Oct 132013
 
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I tweeted this idly yesterday:

So what’s the punishment for corporate blackmail? Or is it simply not illegal, like so much out there? #EnergyPriceFreeze #BlackoutThreat

Essentially it would seem that, as a first horrible step, some of the energy companies themselves, and now their political nominees the Tories, are doing for the energy industry what the bankers have achieved for financial services: make latterday greed and laziness overtake a former efficiency and ingenuity.  By threatening the nation with energy blackouts down the line, they are committing serious and life-threatening blackmail on an industrial scale.  “If you don’t agree to higher prices as per our demands, we will guarantee that blackouts take place.”  No spirit of striving to do better against the odds; just promises to scrounge even more out of rapidly emptying pockets.  This luxury is not allowed for the sick, disabled and generally struggling: whilst the energy corporations can continue to run their cash cows, the rest of us have to use our natural nous – nous they would claim not to have – to battle our individual ways out of very individual miseries.

As Peter Tatchell reminded us a few hours ago:

UK national minimum wage up by 75% since 1998 but gas cost up 175%, bread up 146%. Poor being squeezed @UKuncut

And that is the cost of living crisis Ed Miliband’s Labour is now foregrounding.  That is the reason this energy blackmail is so disgraceful.  For, in truth, these cash-rich suppliers – even if right about possible blackouts – care zero, zilch, in no way at all about those individual families already forced to black out their homes due to the horrendous increases in the cost of basic needs such as food, housing and energy in particular.

Just like the Tories, this.  Just like the Tories of old.  Just as a spiralling private debt makes the levels of public debt less unacceptable, so permitting an ever-increasing private suffering through the food versus fuel dilemma makes public acknowledgement – ie mainstream-visible recognition - less necessary, less likely and less possible.

To summarise, then: those energy companies of a mind to be this cruel, and those Tories in political cahoots with such unkindnesses, terrify the defenceless with the thought of blacked-out freezing winters, where all of us must share – in the unavoidably public domain! – seasons of national discontent.  They demand, in exchange for secure supplies, exorbitant prices which, by the by, maintain their equally cash-rich shareholders happy.  They deliberately forget, ignore and brush under so many living-room carpets the fact that hundreds of thousands of families – maybe millions! – are already being forced to turn off the heating.

You idiots!  There’s little point in guaranteeing energy supplies to a wider public if too many of them simply cannot pay what you prefer to charge.  What kind of service is that?  What kind of economy does this?  Managing demand through pricing policies instead of strategically meeting supply?  Is that what we’re now at – even here?  Even in basic sectors such as fuel?  Even when people’s lives are at stake?

Let’s change the frame.  Let’s change the focus.  If the disabled have to make do with far less than is humanely reasonable, and even then must still battle fiercely not to tip over into poverty, despair and suicide, let us make it clear to the energy corporations that they must now equally use their ingenuity to protect our futures.

You’re not telling me, surely, that what a disabled person must strive to achieve in Cameron’s Britain is beyond the capability of a mighty British corporate organisation …  Oh.  But I forgot.  Not all of the energy companies are actually British.  Nor would they behave in exactly the same way in their own countries of origin.

Funny that, eh?  Bloody ROFL time.


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Sep 292013
 
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I recently wrote a post on the paradox whereby liberal democracy can carry within it the seeds of its own destruction.  The example quoted, from Paul over at Never Trust a Hippy, went thus:

Paul says these interesting things in his latest post:

I’ve often been asked about what happens when a new electoral process results in an illiberal government. I’ve been told that “if you promote liberal democracy, for example, in many countries in the Middle East, you create a situation whereby a totalitarian-ish Islamist party can take power”.

Surely this presents us with a paradox?

Well… no it doesn’t. If you hold an election, and the resulting constitutional settlement allows the winner to abolish, or rig, subsequent elections, then the election was not part of a process that could be described as ‘liberal democratic’ in the first place.

I remember the above, once more, as the Muppet Tory Party hold their annual hatefest in Manchester this week.  When, for example, I read stuff about David Cameron and Chris Grayling saying they’re looking to repeal the Human Rights’ Act, I am reminded of how challenging such broad-ranging measures are to our liberal sense of freedoms.  If historical Conservatism has any virtue at all, it is in its instinct to move cautiously when amending the fundamentals of any complex system.  You can never fully appreciate the long-term impact on anything when you rush fairly headlong into the matter.  Witness, if you will, New Labour’s initial steps towards NHS privatisation which have tragically laid the crazy-paving path of disaster the Tories are currently marching along and extending.

Using the law to undermine the law is a dangerous precedent of those who would forge and refashion worlds.  If politicians of this ilk like to criticise publishers such as the Murdochs and Assanges of our time for the megalomania they exhibit to ordinary people’s points of view, they might also care to examine their own impulses and attempts to change the terrible basics of human conflict and existence.

Politicians of this kind are little more than megalomaniacs of lever-pulling rule.  Only they believe – and this is the worst of it – that they do it, in the end, for our benefit.

For it is quite one matter when political parties like New Labour overwhelm us with legislation which builds on and furthers existing moralities.  We may agree with them or not; but they are existing, all the same.  In this, I think we can see that the beast was far more truly conservative than these current Tories.

It’s quite a separate matter, though, when you aim to upturn received opinion; when you look to drive a country down the alleyways of prejudice where its unkindest instincts lie.

And when you use the law to undermine  such received opinion, I honestly – sadly frankly – believe we are talking about little more than a de facto takeover of liberal democracy by those who would destroy its essence.

I can only repeat what I wrote in the piece I opened with this morning, where I rewrote my beloved Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:

Let’s rewrite them, then, but this time specifically in order to define how liberal democracy must defend human beings:

  1. Liberal democracy may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. Liberal democracy must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. Liberal democracy must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Or, alternatively, and perhaps equally revealingly, to define how human beings should defend liberal democracy:

  1. A human being may not injure liberal democracy or, through inaction, allow liberal democracy to come to harm.
  2. A human being must obey the orders given to them by liberal democracy, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A human being must protect their own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

If only some of the puppets peopling Tory Party Conference this year would take note of the importance of defending those basic principles of freedom – principles we should hold far more dearly than we do – perhaps, then, we could reach some kind of productive consensus in our broken politics.

For that, in truth, is now where we’re at.  Some of our politicians, who represent us from election to election (but don’t seem really to represent anyone except themselves), see the rest of us through a prism of broken politics: for them, it is our society which is broken and their responsibility to sort it.  But in reality what’s broken is Westminster itself.  It’s not us they need to mend but their own sorry front door.

It’s not us who have burgled the House of State at all.  It’s some of these society-reforming busybodies who have forgotten the very English concept of taking people with you when you propose change.

It’s some of these politicians who believe the law’s primary purpose is to abruptly upend everything that came before, instead of building on good practice and better beliefs.

Using the law to undermine the law is anything but good politics, business or governance.  And in the end, it comes back to bite you in the backside.  But in the meantime, before it does, very many ordinary citizens will suffer the awful consequences.

That is the real tragedy of this dreadful Muppet Show.  That is the real tragedy of incompetent governors like Cameron & Co.  We suffer, they don’t – and all the while, the United Kingdom no longer will be.

