Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Good News! Daily Mail Panicking about Drop in Tory Support

December 11, 2019

Hooray! Great news from the front page headline of the Heil. Britain’s most infamous Mosley-supporting paper is desperately worried about the sudden decline of Tory popularity in the polls. The rag’s leading headline today urges its readers not to ‘Sleepwalk into Catastrophe’. The Tory lead apparently has dropped so low, that’s urging them to go and vote to stop ‘the biggest crisis facing this country since the War’.

Well, I’m glad some people are seeing sense and turning away from the Tories. Hopefully Mike is right on his blog, that Boris’ cavalier dismissal of the picture of the little boy forced to lie on blankets in the corridor at Leeds hospital has turned the tide against the Nasty Party, in the same way that Gordon Brown’s contemptuous sneer of a female voter in Scotland as ‘some bigot’ lost him the 2010 election.

As for the election of a Labour government being the greatest crisis since the War, all Jeremy Corbyn’s doing is actually restoring the old social democratic consensus. You know, nationalised industries, a welfare state, the NHS, strong trade unions and employment legislation that protected employees. You know, the policies that the public actually voted for after the end of the War when Labour won a landslide election under Clement Attlee.

But Corbyn and his government are threatening to undo forty years of triumphalist, predatory and disastrous Thatcherism. The Thatcherism that has destroyed our manufacturing industries, impoverished working people, the unemployed and the disabled. Policies that are killing the NHS, and have killed 130,000 people through austerity. But that’s not a catastrophe, because the rich are profiting massively, even though living standards are being pushed down for the rest of us.

But while it’s great to see the Heil and Tories panicking, there is no cause for complacency. We aren’t assured of victory, and the Tories are trying to muster their troops to win the election. We can’t afford to let them.

Please everyone, get out and vote. And vote to get them out!

Jeremy Corbyn Denounces Universal Credit at Bangor University in Wales

December 8, 2019

Please hold your noses for this, as it’s a video from the Torygraph. It’s of part of speech Corbyn made at Bangor University in Wales in which the Labour leader denounces Universal Credit, pledges not to sell off the NHS, make Social Care universally available, bring the utilities back into public ownership, give remote communities broadband internet, and compensate WASPI women. And the pride with which he describes his announcement that the Labour party would end Universal Credit in Iain Duncan Smith’s own constituency is a direct challenge to the wretched policy’s architect. The Labour leader begins

In 2010 a political choice was made. They could have invested for the future. Instead, they decided to cut for the present and damage the life chances of a whole generation of people all across the UK. And that austerity started off with Universal Credit being rolled out. Universal Credit, which is cruel in the way it operates, brutal in the way it does PIP assessments, Work Assessments, the way in which it does not give support to children in larger families…

I was very proud to go to Chingford and Woodford Green in the northeast of London, a constituency represented by Iain Duncan Smith and announce a Labour government will end Universal Credit. This is greeted with applause.

You can’t cut your way to prosperity! You invest your way to prosperity! And there’s no more important investment than investing in young people, children and the next generation. And that is what – applause – and that is what I want our Labour government to do. More applause.

Under Labour our NHS is not for sale to anybody… I want Social Care available for everybody all across the UK and I’ll save this today(?) to make that available. Applause.

Our manifesto here, this wonderful red book, I’ve got two red books, one in which I write my memoirs, notes and speeches,  and this one is the manifesto – they’re actually much the same thing really….

We, the Labour government, will compensate the WASPI women. Applause.

I’ll give you an example. Less than 18 hours after he’d become Prime Minister he came to parliament to make a statement and announced there were going to be 40 new hospitals. I was very impolite and asked him where they were going to be. Corbyn then imitates Johnson’s blustering manner, saying there’s no answer to that, old boy, it’s not possible, how can I possibly know…

A Labour government will be one that will empower people but will also ensure that public ownership comes back for rail, mail and water, the national grid,  and that we will – applause – we will invigorate poor and remote communities by broadband to every part of the UK within 10 years. 

These are great policies which will make this country a better, more prosperous and more equal place. A place were it’s people will get the health and social care they need and deserve, women the pensions they should have had, if it weren’t for the Tories, and an end to the austerity that has killed 130,000 people at minimum.

And against that the Tories are offering just more poverty, privatisation, starvation and misery, but are trying to deny this with smears and lies.

Get them out, and Corbyn in!

It’s Hammer Time! Cassetteboy’s Latest Video Against Boris Johnson

December 8, 2019

Mike put this up on his blog a few days ago, but it’s well worth repeating and publicising. Cassetteboy is another group of fun-filled pranksters like JOE, who produce satirical videos by carefully editing the speeches and actions of the great and not-so-good so that they appear stupid and nonsensical. They’ve done this yet again to our unfunny, murderous Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to reveal how stupid, cruel and massively unjust his government and its policies are. They’ve edited it so that he’s reciting a description of his failings and injustices to the tune of MC Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This’. Which, due to Johnson’s own massive deceitfulness and mendacity, has been changed to the chorus ‘Can’t trust me’.

The video begins with Johnson repeatedly stammering out ‘My, my, my’ and then

‘My Brexit is so hard

Makes you say

“Oh my word.

What about my job security?

Sick pay, healthcare and the economy?”

These are the things

You need to discuss

When I say

“Brexit won’t hurt you much!”

Remember the lies on the side of a bus,

I am a guy who you can’t trust.’

There then appears the caption ‘Sacked by the Times for lying’.

He goes on, singing

‘Can’t trust me.

Then another caption ‘Sacked from the Shadow Cabinet for lying’.

Can’t trust me.

I promised thousands more police

But that’s less than we already cut.

If you trust me you must be off your nut.

I lied to the Queen to get Parliament shut.

