Posts Tagged ‘Recession’

The Monkees Play ‘Randy Scouse Git’

August 12, 2020

Here’s something to cheer you all a bit after the news that Boris Johnson and his cronies have created Britain’s biggest recession ever, that they still don’t have any proper advice for parents on whether it’s safe to send their children back to school – but want them there anyway, so they can get their parents back to work no matter that there’s a second wave of Coronavirus coming. And that they’re trying to whip up hatred against a handful of desperate asylum seekers to distract us all from the real poverty, starvation and despair they’ve created.

This is a bit of fun I found on YouTube. It’s of the Monkees, the manufactured American rivals to the Beatles, playing a song I’ve only heard about in rumours: ‘Randy Scouse Git’. Going from the comments to the video, it’s actually about meeting his wife, Samantha, during a visit to the UK in the 1970s. He gave the song its title because he didn’t know it was an insult. Hence, apparently, it also has an inoffensive alternative name. It’s from Nickstranger999’s channel on YouTube.

In his piece about the song, Nickstranger writes

My next favorite Monkees song. The only other copy of this I could find here was sped up, so probably from a UK print. Excellent, and brilliantly written song written by Micky Dolenz. Some additional info cobbled together from various sources: In his book Micky explains the lyrics as a kind of free-association song about his experience of visiting England for the first time. The Beatles are “The Four Kings of E.M.I.” who threw a welcoming party for The Monkees. “Wonderful lady” is his first wife, Samantha Juste. The “girl in yellow dress” is a reference to ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot who was also there. After that heavy night of fun Mickey woke the next day to someone shouting “Randy, Scouse, Git” on the television and thought it would be a cool name. Randy Scouse Git was the term used by Alf Garnet about his Liverpudlian son-in-law in the sitcom “To Death Do Us Part”. Prior to it’s U.K. release the record company informed Mickey of the meaning behind the title and suggested he give them an ‘alternate title’ – hence the U.K. release name of the title.

I’d only heard about this in rumour, where I was told that it the title little Donny Osmond wanted to give one of his songs after hearing the phrase used by Alf Garnet. After he was told that it was an insult, the song instead became ‘Long-Haired Love from Liverpool’. Or perhaps it’s also true of him as well. Who knows?

Anyway, enjoy the song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Britain Boos Boris

May 30, 2020

Last Thursday may well have been the last time Britain ‘claps for carers’. The woman who started it all, I believe, now wants it to end because she feels it’s been politicised. In her view, it’s no longer about applauding and showing appreciation for the tireless heroes of the NHS and care workers seeking to combat this terrible disease.

I can see her point. From the moment it started I wondered if it was also going to be a way Boris and his gang of murderers could bask in their reflected glory. Was it going to be a way Boris could subliminally manipulate the nation’s mood, so that as they clapped for the NHS, they were also clapping him and the measures his government put in place – grudgingly and belatedly? But still, our NHS and care workers deserved it, especially as so many have died, partly due to the government massively fumbling the supplies of PPE. It’s also been a good way to raise morale and bring people together by getting them out of their homes and onto the streets in collective act of celebration. All while maintaining a safe distance, of course.

But now a new collective ritual may be ready to take over from it. A ritual that has absolutely no government sponsorship and definitely does not reflect positively on Johnson and his pack. Last Tuesday, Brits across the country took part in the national ‘Boo for Boris’. Mike posted several of the videos of people booing our incompetent, malign and murderous prime minister across the country, from Canton in Cardiff to Saltaire. One woman even dressed in ancient Celtic costume as ‘Boodica’, to shout her defiance just as the ancient queen of the Iceni stuck it to the Romans. There’s a parallel with modern history there, as well. Boadicea’s rebellion was partly sparked off not just by Roman brutality against her, her sisters and her people, but from economic recession caused by rich Romans like Seneca withdrawing their money from Roman Britain. This is what happens when the rich don’t spread it around and the economy contracts: people get into their spiked chariots and start mowing down the government.

I didn’t take part because, like Mike, I was too shy. But Mike’s article and the piccies he posted of it can be found at:

Britain boos Boris! And about time too…

Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, posted a video denouncing the whole affair. He seemed to think it was like the three-minute hate in Orwell’s 1984, in which the whole nation screamed its hatred of the totalitarian regime’s archetypal state enemy. Like so many of his libertarian fulminations, it’s absolutely wrong. The three-minute hate in 1984 is the total opposite. It’s a consciously staged even by the regime to direct popular hatred away from itself. As such, it’s far more like the regular denunciations we had over the past four years of Jeremy Corbyn as a Communist, Trotskyite, Russian or Czech spy and anti-Semite from the Tory establishment and a complicit, mendacious press. The ‘Boo for Boris’ campaign, on the other hand, was an act of popular discontent and resistance against a government that insists on a stifling control of the media. If there is a a film parallel, it’s probably with broadcast news when people follow the lead of the angry and confused news anchorman by shouting out of their windows that they’re ‘mad as hell’. Though I hope it doesn’t end badly, as it did in that movie.