Roll on One Nation is all I can say.  Even where this will only mean I can contemplate a tidy little England for myself.


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Sep 082013
 
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Here we have a Coalition which is anything but a partner with its people.  And do you wanna know exactly how easy it is to know what the Coalition’s playing at?  This easy!  Just listen carefully to what it accuses others of doing – and then you’ll find an example of government doing the same.

When it looks to smash the indignant feelings of an oppressed poor by accusing it of scrounging off the state, it quite happily services the needs of its political sponsors in large financial corporations to scrounge their way to profitability again.

And when it looks, brazenly, to eliminate extra-parliamentary protest, it acts, brazenly, to conduct the biggest campaign of government-sponsored extra-parliamentary governance in Britain’s history.

Well, I haven’t doublechecked all of Britain’s history – but, at least, the history I’ve lived in my lifetime.

From the latter link, this is what I said just over a year ago:

It seems to me that, more and more, supposedly democratically-elected governments are getting the dirty work of less than transparent policy-making carried out on their behalf by private industry.  This is, in a sense, a strategy of de facto governance where democracy is absented from the process.  It works in the following way: in exchange for negative publicity which, in any case, legions of legal departments can generally vanish into relative thin air, private industries of transnational sizes are awarded humongous public-sector contracts.  And as this is a business-to-business relationship – thick-skinned government to hard-sold corporate – public opinion is pretty irrelevant to either party.  A perfect way of removing the need for approval from irritatingly well-informed and tech-savvy end-consumers, who were in any case beginning to make the business of corporate capitalism so very complicated and unpredictable.

Instead of selling to end-users who pick and choose, the most foresighted corporations are now choosing to focus their attentions on governments which – for various untransparent reasons – prefer to pick and stick.

The corporates get stability in long-term contracts despite the voter flak.  The governments get to blame the corporates if anything too unpleasant comes to light.

A perfect exchange of complementary interests.

Which brings me to what I ended up saying then – sadly predicting the conditions for this ugly story, which rears its ugly head via Boing Boing just this Friday.  First, Boing Boing’s report (the bold is mine):

The only way to stop Internet users from accessing “bad” websites is to spy on all their Internet traffic (you have to look at all their traffic in order to interdict the forbidden sites). So it follows that any censorship system must also ban any privacy/security tools. The UK is raising a generation of Internet users who are told that “security” requires them to make their sensitive, personal information available to anyone who is listening in on the network, because otherwise they might see sexually explicit material. Instead of teaching kids how to stay safe online, the official UK Internet safety policy requires them to be totally naked in all their online communications.

In order to achieve this goal, the following is happening:

UK mobile providers, including O2 and its reseller GiffGaff, are blocking commercial VPN providers that help to secure sensitive communications from criminals, hackers and government spies. [...]

You may ask what this really has to do with government.  After all, surely O2 and GiffGaff are sovereign bodies.  Well.  In the light of my post already quoted above, I’m not absolutely sure that this is the case.  As I concluded in August 2012 (the bold is mine today):

[...] We have a recent story on how mobile phone access to the Internet is controlled extra-judicially by the private sector here (from the Open Rights Group of which I am a member) as well as a story from my own archive on how copyright owners can quite literally – and quite easily – make websites invisible to all sensible intents and purposes.

In conclusion, the case of ATOS – and the issues its behaviours and processes apparently raise – are not really attributable to the company itself.  It is, rather, the government – deliberately employing it as a shield to hide public services from a proper democratic oversight – which is mostly to blame and which should be brought to book.

And by focussing our attention on crucifying a supplier – a supplier which, admittedly, appears to have substituted the disabled as direct customer of this sorry cohort of political actors we call the Coalition – we may be ignoring the much wider reality: that in disabled services, in welfare and health, in Internet freedoms, in law and order, communications and social media more generally, allegedly democratic governments across the world are working out how to circumvent democratic controls by using private-sector firewalls.

This is a new kind of anti-democratic governance.

A de facto governance.

A governance which our cowardly leaders have cleverly put together outside the democratic process – in order that trusting voters and citizens ignore the real reasons for their despair.

I wrote that just over a year ago – I think it, and much much more, still stands.

To catch a thief, no one better than a thief of course.  In that sense, there’s an argument that an immoral government knows best how to channel an immoral populace.

Not that there aren’t other problems this raises.

Who’s to argue the populace is essentially immoral, for starters?

But far better for modern governments is simply refuse to sign on the dotted line.  If parliamentary democracy – and representative democracy elsewhere – is becoming such an impossible task for governments to work efficiently with, why not place the responsibility for policy- and law-making on the shoulders of unelected bodies such as corporations?  For the government of the day, no legal flak; no media persecution; no irritating sessions examining the fine print of so much legal to-and-fro.

Just issue a populist edict via friendly media (anti-terrorism, anti-paedophilia, anti-porn in general) – and get rid of a whole raft of measures and consequent inspection regimes from the framework that should be Parliament.

The only problem with respect to the Internet in particular, of course, is that Cameron has recently been going on about Britain being the sixth-largest economy.

And I’m really not sure how long that’s going to last when companies and their customers realise all their communications must be naked.

____________________

Further reading: this .pdf file from Open Rights Group and the LSE makes for unhappily prescient reading.  Please read it and inform yourself.  Before it’s too late.

Even as it may already be.


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Sep 072013
 
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“Lavadora” is the Spanish word for “washing-machine”.  I’ve just woken up from a siesta, so it was the Spanish word which first came to mind when I read this story from the Guardian this afternoon:

One million of Britain’s lowest paid employees will be classed as “not working enough” and could find themselves pushed with the threat of sanctions to find more income under radical changes to benefits, the Department for Work and Pensions has said.

DWP internal documents seen by the Guardian reveal that people earning between £330 and around £950 a month – just under the rate of the national minimum wage for a 35-hour week – could be mandated to attend jobcentre meetings where their working habits will be examined as part of the universal credit programme.

Some of those deemed to be “not working enough” could also be instructed to take on extra training – and if they fail to complete tasks they could be stripped of their UC benefits in a move which departmental insiders conceded is controversial.

Now the above, I feel most strongly, is one of the wildest and most juggernauting examples of this government’s spin we’ve yet to witness in this Parliament.  Let’s examine, quickly, what it’s really aiming to do.

The government, rightly or wrongly, feels that it’s paying too much benefit to too many people.  It’d like to reduce what it pays out from month to month.  Imagine, however, the uproar it’d raise – even, perhaps, amongst its own supporters – if it suggested that anyone earning above 330 quid should have their rights, in the round, to access state benefits summarily withdrawn from their (“grasping/undeserving”) fingers.  Even those who’ve been fortunate enough never to experience rank poverty would find a headline figure like 330 difficult to stomach.  That’s a nice round number which easily matches a nasty filmic hovel of a renting experience – a hovel anyone, however rich or poor, could internalise in their consumerist mindscapes.

Then, of course, there’s the battle some are waging around not only not giving up on the minimum wage but – even – proposing the introduction of a “living” one.

Or, horror of horrors, do away with benefits altogether – and, instead, issue a flat-rate “citizen’s wage” for everyone who lives here, whatever their age or circumstance.

