Tories

Iain Duncan Smith Caught Lying By The Economist

Politicians do not like being told that they lie.

The English language hides the necessary directness beneath such wording as disingenuous, economical with the truth or actualité. But even the Economist, frequently feriously supportitive of the Tories, has conceded that Iain Duncan Smith is a liar, in a roundabout fashion:

”And this is the only the latest in a series of questionable press releases. Earlier this month, Mr Duncan Smith claimed that the benefits cap had encouraged 8,000 people to get jobs. Yet as Jonathan Portes, the director of the National Institute for Economics and Social Research pointed out, the Department for Work and Pensions has never made an estimate of the behavioural effects of the benefit cap. At best, Mr Duncan Smith’s figures simply showed that 8,000 people who were to be affected had got jobs. Perhaps some did because of the benefits cap—but we have no idea.

Even before that, there was the matter of 878,000 people who apparently dropped their claims for disability benefits when faced with a doctors test over the past four years, as the old Incapacity Benefit system was replaced with the new Employment and Support Allowance. Again, this figure was absurd. It took no account of the churn—the number of people who come off benefits each month anyway. The most glaring error was that the figures completely ignored the fact that a lot of Incapacity Benefit and ESA claims are short-term—and so a lot of claimants simply got better before facing the test.

All of these are technical, even wonkish objections. “Yes, we twisted the statistics a little”, I can hear a hypothetical Conservative MP saying, “but so does Labour, and the fundamental truth is that the benefits system costs too much and is need of reform.”

Well, quite. The welfare system does indeed need reform. But the whole point about government statistics is that they are meant to be at least sort of objective. Ministers can quote the ones which support their case—but they shouldn’t manipulate them and distort them to tell stories that aren’t actually true. There is plenty of evidence to support welfare reform without resorting to such disgraceful abuse of numbers.

But the problem is, they get away with it—they have done for a long time. Even before the election, Chris Grayling, then the shadow home secretary, was alleging that gun crime was soaring, using distorted data to prove his point. In fact, gun crime began its precipitous decline under Labour. Similarly, much of David Cameron’s “Broken Britain” rhetoric ignored—or denied—dramatic and unexpected improvements in social indicators. “[My emphasis.]

The Economist is too polite. I blame lying Tories, myself.

Hammers, Murder In Woolwich And The Usual Suspects

When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail, or so the adage goes.
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One thing was obvious after the terrible murder in Woolwich, how it would bring out the usual suspects and their agendas.

With their predictable hammers they banged on as you would expect, whatever their favourite topic they dragged it in. On the right of the political spectrum, the Tories are using it as an excuse to bringing Draconian surveillance legislation. The Far and the Extreme right want to stir up racism and initiate a race war.

However, some on the fringes of the Left, who should know better, are trying to capitalise on this situation too.

Rather than acknowledge that the accused were probably psychopaths, or at the very least twisted and almost completely alienated from humanity, instead we were treated to George Galloway making an awful comparison with Syria.

Kate Hudson using it as a backdrop to mention drones and seem pious.

Even the ludicrous Lindsey German gave us her tuppence worth.

In each case, agendas were hoisted up and waved around. The far simpler answer that these individuals were troubled or possibly psychotic didn’t even come into it.

But the Woolwich murder was just one chance these political opportunists could not resist exploiting. Their own detachment from humanity means that the usual suspects can’t see anything objectivity, except as a opportunity to misuse, gaining publicity for their own largely irrelevant and sordid ideas.

In many respects, the usual suspects in Britain are similar to the National Rifle Association.

Not that they like guns, but they too have no insight or introspection so they bring out the same answers, no matter the questions.

Remember how NRA officials argued that more guns would have stopped the Sandy Hook shootings? No matter the counterarguments, no matter the irrationality of that line of reasoning, that is what they held to.

Wait until the next atrocity occurs and the usual suspects will do the same, trot out their agendas looking for nails. It is small wonder that, after decades, they are political failures buried in the ramshackled ideologies of the 20th century.

