Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Who actually owns the UK's water supply?


A significant majority of British people believe that the water supply is so vital that it should be run as a not-for-profit public service, but the Westminster establishment consensus is that in England it should continue to be run as a vast profit extraction scheme operated mainly by foreign governments and overseas corporations.

In this article I'm going to give a basic overview of who actually owns the UK's water supplies.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Scottish Water and Northern Ireland Water are both government owned statutory companies, meaning any profits go straight back into public finances.

Welsh Water is owned by Glas Cymru, which is a not-for-profit company. It has no shareholders, and retains any profits for the benefit of Welsh water customers.

So far so good. Two different models of how water companies can be operated for the benefit of the people, rather than for profit-extraction purposes. 

England

England's water supply is an absolute mess. It's broken up into multiple different regional monopolies, operated by various different private entities.

Research by the University of Grenwich found that privatisation of the water supply in 1989 has cost customers in England £2.3 billion per year more than if it had remained under not-for-profit public ownership.

So who are the owners of the private water companies that are raking in all of this profit at English people's expense?

Anglian Water (£1.4 billion)

Anglian Water supplies 2.6 million homes with water, and compared to a lot of others its ownership structure is fairly simple.

Its parent company is AWG, which a subsidiary of the Osprey Group, which is owned by the following:

Canada Pension Plan Investment Group 32.9% (wholly owned by the Canadian government)
IFM 19.8% (Australian investment fund)
Infinity Investments 16.7% (Wholly owned by the UAE government)
First Sentier 15.6% (Australian investment fund)
Camulodunum Investments 15% (UK investment manager)

So one of England's major water suppliers is 49.6% owned by foreign governments, and 30.6% owned by foreign private investors. Leaving just 15% that's run by a private UK-based investment manager.

Northumbrian Water (£820 million)

Northumbrian water supplies 2.7 million homes with water. Its parent company is NWG, which is wholly owned by the Hong Kong based firm Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings.

Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings is mainly owned by CK Hutchinson Holdings, which is run by the billionaire Li dynasty. Additionally there are number of other investment funds involved. Some of them are names which will be very familiar by the end of this article.

CK Hutchinson Holdings 72% (Hong Kong investment fund)
Conyers, Dill and Pearman 5% (Bermuda based offshore law firm)
BlackRock 1.1% (US based investment fund)

Other notable shareholders include: Lazard Asset Management (US investment fund), Vanguard Group (US investment fund), Norges Bank (100% Norwegian government owned bank).

United Utilities (£1.86 billion)

What used to be North West Water was merged with the North West Electricity Board to create United Utilities, which supplies water to 7.3 million people. The CEO took home £2.94 million in 2020.

United Utilities is a Public Limited Company (PLC) with a number of institutional shareholders. These are the owners with stakes above 1% (as of October 2021)

BlackRock 8.6%  (US based investment fund)
Lazard Asset Management 7.2% (US investment fund)
Legal and General Investment Management 4.1% (UK investment fund)
Vanguard Group 4.0% (US investment fund)
Norges Bank 2.9% (100% Norwegian government owned bank)
Impax Asset management 2.5% (UK investment fund - biggest shareholder French bank BNP Paribas)
Magellan Asset Management 2.4% (Australian investment fund)
Pictet Asset Management 2.3% (Swiss investment fund)
State Street Global Advisers 2.2% (US investment fund)
M&G Investment Management 2.0% (UK investment fund)
Nuance Investments 2.0% (US investment fund)
Amundi Asset management 1.9% (French investment fund, mainly owned by French bank Crédit Agricole)
Invesco Ltd 1.7% (US investment fund)
Columbia Management Investment Advisers 1.6% (US investment fund - a division of Amerprise, which is based in the US tax haven of Delaware)
Maple-Brown Abbott Limited 1.3% (Australian investment fund)
Ignis Investment Services 1.3% (UK investment fund)
Nordea Investment Management 1.2% (Finnish investment fund)
Aviva Investors Global Services Limited 1.1% (Investment arm of UK insurance group Aviva)
abrdn plc 1.1% (UK investment fund)
Northern Trust Global Investments 1.1% (US investment fund)
HBOS Investment Fund 1.1% (Subsidiary of the UK-based Lloyds banking Group)
UBS Asset Management 1.0% (Investment arm of the giant Swiss bank UBS)

Severn Trent Water (£1.84 billion)

Severn Trent Water supplies 4.5 million households and businesses. Their CEO Liv Garfield took home a whopping £2.807 million despite the company being fined £800,000 for leaking millions of litres of raw sewage into a Shropshire stream in the same year.

