Archive for the ‘Social Services’ Category

Israel W. Charny on Genocide Victims’ and Israelis’ Toleration of Atrocities against Others

October 17, 2016

In his chapter ‘The Denial of Known Genocides’ in the book Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review vol. 2 (London: Mansell 1991), Israel W. Charny, the book’s editor, discusses instances where the survivors of genocides are perfectly prepared to tolerate and approve of massacres and atrocities against others, despite having been the victims of such crimes themselves. Charny discusses the findings of research done in Israel, including with Holocaust survivors and medical students, as well as the general public. This found that a disturbingly high number of Israelis, and especially those, who had survived the horrors of the Nazi camps and student medical professionals, were more than willing to tolerate and even approve the mass murder of other human beings.

Charny writes:

Another sense in which victims can be said to be engaging in denial is that, despite their profound awareness of the extent of man’s inhumanity to man, many survivors themselves have not learned to make a commitment to protecting the lives of all other human beings. Charny and his associates have conducted a series of studies of the readiness of Holocaust survivors to approve or recommend or themselves be prepared to do evil to others. In the one study referred to early (Charny and Fromer, submitted for publication), where Jewish/Israelis who were going to see Lanzmann’s film Shoah were interviewed, the subjects were asked their opinions about a soldier who had been convicted for massacre of innocent Arabs who said years later that he would do it again – that he was only following orders, and would serve his country’s needs the same way under similar circumstances. Overall 38% of the subjects approved of the soldier’s position; among Holocaust survivors, children of survivors and an extended group of the subjects who had expressed themselves as strongly involved with the Holocaust, the approval rate was 46% as compared to 26% among non-survivors (a difference that was statistically significant).

In another experiment, Charny and Fromer (in press) and Fromer and Charny (submitted for publication) studied Jewish/Israeli students in medicine, psychology and social work as to their readiness to harm and even kill patients. The subjects were presented with a situation in which they were to imagine themselves in the future working in a developing country in Africa. As condition in the country worsen seriously and resources dwindle, the health authorities undertake to eliminate treatment and maintenance for the most severe cases, and to undertake involuntary mass euthanasia; 34% of the subjects agreed to the former step, and 17% to the latter. When the subjects were then told that the Ministry of Health determined that the involuntary euthanasia would be executed more humanely if done by professionals, and the subjects were asked who of themselves would be prepared to kill the patients, 11% agreed. In a continuation of the same experiment (Charny and Fromer – in press, and Fromer and Charny, submitted for publication), the subjects were also asked to think of themselves as having been called up to national service by an extreme right-wing Israeli government and they are ordered to classify all Arab citizens of Israel in connection with the government’s program for a forced migration of the Arabs from Israel. The rates of compliance varied between 21% and 34% (or one out of five to one out of three). The seriousness of the behaviours in all of the above cases was underscored by an addition survey the authors made of 30 supervisors-trainers in medicine, psychology and social work, 60% of whom, and in some cases many more, indicated they would expel any student from their clinical training programme who would agree to participate in such activities.

Charny and Sarid (in process) have studied the opinions of Israelis of the desirability of the Israeli government maintaining political, economic and security-interest relationships with each of three governments who were described as persecuting a minority people in their land. Although the situations described were presented as fictional, each actually was patterned after a specific real scenario – (a) South Africa; (b) Nazi Germany preceding the Holocaust or Turkish-Armenian relationships leading up to the Armenian genocide; and (c) the Holocaust. These responses were also analyzed for differences between Holocaust survivors and others. 78% of the survivors opposed the Israeli government maintaining relationships with the government that was described as persecuting its targeted minority in a way that was similar to what happened in the Holocaust, while 64.5% of non-survivors took this position. However, with respect to the two other persecutory governments who were oppressing their minorities differently, 56% of survivors and 39 to 52% (in different situations) of non-survivors took this position. The implication of these findings is that both Holocaust survivors specifically as well as other Israelis tend to have “learned” much more how to oppose evils which resemble the ones they endured against other peoples, but continue to deny or not react as strongly to the dangers of other “faces of evil” to which they do not generalize a full measure of moral outrage.

Altogether, these studies record a disappointing degree of callousness and obtuseness to genocidal massacre and threat of massacre towards peoples by substantial numbers of actual Holocaust survivors as well as, overall, on the part of the people of the survivors of the Holocaust, namely Jewish/Israelis. It should rightly be noted that research date from other peoples often show even higher rates of identification with and justification of genocidal massacres (e.g. Kelman and Hamilton, 1989; see also the extensive discussions of these issues in Charny and Fromer in press – a and b, and submitted for publication); but from an ideal ethical point of view, one would wish that all survivors of the Holocaust, and all Jewish/Israelis, would manifest an unerring sensitivity to the plights of all other peoples. (Pp. 7-8, my emphasis).

These figures are disturbing and disappointing because of the expectation many people have that the Jews, as a people, who have suffered horrendous persecution during much of their history, and particularly Holocaust survivors, who have been through what can only be described as a living hell – should be uniquely placed to have a greater hostility to the perpetration of such crimes.

Please Note: I am not suggesting for a single moment that Jews or Israelis are any more intolerant or ready to commit genocide and massacre than any other people. Indeed, Charny’s article passage reproduced here makes it clear that other nations may be even more disposed to do so. I think it’s highly likely that if a comparable test of British people were performed, the same numbers would also show themselves willing to tolerate or commit genocidal acts.

I am also very much aware of the number of courageous Jews, Israelis and people of Jewish heritage, who are very much opposed to their society’s ethnic cleansing and oppression of the Palestinians. Indeed, the above passage also makes it very clear that there are very many Israelis, who are profoundly opposed to the murder of Palestinian and Arab innocents, and the forced expulsions of the Palestinians from their native land. Israelis and Jews from America, Britain and across the world have protested against the massacres, the house demolitions and the creation of an apartheid state in Israel, including rabbis. They are extremely courageous individuals, as just as gentiles are accused of being anti-Semitic if they dare oppose or criticise Israel, so they run risk of being denounced as ‘self-hating’ and ‘un-Jewish’. Many of those, who have been libelled as anti-Semites and suspended from the Labour party, are Jews or people of Jewish heritage, who have a distinguished personal history of combatting and confronting racism and anti-Semitism. Like Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum, amongst too many others.