I say the Tory party ‘Is the party of prosperity

But not for the 130,000 people killed by our austerity.

Nor for disabled people robbed of money and their dignity.

Or the millions of children our policies

Have left in child poverty.

Are those kids mine? probably not

But I won’t admit how many I’ve got’

Another caption here, ‘Wont admit how many kids he has’.

‘Can’t trust me’.

Then another caption: ‘Lied to the Queen to illegally shut down Parliament’.

‘Can’t trust me’.

‘The planet now is burning at a terrifying rate

And I don’t even turn up to the climate change debate.

And now let me say this, two of my biggest disgraces

Are of course that I’m homophobic and a racist.

Stop. Stammer time.’

The video then moves into footage of Johnson stuttering and stammering away, under which appears another caption, (Affected waffle, disguising genuine lack of preparation, competence and decency).

‘Stop. Stammer time.’

One more thing before this ends,

You don’t judge a man’, and the next voice is that of Donald Trump, completing the sentence, ‘by his friends’.

‘Our standards will fall with a bump as I align us all with Trump,

Allow the NHS to fail and off it to Trump for sale.

It will no longer belong to you though I say

That’s not what we’ll do.

Is that true? Here’s one way of proving if I’m lying

if my lips are moving.

Another caption: ‘Won’t apologist for racist and homophobic comments.’

‘Can’t trust me.’

And then the screen is filled with text showing his various failed and harmful policies.

‘Can’t trust me’.

The richest have tax loopholes

While schools can’t afford loo rolls.

We’ve failed the NHS and left the country in a mess and

To the best to fix it are myself and Rees-Mogg

Is like expecting dog shit to be cleaned up by the dog.’

The video ends with a black screen on which the slogan ‘Vote Boris Out’ is written in white text. There’s then the Cassetteboy jingle, the sound of someone sighing or snoozing, and a final scene of Johnson making a throat-cutting gesture at LBC.

The dialogue’s invented, but everything it says is true.

Vote him out!

Here’s the video.

 

 

 

Desperate Tories Now Using Smear Manuals against Labour and Lib Dems

December 4, 2019

I love the smell of Tory fear in the morning! You can tell how desperate the party of Thatcher and Johnson are when they’re reduced to lies and smears. Not that they were above them anyway, but now they seem to be rapidly abandoning any attempt at fair play. Mike reports that an article in today’s Groaniad reveals that the Tory party is equipping its doorstep campaigners with special dossiers they are to use against their opponents. There’s a 17 page one for Labour, and a 19 page one for the Liberal Democrats. These manuals contain such fictional statements that Labour’s immigration policy would open the door to 840,000 migrants a year, and that the Lib Dems are trying to push sex work as an appropriate career for schoolchildren and policies that are pro-pimp.

Mike comments that people seem to believe some of this nonsense, but that it isn’t putting them off voting Labour. Someone had tweeted him personally that in spite of Labour’s ‘open door policy on immigration’, they were still going to vote for the party. As this person was doing the right thing, Mike didn’t correct them.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/03/not-sporting-not-working-tories-are-using-manuals-to-smear-rivals-but-they-arent-changing-minds/

Okay, the accusation that Labour is in favour of open door immigration and this country being swamped with non-White immigrants has been a staple of the right and the far right since forever and a day. It’s one of the constant lines – or lies – repeated by newspapers like the Heil, for example. The other stereotypical smear against Labour, and one which Private Eye has parodied mercilessly in the past, is that a Labour government will bring mortgage prices down. I haven’t seen jokes about that line recently in the magazine, perhaps because if the Heil actually did run, the exorbitant house prices at the moment would mean that Labour’s vote would actually go up.

But the accusation that the Lib Dems are promoting pimping and prostitution is a new one. I think it comes from a conference the Lib Dems held a year or so ago, which was about improve conditions for sex workers. One of the talks was about taking the stigma out of it. But the Lib Dems don’t seem to pushing pro-pimp policies or encouraging schoolgirls to get jobs as prostitutes.

But it does seem more than a tad hypocritical on the part of the Tories as they are and have been.

Way back in the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher that was unchaining the power of private industry, one industry that a certain section of her minions definitely wanted unchained from state prohibition was prostitution. There was a certain section within the Tory party, as I recall, that wanted it legalised. I think they used the same arguments for it that have been around ever since the late 17th century-early 18th century economist Bernard Mandeville put them forward. Mandeville was an early advocate of free trade against the prevailing mercantilism, in which the state rigidly regulated trade between nations and colonies. Mandeville wanted publicly funded brothels. These, he argued, would allow the men, who used prostitutes to satisfy their lusts legally, while protecting decent women from their attentions. I think the Lib Dems, who set up the conference also had a feminist angle. They seem to have felt that if prostitution was legalised, it could be properly regulated to keep the prostitutes themselves safe. I think the models for such legislation are the continent and Australia. I’m sceptical that these arguments actually work in practice. But the main point here is that the Lib Dems haven’t necessarily promoted anything that the Tories weren’t debating nearly forty years ago.

But the Tories are forcing people into prostitution.

It is by and large the last refuge of the poor and desperate, women and men who can’t make ends meet any other way. Under Thatcher there was a series of scandals in which Tory politicos were caught using rent boys. So much so that there was a sketch on Spitting Image in which a Tory politician, explaining what his government has done to the nation, declares that it has opened lots of work for young men to a lad. When the lad asks what work it is, the Tory replies that it is as a rent boy, and he’ll see him later.

More recently, there were reports a few years ago about female students turning to prostitution in order to pay the tuition fees that New Labour introduced, but the Tories and Lib Dems increased.

