Posts Tagged ‘The Void’

Kenneth Surin on Brexit and May’s Corporate Attack on the Poor

April 20, 2017

On Tuesday, Counterpunch published a long piece by their contributor, Kenneth Surin, on Theresa May’s plans for Brexit, and how this will inevitably harm the poor and the working people of this Sceptred Isle. And it’s what you’re already expecting, if you’ve read the Groaniad, those bits of the I newspaper that are still even remotely genuinely liberal, and bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, the Canary, Another Angry Voice, The Void and so on. May, he predicts, will talk a hard Brexit in order to counter some of the opposition from the Tory Right, but will leave some room for a soft Brexit. She, Boris Johnson, and the other vicious grotesques currently infesting the halls of power, want to use it to turn Britain into a tax haven. So he predicts that the City of London and its connections to some very dodgy individuals – he has a paragraph giving the names of some of them – will get even murkier. But, as he points out, Britain already is a tax haven through the Channel Islands.

He states that we are likely to be given a very hard deal by the EU. He states that there was friction between Britain and the European Union as while the EU represents the power of corporate capital, it draws a line on their direct influence in government. The lingering Social Democratic tradition in these countries, like France, Germany, and the Scandinavian nations, means that the government governs for industry, but is not run like an industry. Unlike the Neoliberal vision, exported to Britain from the US, which wants government to be run exactly like a business.

He also predicts that May and her grotty team will inflict further misery on the poor, because that’s what appeals to the right-wing British press, like ‘the foreigner Murdoch’ and the ‘tax-dodging, Nazi-supporting Rothermere family’. The Tories will follow Farage, and privatise the NHS, just as the are already privatising services and levying charges for them.

He also rebuts May’s feigned concern for those ‘Just About Managing’, or the JAMs. Despite all the crocodile tears she and her cronies shed, she has done absolutely nothing for them. Wages are still stagnant, the opportunities to upgrade one’s skills are similarly being cut, as are welfare services to support the poor and unemployed.

Surin begins his article also by pointing out that when it comes to the day, the vote on Brexit is likely to be influenced by factors and issues that aren’t really relevant. He also talks about the way May has already shot herself in the foot by trying to promote Brexit using images of places, which have actually benefitted from the EU. Like the northern shipyards, which were given a million pound grant.

Surin begins his piece

“So at this moment of change [Brexit], we must respond with calm, determined, global leadership to shape a new era of globalisation that works for all”.

— Theresa May

“My plan for Britain is not just a plan to leave the EU but a plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, underpinned by genuine economic and social reform. To make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just a privileged few”.

— Theresa May

The UK’s Brexit roll-out is a constantly evolving project, zig zagging along because the Tories in charge of it, like everyone else, have no real idea of how it will culminate. So far it has been ad hockery all the way, though one or two of the project’s connecting threads are starting to be visible.

One week, Theresa “the woman without qualities” May, who voted against Brexit, is in favour of a “hard” Brexit (basically one involving no deal of any kind with the EU regarding the single market and immigration), the next she softens her tone and hints that a more placative agreement with the EU, amounting to a “soft” Brexit, might be welcomed in whatever hoped-for way.

Nothing was more symbolic of this chaos and muddled-thinking than the most recent pro-Brexit television broadcast by May, which showed her against the background of ships moving in the Scottish port of Aberdeen.

Oops– the port of Aberdeen was granted a €258 million loan from the European Investment Bank on 20 June 2016, just 3 days before the UK voted to leave the EU!

It all seems to depend on how much heat the pro-Brexit right-wing of her party, citing that chimerical entity “sovereignty”, can turn on her.

Her predecessor, “Dodgy Dave” Cameron, weary of feeling this heat, called the Brexit referendum to cool down his party’s right-wing, absolutely confident in his nonchalantly patrician way that Brits would consider themselves better-off by remaining in the EU.

Such referenda, although purportedly on a single-issue, tend invariably to have outcomes determined very much by the mood of the electorate, which is affected by a plethora of considerations having nothing specifically to do with the issue officially on the table on referendum day.

***

May’s calculation requires her to “talk” a hard Brexit, to neutralize the right-wingers who ended her predecessor’s political career, and to gain the support of the right-wing press– owned by the foreigner Murdoch, the Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family, Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire), the tax-dodging Barclay brothers, and a Russian oligarch.

This overseas-domiciled and tax-dodging (in the cases mentioned) crew have set the low-information agenda for those inclined towards Brexit, so May’s strategy, if we can call it that, has been accommodating towards their hard Brexit stance, while leaving things vague enough for loopholes to enable a “softish” Brexit if needed.

May, craving electoral success, has to cater to all sides and eventualities. The results are likely to be calamitous for the UK.

Why is this?

May’s primary objective is to convey the impression that Brexit will “work for all”.

Alas there is no evidence for this claim.

***

The UK’s pro-Brexit movement, in the absence of anything resembling a Lexit, is not going to be shackled by this or that constraint previously imposed by the EU.

For instance, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Trump’s non-American sycophant par excellence, though a minimal figure, has always advocated the privatization of the NHS. And this is exactly what the Tories have been pursuing by stealth since 2010.