Reading this, I got the impression that Binyamin Netanyahu and his fellow nationalist extremists in the Likud party and the other members of the governing right-wing coalition had also read this research, and drawn the wrong conclusions. While Charny and his academic colleagues were dismayed by these results, Netanyahu and his stormtroopers were delighted, and drew the wrong conclusions. Charny and the other authors collected in the above book were concerned to place the Holocaust in its context as one genocide amongst so many others, and wish to make people aware of genocide and concerned to oppose and prevent it, no matter wherever and against whomever it may occur. Netanyahu and his colleagues have found that, despite the experience of the Holocaust, a sizable proportion of the Israeli population were prepared to tolerate the massacre and ethnic cleansing of the country’s indigenous Arabs.

It also shows why the Neocons and Likudniks are so keen to insist that the Holocaust is a unique event, and should not be coupled with concern for other victims of genocides, as has been done by most mainstream Jewish organisations. And why, despite its claim to include other victims of genocide, in fact the focus in Holocaust Memorial Day is very much on the Jewish experience to the exclusion of other groups.

Jackie Walker was quite right to question that exclusive focus. If we allow it to go ahead, and do not rightly commemorate the victims of other crimes against humanity, then we do run the risk, as she stated very clearly in her explanation of the previous set of remarks that led to her libelling as an anti-Semite, of creating a hierarchy of suffering which ignores the pain of other races and groups. And which could perilously lead to complacency about such other crimes, particularly those against the Palestinians, which the Israel lobby are very keen to deny, or rebut through accusing their critics of being anti-Semitic.

We very much need not just to commemorate the victims of the Shoah, but all the victims of genocide. And perhaps it’s time to ask another awkward, embarrassing question: the Palestinians have been the victims of ethnic cleansing for decades. Isn’t it about time their suffering was officially memorialised in Holocaust Memorial Day?

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1990s Spiked Magazine on Paedophile Allegations against MPs at Dolphin Square

October 12, 2016

Spiked in the 1990s was a short-lived, satirical magazine somewhat like a dirtier, more sweary version of Private Eye, but with fewer jokes. I thought it was related to the online website of the same name, but with a very right-wing bias, but apparently this is not the case. Looking through some old magazines today, I found a copy of issue 6 six of the magazine. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a date, but from its content it was written during Major’s reign at 10 Downing Street when Tony Blair was in opposition.

Despite the magazine being at least 25 or so years old, one of the stories is still very relevant to today. This is about the allegations of sadistic paedophile orgies using boys trafficked from care homes by MPs at Dolphin Square. This seems to relate to the current inquiry concerning MPs’ abuse of children. These include allegations that at least one of the boys so maltreated may have been murdered, and that some of the abuse took place at MPs’ lodgings at that London address.

The piece is entitled ‘Golly, Gissing and Michael’. It runs:

In pervious issues of Spiked, we have told the story about a British Airways executive’s friendship with the Minister for Defence, Michael Portillo – a relationship which the executive, Carl Douglas Gissing, has habitually denied, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Now new evidence has come to light regarding another of Carl D Gissing’s close friends, this time, not from the front bench of the Conservative Government, but from the twilight world of parliamentary lobby groups.

Derek Laud is the director of Ludgate Communications, a high powered political public relations outfit. he is also black, nick-named ‘Golly’ by his Conservative friends, homosexual and the former boyfriend of Michael Brown MP. He is the nephew and former research assistant of Lord Pit, and moves with equanimity through parliament, and in some very high circles.

He has written speeches for Prince Charles, knows Princess Diana, Prince Andrew and Fergie’s ex-beau, John Bryan. He introduced gay footballer Justin Fashanu to Westminster life, who later claimed that he had slept with two Cabinet Ministers. And then, presumably under some pressure, retracted the story.

Lau leads a very fashionable life, dining out at the exclusive La Caprice Restaurant in London, W1. Where he has been seen with Michael Portillo and Peter Lilley. He has a flat in Winchester Street, Pimlico, just around the corner from Dolphin Square, a luxury apartment block populated by MPs, and with a somewhat colourful nocturnal reputation.

It is here that the story becomes more interesting. There has always been a strong connection between Parliamentary lobby groups and the seamier side of Westminster night life. Dolphin Square has long been the scene of often very debauched parties, where certain MPs indulge some rather peculiar sexual peccadilloes with rent boys, and, presumably, each other.

According to one former employee of a well known Parliamentary Public Relations company which provided rent boys for Westminster parties, the male prostitutes are often underage and sometimes suffer appalling abuse. The source claims that no only are some beaten up, but that there have been cases where the boys were slashed with razor blades.

These grotesque crimes are not the norm in Westminster, they are a sordid aberration. But gay parties involving senior Tory politicians are commonplace, and Derek Laud is often on the guest list.

He is also known by one former resident of Greystone Heath Children’s home in Merseyside, Stephen Hasshim. Although this home is technically outside the Clywd investigation into child abuse, it was nevertheless a nightmare for many children who were unfortunate enough to live there. Hasshim remembers meeting Laud when he was thirteen.

According to certain former inmates at homes in Clywd, who later became male prostitutes in Brighton and London, they frequently plied their trade among MPs in Westminster and Dolphin Square. Which brings us back to the extra curricular role of the political lobbyist, and Derek Laud. Not forgetting, of course, Carl D. Gissing.

For a man who claims to have no parliamentary connections, it is strange that Gissing has been seen with Laud, who has a great many parliamentary connections, and also knows Michael Portillo rather well, whom Gissing claims he has never met. Perhaps, his denials are just sour grapes at not being invited to one of those Dolphin Square parties.

Note that the article does not implicate Laud in the sadistic torture of the boys procured for the orgies. I’ve mentioned this story before, and if it’s true, then it shows that these orgies were known about – and covered up – for a very long time. And it also implicates not just MPs, but also the parliamentary lobbyists. And as David Cameron, the previous prime minister, worked in PR, perhaps he is someone else the inquiry should also speak to. If it ever gets off the ground, of course, and does anything more than provide the pretence that the government is taking this issue seriously, like actually trying to bring anyone to justice.

