have known for 60 years of more that they were profiting from destroying the planet and were forcing future generations to endure intolerable climate conditions, annihilating many thousands of species of plants and animals and generally totally fekking everything.

Governments are controlled, directed, owned by a very few extremely rich and powerful people, the very people that are profiting and maintaining their wealth, power and influence from destroying the planet. According to this perspective we do not exist in a democracy and it is instead a pretence hiding the influence of the rich and powerful. We exist in a plutocracy – we have a wealthy ruling class that politicians serve.

It cannot be accepted that politicians like UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak or our expected next Prime Minister Keir Starmer and the like are mistaken true believers like Piers Corbyn believes. Rather they are climate deniers in the sense of the fossil fuel industries – Exxon, Shell and BP – who know fully well that they are destroying the planet but deceive and mislead to continue making a filthy profit. It’s obvious to see that these politician cnuts serve this rich elite’s interests – Tory and Labour UK governments have answered to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, sucking up to him, grateful to accept his orders.

Image of InBedWithBigOil by Not Here To Be Liked + Hex Prints from Just Stop Oil's You May Find Yourself... art auction. Featuring Rishi Sunak, Fossil Fuels and Rupert Murdoch.
Image of InBedWithBigOil by Not Here To Be Liked + Hex Prints from Just Stop Oil’s You May Find Yourself… art auction. Featuring Rishi Sunak, Fossil Fuels and Rupert Murdoch.

Sunak, despite being fully aware of the climate crisis is continuing to destroy the planet. Announcing the go-ahead for the Rosebank oil field he said that he intends to get every last drop of North Sea oil.

All the media companies attacking climate activists – GB News, the Mail, Express, etc – represent filthy rich interests profiting from climate destruction.

Continue ReadingWhat does it mean to be a climate denier?

Green Party Carla Denyer’s New Year message

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Image of the Green Party's Carla Denyer on BBC Question Time.
Image of the Green Party’s Carla Denyer on BBC Question Time.

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer said: 

“I am really looking forward to the year ahead. There is a General Election on the horizon and with it a chance to create a fairer, greener country – and get more Green MPs elected to Parliament. 

“2023 was a big year for the Green Party. Thanks to another set of record-breaking local election results in May, we now have more councillors than ever before – representing our communities with integrity and commitment.   

“We continue to be the party standing for fairness – defending our environment and our democracy while standing up for the interests of people up and down the country in local communities. 

“More and more people are telling us how much they want to come together and help build a fairer, greener country.  

“More and more people are experiencing the Green Party in action. They see that we stand for and what we achieve in their communities and in Parliament. And that means more and more people are now proudly voting Green.  

“2024 is going to be a momentous year for people and the planet. It’s time for action.” 

Continue ReadingGreen Party Carla Denyer’s New Year message

Extinction Rebellion NL close A10 Amsterdam ring road in protest at ING bank support for fossil fuels

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https://nltimes.nl/2023/12/30/extinction-rebellion-go-forward-banned-a10-blockade-ing-today

[Extinction Rebellion NL] are demanding that the bank stop providing financing and services for the fossil fuel industry. ING was based in the building near the planned blockade until 2014. Due to its unusual shape, it has nicknames alluding to its similarities to a boot, a shoe, an ice skate and a hairdryer. As such, it is somewhat of a landmark that is easily visible from the A10, and why XR believes it is the best place for the demonstration.

Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema has forbidden the blockade. The city indicated that the motorway is “irresponsible” as a demonstration location. The A10 is five driving lanes wide, and the speed limit is around 100 kilometers an hour. The VU Medical Center is nearby, and therefore, it is an essential route for ambulances. Traffic to and from the rest of Noord-Holland also passes through the road, which could lead to long traffic jams.

ING also announced last week that they will stop financing oil and gas projects by 2040. The climate activist group believes the commitments are “insufficient” to “secure a livable future.”