So how does the spin session – the “lavadora Britain” stratum (for it’s not just the government who’s choosing to play this game) – deal with this complex little conundrum?  Well, not much which the government hasn’t already done in the last three years.

Something go wrong with IT procurement?  Blame everyone and anything – but blame not oneself.  Parents feeding their children stuff which they really should know better not to?  Blame the parents, their lazy habits, their inability to care for their offspring properly – anything and everything, that is, except those who spend billions deliberately moulding our impulses.  Families not earning enough to get to the end of the month without state support?  Blame not their employers for paying too little; blame not the landlords for charging too much; blame not the food suppliers, the banks, the petrol companies nor the utility corporations for ripping off the British consumer (and all this, year after bloody toilsome year …).

No.  Let’s just think about it carefully.  Let’s just be a teensy-weensy bit cleverer than that.

What can we do instead of looking to re-establish some kind of properly free-market equilibrium?  What should we do instead of making capitalism something half-decent again?

[And so he hears himself laugh in a hollow and finally futile way.]

How about blaming the workers for their own penury?  Instead of aiming to fix capitalism so it’s no longer a licence to destroy ordinary people, instead of returning to some kind of honest baseline the sacred exchange of goods and services, how about we blame the workers – even more than before – for the rip-off Britain we’re all still struggling to value and abide by?

Great Britain, Mr Cameron?  You do bloody well have to be joking, right?

Washing-machine Britain, more like.  Washing-machine Cameron, in fact.  Now spinning at a disgraceful 2015 rpm.


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Aug 232013
 
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Trotsky is quoted as having argued:

A means can be justified only by its end.

There is a less well-known second half to this quote, though:

But the end in its turn needs to be justified.

Under Trotsky’s rationale, then, the ends justified the means – but the ends still needed debating first.  Under the Coalition’s, however, it would appear the means serve to justify the ends.  And so the ends, themselves, need no discussing at all.

Take, if you will, the case of the NHS.  As the service weights more and more patient needs towards a crumbling A&E provision, the government is privatising ever-greater swathes of the institution.  And whilst one might – for ideological reasons or otherwise – be for or against such a programme of privatisation, what no one can be happy with is the Coalition’s deliberate obfuscation of a direct line of ultimate responsibility (the bold is mine:)

“Reading headlines last week, such as ‘Struggling A&E units to get £500m bailout’ and ‘NHS managers to get price comparison website’, one might be forgiven for thinking that the current coalition government views the NHS as a failing bank or business,” [the Lancet, one of Britain's most prestigious medical journals] said.

“This stance is one of the most cynical, and at the same time cunning, ways by which the government abdicates all responsibilities for running a healthcare system that has patient care and safety at its heart.”

The journal, which has been publishing on medical matters for almost 200 years, said the coalition’s NHS reforms meant the health secretary “no longer has a duty to provide comprehensive health services”, having handed over responsibility to a “complex system of organisations”.

“The exact responsibilities are at best complex, not easily understood, and at worst deliberately obfuscated. Who exactly is leading and to what end is even less clear,” it said.

Couple all the above with the realities of very real, grave and upsetting parliamentary conflicts-of-interest, and it becomes clear what we’re having to deal with here: essentially, the means – private ownership of everything from health to postal delivery to education to democracy itself – now justify the ends.  That the ends equal everything from increasing waiting-lists to the reintroduction of Section 28 in schools to the loss of the public right to demonstrate – in an extra-parliamentary manner – any disagreement with parliamentary behaviours, tendencies and legislation … well, this really does not matter in this post-Trotsky world: by making the means equivalent to the ends themselves, a substitute and replacement, we forge a perfect and invincible political circle.

Trotsky only knew the half of it.  He was too good a soul to believe the ends should remain unquestioned.  Cameron, on the other hand, is about as devilish as they come: he’s removed all requirements to even define or track them.


http://youtu.be/VuFw9DT-RlA

So.  There you have it.

On the day the European Union has set aside to remind us of the deaths on our continent under the regimes of Stalin and Hitler, perhaps we ought to be reminding ourselves more constantly of more recent history.

There’s tons of it about, at the moment.  And as we’ve now all become publishers and potentially visible presences on the web, we’ve now all become potential threats to be seen with grand and terrifying suspicion.  So the moneyed and wealthy turn in on themselves, and replace societal intelligence with a profound belief in individualistic and self-rewarding process.

Was this always going to be the destiny of democracy?  Could even Trotsky have imagined where freedom’s instincts might lead us?

From fracking to national security, all they care about is the dosh.  Absolutely no politician in power right now cares about what the dosh does.  And that, my dear friends and virtual colleagues, is more than a matter of indubitable interest: it’s a tragedy of democratic integrity and representation, writ humongously large.


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Aug 202013
 
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Wow!  A pretty miserable panorama.  Three stories I pick at random (not).  First, from 2010, the tying up of the House of Commons:

MPs will not be able to throw out the government unless at least 55% of them vote to do so, under plans agreed by the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

The move is part of plans agreed by the two parties to introduce five-year fixed-term parliaments.

An expert reaction at the time ran as follows:

Constitutional expert Peter Hennessy, of Queen Mary University of London University, told BBC News: “The tradition is that one [vote] is enough and I wouldn’t tinker with that. I would leave that well alone. It looks as if you are priming the pitch, doctoring it a bit. Not good. It’s meant to be a different politics, new politics.”

Under the deal with the Conservatives, Lib Dem MPs would be expected to vote with the government.

Second, from Sunday, the proposed banning – and perhaps even criminalisation – of organised extra-parliamentary action:

How will this gag work? At present the law restricts the spending of non-party groups on election campaigning. But the proposed law goes from providing reasonable rules to keep big money out of politics into a chilling attack on free speech.

Even informal local groups will be caught up in the new rules. Concerned about fracking in your village? Worried about proposals to close a hospital or build a road? Be very careful, you only have a limited ration of dissent in each constituency, and if you get overdrawn or even lose some receipts then you could face a police investigation. Are you a community group that organises a series of hustings but chooses to exclude extremist party candidates? Sorry, you are now considered to be election campaigners.

The bill, then, redefines what counts as electioneering. At present only materials and activities obviously targeted at shifting votes are capped. But anything that might change the mind of a voter will count as election campaigning in future. If you are critical of a government policy in the year before an election, that will count as election campaigning. If you are active against racism then you could be campaigning against far-right parties. Staff time will be included, so the wages of anyone who works on writing a critique of a policy or sends it to the media will count.

Finally, from today, Groklaw describes how the site can no longer continue under the unceasing revelations of permanent government surveillance (the bold is mine):

I hope that makes it clear why I can’t continue. There is now no shield from forced exposure. Nothing in that parenthetical thought list is terrorism-related, but no one can feel protected enough from forced exposure any more to say anything the least bit like that to anyone in an email, particularly from the US out or to the US in, but really anywhere. You don’t expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend. And once you know they can, what is there to say? Constricted and distracted. That’s it exactly. That’s how I feel.

So. There we are. The foundation of Groklaw is over. I can’t do Groklaw without your input. I was never exaggerating about that when we won awards. It really was a collaborative effort, and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate.