But as Boris continues to make himself massively unpopular through his support of the unrepentant Cummings, our clown prime minister may well have to suffer more boos to come.

Will Keir Starmer Be the 21st Century Ramsay McDonald?

May 2, 2020

This occurred to me a few days ago, thinking about Starmer’s strange decision to offer only constructive criticism of the government and his agreement to serve in a coalition with Johnson if asked. It was a bizarre decision, that either showed Starmer as naive, or far more closely aligned with the Tories at the expense of the left in the Labour party.

In fact there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Starmer, as a man of the Labour right, is basically a Tory in the wrong party. The leaked Labour report shows the Blairites in the party bureaucracy – Iain McNicol, John Stolliday, Emilie Oldknow and the other scum – actively working to make sure that Labour lost the 2017 election. One of them described feeling sick that Corbyn was actually high in the polls, and the intriguers exchanged emails in that the wished that Labour would lose to the Lib Dems or the Tories. One of them was even a moderator on a Tory discussion site, and had such a hatred for his own party that people wondered why he was still in it. Of course, when someone in the Labour party actually raised that question they found it was verboten and they were purged on some trumped up charge. And in at least one of the constituency Labour parties the right-wing leadership actually appealed for Lib Dems and Tories to join when the rank and file started to get Bolshie and demand change and the election of genuine Labour officials. Blair himself was described over and again as a man in the wrong party. He was a Thatcherite neoliberal. He stood for private enterprise and the privatisation of the NHS, although with the caveat that he still believed in free universal healthcare paid for by the state. And Thatcher herself claimed him as her greatest achievement. The first thing that the Blair did when he entered No. 10 was invite her round for a visit.

Blair claimed that politics had changed, as the fall of Communism meant that we were living in a post-ideological age. All that stuff by Francis Fukuyama about ‘the end of history’. Blair also packed his administration with Tories, arguing that in this new political era he wanted to reach across party lines and form a government of all the talents.

But neoliberalism itself has not triumphed, except as a zombie ideology kept walking by the political, social and economic elites long after it should have been interred. It keeps the 1 per cent massively rich at the expense of everyone else. And under Corbyn people started to wake up to it. Which is why the establishment were frantic to demonise him, first as a Communist or Trotskyite, and then, in a grotesque reversal of the truth, an anti-Semite. Starmer’s victory in the leadership elections is basically the Blairites returning to power and attempting to restore their previous domination.

It’s perfectly possible that Starmer is also simply being naive. After all, Germany’s equivalent party, the SPD, went into coalition with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, the German Conservatives. It was a disastrous mistake, as Merkel’s gang stole the credit for their reforms strengthening Germany’s welfare state, while making sure that the SPD took the blame for their mistakes and the negative part of the coalition programme. The result was that the SPD lost the next election heavily to Merkel. 

There’s also the object lesson of what happened to the Lib Dems in this country when Nick Clegg threw in his lot with Cameron. Despite the rhetoric of dragging the Tories further left or rather to the centre, Clegg immediately abandoned any real centrism and backed Cameron’s vile, murderous austerity programme to the hilt. Indeed, he went even further. Cameron was willing to concede to Clegg that university tuition fees shouldn’t be raised. But Clegg decided that they should. And so they were, and British students naturally turned against the man who betrayed them. And at the next election, the Lib Dems were devastated as their supporters chose instead either to vote Tory or Labour.

And there’s an important lesson for Starmer from the Labour party’s own 20th century history. Right at the end of the 1920s or the beginning of the 1930s, the Labour Party entered a coalition with the Conservatives under its leader, Ramsay McDonald. This was a response to the Wall Street Crash and the global recession that followed. The party’s members wanted their government to act in the interests of the workers, who were being laid off in droves, or had their wages and what unemployment relief there was cut. Instead the party followed orthodox economic policy and cut government spending, following the Tory programme of welfare cuts, mass unemployment and lower wages. This split the party, with the rump under McDonald losing popular support and dying. McDonald himself was hated and reviled as a traitor.