Extinction Rebellion NL blocked the A12 motorway at the Hague succeeding in it’s demand that NL government stops providing fossil fuel subsidies. Extinction Rebellion NL blocked the A12 daily for 27 days despite being subjected to water cannon by the police. [see Extinction Rebellion pauses daily A12 highway blockades; Hague mayor relieved and MP majority in favor of potential phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies].

Continue ReadingExtinction Rebellion NL close A10 Amsterdam ring road in protest at ING bank support for fossil fuels

Sunak under fire for ‘inexplicable’ failure to appoint new climate committee chief

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Image of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reads 1% RICHEST 100% CLIMATE DENIER
Image of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reads 1% RICHEST 100% CLIMATE DENIER

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/dec/30/sunak-under-fire-failure-appoint-climate-committee-chief

Experts say prolonged delay in replacing chair signals that government does not take net zero policy seriously enough and is harming investment

Rishi Sunak has come under fierce attack from UK climate experts for the Conservative government’s failure over the past 18 months to appoint a new chair of the independent committee that advises ministers on emissions targets.

In a letter to the prime minister leaked to the Observer, the UK’s leading organisation working on the economic effects of global warming condemned the “excessive delay” in finding a replacement to the previous chair, Lord Deben.

Bob Ward, the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change’s head of policy, warned Sunak that the delay is harming efforts to control carbon emissions and damaging the UK’s reputation as a climate change leader.

“Given that the recruitment of the new chair began 18 months ago it is inexplicable that the appointment has still not been announced,” wrote Ward. The work of the committee is at a “critical stage”, he added. “It is not helpful that it does not yet have a new chair as it carries out this work.”

The economist Lord Stern, who is chair of the institute, said: “It seems to be yet another signal that the government does not take climate change policy seriously enough. All this is damaging the confidence of other countries and of investors in the UK’s commitment to climate action.”

The failure to find a new committee chair is the latest example of a lack of consistency displayed by Sunak towards his party’s green commitments. This year, he dismayed environmentalists when he announced legislation for an annual system of oil and gas licensing in the North Sea which followed a scaling back of other measures including delays to a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.

The Climate Change Committee is a body of experts set up under the 2008 Climate Change Act to guide national policies for controlling emissions and for helping the country prepare for the impact of global warming. In the past, it has been highly critical of Britain’s poor performance in areas including the nation’s flood defences and domestic energy efficiency.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/dec/30/sunak-under-fire-failure-appoint-climate-committee-chief

Continue ReadingSunak under fire for ‘inexplicable’ failure to appoint new climate committee chief

Once Again, Biden Bypasses Congress to Approve Arms Sale to Israel

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Original article by BRETT WILKINS republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

An IDF soldier readies a 155mm artillery shell for loading in a howitzer. An Israeli soldier carries a 155mm artillery shell near a self-propelled howitzer deployed at a position near the border with Lebanon in the upper Galilee region of northern Israel on October 18, 2023. (Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images)

“When Israel runs out of rockets to murder children with they simply hold their hand out to daddy for more,” said one critic.

Citing “the urgency of Israel’s defensive needs,” the Biden administration on Friday said it would bypass Congress for the second time this month to approve an immediate arms sale to the key Middle East ally as it continues to wage a genocidal war against Gaza.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken notified lawmakers of the new emergency determination involving the sale of $147.5 million in equipment including fuses, charges, and primers for 155mm artillery shells that Israel has already purchased from the United States.

The unguided explosive rounds—which Israel is using in heavily populated urban areas—have a “kill radius” of about 50 meters, with shrapnel able to inflict lethal wounds on people hundreds of meters away.

“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to ensure Israel is able to defend itself against the threats it faces,” the State Department explained.

https://twitter.com/lilleyjuice/status/1740847948513341840?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1740847948513341840%7Ctwgr%5E620949b4d025f371f31e65cfbf2c06e20e06b8be%7Ctwcon%5Es1_c10&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fnews%2Fu-s-aid-to-israel-2666833315

The move follows a similar State Department determination on December 9, which expedited 13,000 rounds of tank ammunition to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), whose troops have killed and maimed more than 80,000 Palestinians—mostly women, children, and elders—during 84 days of near-relentless attacks on Gaza.

