Archive for the ‘Wages’ Category

The Young Turks on Women’s General Strike Planned for March 8

February 19, 2017

After the successes of the women’s marches across America and many other parts of the world, including Britain, the organisers are calling for another, expanded march and day of protest on March 8th – International Women’s Day. They don’t want the previous march to be a single event, which everyone then moves on from and then forgets. They want to keep the pressure up and the issues alive. Not only do they plan another march, but they’re also calling for a general strike by women. They state:

In the spirit of women and their allies coming together for love and liberation, we offer A Day Without A Woman. We ask: do businesses support our communities, or do they drain our communities? Do they strive for gender equity or do they support the policies and leaders that perpetuate oppression? Do they align with a sustainable environment or do they profit off destruction and steal the futures of our children?

The two hosts, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, point out that many men also joined the women’s march, and that it wasn’t just about one issue, but about a number that worry Americans. They also make the point that protesting is a quintessential tradition of American freedom, and warn about biased reporting from Fox News. Faux News broadcast some sneering, distorted coverage of the original women’s march, claiming that the marchers didn’t know what they were protesting against. To provide some similitude, they interviewed some people marching, who were less than articulate and informed than others. They make the point that this is the stand Faux News trick. If they ask 20 people about a protest, and 19 give a clear, informed answer, but one doesn’t, they’ll broadcast the answer of that one person.

They also jokingly wonder what’ll happen on March 8th, if Ana Kasparian and the show’s female producers and staff don’t come in.

Not everybody was happy with the inclusiveness of the women’s march. Julian Vigo, one of the contributors to Counterpunch, argued that its effect was diluted because it didn’t solely concentrate on women and their issues. I think she’s wrong. The march was very popular, because it included women’s equality as one of a number of issues that concerned women and men. I can remember some of the feminists campaigning in the Labour party, who tried to appeal to women to come out and vote during one election, saying that they believed that ‘every issue is a women’s issue’.

As for Faux News, well, what do you expect? They didn’t get their nickname for nothing. Academics, who’ve analysed their content has said that 75 per cent of it is rubbish. You’re actually less informed if you watch Fox than if you don’t. And pretty much could be said about the Dirty Diggers newspapers around the world, not excluding the Times.

There have been a number of general strikes by women around the world, ever since the ancient Greek play, Lysistrata. There was one way back in the 1970s or ’80s in Iceland, if memory serves me right.

It will be interesting to see if there’s a general strike by this country’s women. We suffer from the same issues that are plaguing America – poverty, starvation, stagnant and declining wages, cuts to benefits, destruction of the welfare state and attacks on state healthcare provision. But the head of the government is Theresa May, and these grotty policies were introduced by Maggie Thatcher. As a result, I’m afraid that if there is a march and women’s strike, the protestors will be smeared as misogynists. Killary’s platform was essentially Conservative, and she herself a staunch supporter of Wall Street and the power of big business. She had also supported the Iraq invasion, and a Fascist coup in Honduras, which saw a female indigenous leader murdered by a right-wing death squad. Despite the fact that her policies would have hurt millions of women across America and beyond, her supporters were smearing her critics, and particularly supporters of Bernie Sanders, as misogynists. There was also the unedifying spectacle of Madeleine Albright, who has very vocally supported all manner of international aggression and atrocities by the US, telling women that there was a ‘special place in hell’ for them if they didn’t vote for Hillary.

British feminists have also shown that they’ll back a female politico, even if they despise her policies. When Thatcher was ousted Germaine Greer penned a piece ‘A Sad Day for Every Woman’, lamenting the removal from power of the first female British prime minister. This was despite Thatcher not considering herself a feminist, there being no women in her cabinet, and the active damage her policies had inflicted on women in general.

Similarly, various female hacks in the Graun and other papers, including the I, tried to claim that Angela Eagle was the victim and other female Labour politicos were the victims of terrible misogyny from Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, just as Killary’s supporters had tried to smear Sanders’, and similarly without any real evidence.

We definitely need more mass demonstrations and days of action in this country against the government and its vile policies, policies that are killing hundreds, and leaving millions in poverty and starvation. But I fear that if women march and strike against Theresa May, just like they marched against the Orange Buffoon, they’ll be attacked and smeared for their lack of solidarity to a female leader.

Secular Talk: Room Full of Republicans Cheer Single-Payer Healthcare

February 19, 2017

This is little clip from Secular Talk is going to frighten and annoy many Republicans and Libertarians. It shows very graphically how their attempts to scare Americans away from universal healthcare is increasingly being rejected even by those self-identified Conservatives, who constitute the party’s constituency.

The clip is of a question by a member of the audience, Jesca(?) Bohun, at a Republican town hall meeting in Tennessee. Bohun says she is a Christian, and believes that the rich have a duty to pull the poor up. She then talks about some of the problems of Obamacare, the ‘Affordable Care Act’ introduced by the last president, to make private health insurance affordable to all American citizens. Bohun makes the point that this insurance is still expensive and can be high risk. Also, the insurance companies are free to pull out of the scheme if they don’t like it. She gives as an example the case where Aetna, one of the insurers, pulled out of the scheme claiming it was due to expense. In actual fact, they pulled out because the federal authorities had prevented them from merging with another insurance company, Humana. The result was that Obamacare now did not cover those insured with Aetna. Bohun then went on to say that rather than try to fix what is wrong with Obamacare, ‘why don’t we have medicare for all?’

Medicare is the American healthcare safety net, where the state pays for the medical treatment of the poorest, who cannot afford private health insurance.

What’s the result of this proposal, which would have many Conservatives screaming ‘Communism!’ and shouting about left-wing brainwashing and ‘pinko Commie liberal faggots’? The people in the room cheer.

