Posts Tagged ‘McDonald’s’

Gove Thinks Poor People Eat Junk Food to Get ‘Solace’ in their ‘Difficult Lives’

June 7, 2018

Mike today has put up a piece commenting on articl3e in Mirror Online attacking Michael Gove for yet another utterance showing how completely out of touch he is. The Minister for the Environment, in charge of Britain’s food, has declared that the reason poor people eat unhealthy junk food, is not because healthy food is too expensive. No, it’s because eating unhealthy food makes them feel better. Gove said

“If you have got a difficult life and you have less money, then one of the things that can be a source of comfort, solace and pleasure will be buying and eating and consuming food that is not always going to be best for you in the long term.”

The Mirror article goes to state that critics have been lining up to point out to him the reality of the situation. And Mike comments, after pointing out that this is the man Some Tories want to take over from Tweezer after she’s forced out of Downing Street,

Michael Gove’s comments are typical of the privileged, entitled, out-of-touch toffs who currently hold the UK in a vicelike death-grip.

His words deny a simple fact of life for poorer people – that healthier food is more expensive and they simply cannot afford it, because Tory ‘reforms’ of benefits and wages have put it out of their price range.

He goes further, and says that if Gove really does believe this, then he must be a sad, squalid, blinkered little creep, and ends his article with the statement

This is certainly not the kind of man who could be hailed as a future leader of this – or any – country.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/07/hopelessly-out-of-touch-michael-gove-claims-poor-people-eat-junk-food-to-find-solace-in-their-difficult-lives/

Mike’s exactly right about this, and the way it reflects the received wisdom in the Tory party. And this goes back decades. Way back in the 1990s I used to listen to Joe Queenan’s Postcard from Gotham on Radio 4. This was a programme talking about current events in America, hosted by the American comedian, Joe Queenan, and his guests. On one edition they were discussing the obesity epidemic then beginning to hit America. One of the other voices on the programme was a journo from the Torygraph, who said pretty much exactly what Gove has said: that poor people eat fatty, junk food, like chips, burgers and pizza, to make themselves feel better. This was about 20+ years ago, so it shows how long that attitude has been around in Tory circles.

There’s an element of truth there, in that people do ‘comfort’ eat when they’re low or under stress. But as Mike points out, it isn’t really an explanation for the poor having a bad diet. Low ages and the greater expensive of healthier food is. And there are other factors as well. A few years ago, Jamie Oliver rocked up in Manchester or one of the other northern towns to teach the local people how to cook healthy food. He criticised one mum, who had joined the scheme, for not including many vegetables. This upset her, because she had no choice: there wasn’t a greengrocer near her, and she had only been able to buy from the shops she could reach, which didn’t stock much in the way of greens. And I’m sure this woman isn’t alone. We have seen the decline of local shops since the growth of the big supermarkets. When I was at school the local shops on our estate included a greengrocers and butchers. Now there are very few independent butchers around, and the greengrocers, at least in my neck of Bristol, seem to be similarly disappearing. There was one over on the rank of shops on the neighbouring estate, but they closed last year. If you want vegetables, you have to go to the local supermarket. And this might be difficult for some people.

Another reason why those on low incomes may be more inclined to eat junk food is because they’re quick and convenient. Not only have wages been held down, but working hours, for many people, are very long. Not everyone may have the time to cook a proper meal. And so for the temptation is buy a takeaway instead.

And there are also probably other reasons why Gove doesn’t want to go too far in trying to understand for himself why the poor, or some of them, eat unhealthily. And those reasons may be to do with corporate political funding and the power of the fast food companies. The Tories get much of their money from donations from big business. It’s why they ignore the wishes of their grass roots, to the point where many constituency Tory parties have either closed or are moribund, and concentrate instead on doing what their donors want. And you can tell just how powerful the fast food industry is by some of the adverts that appear on television and on hoardings. If you look at the adverts on TV, amongst the various car and perfume adverts are those for pizzas, KFC and McDonald’s. This advertising costs, though I don’t doubt that if someone suggested it should be banned, as happened with alcohol, the fast food industry would immediately respond with specially commissioned research claiming that they have no effect on how people eat at all. Way back in the 1990s Private Eye revealed in one of its issues just how many Tory MPs were connected to the drinks industry. There were calls to regulate alcohol advertising then. This has succeeded, but it’s only recently that some parts of Britain, like Scotland, have put the price of booze up in order to discourage binge drinking. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if a large number of Tory MPs were either on the boards, or getting donations from companies like McDonald’s.

But Gove isn’t about to criticise them, despite the fact that one of McDonald’s salads was actually found to have more fat in it than their burgers. The Tories believe in unregulated capitalism, consumer choice, as repeated ad nauseam by Maggie Thatcher, and that whatever happens to you in the name of free enterprise is your own fault. And so they aren’t going to admit that the reason the poor may not eat as well as they could is because of low wages and long working hours. Indeed, I’m amazed that Gove even admitted that they have ‘difficult’ lives, considering how the poor have been demonised as feckless, ignorant, lazy chavs by both the Tories and New Labour, and particularly by the Daily Heil. They also aren’t going to criticise the supermarkets, which have killed off many community small businesses, because of the way Sainsbury’s and the rest have contributed very handsomely to party coffers. And the last thing they want to do is stop all those valuable donations coming in from the fast food merchants themselves.