Some of the deadliest Israeli attacks of the war have been carried out with U.S. weapons, including an October 31 airstrike with 2,000-pound bombs on the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp. More than 120 civilians were killed.

The State Department also said that “we continue to strongly emphasize to the government of Israel that they must not only comply with international humanitarian law, but also take every feasible step to prevent harm to civilians.”

“The U.S. administration wholeheartedly supports the mass slaughter of Palestinians.”

Critics pushed back against that language, with Ibrahim Zabad, a professor of international relations at St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York, asserting on social media that the State Department’s move to bypass Congress “shows the U.S. administration wholeheartedly supports the mass slaughter of Palestinians, their ethnic cleansing, and the demolition of Gaza.”

British journalist Andy Worthington, known for his work chronicling the cases of Guantánamo Bay detainees, asked: “Do they think not enough Palestinian children are being orphaned or killed in Gaza?”

Eli Clifton, a senior researcher at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, noted Blinken’s lamentation Thursday that 2023 “has been an extraordinarily dangerous year for press around the world.” Blinken’s statement did not mention the scores of journalists killed—sometimes allegedly on purpose—by Israeli troops during the war.

The U.S. already gives Israel almost $4 billion in nearly unconditional military aid each year. Since the October 7 Hamas-led attacks and Israel’s retaliatory onslaught, U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly affirmed his “unwavering” support for Israel. His administration has blocked multiple global cease-fire efforts at the United Nations while seeking an additional $14.3 billion in armed assistance for Israel.

The United States has given Israel more than $150 billion in inflation-adjusted aid since the nation was founded in 1948 following a yearslong campaign of terrorism and ethnic cleansing.

While Biden recently decried Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza, he has refused to acknowledge what many international experts have called Israel’s genocide against the people of the besieged strip. Some activists have dubbed him “Genocide Joe.”

On Friday, South Africa filed a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

Hundreds of rights groups and a handful of progressives in the U.S. Congress have implored the Biden administration to suspend military aid to Israel, while others including Democratic lawmakers have called for conditions to be placed on such assistance.

Earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led a letter urging Biden to boost oversight of how American arms are used against Palestinian civilians. The letter specifically mentions 155mm artillery shells.

“The IDF has previously used these shells to hit populated areas including neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, shelters, and safe zones, causing a staggering number of civilian deaths,” the senators noted.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll published on December 20, less than half of registered U.S. voters support sending military aid to Israel—an approximately 10-point decrease from the previous month.

Original article by BRETT WILKINS republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Continue ReadingOnce Again, Biden Bypasses Congress to Approve Arms Sale to Israel

Amnesty Details ‘Shocking’ Allegations of India Targeting Reporters With Pegasus Spyware

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Original article by JULIA CONLEY republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

A woman uses an iPhone in front of the building of the NSO Group, developer of the spyware Pegasus, on August 28, 2016, in Herzliya, Israel. (Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

“Increasingly, journalists in India face the threat of unlawful surveillance simply for doing their jobs,” said one advocate.

Amnesty International on Thursday demanded transparency from the Indian government regarding its contracts with surveillance companies, including the Israeli firm NSO Group, after the rights organization joined The Washington Post in publishing what it called “shocking new details” about the use of spyware to target journalists in India.

Amnesty’s Security Lab revealed that a round of “state-sponsored attacker” notifications that were sent to Apple customers in October by the tech company went to more than 20 Indian journalists including Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire, and Anand Mangnale, South Asia editor at the Organized Crime and Corruption Report Project (OCCRP).

The Security Lab ran a forensic analysis of the two reporters’ devices and found evidence that the NSO Group’s highly invasive Pegasus spyware, which is capable of eavesdropping on phone calls and harvesting data, had been installed on phones owned by Varadarajan and Mangnale.

In Mangnale’s case, the journalist appeared to have received a “zero-click exploit” via iMessage on August 23, allowing the individual or group who sent it to covertly install Pegasus spyware on his phone without requiring Mangnale to take any action, such as clicking a link.