It is time for less hammers looking for nails and a greater grasp of human psychology, even the psychotic side.

Update 1: I am in good company. Jonathan Freedland puts a similar but considerably better argued point:

“Yet when the killer’s cause is the matter of western intervention in Muslim countries, it seems some left voices find their previous fastidiousness has deserted them. Cue a BBC interview with Ken Livingstone, who spoke so powerfully after the 7 July bombings in London. Now, he linked Woolwich to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Enter the Stop the War coalition, whose statement on Woolwich similarly made the connection with “western foreign policy in the Middle East and south Asia”, ending with the declaration that events had proved their position “absolutely right”.

Be in no doubt, Livingstone and the anti-war movement would be appalled if their arguments were played back to them in reverse. Imagine what they would say to the claim that Breivik’s terror vindicated the old rivers-of-blood warnings, predicting that decades of multiculturalism would end in disaster, and now it was time to change course. Consider their reaction if the right had seized on the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in 1999, casting it as the inevitable result of a liberalisation of gay rights that was bound to radicalise a certain young male demographic and that therefore a policy shift was in order.

Of course they’d have rejected such logic utterly. But if it’s wrong for the right to seek vindication in acts of brutal violence, then it’s surely wrong for the left to do the same. Nor is it any good for the latter to say, “we’re not justifying, we’re simply explaining”: the right said the same about Breivik. Nor can they claim theirs is no more than a cold, analytical judgment, merely forecasting rather than endorsing the logical consequences of a current course of action. Their opponents could and did say the same about multiculturalism after Breivik. “

Update 2: Another view, Thinking about death, six miles from Woolwich.

Update 3: Ken Livingstone has his say. Regrettably, he does not appreciate that some ex-politicians are better remaining silent or people might remember why he lost the voters’ confidence in the first place.

Update 4: Talking of opportunists, The Woolwich attack has given the EDL a new lease of life.

Update 5: The Fleet Street Fox echoes my sentiments:

“What has happened is murder, plain and simple. Perhaps if we called it that it would be easier to solve and resolve, whereas if we call it terrorism we give the criminals a glamour and purpose they do not deserve.

Call them killers if they are proven to have killed, and deny them the right to cloak their brutality and lack of reason in a faith, a bad war or the innocents who have died as a result of things their victim had no control over.

I find it more terrifying that anyone thinks we should be scared of these people.

Killings like this don’t win any arguments or converts. If you feel you have to machete someone to death, you’ve already lost whatever point you were trying to make.

What scares me is that some people will exploit the actions of the criminally-deluded for their own ends.

Update 6: Over a week on, Howard Jacobson nails the Culpability Browns of the world and where their thinking takes us:

“I say to listen, not necessarily to trust. In any circumstances it’s unwise to believe what people say about their motives. If Sophocles, Shakespeare and Freud didn’t teach us that, they didn’t teach us anything. And even to talk of “motives” is crude when it comes to the unseen and often unguessed-at impulses that drive us. But the reasons people give for why they act as they do at least paint a picture of what they think is inside their heads, if nowhere else, and that tells us something. It tells us who they’ve been listening to, for example, and what they’ve been reading. It sheds light on the culture of those we call terrorists – see how careful I’m being – if not their psychology. That it cannot be taken to reflect an impersonal or verifiable truth – any more than it is verifiably true that our rivals are monsters and our lovers paragons – needs no protesting.

Cometh the atrocity, cometh Culpability Brown. Does he wait like a spider suspended in the darkness, the opportunity to blame you and me again, reader, the reward for his infinitely banal persistence? Out into the light he crawls, anyway, in the immediate aftermath of every killing, to agree the crime is terrible, unspeakable, yes, but – ah, the callousness of that “but” – we had it coming.

In what other context, these days, do we allow people to tell us we have it coming? This one goes about with her handbag open, that one with his wallet protruding like a free gift from the back pocket of his jeans, complains the poor pickpocket. “I was provoked, your honour.” How the girls in their short summer dresses, flirty, drunken, free with their kisses, arouse the hapless rapist. “Aren’t they, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in every meaning of the phrase, asking for it?”