So instead of placing the blame on poor working conditions and practices, and changes in retail capitalism, Gove did what the Tories always do: blame the poor. Just as they’ve blamed them for eating badly for decades.

This shows not just how unfit Gove is to succeed May, but how the entire Tory party – and corporate New Labour, when it comes to it – are for government. They don’t have any solutions to the real causes of poverty and obesity, only cod psychology. Get them out. Now.

America’s Private Prisons: Capitalism’s Forced Labour Camps?

October 21, 2017

In this clip from the Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Ron Placone and Steffi Zamorano, the Miserable Liberal, discuss the use of convict labour supplied by the American prison system by businesses and the state. Many of the fire fighters now tackling the fires raging in California were female cons. Dore points out that this is skilled, dangerous work. But nevertheless, these women were sent to do it, and some of them have been killed doing so. He goes on to discuss Kamala Harris, who repeatedly refused to release prisoners when their time was up and they were due to go back to civil society. Eventually, she was sued and said in court that the reason she wasn’t releasing them was because they were too useful as workers. Now Steve Prettor, the sheriff of Caddo County in Louisiana, has appeared to tell the American public why he doesn’t like releasing good, Black prisoners either: because they’re too useful as workers for the prison system.

Dore calls this system exactly what it is: slavery. And there is a whole slew of firms using unfree, unpaid convict labour. These include McDonald’s, Walmart and a contractor for Starbuck’s. Dore makes the point that this is what used to happen in Communist countries like North Korea, which we – the West – denounced. Now it’s being done by capitalism in America.

In one of the many interviews with the radical American journalist Chris Hedges on YouTube, Hedges talks about the massive poverty and unemployment created by capitalism and neoliberalism. He states that in American towns which have particularly suffered, the prison population has expanded immensely. This is because the state and capital have no use for these men in normal business. However, they are immensely valuable as a source of contracts for the private prison system.

And Dore is exactly right when he compares unfree convict labour in America with the forced labour systems of the Communist bloc. I’ve blogged about this before. Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union using the forced labour of millions of Soviet citizens. Businesses and enterprises needing particular types of worker would send shopping lists of how many they needed to the KGB, who would then round them up as traitors and enemies of the Soviet state, and then send them to the Gulags. Where they would be put to work building some new industrial plant.

The Nazis also had a similar system using Jewish slave workers in the concentration camps. Skilled Jewish craftsmen were put to work in a company owned and operated by the SS producing luxury products. They even produced a catalogue.

As neoliberalism privatises and takes over more of the functions of the state, so contemporary capitalism increasingly takes on the features of the totalitarianisms of the 20th century.

I don’t think we in Britain have any cause to be complacent about this, as I can see the same system easily taken over by the outsourcing companies like G4S and Serco in Britain’s privately run prisons.

This is not justice, not punishment nor rehabilitation. It is simply capitalism and slavery. And needs to be stopped.

The Young Turks on Slave Labour in the American Prison System

September 16, 2016

I’ve already put up several pieces about how a wave of strikes are spreading across the American prison system by convicts fed up of being used as cheap, slave labour for big business. In this short piece by The Young Turks’ Hassan Piker, he begins with a quotation from Dostoevsky that a country’s state of civilisation can be gauged from its prisons. And Dostoevsky had personal experience of which he spoke. He was sent to a Siberian prison in which he was bound hand and foot. Piker gives the statistics on the immense size of the American prison population, and how the number of convicts on work programmes for outside corporations. Those companies involved include McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret and Walmart. Defenders of the programme say it teaches the cons valuable skills. But Piker points out that they have no union representation, and are paid 23 cents a day, much less than the minimum wage. Piker points out that the prisoner making shirts for McDonald’s is making even less than the person wearing it. Freedom for Alabama, one of the groups involved in the protests, states that this is a form of slavery, as defined and protected in the American Constitution. This outlaws slavery and forced labour, except for the convicted of a crime. Despite the abolition of slavery, this still effectively exists in American prisons, with inmates subjected to various degrading and painful punishments, including the investigation of their bodies ‘as if we are animals’. He points out that the whip has been replaced by pepper spray, but apart from that nothing has changed. The strikes are taking place nearly 35 years after a similar strike by prison workers in 1971. The strikers are aiming not just to improve their conditions, but also to bring down the entire corporate system that has massive boosted the American prison system. Piker comes down firmly on the side of the strikers, but states that many people may not listen to them because of who they are.

The size of the corporate prison system and its corruption of American justice is a major problem over there, and is also an increasing problem on this side of the Atlantic. At the heart of it is the private management of prisons. The companies running them frequently have contacts with politicians and judges in their states. They donate to politicians’ election funds, and put pressure on them to pass harsher legislation on crime. At the same time, the may also have judges on their payroll, whom they also persuade to pass tougher sentences on criminals to send them to prison. Where they can be used as cheap labour for the corporate profit of the prison and the contracting outside company. Michael Moore, the Capped Crusader, in his film, Capitalism: A Love Story, covers the case of a young girl, who was given a custodial sentence to an adult prison for truanting from school. The presiding judge in her case was on the payroll of the local prison company.