At the time of the attempted attack, said Amnesty, Mangnale was working on a story about alleged stock manipulation by a major Indian multinational firm with ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The journalist told Agence France Presse that his phone was targeted “within hours” of his sending interview questions to the company.

The timing of the attack—and the fact that NSO Group has said it only licenses Pegasus to governments and security agencies—was “a hell of a coincidence,” Mangnale said.

“Targeting journalists solely for doing their work amounts to an unlawful attack on their privacy and violates their right to freedom of expression,” said Donncha Ó Cearbhaill, head of Amnesty’s Security Lab. “All states, including India, have an obligation to protect human rights by protecting people from unlawful surveillance.”

The Indian government was previously accused of targeting journalists, opposition politicians, and activists with Pegasus in 2021, when leaked documents showed the spyware had attacked more than 1,000 phone numbers.

India has fallen 21 spots to 161 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index since Modi took office in 2014. In addition to the alleged use of spyware by the government, journalists have been arrested and detained while covering anti-government protests, and reporters have been targeted by coordinated social media campaigns inciting hatred and violence.

Varadarajan was the subject of an earlier report by Amnesty, which documented how he had previously been targeted by Pegasus spyware in 2018.

This past October the same email address used in the Pegasus attack on Mangnale was identified on Varadarajan’s phone, confirming he was targeted again.

Varadarajan toldThe Washington Post that at the time of the most recent covert spyware installation, he had been leading public opposition to the detention of a news publisher in New Delhi.

“Our latest findings show that increasingly, journalists in India face the threat of unlawful surveillance simply for doing their jobs, alongside other tools of repression including imprisonment under draconian laws, smear campaigns, harassment, and intimidation,” said Ó Cearbhaill.

The group called for the Indian Supreme Court to immediately release the findings of a technical committee report on Pegasus, which was completed in 2022 but has still not been made public.

“Despite repeated revelations,” said Ó Cearbhaill, “there has been a shameful lack of accountability about the use of Pegasus spyware in India which only intensifies the sense of impunity over these human rights violations.”

Original article by JULIA CONLEY republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Continue ReadingAmnesty Details ‘Shocking’ Allegations of India Targeting Reporters With Pegasus Spyware

Why it is essential that the UK’s shady think tanks reveal their funders

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Original article by Tom Brake republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

We know think tanks can shape government policy. But we often have no idea who is paying them to do so

openDemocracy’s Who Funds You? report finds think tanks raking in millions ahead of general election  | Getty

You don’t have to follow UK politics too closely to have spotted the names of a handful of think tanks cropping up again and again in the news.

There is little doubt these organisations exert significant influence. Just last year, the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) was reported to have shaped then-prime minister Liz Truss’s disastrous budget.

And sometimes it seems like only hours have passed between the publication of a Policy Exchange research paper and the adoption and implementation of its content as government policy. This is perhaps unsurprising given even Policy Exchange says its “status as the UK’s most influential think tank is widely recognised”.

The influence of high-profile think tanks is also apparent in the revolving door between them and the government. The former CEO of Taxpayers’ Alliance (TA), for example, took up a job in Priti Patel’s office when she was home secretary.

So we know think tanks can shape public policy. What is often far less obvious, though, is who is paying them to do so.

openDemocracy’s annual Who Funds You? report, published today, assesses how transparent think tanks’ financial disclosures were in the past year, grading them on a scale from A to E based on how much they publish about their funders.

I should mention, at this point, that I am the CEO of Unlock Democracy, a think tank awarded an A rating (the most transparent possible) in the report.

The report has revealed that UK think tanks have raised more than £101m to influence public policy in the run-up to the next general election – £25m of which came from ‘dark money’-funded think tanks, which are opaque about funders.

Policy Exchange and the IEA were both awarded D ratings, the second lowest.

There is nothing in either think tank’s mission that indicates any requirement for high levels of secrecy surrounding their funders. So why are they so shy about revealing their backers?