***

May has already said she “stands ready” to use Brexit as an opportunity to turn the UK into a tax haven, or as the financial press euphemistically puts it, “a low-tax financial centre”. It is already one of course (this being the primary function of the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, and Gibraltar).

What May clearly means is that London’s financial sector, which is already awash in murky water, will become an even muddier swamp able to match similar swamps in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Panama, Hong Kong, Singapore, and so forth. Dwellers of these swamps include assorted drug dealers, human traffickers, gun runners, owners of illegal gambling syndicates…

***

In addition to May desiring this state of affairs for the City of London, it is clear from the composition of the team put together by the secretary of state for international trade Liam Fox to negotiate post-Brexit trade deals, that Brexit UK is going to pursue a thoroughgoing pro-corporate agenda.

***

This corporate bonanza will probably be accompanied by a weakening of environmental regulations, since most of the leading Brexiteers are climate-change deniers or supporters of fracking (and in most cases, both).

Pro-Brexit climate-change deniers include Farage, Michael Gove (who tried to ban climate change from the school curriculum when he was education minister), the foreign minister Boris “BoJo” Johnson, Thatcher’s finance minister Nigel Lawson, and the above-mentioned Liam Fox.

***

This hugely attractive and compassionate bunch (sic) are not going to be too concerned about pollution, biodiversity, natural habitats, animals abused by industrial farming, climate change, the prohibition of lethal pesticides, declining fish stocks, the international trade in endangered species, and the use of GMOs, when the agribusiness corporations howl about environmental regulation being a burden to them.

There will be no remotely green agenda under this ghastly crew.

***

May prates on about her deep concern for “just about managing” families (JAMs), but the austerity agenda passed on by the disastrous former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is being implemented with only a slight cosmetic tweak here and there.

The UK economy has grown since 2010, but, according to the Guardian, 7.4 million Brits, among them 2.6 million children, live in poverty despite being from working families (amounting to 55% of these deemed poor) — 1.1 million more than in 2010-11.

The report cited by the Guardian, produced by the reputable Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), shows that the number living below the Minimum Income Standard – the earnings, defined by the public, required for a decent standard of living – rose from 15 million to 19 million between 2008/9 and 2014/5. The UK’s population is 65 million.

These 19 million people, or just under 1/3rd of the UK’s population, are its JAMs.
***

Social care is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them, the NHS is starting to charge for treatment as it undergoes a backdoor privatization, they have fewer opportunities for upskilling in order to raise their incomes, and so on. This while their wages are stagnant even as the cost of living is increasing for them.

***

Such important and pressing issues need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, but they are not.

The Tories pro-corporate Brexit agenda has become the proverbial tail wagging the dog.

***

Many have a name for what is really and truly going on in the UK and US: class warfare.

The bastards have the underprivileged by the throat. All the mainstream political parties are terrified of offending them, if they haven’t already thrown their lot in with the bastards.

What is desperately needed, for the dispossessed and disadvantaged, is a reversal of this situation, in which many firm hands turn round and grasp the throats of those responsible for the misery of tens of millions of people.

Is there anyone in the almost moribund Labour party, torn apart by infighting caused by its still significant Blairite remnant, capable of saying any of the above unequivocally?

Go read the rest of the article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/18/the-calm-determined-stronger-fairer-uk-brexit-zig-zag/

In answer to Surin’s final question, yes, there are plenty of people in the Labour party willing to point all this out. They’ve tried to do so ad infinitum. But the Blairites and the Tory media are doing their best to stop that message getting out. They never report what they say about the detrimental attacks the Tories and Blair have made on the welfare state, the NHS and the economy, but selectively quote them in order to make it all fit the narrative that Corbyn and his wing of the party are ignoring these issues. And it’s done deliberately to fit the narrative of Corbyn as a Trotskyite entryist.

It’s why I’m afraid that the next two months will be a very hard struggle for everyone desperate to save Britain from the corporatist swamp created by the Thatcherites and their media lickspittles.

Private Eye Tackles Government Lies on Homelessness

April 1, 2015

This fortnight’s Private Eye also takes issue and pulls apart Kris Hopkin’s recent remarks boasting of the coalition’s achievement tackling homelessness. The Eye reveals that the stats actually show that the situation has got worse.

The number of children in temporary accommodation was 90,000 in the last quarter of 2014, a 25 per cent increase from 2010. The number of families with children living in Bed and Breakfast accommodation is 2,040. 780 of these unfortunates were there for longer than the legal limit of six weeks. This is five times the number than in 2010 when the Coalition took office. The article notes that when local councils allowed this to occur in 2012 and 2013, they were told that this was illegal by the government, which also promised extra funding to make sure it didn’t happen again. Now Hopkins is again telling the world that the government is ‘being clear that the long term use of bed and breakfast for families with children is both unacceptable and unlawful’.

The Eye’s article is based only on the published stats. I reposted one of Johnny Void’s article’s from a few days ago yesterday, which severely criticised them. Mr Void stated that they are only based on those homeless cases that the local authorities are statutorily required to help, such as families and children. They do not take into account single people, while local authorities used a number of informal methods to assess which people they help. They also don’t take into account the ‘hidden homeless’ of people living with friends, who nevertheless don’t have their own accommodation and whose residence is therefore extremely insecure. The Void revealed that there may be as many as 263,000 + of these. The situation is so bad, that the homeless charities themselves have condemned the government’s stats as useless.