The American Socialist Party, 1912, on ‘A Yoke of Bondage’

June 20, 2016

The fact that Bernie Sanders, the self-styled Socialist and most liberal member of the Democrat Party, got so far in the Democratic presidential nominations shows that there is a real desire amongst many American for a genuinely left-wing alternative to the corrupt corporativism represented by Trump and Shrillary. America does have a Socialist tradition. I’ve put up here a film by an American women’s film group on the I.W.W., the ‘Wobblies’, the extreme left-wing American trade union, founded at the beginning of the 20th century, and which wanted the workers to own and control the means of production. There was also a Socialist party, strongly identified with the career of Eugene V. Debs, who at the height of his career polled 900,000 votes in his election campaign against Wilson, Roosevelt and Taft. I found this piece by his party, ‘A Yoke of Bondage’, in The Penguin Book of 20th Century Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur (London: Penguin 1998).

A Yoke of Bondage

The Socialist Party declares that the capitalist system has outgrown its historical function, and has become utterly incapable of meeting the problems now confronting society. We denounce this outgrown system as incompetent and corrupt and the source of unspeakable misery and suffering to the whole working class.

Under this system the industrial equipment of the nation has passed into the absolute control of a plutocracy which exacts an annual tribute of hundreds of millions of dollars from the producers. Unafraid of any organised resistance, it stretches out its greedy hands over the still undeveloped resources of the nation – the land, the mines, the forests and the water powers of every state of the Union.

In spite of the multiplication of labour-saving machines and improved methods in industry which cheapen the cost of the production, the share of the producers grows ever less, and the prices of all the necessities of life steadily increase. The boasted prosperity of this nation is for the owning class alone. To the rest it means only greater hardship and misery. The high cost of living is felt in every home. Millions of wage-workers have seen the purchasing power of their wages decrease until life has become a desperate battle for mere existence.

Multitudes of unemployed walk the streets of our cities or trudge from state to state awaiting the will of the masters to move the wheels of industry.

The farmers in every state are plundered by the increasing prices exacted for tools and machinery and by extortionate rents, freight rates and storage charges.

Capitalist concentration is mercilessly crushing the class of small businessmen and driving its members into the ranks of propertyless wage-workers. The overwhelming majority of the people of America are being forced under a yoke of bondage by this soulless industrial despotism.

It is this capitalist system that is responsible for the increasing burden of armaments, the poverty, slums, child labour, most of the insanity, crime and prostitution, and much of the disease that afflicts mankind.

Under this system the working class is exposed to poisonous conditions, to frightful and needless perils t life and limb, is walled around with court decisions, injunctions and unjust laws, and is preyed upon incessantly for the benefit of the controlling oligarchy of wealth. Under it also, the children of the working class are doomed to ignorance, drudging toil and darkened lives.

We declare, therefore, that the longer sufferance of these conditions is impossible, and we purpose to end them all. We declare them to be the product of the present system in which industry is carried on for private greed, instead of for the welfare of society. We declare, furthermore, that for these evils there will be and can be no remedy and no substantial relief except through Socialism under which industry will be carried on for the common good and every worker receive the full social value of the wealth he creates.

Society is divided into warring groups and classes, based upon material interests. Fundamentally, the struggle is a conflict between the two main classes, one of which, the capitalist class, owns the means of production, and the other, the working class, must use these means of production, on terms dictated by the owners.

The capitalist class, though few in numbers, absolutely controls the government, legislative, executive and judicial. This class owns the machinery of gathering and disseminating news through the organised press. It subsidizes seats of learning – the colleges and schools – and even religious and moral agencies. It has also the added prestige which established customs give to any order of society, right or wrong.

The working class, which includes all those who are forced to work for a living whether by hand or brain, in shop, mine or on the soil, vastly outnumbers the capitalist class. Lacking effective organisation and class solidarity, this class is unable to enforce its will. Given such a class solidarity and effective organisation, the workers will have the power to make all laws and control all industry in their own interest. All political parties are the expression of economic class interests. All other parties than the Socialist Party represent one or another group of the ruling capitalist class. Their political conflicts reflect merely superficial rivalries between competing capitalist groups. However, they result, these conflicts have no issue of real value to the workers. Whether the Democrats or Republicans win politically, it is the capitalist class that is victorious economically.

The Socialist Party is the political expression of the economic interests of the workers. Its defeats have been their defeats and its victories their victories. It is a party founded on the science and laws of social development. It proposes that, since all social necessities today are socially produced, the means of their production and distribution shall be socially owned and democratically controlled.

In the face of the economic and political aggressions of the capitalist class, the only reliance left the workers is that of their economic organisations and their political power. By the intelligent and class conscious use of these, they may resist successfully the capitalist class, break the fetters of wage slavery, and fit themselves for the future society, which is to displace the capitalist system. The Socialist Party appreciates the full significance of class organisation and urges the wage-earners, the working farmers and all other useful workers to organise for economic and political action, and we pledge ourselves to support the toilers of the fields as well as those in the shops, factories and mines of the nation in their struggles for economic justice.

In the defeat or victory of the working-class party in this new struggle for freedom lies the defeat or triumph of the common people of all economic groups, as well as the failure or triumph of popular government. Thus the Socialist Party is the party of the present-day revolution which makes the transition from economic individual to Socialism, from wage slavery to free co-operation, from capitalist oligarchy to industrial democracy. (pp. 41-44).

Private Eye from 2009 on Corporate Lobbying at the Tory Party Conference

March 8, 2016

Private Eye printed this piece about the corporate sponsorship of the Tory conference that year in their issue for the 4th – 17th September 2009.

Conference Countdown

David Cameron has warned lobbyists to keep their distance at the Conservatives’ forthcoming party conference in Manchester. With the keys to No. 10 within his grasp, the last thing Dave needs is another cash-for-access scandal. But corporations that want to get close to the PM-in-waiting can always go the think-tank route.

Policy Exchange is the most Cameroonian of these bodies, and its preliminary conference timetable shows how easy it is for business interests to pay for face time with shadow ministers.