Is it because the public and ministers might view any advocacy of slower action on climate change or accusations of ‘nanny-statism’ over limits on sugar, salt and fat in processed foods differently if their accounts revealed they were partly funded by oil or gas companies, large food manufacturers or private individuals with an interest in promoting deregulation or privatisation? Of course, they might not be. But that’s the point – we don’t know.

Or is it because much of the media might stop describing them, rather generously, as ‘independent’ if the truth were known about from where and whom they received financial support?

Or is it because pressure would build for Parliament to force these think tanks to register as consultant lobbyists?

Given the IEA, Policy Exchange, the Taxpayers’ Alliance and other think tanks have declined to take voluntary action to reveal their sponsors, it is time for the government to step in and require them to declare funders contributing over £5,000 a year.

The media could help by refraining from describing think tanks whose funding remains as murky as the waters in our polluted rivers as ‘independent’.

We would all then be better equipped to establish whether the exhortations of the most influential think tanks will help deliver ‘a stronger society’ or something far less attractive.

The full report is available at opendemocracy.net/who-funds-you/

Original article by Tom Brake republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.  

Continue ReadingWhy it is essential that the UK’s shady think tanks reveal their funders

Breaking from U.S., Canada votes for ceasefire—but continues Israeli arms shipments

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Original article by DAVE MCKEE republished from People’s World under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/.

A Palestinian flag flies near the Peace Tower during a rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Nov. 4, 2023. | Spencer Colby / The Canadian Press via AP

TORONTO—Peace and solidarity activists across Canada were pleased to see the government support the United Nations vote on Dec. 12 calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. They should be pleased—it was their efforts which helped make it happen.

Without the continuing mass mobilizations against Israel’s war in communities large and small, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would surely not have felt compelled to shift from its two-month-long refusal to support a ceasefire.

At the same time, the same activists are rightfully disgusted that the government took so long to take even a modest stand against a bloody siege that many rightfully recognize as a genocide.

In the time it took for Ottawa to decide that a ceasefire was worth supporting, over 18,000 Palestinian people have been killed and nearly 50,000 wounded. The majority of the people killed and wounded are women and children. Eighty-five percent of the people in Gaza have been displaced by the siege, according to the U.N.—this would be like having over 32 million of Canada’s 38 million people displaced.

The government’s public statements on the ceasefire vote have been contradictory, leaving many people concerned that the Liberals will quickly weasel their way out of any commitment to action. When Trudeau has used the word “ceasefire” (which is not very often), he has stressed that it must be “sustainable” but has avoided saying it must be permanent.

His government took great pains to amend the previous U.N. resolution for a ceasefire, on Oct. 27, to make it explicitly condemn Hamas. When the amendment failed, Canada abstained from voting on the resolution. Trudeau’s current qualified call for a “sustainable ceasefire” suggests that the government is still guided by the same thinking.

The Canadian government needs to issue a clear, public call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, beginning with and focused on Israel’s vicious offensive against the people of Gaza. Imposing conditions through an assumed moral equivalency between Israel’s violence and that of Hamas will only stall a ceasefire before it can even begin.

Ottawa also needs to back up a real call for a ceasefire by ending its military support for the genocidal siege itself. Canada can and should immediately halt shipments of arms to Israel. Where the government has so far failed to do this, protesters have tried by blockading arms manufacturers like L3Harris and Lockheed Martin.

Certainly, it is positive that Canada has finally been pushed to support a ceasefire. But this only makes the work of the peace and solidarity movements more urgent and more important. Over the past nine weeks, millions of people in this country have protested and petitioned the government, and that wave of mobilization needs to continue—and grow—if Ottawa is to be pushed from words to real action.

People’s Voice

Original article by DAVE MCKEE republished from People’s World under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/.

Continue ReadingBreaking from U.S., Canada votes for ceasefire—but continues Israeli arms shipments

England could have built 22% more social homes last year with Rwanda budget

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Original article by Adam Bychawski republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Government criticised for spending £400m on Rwanda scheme while more than 1.2m wait for social housing

A housing charity accused the government of “pandering to dog-whistle politics” with the deal.  Getty Images

The government could have increased the number of social homes built across England last year by more than a fifth using the money it has committed to its Rwanda asylum scheme.