So, basically, the government has failed by the standards of its own statistics. These have been doctored so much, that the real situation is much worse. And Hopkins is, in unparliamentary language, a liar.

Economy Food for Toffs: Cheap Means Under £20 per portion

December 13, 2014

I’ve just reblogged a couple of piece from Tom Pride and Johnny Void criticising Baroness Jenkins and similar patronising rich journalists, who have written in the Telegraph about how they would do a better job of feeding themselves than the dirt-poor folks, who actually have little choice about the type and quality of food they can afford.

The good Mr Pride shows the double standards behind Baroness Jenksins’ opinion that the poor should eat porridge instead of going to food banks. She may find it offensive that the poor are foregoing this simple meal in order to rely on public charity, but she and her brother, Bernard Jenkins, have absolutely no qualms about taking money from the public purse themselves.

Johnny Void has a more serious, factual piece about the comparative costs of the cheap foods that could feed a family living on the edge of starvation. This gives the lie to the Baroness’ statement that somehow porridge is a cheap food. It isn’t.

Just as important is the nutritional content of the food. As we all had it drummed into us at school, you need a balanced diet with the right amount of vitamins, protein and veg. You cannot survive and live healthily on just porridge. Back in the 1990s there was an urban legend going round about a student at Edinburgh University. Instead of spending his student loan on good, nutritious meals for himself, this particular lad decided instead to buy a vast amount of oats and live off porridge for the year. By the end of this, he was then taken off to hospital as the first person to come down with scurvy in the Scots capital for 200 years.

It’s an urban legend, and so not true, but it does give some idea of the dangers of trying to follow the stupid advice given by people like Jenkins, who haven’t a clue what they’re talking about.

A more glaring, and grotesque example of this is a cookbook a friend of mine had given to him. This claimed to be a book showing how one could eat well by making cheap meals. What they meant by a ‘cheap meal’, was one that cost about £20 per person. One of the recipes was for a salmon dish, which advised the reader to try and purchase the best salmon from a fishmonger. All the recipes were in this price range, so that my friend estimated that if you actually followed the book’s advice, then the cost of cooking all this for a family of four for a week would be about £500.

Billy Connolly made jokes about this type of cookbook in one of his shows. He’d got hold of a book of recipes from the 1920s, and compared its contents with the reality of buying food when he was growing up in Glasgae toon. One of the recipes included melons. The book advised its readers to be selective, and choose only the best melons from Afghanistan. Connolly compared the book’s attitude with the way veg was sold out of vans when he was a lad, and imagined what would have happened if you’d asked if the melons they had were Afghan. ‘Ah dinnae,’, replies the greengrocer, ‘Ah dinnae whaet it is. Ah thought it was just some kind of weird apple’. It wasn’t just in Scotland that people bought their vegetables from mobile vans. The same thing happened down south here in Bristol when I was growing up in the 1970s as well. And I imagine you’d have got pretty much the same response from the greengrocer if you’d started asking picky questions about whether or not they were Afghan too.

The impression my friend had from the cookbook was that it was written by and for the extremely affluent, who really did seem to think, like certain Tory MPs, that if you had an income below £60K you really were slumming it. It’s the same snobbish attitude that informs Baroness Jenkins’ ignorant pronouncements, and the patronising recipes in the Torygraph.

And while these rich aristos and journalists waffle on about things they know nothing about, the truly poor are starving unnoticed in front of their eye, but beneath their contempt.

The Tory Architectural Future: 19th Century Pittville in Cheltenham

April 7, 2014

Pitiville Gates Pic

Pittville Gates in Cheltenham, c. 1845

A number of left-wing bloggers, particularly Johnny Void, have attacked the Coalition’s welfare reforms for the social cleansing they effecting in London and other cities around the country. The massive rises in rents and property prices in London, coupled with the cap on Housing Benefit is forcing poorer residents out of the expensive, middle and upper class districts, leading to ever greater social segregation. The Void’s most recent post, The Rich Will Destroy London, Just Like Everything Else, at http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/the-rich-will-destroy-london/, which I’ve reblogged, describes this process. The obscene result of this is that luxury houses now lie empty in Chelsea, waiting for wealthy purchasers, while a few miles down the road are homeless people forced to live on the streets. The so-called ‘affordable homes’ are in reality no such thing. They are classed as affordable only because their cost is pegged at 80 per cent of the market value. This effectively puts them beyond the reach of many at London prices.

Social Segregation in Boris Johnson’s London

Even when housing is built for those on more modest incomes, they are expected to keep out of sight of their social superiors. One block of flats, which was aimed at attracting wealthy purchasers from the Far East, had different entrances for the rich and the lower orders respectively, so that the upper class residents would not have to suffer the indignity of mixing with their social inferiors. If you want to know where this kind of social attitude leads, go to the Pittville suburb of Cheltenham.