It's another Public Limited Company (PLC) with a number of institutional shareholders. These are the owners with stakes above 1% (as of October 2021)

BlackRock 8.1%  (US based investment fund)
Lazard Asset Management 7.4% (US investment fund)
Qatar Investment Authority 4.6% (100% owned by the Qatari government)
Vanguard Group 3.8% (US investment fund)
Legal and General Investment Management 3.6% (UK investment fund)
Aviva Investors Global Services Limited 3.0% (Investment arm of UK insurance group Aviva)
Impax Asset management 2.7% (UK investment fund - biggest shareholder French bank BNP Paribas)
Maple-Brown Abbott Limited 2.5% (Australian investment fund)
State Street Global Advisers 2.3% (US investment fund)
Norges Bank 2.1% (100% Norwegian government owned bank)
Royal London Asset Management Limited 1.7% (UK investment fund)
Amundi Asset management 1.7% (French investment fund, mainly owned by French bank Crédit Agricole)
Invesco Ltd 1.5% (US investment fund)
First Sentier 1.4% (Australian investment fund)
RREEF America LLC 1.3% (US investment fund)
Fidelity International 1.1% (Bermuda-based investment fund)
Janus Henderson Group 1.1% (UK investment fund)

Wessex Water (£550 million)

Wessex Water supplies 1.3 million homes with water.

It's a 100% owned subsidiary of the Malaysian conglomerate YTL Corporation, run by the Malaysian billionaire Yeoh Tiong Lay, and partially owned by the Malaysian government's pension fund.

Southern Water (£830 million)

Southern Water supplies 2.26 million customers. In 2020 they were fined £90 million for dumping untreated sewage into rivers and coastal waters on over 6,900 occasions. In the same year as this record-breaking fine they paid their CEO over £1 million in salary and bonuses.

Southern Water is a Limited Company owned through Greensands Holdings Limited which is based in the tax haven of Jersey, with the following major shareholders.

JP Morgan Asset Management 40% (Investment arm of the US bank JP Morgan)
UBS Asset Management 22% (Investment arm of the giant Swiss bank UBS)
Hermes Investment Management 21% (UK investment fund)
Whitehelm Capital 8% (Australian investment fund)

The Australian investment fund Macquairie has recently bought up a £1 billion stake in Southern Water. They're most famous for asset stripping Thames Water, paying virtually no corporation tax, lavishing £billions in dividends on its shareholders, lumbering it with huge debts, and flogging it off just months before it was prosecuted by the Environment Agency for pollution.

Thames Water (£2.05 billion)

Thames Water supplies 15 million customers, which accounts for 27% of the UK population. They were fined  £2.3 million in March 2021 for pollution, hit with another pollution fine of £4 million in May 2021, and paid an £11 million fine for overcharging customers in July 2021.

Britain's biggest water company is also its most opaquely structured, with strings of similarly named subsidiaries and shell companies falling under the ultimate ownership of Kemble Water Holdings Limited, which is apparently based on a Reading industrial estate.

It's pretty tricky to track down the owners of this £2 billion company, but they include the following major investors:

Church Water Investments Limited 13.9% (CWIL is owned by L3 Investment Holdings, which is owned by L3 Investment Holdco Ltd, which is owned by the UK-based Universities Superannuation Fund - Why they need such an opaque structure to hide their investment in privatised water infrastructure is anybody's guess)
Omers Farmoor Holdings 12.6% (Dutch investment fund)
Infinity Investments 12.6% (Wholly owned by the UAE government)
Wren House Infrastructure Investments 11.1% (A front company for the government of Kuwait)
Trustees of the BT Pension scheme 11.0% (Pension fund of UK telecoms giant BT)
Cicero Investment Corp 11.0% (US-based private equity fund)
QIC Infrastructure Management 6.8% (Australian government-owned investment fund)
Aquila Sonnet Limited Partnership 6.3% (A single purpose investment vehicle, designed to obscure the identities of the six investors)

South West Water (£500 million)

South West Water supplies 1.7 million customers. It's a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pennon Group, which announced pre-tax profits of £157 million in 2021, and they're sitting on cash reserves of over £3 billion. Instead of using this cash mountain to make improvements and stop repeatedly dumping raw sewage into waterways, they're using it to buy up other water companies like Bristol Water.

The CEO of Pennon Group Susan Davy took home £1.724 million in 2020.

These are the main shareholders in Pennon Group (as of October 2021):

Lazard Asset Management 10.0% (US investment fund)
Impax Asset management 5.8% (UK investment fund - biggest shareholder French bank BNP Paribas)
BlackRock 5.2%  (US based investment fund)
Vanguard Group 4.3% (US investment fund)
Norges Bank 4.1% (100% Norwegian government owned bank)
Pictet Asset Management 3.9% (Swiss investment fund)
Legal and General Investment Management 3.1% (UK investment fund)
Amundi Asset management 2.9% (French investment fund, mainly owned by French bank Crédit Agricole)
Invesco Ltd 2.1% (US investment fund)
Royal London Asset Management Limited 2.0% (UK investment fund)
Fidelity International 2.0% (Bermuda-based investment fund)
Columbia Management Investment Advisers 1.7% (US investment fund - a division of Amerprise, which is based in the US tax haven of Delaware)
Aviva Investors Global Services Limited 1.5% (Investment arm of UK insurance group Aviva)
Charles Stanley & Co. Ltd 1.3% (UK investment fund)
HSBC Global Asset Management 1.0% (Investment arm of the British bank HSBC)

Yorkshire Water (£980 million)

Yorkshire Water supplies 4.5 million people and over 100,000 businesses. It's another one with an extremely opaque ownership structure.