Private prisons have been introduced over here. I think they might have been introduced under John Major’s Conservative administration. They certainly were under Tony Blair’s, who was very cosy with Wackenhut, one of the leading American private prison firms. Mike ran an article a few weeks ago pointing out that British prisons were also using convicts as slave labour for their firms’ profits, and that this was perverting British justice in exactly the same way the system was over the other side of the Pond. The strikes are led by the syndicalist union, the Industrial Workers of the World, and have spread to 40 prisons in 25 states. The incarcerated workers have a point, despite the crimes for they personally have been committed. The system should be stopped, both in America and over here.

Tory Anti-Feminism and The Descent of the Manosphere

August 13, 2016

Mike’s put up a number of excellent articles this week, so many that it’s quite a choice deciding which one to reblog and comment on first. But this one struck my eye, as it coincided with a series of videos I’ve been watching on YouTube recently.

Tory MP Philip Davies and the Justice For Men and Boys Party, Vs. Corbyn and the Labour Party

Mike yesterday put up a piece asking which party – Labour or the Conservatives – was the most in favour of gender equality. He raised the question because the Guardian had found footage of the Tory MP Philip Davies speaking at a meeting of the Justice for Men and Boys Party, which intends to compete against the Tories in 20 marginal Tory constituencies. In his speech, he accused feminists of only supporting equality when it suits them, and of trying to give women advantage over men. He also contrasted the campaign to put more women on company boards with a ‘deafening silence’ over men being given custody of their children after the break up of their marriages, and entering traditionally female occupations, such as midwives.

Mike contrasted his comments with those of Jeremy Corbyn, who also talked about adopting policies to increase gender-equality, ending the system that saw certain jobs as suitable only for men or women, and making the pay gap between men and women narrower. Owen Smith, to give him credit, has also talked about appointing equal numbers of men and women to the cabinet.

The Groan’s report also described how Davies appeared amongst bloggers, who described Malala Yousufzai as worse than Osama bin Laden, and published articles like ’13 Reasons Women Lie about Rape’.

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/12/labour-or-the-conservatives-which-of-them-best-supports-sex-equality/

Blogger Kevin Logan on the Lunacy of the Manosphere

There’s a series of very good videos against some of the denizens of the Men’s Rights movement by Kevin Logan on his YouTube channel, entitled, The Descent of the Manosphere. I haven’t linked to any here, because as far as I’m concerned, they’re all equally good. I’ve also got another reason in that some of the people he discusses have such a bitter hatred of women and such repulsive attitudes to domestic abuse and rape that they are genuinely frightening. I really am not trying to be condescending or imply that women aren’t as tough as men, but I’m also aware of the severe trauma inflicted on the women subjected to rape and domestic abuse. I can imagine that some women would be extremely upset just listening to these idiots mouth their views, and I’d rather not put anyone through that.

Logan’s an atheist, and some of the misogynists he criticises are those that have appeared in the on-line atheist community claiming that their highly reactionary opinions are based on reason and logic. This is odd, because very many of the organised atheists on the Net and elsewhere are Carl Sagan-y Humanist types, with progressive views on race, sexual equality and social justice. There was discussion by one young woman in the Skeptics’ community a year or so ago about starting an ‘Atheism Plus’ movement. The plus here represented social and political activism. Some of their hatred for organised religion derives or is aimed at some of the very reactionary American religious figures, like the Televangelists Jerry Falwell, and Jimmy Swaggert, and the right-wing political broadcast Rush Limbaugh. These guys are so right-wing I’m surprised they haven’t fallen off. I don’t support atheism, but I do support the concern for progressive politics of many of the movement’s members.

Roosh V’s Rape Advocacy

And with many of the people – there are women amongst them, God knows why! – I don’t think you have to be particularly interested in feminism to despise them, just a decent human being. Some of the people Logan has attacked include Roosh V, who’s published a series of books advising men on how to seduce women. By force, if necessary. He writes books describing his sexploits with titles like Bang Ukraine. Reggie Yeates did a programme on him for one of the BBC satellite/cable channels, and was really unimpressed. Leafing through that volume, he said it’s not a book he’d want his younger brother to read. He pointed out Roosh V has not been accused or convicted of rape, but he describes forcing himself upon women, who haven’t given their consent in his book. He also advocates encouraging women to be more careful about avoiding rape, by making it legal in certain circumstances. Yeah, he’s that repugnant.

A lot of them seem to blame rape victims for their assault, by claiming that they went out dressed too provocatively, or weren’t sufficiently careful about making sure they weren’t vulnerable. Like not getting drunk on tequilas, and then going up to a strange man’s room she’d met with him. Now I know women, who have been very careful not to get drunk, because of the fear of being assaulted. A good argument against getting drunk in public for anyone, regardless of sex, is that it will leave you vulnerable. But that does not even remotely make the rape the woman’s fault.