Kulinski makes the point that this shows how even Conservatives will adopt left-wing policies if they are carefully explained to them, like the minimum wage, regulating the banks, taxing the rich and single-payer healthcare. He makes the point that labels may not mean much to ordinary Americans, who don’t have Ph. D.s in political science. Thus there was the spectacle of some members of the Tea Party waving placards with the slogan ‘Keep Your Government off My Medicare’, without apparently realising that Medicare is a government programme. Kulinski goes on to state that Bernie Sanders found that he could win over Conservatives to his views talking in the Mid-West, if he explained the issues properly. Kulinski then goes on to say that this episode makes him optimistic that liberal attitudes and policies are winning over the majority of people in America. But it does not take away the duty of liberals to explain these issues clearly.

This is really amazing, considering the way the American Right has long demonised single-payer healthcare and, indeed, anything that looked even remotely like socialised medicine. We’ve had the right-wing televangelists like Pat Robertson rant on about it being ‘Communism’. Lyndon B. Johnson introduced Medicaid in the 1960s, the parallel programme to Medicare in which the state pays for the medical treatment of senior citizens, who cannot afford it. This provoked Ronald Reagan to make an utterly bonkers and malignant speech claiming it was a threat to the freedom Americans hoped to pass on to their children.

But it’s increasingly evident to a growing number of Americans that private medicine isn’t working, and that there is no alternative to state-financed medicine.

Actually, you have no idea how good it felt to right those words about a socialist policy. Maggie Thatcher was found of invoking ‘TINA’ for her policies, standing for ‘There Is No Alternative’. Well, if you want people to have decent medicine for all, There Is No Alternative than various forms of state provision.

This clip, and other occasions like it, will make the Tories and their paymasters in the private health industry even more dangerous. One of the reasons they came over here under Major, Blair and Cameron and tried to persuade them to privatise the NHS, is because they realised that the private healthcare market in America was becoming saturated. And so they want to muscle in on the NHS as a way of maximising the profits they might lose in the US.

And so far, out of all the European countries with a state medical system, our politicians seem to be the only ones stupid, mendacious and venal enough to allow these parasites in.

Get rid of the Tories and the Blairites, and support Jeremy Corbyn to renationalise the NHS.

Financial Speculators, Not Cost, Are the Real Oil Prices Are Rising

February 10, 2017

This week it was reported that British Gas were considering raising their prices by 9 per cent. This is frightening, as it means that the other companies may also raise their prices as well. Many people are increasingly finding themselves faced with a choice due to austerity, benefit cuts and stagnating wages. They can eat, and freeze, or stay warm and starve.

I don’t know what the reason given for raising the price of gas is. I suspect, however, from the behaviour of the oil industry, that any justification presented is spurious. William Blum in the chapter on capitalism in his book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, shows that the rise in oil prices aren’t due to rising costs. The cost of getting the stuff out of the ground has remained the same, despite all the guff about having reached peak oil. The real cause of the rise in fuel prices, including gas, is financial speculation, and quotes a US Senate report, The Role of Market Speculation in Rising Oil and Gas Prices. This states

The traditional forces of supply and demand cannot fully account for these increases [in crude oil, gasoline, etc.]. While global demand for oil has been increasing… global oil supplies have increased by an even greater amount. As a result, global inventories have increased as well. Today, US oil inventories are at an 8-year high, and OECD [mainly European] oil inventories are at a 20 year high. Accordingly, factors other than basic supply and demand must be examined…

Over the past few years, large financial institutions, hedge funds, pension funds, and other investment funds have been pouring billions of dollars into the energy commodities markets … to try to take advantage of price changes or to hedge against them. Because much of this additional investment has come from financial institutions and investment funds that do not use the commodity as part of their business, it is defined as ‘speculation’ by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC). According to the CTFC, a speculator ‘does not produce or use the commodity, but risks his or her own capital trading futures in that commodity in hopes of making a profit on price changes.’ The large purchases of crude oil futures contracts by speculators have, in effect, created an additional demand for oil to be delivered in the future in the same manner that additional demand for the immediate delivery of a physical barrel of oil drives up the price on the spot market… Although it is difficult to quantify the effect of speculation on prices, there is substantial evidence that the large amount of speculation in the current market has significantly increased prices. (p. 248).

Blum goes on to make the point that the American financial regulators have been unable to combat these rises, because their ability to do so has been taken away from them by Congress. (pp. 249-50). As a result, although it still costs ExxonMobil $20 to get a barrel of oil out of the ground, the oil itself can trade at $40, $80 or $130 a barrel. (p. 251).

So if you’re worried about paying the gas or heating oil bill, the reason it’s gone up is due the financial sector. The very people that donate to political parties, especially the Tories and employ MPs when they leave.

Economist Declares America ‘Not Full Democracy’

February 3, 2017

In this video, TYT Politic’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which states that America is no longer a ‘full democracy’. The magazine annual scores countries around the world according to a system of five categories. These are electoral pluralism and democracy, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture. Nations are ranked according to a descending scale from full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid democracy and authoritarian. To be considered a full democracy, a country must have a score of 8.00 and over. America has slipped from 8.05 to 7.98, making it a ‘flawed democracy’ along with France, Italy and Japan for the first time in its history.