Something similar could easily occur if Starmer’s Labour went into coalition with the Tories. They’d back the programme of further austerity, an end to the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, and would lose members as a result. Just as the party did under Blair. However, I can see Starmer and the Blairites seeing this as a success. They despise traditional Labour members and supporters, whom they really do view as Communist infiltrators. They did everything they could to purge the party of Corbyn supporters, using the accusation of Communism and then anti-Semitism as the pretext for doing so. And they seemed determined to split the party if they could not unseat him. There were the series of attempted coups, in one of which Starmer himself was a member. It also seemed that they intended to split the party, but hold on to its name, bureaucracy and finances in order to present themselves as the real Labour party, even though they’re nothing of the sort.

My guess is that this would happen if Starmer does accept an invitation from Boris to join him in government. And the question is whether Starmer realised this when he made his agreement with the blonde clown. Is he so desperate for power that he sees it as a risk he should take?

Or does he say it as a way of joining the party to which he really feels allegiance, and a useful way of purging Labour of all the awkward lefties?

 

Trailer for Mike Leigh’s ‘Peterloo’

October 28, 2018

The left-wing British film director, Mike Leigh, has a film coming out about the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ in 1819 when a defenceless crowd that had gathered in Manchester to hear the radical politician, Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt, was charged by cavalry.

It was a period of severe economic recession, unemployment, political discontent and stifling censorship of freedom of speech, protest and the press. This passage from The History of the World: The Last 500 Hundred Years, General Editor Esmond Wright (Feltham: Hamlyn 1984) describes the conditions at the time.

At the end of the war England entered upon a long depression which brought to many even greater hardship than the war had done. Industries lay depressed with the sudden cessation of wartime demand, agriculture no longer enjoyed the protection that Napoleon’s blockade had brought and began to contract, while European countries, impoverished after years of conquest and exploitation, could not afford to resume their former level of trade. It was, in fact, twenty years after 1815 before British exports recovered to their previous level. Added to the existing problems of unemployment and low wages were some half a million demobilized soldiers and sailors, suddenly thrown onto a labour market that could not absorb them. The years from 1815 to 1820 were mong the darkest in English history when many feared, with some cause, a repetition of the events which had torn France apart in 1789.

Radicalism – an extreme form of politics which advocated fundamental reform of the constitutional and financial system – grew to brief importance under such popular leaders as Cobbett and Hunt. In their hatred of industrialization they preached a naïve ‘back-to-the-land’ philosophy which seemed attractive to populations of former peasants exposed to the insecurities of town life. Significantly, the cause of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819, when a defenceless crowd was charged by squadrons of cavalry, was a speech by Hunt, not on the problem of wages or unemployment, but on the subject of land reform.

Most labour movements in the first half of the century had this strong agrarian background. A majority of the new town dwellers were peasants by origin, unaccustomed to the regularity of factory work and the overcrowded life in slums and tenements. They turned instinctively to solutions that offered simpler, better understood relationship in which men seemed to be something more than mere instruments of production. Working people gave their support to Radicalism, not because they understood or even cared very much about abstract democratic principles but because it represented a protest against the unacceptable conditions of life. To its few middle- and upper-class supporters it was much more – a progressive, democratic demand for a government responsible to the popular will and an administrative system based on efficiency rather than privilege.

To such suggestions the governments of the fay responded with severe repression. The Tory party remained in office from the end of the war until 1830, first under Lord Liverpool, later under the wartime hero, the Duke of Wellington. Their belief was that the British constitution was perfect and that any attempt to disturb it must be put down firmly. Trade unions were illegal until 1824 and even after that striking was still a criminal offence, public meetings and meeting-places required to be licensed and newspapers were subject to a crippling stamp duty of five pence a copy. Together with such measures went a crude system which paid a meagre dole to labourers whose earning were inadequate to support their families (the Speenhamland system of poor relief) and which had the effect of impoverishing whole areas of the country. (p. 396).

This sounds very much like the kind of Britain Tweezer, Bojo, Rees-Mogg and their followers would like to return to us to. A country where unions and strikes are banned, restrictions on public meetings and censorship of the press. Except when it supports the Tories, of course. Blair and Cameron both tried to bring in legislation limiting demonstrations. They’ve been banned within a certain area of parliament, and Cameron wanted to pass legislation outlawing public protests if they caused a nuisance to local residents. Which is a convenient way of suppressing public expressions of dissent while claiming that you aren’t intending to do any such thing. ‘The government is fully behind freedom of speech and assembly, but this will be an intolerable nuisance to the people actually in the area’, is how the argument would run. And they’d also like to see more people slaving away in cruel and exploitative conditions in poverty, with a benefits system totally unable to cope.

Which is what makes Leigh’s movie of such contemporary significance. Here’s the trailer.

