A 90% tax on banker bonuse: who could object?

Not the Daily Mail.

Who’s scared of the bankers? I mean, it can’t be any worse than Deal or No Deal, surely?

We could get Noel Edmonds on the phone to these guys…

Would he be any worse at it?

Truly the drunks are running of the brewery, the vampires are in charge of the bloodbank, the lunatics have taken over the asylum…

The Morning Star reports:

Labour MP John McFall tore into Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Parliament on Thursday over obscene bonus payments to bankers.

Mr Brown went along to a question and answer session with senior MPs hoping to fob them off with a tame document suggesting a few feeble banking “reforms.”

But the terrier-like Mr McFall made Mr Brown squirm, telling him: “I put it to you, Prime Minister, that the horse has bolted.”

He instanced the average bonus of half a million pounds each for bankers at Goldman Sachs announced just this week.

The West Dunbartonshire MP, who is chairman of the Treasury select committee, protested that the recent £9.6 million pay package for Royal Bank of Scotland chief Stephen Hester “is very similar to Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract at Real Madrid.”

He added: “The City has won. Like Ronaldo, they are running rings around both the government and regulators.”

Mr McFall demanded that Mr Brown must act to make sure that ordinary citizens can “trust the banks” and get a “fair deal from the banking system.”

Pale with tension, Mr Brown could only fall back on his prepared brief as he faced Mr McFall and other members of the Commons liaison committee in the Boothroyd Room in Portcullis House.

The Prime Minister agreed that “excess payments” to bankers were “unacceptable.”

Then he added weakly: “It is only on the basis of long-term performance that we can guarantee the bonus system.”

He said that an interim review of banking governance published on Thursday recommended that “bonuses and remuneration should be over a five-year period.”

Mr Brown stressed that there also needed to be “proper transparency” and a regulatory system “to take action where necessary.”

Thursday’s review was drawn up by City bigwig Sir David Walker – who was director of Lloyds Bank between 1992 and 1994.

He urged that non-executive directors of banks should be “better informed” and actually attend to company duties a bit more often. He suggested they spend “up to 50 per cent longer” at the bank.

Bonus schemes should include a “significant” deferred element to discourage short-termism, he added.

His wishy-washy report said: “Many boards inadequately understood the type and scale of risks they were running and failed to hold the executive to high standards of sustainable performance.

“Bonus schemes contributed to excessive risk-taking by rewarding short-term performance. And shareholders failed to exercise proper stewardship.”

Mr Brown told the MPs’ committee that Sir David “makes some very clear recommendations which I believe will be adopted.”

Tory MP Edward Leigh asked him whether there was any truth in press reports of plans for 20 per cent cuts in public spending.

Mr Brown dismissed this as “quite ridiculous,” but then added that “there are tough choices that have to be made.”

He said that £9 billion of cuts were being made in back-line public services “so that we can increase spending in front-line services.”

And he confessed that extra spending on the Iraq and Afghan wars had amounted to £14bn.

Let them eat guns!

Guns before butter

From Socialist Appeal, the priorities of our ruling class:

Afghanistan: Guns Before Butter Print E-mail
By Ewan Gibbs
Wednesday, 08 July 2009
As the Pakistani army continued to be bogged down in a ferocious battle against the Taliban inside its own borders and yet another British soldier is killed in Afghanistan, to date the one hundred and seventy-sixth since 2001, it is evident that the British military is engaged in a war it cannot win. Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth has outlined desperate measures which entail a wholesale reform of the Territorial Army. Gone forever will be the image of a glorified Dad’s Army as the TA is to be integrated with the rest of the army and better prepared for wars abroad.afghan_map.gifThe plans will see the TA trained more quickly for deployment abroad, and will come alongside an attempt to bolster the TA’s numbers which have halved to just 330,000 in recent years. Unsurprisingly when presented with the prospect of having to risk their lives in a deployment to either  Iraq or Afghanistan fewer people have signed up to the TA or the military as a whole during the last few years. Under the conditions of the recession this is starting to change. Faced with either the dole queue or the army many young people, in particular male sixteen year old school leaver opt for the latter. The military knows this and in recent months has upped its recruiters’ presence in areas with a high rate of unemployment, disgustingly exploiting the situation that the capitalist crisis has put many working class people in.