Yorkshire Water is run as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kelda Group. Kelda Group is made up of an intricate network of companies, which includes Kelda Eurobond (which makes vast losses meaning it has to pay no taxes in the UK), before you finally end up at the overall parent company Kelda Holdings, which is based in the tax haven of Jersey.

Kelda Holdings is owned by the following (as of October 2020):

GIC 33.6% (The sovereign wealth fund of the Singapore government)
Gateway HK Water (I and II) + Gateway Infrastructure 30.3% (Three recently formed Hong Kong based private companies, very difficult to find who the ultimate owners are)
Wharfedale Hong Kong Limited 23.4% (Another recently formed Hong Kong based private company)
SAS Trustee Corporation 12.8% (Australian state-owned pension fund)

Conclusion

The people of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland benefit from not-for-profit public ownership.

The water supply of England is used for profit extraction purposes by the following:

Governments: Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Norway, Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore, UAE

Private companies based in: Australia, Bermuda, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Jersey, Malaysia, Netherlands, Switzerland, UK, US

You'd have to be beyond delusional to think that this chaotic and opaque system of ownership makes any kind of rational sense for English water consumers.

The only reason it would be arranged like this is in order for private companies and foreign governments to extract as much profit as possible out of England's water customers.

How on earth is it justifiable that the governments of eight other nations can hold direct stakes in England's water supply, while the UK government itself insists that it's unfit and improper for the nation to own and run its own water supply?

What kind of person believes other governments are fit to run England's water supply, but their own government isn't?

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Squid Game and the steel industry


In the mid-20th Century South Korea was an economic minnow. It was a war-ravaged country with a largely pre-industrial economy.

In 1960, if you divided the total economic activity of South Korea by its population (GDP per capita) it amounted to just $79 per person, but within sixty years, this figure has multiplied to over $47,000 per person, which makes it one of the most prosperous large economies on earth, above large developed nations like Japan, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and Russia.

This remarkable period of economic growth in South Korea is known as the Miracle on the Han River, and it started off in the early 1960s when their government initiated the first of the country's 5 year economic plans.

The objective was to modernise the South Korean economy through full employment, and strategic investment across numerous sectors, including infrastructure (roads, rail, ports), core industries (steel, fertilizer, cement, petrochemicals ...), science, and technology.

South Korea's rapid climb up the world development rankings is proof  of how astonishingly successful their strategic investment agenda has been.

Steel industry

When South Korea set about building their first modern steel production plant they were derided by the so-called experts. Why would a country like South Korea make their own steel, when they could just import it from countries with established steel industries?

Well, South Korea ignored the heckling and derision, invested in their own steel industry, and rose from absolutely nowhere in steel production, to become the 6th largest steel producer in the entire world in 2020. 

From having no modern steel industry at all half a century ago, they've soared past countries with long-established steel industries like Germany, France, and the UK.

In 2020 South Korea produced almost ten times as much steel as the United Kingdom! 

A country with a population of just 51 million people produced almost as much steel as economic giants like Russia (146 million), Japan (125 million), and the United States (331 million).

Not bad for a country that were laughed at when they first proposed developing their own steel industry eh?

Having their own government-owned steel industry gave South Korea a huge economic advantage, allowing them to provide cheap steel to other industrial sectors they wanted to develop, especially ship building, electronics, civil engineering, and road vehicle production.

This ready supply of cheap steel helped turn small South Korean firms like Samsung, Hyundai, Kia, and LG into globally recognised brands.

Thanks in a large part to the development of their own steel industry, South Korea is now the world's largest ship-builder, with 40% of the global ship-building market!

Only China even comes remotely close to the shipbuilding power of the South Koreans.

Strategic investment, and the deliberate nurturing of core industries turned South Korea from an economic backwater into an absolute powerhouse over the course of just a few decades.

While developed countries like the UK were deliberately de-industrialising their economies and outsourcing production overseas, South Korea rocketed past them by modernising their core industries and establishing themselves as the premier high-tech, high-skill, hyper-productive economic workshop of the world.

Creative industries

Having learned from their strategic investment in core industries, the South Koreans have recently begun investing in their cultural industries too, with the objective of establishing their nation as one of the creative powerhouses of the world.

The results have already been spectacular:

You'd have to have been living in a box for the last few weeks to have not heard of the South Korean survival drama Squid Game, that's absolutely smashing streaming records across the world.

But the hit Netflix show Squid Game is far from the first massive South Korean cultural export. 

In 2020 the South Korean boy band BTS absolutely dominated global music sales, securing first and second place in the IFPI album sales chart.

Then there's Bong Joon-ho's black comedy thriller Parasite, which became the first non-English language film ever to win the Oscar for best picture in 2019.

