This is the week that was. It’s our midweek politics round-up for the liberal, the left-leaning and the lazy. Check out the blog and our Twitter @Substance_mag for all of the week’s stories every Wednesday.
One-liners at the Treasury
Q: “What do you call someone who’s just as shit as a tax evader?”
A: Jimmy Carr, allegedly.
The Times has put Jimmy Carr in it this week, after they found the C4 smoothie might like evading tax more than he does saying dead naughty words quickly.
Danny Alexander was moved to comment: “Frankly, I think people who dodge the tax system are the moral equivalent of benefit cheats.” It’s a stupid phrase that demonstrates the universally held hysteria around benefit fraud – which costs the country £1 million a year, compared to £80 million from tax evasion by corporations and wealthy individuals; and often exists in totally different circumstances to the convoluted, pre-meditated way tax evasion is carried out.
The government has assured it is committed to cracking down on cases like Jimmy Carr’s, but Cameron is probably more concerned with attracting investment and leaving corporations alone as his and Osborne’s “Plan A” crawls on.
New Democracy or same old, same old?
On Sunday the Greek election results came in – and the pro-austerity, pro-bailout New Democracy party beat the left-wing Syriza coalition by 4% to win the election. The sound of a collective sigh of relief and popping corks from inside European governments was loud.
But what does the result mean? Despite what we’re being told by newspaper commentariat and tanned correspondents in Athens, the right’s victory in Greece has not saved the Euro from the death grip of Karl Marx’s rigor mortis fingers.
Syriza leader Alex Tsipras was campaigning on a mandate not to leave the Euro, but to oppose austerity (just like Hollande in France). That was an easy one for right-wing party staffers and European politicians though – who created a sense of fear that we were walking towards a one trillion dollar exit from the common currency, costing us 5% of the global GDP, all led by a radical extremist in Tsipras.
And so now Greece face more of the same: conservative technocrats, food stamps and riots. More cuts and less wages. And more worryingly, ample breeding ground for Golden Dawn – the fascist thugs jumping immigrants and “communists” in Athens’ poorer ends, and slapping women live on TV. It’s not quite the predicted military dictatorship some have predicted – yet – but it’s still that dangerous sort of fascism that wins votes at the polls when the economy is down. Sound familiar? It’s going to take more than the same old same old under the guise of a new democracy to sort this one out.
“We don’t deal with terrorists”
Finallly, people are facing the worst wave of serious threats of sophisticated international terrorism since 9/11. If you’re Iranian, that is.
Comments made by senior Washington brass hint that the Flame malware – apparently the most sophisticated form of cyber-terrorism yet – was hatched by the United States (National Security Agency, CIA) and Israel (national army) to attack Iranian computer systems.
Flame contains some of the same code as Stuxnet – the virus that attacked Iranian nuclear facilities’ systems in 2009 and 2010 – which suggests it came from the same source.
Flame is advanced and scary as hell. It can spy on Iranian officials computer activity, map networks, take screenshots of infected computers and record audio conversations, all bringing us one step closer to the telescreen. What’s more unsettling is that the virus went way beyond Iran’s borders: Germany, China, India, Turkey, Egypt, even Israel itself. Whether this is because of a lack of containment or fancy-free cyber-terrorism, it shows Western governments are hell-bent on bringing Iran down.
And so while Western governments preach peace and diplomacy, and consistently blame the Iranians for state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East (which they do, of course), America and Israel are the real aggressors. We don’t deal with terrorists, but we deal in terrorism like nobody’s business.
See Wired’s Threat Level blog on our reading list for more below.
Wanted Man: Julian Assange
At the time of writing, we’re seeing a 21st-century stake out in central London. Julian Assange has gone to the Ecuadorian embassy to seek asylum having exhausted all avenues of appeal in Britain and facing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges.
Outside the world’s press (and London’s coppers) are waiting. Scotland Yard claim Assange has broken his terms of bail, and is liable for arrest. While Ecuador considers his application, we wait.
Check the #assange hashtag for the latest developments, messages of solidarity and people calling Assange a rapist.
What Substance is reading
Wired’s Threat Level blog reports on just exactly who’s behind the Flame espionage tool.
Matthew Norman says Jimmy Carr’s hypocrisy should be a reminder to Chancellors in The Independent.
Glenn Greenwald reports on Julian Assange asking Ecuador for asylum in Salon.