Waldorf argues that although it’s tempting to blame this on Donald Trump, he’s only been present for about a week, and the decline in American democracy has been going on for much longer. Trump is a symptom, not a cause. He argues that the real cause is the influence of the rich and powerful in politics. He notes that other studies have concluded, in his words, that America ‘is an oligarchy with elections’. He makes the point that not all rich people are necessarily bad, and that many support the same policies he supports, such as LGBT equality. However, the system works so that the rich are able to buy adverts promoting their policies at the expense of those that favour working and middle class people. A study has found that legislation benefiting these groups, rather than the corporate donor elite, is only passed 18 per cent of the time. Pro-LGBT legislation was passed members of the elite as well as the majority of ordinary Americans supported it. However, when the corporate rich are hostile to particular legislation, like the minimum wage, there is far more difficulty getting it passed. Most Americans, including half of the Republican party, believe the minimum wage should be higher. However, the corporate rich are largely opposed to this, as it will damage profits. And so in certain areas, it is actually illegal for the state authorities to pass legislation raising the minimum wage.

Waldorf also mentions the various countries that the report states comprise each particular category of its democratic index. North Korea, unsurprisingly, is an authoritarian regime, along with Syria. Morocco is one of the ‘hybrid’ regimes. The most democratic country, however, is Norway, followed by the other Scandinavian countries and Ireland. Britain is ranked the 16th most democratic country.

Waldorf notes that America is not alone in its slide towards authoritarianism. The report states that half of the 167 countries surveyed have seen a decline in the quality of their democracy. Waldorf states that this is due to neoliberalism. As more services are privatised, it sets up a vicious cycle which sees more right-wing politicians elected, who privatise more services in order to stop government from working.

Waldorf also suggests a number of ways in which American political culture and democracy could be restored. These include getting the money out of politics, more political parties, restoring section 5 of the voting rights act, making registration to vote compulsory and making voting easier. He also recommends ending the corporate nature of the media, where anchors sitting in a studio earn $20 million a year for reading the news, but have absolutely nothing in common with their lower or middle class viewers, and do not represent their interests.

This study and its analysis by the TYT’s man exactly describes the crisis in American democracy and its causes. A study a few years ago by, I think, Harvard political scientists concluded that America was an elected oligarchy, in which both parties served the corporate elite rather than the common man and woman. He’s also right about the way many ordinary people are alienated from political life, because the policies embraced by their elected representatives actively hurt them in favour of the corporate elite. The Harvard study noted that approval ratings of Congress really only polled a maximum of 25 per cent, and very often much less, down to the low teens, because Americans justifiably felt their politicians were ignoring them.

I am, however, surprised at Britain having a relatively high rating, even if we are only the 16th most democratic country according to the survey. Successive governments since Thatcher have followed America in legislating for the benefit of rich corporations. John Major’s administration was notorious for its corporate sleaze, while Blair did everything he could to increase the dominance of leaders of industry over the machinery of government, appointing managing directors like David Sainsbury to important government posts.

I also take issue with Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn being described as ‘populists’. Populism usually denotes right-wing demagogues, who offer their followers a false democracy, pretending to represent working class interests while at the same time standing for a range of policies, including racism, which harm their working class followers. The examples are Trump and the Republicans in the US, and the Tories and UKIP over here. Corbyn and Sanders aren’t populists, because they genuinely represent the working and lower middle classes hurt by neoliberalism. They also aren’t at all racist. In fact, both are quite definitely anti-racism and discrimination, despite the smears of the Israel lobby. What they do represent is a threat to the corporate domination of the established left-wing parties, such as the Clintonite Democrats in America and the Blairites in the Labour party over here. And thus Sanders and Corbyn are smeared as ‘populists’ by the neoliberal elite determined to misrepresent itself as occupying the moderate centre ground, when they are as responsible as the right-wing parties for establishing the power of the major corporations at the expense of the electorate.

On both sides of the Atlantic, people need to wake up to the decline in the quality of democracy caused by neoliberalism and corporate power, and fight back. We need to curb corporate donations and the appointment of managing directors to political office, so that our governments represent us, not big business.

Trump Imposes Gag Order on Government Environmental Scientists

January 28, 2017

The Republican party since the 1980s, if not before, has a bitter hatred of environmentalism and loathes just about any and all laws, movements or protests to protect Earth’s precious natural resources, and the creatures with whom we share our beautiful world. Now Trump’s taken it to its latest development.

In this video, The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s imposition of a legal ban gagging members of the Environmental Protection Agency from releasing details of their work to the general public. Trump has also frozen official funding, so that the Agency may only publish its results and findings if these meet the official, ideological approval of his administration.

Uygur and Kasparian point out that this is intended to keep people ignorant, powerless and deprived of decent science education before Trump’s government. They also point out that this action by the Orange Dictator shows without question that the Republicans are anti-science. It doesn’t matter whether individual Republican voters support Trump’s policy, or they merely have to go along with it because they agree with his others reforms. The Republicans are anti-science, and they should now own it.

They also make the point that in any jobs that may actually be brought back to America through these bans, Americans will be fighting for scraps. The jobs in the petrochemical sectors drilling for oil, which the attacks on the EPA are designed to protect, will not be such to give Americans the standard of living they want. It would make far greater sense for the government to begin investigating in renewables – a whole new industry. At the moment, even the Chinese are beating America in investment and research into renewable energy, because, says Uygur, ‘the Chinese are smart’. But there’s no reasons why America shouldn’t be no. 1 in renewable energy. They’ve got enough sun in Arizona and wind in Chicago, the notorious ‘windy city’.

The Young Turks here are right. This is all about protecting the Republican party’s corporate backers in the petrochemical industry, like the Koch brothers. These two have financed a slew of fake astroturf ‘Green’ organisations and campaigned against genuine climate science produced by independent university laboratories. Koch money has been poured into Unis and state coffers instead to produce very politicised labs that have been set up to deny that climate change is occurring, and that drilling for oil is having a harmful effect on the local landscape of the US. This is despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, such as vast stretches of Louisiana wetland now made little more than one vast oil bog. Or the fact that there were over 300 spills from the oil pipelines crisscrossing America last year. The Kochs and their dollars try to keep facts like these well-hidden from the voters and the folks that have to live with the results of their environmental pillage.

