west*wales*news*review

West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

Archive for the category “Ethics”

Common Dreams’ Reign of Idiots

This ‘End of Empire’ essay by Chris Hedges, on the Common Dreams website, is a powerful and very dark piece of work. It’s not about West Wales, or even Wales, but the unstable world we all live in.

All empires end. Trouble is, when a global empire ends, civilisation can collapse with it.

Reprinted from https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/05/01/reign-idiots

Reign of Idiots

Donald Trump. King of the horrifingly dumb and dangerously greedy

“Trump,” writes Hedges, “embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world.”

The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy.

There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it.

The idiots know only one word—“more.” They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses. They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes. They see the state as a projection of their vanity. The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov, Wilhelmine, Pahlavi and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.

Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality—a sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his “beautiful” Twitter account. He is our version of the Roman emperor Nero, who allocated vast state expenditures to attain magical powers, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who funded repeated expeditions to a mythical island of immortals to bring back the potion that would give him eternal life, and a decayed Russian royalty that sat around reading tarot cards and attending séances as their nation was decimated by war and revolution brewed in the streets.

This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races. It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited a grotesque figure like Trump. Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress. They used their technological superiority to create the most efficient killing machines on the planet, directed against anyone and anything, especially indigenous cultures, that stood in their way. They stole and hoarded the planet’s wealth and resources. They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end, and they still believe it. They do not understand that the dark ethic of ceaseless capitalist and imperialist expansion is dooming the exploiters as well as the exploited. But even as we stand on the cusp of extinction we lack the intelligence and imagination to break free from our evolutionary past.

The more the warning signs are palpable—rising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling class—the more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that what worked in the past will work in the future, that progress is inevitable. Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished. The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have deindustrialized the country and turned many of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s for white American workers. Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species. Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored. War is the principal business of the kleptocratic state.

Walter Benjamin wrote in 1940 amid the rise of European fascism and looming world war:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

Magical thinking is not limited to the beliefs and practices of pre-modern cultures. It defines the ideology of capitalism. Quotas and projected sales can always be met. Profits can always be raised. Growth is inevitable. The impossible is always possible. Human societies, if they bow before the dictates of the marketplace, will be ushered into capitalist paradise. It is only a question of having the right attitude and the right technique. When capitalism thrives, we are assured, we thrive. The merging of the self with the capitalist collective has robbed us of our agency, creativity, capacity for self-reflection and moral autonomy. We define our worth not by our independence or our character but by the material standards set by capitalism—personal wealth, brands, status and career advancement. We are molded into a compliant and repressed collective. This mass conformity is characteristic of totalitarian and authoritarian states. It is the Disneyfication of America, the land of eternally happy thoughts and positive attitudes. And when magical thinking does not work, we are told, and often accept, that we are the problem. We must have more faith. We must envision what we want. We must try harder. The system is never to blame. We failed it. It did not fail us.

All of our systems of information, from self-help gurus and Hollywood to political monstrosities such as Trump, sell us this snake oil. We blind ourselves to impending collapse. Our retreat into self-delusion is a career opportunity for charlatans who tell us what we want to hear. The magical thinking they espouse is a form of infantilism. It discredits facts and realities that defy the glowing cant of slogans such as “Make America great again.” Reality is banished for relentless and baseless optimism.

Half the country may live in poverty, our civil liberties may be taken from us, militarized police may murder unarmed citizens in the streets and we may run the world’s largest prison system and murderous war machine, but all these truths are studiously ignored. Trump embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world. He is its natural expression. He is the king of the idiots. We are his victims.

Advertisements

Solicitors’ ‘defamation highlight’ is low point for client Jacqui

The homelessness facing Llanwrda blogger Jacqui Thompson and her husband Kerry, reported in this week’s Private Eye (p.16), is not exactly a triumph for her legal team.

Yet Simons Muirhead and Burton, her solicitors in the 2013 libel court case in which she sued Carmarthenshire County Council’s chief executive Mark James and lost, and he counter-sued her and won, claim the litigation as one of their “defamation highlights”.