Pittville and the Architecture of Social Hierarchy

This was started in 1825 by Joseph Pitt, the local lay rector and MP. At its centre was the Pump Room, modelled on the Temple of Ilussis in Athens in the middle of a park laid out with impressive vistas and stone bridges. Below this was the residential area. Pitt originally intended the new suburb to have 600 houses, but the building work was delayed for several years. This was laid out with a garden area running down its centre. Either side of this were a complex of beautifully designed Georgian terraces, crescents and individual villas, along with squares named after the Dukes of Wellington and Clarence.

It was designed to be an upmarket residential area for the genteel elite, who came to Cheltenham and the other spa towns to take the waters. Not only does the architecture reflect the tastes and demands of the respectable Georgian middle and upper classes, but so does the very layout of the streets. The main streets are broad, designed so that the wealthy could move about freely, and see and be seen by their peers, just like other wealthy citizens of towns across Britain and Europe.

And these main streets were strictly for the White rich. Tradesmen and the lower orders, including Blacks and Asians, were required by law to keep to the narrow lanes running behind the houses, so that they could continue to serve their masters and mistresses, without actually being seen on the street with them. The law banning non-Whites from Cheltenham’s streets continued for over a century until the 1950s.

Tory London Taking on Social Segregation of 19th Century Suburbs like Pittville

Cheltenham is a beautiful town with a multi-racial population, and Pittville is a particularly pleasant area. I don’t believe it’s any more racist than anywhere else in the UK, and probably much less than some. When I was at College there in the 1980s, the Student Union passed a motion making the Union a ‘no platform’ for ‘racists and Fascists’, though there was a faction in the Tory party back then which wanted to make ‘racial nationalism’ – the ideology of the National Front their official stance as well. With so much of the elite, upper class developments in Britain’s cities like London aimed at the international market, there probably won’t be a revival of that type of official racist segregation. What is emerging is a return to the class hierarchies of residential areas, where the poor are expected to remain distant, invisible servants of their social superiors. Boris Johnson’s London, with its poor increasingly priced out and pushed to the margins in this respect increasingly resembles Cheltenham’s 19th century Pittville.

The Unemployed and Disabled Need an Elected ‘Guardian and Protector’

March 11, 2014

131109doublespeak

I received this interesting comment from Gay Mentalist to my post on Kenneth Mackenzie’s book on Parliament as a vital resource in this time of constitutional change, and the Coalition’s contempt for representative democracy:

Really interesting post, as you point out, there has been more of a presidential theme in British politics for some years now. I’m often struck by how sometimes people forget that a general election is a series of local elections rather than just 1 national election. Quite often you used to hear people saying “I’m voting for Blair” in the past. They weren’t generally voting for Blair, Brown, Thatcher, Major, Cameron or any of the other leaders, they were voting for a local candidate, with these tv debates, I fear that is something that is getting lost even more. If they want that style of politics then maybe we should have an elected PM? In fact why not go the whole hog and have an elected cabinet? That could make for interesting results!

Unelected Ministers Causing Problems for Unemployed and Disabled

I was thinking about something like that myself, although it was about a very specific set of ministers. I wonder if we actually need the ministers dealing with the unemployed and the disabled to be elected. Left-wing bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, Another Angry Voice, The Void, Daepac Leicester, Jaynelinney, Stilloaks, Pride’s Purge, myself and so many others have reported the terrible effects the government’s policies have had on the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. You can read about the immense hardship suffered by ordinary people on Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, London Food Bank and Benefit Tales, to name just a few. In addition to the hardship they face is the fact that they have no voice in parliament. The ministers that should be guaranteeing them some dignity, a living income and the hope of something better – the ministers for the disabled and people in charge of the DWP, are those, who are responsible for the creation and implementation of the policies that are the direct cause of their suffering.

No Help from Information Commissioner

And it seems no redress is possible from other branches of the government Simply getting the statistics of the number of people, who’ve died as a result of government policy is nearly impossible. Mike and the other people, who have asked for this information under the Freedom of Information Act, have been refused. Why? When they asked as individuals, it was deemed to difficult and expensive to provide the information for just one person. When others asked for the information, the government decided that this was a concerted policy to inconvenience the government, and therefore ‘vexatious’. More cynically, the government has blatantly stated it will not provide the information as this would cause more people to oppose the policy and block its implementation. In other words, they know the public would find it unpleasant, cruel and immoral, and so the public must now be allowed to know about it.

Workless Camps

Forced Labour Camps for British Unemployed in 1920s

It’s all rather like the forced labour camps set up for the unemployed in the 1920s, about which Unemployed in Tyne and Wear reported on his blog. Most of the records of that truly horrible little piece in British history were destroyed after the policy was abandoned. One cannot help but compare it to the way the Nazis carefully hid the details of their extermination of the Jews and other racial desirables in the death camps. It also raises very awkward questions of how fundamentally different we British are to the continental nations. We tend to see ourselves as more freedom-loving, and so fundamentally freer and more moral than just about everyone else, but the fact that these camps were set up raises questions about whether, if the First World War had gone the other way, and Britain had been defeated and suffered punitive reparations by a victorious Germany, we would also have seen a vicious, Fascist-style dictatorship, complete with the incarceration of political dissidents and the murder of the Jews and other racial or social undesirables in England’s Green and Pleasant Land.