This is not an argument against precaution. Though no provocation justifies a rape, it’s still sensible, given who we know is out there, to be on our guard. A sad reflection on the times, though one that has no bearing on the heinousness of the crime of rape itself.”

The Absurdity Of The Margaret Thatcher Memorial Library

There is some discussion in the media of a Margaret Thatcher Memorial library, as a way of preserving her memory. It is common for retired presidents of the United States to create a library where their monumental decisions, which could have affected a world, are recorded.

They are mostly vanity projects, but may as with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s or JFK’s libraries be of wider significance and they do fall under the supervision of the NARA.

Whilst the American tax system encourages philanthropic gestures from the excessively wealthy to help create and maintain such libraries, that is not true in Britain. booksmess1

That is part of the reason why I can not see it coming off, at least in the short term. There is a significant reluctance amongst the obscenely rich in Britain to put their hand in their own pockets for the benefit of others.

We are going to witness this next week, as Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will be paid for, mostly, by the State, which is extraordinary.

Not for nearly 50 years taxpayers have had to pay for an ex-Prime Minister’s burial and then only for the exceptional Winston Churchill, when he died in 1965. Even the matchless Clement Attlee, creator of the NHS along with Nye Bevan, had private funerals, which their families paid for.

It is more probable that any Thatcher Memorial library be sponsored or maintain, in part, by Her Majesty’s Government, directly or indirectly. Those who made a packet out of Thatcher’s misrule, bankers, speculators and spivs would only begrudgingly part with money if they can share in some of the reflected glory.

Even if it gets built, with private money and no state sponsorship, then how would it continue running? Who would bear the costs?

Certainly, Thatcher’s estate rumoured to be worth in excess of £60 million could afford it, but her mean spirited offspring are unlikely to give up any significant funds. And if it could be built, money found to keep it going, what would it contain?

Some tawdry copies of the Daily Mail? Or perhaps the knife, which the Tories plunged into Thatcher’s back in 1991, causing her resignation, would be made a prime exhibit?

All in all, it is a terrible idea, based on questionable assumptions, for a political philosophy more accustomed to closinglibraries than opening them.

Update 1: Apparently, the political comedian behind the Thatcher Memorial library is Donal Blaney. He’s a questionable individual, only too willing to make excuses for the fascist dictator, Augusto Pinochet. This link to Tory HQ shows the political pathology at the heart of British conservative thinking, the relativising of Pinochet’s atrocious regime.

Update 2: The Beeb seems to approve of this idea, or at least that is the tone of this news piece.

Railways: A Manifestation Of Thatcherism

During the post-war period the railways were nationalised after years of neglect by private owners, in many ways they were seen as key to building and enhancing Britain’s infrastructure.

Thatcherism changed all of that.

Two of its key aims were to sell off the family silver and enrich its supporters, so it was with Major’s breakup of the railways.

The net result is a poorer, accident prone railway system which rewards management failure and pays individual workers a pittance.

More examples of this Thatherite attitude has been seen recently:

“Network Rail has paid out £630,000 to four of its executive directors as a portion of their long-term incentive plan (L-tip) to reflect the organisation’s performance in the period 2009-12.

However, Network Rail’s remuneration committee decided to reduce the award by 20% to take into account specific safety and train performance issues.

Patrick Butcher, finance director, was awarded £168,000, while Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations and Simon Kirby, managing director of infrastructure projects, were awarded £158,000, and Paul Plummer, group strategy director was awarded £148,000. Chief executive David Higgins did not qualify because he was not with the organisation in 2009.”

In July 2012 even the Torygraph was moved to comment:

“The taxpayer-backed company is once again at the centre of a political row, after it put forward plans to pay five directors an extra £2.6 million under two new schemes.

Under the proposals, three directors at the company will get payments of £300,000 each in 2014 just for turning up to work for the next two years.”