I’m really sorry that it’s so. I loved doing Groklaw, and I believe we really made a significant contribution. But even that turns out to be less than we thought, or less than I hoped for, anyway. My hope was always to show you that there is beauty and safety in the rule of law, that civilization actually depends on it. How quaint.

As I sadly concluded only yesterday:

Yes.  This is indeed a police state.  A state which forgets so many of the lessons of the Nuremberg Trials.  A state which no longer believes in right and wrong but, instead, in legal and illegal.  [...]

And:

When a Home Office spokesperson says it’s the police who must decide, and not Parliament nor appropriate individuals with the corresponding obligation to oversee what the police are doing, we know what – inside the Home Office – people really think.

And what they think is we already live a de facto police state.

This is, as I say above, a profound betrayal of what once could have been a secularism of real and ennobling choice.  But in the absence of that God who might look over and remind us of what we should do, we have this overriding anti-Nuremberg remittance to the concepts of legal and illegal above all.

We’ve forgotten entirely about those universal human rights.  Right and wrong have been substituted everywhere with very poor hand-me-down cousins.

Universal doesn’t exist any more.

So what does this game, set and Coalition match really consist of?  Well.  As far as I can see, several stages spread out over time:

  1. Ensure they have the House of Commons (ie ourselves) by the balls, by rewriting the rules in the strictest terms possible.
  2. Ensure our resulting urge to extra-parliamentary action in the offline world can only be conducted in terms of parliamentary rules, now rewritten.
  3. Ensure, through several means and tools (from virtual porn filters which knock out blogs like my own to libel actions that chill a wider population into a distracted self-censoring half-silence), that extra-parliamentary action in the online world is so controlled by government and state-security apparatuses as to make it virtually impossible to speak your mind without feeling you might, by association, incriminate your readers, commenters, friends and followers.

That’s it, isn’t it?  The beginning of the end.  You have no representation in Parliament worth talking about; your right to organise outside Parliament is to likely be criminalised; and, finally, even your late-night and oft-disparaged blogged meanderings must eventually be discouraged in one way or another.

For it’s quite clear, as I also suggested yesterday, that a democracy which spreads crap liberally around is anything but a liberal democracy.

We used to strive so hard to be the latter.  These days, we do little more than suppurate as the former.

In so many ways and at so many levels, this is a direct and premeditated attack on 21st century participatory instincts and environments.  An attack on the natural direction of history.  An attack on everything our universally educated population was led to expect.  And if this is to be game, set and Coalition match, by its very nature we can equally see it’s going to be anything but cricket.


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Jun 062013
 
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On the subject of welfare, I have the following to say:

  1. When a system breaks down because the wealthy have buggered up, you don’t have the right to blame the system’s victims.
  2. Demonising poor, sick and disabled people is evil under all circumstances.
  3. Lying about statistics is an act of intellectual criminality.
  4. Manifesting incompetence in the face of severe socioeconomic crisis is an act of unaffordable luxury.
  5. Not being honest about one’s failings is stupidity squared – and infuses in absolutely no one the otherwise necessary confidence which our society needs to properly function.

To blame welfare for the crisis we’re suffering from – as well as arguing it needs to be controlled in order to recover a semblance of economic normality – is like saying you can have an overdraft facility, which, by the by, they charge you for, exactly when you don’t want it, and then withdrawing it precisely at the moment you go overdrawn.

(This, by the way, once happened to me.  I shall never forget the moment.  I shall always remember, from that moment on, how it coloured my view of life – and banks in particular.)

But then that is how politicians, business leaders and hangers-on various – who don’t do or need welfare personally at all – all prefer to see the lie of the land.

We’ll charge you for welfare until and unless you actually need it.  And then, particularly if it is our fault, we will take away what is becoming in our eyes a disproportionate right to access it.

Never mind that the suffering is more than equal to its disproportionate access.  Never mind that disproportionate access is symptomatic of terrible suffering.

To cap it all, let’s go and cap welfare.  Sounds much less painful – don’t you think? – than capping people.

Yes.  Kind of like capping the knees of the most defenceless.  And whoever needed to care at all when those that hobbled were the least vocal in society?


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May 182013
 
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If we believe in a history of the masses – not just in one of heroes and heroines – there has to be more to what is going on between Cameron & Co and the rest of civil society than simply the bald intention to fill corporate pockets with even more dosh than they already possess.  There must be bigger movements at play here than simply stupid incompetents being stupidly incompetent.

Firstly, it would appear there is a massive battle being fought between a society of professionals on the one hand and a society of the unprofessionalised on the other.  So it is we have doctors, nurses, teachers and lawyers fighting painfully disagreeable rearguard actions with people who have few actual qualifications to be what they end up acting out: in the main, alpha businessmen and women and politicians of all colours and levels.  These latter two “professions”, if the label can (or should) be usefully applied, currently have few training paths to prepare them for the roles they carry out – supposedly on our behalf but more generally on their own.

Secondly, there does seem to be a recognition out there that specialisation – the very stuff of both charlatans and experts – may in some insidious way itself be destroying society.

In another universe then, quite parallel to Cameron & Co’s, we might appreciate the attempts of what we could charitably describe as Wannabe Renaissance Men (WRM) (there would appear to be few women, thankfully, of the same mettle) to break through the Chinese Walls of self-interested sectors.

The problem, of course, is that these WRMs I describe really aren’t.  They’re not doing what they do in order to break down barriers that divide society but, instead, in order to re-establish – using the most unpleasant methods possible – those barriers which most benefit them at a quite individual level.  It would seem they have so convinced themselves their might is right that anything can be justified – precisely and simply because of who or what originates the acts in question.  And we are so taken aback by the astonishingly unexpected nature of these acts – so massively and confusingly outside our moral scope – that we find ourselves mainly giving in:

Govt using practices we instinctively know are wrong but our inexperience of such immoral behaviour is restraining our outrage. #Disabled

Yes.  It’s possible that Cameron & Co are able to sleep at night because they truly believe themselves on a crusade against evil and interested parties.  They see themselves as cavaliers – as latterday buccaneers of magnificent breaking-the-rules ambitions – in much the same way as top-flight businesspeople often feel themselves hard-done-to by a comfort-seeking society which fails to appreciate the real emotional hardships they run the gauntlet of in their uncertain rise to the top.

No wonder these creatures all become self-seeking and selfish.

No wonder they believe we must become like them.

But, in reality, Cameron & Co are anything but Wannabe Renaissance Men – anything but the far-sighted finally able to shrug off a lazy society’s shackles and liberate a democracy of the dreadfully slumbering.

They sense something that perhaps all of us should sense, it is true, but they are utterly incapable of performing the service civilisation requires of them.  As Pope Francis mentioned the other day, their money is ruling the vast majority instead of serving the same.  And unable to reconfigure it, they have given up at the first hurdle; they have given in and become its hugely detrimental servant rather than its master.

Renaissance Men?  They wouldn’t know a flying machine if it hit them on the noggin.  They’d assume it was a brutal and violent attack by dangerously trained beings on their self-taught, unqualified and intuitive impulses.  Out of such inferiority complexes are born the actions of the essentially brutish.