I caught a few moments of Leigh being interviewed on the Beeb the week before last. He was talking about how the incident was an important event in Manchester’s history. Walking around the historic part of Manchester, he pointed out buildings that had been there at the time and which had been included in the film.

Leigh’s known for his improvisational approach to film making, but the interviewer said that this movie felt more scripted, and Leigh agreed. I can’t say I’m a fan of Leigh’s work – it’s a bit too grim for my tastes – but this is something I’d like to see. The Peterloo Massacre is nearly 200 years ago, but it still has resonance and immense importance to the early 21st century Britain of Tweezer and the Tories.

Telesur English: Venezuela Drops Petrodollars, Threatens US Global Power

September 20, 2017

Venezuela this week officially stopped using the petrodollar. In this short clip from Telesur English’s Breaking the Chains, they explain why this is important, and may result in very aggressive action by the US to force the Venezuelans to return to using it. Forcing the other countries in the world to pay for their oil in dollars allows the US to export its currency around the world. This allows it to refinance its debt, and import other countries goods at very low prices. If the other countries stop using the petrodollar, it becomes a severe blow to US global domination. The report states that America has been accused of using extreme measures, from assassination to war, to force the world’s nations to use their national currency as the international medium for purchasing oil.

Looking through some of the other videos on YouTube on this subject, it seems that Venezuela isn’t alone. Other countries also would like to jettison the petrodollar. These include the BRICS nations and Iran. I got the impression from reading Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse, on George Dubya and the Iraq invasion, that this was partly caused by Saddam Hussein threatening to jettison the petrodollar. American couldn’t possibly allow that. If it did, and other nations followed suit, then America’s economic domination of the world would be smashed, and the recession the country’s experiencing would become much, much worse.

I therefore seems to me that the threats Trump made against Iran and Venezuela have nothing to do with the nature of those countries’ regimes. America has propped up numberless Fascist dictators and mass-murderers around the world with no qualms whatsoever, so long as they support America and America’s corporate interests. What frightens America is when other countries don’t accede to its corporate demands. And then it does invade – look at the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz’s government in Guatemala. This was overthrown in the 1950s because Arbenz, a democratic Socialist who wanted to help the peons working the banana plantations, nationalized them. Many of them were owned by the US United Fruit Company, and so the US invaded, and then justified it through propaganda which claimed, quite falsely, that Arbenz was a Communist. And this is only one example of many, many others. If you want a complete list, read one of William Blum’s pieces on the subject.

Trump would just love to start a war with Iran, to continue the Neocons agenda of destroying and destabilizing the other Middle Eastern states for the benefit of the Israelis and Saudis, and he’s terrified of a socialist Venezuela, or at least one that has no fear about standing up to America.

If he does decide on military action, you can expect the usual pernicious twaddle about liberating their countries from oppressive governments. They will be flat out lies. America wants to invade these nations for the same reason it invaded Iraq – to seize their oil, and whatever state and other industries American big business wants.

Murdoch’s Editorial Interference and Right-Wing Bias

June 7, 2016

The phone hacking scandal has been rumbling on for what seems like forever now. For a moment it looked like Murdoch himself was going to end up in court, because of allegations that he personally interferes in editing his newspapers. According to Private Eye, he almost appeared before the beak a few years ago on a libel charge, after Michael Foot sued the Times for claiming that he was a KGB agent, based on the unlikely word of Oleg Gordievsky. Gordievsky was a former KGB agent, and self-confessed liar. From what I recall, a number of the Times’ staff were highly sceptical of the allegations, with the exception of the editor, David Leppard. And so the paper printed the story that Foot, a principled democratic socialist, whose loyalty to his country should never have been in doubt, was a KGB agent codenamed ‘Comrade Boot’.

Murdoch’s managed to escape these scrapes with the law, and wriggle out of them when he has been forced to appear before public enquiries and parliamentary committees, by claiming that he doesn’t interfere with his papers’ editorial policies. Mark Hollingworth, in his book The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship, points out that Murdoch largely doesn’t need to. He appoints editors he knows will follow his political line, like Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, who before he became editor of the Sunset Times was one of the editors on the Economist. Neil told his staff at a meeting of the Gay Hussar pub in London that he fully supported Thatcher’s policies on monetarism and privatisation, although on macroeconomic policy he claimed he was further to the left, and more like David Owen. (p. 18).

The News of the World

But Hollingworth makes clear that the Dirty Digger does interfere with the editor’s running of his newspapers, and certainly did so when he took over the News of the World at the end of the 1960s. Hollingsworth writes

However, when Murdoch was faced with an editor who didn’t share his political views and wanted a semblance of independence, the situation changed dramatically. when he took of the News of the World in 1969, Murdoch told the incumbent editor, Stafford Somerfield: I didn’t come all this way not to interfere.’ According to Somerfield, the new proprietor ‘wanted to read proofs, write a leader if he felt like it, change the paper about and give instructions to the staff’. As the paper’s long-serving editor, Somerfield was used to a fair amount of independence and he tried to resist Murdoch’s interference. In 1970 Somerfield was dismissed by Murdoch.