And let’s not forget another incident, in which a Jobcentre had to apologise for suggesting that work in sex shops was a suitable occupation for women wishing to get off the dole.

I don’t know, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if there had been an increase in prostitution in general as women were forced to turn to it simply to keep body and soul together through the poverty Tory welfare cuts, wage freezes and zero hours contracts have caused.

The Lib Dems may not have been actively promoting prostitution with their conference, but the Tories have also openly advocated it and their policies are pushing vulnerable women into it through the poverty they’re creating.

‘I’ Newspaper: Tories Selling Off Mental Health care to Americans

December 3, 2019

And it’s a disaster.

This is another story from yesterday’s I, this time written by Ian Birrell. It’s titled ‘NHYS for sale? Our mental health services are’ with the subtitle ‘Fatcat US operators already have their claws into our psychiatric services’. It’s a comprehensive discussion how big American private medical companies are acquiring British healthcare companies and NHS contracts, and how patients are suffering through the deplorably bad care they provide.

Birrell begins with Jeremy Corbyn’s statement last week that the documents of the negotiations between Trump and Johnson showed that the NHS were being sold off to private American companies. Birrell denied this, and instead stated that not even Boris would dare sell off the NHS went it is so highly valued by the British public. He then moved on to the strenuous denials by the Tories that they were planning any such thing, before attacking them in turn as lies when it came to mental health. He wrote

Yet hang on a second. One key slice of the NHS is already lying in a distressed state on the operating table, where it has been chopped up for profit-hungry private firms. And giant US health corporations, along with hedge funds and private equity firms, are already here and bleeding dry this profitable of the corner of the NHS – with often disastrous consequences for some of our most desperate patients. Sadly, no one seems to care much since it is “only” the mental health sector – for so long the neglected Cinderella service.

Yet in recent years a small cluster of fatcats have got their claws into Britain’s psychiatric services, exploiting the struggles of the health service to cope with surging demand. These operators have grabbed nearly £2bn of business, providing almost one quarter of NHS mental health beds and soaking up close to half the total spend on child and adolescent mental health services.

This means they own many NHS-funded units holding people, such as teenage girls who self-harm and adults with suicidal thoughts, along with hundreds of people with autism and learning disabilities scandalously locked up due to lack of support in their local communities. These firms benefit as overloaded mental health services and risk-averse officials send more and more troubled citizens into secure units. It is a lucrative business when it costs up to £730,000 per patient a year. Bosses can pocket millions – but many frontline workers earn little more than minimum wage and the use of agency staff is routine, despite the need to develop patient relationships.

Acadia, a Tennessee-based health giant, spent £1.3bn buying the Priory Group and now boasts of earning more than £188m in just three months from British public services. “Demand for independent-sector beds has grown significantly as a result of the NHS reducing its bed capacity and increasing hospitalisation rates,” said its last annual report.

Operating profits at Cygnet, owned by another huge US firm, have surged to £45.2m due to deals with 228 NHS purchasing bodies after it bought a rival group last year. Another outfit called Elysium, backed by private equity through a Luxembourg firm, only launched three years ago, but is already earning revenues of £62.2m from at least 55 units.

But a study by the Rightful Lives campaign group has found these three firms alone own 13 of the 16 mental health settings judged “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission watchdog, since it found some teeth after the furore over abusive detention of people with autism and learning disabilities exploded a year ago. Cygnet runs eight of these “inadequate” units, although its US boss is reportedly the richest chief executive in the hospital industry, who collected more than £39m in one year from pay, bonuses and stock. Priory and Cygnet also owned hospitals exposed by disturbing undercover television documentaries over the past year.

I have heard a stream of horror stories from despairing families and former patients involving solitary confinement, forcible injections, abuse and overuse of restraint, during investigations into this area. Some were detained in NHS psychiatric units. But most involve privately run units. People such as Megan, who was sectioned for self-harm, suicidal thoughts and later found to be suffering post-traumatic stress from childhood traumas. She was in four clinics – but in one run by the Priory, aged just 16, she was even held stark naked for one month to prevent self-harm until her parents delivered a “safe suit”. “It was the most degrading time of my life,” she told me. The firm was fined £300,000 earlier this year for failings after the suicide of a 14-year-old girl at the same unit.

Despite the ample demonstration that private healthcare doesn’t work and is just simple profiteering, Birrell is at pains to say that he has nothing against the involvement of the private sector in state healthcare. He just wants it to be better regulated. He ends his piece with these two paragraphs

Unlike many voters, I have no problems with private providers in healthcare if the service remains free at the point of use, especially after seeing their role in European systems with superior patient outcomes to our own health service. But seeing these mental-health firms has shaken my faith.

Clearly all private operators need to be effectively regulated, especially when providing sensitive frontline services. Sadly, it seems our politicians on all sides prefer to posture over whether the NHS is really for sale to “mega-corporations” while ignoring those that have already arrived and are pocketing vast sums while offering inadequate services to so many despairing citizens. Once again, we see how little Westminster really cares.

Actually, I think these paragraphs say much about the I and the political ‘centrism’ it supports. The NHS has been privatised piecemeal since the days of Thatcher, who was prevented from privatising it outright by a cabinet revolt. Blair’s government did much to hand it over to private firms, though much had already been done in this direction by the Private Finance Initiative introduced by the Tories and Peter Lilley. The Conservatives haven’t reversed the policy of privatisation, and are instead ramping it up even further.

The result is massively poor performance. Jacky Davis and Ray Tallis argue very strongly in their book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS-SOS, that on their own private healthcare can’t compete with state. The service provided will always be inferior, as the profit-motive doesn’t work when it comes to the long-term sick or those with acute conditions. Private hospitals have fewer beds than state hospitals. And those who cannot afford healthcare are simply left to sicken and die. A few years ago the private healthcare system in America nearly collapsed. It’s why the American healthcare giants are so keen to acquire pieces of ours.