And whatever the Republicans do, the Tories are nearly always bound to follow. The Republicans have heavily embraced fracking, and so have the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers. So you can bet that at this moment, Theresa May, members of her cabinet, or perhaps the members of some Tory think tank somewhere, is looking at these gagging laws, and wondering how something similar can be introduced over here.

Theresa May Stopped Britain Accepting EU Legislation Controlling Immigration

January 19, 2017

This is very interesting stuff, as it hints at all kinds of machinations that have gone on behind the doors of the Tory party to ramp up the controversy about immigration artificially as a way of stoking popular resentment against the EU.

On Sunday, Mike also put up an article forecasting that May’s speech on Tuesday about Brexit would be a disaster, and that it would show her absolute failure to control immigration. Mike was informed by his commenters, Wanda Lozinska and Pat Whitaker that six years ago the EU passed legislation that would limit the time EU citizens could freely circulate in a foreign country to three months. After this time, they would have to show that they either had a job, or could support themselves through their savings or insurance without relying on the host nation’s welfare services. But Britain was one of the few states that did not adopt this legislation.

This was when May was head of the Home Office, which is in charge of immigration.

Mike’s article concludes

So Theresa May has always been able to curb immigration. She simply chose not to.

One has to wonder why not.

Is there a secret aspect to this, that we haven’t been told?

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/15/theresa-mays-brexit-speech-on-tuesday-will-be-about-her-failure-especially-on-immigration/

It looks that way. Of course, there are distinct advantages to big business to keeping up a high immigration rate, regardless of what the Tories may say about the need to curb immigration, national sovereignty and the rest of the guff. A plentiful supply of labour means that wages can be kept low, and unions weak. If your staff start complaining about poor wages and conditions, you can simply sack them and replace them with people even more desperate for work from eastern Europe. You can also keep the working class divided by stoking up nationalistic resentments against foreign nationals. Counterpunch today has put up a very interesting article about how the Jim Crow laws in the southern American states during Segregation served to keep the working class weak and divided by pitting Black and White blue collar Americans at each other’s throats. See Kevin Carson’s article ‘Right to Work and the Apartheid State’, at http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/19/right-to-work-and-the-apartheid-state/. And quite apart from the economic aspects, the Tory party clearly also used immigration from eastern Europe and the EU to pose as the defender of the traditional British population from the threat of all those foreigners, just as its always banged the jingoistic drum against EU legislation when it served their purpose.

It seems to me absolutely certain that May and the Tories have kept immigration high despite, not because of the EU as part of their policy of grinding down the working people of all countries for the enrichment of big business.

Don’t be taken it. The Tories are not the friends of British working people. They want to stoke up insecurity and xenophobia between people of different races and nationalities, all the better to exploit them.

Reject them and their bigotry.

Marx was right: workingmen [and women] of all countries, unite!

And defend the NHS. May and Hunt must resign. Now!

OBR Starts Scaremongering over Projected Cost of NHS over Next Half Century

January 18, 2017

Mike put up a story today about a report from the OBR claiming that the NHS’ budget will have to be increased by £88 bn over the next 50 years. They claim that in order to meet those costs, other parts of the government’s budget would have to be cut. Indeed, the amount of money that would need to be spent on the NHS to meet demand would make the budget generally ‘unsustainable’, according to the report Mike quotes from the Graoniad.

Mike calls this scaremongering, and points out that there are plenty of ways costs could be reduced to acceptable and sustainable levels.

* Like making sure people have access to cheap drugs. Again, this is not something the Tories want. A few years ago, their Health Minister, Alistair Burt, actually filibustered a bill that would have allowed the government to seek new licences on unpatented drugs that would have allowed the NHS to purchase cheaper medicines. As Mike points out, Burt’s obstructive speechifying in parliament added millions to the NHS bill then. All to benefit big pharma against the NHS and the people of this country. Even those with private medical coverage.

* The pressure on beds through bed-blocking by healthy people with nowhere else to go could be solved through more funding for care homes, and raising the social care budget so that family members could care for elderly relatives at home.

* Some healthcare costs will be reduced through ordinary progress, as people become better aware of the risks to their health, and take care to avoid them.

* The costs of healthcare could also be cut by actually reversing the Tories’ attacks on health and safety legislation. Mike also points out that workers’ health can be improved by paying them better, as low pay causes more stress, and damages their mental and physical health. But as he also points out, Conservative supporting bosses get very upset if you point that out to them.

* And you can also cut £22 billion from the NHS’ budget by getting rid of the all the contracts given to private healthcare companies.

Mike states that all that’s needed is the will to try doing things in a better way. Starting by kicking out May and the Tories.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/18/new-scaremongering-over-cost-of-nhs-ignores-vast-possibilities-for-change/

There’s a lot more that could be said here, not least about the OBR itself. I’ve got a feeling it was established by the Tories. Whoever set it up, I am sure that the Office of Budgetary Responsibility was set up to ‘lock-in’ the cuts to government spending by providing a spurious statistical legitimacy to the neoliberal doctrine of limiting government expenditure to the bare minimum. You can see it in the departments’ very name: Budgetary Responsibility. Not ‘Fiscal Effectiveness’ or ‘Efficiency’, but ‘Budgetary Responsibility’. It’s to reinforce the message that spending as little as possible of taxpayers’ money is ‘responsible’. It’s part of the Tory refrain that they represent ‘responsible’ government expenditure as opposed to ‘high-spending’ Labour. Which is a colossal myth. Under the Labour party, as Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis make clear in their NHS-SOS, the NHS was in budget.

This piece by the OBR also comes after the Tories have been rightly under attack for the crisis in the English NHS.