A similar fate befell another News of the World editor a decade later. Barry Askew had been appointed by Murdoch in April 1981 after a successful career as the crusading editor of the Lancashire Evening Post during which he published a series of stories about corruption among local public officials and institutions. However, when Askew and the News of the World declined, like the Times under Harold Evans during the same period to give the Conservative government unequivocal support, Murdoch took action. ‘He [Murdoch] would come into the office,’ said Askew, ‘and literally rewrite leaders which were not supporting the hard Thatcher monetarist line. That were not, in fact, supporting – slavishly supporting – the Tory government.’

Askew believes the big clash came over an exclusive story about John DeLorean, the car tycoon. A freelance journalist, John Lisners, had persuaded DeLorean’s former secretary, Marian Gibson, to reveal details about her boss’ business practices and alleged irregularities. It was a superb story, backed up by other sources and also cleared by Gibson’s lawyer-Clarence Jones.

However, just after noon on Saturday 3 October 1981, Murdoch telephoned Askew, as he invariably did every week, to discuss the main stories. Askew told him about the DeLorean scoop and Murdoch appeared initially to be enthusiastic. Later that afternoon Murdoch arrived at the office in Bouverie Street and went straight to the ‘back-bench’ to read the DeLorean material. One of the key sources was William Haddad, who had worked for Murdoch on the New York Post. On learning of Haddad’s involvement, Murdoch said: ‘He’s a leftwing troublemaker’, although he later denied saying this. ‘I may have referred to Bill’s love of conspiracy theories.’

Murdoch then consulted his legal advisors and they decided the story was legally unsafe. The story was killed. The next day the Daily Mirror published the same story on its front page and the rest of the media followed it up. Interestingly, according to Ivan Fallon and James Srodes’ book DeLorean, it was Murdoch who arranged for Lord Goodman to act as DeLorean’s lawyer to discourage the rest of Fleet Street from pursuing the story. Within a year DeLorean’s car firm was bankrupt. Within two months, in December 1981, Askew was dismissed and he returned to Lancashire a bitter man. ‘I don’t think Fleet Street gives a damn about ethics, morality or anything else. It gives a damn about attracting a readership that will attract an advertising situation which will make a profit which will make the press barons powerful politically.
(pp.18-20).

The Times

This editorial interference did not stop with the News of the World. It also extended to the Times, when that august paper was under the editorship of the highly respected journalist, Harold Evans. Hollingworth continues

But by far the most revealing example of Murdoch’s desire to set the political line of his papers also came during 1981 when the Conservative government was very unpopular because of high unemployment. when Harold Evans was appointed editor of the Times in March 1981, he was given official guarantees by Murdoch about editorial freedom. On 23 January 1981, the new owner of Times Newspapers had given formal undertakings that ‘In accordance with the traditions of the papers, their editors will not be subject to instruction from either the proprietor of the management on the selection and balance of news and opinion.’

Within a year, however, Evans had been dismissed, claiming he had been forced to resign over constant pressure by Murdoch to move the paper to the Right. Evans’ added: ‘The Times was not notably hostile to the [Conservative] government but it wanted to be independent. But that was not good enough for Rupert Murdoch. He wanted it to be a cheerleader for monetarism and Mrs Thatcher.’ Murdoch denied the charge: ‘Rubbish! Harry used to come and see me and say, “Rupert, it’s wonderful to have you in town. What do you want me to say, what do you want me to do, just let me know.”‘ On this crucial point, Evans told me: ‘Lie plus macho sneer with a useful ambiguity. It is a lie that I ever asked him what to say… It is true that I asked his view from time to time on developments of the paper. The truth is that far from asking Murdoch “what to say”, I followed an editorial policy often in opinion at variance with his own Thatcher-right-or-wrong view.’

The evidence certainly gives credence to Evans’ interpretation of events, although he also fell out with some of the staff. According to leader writer Bernard Donoghue, features editor Anthony Holden and executive editor Brian Macarthur, there was political pressure on Evans because of what Mrs Thatcher called ‘the Times centrist drift’. When unemployment had reached three million in the summer of 1981 Murdoch and Gerald Long, Managing Director of Times Newspapers, wanted the Times to emphasize the number of people in work. Evans declined and Murdoch snapped at him: ‘You’re always getting at her [Mrs Thatcher].’ The Times editor and his proprietor continually argued over economic policy and on one occasion Evans received an extraordinary memorandum from Gerald Long: ‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer says the recession has ended. Why are you have the effrontery in the Times to say that it has not.’