Sexual Resentment

Sexual resentment also features a lot in these people’s attitudes towards women. You can hear a number of them, like Davis Aurini, bitterly denouncing modern women for their perceived promiscuity, until they decide that the fun has to stop, and they have to settle down with a reliable provider. The attitude is that they are Mr Nice Guy, but all the women ignore them instead to go after bad boys. And when the fun there stops as middle age hits them, they want to find a man they can marry and exploit for his money. It’s a nasty attitude, expressed in very vulgar terms.

Racism and Nazism

It isn’t surprising that many of them also have deeply unpleasant attitudes on other issues, like race, the environment, socialism and so on. Many of them are outright racists or racial supremacists, like The Golden One, an expatriate Swede. This guy makes the claim that the Second World War was started because Hitler wanted to break away from the international banking system, and that only 300,000 Jews died in the Holocaust. This, as any fule kno, is complete twaddle. The Second World War broke out because Hitler invaded Poland. Despite his rants about the Judeo-Bolshevik international banking conspiracy – surely an oxymoron if ever there was one – Adolf had nothing against American Jewish bankers like the Rothschilds when they gave him money. And they did fund the Reich, even when it was murdering the Jewish peoples of Eastern Europe. Also the Nazis very definitely killed 6 million Jews, and 5 1/2 million gentiles, mostly Slavs, in the concentration camps. Aurini seems to hold similar views.

Libertarian Anti-Socialism

There’s also a considerable amount of Libertarian anti-Socialist ranting, by people claiming to be defending freedom. Except when low paid workers call a strike. One of the Manosphere bloggers Logan takes down does a piece complaining about a strike by employees of MacDonald’s in his local town, moving about the crowd of picketers while sneering at them.

Feminists Do Care about Men

They also have a bitter hatred of particular bloggers and celebrities, like Anita Sarkeesian, who was at the centre of the ‘Gamergate’ row over sexism in computer games. There’s also a lot of ranting against Rebecca Watson, the former actress who portrayed Hermione in the Harry Potter films. She’s now a feminist activist. There’s one Manosphere blogger – I’ve forgotten quite who – who attacks her and feminists generally for ignoring similar issues for men, such as rape, domestic violence and sexism. Logan shows in each case that this simply isn’t true. For example, it’s due to feminist pressure that the figures for rapes against men are now being recorded and released for the first time. And he shows a clip of Watson at the ‘He for She’ conference talking about doing more to help male victims of domestic violence, and confronting sexism against men. He also provides a link to an internet petition to criminalise a particular form of male rape as well, which is also not yet illegal under British law.

Logan’s a witty blogger, and his videos are very funny. They feature interruptions and asides from his cat, who speaks with a French accent, and from an otter, who speaks with the kind of western American ‘Howdy, y’all!’ accent that you used only to hear from Slim Pickens. If you look at his videos, be warned: there’s a lot of very strong language, including the ‘C’ word, which many find extremely offensive. Another blogger I recommend on this issue is Abaddon5. He’s also an atheist and former Satanist, and there’s a lot of obscenity in his language. But what he says about the MRAs is cool. But be warned: the people they talk about are really disgusting. There’s been petitions, if I recall correctly, against Roosh V and another bloke, who has similar views, by women, who were concerned that they are really dangerous. I signed them, because I think they’re right. Roosh V’s apparent attitude that women are to be used for his sexual pleasure, and his complete indifference to the matter of consent, in my opinion make him a real danger to women.

The MRAs ultimately hanker for a 19th century-style America, where a women’s place was in the home, and proles and people of colour knew their place and were properly deferential to their social superiors. And all this is important, as despite the Tories’ claim to be pro-feminist with the election of Theresa May, there is a profound anti-feminist aspect to the Conservative party. I put up a piece a few weeks ago about a couple of pamphlets I found in one of the charity bookshops in Cheltenham written against the women’s movement, and published by the right-wing thinktank the Institute of Economic Affairs. One of them even had the title Liberating Modern Women… from Feminism. The Tories’ policies have hit women the worst, as most women are employed in low-paying jobs in the service sectors, such as carers, or shop assistants and so on. When Theresa May talks about equality, it seems to mean getting more jobs for middle class, well-heeled women like herself, and not those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Ctesias and Florence on Big Business in Government after Monbiot’s Book

April 24, 2016

Terry Davies, one of the commenters on this blog, wondered what happened to some of the corporate fat cats listed in George Monbiot’s chapter, ‘The Fat Cats Directory’ in his book Captive State. Florence, another commenter, added a few details to the subsequent roles in government of some of the corporatist politicos in her comments on my article on the corrupting influence of the supermarket chains in politics, from the same book. She wrote:

Sainsbury, an old Etonian, stopped funding the Labour party when Ed Miliband became leader, but has handsomely funded Progress, the Blairite party within the party since then. Progress supports those attacking Jeremy Corbyn and lobby against the democratically elected leader. They have placed many “true Blairite” New Labour supporters (neo libs) throughout the party. The electoral commission fined two Blairite groups in 2014 – Progress and Movement for Change – for failing to register political donations from Sainsbury who was not at the time on the UK electoral register, although the fines, totaling £11000, were small beer against Sainsbury’s donations of an average of £260,00 PER YEAR. The Progress group also declared donations from the others in the retail sector including the British Retail Consortium. None of this funding is actually available to the Labour Party.