Yes, continental healthcare which often does involve the private sector can perform better than ours. But that’s because our National Health Service has always received comparatively less funding than theirs. It’s been the case, sadly, since the NHS was set up. On the other hand, our healthcare results are far, far better than Americas and were comparable to those on the continent. Until the Tories took over, and decided to cut things back and privatise even more.

But Birrell cannot criticise private medicine, because privatisation is still part of ‘Centrist’ political dogma. Moreover, the press is now owned by immensely rich men, often with commercial interests in other sectors of the economy. As a result, the supposedly liberal I and Guardian continue to flog Centrist economics even though these are so well-past their sale-by date that they’ve been dubbed ‘zombie economics’.

As for Corbyn, I believe very strong that rather than playing political football with the issue of NHS privatisation, he’s very aware of what’s going on and how it is failing Britain’s sick and ill. That’s why he wants to end it and renationalise the NHS. Birrell tries desperately to avoid that conclusion, because like all Centrists he wants the NHS privatisation to continue thanks to the Thatcherite dogma he’s imbibed and promotes.

But Thatcherism has had its day. It is bringing nothing but misery, deprivation and death. It’s time the Tories were out, Jeremy Corbyn was in, and the NHS renationalised. 

Now!

Astronomer Vladimir Firsoff’s Argument for Space Exploration as a Positive Alternative to War

December 2, 2019

Vladimir Firsoff was a British astronomer and the author of a series of books, not just on space and spaceflight, but also on skiing and travel. He was a staunch advocate of space exploration. At the end of his 1964 book, Exploring the Planets (London: Sidgwick & Jackson) he presents a rather unusual argument for it. He criticises the scepticism of leading astronomers of his time towards space exploration. This was after the Astronomer Royal of the time had declared that the possibility of building a vehicle that could leave the Earth’s atmosphere and enter space was ‘utter bilge’. He points out that the technology involved presented few problems, but that ordinary people had been influenced by the astronomers’ scepticism, and that there are more pressing problems on Earth. Against this he argued that humanity needed danger, excitement and sacrifice, the emotional stimulation that came from war. Space exploration could provide this and so serve as a positive alternative, a beneficial channel for these deep psychological needs. Firsoff wrote

The traditional planetary astronomy has exhausted its resources. No significant advance is possible without escape beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The orbital observatories to come will reveal much that is now hidden about the other planets. Space travel is a short historical step ahead. The basic technical problems have been solved, and the consummation of this ancient dream is only a matter of a little effort, experiment and technical refinement. When Bleriot flew the Channel the Atlantic had already been spanned by air lines. And so today we have already landed on Mars – even Triton and Pluto have been reached.

But do we really like to have our dreams come true?

Possibly that happy extrovert the technologist has no misgivings. He sees the Solar System as an enlargement of his scope of action, and has even suggested preceding a descent on Mars by dropping a few bombs, “to study the surface” (this suggestion was widely reported in the press). Yet the astronomer does not relish the prospect of leaving his ivory tower to become a man of action. He is troubled by this unfamiliar part, and a small voice at the back of his mind whispers insidiously that his cherished theories and predictions may, after all, be false. The dislike of space travel is psychologically complex, but there is no mistaking its intensity among the profession.

The general public shares these enthusiasms  and apprehensions, more often than not without any clear reasons why. The Press (with a very capital P) feeds them with predigested mental pulp about what those ‘wonderful people’ the scientists have said or done (and not all scientists are 12 feet tall). At the same time the scientist is a ‘clever man’, and the ‘clever man’ is traditionally either a crank or a scoundrel, and why not both? Whatever we do not understand we must hate.

Of such promptings the fabric of public opinion is woven into varied patterns.

“Space flight is too expensive. We can’t afford it”… “What is the point of putting a man on the Moon? It is only a lifeless desert.”… “We must feed the backward nations, finance cancer research” (= in practice “buy a new TV set and a new care”)…

Wars are even more expensive and hugely destructive, and cars kill more people than cancer and famine put together.

And yet before 1939 Britain ruled half the world, her coffers were stuffed with gold, she also had 5 million on the dole, slums, an inadequate system of education, poverty and dejection. Came a long and terrible war, a fearful squandering of resources, the Empire was lost, and in the end of it it all the people “had never had it so good”, which for all the facility of such catch-phrases is basically true. Not in Britain alone either-look at West Germany, look at the U.S.S.R.! One half of the country devastated, cities razed to the ground, 30 million dead. BHut in Russia, too, the “people had never had it so good”.

In terms of ‘sound economics’ this does not make any sense. 

The reason is simply: ‘sound economics’ is a fraud, because Man is not an economic animal, or is so only to an extent. He needs danger, struggle, sacrifice, fear, loss, even death, to release his dormant energies, to find true companionship, and-oddly-to attain the transient condition of happiness … among or after the storm.

That German soldier who had scribbled on the wall of his hut: “Nie wieder Krieg heisst nie wieder Sieg, heisst nie wieder frei, heisst Sklaverie” (No more war means no more victory, means never free, means slavery) was a simple soul and he may have survived long enough to regret his enthusiasms among the horrors that followed. Yet the idea, distorted as it was, contained a germ of truth. For heroic endeavour, which the past enshrined as martial valour, is as much a necessity as food and drink. We must have something great to live for.

Hitler’s ‘endeavour’ was diabolical in conception and in final count idiotic, but it cannot be denied that it released prodigious energies both in Germany and among her opponents, and we are still living on the proceeds of this psychological capital.