Evans believes the Times was simply taking a more detached, independent editorial position. But by early 1982, Murdoch was clearly losing patience. According to Bernard (now Lord Donoghue, a leader writer and now a stockbroker at Grieveson & Grant, Murdoch had promised Mrs Thatcher that the Times would be back in the Conservative camp by the Easter of that year. But the editor refused to submit to what he later called ‘political intimidation and harassment’. On 12 March 1982, Evans wrote the following editorial: ‘ Unemployment is a social scandal… We favour a more competitive society as against one which is subject to the monopoly power of capital or the trade unions. Three days later Evans was dismissed.

Such lack of sovereignty and independence by the editor has been prevalent throughout the Murdoch empire. ‘I give instructions to me editors all round the world, why shouldn’t I in London,’ he told Fred Emery, home affairs editor of the Times, on 4 March 1982. However, since 1983 all four of Murdoch’s London papers have taken a consistently pro-Conservative government line and so there has been no need to interfere. According to a report on the Sunday Times’ ‘Insight’ team, this is how the system works: ‘Murdoch appoints people who are sympathetic to him. Thus most of the senior staff like Hugo Young have left or been completely emasculated or replaced… To survive you have to self-censor. You approach a story in a different way than if you’d run it in the way you wanted to.’ (pp. 20-1).

The Sun

Hollingsworth concludes that Murdoch actually rarely interfered with the Sun, as under its editor Larry Lamb, who was knighted by Thatcher in 1980, it had already moved to the Tory right, a policy that was continued by the succeeding editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. (p. 21).

So while Murdoch may not interfere in the day-to-day editorial matters of his newspapers any more, they do reflect his personal political opinions and his own personal style of journalism, as carried out by compliant, sympathetic editors.
There was an outcry when he tried to buy the News of the World in 1969. The paper’s then-management were worried about how he would change the paper. And the same fears were raised again when he went off and bought the Times in the late ’70s or first years of the ’80s. There were indeed plans to refer his proposed purchase to the monopolies and mergers commission, though that might have been when he bought the Daily Herald and turned it into the Scum.

And his critics were right. He is not a fit and proper person to own a paper, and he should never have been allowed to buy them. It says much about Thatcher’s grubby, domineering leadership that he was.

Secular Talk: Fox News Attacks Minimum Wage Worker, Who Couldn’t Afford Food

February 28, 2016

This shows just how low and bitterly anti-poor Fox News is. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski discusses a segment from Fox News in which the host, Sandra Smith, invited on to talk cosily with Stefanie Williams, the author of an internet piece attacking Talia Jane. Jane was a worker on the minimum wage, who had written a piece on Yelp stating that despite working full time for her employer, she still could not afford to buy food, as 80 per cent of her income was spent on rent. She stated that she was tired of working for an employer that did not watch her back, and included her paypal address and an appeal for people to help her pay her rent. This piece got her the sack from the company’s CEO.

Smith congratulates Williams for writing her piece attacking Jane, stating that millennials have an undeserved sense of entitlement. Williams preens herself on receiving so many letter from other people, who believe she has spoken up for them, and stating that they have had trouble making ends meet, but have buckled down and worked harder. She also criticises Jane for having a paypal account and wanting people to help her pay her bills.

Kulinski rightly describes this as ‘a new low’. He observes that Williams and others like her are all ‘useful idiots’ for the millionaires and billionaires, who have rigged the economy in their favour. For example, the richest people in America are the Walton family, a group of about six people. They have more wealth than the bottom 50 per cent of Americans. And this money is largely inherited. Globally, the richest 62 people on the planet have more money than the bottom 3.7 billion. Williams and the others have internalised the idea that America is a meritocracy, and all you need to do is work harder to succeed. Talia Jane’s case shows that this isn’t true, as the woman was already working a full time job.

As for the millennials’ sense of entitlement, the anger stems from the fact that the previous generation has wrecked the economy. They produced the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the recession, and created the conditions where few can now afford mortgages and the only jobs are in the low paid sectors. And now they’re blaming the younger people for complaining about the recession and poor economic prospects they’ve created. This is, as Kulinski says, ‘victim blaming 101’. The whole argument is based on the idea that if you don’t succeed in meritocratic America, then it’s because there’s something wrong with you morally.