Either it's a massive coincidence that South Korea has come from nowhere to suddenly deliver worldwide smash hits in television, music, and cinema, or maybe could have something to do with their deliberate policy of investing in their cultural industries?

Investment vs Austerity

South Korea have proven twice over that strategic investment is the key to delivering future economic prosperity, but certain western nations seem determined not to learn this lesson, especially the increasingly-parochial United Kingdom.

The UK was home to the industrial revolution, and pioneered all kinds of industries from steel foundries, through railways, to ship building.

It's all gone now, thanks to the deliberate neoliberal policy of de-industrialisation that's been pursued for the last four decades.
  • The country that invented the modern steel industry is no longer even in the top 20 world steel producers, and the remnants of its privatisation-wracked steel sector is now owned by Jingye Group, which is a state-owned Chinese regional bank.
  • The country that invented the railways no longer has a single train manufacturer.
  • The country that once "ruled the waves" deliberately tore down its own ship-building industry as part of a demented radical-right war on trade unionism (destroy the entire industry and the trade union dies with it).
As South Korea has stormed up the world rankings thanks to their strategic investment policy, the United Kingdom is falling away thanks to policies like de-industrialisation, under-investment, and austerity.

And there's a big danger of the same kind of sectoral decline happening in the UK cultural industries.

The UK is still an undisputed world leader in the creative industries, punching miles above its small island status in music, film, television, sport, and arts, but the process of decline is already underway.
  • And just to make his utter contempt for the wellbeing of Britain's £111 billion cultural industries unmistakable, Boris Johnson has recently appointed the notoriously thick, radically right-wing, culture war grifter Nadine Dorries as Britain's culture minister!
South Korea showed the UK the way on industrial strategy, but the Brits ignored it and did the polar opposite, which means South Korea is now an industrial powerhouse, and the UK seems locked into in terminal industrial decline.

South Korea is busy showing the UK the way on cultural strategy too, but once again the British government is doing the opposite, slashing away at cultural funding, when strategic investment is obviously the key to success.

The UK has already reduced itself from industrial pioneer to absolute minnows in industrial sectors that they themselves invented, and if there's not a rapid change in direction, the UK is going to see its position as cultural world leaders eroded away by the same myopic agenda of austerity cuts, and radical-right 'leave it to market forces' ideology, while other countries like South Korea surge ahead by actually investing for the future.


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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Monday, 11 October 2021

How Facebook is systematically persecuting evidence-based debate


It's been obvious for a long time that misinformation has been a huge problem on social media, but Facebook's cack-handed efforts to counter it are massively counter-productive, because they're systematically punishing the pages that cite their sources, while letting the liars get off completely free!

Any social media site with the slightest sense of responsibility towards the standards of public discourse that they host on their platforms, would seek to actively encourage evidence-based debate, and discourage the spreading of outright lies.

But instead Facebook is systematically punishing pages that cite evidence via unappealable decisions that their evidence constitutes "spam", draconian distribution restrictions to dramatically reduce the audience of the evidence-citing pages, and even profoundly intimidating threats to delete the pages outright if they carry on trying to engage in evidence-based debate.

The draconian restrictions and threats against Another Angry Voice began on September 3rd 2021, with a supposed "spam" violation, which was actually an article on the independent left-wing media site Skwawkbox, posted to justify an assertion about the ongoing persecution of left-wing Jewish activists within the Labour Party.

The only previous "violation" of Facebook standards on record was one solitary algorithm glitch on a June 2020 post, which was absolutely hammering the Daily Mail for their support of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, where the algorithm somehow concluded that because the image contained a picture of Adolf Hitler, it must have constituted glorification of Nazism. The appeal against this ludicrous algorithm glitch was then ignored.

So just two so-called "violations" in well over a year, and the Another Angry Voice page gets hit with draconian reach restrictions, and intimidated with threats of outright deletion!

Since then, Facebook's "spam" algorithm has gone absolutely wild, with accusations that links to the following all constitute "spam":
  • A link to an article about HGV driver shortages on the UK newspaper The Independent.
  • A link to an article from the trade union Unite posted to counter an outright lie about what trade unions had been saying about Brexit (Facebook obviously took no action against the completely unsourced lie)
  • A link to the website of the British Safety Council
  • A link to the Another Angry Voice website, which has never even contained adverts, let alone "spam". There's obviously something seriously wrong with the system if the algorithm is flagging links as "spam" even when the link is from the website the page that posted it takes its name from!
Every single one of the these five links flagged as "spam" is from entities that have their own Facebook pages! (if they truly were spam-peddlers, why does Facebook allow them to have official presences on their platform?)

And every single appeal against these false accusations of "spam" has been met with a boilerplate notification that Facebook is too short-staffed to actually investigate the appeal, so it just stays on record as a "violation", adding more distribution restrictions, and edging the page ever closer to deletion.

Every single one of the links being punished as "spam" was either posted to justify a factual assertion, or to counter an outright lie with facts and evidence to prove it wrong, yet they're being used as the basis of draconian and unappealable punishments.