It therefore looks to me very like a Tory department issuing a very dubious budgetary speculation in order to justify the Tory round of cuts and privatisation. My calls it scaremongering, and also says at the beginning of his article that it’s trying to scare people into accepting the health service’s privatisation. He also makes clear that if that’s what they’re trying to do, they’ll have to try a lot harder.

Mike also wonders how much private healthcare will also cost by 2067.

That’s a very good question.

There is now a considerable movement for single-payer health care now in America, despite the intention of the Orange Nazi who’s going to be their next president to repeal Obamacare, and privatise social security, Medicare and Medicaid. The reason’s simple. Private healthcare in America is now massively expensive. It’s now so expensive that about a fifth of Americans can’t afford it. It also costs the American government far more than the NHS. In fact, if you look at the stats, America is one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the developed world.

And one of the most cost-efficient is the NHS. Or was, before Cameron and May took over and started to wreck it.

And in fact, if you look at the comparative stats, you find that Britain spent far less on its health service than other European countries. That was deliberate. It was under the Tories, once again, that Britain stopped funding our state healthcare at the same rate the Europeans funded theirs. Because the Tories have always hated spending money on the NHS.

You saw it a couple of years after the Health Service was introduced by Nye Bevan. A group of right-wing Tory MPs then got up on their hind legs to start shouting that the NHS was too expensive for the country. They lost the argument, but obviously never went away. They came back under Thatcher, and have been running the NHS down ever since.

And it’s because American healthcare is so expensive, that the private healthcare companies have crossed the Atlantic are trying to have our state healthcare privatised. Put simply, they’re having difficulty squeezing any more out of the Americans. So they came over here, and started whispering their blandishments to Tony Blair, who never met a rich, dodgy businessman he didn’t like. They didn’t need to do much persuading for the Tories, as the party of the rich, mendacious and exploitative was already well stocked with people, who stood to make a killing if the NHS was privatised.

And as private healthcare means that unless you can pay, you die, killing is precisely the right word.

This load of stats is sheer propaganda and scaremongering by a Tory-staffed government department for the Tories. Ignore it.

Work to rebuild the NHS.

Kick out the Tories.

May and Hunt must resign. Now!

Tories Manufacture Dispute with GPs to Destroy NHS. Again.

January 14, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political today posted a truly chilling story for everyone who genuinely believes in and supports the NHS. He quotes a former deputy chair of the British Medical Association, Dr. Kailash Chand, as saying that doctors are now so sick and tired of being scapegoated by May and her lickspittle puppet, Jeremy Hunt, that they are considering disaffiliating from the NHS. Doctors are rightly annoyed at being blamed by the Tories for the crisis caused by the underfunding of the NHS. Mike’s article also reports that they are also angered by May’s demands that they run a service from 8 am in the morning to 8 pm at night, seven days a week. If they do not do so, they will losing their funding. Unless they say that there is no demand for it from their patients.

Dr. Chand has said about the attacks on GPs for the gross failure of the Tories

“I think making this particular statement at this minute is essentially scapegoating. [May] has got to find something, she can’t blame [the health secretary] Jeremy Hunt for this, or her own government.

“She’s got to find a scapegoat and GPs are probably the easiest scapegoat in this way because your rival papers, like the Daily Mail, all the time are giving the public the view that GPs don’t work and GPs are working only nine-to-five, which is nonsense.”

Mike in his article makes the point that this is exactly what Theresa May wants and will bring the prospect of a private, for-profit health system like that in America closer. He makes the excellent point that tyrants like May should not be given what they want, and recommends that doctors should set up charities as a way of blocking her plans to foist this on the economy. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it could be an effective stop-gap until a Labour government is elected that will renationalise the NHS.

His article ends

Theresa and her Tories must be defeated here. Much more depends on it than simply the NHS in England (and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, whose funding is dependent on the English service receiving cash).

Let’s have a contingency plan ready, for the moment the worst prime minister in UK history does the worst thing she possibly can. Because I think she will.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/14/if-gps-disaffiliate-from-the-nhs-how-about-forming-charities-to-thwart-theresa-may/

Right-wing governments, including that of Tony Blair, have wanted to privatise the NHS for a very long time now. Thatcher wanted to do so in the 1980s, but was stopped by a cabinet revolt, and by finding out just how bad the American system. Nevertheless, she still wanted 25 per cent of the British population to take out private health insurance. And she also tried again to moot its privatisation a few years later.

John Major introduced the PFI scheme specifically so privatise enterprise could take over the construction and management of hospitals. It had nothing to do with efficiency or savings, and everything to do with allowing his paymasters in private health the opportunity to profit from this part of the state economy. And after his government was replaced by New Labour, Blair introduced a series of reforms which were further intended to privatise the NHS. Apart from granting more contracts to private firms and hospitals, he also wanted to replace GPs’ surgeries with polyclinics or walk-in centres, which were also supposed to be privately run. He also set up Community Care Groups, of local GPs, to manage doctors’ surgeries in the area. These were intended to have the power to arrange treatment from private healthcare providers. They are also able to opt out of the NHS, and raise money as private healthcare firms, if they so choose.

Now May and Hunt are deliberately stirring up a dispute with doctors, so that many will leave the Service altogether. Many parts of the country, including my own in south Bristol, have trouble finding staff thanks to the contrived departure of many medical professionals due to Tory policies. This is another attempt to force even more out.

This is not something that May’s just dreamed up out of the blue either. She’s taken a leaf from that other great Tory leader, Maggie Thatcher. I can remember thirty years ago when Thatcher contrived a dispute with the dentists, which resulted in them leaving the NHS. She refused to award them a rise in funding, which the dentists claimed was needed because of their use of expensive equipment.