It pointed out the dismal record of Network Rail’s management:

“Two months later, the operator was fined £4 million over the Grayrigg rail disaster that killed one person and seriously injured 28 others.

Within the last two years, Network Rail has also been fined £1 million over the deaths of two school girls at a level crossing in 2005 and £3 million over the Potters Bar crash in 2002 that left seven dead.

The company is also under pressure over its punctuality, leaving it in danger of a £42 million fine. It has a target of running 92 per cent of trains on time – or less than ten minutes late.

At the moment, it is only providing 89.2 per cent of services within these limits, risking a £1.5 million fine for each 0.1 per cent below the target. “

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A Few Thoughts on Thatcher’s demise

Had you asked me five or ten years ago what I thought of Margaret Thatcher then I would have let forth a stream of invective and only subsided as my blood pressure reached a critical point.

But now on reflection I am not sure I could do the same. That is not to say I do not loathe every facet of Thatcher’s governments, but I feel we should avoid overly simplifying our reactions to her demise.

I think it is necessary to separate out the person from the politics and the wider consequences.

Consequences

Looking at the latter first. It is hard to describe to contemporary generations what Britain was like some 40 years ago. Not only in terms of lack of technology, variation or the comparatively insular nature of society back then. Whole books have been written on the political, economic and social legacy of Thatcherism, instead I would sum those changes up in two words, privatisation and profit.

When you look at fragmented British society with its extremes of wealth and poverty that is a legacy of Thatcherism. Where other European countries have public utilities running public services Britain has a range of private monopolies, which yearly attack people’s pockets. Other countries have joined up transport and infrastructure, Britain has Thatcher’s legacy.

Nevertheless, she cannot take all of the blame, numerous politicians, some even found in public life today (Michael Portillo is but one example) were key advocates of Thatcher’s myopic policies back then.

The politics

Thatcherism has had a profound political influence in Britain, all major political parties eventually succumb to its ideas, one way or the other. The notion that the market could fix everything, or nearly everything, has been adopted by both Conservative and Labour Party. Tony Blair, was obviously from the outset an admirer of Margaret Thatcher, brought those maligned policies into the Labour Party. This can be seen by the fool hardly and dangerous changes to the NHS over the past 16 years.

But the adoption of manic pro-market politics cannot be blamed solely on Thatcher. While she was a vehicle and obvious face of those wretched ideas, others chose to pick up the policies and articulate them, with the resultant mess that we see in Britain today: scarcely any manufacturing, poor public services, poorer infrastructure and a seriously divided society

The person

Margaret Thatcher was a singularly clever individual, who crawled her way to the top of the Conservative Party. When they had no use for her she was stabbed in the back and thrown aside.

If newspaper reports are to be believed, she suffered numerous ailments, the loss of a husband and serious dementia which is punishment enough for one person

But the other individuals, who articulated or benefited from her policies, have greater culpability.

Thatcher alone was not to blame for Britain’s adoption of vicious pro-market attitudes. Thatcher alone was not to blame for profiteering. Thatcher cannot be blamed, solely, for a financial sector, which is a law unto itself. She, alone, cannot be blamed for the lifelong misery, unemployment and destitution which resulted from her and subsequent governments’ policies.

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Many, many others are to blame, as well.

She died as a sad, confused individual. A failure.

More is the pity that the pro-market nonsense she articulated can not be buried at the same time.
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IDS: Iain Duncan Smith And His Wikipedia Entry

Whilst having a laugh at Iain Duncan Smith’s wiki entry (notice his profession), please sign the change.org petition to make him live on £53 per week.

Snap 2013-04-01 at 23.21.42

Genteel Racism at Liberal Conspiracy And Cranks Around Up

We tend to think of anti-Jewish sentiment as coming from the Far Right, yet nowadays it is fairly common to find examples of it on liberal or left wing web sites. It is not overt or blunt as found amongst the extreme racists, but there are tell-tale signs: conspiracy theories and strange terminology.