Shadow energy minister Charles Hendry will be speaking about “energy security and decarbonisation” courtesy of Oil & Gas UK, the trade body for the North Sea oil firms, alongside the group’s chief executive. As the meeting is being paid for by the oil lobby, energy security will most likely trump global warming, and wind and wave power, like energy saving, will not get much of a look-in.

Shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien will be discussing whether funding for long-term care should be by “individual, state or partnership”. The answer may well be by “partnership” because the meeting is being paid for by Partnership Assurance which specialises in funding elderly care through equity release and insurance schemes and so has a direct interest in less government funding for elderly care.

Fellow shadow health minister Mark Simmonds meanwhile will discuss whether “We need more public health initiatives for the worried well?” The obvious answer would be ‘No we don’t”, but as the meeting is sponsored by Alliance Boots, which would love to be involved in government health initiatives to drum up more business, the answer may well be in the affirmative.

Shadow business minister Mark Prisk is addressing a meeting called “Britain won’t be great if we don’t make anything anymore”, paid for by the arms firm BAE Systems. He will speak alongside BAE’s spin doctor, Bob Keen. BAE’s contribution to Britain’s greatness includes taking huge amounts of the defence budget for military kit marred by cost overruns and late delivery – overpriced and late schemes like the Astute Class Submarine (£1bn over cost, four years late) about which the Tories have been making a fuss.

The British Airports Authority, so close to the current government, is taking no chances with a new administration and so is sponsoring a meeting on “infrastructure” with George Freeman, Cameron’s “A List” candidate for the safe Tory Mid Norfolk seat. BAA’s spin doctor, former spokesman for Tony Blair Tom Kelly, will also address Tory delegates at the meeting.

Shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey meanwhile will be talking about “the future of television ” on a platform funded by BT Vision, alongside the TV-on-the-internet firm’s chief executive. BT Vision of course currently lobbying the government to merge with Channel 4. So no hidden agenda there.

This shows how duplicitous Cameron has always been in trying to deny the corporatist agenda behind the Tory party. He wanted to hide the influence of the lobbyists at this party conference, just as his lobbying bill is supposed to make government more transparent by limiting them at Westminster. In fact, it’s aimed at charity and other political pressure groups and denying them access, and leave the corporate big boys untouched.

And it also shows the very deep connections between his Tories and the corporations seeking to profit from privatisation and government outsourcing.

The British Intelligence Service’s Plans for a Coup and the Internment of Radicals in the 1970s

February 17, 2016

Earlier this evening I reblogged a piece from Vox Political, where Mike discussed a piece in the Canary about Cameron’s plans to isolate Islamist radicals in a special prison, rather like Guantanamo Bay. Mike raised the obvious and chilling question of whether this would be a concentration camp, especially with the government’s secret courts providing the legal basis for the Nazi-style Nacht und Nebel round-up and imprisonment of radicals.

I believe Mike’s fears are entirely justified. In the mid-1970s there were sections of the establishment that openly advocated a coup against the-then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. They’re discussed by the journalist and frequent guest on the News Quiz, Francis Wheen in his book, Strange Days Indeed: Paranoia in the 1970s. They’re also discussed, along with other intrigues and campaigns by MI5 and MI6 against the Labour left in ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone’s book, Livingstone’s Labour: A Manifesto for the Nineties. He writes

As the economy disintegrated under Wilson’s mismanagement, there began to be talk of the need for a change of government or even a coalition of the great and the good drawn from the British establishment. In the summer of 1967, the CIA, the FBI, MI5, MI6, and the Australian and New Zealand security services met in secret in Melbourne, Australia. They were addressed by Golitsin about his Wilson allegations and Wright presented information which he claimed raised the question of the loyalty of Willi Brandt. This meeting was followed by a visit to MI5 by Angleton who claimed to have confirmation from another source, whom he claimed could not be named, that Wilson was indeed a Soviet agent.

Matters began to hot up when the press baron Cecil King, a long-standing MI5 agent, began to discuss the need for a coup against Wilson. He informed Peter Wright that the Mirror would publish any damaging anti-Wilson leaks that MI5 wanted aired, and at a meeting with Lord Mountbatten and the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Solly Zuckerman, King urged Mountbatten to become the leader of a government of National Salvation. Zukerman pointed out that this was treason and left the meeting which came to nothing due to Mountbatten’s reluctance to act. (P. 53).

He also states that one army intelligence officer states that the security services had also convened meetings to determine the location of a possible internment camp for radicals in the Shetland Islands. One of those involved in this process was George Young, who had been the deputy head of MI6. ‘Red’ Ken quotes this passage from Young’s Subversion and the British Riposte, published in 1984:

(A) security counter-action need cover no more than 5,000 persons, including some 40 MPs, not all of them Labour; several hundred journalists and media employees, plus their supporting academics and clerics; the full-time members and main activists of the Communist party and the Socialist Workers Party; and the directing elements of the 30 or 40 bodies affecting concern and compassion for youth, age, civil liberties, social research and minority grievances. The total internment could easily be accommodated in a lesser ‘Gaelic Archipelago’ off the West Highlands.

Livingstone goes on to state that in the end the talks of coups amounted to nothing through a variety of factors. King lost his place at Mirror newspapers because of his increasingly erratic behaviour, which got worse. In 1974 he gave a speech to a group of officers at Sandhurst, urging them to overthrow Wilson in coup. ‘They thought he was made’, says the Bane of Thatcher. (p.54)

He also states that MI5 was also behind smears that Ted Heath was gay. Apparently the Tory MP Captain Henry Kerby was used to spread the rumour that the Tory Prime Minister was gay and had had an affair with a Swedish diplomat. Says Ken ‘I suspect that for some in MI5 being a Swedish diplomat and homosexuality were virtually synonymous anyway.’

Livingstone says that this sound like something from one of Frederick Forsythe’s grotty novels, but it’s all true and deadly serious. I’m sure he’s right. And the same kind of rumour mongering started again in the 1990s about the late former Labour leader, Michael Foot. It was Golitsin again. According to the defector, Foot was a KGB spy codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’. Really. And the conduit for the smear, which cost Murdoch a liberal actions, was the Times under its editor David Leppard.