IDS and McVey, two of the ministers responsible, can get away with this as they are not directly responsible to the people, who are the subjects and victims of their legislation. They are appointed by the Prime Minister, and are essentially responsible for carrying out his policies. Hence IDS on Sunday could get away with issuing a tissue of lies about how successful his policies were to Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics.

This cannot go on. It is failing people. Tens of thousands are dying each year as a result, but this is ignored and covered up by this aristocratic government. 23 out of 29 of the ministers in Cameron’s first cabinet were millionaires. 51 per cent were privately educated, and only three per cent went to comprehensives. Cameron believes he was born to rule, and so treats us like serfs.

It’s time this changed.

Guardian and Protector of Slaves Possible Model for Minister to Protect Unemployed and Disabled?

I wonder if we don’t need a ‘Guardian and Protector’ of the unemployed and disabled as a vital, established and directly elected government official, similar to the officials the British government established in their Caribbean slave colonies during the 1820s. This was a period when the government was trying to ameliorate, rather than emancipate the slaves. As a result of a series of truly horrific cruelty cases, the British government passed a series of legislation intended to improve conditions for slaves. This regulated the amount of food they were to be given by their masters, and limited the punishments that were to be inflicted. They also set up a series of commissions to investigate the condition of the slaves, talking not just to their masters, but also to the slaves themselves. The resulting parliamentary reports make fascinating reading. Many of the slaves had quite strong views about their masters, and weren’t afraid to make them known.

The British government also set up specific government post to deal with cases of cruelty and neglect. This was the ‘Guardian and Protector of Slaves’, modelled somewhat on the office of the alcalde in the Spanish colonies. These were responsible for investigating cases of cruelty and neglect upon the request of the slaves themselves. If they judged that the case was ‘frivolous’, the slave would be punished by whipping. If they found in his favour, however, they could punish the slave-owner, and order the slave to be compulsorily sold to a better, more humane master.

Minister for Women in Greek City States

I also read while at College that some of the ancient Greek city states also had a similar official to ensure better treatment and conditions for women. Ancient Greek society was extremely masculine and patriarchal, and the status of women was very low. Nevertheless, as series of strikes by women, similar to the sex strike in the play Lysistrata, had forced at least one of the ancient Greek city states to set up a special government figure to investigate incidents of abuse against them.

Pressure to Guarantee Proper Representation and Treatment of Women and Ethnic Minorities

All the parties are naturally under increasing pressure to increase the representation of women in parliament, and indeed throughout society, including business, science and the arts. There is also similar pressure to ensure that members of ethnic minorities also receive their fair share in our society and government.

Do We Need A Similar Official for Unemployed and Disabled?

I strongly believe that we need an elected official to represent the unemployed and the disabled at Westminster, and that this official should be elected by the unemployed and disabled themselves. There are any number of organisations pressing for their better treatment, like the CAB, but these are seeing their budgets cut, or their findings ignored. I think a way of solving this problem would be to make the ministers, or a minister for them directly accountable, to ensure that their interests were not side-lined, or simply subordinated to general government policy. So that someone like Ian Duncan Smith or Esther McVey can once again bluster and cover up their cruelty and incompetence with smooth lies without fear of tough questions.

Like how many have been killed or died from despair and starvation through the government’s policies.

This is just a suggestion, but I do wonder if others agree. Any ideas?

The Punishment of Starving Thieves: The Barbarism of Modern Britain

March 1, 2014

Medieval Law Court

A 15th century law court

One of the commenter’s to Mike’s blog, Vox Political, R. Jim Edge, reported an appalling miscarriage of British justice. The comment is on Mike’s post, reblogged from Pride’s Purge, about the death of a mentally ill man, Mark Wood, from starvation. Wood had been sanctioned by Atos, and this exacerbated his mental illness. He developed an eating disorder, and refused money his family gave to spend on food. He died weighing just over 5 stone, with a body mass index of 11.5. The full details are on Pride’s Purge and the Void. R. Jim Edge commented

Its going to get worse, just this week in Chester a woman who stole some groceries from TESCO because she had had her benefits stopped was (and this is the good bit) fined £30 and ordered to pay £80 compensation to tesco.

This is actually a more unjust legal decision than the notoriously harsh punishments associated with medieval law. The popular image of the medieval punishment for theft was that thieves had their hands amputated. In England the punishment depended on the amount stolen. If it was over a certain number of shillings, then the thief was fined. If it was over the amount, he was hanged. However, theologians argued that if someone stole bread because they were starving, then that person had done so out of necessity, not wickedness. In their opinion, they should not be punished.

The woman in Chester was clearly motivated from hunger, if she had had her benefit stopped. By the standards of medieval law, therefore, she should not have been fined, nor had to give compensation to Tesco. By this standard, the law now is worse than that of the Middle Ages. IDS and the Coalition really are leading us back to barbarism.

Spite and Contempt: How Atos Weston-Super-Mare Views Disabled Protestors

February 20, 2014

atos-wsm-19-feb

Protestor with a sign found outside Atos’ Weston-Super-Mare offices yesterday.