So who’s lost their moral compass?  Is it ourselves – lost in a sea of society-defining media?  Is it the journalists themselves – as yet another suspiciously discrete body of professionals too?  Or is this actually a case of the pyramid so taking over everything we do, think, say and believe that a 21st century of gloriously compulsory education has only prepared us properly for outright submission?

Maybe, even, Cameron, Gove and their cohort of evil politicos are right in some of what they say – even as they wrong in most of what they do.  Specialisations are destroying society; sectors which know so much about their own workings are never going to be entirely direct about the changes which might prejudice them.

Maybe we are all Wannabe Renaissance Men (and Women, of course).

Maybe that’s the problem.

Capitalism’s ultimate revenge: the diarrhoea of an amateur democracy.

Coalition Britain, in fact – multiplied, now, a thousandfold.  And controlled by those with the biggest chips on their shoulders history has seen.

From a society of supposedly meritorious conduct, those who least deserve to be in charge are those who have most benefited from a social democracy that urged us to value citizens in terms of what they were instead of what they did.

And so it is that the moral black hole this Coalition of half-baked humans inhabits is bound to fail, time and again, to properly impact on our sense of right and wrong.

We’ve been taught for far too long that what you do isn’t what you are.

To such an extent that what they are is affected in no significant way by what they do.

And even as they lambast us for our relativistic ways, they continue to ruthlessly take full advantage of the room for manoeuvre such generous morals do allow.


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May 142013
 
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Peter makes a lovely series of observations on Gove’s rank foolishness here.  But I disagree with his conclusion (the bold is mine):

The fight is on for the future of education. Gove is there in the blue corner, confident and pugnacious, ducking and weaving. This doesn’t worry me. My anxiety comes when I look over to the red corner. There, fear haunts his opponent’s eyes and there is no strategy to defend against such a clever right hand lead. In poor condition, the best the left’s champion can hope for is to deflect the blows. Delivering the knockout punch is a distant dream.

As I said of the same Mr Gove in one of my recent posts, the issue is much bigger than a mere fight for the soul of education:

By arguing all he wants is a chronological description of famous people which stops at the vanquishing of the evil party which fought and sustained the Cold War so mercilessly – something essentially he is asking us to buy into – he is actually looking to shore up the old ways of doing politics.  Old ways which, left to their own devices, an educated civilisation and populace would pull apart tiny thread by thread.

By rewriting the way we teach and talk about the past, he is looking to protect his hierarchical view of how politics – the politics which he knows how to lever and make function – must be conducted: people in charge; famous people at that; famous people like Mr Gove & Co.

Now this evening I’ve been revising with my middle son.  He’s taking A-level History in a month’s time.  The subject area in question would I am sure be at the heart of the Coalition’s plans, involving as it does the period in English history we call the Tudors.  Here, then, are some choice phrases from the notes my assiduous son has drawn up:

Religious changes

[...]

1547 – dissolution of chantries [...] Crown secured money + property traditionally used for charity, feasts + celebrations – Haigh believes need for money to fund Scot war more motive than need to destroy Catholicism.

1549 – Introduction of Book of Common Prayer – its use was required by Act of Uniformity of 1549 [...].

[...]

  • Overall reforms implemented despite conservative nature of much of population – largely unpopular.

Rebellions of 1549

According to John Guy “the closest thing Tudor England came to a class war”.

[...]

Reasons for rebellions:

  • Religion predominantly
  • Midlands + East Anglia social grievances – Council receiving reports of riots + rooting up of enclosing
  • Resentment of taxation

The Western Rebellion

  • Prompted by religious grievances – described as “prayer book rebellion” – rebels wanted reversal of entire religious reform inflicted on them during past decade – destroyed their experience of religion in church services + in church’s wider communal role – wished to reverse gov policy
  • Rebellion not purely religious in origin – evidence of distrust between peasants + rural labourers – Duffy “Class antagonism” – taxation also problem – Somerset’s gov attempted to deal with social effects of enclosure by placing tax on sheep – imposed by uncaring + ignorant gov in London – worsened through insensitive implementation by insensitive local officials
  • Somerset appointed Lord Russell and despite failures to tackle problem head on in the end he gathered enough forces including foreign mercenaries and defeated rebels in Exeter

So if we substitute religious practice with the NHS, the sheep tax with the bedroom tax and foreign mercenaries with globalised bankers, we don’t half get the feeling I think you’ll agree that things haven’t changed all that much.

I really do wonder, then, whether studying from top to tail the awful nature of our internecine history is exactly the lesson Michael Gove, and the blessed Coalition more widely, really wants us all to get familiar with.  The more I revise with my son on the subject, the more I realise with a little more learning how the veils of acceptability would, for the vast majority of the voters, fall from the rancid faces of these throwback Tories and their preciously marketed detoxifications.

Meddling with history could, indeed, backfire quite amusingly on the Coalition’s aspirations to turn us all into obedient little souls.  Whilst they look to instil a grand respect for the makers and shakers of latterday politics – heirs to the regimes of the Somersets of our national tale – they might eventually discover that knowledge, however packaged, always leads to unexpectedly unpredictable revelations.

Revelations which are never going to be of any help to tiresome pretenders such as these.  Even when, in their incompetence, they assume they will.


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May 112013
 
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I’ve been tracking the Coalition’s war against the professions for quite a while now.  I guess you must have been too.  In these pieces, written almost a year apart, we can remind ourselves how medieval politicians are; why dequalifying the professions is a bad move; and why Cameron & Co are really no better than 21st century witch doctors.  I’ve also watched, miserable, as the Welfare State has been dismantled pillar by pillar (more here, here and here) out of rank and disagreeable prejudice.

The latest example is complex in its detail (.pdf file) but simple in its impact:

The Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) has read the consultation on competitive price tendering (CPT) produced by the Government ‘Transforming legal aid: delivering a more credible and efficient system’ and this briefing is our initial response. A formal fuller response will be made shortly.

Here is point 1 of its response, to give you a flavour of what’s going on:

A. Why the proposals are socially divisive, dangerous and against the public interest.

1. It transforms people into mere economic units by denying them the simple human dignity of choice. These Stalinist proposals to require people to abandon their freedom of choice and to force them to be represented by a lawyer allocated by an impersonal call centre are deplorable. Winston Churchill said: “The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country’. Clients are people and if they are legally aided when accused of crime they do not cease to be such. The process of arrest and prosecution are demeaning enough without this added humiliation of denial of choice. In contrast, unlike the majority of the community, the political and wealthy elite who will of course retain the economic ability to purchase their choice of legal representation. It is a socially divisive and shameful proposal. We cannot believe that were a politician, MOJ civil servant or wealthy person accused of a crime they did not commit would be content with being represented by a solicitor randomly allocated by a call centre. But the ‘little people’ (Including low paid, the youths, the students and most people who will qualify for means tested legal aid in the Crown court) are to be denied the same choice even when as tax payers citizens will have paid through taxation for the right to be legally aided.

What’s clearly happening here is yet another example of prejudice-based governors ignoring the opinions and sidelining the intelligences of evidence-based professionals.  From teachers to GPs to nurses to lawyers, before and again now, it’s apparent that evidence-based professions pose a serious risk to the incompetent unprofessionalised politicians.  As I tweeted some minutes ago, here, here and here:

@geektrev It’s OK. I managed to get there. :-) I wrote a lot a year or so back on destruction of Legal Aid as pillar of Welfare State.