You’d like to think that MI5 and MI6 had changed since the days of Thatcher. David Cameron, however, is despite all his verbiage about ‘One Nation’ Toryism, a Far Right authoritarian. I simply don’t think you can discount the idea that he would start rounding people up as subversives, not just Muslim radicals, but anyone, anyone at all, if he could get away with it. And his decision to start setting up special jails of Islamists seems to confirm it.

Cameron’s is a government of ‘filofascisti’. It’s the terms the Italians used to describe the ’80s generation of Yuppie Fascists. Rather than appear in Blackshirts and jackboots, they all adopted sharp business suits, and posed for the cameras like the models in GQ adverts for suits. The desire to imprison, beat, and attack immigrants, trade unionists, Socialists, Communists and others remained. Just as it is with Cameron and his pack of thugs.

Vox Political: Parliament Votes to Keep MPs’ Arrests Secret

February 11, 2016

Kingdoms without justice are just giant robberies

– St. Augustine, City of God.

Only yesterday I was writing about how British politics was increasingly coming to resemble that of Richard Nixon. Now here’s even more proof. Mike over at Vox Political has this story about parliament’s vote to keep secret the names of MPs, who have been arrested. This was pushed through by Chris Grayling, the unjust justice secretary, and the debate lasted only an hour. It passed almost unanimously. Only one person voted against. http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/11/parliament-votes-to-keep-mps-arrests-secret-from-the-public-and-just-one-member-voted-against/

Mike in his comments points out that this is a case of one rule for you, another for us, as the Tories’ proposed human rights act will end such privacy for the rest of us.

This is a piece of legislation that would have shamed Nixon or Berlusconi. Remember Berlo? He was mired in corruption scandals, but managed to keep one step ahead of prosecution by passing retrospective legislation either stating that no crime had taken place, or pardoning himself, or else delaying it until the opportunity to prosecute expired under Italy’s statute of limitations. He was a walking indictment of the endemic corruption in Italian politics. He was so flagrant, especially in his ‘bunga-bunga’ orgies, that he became something of a joke. Private Eye sent him up in its pages as The Robber Baron, parodying his regime as a comic opera. Oh, our Italian cousins!

Well, Tessa Jowell’s husband, David Mills, was one of the old filofascisto’s lawyers, and British politics has now joined his in turning into a sewer.

It’s also another monstrous piece of double standards. One of my friends on a postgraduate archaeology course was a retired social worker. I bumped into him a few years ago on the train, when he was coming back from a conference in Birmingham. It had been called by one of the New Labour ministers. New Labour were considering passing legislation to inform the public of the criminal records of people in their area. Now there are strong arguments for doing this when it involves violent offenders against women and children. Such as child molesters and men with a history of violence against women. The argument here is that if women were informed about their partner’s history of violence, this might prevent the terrifying numbers of women, who are killed every year from domestic violence. This suggested legislation went far beyond this. And it really frightened my friend.

People were to be informed of every crime an individual had committed. My friend was horrified, as this does lead to vigilante persecution. He talked of having to deal with incidents where stones had been thrown through children’s windows. But this idea was being seriously considered by New Labour, despite objections from professionals like himself. I think the social workers must have prevailed, however, because the legislation didn’t go through. But it does show the populism and authoritarianism of British politicians in the first decade of the 21st century.

Well, that went, but David Cameron still has his snooper’s charter. He wants to expand the powers of the secret state to spy on its citizens massively, with precious legal restraints. While obviously, the politicians themselves are exempt from such scrutiny by the public they are supposed to serve. This is a recipe for massive injustice and corruption. And only one person voted against.

Chris Hedges on the Pathology of the Super Rich

January 20, 2016

I’ve written a number of pieces about the psychology of the rich, and how they seem driven by a deep psychological desire to degrade, humiliate and harm those less fortunate than themselves. In this video below, the American Socialist journalist Chris Hedges and the programme’s host, Paul Jay, discuss that same issue, which they term the pathology of the super rich. The video comes from the TV series Reality Asserts Itself, which seems to be partly funded through donations from the public, for which Jay appeals at the end.

The programme begins by looking back to a previous programme, in which Hedges and Jay discussed the weakness of the modern Socialist and labour movement in America. They stated that part of this was its failure to articulate a viable Socialist vision of an alternative to the corporate system. They go on to suggest that one of the gravest weaknesses in this lack of vision was the inability to grasp the pathology of the rich. They talk about how American society magnifies and practically deifies the rich, and state that we need to recover the language of class warfare. We need to reject the lie, repeated by Obama, that if we work hard enough and study hard enough we can be one of them. The issue isn’t intelligence. The present economic mess was created by some of the most intelligent, best educated people in the country. It’s greed.

Hedges states that his hatred of authority and the elite comes from his own experience of winning a scholarship to an elite school. He’s middle class, but part of his family were lower working class. One of his grandfathers even at times lived in a trailer. The rich have the best education, but its aim is teaching them how to rule. He states that if you’re poor, you only get one chance to make it. The rich are presented with multiply chances. He cites George Bush, and his history of failure, and how, after he managed to get an academic career despite poor grades, he finally got a job at 40: running the country. There is a small, tight elite circle which protects itself and promotes mediocrity. We are now utterly powerless before them, because the oligarchic elite own the broadcasters and the press.

In their world, everyone is there to serve them. When Hedges was at school, he saw how his friends, themselves only 11-12 years old, spoke to adults, ordering around their servants and parents’ employees. He talks about the fabled quip of Hemingway to Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had said ‘The rich aren’t like us.’ To which Hemingway replied, ‘No, they’re richer’. But this was an instance where Hemingway was wrong, and Fitzgerald right. And Fitzgerald saw it, as he himself had made his way up from the mid-West and saw how decadent and corrupt the elite were. Hedges states that when you have their vast amounts of money, you see people as disposable, even friends and family, and now the citizens, who are required to fight in wars. They live in a bubble where only working class people they see are those, who work for them. They don’t even fly on commercial jets. They’re thus extremely out of touch, and retreat even further from everyone else into enclaves like Versailles under Louis XIV and the Forbidden City under the Chinese emperors. They will continue to extract more and more from society, because they have no idea of the harm they’re causing.