I couldn’t let this go without a comment. Mike on his post about yesterday’s nationwide protests against Atos, ‘Delights-and Disgraces – of the Atos Day of Protest’ over at Vox Political reports how the scrawled message shown above greeted demonstrators outside Atos’ Weston-Super-Mare offices. He says of it and the nasty mentality behind it

Clearly this office contains some very hard-line supporters of government policy, whose attitude demonstrates the blinkered, small-minded, fantasy-world attitude that allows policies like the Atos assessment regime to exist in a supposedly advanced country like ours.

Ian Duncan Rimmer

Ian Duncan Smith: Has all the leadership ability and petty tyranny of Red Dwarf’s Arnold Judas Rimmer.

It also points to the kind of officious and pettily vindictive mentality now all too prevalent in the DWP under Ian Duncan Smith. I have already blogged before on the similarity, in my opinion, between Ian Duncan Smith in his delusions of political and military grandeur and his bully and contempt for those below him with Arnold Rimmer in the SF comedy Red Dwarf. It’s something of a truism that regimes take on the psychology of their leaders. The Soviet Union was a brutal tyranny, because its founders, Lenin and most particularly Stalin, were autocrats with a strong desire to seize and hold on to power and a fear of those below them. This psychology became a functional part of the system they created, with the officials at every level of the hierarchy bullying those below them, while at the same time plotting to take over their superiors’ positions when they in turn would be denounced and arrested.

Although politics in the USSR became much less lethal after Stalin’s death and the attacks on his ‘cult of personality’ in Khruschev’s Secret Speech of 1953, an attitude of petty officiousness and contempt for the Soviet public still remained among the system’s minor functionaries. Several Western writers on the Soviet Union noted how, wherever you went, there would always be a woman behind a desk, scowling at you and responding, ‘Nyelza!’ (‘It’s forbidden’) when you asked a question. One of the travel writers I read told how he was stuck in a stiflingly hot railway carriage during a journey through Russia in the 1980s. Despite the heat and the increasingly stuffy atmosphere, the carriage’s windows remained tightly closed. When he attempted to open them, the female supervisor rose up to snap them shut again with a snort of ‘Nyelza!’. The writer says at one point that the whole country appeared to be run by these ferocious women behind their desks.

The writer did, however, record a minor victory of the Soviet public over these petty officials. He was stuck in a long queue waiting to use the ‘Up’ escalator at the Moscow metro, if I recall correctly. There was no-one coming down the ‘Down’ escalator, which had a sign saying it was strictly forbidden to try to go up it. Standing in front of the escalators, making sure no-one did any such thing, was one of these ladies behind a desk. A young man then came running through the crowd, and before the female official could stop him, vaulted over the barrier and ran up the ‘Down’ escalator. The writer said he and the rest of the crowd silently rejoiced at this act of defiance. I don’t suggest anyone try this stunt, however, as I have a feeling someone was either killed or seriously injured a little while ago when doing something similar.

Ian Duncan Smith has similarly left his psychological mark on the Department for Work and Pensions. As I’ve blogged about before, this seems to be full of backbiting and treachery by the civil servants employed there, as they frantically compete for each other’s jobs. At the same time, all too many of them have complete contempt for the people below them. The Void especially has blogged about the outrage caused by some of these, who have boasted about the number of people they’ve sanctioned. He and many other Left-wing bloggers have also described the various secret instructions from the DWP to Jobcentre staff setting quotas for the number of claimants to be thrown off benefits. Some Jobcentres have even awarded prizes for those, who have sanctioned the most claimants, and there have been bonuses paid to those, who have done so.

Clearly, despite Atos claims that they are not responsible for government policy, they fully share the contempt for the disabled and the unemployed shown by IDS and his staff in the DWP and Jobcentres. This attitude is blatantly clear in the above sign. In my experience, and those of many of the disabled people and their carers, who have commented on this blog, Atos and their officials are mendacious in the extreme. They have and will lie in the assessments and will falsify claimants’ answers in the assessment forms in order to have them thrown off their benefit. Their conduct and the assessment itself is based on the presumption that most people claiming benefit are actually capable of some work, even when it is clear that they cannot. In their view, they are, like the great mass of the unemployed, just scroungers, and so should be treated as such. Hence this nasty little sign.

I don’t know if this would actually help anyone, but if anyone in Weston-Super-Mare is in dispute with Atos over the results of their assessment, it might be worth pointing to this sign as an example of the prejudice and contempt Atos has towards their claimants.

I am also of the opinion that whatever Atos and the DWP try to say to the contrary, this sign should be given all the publicity it truly deserves to show just how Atos and its staff are motivated by contempt and spite towards the most vulnerable members of society. At a time when even the nastiest companies are concerned to give themselves the best, media-friendly image possible, this might cause them some degree of embarrassment. It probably won’t embarrass their boss, Thierry Breton, or Ian Duncan Smith and the disabilities’ minister, Esther McVey, as their too far gone for any kind of shame or even basic humanity by now. But it might – just might – add another little piece to pull their marketing managers up short, and make others question the wisdom of doing business with a company with such a bad reputation.

Okay, it probably won’t. For all the bad publicity, Serco, Atos and G4S are still in business. But as ASDA keeps reminding us, ‘Every little bit helps’. Or is that Sainsbury’s?