As a result, many left the NHS, so that today those unable to pay privately may have great difficulty finding a dentist willing to treat NHS patients.

May is doing the same now with doctors.

She has to be stopped, before we go back to the conditions of horrifically poor health provision for everyone except the very rich before the establishment of the NHS under Nye Bevan.

Jeremy Corbyn Suggests Capping Director’s Pay – Media Goes Ballistic

January 11, 2017

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting on another good suggestion from Jeremy Corbyn, and the predictable response of outrage and sneering from the meejah. The Labour leader had said on an interview on Radio 4 yesterday morning that he believed that there should be a cap on the pay earned by company directors and senior execs. The media naturally responded by pointing out that Corbyn has an annual pay of £138,000 a year, and tried to draw him into giving a price figure for what the maximum amount earned should be.

The story got onto the One Show yesterday evening, where they did a brief survey of people in the street. Opinions were, as they say, mixed. One elderly objected to the cap on the grounds that it might take away the incentive for people rising to the top. Looking at the headlines on the various papers this morning, it was very clear that it had riled someone at the Torygraph, as this was the story they shoved on their front cover. Other newspapers, like Mail, led by claiming that Labour’s policy in immigration was ‘in disarray’. Mike’s also written another article this week showing that’s also rubbish.

Mike in his article makes the point that compared to some of the vast, bloated salaries awarded to company executives, Corbyn’s own salary appears very modest indeed. He suggests that it is stupid to try to lay down a particular set figure – it should be based on company turnover and the lowest wage earned by an employee at that company. He also makes the point that the casting of particular star actors can make a great difference to how well a movie does, and that when this happens, everyone else who worked on the movie should also enjoy the films’ financial awards.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/10/if-we-examine-who-is-complaining-about-corbyns-maximum-wage-idea-well-know-why/

This is all correct. And there’s something else that needs to be added:

Japan already has maximum wage legislation.

Yep, it’s true. Japan is one of the world’s five wealthy countries with a very capitalist economy. The centre right Liberal Democratic party has ruled the country almost uninterrupted since the Second World War. And it also has a cap on how much company directors may be paid. I think it’s set at about 20 times that of the lowest paid employee, but I am not sure.

And the limitation of wage differentials is not something that has been simply added on in the course of reform, but an integral part of the dominant, guiding vision of the nature of Japanese society. East Asian societies can be extremely collectivist, stressing group loyalty over individual opportunity or achievement. In Japan the goal was to create a harmonious, middle class society, where there would be no extremes in wealth or poverty. This isn’t quite the case, as the Burakami, an outcast group rather like the Dalits in India, and those of Korean descent are still subject to massive poverty and discrimination.

The Japanese have also tried to justify their collectivist outlook through racist pseudo-anthropology. One school textbook claimed that Japanese society was more collectivist and co-operative because the Japanese people were descended from agriculturalists, who had to forge strong links with each other in order to cultivate and harvest rice. We Westerners, however, were all isolated individualists because we’re all descended from hunter-gatherers.

As anthropology, it’s rubbish, of course. Some social historians have argued that agricultural societies are more prone to tyranny and absolute government, which would include the type of Asian absolute monarchies described by Western observers as ‘oriental despotism’. But all human societies were originally hunter-gatherers, including the Japanese. And European society has practised settled agriculture since the beginning of the Neolithic 6,000 years ago.

The origins of Japanese and East Asian collectivism probably lie more in the influence of Confucianism, which stressed the right relationships between the members of society, such as between the prince and the people, and between elders, parents and children, and the still powerful influence of feudalism in structuring social relationships. Instead of a samurai warrior giving his loyalty and service to a daimyo feudal lord, it’s now the sarariman – the corporate warrior – becoming part of the retinue of company employees under the lordship of the director.

And European individualism probably comes not from any vestiges of our hunter-gatherer deep past, but from the effect of Hobbesian Social Contract political theorising and the free trade economics of the French Physiocrats and Adam Smith. Hobbes has been described as the first, of one of the first philosophers of the emerging bourgeois society of the 17th century. This was the period which saw Cromwell sweep away the last vestiges of feudalism in England, and the emergence of modern capitalism. But Hobbes’ philosophy views people as social atoms, all competing against each other, as opposed to other views of society, which may stress the importance of collective or corporate identities and loyalties, such as family, feudal lordship or membership of trade and professional bodies. Similarly, the founders of the economic theories of modern capitalism, such as the Physiocrats in France and Adam Smith and in Scotland, also stressed unrestrained individual competition. They were also specifically arguing against the mercantilist system, in which the state regulated trade. For example, in the 17th and 18th centuries the British government enacted a series of legislation governing trade with its emerging colonies, so as to tie them to the economy of the home country, which would benefit from their products. Modern Western individualism come from these theories of capitalist society and the perceived operation of its economy.

The collectivist nature of Japanese society also expresses itself in other ways in the structure and management of Japanese corporations. Singing the company song in the morning is one example. Management are also encouraged or required to share the same canteen as the workers on the shop floor. Both of these practices, and no doubt many others, are designed to foster group solidarity, so that management and workers work together for the good of the company.

This isn’t a perfect system, by any means. Apart from the immense pressure placed on individuals in a society that places such heavy emphasis on the value of hard work, that individuals actually keel over and die because of it when doing their jobs, it has also made Japanese society and corporations extremely resistant to change. Confucianism places great stress on respect for one’s elders and superiors. While respect for the older generation is an admirable virtue, and one which our society in many ways is sadly lacking, in Japan it has resulted in a mindset which resists change or apportioning due blame for historical crimes and atrocities.

At the corporate level, the slow down of the Japanese economy in the 1990s meant there was no longer such a pressing need for company staff to work such long hours. However, so great is the corporate inertia, that staff still feel that they have to keep working past six O’clock in the evening, even if there is little or no work to do, because they don’t want to be seen as breaking with the approved practices of previous generations of employees.