Now this is another piece that’s clearly American, but it has implications for us over here in Britain as well. Channel 5 is already doing this kind of criticism of the poor with its ‘poverty porn’ shows, like Benefits Street. Murdoch, who owns Fox with a Saudi billionaire, wants to have the Beeb privatised, so he can move into the vacuum created by the demise of the public service broadcast. The Beeb isn’t perfect, and it’s right-wing bias infuriates me as well, but it is not as right-wing as Fox. And if Murdoch got his way, that’s all you’d get for your daily news. More right-wing, Conservative, hate and bile at the poor.

A few days ago Mike at Vox Political posted up a video made by a young woman in the Guardian, about what life is really like for the poor. She’s right to do so, and I’ll get round to reblogging that soon. But Fox is the people, who want to shout these voices down.

It’s Not Just the Disabled Who Lose Out When They Lose their Motability Cars

February 12, 2016

Last Thursday, Mike reported a story by the Beeb that 45 per cent of the benefit claimants, who moved from Disability Living Allowance to the Personal Independence Payments had lost their Motability cars. Motability has said that there will be a one-off payment of £2,000 so that some will get a vehicle. But Samuel Miller, one of Mike’s readers, also points out that this will also eventually be scrapped. Here’s the story: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/04/motability-cars-lost-by-45-of-dla-to-pip-claimants-benefits-and-work/.

This is another case of bad politics also making for bad economics. That so many disabled people should lose their mobility vehicles is not really a surprise. When this government talks about welfare reform, this always means finding a way to throw people off benefits. Of course, the talk is always about simplifying complex bureaucracy, providing ‘value for money’, and ‘concentrating help where it’s needed’, but the intention and end result is always the same. Get people off benefits anyway they can, and never mind what happens to them.

It also shows that the Personal Independence Payment is, for 45 per cent of people who’ve moved onto it from DLA, a misnomer. Clearly, some of their independence, which the payment is supposed to preserve and support, has been lost the moment their vehicles were taken away.

This is, of course, all part of the Conservative attitude which says that if you’re too poor to afford it, you shouldn’t have it. Even if you’re genuinely poor. But it’s also an attitude that impoverishes the people and businesses around the disabled. Consider this: motability cars, and other vehicles like it, such as mobility scooters, give the disabled independence. They’re able to get around more, and do more. And people, who are able to do more are able to spend more. This may not be very much. It may be just spending a few more extra pence, or a pound or so on a lottery ticket, newspaper or magazine down at the local newsagent, an extra packed of sweets or biscuits at the local corner shop. But it means that a bit more is being put into the economy, and local businesses in particular get a bit extra trade. And that benefits everyone. One of the hopes FDR had when he introduced the very limited unemployment safety net in America was that, if the unemployed were given more money, they’d also spend it and help the American economy as a whole come out of the Recession. And this is what other people have been saying since. It ain’t rocket science. I can remember thinking about it as a teenager when Thatcher was in power.

She’s gone, but her poisonous legacy remains. And it means that some disabled people are being denied their dignity, their independence, and society is being deprived of their ability to put back into the economy, to generate wealth.

All from the venomous hatred of the poor, who are automatically viewed as undeserving. Well, this crew of bandits are undeserving. Let’s kick them out before they do any more harm.

Sneck! Mutant Bounty Hunter In Radio 4 High Culture Shock!

April 7, 2015

Strontium Dog

Mutant Bounty Hunter Johnny Alpha, AKA Strontium Dog, from 2000 AD, drawn by Carlos Ezquerra

I’ve published a few pieces recently about comics, and particularly 2000 AD. Last week it was reported that Judge Dredd was going to be taking on Nigel Farage in the form of a hate-mongering politico, Bilious Barrage, in Mega-City 1. Now in today’s Radio Times there’s also news that another favourite from 2000 AD will get a mention on radio: Johnny Alpha, the mutant bounty hunter and hero of the strip Strontium Dog. He’s due to get an appearance on a programme about a new cycle of poems about the element, from which he and the other Search/Destroy Agents took their name The (Half) Life of Strontium.

The blurb in the Radio Times says Strontium is the 38th element in the Periodic Table and was discovered in 1792 by miners in the Scottish village of Strontian. Robert Crawford’s new suite of poems elaborates on the connections between the village in Argyll, the bomb that dropped on Nagasaki and the mutant bounty hunter, Strontium Dog.

The programme’s on at 4.30 pm. on Radio 4 on Sunday, 12th April.

The strip took its name from Strontium 90, one of the radioactive elements in nuclear fall-out. The Strontium Dogs were mutants, who were legally prevented from holding any other jobs on Earth except as bounty hunters because of their mutations. The strip combined detective adventures in a kind of future galactic Wild West, as the strip’s hero, Johnny Alpha, and his norm partner Wulf Sternhammer, roamed space bringing criminals to justice.