What we need is a noble uplifting endeavour, and even if we cannot all take direct part in it, we can yet share in it through the newspapers, radio and television, as we did, say, in the epic rescue operation during the Langede mining disaster. It became a presence, everybody’s business-and I doubt if it paid in terms of £ s.d…

You will have guessed what I am going to say.

Mankind needs space flight. Let us have space ships instead of bombers, orbital stations instead of ‘nuclear devices’. The glory of this great venture could do away with war, juvenile delinquency and bank raids. It could be cheap at the price.

It is a fallacy to imagine that money spend on developing spaceflight is lost to the nation; it is only redistributed within it, and it is much better to redistribute it in the form of real wages than in unemployment relief. Besides, real wealth is not in a ledger; it is the work and the willingness to do it.

Yet if we go into space, let us do so humbly, in the spirit of cosmic piety. We know very little. We are face to face with the great unknown and gave no right to assume that we are alone in the Solar System.

No bombs on Mars, please.

For all that they are well meant and were probably true at the time, his arguments are now very dated. I think now that the majority of astronomers are probably enthusiasts for space flight and space exploration, although not all of them by any means are advocates for crewed space exploration. The Hubble Space Telescope and its successors have opened up vast and exciting new vistas and new discoveries on the universe. But astronomers are still using and building conventional observatories on Earth. Despite the vast sums given to the space programme during the ‘Space Race’, it did not solve the problems of crime or juvenile delinquency. And it was resented because of the exclusion of women and people of colour. Martin Luther King led a march of his Poor Peoples’ Party to the NASA launch site to protest against the way money was being wasted, as he saw it, on sending White men to the Moon instead of lifting the poor – mainly Black, but certainly including Whites – out of poverty. And as well as being enthused and inspired by the Moon landings, people also grew bored. Hence the early cancellation of the programme.

And people also have a right to better healthcare, an end to famine and a cure for cancer. Just as it’s also not wrong for them to want better TVs and cars.

But this isn’t an either/or situation. Some of the technology used in the development of space travel and research has also led to breakthroughs in other areas of science and medicine. Satellites, for example, are now used so much in weather forecasting that they’re simply accepted as part of the meteorologists’ tools.

But I agree with Firsoff in that space is an arena for positive adventure, struggle and heroism, and that it should be humanity’s proper outlet for these urges, rather than war and aggression. I think the problem is that space travel has yet to take off really, and involve the larger numbers of people in the exploration and colonisation space needed to make it have an obvious, conspicuous impact on everyone’s lives. There is massive public interest in space and space exploration, as shown by Prof. Brian Cox’s TV series and touring show, but I think that to have the impact Virsoff wanted people would have to feel that space was being opened up to ordinary people, or at least a wider section of the population than the elite scientists and engineers that now enjoy the privilege of ascending into Low Earth Orbit. And that means bases on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere, and the industrialisation of space.

But I think with the interest shown in the commercial exploitation of space by Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, that might be coming. And I certainly hope, with Firsoff, that this does provide a proper avenue for the human need for danger and adventure, rather than more war and violence.

Private Eye’s Demolition of Cameron’s Book about His Government

December 1, 2019

Way back at the beginning of October, our former comedy Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to give us all the benefit of his view of his time in No. 10 with the publication of his book, For The Record by William Collins. The review of it in Private Eye was not kind. Reading it, it appears that Cameron was deeply concerned to present a rosy, highly optimistic view of his years as Prime Minister. His was a government that gave Britain prosperity and growth, and had improved conditions in the NHS. The current, wretched economic and political situation is all due to everyone else, not him. It’s entirely false, as the Eye’s review made abundantly clear, citing Cameron’s book again and again as it he tries to claim success in tackling an issue, only to show the present grim reality and how Johnson actually made it all worse with Brexit.

The review, titled ‘Shed tears’, in the magazine’s issue for 4th – 17th October, runs

John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln at a Washington theatre inspired the quip: “Apart from that, Mrs, Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” David Cameron’s autobiography leaves the reader asking: “Apart from Brexit, Mr Cameron, how did you enjoy being prime minister?”

“I liked it,” he declares, and so should we. At 800 pages, this account of his generally tedious career – apart from Brexit – is only 200 pages shorter than Churchill’s Second World War memoirs. Indeed, Dave may have originally matched Winston, for the Mail reported his publishers cut 100,000 words from the manuscript.

The verbose special pleading William Collins so sadistically allowed to survive tries to anesthetise readers into accepting that – apart from Brexit – they should applaud his playing at being prime minister too.

When Cameron stood for leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, he recalls, “Everyone said that I was too young. That I had no ministerial experience.” Instead of worrying that a gentleman amateur would lead the country to perdition, we should have rejoiced. “However new and inexperienced” he was, young Cameron saw himself “inheriting the mantle of great leaders like Peel, Disraeli, Salisbury and Baldwin.”

In 2010, with the world in crisis, he followed his illustrious predecessors and produced one of the “most stable and I would argue, most successful governments anywhere in Europe”. That Brexit has subsequently produced a paralysed parliament, culture war without end in England, the highest support for Welsh independence ever recorded, a revitalised Scottish National Party and a clear and present danger to the peace in Ireland must be someone else’s fault.

Only Ukraine is a less stable European country now. Not that Cameron can admit it. The Brexit referendum was “a sore confronted”, he says, as if he were a doctor who had healed wounds rather than a quack who had opened them. His greatest regret is for himself, not his country. “I lament my political career ending so fast,” he sighs. Brexit ensured that he went from private citizen to national leader to private citizen again in 15 years. “I was a former prime minister and a retired MP at the age of 49.”

He shouldn’t despair. His work experience on the British now completed, Cameron could be ready to hold down a real job should one come his way.