And at the national level, it has been suggested that the exaggerated respect for one’s elders and ancestors is the reason why Japan has had such immense difficulty confronting the atrocities their nation committed during the Second World War. Japanese school texts and official histories have been criticised because they’d don’t discuss the atrocities committed by the imperial Japanese army. One school textbook even talked about the army’s ‘advance’ through Asia, rather than its invasion. The reason for this failure to admit the existence of these crimes, and criticise those who perpetrated them, is that respect for one’s elders and social superiors is so engrained in Japanese society, that except for a few extremely courageous mavericks, casting shame on those responsible for such horrors and, by implication, the whole of society during this period, is unacceptable. Even though many over on this side of the Eurasian landmass would consider that a failure to confront the atrocities committed by one’s nation to be even more shameful.

Japanese and Asian collectivism is not, then, perfect. But a maximum wage cap certainly did not hinder Japan’s advance to become one of the world’s foremost industrial countries. And the goal of creating a harmonious, co-operative society where there is little disparity in wealth is a good one.

The title of Mike’s article on Corbyn’s suggestion for a maximum wage states that the identities of those complaining about it reveal why they’re doing so. Indeed. The proprietors and leading executives of newspaper companies, like the Barclay twins at the Torygraph, have awarded themselves immense salaries. They’re multimillionaires. This wealth is increasingly not being shared with the hacks, who do the actual work of putting the paper out. The Torygraph has been particularly struck with declining sales to the point that Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column regularly reported further job cuts. Many of the big newspaper companies depend on the work of unpaid interns, particularly the Groaniad. And even if they’re not being threatened with the sack, conditions for the paid staff are becoming increasingly Orwellian. For example, the Eye reported a few months ago that one of the managers at the Torygraph had tried to install motion detectors on the staff’s desks to prevent them moving around too much, just like the staff at call centres are also monitored. The hacks were so annoyed, however, that management had to back down and the motion detectors were removed.

As for the film industry, the presence of big name Hollywood stars can sink a movie simply through the sheer expense of paying. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger was paid $7 million for his appearance in the second Terminator movie. While that was a box office success, the presence of ‘A’ list celebrities in a movie does not guarantee that a film will be a success. One of the reasons why the film Ishtar became such a notorious flop in the 1990s was that the producers cast three major stars, who all commanded multi-million dollar salaries. This pushed the bill for the movie towards $20 million or so, even before the film had been shot. The film was thus under financial pressure from the start.

Apart from the Japanese, there are other, successful European nations that also deliberately avoid huge inequalities in wealth. One of these is Denmark. The newspapers have been full of articles analysing and celebrating the traditional Danish concept of ‘hygge’. This has been translated as ‘cosiness’, but it actually means much more than that. The way I’ve heard it explained by a Danish friend, it’s about being content with the homely necessities. I got the distinct impression that it was similar to the Swedish notion of ‘lagom’, which translates as ‘just enough’. You make just enough to satisfy your basic needs, but no more. And from what I’ve heard about Danish society, the social attitude there is that no-one should try to appear ostentatiously better off than anyone else. This is not to say that everyone has to do the same low-paid job, or that they should not earn more than anyone else. But it does mean that they should not be conspicuously more affluent.

This is the complete opposite from the values promoted and celebrated by Thatcher and the wretched ‘New Right’ of the 1980s. They demanded making conditions harsher for the poor, and giving ever larger salaries to management on the grounds that this would act as an incentive for others to do well and try to climb up the corporate and social ladder. The result has been the emergence of a tiny minority, who are massively wealthy – the 1%. Like the Barclay twins, Rupert Murdoch and just about every member of Theresa May’s cabinet. For everyone else, wages have stagnated to the point where a considerable number are finding it very difficult to make ends meet.

But wage caps and an attitude that discourages inequalities of wealth have not harmed Japan, nor Denmark and Sweden, which also have very strong economies and a very high standard of living.

The massive difference between the millions earned by the heads of the big corporations has been a scandal here in Britain, to the point where David Cameron and May made noises urging company directors to restrain their greed. Corbyn’s suggestion is eminently sensible, if Britain is to be a genuinely inclusive, prosperous society. The outrage shown by various media execs to it shows that the Tories are still committed to a policy of poverty for the many, riches for a very few. And all their concern at reining in executive pay is just platitudes to make it appear that they’re concerned when the issue becomes too embarrassing.

Trump and Putin Revive Nuclear Arms Race

December 24, 2016

Yesterday, Mike put up another piece commenting on statements by the American president-elect and Vladimir Putin that they want to strengthen their countries’ nuclear arsenals. Trump had made a tweet on Thursday saying “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

Trump did so the same day that Putin issued his own statement, declaring that “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems.”

Mike makes the point that the threat of nuclear Armageddon will not make the world more secure. It will not make rogue states like North Korea abandon their nuclear programmes. Instead, Mike urged us to listen to George Takei, whose family personally experienced the horror of the atomic bomb in Japan in World War II.

Star Trek’s Mr Sulu tweeted “Trump wants to expand our nuclear arsenal. I think of my aunt and baby cousin, found burnt in a ditch in Hiroshima. These weapons must go.”

Absolutely. I can remember the very large, and vocal demonstrations against nuclear weapons in Japan during the new Cold War of the 1980s. The Japanese had every good reason to demand the reduction and abandonment of the world’s nuclear arsenals: their country had experienced the terrible carnage produced by these horrific weapons.