Home secretary James Cleverly confirmed on Wednesday that the government’s agreement to deport asylum seekers who enter the UK irregularly to the African country will have cost almost £400m by 2027.

The total sum would be enough to completely fund an estimated 2,131 new social homes, which is more than 22% of the 9,561 completed in England in the year to April 2023. The average government grant required to build a new home for social rent in England is £183,000, according to estimates by the National Housing Federation.

More than 1.2 million households were waiting for social housing in England as of March 2023, statistics published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) show.

The figures also show 7,620 social homes were completed in the year to April 2022, but a much higher number, 27,849, either sold or demolished – a net loss of more than 20,000. No figures have yet been published for social homes lost in the most recent year.

The government gave £140m to Rwanda in 2022 as part of its deal with the county and last week the Home Office’s most senior civil servant confirmed that a further £100m was given to the country in 2023. They added that a further payment of £50m is “anticipated” in 2024.

Cleverly, this week, told Parliament that the UK plans to give a further £50m to Rwanda annually in 2026 and 2027.

The overall costs of the Rwanda scheme could reach far higher that the £390m already committed by the government. An earlier economic impact assessment of the Illegal Migration Bill said that it would cost £63,000 more to remove a person to a third country, such as Rwanda, than having their asylum claim processed in the UK.

Rishi Sunak claimed in November that the policy “will literally save us billions in the long run”, but has not provided any figures to back this up.

On Tuesday, the National Audit Office confirmed that it would publish a report assessing the costs of the Rwanda scheme in 2024.

The inquiry was prompted by criticism from Labour MPs Meg Hillier and Diana Johnson, the chairs of the Public Accounts Committee and the Home Office Select Committee respectively, who said that there has been a “lack of clarity around value for money”.

Robina Qureshi, the CEO of Positive Action in Housing, said openDemocracy’s findings show that the government has put “pandering to dog-whistle politics” and “giving asylum contractors huge profits” over people’s futures.

“They haven’t been providing for society,” she said. “Instead they are sitting on their social media accounts trying to promote their own careers, and giving multi-million-pound contracts to asylum contractors. But nothing’s been done to help anyone that really needs it.

“When you build social homes, it increases the pool of houses that are available for anyone who’s in need.”

Original article by Adam Bychawski republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Continue ReadingEngland could have built 22% more social homes last year with Rwanda budget

China cancels line of credit, pulling the plug on Argentina’s ‘anarcho-capitalist’ president

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Original article by JAMES MEADWAY republished from People’s World under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/.

Dollarization: Javier Milei holds up a giant cardboard sign depicting a U.S. $100 banknote emblazoned with an image of his face during a rally in La Plata, Sept. 12, 2023. Milei wants to replace the peso with the U.S. dollar as Argentina’s currency and says that the country’s Central Bank should be abolished. He’s got a new financial challenge, though: China just cut his line of credit. | Natacha Pisarenko / AP

The Chinese government may have pulled the plug on far-right “anarcho-capitalist” President of Argentina Javier Milei, just weeks after his shock election win.

In a spectacular demonstration of how the lines of geopolitical power are shifting, the People’s Bank of China has withdrawn its “swapline” to the Argentinian central bank, depriving it of a vital source of cheap funding.

This leaves debt-ridden Argentina without ready access to funding to meet its promises to pay creditors. These international creditors include the IMF, to whom Argentina owes a world-record $43 billion. China provided the Argentinian government with funds for its $2.7 billion IMF repayment over the summer, lending it ultra-cheap foreign currency through its swapline arrangement.

Milei, a fanatical free marketeer, was elected with 55% of the vote in November from a population desperate for a break with the failed political Establishment. Developing his public profile through TV appearances and his 1.4 million followers on TikTok, Milei was able to present his program of ferocious spending cuts and the abolition of the Argentinian currency, the peso, as the bitter medicine the country needed to end its economic crisis. Younger voters, in particular, flocked to him in droves.