@geektrev Think it’s part of deliberate wider deprofessionalisation of society (teachers, doctors, nurses etc).

@geektrev Evidence-based professionals present a threat to prejudice-driven politicians and need to be neutralised. That’s what’s happening.

So none of this surprises me, and none of this confuses me.

A century ago, there was nothing more difficult to deal with for the professionals of learning than the self-taught man or woman with a chip on their shoulders.

Today, there is nothing more difficult to deal with for the citizens and subjects of an educated state than a self-made politico or politica with a driven belief in their own prejudices.

And that’s essentially what’s happening as we witness so many generations of structures being destroyed before our very eyes; as we witness aghast the collapse.

Anything we can properly do to halt this careering towards a 21st century Dark Ages?  Perhaps not.  Perhaps we are hardwired quite otherwise.  But, even so, even assuming there is nothing more to be realistically done, I do suggest at the very least you bear witness to what is happening – I do suggest you sign this petition:

Save UK Justice

Responsible department: Ministry of Justice

The MOJ should not proceed with their plans to reduce access to justice by depriving citizens of legal aid or the right to representation by the Solicitor of their choice.

If a government which claims to act out of a desire to create more societal freedoms finds it necessary to intervene from a prejudiced standpoint in the workings of society’s fundamentals – from the NHS to Legal Aid to social care to education – then surely we need to draw in the most vigorous terms the rest of our nation’s attention to the contradictions involved.

You cannot create a civilisation of the free based on top-down reorganisations mandated by throwbacks to foolish and primitive times – times which never existed, even as the self-interested rose-tinted spectacles claim to demonstrate they did.

You cannot create a civilisation of the free based on such prejudice – or, indeed, on such back-scratching self-enrichment.

Perhaps it’s time we realised a civilisation of the free isn’t, actually, the goal of these leaders – leaders who, in any meritorious field of endeavour, would be considered to be on the worst side of incompetent.

Puts quite a different slant on everything, once you accept that to be the case.

Don’t you think so?


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May 092013
 
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I love the web, I can’t deny it – but, curiously, I’m not a real fan of all those money-saving websites out there.  There is one, however, even I have heard of – founded by the always excellent Martin Lewis.  So it was that when I got an utterly unsolicited email from what I believed to be his site, I thought perhaps there was more to it than met the eye.

Here’s a screenshot of the email in question – it should be clear enough for you all to be able to read it and fully understand the implications of the content.

Money Expert unsolicited email

So.  What do we conclude?  Under this government, and as is all too apparent (or, at least, as is all too apparent according to this email), numerous areas of the NHS are now officially unable to guarantee either the safety of patients or “their welfare needs”.  Clearly the situation demands drastic action, but instead of focussing on the funding and support which the NHS should be receiving, sites like Martin Lewis’s moneyexpert.com are encouraging us to buy into privatised health.

Or are they?  Because, if you look carefully, Martin Lewis’s site is famously called moneysavingexpert.com – though to a sad soul like myself, only interested in wonky politics, at first glance this information had escaped my less-than-beady eye.  And this is the (admittedly and self-confessedly “out-of-date”) information it currently provides on private health insurance – essentially, stay away from it because the NHS will do us very nicely, thank you:

Private medical insurance is a luxury, not a necessity. There are three main reasons to buy it: to leapfrog the queue for non-urgent treatment; to choose when and who operates; and to get more comfort and convenience during treatment.

Don’t assume private always means better.

The NHS provides comprehensive medical treatment to anyone in the UK who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay – although you may have to wait. Getting fast NHS treatment may be something of a postcode lottery. Yet a good GP is worth his/her weight in gold.

What’s more, the “squeakiest hinge gets the grease”, so by being persistent, you may be bumped up waiting lists, especially if you’re prepared to grab a cancelled appointment at the drop of a hat.

Remember even if you go private, the doctors and specialists aren’t “private” doctors – the vast majority are NHS medics boosting their income. And it’s often the NHS specialists who are at the cutting edge of modern medicine.

Compare and contrast that with my above-mentioned unsolicited email.

So who then is moneyexpert.com?  Well, the limited company which appears to be responsible for it dates from May 2003, some two or three months after Lewis’s site was created.  The former claims to be no more than an intermediary – yet the content of its email hardly gives the impression of a simple hands-off enabler of financial transactions.  Lewis’s approach is much more consumer-focussed: the customer being the user of his web.  In the case of the moneyexpert.com email above, however, it would appear the real customers are the organisations selling the health insurance.  And, potentially and indirectly, perhaps those who are pushing wider government sell-offs in the area of privatised healthcare as well.

I would be interested to know how Martin Lewis feels about such competition.  Both sites are clearly established on the web; both are clearly looking to capture similar markets.  Nothing wrong in that either.  True competition does, after all, tend to guarantee better deals for consumers.  But I do wonder whether moneyexpert.com is as clear as it should be about the chances that its sales approach might be confusing people into believing it is actually Lewis’s site.

Especially when the content of such emails uses the highly-charged and tendentious issue of NHS privatisation to lever new business.

And especially when – in relation to all the obfuscation surrounding the NHS and the Coalition – ordinary people really don’t know who to rely on, or turn to, in order that they might understand the truth.

____________________

Update to this post: someone who appears to be doing a fairly even-handed and evidence-based job of sorting out the obfuscation is Steve.  His latest post has this to say on mortality figures at NHS hospitals:

[...] There is growing consensus among statisticians, academics and, increasingly, among sections of the media (the Straight Statistics and Computer Weekly websites and even, very quietly and cautiously, one BBC News writer) that the claims of ‘excess mortality’ at Stafford hospital are – at best – utterly spurious and inaccurate.

And yet they continue to be recited, rote-fashion, as simple, unchallenged fact by the right-wing press and even by the BBC (just this evening on Look North during a segment on the inspectors’ visit to North Cumbria Hospitals Trust, one of the 9 hospitals targeted in spite of having average or lower SHMI mortality rates).

The weaknesses of HSMRs and of the data entered to create them are not difficult to identify. The articles on these weaknesses are not encrypted or hidden. And yet they continue to be conspicuous by their absence in the mainstream media while false figures are recited as fact.

You really do have to wonder just why that is.


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Apr 282013
 
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This is what’s happening to Legal Aid.  Essentially, citizen access to due legal process is being dramatically reduced and gamed in favour of people and organisations with loads of dosh.

This is what’s happening to the NHS.  Essentially, patient access to due medical process and the right to doctor-patient privacy is being dramatically controlled and gamed in favour of people and organisations with lots of power.

This is what’s happening to our police.  Essentially, the subjects of this green and pleasant land are becoming just another monetised calculation in the deep pockets of transnational law-and-disorder.

This is what’s happening to our education system.  Essentially, the students and teachers of England are, both, becoming part of a secretive and overbearing experiment to change the ideological bent of society in the future.

And this is what’s happening to our social cohesion.  Essentially, the government – having failed in its attempt to impose a full quiver of mean-tested benefits through its attacks on the disadvantaged – now aims to shame the elderly well-off into giving up their rights. Attempting once again, this time at the other end of the spectrum, to achieve the aforementioned objective.