The strangling of the page via distribution restrictions is bad enough, but the threat of outright page deletion is a profoundly sinister attack on the concept of evidence-based debate.

If people think they're going to get their page deleted, just for backing up their assertions with facts and evidence, Facebook is actively making itself an anti-scientific forum, in which citing sources is punished, rather than rewarded.

Not only does this systematic persecution of evidence-sharing discourage the responsible practice of citing sources to justify assertions, it also gives succour to misinformation-peddlers by intimidating and dissuading those who would be inclined to counter their lies with links to facts and evidence.

If Facebook really wanted to counter misinformation on its platform, they wouldn't be systematically persecuting evidence-sharers, and restricting the visibility of their pages, they'd be rewarding them, and giving them priority over the misinformation peddlers, and over those who don't bother to evidence their claims.

But Facebook is a profit-seeking corporation, so their priority isn't the fostering of healthy evidence-based debate on their platform, it's whatever makes them the most profit in the short-term.

I'd argue that Facebook's best strategy for the long-term would be to introduce some kind of social peer review, via a gamefied feedback system designed to reward pages that provide verifiable information, and reduce the reach of those that promote lies, and also to reward users that provide accurate peer review feedback, and penalise those that try to game the system though malicious misreporting of links that they just don't like.

But as is always the case with capitalism, it comes down to the conflict between short-term profit and long-term gain.

It's obviously more profitable in the short-term for Facebook to allow the misinformation-peddlers to keep churning out content on their platform, whilst introducing cheap sticking plaster solutions (like appending automatically generated information warnings onto posts based only on keywords, and algorithmic solutions that end up systematically persecuting evidence-based debate).

But they really need to consider whether it's a good long-term branding strategy to run their site as a vast misinformation hub, where misinformation-peddlers spread their lies with impunity and those who approve of, and engage in, evidence-based debate are actively driven away onto other social media platforms.

I'd be more than happy to talk to someone at Facebook about these issues, but it's basically impossible to get hold of anyone there, even to get the false 'violations', distribution restrictions, and intimidating threats removed from my page, let alone to talk about better strategies for combating actual misinformation-peddlers on their platform.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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Friday, 8 October 2021

13 things every Newcastle United fan should know about the club's new owners


In October 2021 the tyrannical Saudi regime completed the takeover of Newcastle United FC, via the nation's sovereign wealth fund. 

Here are 13 things all Newcastle fans should know about their club's new owners.

It's the Saudi state

This isn't just some rich guys from Saudi Arabia who have bought an 80% stake in Newcastle United, it's the Saudi government's Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Their chairman of this fund the murderous tyrant Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), who is also the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

No matter how much the Premier League tries to maintain the ridiculous pretence that they haven't, what they've done is allowed the nationalisation of Newcastle United, into the ownership of the world's worst regime.

Sportswashing

The Saudi tyrants have invested their oil money all over the world. They've got stakes in Facebook, Twitter, Formula One, Boing, Bank of America, Disney, Uber ... Wherever you look in the capitalist system, the Saudi tyrants have probably got a stake in it.

The difference between these investments, and Newcastle United, is that their capitalist investments are aimed at making profits, while their investment in Newcastle United is aimed at improving their public reputation, at a massive cost.

Why do you think they've made that appalling wax-faxed woman Amanda Staveley the figurehead of their ownership, despite her only owning a tiny stake in the venture, rather than one of their own head-choppers?

It's all about massaging their public reputation, and putting a slick westernised veneer onto their barbaric autocracy, rather than making any kind of monetary profit.

We've seen it already with Manchester City, and the way huge numbers of Mancs immediately turned themselves into amateur unpaid PR operatives for the Abu Dhabi despots who took over their club.

MBS and the Saudi head-choppers expect to receive exactly the same kind of sycophantic fawning from Geordies.

War crimes

The despotic Saudi regime has been waging war in neighbouring Yemen since 2014, and they've shown absolutely no respect for the normal conventions of war. 

Probably the most famous war crime occurred when they conducted an airstrike against a bus full of school kids, but they've also used helicopter gunships to attack refugees, and deliberately bombed civilian targets across one of the poorest countries on earth.

One of the most despicable tactics the Saudi tyrants use is the targeting of water supplies and food distribution infrastructure, in order to use starvation and disease as weapons of war against the Yemeni people.

Their absolute disregard for human life in the Yemeni conflict has created what the UN has consistently described as "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world".

Terrorism-spreaders

Ever since the oil money started flowing in, the Saudis have been using it to spread their extremist version of Islam (Wahhabism) across the globe. Wherever you find barbaric Islamist terrorists, you'll find financial and logistical links back to Saudi Arabia.

15 of the 19 September 11th attackers were Saudi, and the ideological figurehead of Al Qaida was Osama bin Laden, who came from a wealthy family that's still well connected in the Saudi regime.

During the 2016 US election Hillary Clinton's emails about the Saudis were leaked, and in them she made it absolutely clear that the US administration knew perfectly well that Saudi Arabia funds terrorist outfits like Al Qaida and ISIS.