False Hopes For The Imperialists

However, even the increasing numbers of economic conscripts that are signing up for the US and British militaries are not enough. The US and its junior partners thought they were on to a winner when they started their predatory wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These imperialist adventures aimed to establish political hegemony and secure control over natural resources, including oil and gas for the Americans and their allies. Initially all seemed to be going well. Who could forget Bush’s  Iraq War victory speech delivered on board an aircraft carrier, complete with his very own presidential action man uniform? The period since has seen the American’s success turn into its opposite. Iraq and Afghanistan have become death traps for the military forces trying to contain the insurgency and suck up billions upon billions of dollars that even the world’s biggest military and economic power cannot sustain indefinitely. Next to no resources, aside from Afghan opium which comes alongside a flight of skilled labour, are being reaped from either country whilst this whole area of the world has been destabilised. The departure from Iraq seems to be well under way following Obama’s inauguration, and an undignified retreat from Afghanistan will have to follow at some point. Yet it is clear we have entered a new period of global instability that will lead to more so called ‘small wars’ as the recent episodes in Georgia and the Gaza strip have demonstrated.

TAs In Trouble

bobainsworthinbasra.jpgAinsworth has said in words that the proposed changes will leave intact the TA’s ability to come to the country’s aid in the event of a national catastrophe, whilst the plans presented suggest otherwise. Actions speak louder than words. Reservists already account for 9% of British troops deployed in Afghanistan and over 17000 TA troops have been deployed abroad since 2003. (BBC News 28/4/09) It is clear the government wishes to see these figures rise. It must be noted that these measures have more than just an immediate military purpose. The expansion of the TA and the increasing presence of the Officer Training Corps and Cadets in universities and schools represent attempts to build an auxiliary state military apparatus outside of the army itself. Perhaps the layer of ‘economic conscripts’ to the regular army, recruited because they had nowhere else to go, are unreliable? Could they be trusted to fire upon working class people in this country? Better perhaps to rely on some gung-ho volunteers who were not forced into the ranks of the military outside of economic necessity alone. The Officer Training Corps and Cadets are invariably dominated by middle-class youth who are much more likely to be sympathetic to the reactionary role they will be asked to play. The same applies to the TA.

Armed Bodies Of Men

Engels famously explained that the capitalist state could ultimately be reduced to armed bodies of men standing in defence of private property. The actions of the police at the G20 protests in London brutally revealed the true nature of the British state. The reservists being trained and sent to oppress and kill workers and peasants in Iraq and Afghanistan today could well be deployed on the streets of Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow or London tomorrow if Britain were ever to face a revolutionary situation.

ta.jpgAfter spending so long telling us the money was not available for even the most basic reforms, government found the money to bail out the bankers at the drop of a hat and is continuing to fight and fund their wars. The resources have been found for this whole sale rejuvenation of the TA that will see infrastructure, training and structure renewed, whilst billions are being poured into the Trident nuclear weapons programme. All this leaves working people asking where their bail out is as they face unemployment and repossessions. Clearly the only form of Keynesianism boost to the economy this government is interested in is the same kind Ronny Reagan was: military Keynesianism! That shows where their priorities really lie and who they serve.

Police state in the UK?

A former securocrat issues a warning:

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has warned that the fear of terrorism is being exploited by the Government to erode civil liberties and risks creating a police state.

Dame Stella accused ministers of interfering with people’s privacy and playing straight into the hands of terrorists.

“Since I have retired I feel more at liberty to be against certain decisions of the Government, especially the attempt to pass laws which interfere with people’s privacy,” Dame Stella said in an interview with a Spanish newspaper.

“It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state,” she said.

But wait – there’s more! International criticism now:

In a further blow to ministers, an international study by lawyers and judges accused countries such as Britain and America of “actively undermining” the law through the measures they have introduced to counter terrorism.

The report, by the International Commission of Jurists, said: “The failure of states to comply with their legal duties is creating a dangerous situation wherein terrorism, and the fear of terrorism, are undermining basic principles of international human rights law.”

The report claimed many measures introduced were illegal and counter-productive and that legal systems put in place after the Second World War were well equipped to handle current threats. Arthur Chaskelson, the chairman of the report panel, said: “In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world.