She also cited a piece in the Guardian on how Britain’s health policy under Andrew Lansley was written with the assistance of the junk food manufacturers.

From Nov 2010 in the Guardian – “McDonalds and Pepsi Co helped write UK Health Policy”. These plus Diagio, Kellogs, and other manufacturers of junk food were at the heart of the writing of policy on obesity, alcohol and diet -related diseases, along with strong presence from the supermarkets, through the board chaired by Andrew Lansley (Con). Medical professionals were “concerned”.

So the corporatists are still there. They’ve simply jumped ship and are now subsidising and sponsoring the Tories. Or else they’re doing exactly David Sainsbury is doing, and giving money to the Blairite faction in order to turn the Labour party away from anything resembling Socialism into another clone of the Tory party.

Big corporations in parliament: your poverty and disease is their profit.

Secular Talk on the Democracy Spring Protests in Washington

April 20, 2016

I don’t know if the media over here have covered it, but last week there was a mass protest – and mass arrests – at the Democracy Spring demonstration in the American capital. 600 people marched against the corporate corruption of US politics from Philadelphia to Washington DC, where they protested on the steps of the Capitol itself. 400 people were arrested, including The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur. It was the largest mass arrest at a demonstration in the nation’s history.

In this video, Secular Talk’s Kyle Kulinski talks about the protests, and why these people are American heroes. He points out that 90 per cent of the time, the party that spends the most wins the election, and this money comes from corporate donors. As a result, the decisions of the country’s government reflects what their donors want, not what the people of America really want. And the effect on American democracy is devastating. According to polls, the percentage of the American populace, which believes that their government is doing a good job, varies from 9% to 20%. And the way in which the donors’ interests are reflected in official policy, while that of Mr and Mrs J. Public are ignored, can be seen in the following.

Wall Street extensively bankrolls politicos’ campaigns. As a result, the banks were bailed out using the hard-earned tax dollars taken from America’s middle class. And then the banks carried on as before, claiming that they needed all that money spent on them to retain all their talent. The same talent that was responsible for the horrific mess in the first place. Yet if your local shop or laundrette goes under, it most definitely will not be bailed out, ’cause the shopkeeper or small entrepreneur ain’t paid his official bribes to the politicians. And it goes on. ExxonMobil receives millions upon millions in public funding, yet it clearly doesn’t need all that for research and development, as it claims. Similarly, America has a massive military budget, thanks to lobbying from the military-industrial complex.

And the desires of ordinary Americans are being stymied and frustrated. Eighty per cent of the people across the Pond want the minimum wage to be raised. But this isn’t on the table, as the corporate donors don’t want it. Sixty per cent of Americans don’t want there to be cuts to welfare, medicare and education. But the government has been trying to do that for the past six years.

Kulinski points out that Obama is as radical as is possible under the present system of corporate politics. But he’s hardly radical anywhere else. In fact, he’s centre right. And his politics largely reflect what the donors want, not what they American people themselves want or need. Only seven per cent of Americans support the war in Afghanistan. It’s now more unpopular than Vietnam. But thanks to the money spent by the corporations, nobody is talking about pulling out.

For Kulinski, the message is clear that what is needed is get the corporate sponsorship out of politics.

Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLk0jMRTE70

I’ve reblogged it, because yesterday and today I’ve put up pieces from George Monbiot’s Captive State, about how the corporations have corrupted politics in this country. Indeed, one of the pieces I put up today was about how senior managers from the supermarket chains not only lobby parliament and the European Union, but also occupy governmental posts in the very departments that are supposed to regulate them.

Mike today also put up a piece over at Vox Political, commenting on a Vice report about the row that’s blown up in the Labour Party over its refusal to invite McDonald’s to the party conference. The party members making the noise claim that it this is simply due to the party wishing to make a facile gesture at working class morality and solidarity. The reality is that many Labour MPs have done very well out of the largesse of McDonald’s and the other corporate donors. And the restaurant chain has no business turning up at the conference of a party, founded partly to represent the trade unions, when it refuses to recognise them. Read Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/20/what-an-argument-about-mcdonalds-tells-us-about-the-labour-party/

Of course, one of the first things Bliar did when he took power in the Labour party is threaten to cut ties with the unions, if they didn’t jump his way. And his protégés have continued to threaten working class people, supporting the destruction of workers’ rights and cuts to welfare benefits. All in the name of increasing ‘workforce fluidity’ and ingratiating themselves with the predatory middle class.

My guess is that the row over McDonald’s is partly about Corbyn’s leadership, and the fear amongst the Blairite’s that working class consciousness and class war might just come back in. But I think there’s also a fear about what’s happening in America. Britain, like America, has thrown open the doors of government to the corporate rich. Corporate donors funded the parties and took on politicians and senior civil servants when they retired or lost their seats. At the same time, the parties gave donors like McDonald’s what they wanted, and appointed fat cat millionaires like David Sainsbury to government posts. Now people in America are getting upset at that cosy and corrupt relationship. There’s been a news blackout about the protests by the corporate shills in the Land of the Free, and my guess it’s rattling a few cages over here as well. Corporate profits might be hit! Ministers might find themselves without a retirement job! The people just might have a little more power over their masters! And that’s frightening to an awful lot of people on both sides of the House.