If you’re planning another protest against Atos in Weston-Super-Mare, their address is Regent House, Oxford Place, Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, BS23 1JH. They also have a website here http://www.atoshealthcare.com/claimants/locations_home/Locations_Details_Weston%20.

Nationwide anti-Atos Protests Reported by ITV

February 20, 2014

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Martha, one of the commenters on Mike’s blog ‘Delights – and Disgraces – of the Anti-Atos Day of Protest’, pointed out that ITV Meridian had covered the day of protest, in particular those in Brighton and Canterbury. Their reporter, Charlotte Wilkins, talked to the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, and Wayne Humphries, a leukaemia sufferer kept waiting for assessment by the multinational.

The ITV news report is at: http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/update/2014-02-19/anger-at-atos/

This ITV region is to be praised and supported for reporting the protests. I have seen zero reports on the Beeb of any protests in Bristol, and similarly absolutely none on the main news about the protests up and down the country. Obviously, the BBC bosses do not feel that this is an issue worth covering. It’s too embarrassing for their government paymasters, and unemployed and disabled people dying in despair and poverty ain’t nearly as upbeat, ratings-friendly or as newsworthy as reporting Osborne’s latest lie that unemployment is dropping. See The Void’s post on this taking it apart for a complete critique of this misleading use of statistics. Also, Mike over at Vox Political for just about every falsehood ever uttered by this government that lies so often Goebbels would be ashamed.

This deliberate neglect by the media needs to be challenged now.

ATOS and the Nazi Murder of the Mentally Ill

February 18, 2014

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So many people now are struggling to support themselves after Atos has thrown them off invalidity benefit, that many see it as an organised attack on the very lives of the disabled themselves. If you read the comments to the Void’s posts about Atos, or those on Vox Political, you find the same thing said again and again: ‘I don’t think there will be any more people in a few years time, because Atos and the government will have killed us all off’. Some of the disabled people in the unemployment course I’ve been on have also said the same thing. People may phrase it differently, but the sentiment remains exactly the same: a feeling that the government is deliberately murdering the disabled as part of their welfare reforms.

The Nazi Euthanasia Order

The Nazi regime had a deliberately policy of murdering the mentally ill in its infamous ‘Euthanasia Order’. It was a secret decree passed by Hitler himself, and back dated to the 1st September 1939. It was implemented by Hitler’s personal doctor, Karl Brandt, and the Chief of the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, Philipp Bouhler. The major figure in the carrying out of this mass murder was Bouhler’s deputy, Oberdienstleiter Victor Brack. Brack was head of the Central Office, which handled, amongst other things, the requests for the ‘euthanasia’ of the incurably ill. Brack’s colleague in this was a Dr Hefelmann.

Brandt, Bouhler and their staff recruited a small group of doctors, who were in favour of euthanasia. These were then given membership of the Fuhrer’s Chancellery and granted promises of immunity from prosecution for their actions through Hitler’s secret decree.

The Reich Working Group for Asylums and Hospitals

The group and its intentions were strictly secret. They operated under the innocuous cover name of ‘Reich Working Group for Asylums and Hospitals’. Their real job was to select the programme’s victims. Under the Reich Health Leader, the former SS doctor Leonhardt Conti, and his subordinate Dr Linden, the head of Asylums and Nursing Homes in the health division of the Reich Ministry of the Interior, questionnaires were sent out, ostensibly for the registration of the sick in the Third Reich’s asylums.

The SS and the Gassing of the Disabled

The regime also set up a cover organisation from the SS transport fleet, The Welfare Transport Company for Invalids Ltd. Their duty was to remove the programme’s victims from their normal asylums to the institutions where they would be murdered. The main institutions for this were Hadamar in Hesse, Hartheim near Linz Grafeneck in Wurttemberg and Sonnestein in Saxony, where chemists from the Institute of Criminal Technology from the Reich Criminal Police Office tried out gassing them with carbon monoxide. The operation was financed through another cover company set up by the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, the Welfare Foundation for the Benefit of Asylums. Only about fifty people knew all the details about the programme. The directors of the asylums from which the victims were taken were only told that they had been transferred for special observation and treatment. The only Reich minister, who was directly informed by Hitler about the secret authorisation of the doctors was the head of administration in the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, Hans Lammers.

Opposition from Roman Catholic Churchmen

The euthanasia programme had to be abandoned in 1941 following opposition from the public, the legal system and the administration. The main opponent of the programme was the Cardinal Archbishop of Muenster, Count Clemens Galen. Galen was fiercely critical of Nazi racism, and had published a critique of The Myth of the Twentieth Century, by the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, in 1934. He publicly attacked the programme in a sermon. Regarding it as a crime, he informed the civil police. His condemnation of the programme was so effective, that it enraged Hitler and Goebbels had to advise the Fuehrer against ordering the Count’s arrest. Nevertheless, the programme had resulted in the medical murder of 70,000 people, by no means all of whom were ‘incurably insane’.