“Lucy Moorman and Jeffrey Smele represented award-winning blogger, Jacqui Thompson, in her libel action against Carmarthenshire County Council and its Chief Executive, Mark James, who also counterclaimed,” their website proclaims.

Lucy Moorman, a barrister, is now a pre-transmission advice lawyer at the BBC. Jeffrey Smele remains at Simons Muirhead and Burton, as a senior lawyer.

No mention on the web page, though, that the judge, Mr Justice Tugendhat, found for Mr James both times, after deciding to accept his evidence and to reject Jacqui’s.

To be fair to the solicitors, so much of a libel trial heard by a single judge appears to depend on their personal interpretation of motives, which is hard to predict.

Jacqui’s double loss should have been covered by her legal insurance, but Temple Legal Protection Ltd  cancelled the cover (always read the small print) after hearing Mr Justice Tugendhat doubt Jacqui’s truthfulness.

Asked if she had been aware that her cover could disappear, Jacqui said yes, she knew, it had all been explained to her, but she never thought it could happen because she knew she was telling the truth.

That assumption, in the dangerous world of libel, was mistaken. The judge decided that Jacqui and her family had waged a “campaign of harassment, intimidation and defamation of Council staff and members for some considerable time”, and that Jacqui’s terms ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘slush fund’, applied to Mr James, were libellous.

Lacking insurance after losing, Jacqui found herself liable for costs and damages exceeding a quarter of a million pounds. Her only big asset is her share of the bungalow in which she and Kerry live. Mr James has applied for a court order to enable him to sell the bungalow to recoup damages.

Sudden withdrawal of insurance cover has left Jacqui and Kerry in a nightmare situation. Should it be allowed when, as here, Jacqui is not facing a criminal charge? At the behest of Mr James, Dyfed-Powys Police investigated Jacqui for perverting the course of justice but could not find evidence to warrant a criminal prosecution.

Jonathan Edwards, MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, where Jacqui lives, said he has never been lobbied about the withdrawal of insurance cover, but sees the injustice in its summary removal.

“A fair justice system is the foundation of our modern society which binds us together in our belief of fairness and accountability.  Part of our justice system is, of course, the principle of equal access to justice for all,” he said.

“This particular case, and the cancelling of legal insurance, is not an issue on which I’ve ever been lobbied and I am unaware of any widespread practice of policies being cancelled.

“If such a practice is indeed widespread then changing the law to prevent this would seem sensible in order to ensure justice is not reserved to only those who can afford it.”

Remembering that Mr James had the security of an indemnity from public funds, and Jacqui had only a (misplaced) confidence that she would be vindicated, and the extreme imbalance in the legal system is plain.

Insurance companies willing to cancel cover, although evidence does not reach the standard required for a criminal trial, tilts the scales of justice even more in favour of those with fat wallets or access to the public purse.

PDR

Wronged Maesybont couple are refused insurance claim

“We are sorry to inform you that liability is denied,” said the letter from solicitors Weightmans.

There is to be no recompense from Carmarthenshire County Council for Trisha Breckman and Eddie Roberts of Maesybont, despite 13 years during which the council failed to act against unlawful activities on the next door property, owned by scrap metal dealer Andrew Thomas.

xxxxxx

Trisha Breckman — persecuted for whistleblowing

Dyfed-Powys Police admitted they had been in the wrong when arresting Trisha Breckman at the request of Andrew Thomas and his late wife Karen. In 2010 Planning Inspector Clive Cochrane found that Mr Thomas was violating planning regulations, and in 2012 the Public Services Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall, concluded that the council was guilty of maladministration.

But the county council has employed specialist lawyers Weightmans to fight an insurance claim made by Mrs Breckman and Mr Roberts. Denial of liability, in a letter received by Trisha Breckman on Wednesday October 26, is because “the law of England and Wales does not allow an individual to recover compensation from a public body where the statutory duty or power involved did not itself confer a private law cause of action for a failure to exercise it”.