As for his supposed successes, in his own terms he would have a point – were it not for Brexit. “When I became prime minister my central task was turn the economy around,” he says. Now the British Chambers of Commerce reports that companies are living through the longest decline in investment in 17 years. He left Downing Street in 2016 “with the economy growing faster than any other in the G7”, Cameron continues, showing that whatever else he learnt at Eton, it wasn’t humility. The UK is now bottom of the G7 growth table, while the governor of the Bank of England is warning a crash out could shrink GDP by 5.5 per cent.

By the time Brexit forced his resignation, “hospital infections, mixed-sex wards and year-long waits for operations were off the front pages.” In the very week his book appeared, patients were preparing as best they could for a no deal Brexit cutting off drug supplies, while NHS trusts were wondering what would happen to the 8 percent of health and social care staff they recruit from the EU.

“It was clear to me that reasserting Britain’s global status would be one of our biggest missions in government,” Cameron says of the premiership, while failing to add that the Britain he left was both a warning and laughing stock to the rest of the world.

Regrets? Come off it. “One of the core ideas of my politics,” Cameron tells those readers who survive the long march through his pages,m “is that our best days are ahead of us and not behind us, I don’t think Brexit should alter it.” The bloody fool does not realise his best days are behind him  and he (and the rest of us) have nothing to show for them – apart from Brexit.

It’s not the comprehensive demolition that Cameron’s mendacious book deserves. It hasn’t just been Brexit that’s caused mass poverty, starvation, despair and misery to Britain. It was the policies he and his government both inherited from New Labour, and ramped up and added a few of their own. He continued the Thatcherite policy of the destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, as well as the wage freeze and pushing zero-hours and short term contracts. As well as allowing firms to make their workers nominally self-employed, so they don’t have to give them things like sick pay, holidays or maternity leave. Thanks to his policies, as continued by Tweezer and then Boris, a quarter of a million people have to rely on food banks for their daily bread, 14 million people are in poverty and an estimated number of 130,000 people have died after being found ‘fit for work’ by the DWP.

As for the tone of lofty self-assurance with which Cameron makes his assertions, that can only come from someone, who has enjoyed immense privilege throughout his life, and never suffered uncertainty due to the advantages bestowed by his background. He got a job at Buckingham Palace, remember, because they actually rang him up and asked for him. Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris, in his book Great Parliamentary Scandals observes that MPs, contrary to received wisdom, are not polished all rounders. Rather they are more likely to be the lonely boy at school. They have huge, but fragile egos due to the respect the public gives them tempered with the humiliation they receive at the hands of the whips and the awareness of how little power they really have. All the decisions are made by the Prime Minister. Parris’ own career as a cabinet minister came to a sharp end when he sent a rude reply to a letter sent to the former Prime Minister. Clearly, Cameron himself has never suffered, or appears not to have, from any kind of personal or professional uncertainty. He’s always been supremely confident in his own ability, choices and decisions. It’s this arrogance that has caused so much suffering to the country and its working people. But he certainly hasn’t suffered the consequences. Instead of trying to do something about the mess he created with Brexit, he left it for others to do so. And we’re still grappling with that problem nearly four years later.

Cameron’s was the start of a series of Tory governments that have actually left this country far worse than Tony Blair’s administration. Blair was determined to sell off the NHS, but he kept it well funded and he had some success in tackling poverty. It was the Tories who massively expanded the use of food banks instead of giving the disabled, unemployed and poor the state support they needed.

Cameron’s book is therefore one mass of self-delusion and lies. As have all the statements about how well the country is doing from his successors. Don’t vote for them. Vote for Corbyn instead.

 

£70 Bn Black Hole in Tory Spending Pledges

November 28, 2019

Despite all the Tory bluster, as Mike has pointed out Labour’s spending plans are properly costed and have the support of 163 leading economists. They have sent a letter to the Independent stating their support, saying

It seems clear to us that the Labour party has not only understood the deep problems we face, but has devised serious proposals for dealing with them.

We believe it deserves to form the next government.

Labour spending plans are backed by leading economists

The Tories, however, have always claimed that they are the party of proper fiscal responsibility, who truly understand economics. In contrast to profligate, spendthrift Labour, they can be trusted with wise, frugal expenditure.

So how do their manifesto pledges stand up?

Not well. According to an article in Tuesday’s I, they’ve got a black hole to the tune of £ 70 bn in theirs.

The article by Hugo Gye reads

The Conservatives face a £70bn black hole in their spending plans after making a string of manifesto promises without explaining how to pay for them.

Boris Johnson has pledged to build dozens of hospitals, create a new rail network and set up a hi-tech “gigafactory” to make electric cars. He is also promising national insurance cuts, a new system of social care and relief for indebted students. None of his policies is costed in the party manifesto revealed on Sunday. They add up to £52.2bn in added capital investment, and an extra £20.6bn on the annual bill for day-to-day spending, according to figures calculated by I.

The Conservative manifesto proposed a rise in day-to-day spending of £2.9 bn as well as £3.6bn in tax cuts. But it also contained a number of policies with no price tag attached.

The biggest is Northern Powerhouse Rail, a new network linking Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds, which will cost £39 bhn. Other promised capital projects not costed by the manifesto include building 40 new hospitals and the construction of a gigafactory to make eco-friendly vehicles.

Tory sources said future investment plans would be funded by a £100 bn pot of capital expenditure, only £22 bn of which has so far been allocated to specific projects. The shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said, “With no evidence behind any of their figures, it looks like the Conservatives’ fake news approach applies to their manifesto too.”

The deputy Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, added: “Boris Johnson’s relationship with numbers has all the hallmarks of his relationship with the truth – nonexistent.”

That’s precisely how it seems to me.