“Many governments, ignoring the lessons of history, have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses to terrorism that have undermined cherished values and violated human rights.’’

These warnings aren’t being heeded. In fact the nebulous category of “extremist” is to be broadened:

The government is considering plans that would lead to thousands more British Muslims being branded as extremists, the Guardian has learned. The proposals are in a counterterrorism strategy which ministers and security officials are drawing up that is due to be unveiled next month.

Some say the plans would see views held by most Muslims in Britain being classed by the government as extreme.

According to a draft of the strategy, Contest 2 as it is known in Whitehall, people would be considered as extremists if:

• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.

• They promote Sharia law.

• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.

• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.

• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Contest 2 would widen the definition of extremists to those who hold views that clash with what the government defines as shared British values. Those who advocate the wider definition say hardline Islamist interpretation of the Qur’an leads to views that are the root cause of the terrorism threat Britain faces. But opponents say the strategy would brand the vast majority of British Muslims as extremists and alienate them even further.

This counter-terrorism “mission creep” into the realm of politics is worrying. Not least because it will be counter-productive.

If the government truly wanted to tackle violent extremism it would pull our armed forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This would also be a hugely popular move – most especially for military families who are seeing their loved ones killed and injured in conflicts that can only make us less safe.

Tony Benn at the Stop Gaza Massacre protest

Here is veteran socialist politician Tony Benn speaking at yesterday’s huge demonstration in London:

Recorded by Ady Cousins

Gordon’s new year resolution should be to bring all the troops home

The war in Afghanistan isn’t going well. Not for the forces battling there and certainly not for the civilian population. The people of Afghanistan need bread, not bombs. If the plans of the US government to increase the numbers of troops fighting go ahead, casualties on both sides will increase – meanwhile reconstruction work will be further sidelined and aid agencies will be unable to operate inside the country.

This must be the last Christmas that our armed forces spend in the Middle East. They are owed an apology by those who sent them, and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan deserve to see a war crimes trial take place as soon as possible.

From the Morning Star:

Medics reveal massive cost of Afghan war
(Tuesday 23 December 2008)
by PAUL HASTE

ANTI-WAR campaigners urged the Prime Minister on Tuesday to make a new year’s resolution to bring home in 2009 all British troops involved in the “colonial” Afghanistan war.

The call came as British army medics revealed the mounting cost of the war, now in its eighth year, on young soldiers sent to prop up an occupation that is increasingly beset with problems.

Never-ending massacres of civilians by Western warplanes, rising casualties among the US-led military forces and insurgent attacks that reach deep into neighbouring Pakistan to destroy vital weapons supply lines confirm the increasingly intractable nature of the war.

Working at a British military base in eastern Afghanistan, Royal Army Nursing Core medic Lee Collins admitted that “we’ve got a constant flow of casualties on a daily basis here.”

Mr Collins explained that he works 12-hour shifts, while his “day off” has to be spent on call in case of emergencies.

Navy Commando squadron medical assistant Kate Parkman added that she expected Christmas Day to be “a normal working day,” describing her work as a Quick Response Force medic loading wounded soldiers into helicopters.

“A soldier had stepped on a mine. He lost his left leg and some of his fingers and he suffered severe facial wounds, but, by the time he had left us, we had controlled his pain,” Ms Parkman related.

“You get all this training on dolls with make-up, but it’s different here.”

Some 135 British troops have been killed so far during the occupation of Afghanistan. Almost 1,000 other Western soldiers have also died, but the number of Afghan civilians that have lost their lives is literally uncountable.

US military commanders refuse to count the casualties that their air strikes and “counterinsurgency” tactics cause among the Afghan people, but independent researchers estimate that the occupation has caused almost 28,000 deaths.

This toll, plus the British medics’ experience in dealing with their comrades’ injuries, prompted Stop the War Coalition spokesman David Wilson to call for an end to “this bloody colonial war.

“We have finally admitted its time to leave Iraq, but Gordon Brown should go one step further and make it his new year’s resolution to leave Afghanistan,” he declared.

“There will be no end in sight for this intractable and dangerously unstable occupation unless all the troops are brought home in 2009.

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