Some posters at Liberal Conspiracy indulge in such activities without a moment’s recrimination or actions from the site’s moderators or post’s author.

I am not surprised that racists mount their pathetic hobbyhorses, rather that the non-racists who read that material at Liberal Conspiracy can’t see a problem or are willing to let it go unchallenged. If I were charitable I might conclude that most at Liberal Conspiracy don’t understand racism, and in particular anti-Jewish racism.

Snap 2013-03-30 at 15.38.33

Shorter version: maligning Israelis and Jews gives the game away. Particularly if there is a pejorative reference to the “Chosen”, or consciously linking to Rense, a site which proffers conspiracy theories, anti-Jewish racism and approvingly advertises David Duke.

This is not an isolated incident at Liberal Conspiracy as I have covered such poor behaviour before.

Even George Orwell spotted this form of usage in the post war period.

In an under reported topic on the British media, Asiya Islam looks at discrimination faced by Muslims, as seen by five women:
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Boris Johnson Lying Through His Teeth

The BBC gets a lot of stick nowadays, but this small clip, where Eddie Mair questions the London Mayor, Boris Johnson is worth its weight in gold.

Apparently, Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise will be broadcast on BBC Two at 21:00 GMT on 25 March.

Update 1: Who can forget Nye Bevan’s lovely quote on the Tories:

“That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.

They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through.

But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were.”

I wish the modern Labour Party had remembered that, particularly when it came to workfare.

China’s Gulags, Tories Fiddle The Law And LibDem Porridge

Years back, as older readers will testify, one of the major criticisms of the Soviet Union was its arbitrary use of the gulag.

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Most of us have thought they were a relic of the past where Kings and despotic rulers locked up dissidents and their opponents, but they are very much alive in the 21st century, as the BBC reports:

“The Zhuzhou Baimalong Labour Camp is an imposing sight, built like a prison.

At the front there’s a giant, curved facade, lined with classical columns, where the main gate stands. Behind it is a sprawling collection of white buildings, some six or seven storeys high, with workshops, vegetable gardens and a parade ground, all surrounded by a high wall and watchtowers.

The camp is just one component in China’s sprawling gulag system, known as “laojiao”. These camps are a throwback to the years just after China’s Communist revolution, and many outside China don’t even know they still exist.

There’s a constant flow of police vehicles and buses in and out of the camp. It’s big enough to hold hundreds of inmates, all sent here to undergo “re-education through labour”. You see them every now and again, in lines, walking from one building to another, performing exercises.

Drifting on the wind you can hear the chants of inmates, undergoing their forced re-education. Just an order from a policeman is enough to have you locked up here for as long as four years.

Tang Hui, a former inmate, guides us closer to the huge camp gate. Her incarceration here last year caused outrage in China.

“It was living nightmare. A real nightmare would have been better. I could have woken up from that,” she says, dissolving into tears.”

The Tories were caught breaking the law, by those dastardly radical High Court judges, but with boundless gall they are now changing that law, to prove they are innocent:

“The Department for Work and Pensions has introduced emergency legislation to reverse the outcome of a court of appeal decision and “protect the national economy” from a £130m payout to jobseekers deemed to have been unlawfully punished.

The retroactive legislation, published on Thursday evening and expected to be rushed through parliament on Tuesday, will effectively strike down a decision by three senior judges and deny benefit claimants an average payout of between £530 and £570 each.

Last month the court of appeal ruled that science graduate Cait Reilly and fellow complainant and unemployed lorry driver Jamieson Wilson had been unlawfully made to work unpaid for organisations including Poundland because the DWP had not given jobseekers enough legal information about what they were being made to do.

The ruling meant that hundreds of thousands of jobseekers who had been financially penalised for falling foul of half a dozen employment schemes, including the government’s flagship Work Programme, would have been entitled to a full rebate if a final government appeal was rejected by the supreme court.”