The fact that these pledges are not costed suggests very strongly to me that, like his promise to build 40 new hospitals, they’re lies. The Tories have no intention of honouring them. They’re only interested in slashing welfare spending and privatising the NHS and anything else they can get their hands on for the benefit of their rich corporate donors, Donald Trump and the American private healthcare industry, and the hedge funds. And they are going to wreck this country to do so.

Don’t be fooled by them. Labour really stands for restoring the welfare state, public infrastructure and the NHS. And it’s all properly costed.

They are the party of economic sense. Not the loony, lying Tories.

Boris Johnson Declared Islamophobia ‘Natural Reaction’ to Islam

November 28, 2019

Mike also put up another excellent piece, pointing out that while the Tories are misdirecting people to look for massively over-exaggerated anti-Semitism in the Labour party, they have been actively promoting hatred against Muslims. According to the magazine Business Insider, in 2005 our comedy prime minister wrote in the Spectator that

To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers.

This was in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings, and Johnson questioned the loyalty of British Muslims and said that the country must realise that ‘Islam is the problem’.

Mike concludes ‘He’s not my prime minister. He is racist filth.’

Boris Johnson believes Islamophobia is a ‘natural reaction’ to Muslims. Let’s vote this racist OUT

No argument there from me, especially after Mates Jacobs has released a dossier of rabidly islamophobic, racist and anti-Semitic comments from the supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and our buffoonish Prime Minister. Not after Sayeeda Warsi has repeatedly demanding investigations into islamophobia in her party, and been condescendingly told that there’s little to worry about. Not when an inquiry into it has been pushed back after the General Election – presumably so that it won’t embarrass Johnson when it uncovers massive prejudice and hatred.

Now let’s put Johnson’s comments into their context. Many Brits understandably were worried about the possible danger from Islam after the 7/7 bombings on the London Underground and on buses. This was also a period when alienated Muslim youths marched through the street waving placards against the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, proclaiming that Islam would dominate the West and promising more violence and terrorism. But it is a mistake to claim that this alienation and rage represents true Islam, or comes from the pages of the Qu’ran.

In fact Islamism is the product of a distinct set of social and political circumstances. This includes the economic and political stagnation of Islamic societies, rising poverty and the bewilderment and dislocation felt by many Muslims to rapid modernisation. Some of the problems are due to the adoption of neoliberal economic programmes by secular Arab and Middle Eastern states, like Algeria, which have massively increased poverty. Some of it is a reaction to western colonialism and cultural and economic hegemony. And some of it is a response to real oppression by non-Muslim states around the world. Like there is massive discrimination and organised violence against Muslims, as well as Sikhs and Christians, by Hindu ultra-nationalists in India.

I studied Islam as part of my religious studies minor degree at College. Yes, Islam has expanded through violence and conquest, just as Christianity has. But it has also spread through peaceful contact and conversion. And the problems Islam is experiencing as it modernises aren’t unique to it. Christianity and the West experienced the same process in the 19th and 20th centuries. There were reactionaries in the Anglican Church in the 19th century, who were frightened of the extension of the franchise and political rights to Protestant Dissenters, Roman Catholics, and other religions. In the middle of the century the Papacy placed on its index of forbidden doctrines the idea that Roman Catholic countries should allow freedom of religion and conscience to non-Catholics. But now the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches as a whole very definitely are not anti-democratic, despite the attempts of General Franco and Roman Catholic clerico-Fascists during the Second World War. And aggressively atheist states like the Soviet Union have their own bloody history of intolerance. Religion was viciously persecuted in the USSR, and millions of people of faith, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or shamanist, were killed or imprisoned in the gulags for simply holding their beliefs. Nathan Johnson, surveying the vicious intolerance across secular, atheist as well as religious societies in his books on the mythology of New Atheism, has suggested that such intolerance may be part of human nature, rather than just unique to religion or a specific religion.

Islam also has a tolerant side. Christianity survived in the Balkans after the Turkish conquest because, when the Ottoman emperor wanted to force the Christian peoples to convert to Islam, the majlis, the assembly of Muslims scholars and jurists, told him it was specifically forbidden, for example. And even after the conquest, there were many areas in which Christian and Muslim lived side by side in peace. When Mike visited Bosnia after the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, he saw areas where churches and mosques had been built next to each other. Not the mark of an intolerant society, at least, not at that time.

Boris Johnson is, as Mike and so many others have repeatedly pointed out, a vicious racist. This is in sharp contrast to the Labour leader, who is a determined opponent of all forms of racism. Don’t believe him when he smears Labour as anti-Semitic.

And don’t let him get away with smearing Muslims. This is what the Tories are doing and have always done: manufacture hate against an out-group in order to gain power. They are doing it against the poor. They are doing it to the unemployed, to the disabled, to anybody, even working people, who claim benefits. And in the early part of the 20th century they did it to Jews. Now they’re doing it to Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims.

A better world is possible. Reject the Tories and their prejudice and bigory, and vote for Corbyn and his anti-racism instead.

 

 

Ordinary British Jews Condemn Chief Rabbi’s Attack on Corbyn

November 28, 2019

Yesterday Mike put up a great piece yesterday reporting that after Tory Chief Rabbi and friend of Johnson and Netanyahu Ephraim Mirvis had taken to the pages of the Times to smear the Labour party once again, British Jews from right across society, from ordinary Brits to the noted actor Miriam Margolyes, had take to social media to condemn Mirvis’ comments. One of the first was an open letter which was circulating on the Net, which read:

Dear Chief Rabbi, you have shamed your office today and rendered the Jewish people even more vulnerable to real antisemitism by reinforcing the fake, media-induced antisemitism that you recklessly impute to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

To interfere politically at this point in an election in a way that could affect the only party that could bring hope and social justice to this country is beyond contempt and renders you unfit for office.