Jamal Khashoggi

In October 2018 the Saudi government lured the Jamal Khashoggi to the Saudi embassy in Turkey, where he was murdered and dismembered. The remains of his body have never been found.

The aeroplanes used to fly his murderers in and out of Turkey were owned by PIF, the very company used as a front to buy Newcastle United, and the CIA concluded that the murder was ordered by Muhammed bin Salmen himself.

The reason Newcastle United's new owners killed Khashoggi and hacked his body to bits, is that he was a critic of their regime. He was the son of a mega-rich Saudi arms dealer with connections to the Saudi regime, but he saw the light, recognised the vile tyranny for what it was, and began criticising their political repression, and their war crimes in Yemen.

He was a brave man who stood up for what he believed in, and for that, the owners of Newcastle United ended his life, hacked his corpse to pieces, and hid the remains to deny him a proper burial.

They kill journalists just for criticising their horrific regime.

Misogyny

Probably the most famous piece of folk knowledge about Saudi Arabia in the last half-century is the fact that they hate their own women so much, they wouldn't even allow them to drive cars.

Saudi Arabia is still a profoundly misogynistic society in which women barely have any rights.

They're not allowed to travel or get a passport without permission from their male guardian; they're not free to choose who they marry, and until recently Saudi girls as young as 8 were forced into marriages with adult men; they're barred from all manner of professions; they're banned from studying abroad without their male guardian's permission; they're discriminated against in family courts; and feminist activism in Saudi Arabia is treated as akin to terrorism.

Homophobia

Saudi Arabia is one of the most homophobic regimes on earth, which maintains the death penalty for homosexuality.

They kill people for being gay. Do we really need to say any more than that?

Anti-democracy

In 2019 the Saudi tyrants conducted a barbaric mass-execution of 39 people, including one death by crucifixion. Most of the victims were pro-democracy protestors (including a lad who was 16 at the time he attended a pro-democracy street protest!).

These absolute tyrants literally kill people for supporting the democratic rights that British people take for granted. 

Islamist extremism
 
We already know that the Saudi regime is responsible for spreading their violent, extremist Wahhabist interpretation of Islam across the planet, but within Saudi Arabia they're just as bad.

Apostacy (the "crime" of renouncing Islam) still carries the death sentence in Saudi Arabia

Most Saudis who renounce Islam are forced into exile, which is especially hard for women because of the travel restrictions they're subjected to. And even then, they're forced to continually look over their shoulders, because Saudi operatives obviously aren't remotely afraid to carry out extrajudicial killings overseas. 

Corruption

The Saudi regime is notoriously corrupt, and they'll do literally anything to get away with it.

The Saudis even threatened acts of terrorism against the UK in order to pressurise the UK government into scrapping a Serious Fraud Office investigation into the estimated £1 billion that Prince Bandar took in bribes from the British arms company BAE.

The threat of Saudi-orchestrated terrorist attacks on British soil was enough to convince Tony Blair to personally intervene to shut down the corruption probe!

Premier League greed

The reason Premier League approval of the Newcastle takeover took so long wasn't that they had any concerns about the corruption, homophobia, democracy-repression, murder of journalists, misogyny, war crimes, terrorism-spreading, Islamist extremism, or even threats of terrorist attacks against the UK ... it's because a TV company with links to the Saudi government had been broadcasting unauthorised streams of Premier League matches!

Once this company put a stop to their unauthorised streams, the Premier League quickly gave the green light to the worst regime in the world to take over one of England's most historic and storied football clubs!

If you're looking for anyone to blame for the absolute shame of these horrific tyrants taking over your club, look no further than greed-obsessed Premier League executives.

Forget whataboutery

"Whataboutery" is one of the weakest debating tactics known to humanity. It's just a distraction strategy aimed at completely derailing the discussion.
  • What about other terrible football owners like UAE/Qatar/exploitative US capitalists/Abramovich?
  • What about other repressive regimes like North Korea/Iran/Israel? 
  • What about other Saudi investments in stuff like Facebook/Twitter?
  • What about Mike Ashley's ruthless zero hours contract exploitation at Sports Direct?
All of these other things are varying degrees of bad. And very many people have consistently highlighted and criticised these other things in the past. But the subject of discussion now is the fact that Newcastle United has been bought out by the worst regime in the world. 

The only reason any Newcastle fan is going "what about ...?" is to distract attention and derail the discussion.

It's a shamefully poor debating tactic, which nobody with even a shred of moral decency would try to use.

Buying loyalty?

The Saudi tyrants believe that just because they've bought Newcastle United, they've bought the Newcastle fans' undying loyalty too.

It's up to the people of Newcastle to show them how wrong they are, and that buying the badge doesn't automatically buy them the respect of the Geordie people.

If Newcastle fans have any decency and dignity whatever, the next home game will be absolutely festooned with pride flags, Yemeni flags, women's rights banners, and pictures of Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered by the owners of Newcastle United at the age of 59, so the 59th minute would be a profound moment for the name "Jamal Khashoggi" to ring out around St James' Park, to tell these sick bastards that they might own your club, but they'll never earn your respect if they go around murdering and dismembering their critics.