Essentially, old against young; rich against poor; sick against healthy … people like Iain Duncan Smith playing their favourite game of bloody divide and rule.

Essentially, what’s happening is that legal rights, health, policing, education and the ability of our society to band together are all being pulverised by the monetising ideology of those who run the world: those who have the time, energy, knowledge and resources to fill in forms, understand documents and read executive summaries.

Which ain’t going to be you or me.  Which ain’t going to be any of those who struggle in evermore precarious lifestyles to get to the end of the month.

Essentially, what’s happening is that our blessed unwritten constitution is being radically rewritten in the most underhand of ways.  No consultation.  No public recognition of their aims.  No voter awareness that the law, patient care, justice, learning and the socialising nature of humanity are being progressively re-engineered to fit “one best way” only.

To fit just one way.

Quite covertly, these people have analysed every significant centre of human liberation, of equal opportunity and of citizen empowerment which we’ve managed to fashion in the last sixty years.

And having done so, they’ve worked out how to dismantle each and every brick which made up those walls that served to protect us so – that served to protect us from the wolves.

The wolves that have never left the doors of poverty.

The wolves that now await each and every one of us.

This is a revolution conducted by a group of people who have burrowed into the very innards of the establishment.  They have turned it inside out as a hedonist may pick away at the meat of a lobster.  Rather pink and expensively pursued by the money-mad, this is the call to independence of the corporates.

Independence of ordinary people; independence of ordinary lawyers; independence of ordinary police officers; independence of ordinary health workers; independence of ordinary educationalists … independence, that is to say, of the general desire that societies have to work together.

Sounds a bit mad of me to suggest that this might be the case?  In truth, how else can we describe it?  If someone takes over your legal, health, police and education systems – as well as attempting to detonate the ability of a people to defend themselves judiciously as one – what could we call it if not a call for someone’s savage breaking away?

A breaking away, if you like, from all that England and the United Kingdom used to mean.

No wonder some Scots are burning to escape.

Who wouldn’t want to leave such a sorry state of constitutional hijack?


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Apr 212013
 
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My previous post dealt with two new legal figures I suggested we created: the “arrest without bail” of corporations and the “imprisonment” of the same.  I considered them necessary in order to avoid continued abuse by corporate entities happy to have access to the rights of human beings where these benefited them but resistant to acquiring the corresponding obligations.

I’m beginning to wonder if something of an equally psychological bent isn’t affecting our government and its leaders.  I’ve commented previously on the “info-bubble” that is afflicting those of us who interface with social media and its networks.  Knowledge doesn’t automatically confer power any more.  And it would appear that the powerful no longer have to avoid being found out – they simply have to avoid being punished.

A series of examples can be found here at Steve’s blogsite.  The latest in many weeks’ sorry tales – involved as it is this time – is pretty horrifying.  The casual nature of the apparent psychological abuse thus documented seems to confirm many people’s prejudices about corrupting behaviours in multifarious foreign organisations – the alleged source of such tests – as well as the influence they may have further afield.

So it is that in the “info-bubble” I’ve already referred to previously, we know so much and they know we know.  And yet they continue brazenly, their reputations intact, their ability to continue performing unaffected by the truth entering the public domain.  Is this an example, then, of how the digital age actually works in favour of the powerful?  For there would appear, in the end, to be absolutely no way of making enough people care too much about all the important stories out there.

In fact, we could argue we’re all suffering from a kind of “digitisis” – an infirmity where perpetual stimulation leaves us unable to focus too long on anything.  Never mind a week being a long time in politics – how about fifteen minutes?

But I wonder if the above-mentioned traumas only operate on those at the business end of the procedure.  Do those who implement this stuff emerge entirely unscathed?  What, after all, is the psychology of being found out and not punished?  How do those who suddenly discover that doing bad stuff can happen, without anything happening to them, react to such a realisation?

Can any human being, however powerful or worthy of our attention they may be, resist the temptation, attraction and recognition of their suddenly conferred omnipotence?

For in reality, social media and its networks have created a cauldron of data where unacceptable scandal, wrongness and incompetence get mixed up with photos of kittens, mega-breakfasts and famously-branded cups of oversized coffee.  And it’s a psychosis of sorts, you know: a detachment from reality; a levelling of information hierarchy; a sudden equality of importance.

The Coalition’s punishment-free delinquency is but one more symptom which registers on our timeline of Western civilisation’s unhappy progress.

I’m sure it exists in other places too.

I just wish there was something we could humanely do.


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Apr 162013
 
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Sue has posted an appeal to common sense today.  After much detailed argument in favour of her position on welfare reform, detail I urge you to read before we continue, she argues the following:

This week, William Hague assures us we can afford £10 million for a ceremonial funeral for Margaret Thatcher. Opinion polls show the public don’t want it, commentators from left and right are mystified, yet 2,200 people have been invited to a decadent funeral for a divisive PM who lies at the heart of many of the problems facing our society today. When I scanned the invitees yesterday, it felt surreal. A mish-mash of variety club has-beens, world leaders she shunned and elite aristocrats who shunned her when alive.

And concluding of the cuts that affect the people she most knows about, those with support needs at the cruellest end of our current government’s stick, she says this (the bold is mine):

[...] it’s that 11 million pounds. £11 million. In Westminster terms it would barely pay for the DWP’s paperclips. It is a drop in the ocean of a welfare budget spanning 10s of billions. It only applied to a few thousand of the most disabled children in society (children just like Ivan Cameron, had he lived into adulthood.) But Lord Freud, failed investment banker and Minister for Welfare Reform, insisted that we could “no longer afford it” We could no longer afford to allow such profoundly disabled children lives of dignity and independence. No more security. No relief for worried families that they would be safe once they were gone. A cross-party consensus of decades, stripped away by ministers who didn’t even know what they were doing.

As she also rightly points out (again, the bold is mine):

Many like me, were fighting the welfare reform bill way back in 2011. We know every last detail, every twist and turn, every sweeping change and every technical detail. [...]

In those three telling paragraphs we have the whole story of this government since May 2010.  A government we should be attacking not just on its policy record, but on its massive inability to involve the people who best know.  Any modern corporation would say, at least from an HR and comms point-of-view, that those best placed to engineer real change in our processes are those most involved with the implications of each and every one of them: that is to say, the personnel who carry out the tasks and the end-users who are our reason for being.  Properly-implemented continuous-improvement philosophies everywhere start with those most affected – not end up with them when everything’s been decided.  And if we need to begin to attack this government of the inept on anything new, then it must be on their manifest incompetence to follow the mechanisms, values and beliefs their better corporate sponsors already follow in their own businesses.

What we have in this government isn’t successful corporates writ large.  What we have in this government is traditional old English graft, grafted slyly – as it were – onto a sleek and supposedly business-focussed series of ever-increasing lies.

Sue and her people, all of us without exception, me in my invisible disabilities, others with their all-too-overpowering, are surely resources to be used for a wider good: people, finite and perishable, short-term in the grand scheme of things – but terribly terribly clever and knowledgeable about the details which, when ignored, are what really metamorphose bright ideas into grief-stricken – even devilish – realities.

If only the government could see its people as this resource I speak of: a resource for a broader understanding of how to improve our society.