Britain desperately needs some of those protests that took place over in America. Before the corporations stamp out freedom on this side of the Atlantic as well.

Jaclyn Glenn’s Takedown of Palin’s Endorsement of Trump

January 26, 2016

Last week, Sarah Palin gave her official endorsement of Donald Trump, to the amazement and hilarity of Americans and, probably, much of the entire western hemisphere. In this piece I found on Youtube, the Vlogger Jaclyn Green gives her informed opinion on this momentous political event. It’s an hilarious critical commentary on Palin’s speech. With other clips of Palin speaking in the past, it shows just how incoherent, uninformed, stupid and, indeed, downright crazy the governor of Alaska is.

Along the way, Palin talks about how she wants to be in charge of the energy department, because it deals with America’s natural resources of oil and gas, not knowing that’s precisely what the department doesn’t deal with. It’s mostly concerned with America’s nuclear energy programme, which is definitely not something of which you’d want Palin in charge.

And there’s a completely incoherent rant from Palin about sending people, who work at McDonald’s, along with liberals, vegans, and picket lines to purgatory. I have no idea what was going on in the gubernatorial skull at the point. I don’t even think she knows. I think it’s just a case of the motor centres for the jaw being engaged without the rest of the cerebellum. As Kryten from Red Dwarf would say, ‘Oh, for a world class psychiatrist!’.

And some of her speech for Trump just seems to be push-button talking points. She starts raising a cheer for working mothers, then it’s guns, Jesus, religion and an appeal to elect Trump, because as commander in chief he’ll ‘kick ISIS’ ass!’ Oh yes, and Obama uses a teleprompter, and will soon see Trump Tower looming over him.

News programmes like The Young Turks and Secular Talk have commented that her speeches are pretty much word salad, disconnected words and phrases thrown together, followed by talking points taken from right-wing radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh. And here you can see it for yourself. You really do wonder how someone as misinformed, inarticulate and just plain stupid as Palin ever got to be governor of Alaska.

The frightening thing is, by this time next year, she and Trump could be the US government. In the meantime, watch this video and let your mind boggle, as we laugh our way to the demise of sensible politics.

Vox Political: Now Tories Want to Strip Benefits from Fat People

February 15, 2015

Fat Cameron

David Cameron, showing off the toned physique for which the Tory front bench is known.

Just when you thought the Tories couldn’t get any more mean-spirited, bullying and petty, they prove you wrong. Yesterday they announced that they would strip benefits from people they considered obese. Mike over at Vox Political has put up this story about it Tories say the obese should ‘lose weight or lose benefits’. Pot, kettle, black. It begins

The Conservative Party seems determined to sink itself into the deepest, blackest hole ever created by a political organisation for itself.

While other parties unveil attractive policies designed to bring voters onboard, the Tories have said they want to remove benefits from people they have decided are fat. Here’s the Independent story, and for good measure we’ll throw in the BBC‘s coverage too.

You might be thinking to yourself, why not? They’ve already attacked people on Jobseekers’ Allowance, ESA and DLA as scroungers; they’ve pushed pensionable ages back by years; and they’re about to attack people who are on pensions, already. Why not continue proving what a bunch of spoiled little schoolboys they are by picking on fatties as well (oh, along with druggies and alkies)?

Perhaps because, as ‘Neti’ pointed out on Twitter: “Medication can mean that people gain weight and not be overeating.”

He notes that the British Medical Association attacked the plans of Westminster Council to deny overweight people benefits on these grounds in 2013 as ‘draconian’.

He quotes David Cameron as saying of this new Tory strategy:

“It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work,” he said.

The good folk of the Twitterverse are much less impressed. One of these is John Wight, who commented that it was ‘a wheeze designed to appeal to the smug middle classes’.

The Social Snobbery of the Slave Owners

It is. And it shows the arrogance, the preening sense of superiority of Cameron and his crew, as they sneer at those they consider to be physically as well as socially inferior. And lying even further underneath is the assumption of the feudal elite that we are chattels, and they should have absolute control of our bodies as well as our labour.

Private Eye published a revealing piece of gossip about the sneering mentality of the Tory grandees towards the plebs back in the 1990s. One of their contributors or spies had been at the special dining hall set up for the very rich at the Cheltenham Festival that year. This was lavishly laid out with the very finest cordon bleu cuisine. In the room at the time was one of the Tory bigwigs. I’ve got a feeling it was Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mud, but I can’t be sure. The Tory looked out of the window at the rest of the crowd below, eating the meals they’d bought from the burger stand. ‘Oh, look at all those people with their little bits of plastic,’ he sneered.

It’s the same mentality. “Oh, look at all those fat chavs! They clearly don’t eat their greens, and especially not those specially picked and cultivated by elite chefs somewhere in Tuscany or the Vale of Evesham. And they don’t know what balsamic vinegar is! How dreadful!”

butterball001_jpg

Hellraiser’s ‘Butterball’: Not known to be a relation of Eric Pickles

Now this is, of course, as Mike points out, deeply hypocritical considering the physiques of many of the Tory party. Like Nicholas ‘Fatty’ Soames, or Eric Pickles, who looks to me like nothing less than the ‘Butterball’ Cenobite from Hellraiser. And whatever it is about, it’s really not about getting the nation healthy or back to work.