Hedges talks about the Occupy Movement, and the impoverishment caused by student debts that now can never be repaid, which students facing higher interest rates than if they’d gone to a bank. Half of America is officially on or below the poverty line. Yet the government is helping Goldman Sacks by buying junk bonds, which are so worthless they’ll eventually wreck the economy. The government’s response, on behalf of the rich, is to cut unemployment benefits and food stamps and close the Headstart programme. Some of the children of the super rich are waking up to the reality, and joining the Occupy movement, but it’s a tiny minority.

The two also discuss Gore Vidal’s comments about the amorality of the super rich. They state that he should know, both from his own life and the world he moved in. Hedges states that when he was at the boarding school, most of the fathers actually had very little contact with their sons. But they would turn up in their cars, sometimes with their mistresses, and their staff photographers to show them playing happily with their sons. He states that there’s a type of racism there, in that while they were happy to create this illusion for their own family, they treated the working class very differently. They believed that they should have to send their sons to fight foreign wars. Jay makes a comparison with the British enslavement of the Irish, and states that this shows you don’t have to be Black to be enslaved.

Apart from hating the working class, the rich also have a great disdain for the middle class, which Hedges himself found quite shocking, himself coming from a middle class background. The rich on their part have a very sophisticated PR machine, and polish their image with very well-publicised acts of philanthropy, while the reality behind the scenes is very different. Hedges talks about Karl Marx’s statement that the dominant ideology is really the idealisation of existing class and economic relationships. The free market ideology now dominant across America is just a very thin rationale for the elite’s greed. This is now taught right across the country, but is just used to justify the hoarding of immense wealth by the elite. The lie of globalisation – that it will give further prosperity to the middle class, give proper, just remuneration to the working class and lift the people’s of the Developing World out of poverty is a lie that has already been exposed multiple times. This ideology and the intellectual class serve the system. Those economists, who don’t teach the lie, don’t get jobs.

He talks about how the corporate system is ‘socialism for the ruling class’. The corporations loot the treasury, but demand to be bailed out by the taxpayer. There is a complete disconnection between language and reality, as America has been robbed of the very language and discourse to attack this process, even though the corporations are predators on the taxpayer’s money. The bonds now being bought up by the US government include mortgages for foreclosed properties. On paper these are worth perhaps as much as $600,000, but they would need a lot of work to realise that amount due to damage to their electrical systems and flooding.

Hedges and Jay also talk about how, although America now thinks of itself as a centre-right country politically, this wasn’t always the case. Before the Second World War there was a proper liberal, working class movement and debate in the country about what kind of society it would be. This was destroyed through McCarthyism and the House Committee into Un-American Activities. And it was very successful, as Hedges himself has documented in The Death of the Liberal Class. Hedges talks about how he states in one of his books that Karl Marx was right, and that the class struggle does define most of human history. And yet one cannot discuss this on any other American channel. If you did so, you’d be accused of being un-American. Hedges states that the class struggle is at the heart of American corporatism, and that if he were head of a Wall Street company, he would only employ Marxian economists as they understand that capitalism is all about exploitation.

Hedges then states that America is the most ‘illusioned’ society on the planet. The system is such that it whitewashes and humanises even idiots like Donald Trump to disguise what they’re doing to us. The corporations spend an immense amount – billions upon billions – on PR. From their publicity, you’d think BP were Greenpeace, despite the devastation they’ve cause in the Gulf of Mexico, including the poisoning of the fish and seafood, which is then sold to American consumers. No broadcaster, however, is going to make a documentary on this because the corporate elite own the broadcasters.

The only choice in Hedges’ view is go back to Aristotle, and revolt, as the mechanisms for incremental change are no longer functioning. FDR’s New Deal for a time acted as a safety valve, but his has been destroyed. Change for the working and middle classes can’t be done through the existing political parties or the courts. What is needed is to create new parties and mass movements. The elite can’t even stop the dangerous speculation that threatens their own prosperity. He states that the people, who run Wall Street know that another, worse collapse is coming, and are just intent on stealing as much as they can before they run out the door. The head of the private healthcare company, Universal Healthcare, last year (2013) made over $100 million. All the elite are interested in is amassing their tiny empires.

Hedges states that this is symptomatic of a dying civilisation. He quotes Marx on the psychology of the super rich. When asked what it was, Marx said, ‘Apres moi, le deluge’ – ‘After me, the floods’. They know society is going to be toast, and are just concerned to loot as much as they can before it goes under. Then they think they can retreat to their gated communities, and survive. Well, they might live a little longer than everyone else, but even that’s debatable to the damage to the Earth’s ecosystem and massive climate change. The ecological harm may already be too much to avert the extinction of the human race.

Hedges views are a little too extreme for me. I don’t think the opportunities for resistance within the system are already too far gone. Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn over here offer some hope of effecting radical change within the system. But apart from that, I agree with just about everything he said. The rich are rapacious and completely uncontrolled, as you can see from the behaviour of Cameron, Osborne, IDS and the rest of the Tories.

But listen to Hedges yourself, in the video below.

Vote Clegg for More Tory Government

April 26, 2015

I heard this week that Nick Clegg has said that if there is another hung parliament, he’ll talk to the Tories first about forming a coalition. If this is true, then it tells you everything you need to know about why you should not vote Lib Dem in this election.

Much of Clegg’s election campaign has been based around his statement that the Lib Dems are centrist party, and that whichever party is in power, they will restrain them from going too far.

Frankly, this is a lie. I’ve seen absolutely no evidence for this, and a lot against it. It seems the Lib Dems have enthusiastically supported all of the wicked, illiberal, punitive and destructive legislation introduced by Cameron, from the continuing piecemeal privatisation of the health service, to the establishment of secret courts, the vicious cuts to the welfare budget that are leaving people literally starving to death. Along with restrictions on the use of legal aid and the massive rise in university tuition fees.

Clegg is an ‘Orange Book’ Lib Dem. As several of the commenters have pointed out, this takes its name from the extreme laissez faire section of the 19th century Liberal Party, who rejected any kind of state intervention. The Orange Book has a chapter which recommends the privatisation of the NHS. Clegg has much in common with the Tories. So much so that they’re basically indistinguishable.

