Posts Tagged ‘Hedge Funds’

Hammond Blames the Disabled for Fall in Productivity

December 7, 2017

This is another outrageous statement. But it really doesn’t come as a surprise, as it was mouthed by the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, a poisonous incompetent amongst a government of poisonous incompetents.

When Hammond was asked about the fall in British productivity, he responded by blaming it on the inclusion of various marginal groups in the workforce, such as the disabled. Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece commenting on this stupid, insensitive and mendacious reply. He points out that if productivity has fallen, it might have something to do with a lack of motivation coming from insultingly low pay, poor nutrition, overwork, tiredness and anxiety due to zero hours contracts to care about profits or productivity.

He also points out that, thanks to May’s government fully supporting poor wages and precarity, employers now find it cheaper to employ people under these wretched conditions than invest in new equipment.

Mike also points out that Hammond’s comments follow the usual Tory line of blaming and demonising the disabled. But this doesn’t mean that they’re coming for them to throw them in the gas ovens just yet. No, they’re just content to let the stress of dealing with the benefit system either worsen their mental health, or force them to commit suicide. All while denying that people are being driven to take their own lives by the stress of their benefit reforms.

This is despite suicide notes left behind by those who have committed suicide, explicitly saying that this is why they have been reduced to taking their own lives.

And Mike also rightly notes how DWP staff are asking people with suicidal tendencies why they haven’t taken their own lives. Which sounds like a question from the infamous ‘Nudge’ Unit, the psychological manipulation department set up to manoeuvre people’s thinking so that they come to the decision the authorities want.

Mike also quotes Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, who has condemned Hammond’s comments, pointing out that disabled people are paying the price for the government’s failed austerity policy. This has included scrapping the schemes to get disabled people into the workforce. She states that we should be doing more to get disabled people into work, and definitely not denigrate their contributions. She went on to demand an apology from Hammond.

Abrahams also points out the contradiction that’s also hidden in Hammond’s statement. He states that there are more disabled people in the workforce, which we should be proud of, but the Tories have actually cut the programmes to get the disabled into work, as well as scrapping their manifesto pledge to halve the gap between the employment rates for disabled and able people.

You can’t have it both ways, so one way or another, Hammond is clearly lying.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/07/chancellor-blames-fall-in-uk-productivity-on-disabled-people-in-the-workforce/

Hammond’s comment is disgusting, but it is more or less standard Tory replies. The Tories’ entire economic strategy is to prolong the deficit crisis as long as possible, so they have an excuse for cutting welfare benefits, privatising whatever remains of the state sector, including education, and removing workers’ rights. All to create a cowed, beaten workforce that will accept starvation wages, for the benefit of ultra-rich profiteers, including the banksters, hedge fund managers and multinational corporations that are currently keeping their wretched party afloat.

At the same time, they desperately need a scapegoat. Usually this function is filled by the unions, who provide them with an excuse for taking away more workers’ rights while at the same time trying to dismember the Labour party by attacking its foundations in the trade union movement. But as no-one’s currently on strike, they can’t do it.

So Spreadsheet Phil has to blame the disabled.

As with everything else the Tories utter, a few moment’s thought can show that the reality may be the very opposite of what they’re saying. Let’s examine Hammond’s statement that the fall in productivity is due to too many disabled people in the workforce. Quite apart from the fact that, as Mike has pointed out, the Tories have actually cut initiatives to stop disabled people finding work, you can find reasons how disabled people in the workforce may actually be a boost to productivity.

Firstly, there’s the obvious point that just because a person suffers from one type of disability does not mean that they are totally incapable of work. One of the blokes I met years ago was a computer whizzkid, who was totally paralysed from the neck down. But he was very, very good at his job, and was earning a very high salary for his skill. Which he clearly earned and deserved. Despite the problems of dealing with this gent’s handicap, his firm clearly found it well worth their while to employ him. And he wasn’t the only one. I’ve heard of other, physically disabled people with mobility problems, who have also pursued successful careers in computing. Clearly, these peeps are anything but unproductive individuals.

Disabled people also act to stimulate innovation. I blogged a little while ago about how the robotics department at the University of the West of England in Bristol had set up a company to manufacture and sell their artificial hands, which are designed specifically for children. Never mind the hype and bullsh*t about self-driving cars: this is precisely the type of robotics we need. This technology is making it possible for disabled children and their parents to have more normal, better lives. It is positively enabling them, giving them the ability to do things that they otherwise couldn’t do, or would find more difficult. The technology is brilliant, and I’m sure will have other applications as well. And its effect on the children is liberating and empowering. If adults with similar disabilities also have access to improved artificial limbs, then you can expect that their productivity will also improve, as well as simply quality of life.

And this can be said of almost any technical innovation that improves the lives of disabled people, and gives them more independence and freedom, if only a little.

Then there’s the fact that disabled people, like everyone else, contribute to the economy. They have to eat, pay bills and the rent or mortgage. Getting disabled people into proper paid employment, rather than just subsisting on whatever benefits the DWP deigns to throw their way, means that they have surplus cash to spend. Which means that their purchasing power also pumps more money into the economy, and encourages manufacturers to produce more.

And the disabled have also contributed to British culture. Remember Evelyn Glennie, a drummer with one of our orchestras? She’s actually deaf, but that hasn’t prevented her from excelling at her instrument. And those of us, who were kids in the 1970s will remember the brilliant madness that was Vision On. This was a show for deaf children, so that the dialogue was signed as well as spoken. Much of it was silent, accompanied only by music. Among those on the show were Sylvester McCoy as a mad professor, a couple of young animators, who went on to form Aardman Animations, and the artistic genius that was Tony Hart. It also launched the career of another star, at least down here in Bristol: Morph, the mischievous plasticene man, who acted as a kind of comic foil to Hart’s artistic endeavours. The show brought joy to millions of kids, both deaf and hearing, and part of its legacy has been Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts and the other films to come out of Aardman. Vision On is remarkable because, by taking the job seriously and doing it well, it became more than a programme aimed at children with a particular type of disability, and was a massive source of TV creativity.

This makes me wonder about the possible potential out there for other programmes aimed at or with a disable audience, that could also do the same today.

But this is all too much for their Tories. Their whole philosophy is based around grinding their social inferiors down, and then blaming them for their poverty.

But this also shows how desperate the Tories are getting, and how they’re running out of plausible excuses.

Once upon a time, they would simply have blamed British workers, claiming that we’re too lazy, work shorter hours and go on strike more than our French or German competitors. But they can’t do that, as it’s notorious that we work far longer hours than them. In fact, the Germans even make jokes about how we work ourselves into the ground, but nothing in this country still works properly. So that excuse simply won’t do. You still hear though, occasionally, from the odd CEO windbag, who feels like giving the rest of us the benefit of his decades of ignorance. But it’s very definitely not true, and Hammond knows it. Thus he’s been reduced to blaming the disabled.

I’m sick of him, sick of this government, and sick of their lies and bullying – of the disabled and of ordinary working people. Debbie Abrahams is right: Hammond should apologise. And then I want him and his vile government cleaned out like the parasites they are.

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TYT Cover Panel on the End of Neoliberalism at Labour Party Conference

October 22, 2017

This is another video produced by the progressive American news service, The Young Turks, of the Labour conference at Brighton the week before last. The panel was entitled ‘Welcome to the End of the Neoliberalism’. Held in a dingy nightclub, the female host jokes about how her audience can say exactly where they were when neoliberalism ended, and that, as with nearly all revolutions, the women were first and the men came late.

With her on the panel were Paul Mason, a former Channel 4 journo, playwright, documentary film maker, and the author of the book ‘Postcapitalism’; Jo Littler, an academic, who specialises in cultures of consumption, and the author of a book on meritocracy, pointing out that this is precisely what it isn’t, as meritocracy is a system that reinforces minority, elite rule; Valary Alzaga, a labour organiser working with the people at neoliberalism’s sharp end in precarity; and Clive Lewis, the MP for Norwich.

Paul Mason begins the discussion by trying to describe what neoliberalism is in reality, rather than neoliberalism as a collection of ideas. In doing so he states that he has annoyed the Adam Smith Institute. And he includes not only the perfect, ideal capitalist states of the West, but also mercantilist states like China, as they are now part of the same global system. He states that you could go back to the German ordoliberals to describe it, and to people like Von Hayek and the Chicago School. But he begins with Peugeot’s definition of its aims at a meeting in Paris in 1938. This described precisely what neoliberalism is not: it is not traditional laissez-faire economics. The early neoliberals realised that if markets and market forces were left on their own, the result would be monopolies that would be nationalised by the state, according to Marxist doctrine and praxis. So they sought to enforce competition at every level. This means not only privatisation, and the introduction of legislation to force companies to compete, but also the creation of competition as a mindset to keep working people isolated and competing against each other.

The result can be seen in the favelas – the deprived slums – of Latin America, where you have poor people living in former factories that have closed down. Then the housing association is dissolved, and the mob moves in, as only through organised crime is there safety. And Mason states very clearly that it isn’t only in Latin America that this process has occurred. It’s also happened in many of the towns in the north of England, where industry has been gutted and forced overseas, and the result has been a massive upsurge in crime.

He goes on to state that at first neoliberalism was devised so the rich West could exploit Latin America. But after the Fall of Communism opened up the 20 per cent of the world market that was the former eastern bloc, it became a global system. However, neoliberalism is now collapsing. It produces a series of crises, and so rightwing politicians like Trump, rather than destroying it, are producing nationalist versions of neoliberalism. That is, they are turning away from it as a system of international trade, but still enforcing it in their own countries as a system of private ownership that excludes and exploits the poor.

Jo Littler says much the same as Mason in a much briefer speech. She refers to it as ‘disembowelling’ the public, meaning the enforced privatisation of public services. She also describes how two of the sources for neoliberalism were the German Ordoliberals, who turned away from the state-managed economy of the Nazis, and von Hayek and the Chicago school. She also mentions how it was first proposed by the Montpelerin meeting in Paris. And she also makes the point that it took a long time for them to have their ideas accepted, as until the Chicago School, Pinochet and Thatcher they were isolated cranks and weirdoes.

Valary Alzaga explains that she is a care worker, who are some of the most poorly paid workers with the most precarious jobs. She describes how, under neoliberal capitalism, care homes have been privatised, bought up by hedge funds and venture capitalists, who have then gone on to sell off whatever was profit-making. As for care workers, neoliberalism means that if they try to form a union, they are immediately sacked. Under socialism and Keynsianism there was a social pact, by which employers and the state recognised the rights of workers to form trade unions and bargain for better pay and conditions. This no longer exists.

Clive Lewis, who to my mind looks like a younger version of Noel Clarke, the actor, who played Rose Tyler’s boyfriend in Dr. Who, is an economics graduate. He describes how, when he was studying it, he and the other students were filled with its doctrines, but no-one ever mentioned the word. He only woke up to what it was and really meant when he happened to go on a summer course about it. He describes this in terms of a religious revelation. He says it was as if he’d been deprogrammed. When he returned, his friends complained that it was as if he’d joined a cult, because all he talked about was neoliberalism, neoliberalism and neoliberalism.

He states that the goal of von Hayek wasn’t to set up an independent party, as he was asked by one of his followers. He wanted instead to permeate the academic institutions, like the universities and take over the whole system. And so this resulted in Blair and Brown accepting it as absolutely true, and introducing it into the Labour party. He refers to the story, which he thinks was apocryphal, about Thatcher being asked what her greatest achievement was. Instead of pointing to one of her wretched privatisations, she said it was Tony Blair and New Labour. Lewis states that their adoption of neoliberalism is unforgivable with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight but you have to understand the state of British politics at the time.

This is a fascinating analysis of the rise and destructive effects of neoliberalism. Robin Ramsay, the editor of ‘Lobster’, also studied economics in the late ’60s – early ’70s, and he states that Thatcher’s beloved Monetarism was considered so much rubbish that his lecturers didn’t even bother arguing against it. And before Thatcherism turned to mass privatisation and the idolatrous adulation of the free market after 1981-2, neoliberalism was considered very much an extreme doctrine held only by cranks. Which is what it should return to being.

As for annoying the Adam Smith Institute, they have been pushing for the complete privatisation of all state assets, including the NHS since the 1970s, so annoying them is, in my view, a good and holy occupation. And in amongst their dissection of neoliberalism they also have a gibe at Jacob Rees-Mogg, which is also always a good thing.

Blair Should Be Thrown Out of the Labour Party for Urging People to Vote Lib Dem or Tory

April 24, 2017

Mike also put up a piece yesterday commenting on the news that the former Labour leader, Tony Blair, had urged people to put party differences aside and vote for a Conservative or Lib Dem candidate if they have an ‘open mind’ about the Brexit deal. He said he wanted to maximise the number of people willing to stop May ‘steamrolling’ a hard Brexit.

Mike quotes a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn, who said

“On 9 June, we will either have a Labour government or a Tory one. If you want Brexit to be used to turn Britain into a low-wage tax haven, vote Tory. If you want a Britain for the many not the few after Brexit, vote Labour. The choice is clear.”

This is absolutely correct. If you vote Tory, you will be voting for more poverty, more starvation and more privatisation of the NHS, all to turn Britain into an offshore tax haven. Lobster examined the source of Tory funds a few years ago. Guess what? They’re not coming from their grassroots members. Membership of the party was falling, and some branches were closed to new members. Others had closed entirely. And the grassroots members were complaining that they were being ignored by the party bosses. The Tories simply don’t have enough coming in from party subscriptions to support them. At the moment it seems that the party is being funded primarily by American hedge fund managers in London.

Mike also states, quite correctly, that Blair should be thrown out of the party for encouraging people to vote against it. He’s right. This is against the Labour party constitution. He also states he agrees absolutely with Eoin Clark that Blair’s administration was far better than the Tories under May. Well, you really can’t argue against that.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/23/tony-blair-should-be-drummed-out-of-labour-after-urging-voters-to-support-other-parties/

But this latest comment shows how tenuous Blair’s own connection to the Labour party was. Lobster and other political commenters have made the point that Blair and the New Labour coterie’s support for the Labour party was only tribal, not ideological. Blair himself also seems to have said that he joined the Labour party because he believed he had a better chance at promotion within it than any of the others. Once in power, he threatened to tear the party’s heart out by cutting ties with the trade unions, despite the fact that the Labour party was partly founded by them in order to represent the interests of British working people. He also ditched the Labour party’s commitment to nationalisation, Clause 4, and continued the Tories’ policy of privatisation, including the NHS. He was essentially a Tory entryist, and this latest pronouncement shows he still has the same mercenary attitude to politics.

And this is quite apart from the fact that he took us into an illegal war with his and Bush’s invasion of Iraq, a war that has killed and displaced millions of people across the Middle East and destabilised the entire region. There are very good reasons for having him indicted as a war criminal. See the book by Nicholas Wood and Anabella Pellens, The Case Against Blair: War Crime or Just War? The Iraq War 2003-2005 (London: South Hill Press 2005).

Blair did some very good things when he was in power. But he also managed to destroy much of Labour’s grassroots support, and pioneered some of the policies that have been continued so disastrously by Cameron and May. In some ways, his present disloyalty to the party he led is the least of his crimes. His actions in the Middle East alone mean that he should not be allowed anywhere near power, nor be listened to by anyone ever again.

Hope Not Hate Launches New Report on Breitbart’s Aims in Britain

March 8, 2017

The anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation Hope Not Hate has published a new report on their website into Breitbart and its political aims here in Britain. The report shows how Breitbart isn’t a news organisation so much as a media campaigning group for the Far Right, and wants to promote the brand of White nationalism that has propelled Trump to the White House here in Britain. Thus, the wretched company has been meeting and supporting Nigel Farage and UKIP. The front page of the report states

When former UKIP leader Nigel Farage was snapped having dinner with President Trump and his family by a fellow diner in late February, it caused a flurry of interest from the British media. What was not reported, but of far more significance, was the meeting Farage had earlier that afternoon.

Farage gatecrashed dinner with Donald Trump because he was in the area. In fact, he had just spent three hours at the White House with the President’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

The pair had a lot to catch up on. They had a lot to discuss and plan.

As this report shows, Bannon and Farage have got to know each other well over the last few years.

UKIP had been identified by Bannon’s Breitbart operation several years ago. Bannon launched Breitbart London to help UKIP ahead of the 2015 General Election. Breitbart’s key funder Robert Mercer supplied Farage’s anti-EU campaign, Leave.EU, with the data tools that helped secure the Brexit vote and the UK’s departure from the European Union.

In turn, Farage’s Brexit success provided Bannon, and his political master Donald Trump, with the inspirational story of the underdog defying the political establishment.

This report shows that Breitbart is not a news website or a media outlet in any ordinary sense and its staff are not mainstream journalists. Breitbart is a political project, with a specific political agenda, staffed by willing propagandists.

It distorts and fabricates news to deliberately incite anger in its supporters and fear in others. It pollutes the political space and demonises and vilifies its opponents.

Breitbart is just one part – albeit a vital part – of a wider political project that set Britain on a path to leave the European Union and got Donald Trump elected to the most powerful job in the world.

Unfinished business

But even with Trump in the White House the project is not yet complete. Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer have far bigger plans which they will seek to execute over the next few years. Bannon will use his clearly strong influence over the President to carry out his aggressive nationalism and strong anti-Muslim views at home and abroad. Mercer will use his financial muscle and data analytics to sway elections and shift opinion.

Breitbart intends to expand its operations into more countries in the hope of assisting more far right leaders gain power and laying the ground for what they consider is an inevitable conflict with Islam.

And in Britain, this operation will be at the heart of a new political venture, likely to be launched in a matter of months, to create a new far right party and run by multi-millionaire Arron Banks and Nigel Farage.

Based on the social movement model of Italy’s Five Star Movement but with the nationalist and populist politics of Trump, this new party will sweep aside UKIP and hope to capitalise on the uncertainty and compromise that will undoubtedly accompany Brexit.

While Banks and Farage will lead this new party, it will be Breitbart that provides the engine power.

It was this that Farage was discussing with Bannon at the White House.

The report also details the organisations links with the far right in this country, including some deeply unpleasant people and organisations. It gives a timeline of the company’s history from its foundation in 2005 to today, and a section on its right-wing stance against multiculturalism, feminism, immigration, gay and trans rights and its demonization of Muslims as predatory rapists intent on the domination of the West. It also explains that, according to an article in the Observer, Breitbart is merely one of a number of extreme right-wing organisation owned and founded by Richard Mercer, a hedge-fund manager. One of these is Cambridge Analytica, and small data analysis company that specialises in psyops – that is, producing propaganda designed to play on the recipients’ emotions, rather than convince them through rational argument. Cambridge Analytica also has links to Andy Wigmore, the director of the Leave campaign.

According to the report, Breitbart see themselves as fighting a war on two fronts, based in Texas and London respectively. In Britain, Breitbart has supported the anti-Muslim organisation, Pegida UK, led by Stephen Lennon, AKA Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League. They also plan to move into Europe to support Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France, the Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party in Austria. Wilders is also one of their columnists. They also want to start an edition in Italy. Another section takes apart their journalistic style, showing how it really is little more than ‘fake news’. This consists in running highly emotive and very misleading headlines, which aren’t really backed up or supported by the article beneath. This section in particular looks at articles by Anne-Marie Waters, Virginia Hale, Milo Yiannopolis, Donna Rachel Edmunds and Chris Tomlinson trying to drum up fear and hatred against Muslims through very biased and distorted reporting of rape and other attacks in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, which cite either unreferenced information, or official statistics while omitting other pieces of information from the same sources that disprove or severely qualify their arguments.

The article also argues that Raheem Kassam, one of Breitbart’s editors, had a major influence in making the Fuhrage much more Islamophobic and aggressive in his debating style. Kassam and another advisor were dropped from UKIP after Patrick O’Flynn complained that they had turned Farage into a ‘snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive man.’ It then goes on to examine the role Breitbart played in the civil war that erupted in the Kippers between Farage’s supporters and opponents. It also discusses Farage’s meetings and support for Trump, and warns that Kassam may be winding down his support of UKIP in order to launch a more extreme party. There are also individual sections on particular leading executives and writers at Breitbart, their careers and their very unpleasant connections to other parts of the far right. Raheem Kassam, for example, started out as a member of the Tory youth section, the Young Britons, before moving on to the Conservative Bow Group, setting up the short-lived British Tea Party, which was backed by the Libertarian thinktank, the Freedom Association. Hope Not Hate describes this last group as ‘anti-union’. They are, as well as extremely anti-Socialist and anti-working class in general. In the 1980s they earned notoriety when their links to Fascist Central American dictators and their death squads were revealed. He’s also been involved in the Neo-Con Henry Jackson Society, the Tax-Payer’s Alliance and Student Rights, a right-wing campus monitoring group which has no links to students or the trade unions, and which has been condemned by genuine students unions for its targeting of Muslims students and their events at London unis. He’s also worked for the neo-con The Commentator and is a fellow at Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum. Pipes is a rightwing American professor specialising in the Middle East. He’s also appeared on Ezra Levant’s wretched anti-Islamic TV show on Rebel Media in Canada. In his campaign for leadership of UKIP, he gave a prominent place to Anne-Marie Waters of Sharia Watch and also former members of the EDL and the BNP on what the report describes as ‘case by case basis’.

Other senior staff at UKIP include James Delingpole, Simon Kent, Donna Rachel Edmunds, Oliver J.J. Lane, Chris Tomlinson, Virginia Hale, Nick Hallett, Liam Deacon and Jack Montgomery. Delingpole is a former Telegraph and Spectator columnist, who predictably rants on about ‘cultural Marxism’. He has a bitter hatred of environmentalism, which he thinks aims at establishing a Green dictatorship worse than Hitler’s. But then, he also believes that the White, middle-aged, public school and Oxford educated White male is the section of the population most discriminated against.

Simon Kent is an Ozzie journo, who’s also worked for the Sunday Telegraph over here as well as a range of right-wing newspapers in Australia and Canada, including the Sun News Network in Canada.

Donna Rachel Edmunds was a Conservative councillor in Lewes and worked for Roger Helmer, before she left the party for UKIP. She founded the UKIPDaily.com blog, has written for The Commentator and the Freedom Association. She’s also another wretched fan of Von Hayek and Ayn Rand. She’s also given sympathetic coverage to Stephen Lennon, Geert Wilders and the extreme right-wing Sweden Democrats as well as Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson.

Oliver JJ Lane is a former researcher for the military thinktank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a former Conservative candidate for Nuneaton and Bedworth, and is a former chairman of the British Monarchist League. The article also states that he has ‘liked’ a number of racist pages on the Net, including

the premier “alt-right”/new right publisher Arktos, the openly pro-fascist page “Rational Ethno-Nationalism” and the Nazi blood-and-soil page “Artaman: Hyperborean Garden”. Lane has also “liked” a page titled “European Traditional
Family” which posts Nazi propaganda of Aryan families, and the “strictly non muslim” group “The Beauty of European Girls and Women”, dedicated to white women of “pure european descent”.

The article also claims that he’s an associate of Gregory Lauder-Frost of the Traditional Britain group, which also has links to the Nazi right. I’ve also come across material from them which makes it clear that not only do they despise Islam, they also hate and would like to abolish the NHS.

Chris Tomlinson is a former mobile phone technician, who writes for the Canadian Conservative Party. He’s a fan of the French far-right Identitarian Movement, an activist in the Alt-Right, and a member of the Austrian Nationalist Party.

Virginia Hale is an east Asian studies graduate, who defines herself as a ‘palaeoconservative’. She’s also obsessed with White genocide, and has written a series of articles attack non-Whites and immigration, and corresponded with many of the leaders of the Nazi and Far-Right fringes.

Hallett’s another Tory, having been a member of the Young Britons’ Foundation, The Conservative Way Forward and has run the Margaret Thatcher Centre, a museum dedicated to the foul leaderene. His articles have also been promoted by CulturalMarxism.Net, Infowars and American Renaissance, which has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as specialising in academic racism.

Liam Deacon is a former, moderately left-wing journo, whose articles became very anti-immigrant and right-wing in tone after he joined Breitbart. Jack Montgomery is an activist with the Leave.EU campaign.

The reports also lays out how Breitbart also provides a platform for extremists such as Geert Wilders, Katie Hopkins, Anne-Marie Waters and the anti-Islam campaigner, Robert Spencer, the founder of Jihad Watch, his colleague, Pamela Geller, Stephen Lennon, Ingrid Carlqvist, one of the writers at the infamous Gates of Vienna Blog, Frank Gaffney, a former director of nuclear forces and weapons under Ronald Reagan. Needless to say, he’s also anti-Islam and anti-immigration, and Daniel Pipes, another anti-Islam activist.

The article also discusses the way Breitbart in its comments section has given a platform to the members of the European Fascist right. This doesn’t just include the Front National, AfD and Wilders’ PVV, but also Jobbik in Hungary, the Golden Dawn in Greece, and the BNP. It also examines its highly distorted coverage of recent violence by Muslims and immigrants in Sweden.

A final section by the report’s author, Nick Lowles, considers Breitbart an important far-rightwing threat, and details the magazine’s intentions to monitor, rebut and combat it.

The report can be read at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/features/breitbart/breitbart-report-2017-03.pdf

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.

The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills

July 16, 2016

Body Economic Pic

By David Stuckler, MPH, PhD, and Sanjay Basu, MD, PhD (New York: Basic Books 2013)

This is another book I picked up in the £3 bookshop in Bristol’s Park Street the other day. Written by two American health researchers, it examines the way economic recessions and austerity affect people’s health from the Great Recession of the 1930s, the Fall of Communism, Greece and Iceland, and today’s recession, which began with the banking collapse in 2008. The authors are medical researchers, whose own experience of poverty and ill health has led them to examine its effect on entire societies. They conclude that while recessions often lead to high – frequently devastatingly high outbreaks of disease and mortality, what is really crucial is the state’s handling of them. In countries which have a strong welfare state, and are determined to invest into getting their citizens back into work, such as Denmark in the 1990s, public health may actually improve. And as public health improves, the economy begins to pick up. In countries where the opposite is true – where the state just cuts, and is intent on dismantling the welfare infrastructure, like Greece and Cameron’s (and May’s) Britain, the result is higher disease and mortality.

As well as giving the impersonal stats, they also illustrate the damaging effects of austerity on public health through personal case studies. These include ‘Olivia’, a little girl, who suffered terrible burns when her unemployed father tried to burn their house down in a drunken rage, and an elderly Greek man, Dimitris Christoulas. Unable to see any way out of his poverty, he publicly shot himself outside the Greek parliament building.

One of the victims of austerity mentioned in the very first pages of the book is Brian McArdle, a severely disabled man, who was nevertheless declared ‘fit for work by ATOS. Basu and Stuckler write

‘”I will never forgive them,” wrote thirteen-year-old Kieran McArdle to the Daily Record, a national newspaper based in Glasgow. “I won’t be able to come to terms with my dad’s death until I get justice for him.”

Kieran’s father, fifty-seven-year-old Brian, had worked as a security guard in Lanarkshire, near Glasgow. The day after Christmas 2011, Brian had a stroke, which left him paralyzed on his left side, blind in one eye, and unable to speak. He could no longer continue working to support his family, so he signed up for disability income from the British government.

That government, in the hands of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron since the 2010 elections, would prove no friend to the McArdles. Cameron claimed that hundreds of thousands of Britons were cheating the government’s disability system. The Department for Work and Pensions begged to differ. It estimated that less than 1 percent of disability benefit funds went to people who were not genuinely disabled.

Still, Cameron proceeded to cut billions of pounds from welfare benefits including support for the disabled. To try to meet Cameron’s targets, the Department for Work and Pensions hired Atos, a private French “systems integration” firm. Atos billed the government £400 million to carry out medical evaluations of people receiving disability benefits.

Kieran’s father was scheduled for an appointment to complete Atos’ battery of “fitness for work” tests. He was nervous. Since his stroke, he had trouble walking, and was worried about how his motorized wheelchair would get up the stairs to his appointment, as he had learned that about a quarter of Atos’s disability evaluations took place in buildings that were not wheelchair accessible. “Even though my dad had another stroke just days before his assessment, he was determined to go,” said Kieran. “He tried his best to walk and talk because he was a very proud man.”

Brian did manage to reach Atos’s evaluation site, and after the evaluation, made his way home. A few weeks later, his family received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions. The family’s Employment and Support Allowance benefits were being stopped. Atos had found Brian “fit for work”. The next day he collapsed and died.

It was hard for us, as public health researchers, to understand the government’s position. The Department for Work and Pensions, after all, considered cheating a relative minor issue. The total sum of disability fraud for “conditions of entitlement” was £2 million, far less than the contract to hire Atos, and the department estimated that greater harm resulted from the accidental underpayment of £70 million each year. But the government’s fiscal ideology had created the impetus for radical cuts. (Pp. 3-4).

I don’t know whether Mr McArdle was one of those, whose deaths has been commemorated by Stilloaks on his blog, or whether his case was one of those which Cameron and aIDS laughed at when they were read out in parliament. But is notable that such cases are coming to the attention of health researchers and medical doctors, and are a cause of serious academic and medical concern.

Stilloaks, Mike, DPAC, the Angry Yorkshireman and very many other disability activists have covered individual cases, and the way the ‘fitness for work’ tests have been fiddled by Atos and now their successors, Maximus, in order to provide the pretext for throwing the vulnerable off benefits. Mike’s called it ‘Chequebook Genocide’. Jeff3, one of the great long-term commenters on this blog, refers to it as the Tories’ Aktion T4 – the Nazi’s extermination of the disabled during the Third Reich. There have been about 490 cases in which people have died of starvation, neglect and despair thanks to be thrown off welfare. And according to mental health profession, about 290,000 or so people have seen their mental health deteriorate – sometimes very severely – due to the stress of these tests.

Books like this show how counterproductive such austerity policies are, as well as their purely destructive effects on human life. But this will not be heeded by the Tories, nor by the baying, right-wing rabble who blindly follow them. They want to grind the poor even further into the dirt, to create an impoverished, desperate working class willing to take on any kind of work, no matter how low-paid, not-paid – think of all the unpaid ‘internships’ – and degrading. All so they cut taxes and give more power to the rich, the bankers, big business and particularly the hedge funds and vulture capitalists.

And so the many are killed, all for the privileged few represented by Theresa May.

Private Eye on Andrea Leadsom and the Hedge Funds Backing Brexit

June 9, 2016

This fortnight’s Private Eye also has an interesting piece on Andrea Leadsom, one of the leading Tory Brexit supporters. Leadsom has been complaining that several of the organisations warning of the dire consequences Brexit will have on the British economy are funded by the dreaded EU. The Eye points out that Leadsom herself is also funded by her brother-in-law, a hedge fund manager based in the Channel Islands, and that the hedge funds generally support Brexit in the expectation that it will help them avoid paying tax. The Eye writes

Hedging Her Bets

“I put it down to a big institutional ganging up on the poor British voter,” complained Andrea Leadsom, the leading “outer” who is said to be having a good war, referring to the way the Institute for Fiscal Studies and others point out the likely costs of leaving the EU. “What do they have in common, these organisations?” Number one – lots of EU funding.”

The energy and former Treasury minister perhaps knows more than she has previously let on about the power of financial backing to influence views and policy. Leadsom herself ahs had plenty of financial backing from the offshore hedge und run by her brother-in-law Peter de Putron, as has the EU-sceptic Open Europe thinktank, she has championed (Eyes passim ad nauseam).

What result the Guernsey-based donor hopes for is not known. But plenty of other hedgies want out so they can escape EU regulation of their funds (inexplicably confident that a British Tory government would be kinder to them). Others are just pleased it’s all getting nice and tight so they can take positions on sterling and cash in on the early exit poll information they are paying for outside the polling booths. (p. 7).

Her connection to hedge funds and their managers should be one good reason alone why no-one should take Andrea Leadsom remotely seriously. Many of the private care home chains that collapsed a few years ago were run by hedge funds, as is a private hospital in Bath. These organisations see health and social care as a lucrative investment, and their financial arrangements are so organised in order to make it appear that the firms are operating close to their margins so they can benefit from tax breaks. As a result, the care homes and hospitals they manage are often underfunded and genuinely in a precarious financial situation. Hence the appalling failures of several care homes to provide acceptable standards of care to their elderly or handicapped inmates, and their spectacular collapse.

And unfortunately, at the moment the hedge funds and the parasites in charge of them are all too right in their expectations that a British Tory government won’t tax them. The Tories have shown absolutely no interest in doing so up to now. In fact, quite the opposite. They are trying to do their best to protect London and the rest of the country as a low tax haven for dodgy businessmen and financial speculators right across the world. It’s why one international politician declared Britain to be one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, because of the safety it provides to gangster right across the continent and the globe to launder their ill-gotten gains. The Tories are quite comfortable with this vile situation, and will do everything they can to protect it as far as possible, up to and including Brexit.

Lobster on the Anti-Semitism Accusations and the Decline of the Tory Party

May 15, 2016

Robin Ramsey, the editor of Lobster, put up these observations on the allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party, and the dwindling, aging membership of the Tories in the magazine’s ‘View from the Bridge’ column in this half-year’s edition, issue 71.

Party Politics

The media claims in the past couple of months that the Labour
Party has a problem with anti-semitism among its members,
is obviously essentially a smear from the right (routine party
politics). But it is also an illustration of the central tactic in the
pro-Israel media playbook: accuse anyone who criticises Israel
of being an anti-semite.

While the Labour Party’s membership has ballooned
since Corbyn became leader, the Conservative Party is in
what may be terminal decline: membership has fallen from
253,000 to 140,00 since Cameron was chosen; 290 of the
Party’s 650 associations have fewer than 100 members;
and the average age of the members is over 60 and may be
as high as 68. In short, the Conservative Party is moving
towards the American model of a group of professional
politicos, funded by sections of the 1% who buy the policies
which benefit them. In the case of the Conservatives that
group of the 1% is currently American hedge funds based in
London.

For more information about what’s really going on, see: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster71/lob71-view-from-the-bridge.pdf

Vox Political on the Tories’ Plan to Turn Education into a Tax Avoidance Scam

April 25, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political posted up a very ominous piece reporting the tax affairs of one of the academy chains. Bellevue Education, which runs a number of academies in the south east, appears in the Panama Papers as an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands. In other words, it’s a tax avoider. Mike draws the obvious conclusion from this that as David Cameron and Nicky Morgan want all schools to become academies, and thus tax avoidance schemes for the big business fat cats running them.

The Tory plan to turn education into a tax avoidance scam

I don’t doubt for a single moment that Mike’s right, and this fact has very grave implications for the quality of the service these academy chains will provide, and their stability as businesses.

One of the points George Monbiot makes about the PFI initiative for hospitals in his book, Captive State, is that the overheads in running hospitals are so large, that the corporations approached to fund and run them can only be persuaded to do so through massively inflating their costs to the British taxpayer, and by cutting the service delivered to the public. It’s why, thanks to the Private Finance Initiative, Britain now has fewer hospitals than it actually needs, which have been more expensive to build than if the government simply raised the money through the usual sources of bonds, loans and taxation. It’s also why the PFI hospitals are smaller.

The hedge funds that were responsible for running so many of the care homes, that collapsed and were prosecuted for the extremely poor treatment of their elderly or disabled residents, were also involved in massive tax avoidance scams. There was some kind of financial trick involved, which made these homes run at a technical loss. This meant huge profits for the hedge funds running them, but it also meant that they were extremely vulnerable financially. The result was the slew of scandals, which got into the page of the Private Eye’s ‘In the Back’ column, which reported on the extremely dubious financial arrangements behind them.

This new revelation that Bellevue Education is based off-shore, suggests that the private education chains running the academies similarly find it difficult to run them at a profit without indulging in tax avoidance at a massive level. Mike reports that academies perform poorly compared to ordinary LEA schools. This bears out the conclusion that for-profit firms cannot effectively run services, like schools and hospitals, that are properly the responsibility of the state. Like the PFI hospitals, it shows that the private investment in schools is more expensive to the British taxpayer, in terms of tax money lost to the government, the burden of which is then passed on to the rest of us. And it also suggests that as businesses, they are also vulnerable and likely to collapse at the merest drop in profits. And then, no doubt, the fat cat bankers behind them will be squealing for the British taxpayer to bail them out.

Vox Political: Tories Given £55 million by Hedge Funds

February 22, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this story about the Conservatives having received £55 million in donations from the hedge funds:

Latest figures from the Electoral Commission reveal that in the last quarter (Q4 2014) hedge funds gave the Tories almost £2 million in donations, which means donations from the hedge fund industry to the Conservative Party now total more than £55 million, according to the Labour Party.

Hedge funds were given a tax cut worth £145m by George Osborne in 2013, and were offered hundreds of millions of pounds worth of shares in the Royal Mail when part of that national asset was sold off by the money-grubbing Coalition for a fraction of what it was worth.

Analysis of Conservative Party donations shows that almost £4 million of donations in the last quarter came from donors who have attended exclusive private dinners with David Cameron and other senior Ministers, taking the total to £11.65m from dinner donors in 2014

“The Tories are now the political wing of the hedge fund industry, said Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jonathan Ashworth.

Jonathan Ashworth also says that the Tories are failing ordinary, hardworking families because their priority is with the privileged few.

This is absolutely correct.

And not only does the receipt of such massive amounts from the hedge funds show the Tories skewed priorities, it’s also a real danger to this country’s health service and particularly the care homes for the handicapped and elderly. I’ve reblogged several stories from Private Eye, Johnny Void and Mike about the scandals that have erupted over the appalling mistreatment of residents and patients in several care homes. A number of these have been forced to close. Part of the problem is that the homes were run by hedge funds as part of a network of enterprises set up to avoid tax. The companies running the care homes were deliberately driven into multimillion pounds worth of debt, as part of this tax dodge. As a result, there was little investment, and so standards of care were appallingly low, and the homes themselves always vulnerable to collapse.

This is the health care system set up by these Tory donors. It will no doubt expand and get worse if the Tories get in at the next election and try to privatise the healthcare system even further.

Get rid of the Tories, and their financial paymasters.