The Alternatives: Changing British Shopping and Food Labelling

There are ways you could get people to eat healthier food by changing the way people shop and work. One suggestion was to label very clearly the fat content on foods, so that people were aware of just how many calories they were putting in their bodies. One other suggestion was to levy a ‘fat tax’ on fatty, unhealthy foods, like pizzas, fish and chips and so on.

You could also encourage people to eat better by bringing back local shops close to where they live, rather than supermarkets to which they have to drive. This was brought out in one of the series with Jamie Oliver, where he went to one of Britain’s fattest cities to encourage the townspeople there to lay off the chicken McNuggets and eat their greens and muesli instead. One of the mothers he enlisted in his campaign actually burst into tears about this. She bought her kids KFCs and McDonalds, not because she was lazy, but simply because that was all she could afford. She could not afford to travel outside her area to go to the supermarket to buy the super-healthy greens and foods Jamie was recommending.

The Poor, Depression and Diet

And there’s also another, emotional reason why the very poor and the unemployed eat fatty foods: they make you feel better after another depressing, dispiriting day. This was discussed again back in the ’90s by the American broadcaster and columnist, Joe Queenan, and his guests on the Radio 4 show, Postcard from Gotham. This was the time when the news had just broken that America had an obesity epidemic. They noted that, in contrast to Britain and Europe at the time, America really was the ‘land of plenty’, where the food portions were massively bigger. But they were aware that the poor ate badly because of the miserable condition of their lives.

Cutting Fatty Foods and Resistance from the Food Industry

Now the last thing the Tories actually want to do is start putting taxes on food, or have the fat content, or anything else in them clearly labelled. Many Tory MPs have very strong connections to the food and drinks industry. It’s why, for example, John Major’s government did precious little about dangerous alcohol consumption for so long, and consistently blocked legislation to limit consumption. That’s state interference, which is by nature Wrong and Oppressive. Worse, it may damage profits.

Similarly, blocking supermarkets and encouraging a new generation of Arkwrights to set up their own, s-s-small businesses, as greengrocers, family butchers, bakers and so on is another idea that definitely ain’t going to get anywhere with the Tories. Not when the supermarkets seem to be on the march everywhere, driving out their smaller competitors.

Levelling the Playing Fields

And this is before we get to the way successive administrations following Maggie have sold off public sports facilities, like school playing fields, public baths and sports centres. Private Eye has again been covering this scandal for some time in its ‘Levelling the Playing Fields’ column. This has been such as scandal that even the arch-Tory Quentin Letts has pilloried it and the Tory minister responsible in his book, 50 People who Buggered Up Britain.

All of this means challenging vested commercial interests, and reversing decades-old developments in the way people work, exercise and shop. It’s expensive, would require careful thought and planning, and could take years. Besides, it would attack the very industries that fund the Tories and provide their MPs with an income. It’s far easier for them to do absolutely nothing, and go back to doing what they do best: sneering and attacking the poorest.

Westminster Council and the Homes for Votes

It’s no surprise that this move also came two years ago from Westminster Council. The Tories there have been on a very long campaign to cleanse the area socially of the poor. In the 1990s there was the ‘Homes for Votes’ scandal, where the leader of the council, Tesco director Dame Shirley Porter, and her minions arranged for good Tory voters to be housed in good building, while the poor were removed to an asbestos-ridden tower block. This seems to be have been another ruse to drive the lower class and poor out of the area, so they could keep it as a low council tax, pristine area for the very rich.

Seasoning the Slaves

And ultimately, behind all this – the class snobbery about the bodies of the poor and the poor quality foods they consume, is an even more sinister, essentially feudal assumption: that the slave master should have absolute control over the bodies and physical fitness of his slaves. During the slave trade, the captains of the slave ships during the long journey across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and America would take their slaves up on deck and make them exercise. This was to keep them just fit enough so that some of them might survive, and fetch a good price. Once there, the slaves could be seasoned for a year so that they could recover and be fit enough to be a worthwhile commercial investment for their purchasers.

That statement by Cameron about it not being fair to ask ‘hard-working’ people to fund people who are too fat to be available for work shows something of the same mentality. It’s the attitude of the feudal lord complaining about the laziness of his peasants. John Locke, the founder of modern liberal political philosophy certainly was no opponent of slavery. He worked for the Board of Plantations when the English government was expanding their colonies in America and the Caribbean. The constitution he drew up for Carolina was strongly feudal in character. Nevertheless, he believed that free people should have absolute control over their bodies, to the point where military commanders could only ask troops to risk their lives, not command. This latest move by the Tories undermines this fundamental principle. It shows they still have the deep-seated feudal assumption that they have the absolute right to control the bodies of their serfs.