A vote for the Lib Dems under Clegg means a vote for the return of the Coalition. And that just means ‘More of the same’, in the words of the great Max Headroom. And that’s enough to give anyone a stammer, not just the computer generated.

Private Eye from 1995 on Unum and Peter Lilley in the Tory Government

April 13, 2015

As the left-wing blogs have repeatedly pointed out, the Tories’ welfare reforms, in which the disabled are assessed and routinely denied benefit for being supposedly ‘fit for work’, are based on the quack pseudoscience of the American insurance giant, Unum. It’s pet doctors dreamed up the profitable idea that any and every kind of work was useful in helping the sick and disabled to recover. This was enthusiastically taken over by the Tories and New Labour, as it justified throwing hundreds of thousands off disability benefit on the spurious grounds that they could work.

The results have been horrendous. Severely mentally ill people have been driven to the point of suicide by the threat of losing their benefits. Doctors and psychiatrists have seen increased numbers coming to them suffering from stress due to assessments. Critically ill people, including those dying of cancer, have been told that their benefits have been stopped, as they are well enough to work.

In his ‘Footnotes’ column in Private Eye’s issue for Friday, 16th June 1995, Paul Foot published this article on Unum, which had been brought into John Major’s Tory government by Peter Lilley. Here it is:

Doctor On Call

To help him in his bid to save £2 billion a year by slashing the benefits of disabled people, Peter Lilley, social services secretary, has hired the vice-president of a big multinational private insurance company which is using the benefit cuts to boost its sales.

Overcoming the xenophobia to which he so often gives voice at Tory party conferences, Mr Lilley has appointed an American.

Founded in Portland, Maine, in 1848, the Unum Corporation describes itself as “the world’s leading light in disability insurance”. Unum Ltd, its British arm, is based in Dorking, Surrey. It issued its annual report last September, when chairman Ward E. Graffam enthused about “exciting developments” in Britain.

He explained: “The impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system heralded in the November 1993 Budget will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.” In January, the full extent of Lilley’s plans to replace invalidity benefit with incapacity benefit revealed to the Commons. Estimated “savings” for the year 1996-97 were £410 million; for 1996-97 £1.2 billion; and for 1997-98 an astonishing £1.7 billion.

Obviously, with so much less government money going to sick and disabled people, the opportunities for private disability insurance were enormous. No longer could people rely on benefit income if they became ill or disabled. They would have to fend for themselves. Accordingly, UNUM Ltd, as its chairman had promised, “launched a concerted effort to harness the potential”. In April this year, a glamorous and expensive advertising campaign coincided with the new rules for incapacity benefit.

One UNUM ad warned: “April 13, unlucky for some. Because tomorrow the new rules on state incapacity benefit announced in the 1993 autumn budget come into effect. Which means that if you fall ill and have to rely on state incapacity benefit, you could be in serious trouble”. Lurid tables estimating weekly outgoings for an average family at £276, and benefit under the new rules at £100, urged people to “protect yourself with a Long Term Disability policy from UNUM”.

Crucial to the new rules were tougher medical tests to find out if people really are incapacitated. The Benefits Agency Medical Services (BAMS) recruited a new corps of doctors to carry out new “all-work tests”. The basic change in the tests was simple. In the past, disabled or sick people were entitled to benefit if they could no longer do their job. From now on, people are entitled to benefit only if they can do no work at all.

The new medical tests were fundamental to the “savings” Lilley hoped for. If the tests were too lax – if doctors were allowed to slide into sentimental slackness in assessing peoples’ ability to do any work at all – the whole purpose of the tests would be thwarted. So Lilley’s department set up an “incapacity benefit medical valuation group” to “monitor and validate the quality standards for the doctors involved in the all-work assessments”.

The most famous member of the group is Dr John Le Cascio, second vice-p0resident of the Unum Corporation, who has recently be seconded to the company’s British arm. Dr Le Cascio was also invited last year by Lilley’s department to help in the extensive training of doctors in the new techniques of testing. The DSS stresses that “the doctors don’t decide the incapacity benefit – that is done by an adjudication officer”. No doubt; but the officer makes a decision on the expert medical information provided the tests.

No press release was issued about Dr Le Cascio’s appointment. No one told taxpayers that the DSS is shelling out £40,000 to Unum Ltd for Dr Le Cascio’s services in the year from October 1994 to September this year. A DSS spokeswoman explained: “This comes down basically to a daily rate of £440 a day. That’s cheap for a consultancy, actually”.

The Eye asked Dr Le Cascio if he agreed there was an absolutely obvious conflict of interest in his position as validator and monitor of tests for a benefit, the cutting of which was being exploited to the full by the advertisements for his company. He replied:

“Well, I don’t feel that way of course, and if I did I wouldn’t have accepted the job. I was brought in for a specific reason, and that is to teach some of the medical principles which are contained in the design of the new test – that’s what I do, that’s my area of expertise. I’m a technical person and I can do that. To me, there is no sort of conflict as long as I do that job. I feel comfortable doing it, and I assume that those in the department feel comfortable with my contribution. The reason they’ve turned to me is because the commercial insurers have been working with this sort of valuation system for a long time and that’s where the knowledge lies.’

It was thus Peter Lilley and the Tories, who introduced Unum and the wretched work capability assessment. New Labour retained and expanded them, but the ultimately responsibility lie with the Tories. And the results have been horrendous. Mike estimated that about 52,000 people a year have been killed through benefit sanctions.

All so Lilley could persecute the poor and sick, and his friends in private insurance could make a quick buck.

Anthony Sampson on the Meanness of the Rich

April 10, 2015

Anthony Sampson in his book Who Runs this Place? The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century has a passage discussing the way 21st century Britain is now far meaner and much less generous than in the 19th century, and America today. The people most willing to give money to charity, however, are the poor. The rich are the least likely and willing to give to charity. He states:

While the rich in Britain have become much richer, they have not given more away. Their incomes relative to the poor have increased, but they feel much less pressed than their predecessors to share their wealth, whether prompted by social obligations or by a religious conscience. The connections between business and philanthropy which were so marked among Quakers and other practising Christians have largely disappeared. ‘As inequality of wealth balloons back to nineteenth-century levels,’ wrote Will Hutton in 2003, ‘there is no sign of nineteenth-century levels of civil of engagement and philanthropy by the rich.’