Will Newcastle United fans put on a show of defiance against the absolutely horrific tyrants who now own their club? Or will the next home game have an absolute party atmosphere, featuring thousands of Geordies giving the worst regime in the world a heroes' welcome with tea towels on their heads?

The game against Spurs on Sunday October 17th will tell the entire world an awful lot about the true character of the Geordie people, won't it?

 
 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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Thursday, 7 October 2021

Why you'd have to be an idiot to oppose wage rises when the cost of living is soaring


Wes Streeting is Labour's Shadow Secretary for Child Poverty. Today he's been on the television to agree with the radically right-wing Adam Smith institute that rising wages would be a bad thing because they would cause a "wage price spiral".

There are very many reasons that this is a profoundly stupid position for a Labour Party minister to take.

Labour is supposed to be the party of the workers (the clue is in the name), so spouting radically right-wing rhetoric against wage rises is a completely extraordinary thing for a Labour minister to be doing.

Streeting was obviously attracted to the Adam Smith propaganda because it used the term "economically illiterate" to chastise Boris Johnson's Tory conference speech.

But for years people on the left have been using the phrase "economically illiterate" to describe economy-strangling idiocy of 'lets cut our way to prosperity' austerity ruination, but Wes never really had a problem with austerity (he abstained on George Osborne's brutal austerity cut in 2015), but suddenly he's enamoured with the phrase, because a radically right wing think tank pinched it to attack wage rises!

Anyone with any sense knows that Johnson's rhetoric about rising wages is pure bluster. He's been in a party that's overseen the worst decade of wage stagnation in economic history. But it's unbelievable strategic ineptitude for an opposition MP to adopt the position that Johnson's blustering that wage growth is good, so I'll say it's bad.

The supposed justification for opposing wage growth is that it would cause inflation, but this is utterly backwards. The inflation is already happening, largely because of Brexit, so keeping wages repressed at this moment would actually create wage deflation (real terms income cuts).

Imagine being such an economically clueless dweeb that you put the effect before cause like this, and end up calling for wage devaluation, just as the prices of energy, food, and housing are spiralling out of control.

'Derp, the opaquely funded and radically right wing pressure group say Boris Johnson is wrong to say wage rises are good, so I'll argue that wage rises are bad!' - this actually appears to be the way Streeting thinks!

I know thinking is a wildly over-generous description of whatever's going on in Streeting's head, but the thinking seems to be that Corbyn and the Labour left would have supported wage rises for ordinary workers while prices are soaring out of control, so it's the duty of Labour's much-vaunted "new management" to oppose them!

A few months ago the junior Labour minister Alex Sobel criticised capitalism over climate change, and Starmer reacted with indignant fury, forcing him to issue a grovelling apology for offending capitalists!

Today another Labour minister is parroting ultra right-wing rhetoric in order to attack the interests of UK workers, and Starmer says nothing!

In the raging battle between workers and the capitalists who exploit them, Starmer's clearly on the side of the capitalists, even though he's supposed to be the leader of the party of the workers!

Starmer's surrounded himself with such idiots that Johnson doesn't even have to do anything to outflank Labour to the left, and appeal to British workers.

All the Bodger has to do is issue absolute platitudes like 'wage rises are good' (even if he doesn't actually believe it himself) and then watch on passively as the strategically incompetent divs in Starmer's top team rush out to argue that 'wage rises are bad actually', and that what British workers really need is another punishing dose of wage stagnation, supposedly in order to prevent the inflation that's already happened!

This short clip perfectly illustrates the problem with liberal capitalist 'centrism'. These people don't actually stand for anything at all.

They've got no convictions; no firmly held beliefs; no understanding of political or economic history; no empathy for other people; no point that they wouldn't argue with equal vehemence for or against, depending on the circumstances; no reason behind anything they do besides self-advancement and political point scoring.

If Johnson had said 'wage rises are bad', the likes of Wes Streeting, Neil Coyle, David Lammy, and Jess Phillips, would have argued that 'wage rises are good actually'.

David Lammy was on the telly the other day using his oratory skills to attack the idea of transitioning towards a £15 per hour minimum wage, but everyone watching surely knew perfectly well that had he been ordered to argue in favour of the policy, he'd have summoned up the exact same faux passion to say what a fabulous idea it is.

These people believe in nothing.

If their party leader tells them to abstain on Theresa May's unlawfully racist "Hostile Environment", or George Osborne's brutal austerity cuts, or Priti Patel's despicable legislation to allow undercover cops to rape women with impunity, then that's exactly what the Labour right-wingers will do, because they don't believe in anything.

That's why they hated Corbyn so much, and worked tirelessly to sabotage Labour from within between 2015 and 2019, and keep the Tories in power.

They hate people with actual principles with a burning rage, and use the word "ideological" as a slur, as if it's some kind of sickening aberration to actually believe in anything, and have a principle that can't be bought.