As a Jew and a Labour Party supporter, I am proud to be part of a venture that I see as a continuity of so many of my Jewish forbears who have fought for social justice here and in Europe.

You talk about ‘the soul of the nation being at stake’ yet have you not noticed what has happened to that soul over the last nine years where: 1. The poor have been vilified 2. The ill have been attacked 3. The mentally ill have suffered 4. Inequality has soared. 5. Greed and financial rapaciousness has flourished 6. Austerity has been unnecessarily applied after a financial crisis brought about by an out of control finance sector that has benefited the wealthiest.

Where was your voice about the nation’s soul then?

Yet you inveigh against a decent and honest man who, even now, maintains integrity in the face of manifest manipulation, deceit and digital sleight of hand from the Tories.

You have shamed your office, the justice-loving tradition of the Jewish people and laid the grounds for future tensions in the most irresponsible way. You seem to lack the acuity of intellect to even spot the most obvious use of this bogus antisemitism as a political weapon.

Justin Schlossberg of the Media Reform Coalition called the antisemitism saga ‘a disinformation paradigm’ and made a detailed study of the issue. The great scholar, Norman Finkelstein, likewise, sees this a purely politically motivated attack.

How dare you, amateurishly intervene in this, betraying the great Jewish scholarly tradition of intellectual and analytical acumen embodied in the Talmud and the exegetics of the Chumash.

The letter is signed, “With profound sadness and considerable disgust.”

Labour supporter Hasan Patel retweeted a piece from Margolyes’ comments about the affair on Channel 4. The actor said

I don’t think people are looking at the real issue. In Rabbi Mirvis’ statement, the word ‘Israel’ does not appear and that to me is the heart of the problem. People are not anti-Semitic, they are anti-Zionist as I am myself. It doesn’t mean that I’m anti-Semitic. I fight anti-Semitism and prejudice wherever I find it and so does Jeremy Corbyn and I think that the Chief Rabbi whom I respect because of his position is just making a terrible mistake. It is completely wrong to listen to what people are saying about Jeremy Corbyn. I just don’t understand it. I don’t believe that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic. I’m sure that he’s handled it badly. Everybody makes mistakes and I’m sure he’s made mistakes. But he hasn’t become an anti-Semite, he doesn’t support anti-Semitism, he loathes it, as every right-thinking person does. And I just feel desperate that we are prepared to take on board as Prime Minister a shoddy liar like Boris Johnson. How can you believe a thing he says? The man is a complete falsehood from start to finish. He’s a blustering bully, and I think if you have to choose between the two for goodness’ sake choose Jeremy Corbyn.

Margolyes has been a long-term critic of Israel’s barbarity towards the Palestinians. Nearly a decade ago she condemned the bombardment of Gaza ‘as a proud Jew, and an ashamed Jew’. She came out as a lesbian a few years ago, and works with a Jewish organisation aimed at combating anti-gay prejudice in the Jewish community, Gay Yids.

Children’s Poet Laureate David Rosenberg attack Mirvis’ silence on Tory racism. He tweeted

Chief Rabbi has had nothing to say on Tories hostile environment and Windrush Scandal, nor on formal Tory links with antisemitic gov’ts in Poland and Hungary. Think he’s sitting on his moral compass.

And ordinary Jewish Brits were also angry that Mirvis was using their community identity to attack Corbyn. Dr. Simon Goodman tweeted

Today I’m feeling terrible that my religious identity is being used to argue that an obvious anti-racist is an . is awful and must always be fought, but it is simply not the case that or is antisemitic.

And Juliette Emery said

Off for today
I need to calm down, it’s not healthy to be this angry 😡
Too many lies and mendacious attempts to undermine the only leader I know that wants peace, equality and a fairer society for us all whilst protecting this planet we all call home

Sleep well

Mike comments that British people dislike being told what to think, and this seems especially true of Jews. Exactly! I got the impression that Jews see themselves as a people particularly given to debate and argument. It’s been that way ever since the Talmud recorded the debates and disagreements over the Law by the rabbinical sages of antiquity. ‘Two Jews, three opinions’, as the Jewish saying goes. Years ago I bought an old book of papers from a wartime American academic conference, in which religious groups, philosophers, people of letters and scientists put forward arguments to show that their disciplines upheld and promoted the liberal, democratic values under threat from Fascism. A group of Jewish scholars put forward a fascinating paper to show that Judaism was intrinsically democratic. This included a piece from the Haggadah, extra-Biblical Jewish legend, which called for Jews in leadership positions to be concerned to create consensus and agreement, rather than impose their decision by fiat.

The story is that when God gave Moses the Torah, He commanded Moses to first go to the Jewish people to see if they would accept it. The Lawgiver replied that there was no need, because they would have to accept the Torah as the express word and law of the Almighty. ‘Nevertheless’, said God, ‘God to the people.’

They also argued their point on a remark about the Bible from one of the great rabbis, whose views are recorded in the Talmud. When asked what the most important sentence in the Hebrew Bible was, he replied ‘And these are the generations of men’. Not God, not Jews, but humanity as a whole. God’s revelation is intended to benefit all of us. Liberal Jews writing in the American radical magazine Counterpunch have said that they came to their values through the teachings of the Talmud, just like the author of the open letter at the start of this post. They stated that to be a Jew means always identifying with the oppressed, never the oppressor.

But Mirvis is defending the oppressor in seeking to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to smear Corbyn and his supporters. And to support a Tory party determined to impoverish and disenfranchise ordinary working people, whether they be Jews or gentiles. And for many British Jews, this is intolerable.