This seems to show that compensation may be payable only if an authority has a legal duty to act in cases of broken regulations, and not merely a power to act.

Weightmans also say that “the law states that damages in negligence for economic loss are not recoverable when unaccompanied by physical property damage or personal injury”, and also “we believe that your claims are statute barred. The law says that any claims for loss (other than personal injuries) must be brought within six years of the actions causing any loss. The actions which you complain about took place more than six years ago.”

The letter warns against any further action, with the words “Should you commence proceedings, we will ask the court to strike them out immediately.”

So the only avenue which Mrs Breckman and Mr Roberts thought was open to them, to seek compensation for being unable to launch and run their proposed cattery business because of harassment and intimidation from the people next door, now has locked gates across it – just like the lane to their cottage when Mr and Mrs Thomas put gates across that.

Perhaps if Trisha Breckman and Eddie Roberts had sold their cottage, Pantycastell Fach, as soon as they realised they were living next to an industrial site, not a farm, and had been less than truthful about the reason for a sale so soon after moving in, they would not now be in financial hardship.

Instead, they became whistleblowers, but whistled into an Arctic wind which has now frozen them solid.

Absence of justice for whistleblowers, who highlight wrongdoing and cover-ups, is an important national issue. Surely they deserve our gratitude and support, not kicks in the teeth.

PDR

A version of this article appeared in the Carmarthenshire Herald, October 28 2016

More on this case here, here and here

Whatever Happened to the Ideal of Public Service?

Whatever happened to the ideal of public service?

Standing back a minute from the immediate furore about illegal activities in Carmarthenshire County Council, a question which hangs suspended above our heads is:

When the council is slashing £30-million-worth of services over three years because there is allegedly no alternative, why does it continue to throw money and time in defence of a chief executive who chooses to use public funds to buy an indemnity so he can afford to counter-sue a resident for libel, and who chose to leave the local government pension scheme which his own council administers, but who received the amount that formerly would have been paid in employer’s contributions –  in cash, available to spend immediately, instead of being locked up in a pension fund until retirement?

Legal advice is beyond the financial reach of most of us, as it can cost several hundred pounds per hour, into the thousands of pounds to tap the wisdom of the most successful legal brains. Yet Carmarthenshire Council has obtained legal advice from a London barrister to try and bolster its position, AFTER receiving the decision of the Wales Audit Office that these two particular spending decisions are unlawful. If it can be proven that the barrister, Mr Tim Kerr QC, provided the advice free of charge, my assumption would of course be unfounded. The argument about misplaced time and effort would remain, though. The council’s counter-attack absorbs energies that would be better devoted to the weighty task of rebalancing the county’s finances to spend less on vanity construction projects so that more can be pumped into services which make the difference between a miserable and an adequate quality of life.

The unpleasant situation suggests to me that to an excessive extent the Executive Board, who have protected the chief executive, Mr Mark James, like a posse of bodyguards, have had their current priorities guided away from serving the entire population of the county, and towards expensive ‘reputation management’ for a single individual.

Of course individuals should be protected, but the Executive Board is taking its duty of care to an extreme that now seems indefensible, considering that other individuals, blogger Jacqui Thompson among them, have been pilloried for daring to criticise the council’s activities and decisions. It seems that for the Executive Board of 10, led by Labour’s Kevin Madge, it is more important to protect a single handsomely rewarded personage, than to heed the damaging findings of Anthony Barrett, the assistant auditor general for Wales.

Apart from Kevin Madge, the members of the Executive Board are:

  • Tegwen Devichand (Labour), Dafen
  • Pam Palmer (Independent), Abergwili
  • Keith Davies (Labour), Kidwelly
  • Jeff Edmunds (Labour), Bigyn
  • Colin Evans (Labour), Pontamman
  • Meryl Gravell (Independent), Trimsaran
  • Jim Jones (Independent), Y Glyn
  • Mair Stephens (Independent), St Ishmael
  • Jane Tremlett (Independent), Laugharne Township

In public life, criticism is part of the expression of democracy.

by Pat Dodd Racher

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: