Posts Tagged ‘Houses’

Weak and Wobby May Does Massive U-Turn over ‘Dementia Tax’

May 22, 2017

This also shows how much pressure and desperate the Tories are feeling from a resurgent Labour. In her manifesto four days ago, ‘strong and stable’ May said that she intended taking the value of people’s houses into consideration when assessing the amount they would be charged for their social care. This would lead to people having to take out ‘equity release’, in which their houses would be sold and the money used to pay for their care, while allowing them to remain as tenants.

Florence, one of the great commenters to this blog, has pointed out just how nasty this policy is in a comment she posted to an earlier piece I did about it. She wrote

Equity release is not the same as insurance. Using equity release to pay for care is already available and has many times been shown to be the worse possible use of a house for the elderly. They are essentially unpaid mortgages where the interest accrues along with the original debt, so any capital increase in value is eaten up by interest and charges. The resident can be forced out of the house at any time. Instead of banning these deals the May cabal want to force us to use them.

Insurance will only be available to the young and fit or through workplace schemes. No one will insure a retired person.

Not surprisingly, large sections of the population did not welcome having the government force them to sell the homes they saved for throughout their lives. With the result that May has now made a U-Turn so fast, that she’s left skidmarks in the road, if not in her underwear.

It’s a very quick U-Turn indeed, as only this morning various Tory talking heads were appearing on breakfast TV defending it, saying that the Tories were showing resolve in coming to grips with Britain’s aging population. Now she’s telling everyone she’s going to put a cap on the amount they will be expected to pay. Even though her ministers, like Jeremy Hunt, have been saying all week. She’s also gone on the offensive – and to me, she’s always been very offensive – and accused Labour of scaremongering.

But, as various people on social media have noticed, it’s May herself who appears scared. Or ‘frit’, as the former Leaderene used to say in her native Grantham patois.

Mike’s posted up two videos of her speaking, stating that her own fear is evident from her body language and tone of voice.

One person has posted a picture of a backbone, with a note beside it saying ‘Wanted for Theresa May’. Marcus Chown also posted a photograph of a jelly, to show how weak and wobbly May is. Chown’s a scientist and science writer, who’s written for New Scientist, and published a book on the Cosmic Background Radiation, The Afterglow of Creation, far back in the 1990s. But you really don’t need the Hubble Space Telescope or Jodrell Bank to see how desperate May and her fellows now are.

She’s now telling everyone that she’s going to keep her new promise to cap charges for social care. And the Daily Mail, like the Tory lapdog it is, has issued an article hailing her as an ‘honest politician’.

No, no she isn’t. Not remotely.

Among the various promises and pledges she’s broken are her support for ‘Remain’, which has now definitely been ditched in favour of Brexit; her promise to raise National Insurance contributions from the self-employed; she claimed she wanted to put workers in the boardroom – that went very quickly; and her stated resolution not to hold a snap election. Along with a pledge to reduce the sugar content in children’s foods.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/22/dementia-tax-u-turn-theresa-may-is-a-weak-and-wobbly-conservative-in-chaos/

As Mike states in his article, it’s not a complete list.

In fact, May’s party lies frequently and shamelessly. Remember when David Cameron, May’s predecessor, was telling everyone that the Tories would ring-fence NHS spending against cuts? How he, IDS and the rest of the Tory faithful claimed they were trying to protect the NHS for New Labour’s closure of hospitals up and down the country? These policies were ditched almost as soon as Cameron got his foot in No. 10. As was his statement that his would be the ‘greenest’ government of all. That was ditched along with the little windmill outside his house, and replaced with a huge support for fracking and other environmentally destructive policies.

And May’s new pledge about capping the Dementia Tax is, in my opinion, another lie, from a party of liars.

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Norman Finkelstein on the Coming Break-Up of American Zionism: Part 3

May 28, 2016

Another audience member asks why it is that so many Palestinians survived in Israel, when the Israeli government was trying to cleans them. Finkelstein replies that in some areas, like Hebron, the Arab population survived because the Israelis needed them as workers. Galilee was mostly Christian, and the Arabs survived there because the Israelis were scared of offending the Vatican. And incidentally, their survival is further evidence that the cleansing of the Palestinians was not accidental, but was planned, as it wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. And some Palestinians survived by accident and sheer good fortune, like the Jews who survived the Holocaust.

Finkelstein also tackles the Holocaust industry, in response to another question from the audience. He is particularly incensed by this, as the descendant of Holocaust survivors himself. His father survived Auschwitz, while his mother survived that horrors of a succession of concentration and force labour camps. He makes the point that what made the systematic Nazi murder of European Jewry most shocking is its sheer efficiency. Of all the millions of Jews in eastern Europe, on 100,000 still survived by the end of the War. They did so only through sheer luck. And now, when the industry started in the 1990s, there must be even less, as many have died from old age. So the figures the Holocaust Industry advances for those, who have survived and need to be compensated are grossly inflated. He describes this distortion as a form of Holocaust denial. If so many people survived the Holocaust, then it means that the Nazis weren’t as good at killing people as was previously believed. He quotes his mother as asking, ‘Who did Adolf kill, if all these people have survived?’ The figures for the numbers of survivors are wrong, as abused by the Holocaust industry.

He is also less than impressed by the claims for vast wealth that the industry makes regarding European Jews murdered by the Nazis. He points out that European Jews were largely poor, living in shtetls – Jewish settlements. He says it’s why Tevia in Fiddler on the Roof sings, ‘If I were a rich man’. Because obviously, he isn’t. Finkelstein also makes the point that there were even fewer rich Jews around because of the Depression, which brought the Nazis to power. In depressions, rich people lose their money. He also makes the point that those Jews, who did have money, got out. The Rothschilds, for example, had branches of their family and money in a number of countries. As the Nazis invaded one country, they moved their money to another, and their relatives followed their familial obligations and bought their brothers and sisters out.

But now, according to the Holocaust industry, not only did many more Jews survive, but they all had Swiss bank accounts and private art collections. He makes the point that Swiss bank accounts are incredibly difficult to come by. He states that his brother’s a millionaire, and he doesn’t have a Swiss bank account. And neither do the people in his audience. And the figures for the numbers of surviving Jews, who had Swiss bank accounts, that the Holocaust industry have presented have been shown to be notoriously inflated.

On the subject of what can be done to support the Palestinians, he makes the point that no matter how deeply you believe in the Bible, it should still shock you that people are losing their homes. Israel is the only country that uses house demolition as a judicial punishment. He gives the example of one of his Palestinian friends, who was denied permission to build his house where he wanted to, and so has built it further away. But nevertheless, his house is illegal and it can be demolished at any time. Finkelstein points out that the Palestinians are poor. They don’t have stocks and bonds, and so everything they have is invested in their houses. He states that it is no good trying to win the settlers over, as ‘they’re like something from a science fiction story.’ He compares trying to do something about them with the question Trotsky was once asked about what to do about Fascists. ‘Acquaint them with the pavement’, was the dissident Marxist’s reply.

Finkelstein goes on to state that winning people over to supporting the Palestinians should be a simple case of vanquishing an enemy. He goes on to quote another writer that everyone should have a place at the table of victory.

There is no doubt that Finkelstein has very controversial views, especially on the Holocaust industry. He describes that as double shakedown. Nations are being blackmailed by the industry for money that they don’t actually owe, while the real survivors of the death camps don’t see a nickel or penny. This isn’t just his own opinion. He quotes another Jewish author, who states that its first time Jews have scammed people like this.

Despite the controversial nature of his views, it’s very clear that he has a very strong case against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and that his revulsion is also shared by very many Jewish Americans, who are likely to be the majority as time goes on. The generous and vociferous support AIPAC gives to Israel belies the fact that for many American Jews, the oppression of the Palestinians is very much a case of ‘Not in my name’.

As for the two Palestinians, who spoke up, I understand that they’re also factually correct. In the 19th century many liberal Jewish historians wrote books pointing out that Jews were treated better under Islam than they were in Christendom. As for Arabs and Jews living peacefully in Palestine, this also is true. In the 1960s the Israeli government expelled tens of thousands of indigenous Jewish Palestinians as they were culturally indistinguishable from Arabs. Moreover, Albert Hourani, in his book The Modern Middle East, in the chapter on Israel points out that during Muslim rule, Christian churches were regarded as mawsin by Muslims – ‘sacred’, ‘inviolable’. If you read the ethnographic literature on the modern Middle East, you do find accounts of friendship between Muslims and Jews, relationships which were disrupted through the great power occupations by France and Britain in the 1920s. Israel’s continuing maltreatment of the Palestinians is one legacy of this.

Here’s the video:

Secular Talk on Marco Rubio’s Claim that the Republicans ‘Are Not the Party of the Rich’

February 21, 2016

It seems that Marco Rubio, one of the Republican presidential candidates, has taken a leaf out of the Conservatives’ book from over here in Blighty. He gave a speech claiming that the idea that the Republicans were the party of the rich, and the Democrats were the party of the middle class and workers was ‘the biggest lie’. This is pretty much the line the Tories are peddling over this side of the Atlantic. Cameron has been loudly yelling that the Conservatives are now the true party of aspiring working people. So in the interests of attacking Conservatives on both sides of the Pond, here’s what Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski says about Rubio’s claim.

He points out that their claim to be the party of the poor is based on their campaign for tax cuts. The idea is that once people start earning, they’ll keep more of what they earn through the cuts in taxes the Republicans have given them. Except when the Republicans talk about tax cuts, they don’t mean for the poor. Kulinski points out that Obama cut taxes for 90 per cent of Americans and raised taxes on the rich. By contrast, McCain cut taxes, but only for the rich.

He also points out that the idea that a flat rate tax is a fair tax is also a myth, as in effect it actually raises taxes for the poor. Once you do the numbers, it’s always a regressive tax, according to economists. For example, if the Republicans say that they’re going to replace taxes with a flat rate of 15% for everyone, it sounds fair. However, in practice it’s a rise in taxes for everyone with an income under $50,000. It’s another tax cut to the rich.

Furthermore, the Democrats are more likely to spend money on safety net programmes, which benefit the poor and middle class, like Medicare, Medicaid, social security and so on. The Republicans, by contrast, don’t really want to spend money on any of that, except when it’s bailing out their corporate donors. Then the Republican attitude that capitalism is virtuous because it punishes the bad and rewards the good goes out the window. The banks wrecked themselves and trashed the economy, and the Republicans couldn’t rush in fast enough to give them money, because they paid for their campaigns.

This is all true, and applies pretty much to the Tories and Labour over here. The Tories are all about cutting welfare spending. These are welfare programmes that actually help the poor, and the working and middle classes. Not the rich. Under the Tories, the tax burden for the poor has actually risen as tax cuts have benefited the rich. And the Tories over here also like to talk about flat rate taxes. Remember when they were loudly hailing the ‘Community Charge’ – Maggie’s poll tax as ‘democratic’, because everyone paid the same? It was a flat rate, and so in effect raised taxes for working people. Some of the Tories were naturally enthusiastic about it, because it meant they paid the same tax for their mansions as ordinary people in their semi-detached and terraced homes.

And as for the ‘aspiration’ the Tories are making much of, social mobility has stopped. It was pretty much stagnant under Bliar and New Labour, and Clinton in America. It’s completely stopped now. All due to Neoliberal economic policies.

So Rubio, the Republicans and Cameron’s Conservatives are all wrong. They are the party of the rich, and the Democrats and Labour are the party of the poor and middle class. Don’t be taken in by the propaganda that it’s otherwise.

Dwight Eisenhower on the Poverty Caused by Military Spending

February 20, 2016

I found the following quotation posted by ‘Jake Bat’ on the comments section on a Secular Talk piece on ‘When Someone Says ‘Rebuild the Military’…

‘”Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, the last good Republican to serve as President.’

It comes from the ‘Chance of Peace’ Speech Eisenhower made to the Association of Newspaper Editors on 16th February 1953. The full quote is

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

It’s quite a familiar quote, undoubtedly because it’s true. And it remains true, even today. Unfortunately, today’s politicos far prefer the attitude of the Nazis: ‘Guns will make us powerful. Butter will make us fat.’

Chris Hedges on the Pathology of the Super Rich

January 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But listen to Hedges yourself, in the video below.