ATOS Not Physically Killing Disabled Like Nazis

However horrendous ATOS are – and they are deeply amoral and horrendous – they are clearly unlike the Nazi euthanasia programme. They do not have the ill and disabled taken away by a state operated private company and murdered in a secret institution, as was done under the Third Reich. The person assessed remains free. All that is done is that their benefits are removed. And at least in theory the most disabled individuals, who cannot work are still supported through benefits.

38,000 A Year Killed by ATOS’ and DWP’s Denial of their Benefits

Nevertheless, ATOS’ administration of the assessments has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. ATOS have been set secret targets by the DWP to have a specific percentage of claimants thrown off benefits, a quota system that has been implemented across the system to cover people on Jobseeker’s Allowance. The number of people, who have died after their assessment by ATOS remains unknown. Ian Duncan Smith simply refuses to release the figures. Jaynelinney on her blog has estimated that it may be as high as 38,000 per year.

ATOS, DWP, Ian Duncan Smith and Esther McVie Refuse to Take Responsibility for Deaths Caused by Benefit Reforms

This indicates that the government is well aware of the number of deaths that have resulted, and are too ashamed or afraid of the public to release the true statistics. And while the system is not set up for the organised, physical mass murder of the unemployed, the government’s welfare policies are aimed at the removal of large numbers of them from government support, fully aware that for many this will result in their death. As they are not physically murdered, however, the government, the civil servants and ATOS employees and executives involved in the policies do not see themselves as responsible and so do not care.

This is disgusting and unacceptable. Although they have not physically killed anyone, the government’s benefit reforms have nevertheless resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Britain’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. In this sense ATOS, the DWP under Ian Duncan Smith, the Disabilities Minister Esther McVie, and David Cameron and George Osborne are certainly responsible, and all the more so because they know it is happening and have done nothing to change the policy.

It needs to stop. And stop now.

Let’s hope the protests against ATOS tomorrow help turn public opinion even further against the administration and its lethal policies.

Is This the Real Reason for the Tories’ Gagging Laws?

February 17, 2014

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Nick Clegg

David Cameron and Nick Clegg: have attempted to regulate and clamp down on free speech and democratic criticism.

The Coalition has shown itself to be consistently opposed to free speech. Mike over at Vox Political, the Void, Another Angry Voice, and Tom Pride at Pride’s Purge have blogged on the way the Conservatives are attempting to stifle dissent and criticism through the Gagging Laws and other legislation. The act regulating political lobbying would make political campaigning by groups, which are not political parties illegal, while allowing the big corporations that lobby MPs to carry on as usual.

They have attempted to censor the internet, with the full backing of the outraged, Middle class authoritarians of the Daily Mail, on the pretence of protecting children and the vulnerable from accessing pornography and the other horrors out on the Net. This frightened and outraged the Neo-Pagans, ritual magicians and other occultists, who found that one of the subjects the Coalition wanted to restrict access to was ‘the esoteric’. This is a term frequently used to describe the occult. Here it probably means something like ‘weird stuff we don’t like, but haven’t thought of yet’, though as the late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickinson was utterly convinced that there were intergenerational groups of witches and Satanists abusing and sacrificing children, it may well indeed have been intended to attack contemporary occultism.

Tom Pride in particular has found himself the victim of such legislation, after his blog was censored by one internet provider because it contained ‘adult material’. Politics are adult business, and so this is an attack, not just on Mr Pride, but on the continued discussion of politics on the Net.

And a few days ago Mike over at Vox Political described how Britain had fallen from 29th to 33rd place in the index of international press freedom through the government’s persecution of the Guardian for publishing the revelations of mass surveillance by the British and American intelligence services by Edward Snowden.

Clearly, the Coalition is desperately afraid of free speech.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler: Private Industry needs dictatorship to defend it from democracy.

In his address to a group of 20 German industrialists on 20th February 1933, Hitler urged them to fund the Nazi party as a way of protecting private enterprise from the threat of democracy.

Private enterprise cannot be maintained in the age of democracy; it is conceivable only if the people have a sound idea of authority and personality. Everything positive, good and valuable, which has been achieved in the world in the field of economics and culture, is solely attributable to the importance of personality. When, however, the defence of the existing order, its political administration, is left to a majority, it will go under irretrievably. All the worldly goods which we possess we owe to the struggle of the chosen. Had we the present conditions in the Middle Ages, the foundations of our German Reich would never have been laid. The same mentality that was the basis for obtaining these values must be used to preserve these values… It is, however, not enough to say: We do not Communism in our economy. If we continue on our old political course, then we shall perish. We have fully experienced in the past years that economics and politics cannot be separated. The political conduct of the struggle is the primary, decisive factor. Therefore, politically clear conditions must be reached…

Cameron and Clegg also lead an elite government, composed of aristocrats, with the express purpose of defending private industry from state interference, and extending it into areas previous considered to be that of the state. Nazi Germany had a dirigiste, centrally-planned economy, though one which preserved and operated through private, rather than state-owned industry as in the Soviet Union. Cameron and Clegg have also showed themselves eager to suppress free speech and democratic political campaigning by groups outside the parties. Is this because they similarly share Hitler’s fear that

‘Private enterprise cannot be maintained in the age of democracy’, but only if the people are led by a strong, dictatorial personality, like a Right-wing, authoritarian Prime Minister and his deputy?