Mike also reports that back in May, Trump also stated that he would support South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia acquiring nuclear weapons for their own protection.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/23/why-are-trump-and-putin-suddenly-keen-to-revive-the-cold-war/

Mike’s also reported that Trump has followed up his idiotic tweet by making his intentions clear in an interview with Mika Brzezinski, one of the presenters on MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme. He said, ‘Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all’.

Mike makes the point that his comments risk needlessly inflaming tensions with Russia, pointing out that what is currently repeated in the western media about eastern Europe and the Middle East is propaganda designed to manipulate public opinion. He also argues that Putin could adopt the opposite approach, and concentrate on saving precious money and resources through the same policy, that has been considered by Labour Jeremy Corbyn. This means killing or otherwise neutralising terrorists’ leaders through surgical strikes, leaving them without effective military direction.

He also points out that technological weapons are also increasingly susceptible to infiltration and sabotage.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/24/while-trump-spends-all-his-money-on-nuclear-weapons-what-will-the-russians-do/

Trump’s determination to ramp up America’s nuclear arsenal is bizarre, given his previous statements during his presidential campaign in which he deliberately gave the impression that he would be scaling down America’s military intervention around the globe. However, on examination this does seem very much in line with Trump’s determination to go back on every single one of his election promises, with the exception of repealing Obamacare.

Remember the noise he was making about going to Washington to ‘drain the swamp’, and would stop the corporate domination and corruption of Congress? That’s gone. After attacking Hillary for being a fully paid-up stooge for Wall Street, Trump has himself gone and appointed Wall Street bankers – including one from Goldman Sachs – to his cabinet. In fact, if anything, he’s increased the amount of corporate corruption. He’s allowed his daughter, Ivanka, to stay with him during negotiations with heads of government in either Japan or China, despite the fact that Ivanka Trump is also a businesswoman, who could use the information from these interviews to gain a clear economic advantage. And his sons have been raising money for their father by selling tickets to the extremely and not-quite-so filthy rich for them to attend dinners with him and go on hunting trips. All Trump’s talk about tackling corporate power has been a lie. Instead, it’s very much business as usual.

And it appears to be very much the same here. Counterpunch has published several articles over the past couple of months discussing how Barack Obama has been talking to senior military staff in Washington. He has already started to expand America’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons. He has also considered the possible use of low-megaton ‘battle field’ nukes in a limited nuclear war in Europe. The American comedian Jimmy Dore has several times ripped into Obama on his internet show, bitterly attacking the false image of the soon to be ex-president as some kind of dove and peacemaker. Far from stopping wars, Obama has carried on George Dubya’s brutal military policies in the Middle East, from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, as well as Libya and Somalia. And so this new policy, announced by Trump, really isn’t new at all. It is, as Max Headroom used to say, merely ‘more… of the same’. The difference here is that Max was a fictional character with a satirical edge talking about pop music. The pilot for his series, 20 Minutes into the Future, showed a decaying Britain with massive poverty and homelessness, dominated by ruthless and unscrupulous media corporations. It’s a dystopian vision that is still very relevant today, even if the human brain is far too complicated to be successfully mapped and modelled electronically to produce an AI like Max.

As for the reason behind this dangerous policy, Counterpunch also published a piece describing Hillary Clinton’s vision of America’s role in the world. She seemed to be intent on expanding America’s military power to the utmost. She and the rest of the hawks talked about ‘full spectrum domination’, which means that America is the superior, dominant military superpower with the ability to bomb everyone else back into submission. At the same time, her domestic policies were aimed at keeping the working class as poor and as desperate as possible, so that she could sell American products cheaply to the emerging east Asian market.

It’s also been argued that America spends so much on the military because it is the only way that the American state can stimulate the country’s economy. Leftwing commenters and political analysts have argued that the experience of the Second World War after the Great Depression taught the American industrial and political class that America needed state intervention to create prosperity. This is, however, the Keynsian economic position, which is vehemently rejected by the Republicans and Libertarians as ‘socialism’ or even ‘Communism’. The only way the American state can effectively intervene in the American economy in a manner that is ideologically acceptable, is by doing what the Nazis and Fascists did in Germany and Italy, and invest massively in a re-armament programme. And like the Fascist states, the state has to use its armed forces to maintain its investments and public support for the rearmament programme. This was part of the reason for the outbreak of the Second World War.

As for Trump’s statement that he is prepared to allow South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons, this is grossly irresponsible. Especially in the case of Saudi Arabia. In the case of Japan, it unacceptable for the same reason that the country has difficulty launching its own spacecraft. In the 1980s Japan developed its own rocket launcher to carry its satellites and probes into space. One of these probes was amongst the small flotilla of spacecraft that met Halley’s Comet in 1986. From what I’ve read, the country has only used its launcher a few times because of fears that it would be taken as a missile attack by the Chinese. The same would be true of South Korea. Political scientists and foreign policy analysts have argued very strongly against threatening China, as they respond by passing on nuclear technology and armaments to other nations, such as Pakistan.

And I cannot imagine anything more stupid, more calculated to result a nuclear holocaust, than giving atomic weapons to Saudi Arabia. This is a militant theocracy that has sponsored horrific terror campaigns throughout the Middle East and against America itself. Elements within the Saudi aristocracy and political elite, including its intelligence minister and possibly, if I remember correctly, the current king, sponsored al-Qaeda and ISIS. Terrorist organisations like them, who use suicide bombers and deliberately target civilians, simply cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. But that is what would happen if Trump allowed Saudi Arabia to acquire them.

Trump’s renewal of the nuclear arms race is therefore simply a continuation of Bush’s, Obama’s and Hillary’s arms policies. And it’s insane. During the Cold War of the last century, there were at least three instances where NATO and the former Warsaw Pact were on the edge of full-scale nuclear war. We escaped some of these by the skin of our teeth. This time, we may not be so lucky.