Alpha took his name from the alpha particles emitted by his mutant eyes. In the strip these gave him X-ray vision and the power to read minds. In practice they’re very weak. You can block them with a sheet of paper. Not that science fact necessarily gets in the way of a good tale. 2000 AD generally had a strong satirical edge, and wasn’t averse to tackling serious issues. In Strontium Dog the strips’ creators used the mutant hero and his deformed friends and enemies to explore issues of racism, prejudice and the British class system.

Alpha’s father was a ruthless right-wing politicians, Nelson Bunker Kreelman, who was determined to carry out a policy of mass murder to cleanse an irradiated Britain of its mutant population. Alpha’s own mutation was carefully hidden in order to safeguard his father’s reputation. In the event, Alpha rebels against his father, and leads a mutant revolt from one of the ancient symbols of British identity, Stonehenge.

The mutant’s victory is limited, however. Although they are tolerated, their opportunities are very limited. They are segregated into mutant ghettos, and are very much second-class citizens. When Alpha and Wulf travel, they are forced to find accommodation in the hold or in the second class cabins, as mutants very definitely may not travel first class with ordinary humans. And the discovery of mutant relatives, especially offspring, is still a major source of shame for respectable middle class Brits.

In one strip, the king of Britain, Clarkie II, attempts to bridge the divide between norm and mutant by marrying a young mutant lady with a duck’s bill from the Milton Keynes mutant ghetto. This is a step too far for his subjects, and the idealistic king is hounded, forced to abdicate, and flee into space.

It’s a slightly irreverent, but also curiously sympathetic look at Prince Charles’ actions at the time. This was before his marriage with Lady Di fell apart, and the Prince was still popular with many Brits. He also appeared to be genuinely and deeply concerned with the plight of his poorer subjects as Maggie’s recession threw millions out of work. And so the strip’s creators, Aaln Grant and Carlos Ezquerra, were able to present a fantastic version of the Prince of Wales showing his social concerns in the future. In this case, it was marrying well out of his class with a mutant girl from the wrong side of the tracks.

And what Crawford’s poem also shows us, is that apart from great literature, the major figures of British arts also started off like the rest of us: reading and enjoying the four-colour funny papers. They’ve now grown up, and Dredd, Alpha and the rest are heading upmarket alongside . At least on the radio.

Reagan Dog

Never afraid to treat authority with the amusement it deserves: Strontium Dog and his partner, Durham Red, rescue a Ronald Reagan kidnapped by time-travelling aliens.

The Young Turks: Racism More Acute in Recession

March 12, 2015

This is another Young Turks’ video. I know I’ve posted a lot of them, but bear with me. This one’s also relevant to the situation here in the UK. The Turks’ in this one are talking about a study in the American liberal magazine, Mother Jones. Black Americans have suffered disproportionately in the presence recession. This isn’t just because they have most of their wealth invested in property, which they’ve lost due to the banking crisis and sub-prime mortgages. It’s also because racial prejudice amongst Whites also increases during recession.

I know Black people here in Britain, who have had exactly the same experiences as those reported in the magazine article. I was talking to a Black friend about a fortnight ago, who has a very stereotypically Black first name. He’s a businessman, but found that fewer of his potential customers called him back if he used his first name. So he took to using his far more mainstream second name in order to get more trade. This is exactly what the Mother Jones’ article reported Black American businesspeople had experienced.

The Turks state clearly in this piece that it shouldn’t be about blaming Whites for unconscious racism, but simply of acknowledging it and finding ways to move on to create better, more non-racist society. It’s extremely wise words, as studies have also found that Whites become more racist when somebody accuses them of racism. This last piece of research was not lost on one extreme Right-wing Canadian site, that recommended that Conservatives use that study to attack anti-racism and affirmative action policies.

I’ve decided to post the video here because, like the other Young Turks videos I’ve posted, it also relevant to the situation here in Britain. Not only is the experience of Black business people losing trade because of their name the same in America and Britain, but Black people over here have also suffered disproportionately due to the recession. Johnny Void has pointed this out in his last piece detailing the racist background of one Iain Duncan Smith, the mass butcher in charge of the DWP.

And the problem has been made even more urgent by today’s announcement by the Fuhrage that if the Kippers ever gain power, they will scrap the anti-racism legislation.

The stories about boarding houses, bed and breakfasts and hotels not taking Blacks, Irish and dogs are not myths. One of my uncle is Irish, and he suffered that discrimination while working on a site. Clearly, the Generalissimo of the legions of squalid weirdoes is upset that this kind of behaviour is no longer legal.