Acting Out Totalitarianism

I also wonder how far this new move is an attempt by the Tories to discredit the welfare state by being as totalitarian as possible in its name. For many Americans, the welfare state is just about synonymous with totalitarian Communism. A little while ago American Conservatives opposed to Obamacare were looking at the various campaigns of the Blair government to cut down on obesity in the name of saving the NHS money as examples of the totalitarian assumptions of the British welfare state. “Look! They actually tell you what to do at that level! That’s what Socialism is really like!” It looks to me that the Tories have taken over those arguments, and decided to act them out and push them as far as possible, in order to cut down on ‘welfare dependence’.

The Nanny State vs. Nanny Cameron

And finally, let’s call out this latest measure for another piece of hypocrisy. Quite apart from the fact that the Tories have their fair share of gutbuckets, remember how the Daily Mail and the other Tory rags screamed blue murder when Blair’s government started trying to get people to be more health aware.

Such as the various posters that were stuck up on hoardings up and down the country, telling you not to overdo the amount of salt you put in your food.

They immediately shouted that this was the ‘nanny state’, and that it showed the overbearing, micromanaging mentality of New Labour. The Tories were against all that. They stood for sturdy self-reliance against such petty meddling with people’s personal affairs.

Except now, they don’t. Not when it reinforces their middle and upper class prejudices. Not when it humiliates the lower orders even further. Not when they can deprive people of benefits, make the poor and sick starve, and force them out of house and home.

Well, here’s a musical response to this. It’s the mighty Motorhead’s ‘Eat the Rich’. Enjoy!

From Political Apathy to Dictatorship

February 17, 2014

Russell Brand

Russell Brand: Funny man and bête noir of the Right

A little while ago, Russell Brand caused controversy by declaring that politics and politicians was now so corrupt that people shouldn’t vote. He then went on to say that he wanted a revolution instead, though qualified this by saying it should be bloodless. Both statements were extremely controversial, with Webb, the other half of the comedy duo Mitchell and Webb, attacking him advocating revolution, which, in his view, led to violence, gulags and horrific atrocities by the state.

These are all indeed dangers of a revolution, and were certainly consequences of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia. They can also be the dangers of political apathy, of deliberately not voting, at least as used in the tactics of the extreme Right to bring down a democratic system they detest.

Hans Zehrer

Hans Zehrer: Extreme Right-wing Theoretician of apathy.

One of the leading neoconservative intellectual circles in Germany during the last years of the Weimar republic was based around the magazine Die Tat (‘The Deed’ in German), edited by Hans Zehrer. Zehrer was influenced by the sociological theories of Max and Alfred Weber, Karl Mannheim, and Vilfredo Pareto. The last was an Italian political theorist, who was particularly important in the rise of Fascism for his theories about the role of elites in shaping society. The early 1930s were a period of acute unemployment and frustration for young German graduates as the twice as many students graduated from university than there were suitable jobs for them. Zehrer was interested in the role of the intellectual in society, and shared their resentment at the lack of opportunities for them. He therefore urged them to abandon the Weimar republic, and drew on the experiences of the various youth leagues and Pareto and other political theorists to develop ideas about the new elite that would arise from these alienated intellectuals. He was so opposed to the Weimar republic and its democracy that he urged his readers to stand back from any political activity with the slogan ‘Achtung, junge Front! Draussenbleiben! (Attention, young front! Remain Uncommitted!)

There are parallels to today’s situation. Disenchantment with the political system is strong, with more and more people staying away from the voting booths. Employment prospects for graduates are similarly declining. Despite the massive expansion of Higher Education over the last twenty or thirty years, the number of careers open to graduates has not expanded, but sharply declined. As result, many students leaving university now find themselves performing menial, dead-end jobs saddled with tens of the thousands of pounds student debt. None of the political parties has shown themselves remotely sympathetic. It was Tony Blair, who introduced tuition fees. This was followed, however, by a massive increase under the Coalition. The Lib Dems are particularly resented for their complicity in this. Not only had Nick Clegg lied when he told the nation’s students that he would abolish them, but Vince Cable also declared that graduates should automatically pay more tax as they would inevitably become high earners. This is a fact that has escaped many former students, now waiting on tables or flipping burgers in McDonald’s. There is considerable alienation against the present situation and the three main parties, who are held to be responsible for it.

This hasn’t shown itself in a turn to extremist parties, however. Communism has more or less collapsed, and the BNP remains extremely unpopular. Other Right-wing groups and parties, however, have emerged, such as the English Defence League and UKIP. The latter deny they are racist, but are motivated by bitter resentment of the EU, to the point where they have been described as ‘BNP-lite’. They also claim to stand apart from the three main parties, Labour, Liberals and Conservatives, but are like them in that they share their Neo-Liberal economics. Indeed, they are more extreme in their enthusiasm for privatisation, free-trade and the destruction of the welfare state than the Tories.

In the Weimar republic, the alienation of the Conservative intellectuals contributed to the rise of the Nazi dictatorship. That probably won’t occur here, as truly Fascist movements are despised. What it is leading to is less voters turning out to oppose UKIP. And there is the danger that without an active engagement in politics by the British public, this will become the preserver of unelected, managerial elites. Those who would undoubtedly benefit from this are the multinational corporations to whom the government has handed so much of the administration of British public life and state. Atos as public servants are appalling. Atos as an unelected government would be unimaginably worse.