It is a striking fact that 6 per cent of the British population provide 60 per cent of the money given to charity, but it is more striking that the poor give away proportionately more of their money than the rich. ‘It’s more surprising because the rich can give away without noticing it, while the poor make a sacrifice,’ said one charity chief. ‘But the poor have more empathy with less fortunate people.’

The big corporations have been equally reluctant, and most boardrooms have shown little interest in charities. In 1986 two leading businessmen, Sir Hector Laing, a committed Christian, and Sir Mark Weinberg, and ex-South African, set up the Percent Club to urge companies to devote 1 per cent of their pre-tax profits to charity, but they soon had to reduce the target to 0.5 per cent, and their results were still disappointing: by 2001 the top 400 companies were giving exactly the same percentage, 0.42, as ten years before. A few big corporations stood out above the average. Reuters gave £20 million in 2001, amounting to 13 per cent of its pre-tax profits, which were sharply down. Northern Rock, the mortgage company based in Newcastle, gave away £15 million, or 5 per cent of pre-tax profits. Other big companies provided gifts in kind, rather than money, though they were not always as generous as they looked. (Sainsburys gave away food that was past its sell-by date, which avoided the cost of dumping it in land-fill sites.) Most companies have shown little interest in more giving.

‘Corporate donations … are worth less now than they were in 1991,’ said Stuart Etherington, the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. ‘Clearly it is time for the government to get tough with the business sector.’ But the New Labour government showed little desire to get tough.

By 2000 the two chief overarching bodies for charities – the NCVO and the Charities AID Foundation – were so concerned about the lack of funds that they approached Gordon Brown at the Treasury. His budget provided major tax concessions to donors – which are now as generous as the Americans’ – and he also helped to finance a Giving Campaign, chaired by the former head of Oxfam Lord (Joel) Joffe, an unassuming but persistent South Africdan who worked closely with Weinberg. The campaigners have had some success in giving more prominence to charity, but donors have been slow to exploit the over-complicated system of tax relief; and the charities are still very disappointed by the response, both from corporations and from individuals – whether entrepreneurs, corporate directors or the million-a-year men in the City.

Joffe, like other heads of charities, is struck by the contrast between attitudes in Britain and America where giving is part of the culture. ‘If you’re rich in America and don’t give,’ he said, ‘you’re regarded as an outcast.’ Americans give on average 2 per cent of their income to charity, compared to the British figure of 0.6 per cent. The British have often argued that their governments have take over the roles of philanthropists in health, education and social services, to which Americans devote much of their giving. ‘People still expect the government to pay for the basic social and artistic causes,’ says Hilary Browne-Wilkinson, who runs the Institute for Philanthropy in London. But the expectation is much less realistic since the retreat of the welfare state and the lowering of taxes, while the rich in the United States remain more generous than the British, and more systematic and effective in attaining their objectives. ‘British charity is more reactive, sometimes responding quite generously to television coverage of famines and disasters,’ says Joffe. ‘The Americans have a more strategic sense of what they want to achieve and plan their giving accordingly.

Many of the American mega-rich a century ago, like Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford, converted part of their fortunes into foundations which today provide a powerful counterweight to the prevailing profit motive. ‘He who dies rich, dies disgraced, ‘said Andrew Carnegie, who gave away his fortune to finance free libraries and a peace foundation. More recent billionaires like George Soros and Bill Gates, have continued this tradition. When Ted Turner, the founder of CNN television, gave a billion dollars to the UN 1997 he quoted Carnegie and mocked his fellow billionaires: ‘What good is wealth sitting in the bank?’ The rich lists, he said, were really lists of shame.

But there are only a few comparable British bequests, like the Wellcome, Sainsbury or Hamlyn foundations, and most of the old rich feel much less need to commemorate their wealth through charity. The British aristocracy have traditionally seen their main responsibility as ensuring the continuity of their estates and families, in which they have succeeded over the centuries, helped by the principle of primogeniture which allows the eldest son to inherit the whole estate. Their argument can appeal to anyone who values the timeless splendours of the countryside, with its landscapes of parkland, forest and downland which owes much to the protection afforded to large landowners. Old money in Britain has been interlocked with the environment as it has never been in most parts of America, where land is less valued, and where the rich have more urban and nomadic habits.

But the argument is less valid today, when much of the responsibility for the environment has been taken over by English Heritage or the National Trust. Many old families with large estates still have incomes which greatly exceed the cost of their upkeep, and they still have responsibilities to contemporary society. Many of the new rich are happy to follow the earlier tradition, but they are still less encumbered. Most people of great wealth in Britain today show a remarkable lack of interest in using their money to improve the lives of others.

Above all they feel much less need than their predecessors to account for their wealth, whether to society, to governments or to God. Their attitudes and values are not seriously challenged by politicians, by academia, or by the media, who have become more dependent on them. The respect now shown for wealth and money-making, rather than for professional conduct and moral values, has been the most fundamental change in Britain over four decades.
(pp. 346-8).

So the rich have become much meaner, while the poor are the most generous section of the population. Charitable giving has declined along with notions of Christian morality and an awareness of need. People still expect the government to provide, despite the attack on the welfare state. The aristocracy don’t give, because they’re still concerned with preserving their lands and titles. While the new rich are feted by the media and society, simply for being rich, without any concern for morals or charity. And because universities and the media are dependent on them, they are reluctant to criticise them for their lack of charitable giving.

This was inevitable. Modern Conservative ideology was all about greed, shown most acutely in the Yuppies of the late 1980s and 1990s. And because the Tory attacks on the welfare state concentrate on attacking the poor as scroungers, there’s no incentives for people to give to them either. If someone’s labelled a scrounger or malingerer, giving to charities to support them is just as bad as government tax money.

This marks another, massive failure of Thatcherism. She thought that if the welfare state was rolled back, charitable giving would increase. It hasn’t.

Thatcherism has made the rich meaner, and the Tories continue with the same attitudes and visceral hatred of the poor.