Instead, all it sees is an enemy to be vanquished – in an awful and pitiless cloud of no alternatives.

And I wonder where I’ve heard that mantra before.

A religious concept indeed.  For where there is no alternative contemplated or effectively permitted, we are dictatorship enshrined.


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Apr 052013
 
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I have to give credit to this government.  Credit where credit is due.  Whilst they sell the idea that the Welfare State leads to subsidised lifestyles, and, as an inevitable result, to crime, they themselves continue to live lives of immeasurable privilege.  Privilege based on the largesse of inheritance, of tax havens various and the Lord only knows what else.

Personally, right now, I don’t want to know what else.  I’ve got way beyond wanting to know any more.

Millionaire Day

Anyhow, tomorrow’s a special day in the British calendar of iniquitous Coalition decisions.  Tomorrow, thousands of millionaires get tax cuts of tens of thousands of pounds.  A day of deep unhappiness, you might argue.  A day of great injustice.

But perhaps, also, a day of opportunity.  As I suggested recently:

[...] this is where we most go back to from today.  This is what we must draw the country’s attention to from now on in.

Don’t aim to win the arguments on welfare or immigration; don’t battle with triangulation.  Aim, instead, to win them around their increasing inability to deliver on their sacred promises.

Hold them to these promises: it’s the basest human instinct of all.

It’s what drives parents to bring up children; it’s what drives children to do what they’re told.  You can’t get much baser than that.

You’ll see.  It’ll work.

And as I similarly said of Iain Duncan Smith:

[...] it’s such a shame really: whilst the debate is about this number or that, it could really be – should really be – about competence: in the case of Iain Duncan Smith, our beloved Minister for No-Work and Haircutted-Pensions, we should be talking about his lack of leadership, his inability to manage change and his absence of real ambition for his adopted country.

So tomorrow, then, we have a third opportunity to hold the Coalition – and by extension, in this case, the millionaires who sustain it – to calm and measured account.  I suppose their argument, we could call it the Millionaires’ Mantra, runs as follows (oh, and please do correct me if I’m wrong – I really don’t bite, you know; I hardly even bark):

  1. Millionaires are only where they are because they’re clever at making money.
  2. In their millionaire lives, millionaires are only interested in making more money; but
  3. Millionaires need even more money to want to make more money.
  4. Giving millionaires more money means they make more money for themselves – which also allows them to have their accountants, political sponsors and extended hangers-on in (some of) that extra money.
  5. For this reason – that is to say, their many obligations – millionaires who end up making more money for themselves feel good when they’re told they can pay poor people less; and
  6. In any case we all know, since the government told us so, that poor people who have more money are lazier than poor people who have less money; so
  7. Millionaires don’t see anything strange in that because poor people are obviously not as clever at making money as millionaires are.
  8. Although occasionally, some millionaires do wonder if the world is as right as it could be.
  9. They then weaken quite dramatically, become what are called “philanthropists” – and give away tiny proportions of huge amounts of the money which they didn’t pay the lazy poor in the first place.
  10. This also makes them feel good about the poor and gives them a second chance to do “the right thing” all over again.  (As well as, one day, enter the Pearly Gates of a Saintly Millionaires’ Heaven, after enjoying a life of fairly attractive luxury at the expense of almost everyone else.)  (But I suppose that last bit’s just me barking a bit.)

These days, however, there is a curious – and potentially massive – coda to this mantra: as our government has decided, in all its bizarre foolishness, to argue that such ways of living millionaire lives must be engineered at a cost, all millionaires everywhere should realise they are now on stand-by.

Yes.  It’s time you delivered, boys and girls!

It’s time the millionaire delivery boys and girls delivered their economic pizzas.

We’re watching you for signs of economic green shoots; we’re watching you to see if you’re capable of creating wealth; we watching you to see if you can make that economic miracle of trickle-down economics work its miracles yet again.

After all, the government has practically said poor people commit crimes because they’re not poor enough.

Whilst rich people only commit crimes because they’re not rich enough.

Oh, if only the tax system was properly adjusted to the needs of the rich, everything would be hunky-dory – in fact, crime-free – all bloody round.  And if only we could set everything up in the interests of the rich, the poor would begin to … well … maybe even enjoy their poverty!

Bring it on, then, folks!  All down to yous now! 


http://youtu.be/S6ZsXrzF8Cc

Or not, as the case may very well be …


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Apr 022013
 
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I’ve been swept up, like most people in my echo chamber, in the emotion of the thing.  But one issue seriously worries me: what emotion can make, emotion can undo.

Not long ago, I tweeted as follows:

By all means rally around emotion. But we must begin to criticise the govt on basis of incompetence; lack of leadership; inefficiency. #IDS

As a clarion call to bring together a motivated activism, this outpouring of anger is a very useful tool if channelled appropriately.  A contained anger can drive one to many positive acts: it makes one aware of injustices; it makes one remember the real reasons to fight on; it generates the resilience the battle-weary require not to give in to fatigue.  But, in itself, the shrill cry of the righteous is not enough to win the war.  And we must remember one fact.  Powerful men and women are tempered by adversity:

#IDS acting like lightning conductor for Tory Party at moment. Mind you, lightning conductors designed to weather storms. #warning

So yes.  As I say, a sequence of warnings: we mustn’t be shrill; we mustn’t be conceited; we mustn’t aim to think that winning the arguments on welfare is enough.  The Tories will continue not to care about the arguments anyhow: they operate at a much baser level.  It’s a level which works for them, and we must accept that it does.

It is our job, then, not to overwhelm the people with statistics most of them will have no time for (though for convincing evermore convinced activists, these statistics serve a real purpose).  Nor should we express ourselves with a self-righteousness which only preaches to the converted (and even then only partially).  Instead, it must be our controlled and controllable goal to demonstrate the Tories are measurably incompetent.

In terms of their own economic markers in the sand; of their inability to lead a country – not through medieval fear but a real and tangible hope – out of the quagmire most of the less well-off will now find ourselves in; of their absent understanding of where a natural justice must lie; and of their abdication and giving-up of a sovereign England to transnational corporations with very foreign ways of seeing and doing.

Essentially, of their manifest lack of a humane and socially acceptable efficiency to attempt to do the very most for the very many.

No.  They won’t try and win the arguments on welfare – and we shouldn’t face them down on this.

Whilst we must use our sense and sensibility (both our contained fury and our rational pensiveness) to bind our core activism together, what we really need to express to the outside world is a simple chipping away of the edifice the Tories have built around their fairy tale of efficacy.

So how many words are there in the English language to say “bollocks”?  Probably quite a few.  Six, today, will suffice for our purposes: “The Coalition: our programme for government”.

And this is where we most go back to from today.  This is what we must draw the country’s attention to from now on in.

Don’t aim to win the arguments on welfare or immigration; don’t battle with triangulation.  Aim, instead, to win them around their increasing inability to deliver on their sacred promises.

Hold them to these promises: it’s the basest human instinct of all.

It’s what drives parents to bring up children; it’s what drives children to do what they’re told.  You can’t get much baser than that.

You’ll see.  It’ll work.

Mark not my words but this post!  And now, if you’re sitting comfortably, read on.


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