They knew that having a principled person lead the Labour Party meant their career advancement options were curtailed, so they burned the Labour house down from within to get rid of him.

They put their own narrow self-interest above the unspeakable agonies of millions of others who were suffering under Tory austerity, Tory wage repression, Tory public service cuts, Tory disability persecution, Tory welfare vandalism ... and now they've succeeded in getting rid of Corbyn, we're stuck with a truly horrific Tory government, and an opposition composed almost exclusively of these dreadful people.

So this is why we're witnessing the strategic stupidity of a Labour minister attacking the interests of workers.

He doesn't know anything; or believe in anything; or care about the history and traditions of the labour movement; or have any strategic plan for winning power and making the nation a better place.

He was simply bewitched by a load of radically right wing nonsense, and then mindlessly regurgitated it for the cameras, without even giving a moment's thought to what he was actually saying.


 
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Sunday, 3 October 2021

The Silent Knight has walked right into Bodger's trap


Keir Starmer has wantonly wasted his first Labour Conference as party leader.

Instead of taking the fight to the Tories, he waged factional war on his own party with new rules to rig the nomination process for his successor.

Instead of creating the "unity" that he promised during the Labour leadership election, he delivered division, discord, and disillusionment.

Instead of taking the opportunity to reach out and engage the public with bold policies aimed at improving the lives and communities of ordinary people across Britain, he dropped an absurd 14,000 word essay and delivered an interminable bore-fest of a conference speech that was only enlivened by the heckling.

Instead of offering people anything inspiring to actually vote for, he's given existing Labour voters reason to doubt they'd even bother with him in charge.

Boris Johnson may be a bone-idle, lying philanderer, but he's no fool.

His conference isn't going to focus on petty and divisive score-settling against rivals within the Tory ranks.

He's not going to write ludicrously long essays that nobody but the most hardcore of political nerds is ever going to read, nor deliver an absolute policy-vacuum of a conference speech.

He'll focus on a few touchstone issues like "jobs", "wages", and "the economy"

Yes, of course virtually everything he says about these subjects will be lies, but it's only the political nerds who will know it.

The majority, who only pay passing attention to party politics outside of general elections, will hear Johnson and the Tories talking about "jobs""wages", and "the economy", when all they heard of Starmer's conference, if they heard anything at all, was how he stitched up the nomination process to decide his successor, and then got heckled throughout his speech.

In fact Johnson's lies on these issues won't do him any harm at all, because he provokes his critics into critiquing his lies.

He's more than happy with the attention because he's comfortable in the knowledge that his target audience of low-information voters won't even follow the details of the debate, they'll just see all the clips of him talking about the things they care about, like "jobs""wages", and "the economy", without registering or remember all the complicated facts and evidence demonstrating that he's lying again.

They'll associate him with the subjects he wants them to associate him with, and if that means telling lies, doing something ridiculous, or saying something utterly egregious for attention, that's exactly what he'll do.

It worked for Trump, and it's working for him too.

Johnson is a politically experienced showman who's figured out how to game the system to his advantage, and Starmer just keeps on proving what a politically naïve and uninspiring figure he is, who has surrounded himself with the worst kind of strategically incompetent fools.

Labour should have learned from 2015 that it's impossible to win voters off the Tories by pathetically imitating them, refusing to oppose them, and deliberately abstaining on all their malicious legislation.

I mean, who on earth wants watered-down ersatz Toryism, when they can have the real undiluted Toryism just by voting Tory?

And even if this uninspiring Tory-lite agenda does end up attracting a few "soft Tories", they're massively outnumbered by Labour's existing supporters abandoning the party in frustration.

Starmer and his mob have been actively driving away Labour's own supporters in the vain hope of attracting these largely mythical "soft Tories", and this strategic idiocy plays right into Johnson's hands.

He's going to talk about issues that ordinary people are actually bothered about rather than fulminating against sections of his own party, and then he'll announce a couple of new policies designed to position the Tory party to the left of Starmer's tepid and unadventurous fare on a couple of headline issues.

He'll probably even end up promising one of the things that Starmer's just sternly lectured the public that they're stupid and unrealistic for even wanting. 

It's been painful watching Starmer walk himself into this trap, not so much because it's so obviously going to happen, but because his deluded supporters in the corporate media hack pack have tried so hard to portray Starmer's strategic ineptitude as some kind of 'brilliant new dawn', and because of the absolute torrents of vitriol and venom spat by the Starmtrooper online bully boys at literally anyone who's tried to warn them about the trap they're actively cheering Starmer into.

To walk into a trap like this shows strategic ineptitude of such magnitude, it's no wonder that more and more people are coming to suspect that Starmer's advisers are deliberately giving him duff advice because they're once again conducting internal sabotage like they did with the 2017 general election.

Whether you believe Starmer's advisers have led him into this trap through malice or incompetence doesn't really matter at this stage. He's already put his foot in the Tory bear trap now, and it's going to crunch agonisingly closed on his leg over the next few days.


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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