This was a product of desperation. Two-fifths of Argentinians live below the poverty line, and close to 60% of children. Inflation was over 140% when the election campaign ended, meaning prices doubling roughly every six months.

Since the government defaulted—halted payments—on its debts at the end of 2001, the two decades since have seen governments both pro and anti-neoliberal attempts to negotiate agreements with Argentina’s creditors and break the cycle of crises.

The latest round of these was a colossal 2018 loan from the IMF, attached to conditions on cutting government spending over the following three years.

But what tipped the country over the edge into its latest round of crisis has been the catastrophic drought that began in 2019. This ongoing drought is the worst for over 60 years, hammering farmers and severely cutting harvests—soybean production fell to its lowest level for a century.

For a country dependent on agricultural exports for foreign exchange earnings, it has been a disaster. Its trade deficit ballooned, taxes fell and government spending mushroomed. Government borrowing swelled and the Argentina central bank resorted to issuing more money to cover spending costs. Climate change almost certainly worsened the drought.

Milei’s program offered nothing on this—he is a climate change denier, claiming that those who “blame the human race” for climate change are “fake…only looking to raise funds for socialist bums who write for fourth-rate newspapers.”

The colorful language is very much part of his appeal, along with waving a chainsaw at his public appearances, to symbolize what he planned for government spending, and smashing a piñata of the central bank on live TV.

But cartoonish posing shouldn’t kid us: Milei’s program is neoliberalism on steroids. He campaigned on a promise to cut government spending by 15% of Argentina’s GDP.

His plan to abolish the peso and “dollarize” the economy was arguably even more radical, claiming this would prevent Argentinian bureaucrats and politicians from printing money. Although two other Latin American countries, Ecuador and Panama, use the dollar as their official currency, neither is the size of Argentina, the continent’s second-largest economy.

And while many Argentinians already use the dollar, with $246 billion in dollar savings, the government has no dollars to hand, and would have to either buy them to replace pesos, or perhaps seize them from those mostly middle-class savings.

The plan is a non-starter. Confronted with the economic realities, Milei has rapidly defaulted to conservative type, appointing a former president of the central bank, Luis Caputo, as his economy minister, and appointing a close associate of Caputo as the new central bank head. So much for “burning it down.”

The ferocious spending cuts are still planned, along with a 54% devaluation of the peso as part of a program approved by the IMF.

Far from a radical break, Milei is a stooge for the maintenance of Argentina’s failed elite—including even the rehabilitation of the dictatorship, with his running mate for Vice President, Victoria Villaruel, claiming the figure of 30,000 “disappearances” under the regime is a “myth.”

This is a familiar pattern. Across the world, supposed populists from the radical right have taken power, often with the promise of taking on corrupt local elites. They don’t follow through.

Italy’s radical right government, for example, in August threatened a windfall tax on banks that were profiteering from interest rate rises. But they rapidly backed down after howls of protests from the banks themselves.

Milei has almost certainly bitten off more than he can chew. Expecting protests, harsh new guidelines for police and military, including the criminalization of the parents of younger protests have been rushed through—“prison or bullet,” as one pro-government MP described them. Inflation has accelerated, to 3,678% a year, which the government are now using to justify their “shock therapy.”

However, it is anti-China posturing that could prove his undoing. China is Argentina’s second-biggest market for exports, and loans from China make up over 42 per cent of Argentina’s foreign exchange reserves.

Yet Milei called China an “assassin” during his election campaign, promising to sever ties and instead reorienting Argentina towards full-throated support for Israel and the U.S. Argentina’s foreign minister has confirmed that the country would not be joining the China-led BRICS coalition, as pledged by the last government.

This was treated as a “slap in the face” by China: Cutting loan support to Argentina is the inevitable response. As Milei himself might put it: Fuck around and find out.

Morning Star

Original article by JAMES MEADWAY republished from People’s World under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/.

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