Golden Dawn’s growth has galvanised its supporters as Giorgos Katidis showed, openly giving a Nazi salute. I can’t help feeling that the lessons on the grotesque and propulsive nature of fascism never really sunk in, and that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to its resurgence.

GreeNeoNazi1

Finally, it might sound cruel but I feel more politicians should spend time in prison, to better understand the realities of life and meet some of their future constituents. No doubt it would be hard on them, but they would probably write a book and make a small fortune from their, temporary, incarceration.

Still, I wasn’t at all surprised that Chris Hulne and Vicky Pryce were given cushy billets within Her Majesty’s Prison Service.

It is their release that worries me.

They will probably put themselves forward as both experts and victims of the penal system, as Jonathan Aitken did.

On France, Richard Dawkins And Atos

The French President has stated what might be obvious to many people, but seems to go unsaid in Britain, that the victims in Toulouse last year were killed because they were Jews.

A similar point should have been made in the British media when killers deliberately sought out Mumbai’s Chabad House, however, given the peculiar nature of the British press, it wasn’t.

Tell MAMA takes on Richard Dawkins:

“Naturally, Dawkins, his supporters, and the broader movement of self-identified ‘liberal, nice, decent people’ may yet defend themselves as critics of Islam who do not adopt the violent extremist attitudes of EDL members. Many of them may well be decent people though it is important that they realise that their actions may feed into the rhetoric of hate organisations like the EDL.

Sometimes, the language and comments used may well be perceived by Muslims as being identical to groups like the EDL and whilst they are coming from different places, the impact and perceptions on Muslim individuals may be the same – whether from the liberal or political left or whether from the Far Right.

Any form of speech that lumps groups of individuals together and abuses them collectively is unacceptable in a tolerant, diverse, and equal society.

Furthermore, these ‘decent, nice and liberal people’ need to understand that some in society attack Islam to undermine and dehumanise Muslims. Some genuinely believe that by attacking Islam, they are having no impact on the perception of Muslims by others.

It is therefore not a simple issue and saying that hating and attacking Islam does not impact or affect Muslims in our communities is naive.”[My emphasis.]

Spot on.

Having scanned Richard Dawkins’ timeline on Twitter I can see the issues.

It is peppered with questionable argumentation, fields of straw men and a depressingly simplistic approach to the issue of racism. It would take a whole blog post to pick them apart, but his failure to understand that religious identities can be used as a way to attack ethnic minorities is surprising.

Even President Hollande got that point fairly quickly and he is not a professional academic.

Elsewhere, Atos’s callousness knows no bounds, as the Independent reports:

“A Thalidomide victim with a brain tumour who is blind in one eye and has trouble walking is battling against a decision by Atos that she is capable of “work related activity”.

Martine White, 50, is due to appear at a tribunal in which she will appeal against the decision which she fears could force her to take employment or face losing up to half of her benefits.

The mother of four from Burnley, Lancashire, is one of a number of victims of the morning sickness drug which left more than 500 people in Britain with severe birth defects who claim they are being unfairly treated by the Government’s controversial back-to-work assessors.

Mrs White, who has deformed arms and is facing spinal surgery which she fears could put her permanently in a wheelchair, was assessed by Atos and moved from incapacity benefit to the new employment and support allowance last year.

She was placed in the category which deemed she was capable of “work-related activity” which can require attending a “work-related interview” once a month and putting together a CV in order to continue receiving her benefits of £212.70 a fortnight.

Mrs White, whose late husband Michael was also affected by Thalidomide, has twice appealed against her assessment but has now been told to argue her case in front of a judge. “

Orwell, Atos and The Tories

Like many, I have read most of Orwell’s work, discussed and debated what he was trying to get at and even questioned some of his later decisions. Not unsurprisingly there is a lot to get to grips with. He was a multifaceted character living in turbulent times and profoundly affected by it.

David Aaronovitch does an excellent job in presenting the views of various scholars, friends and associates of Orwell. Nicely balanced. Over at the BBC Iplayer, The Road to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Readers will remember how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) outsourced to Atos, eligibility assessments of the disabled. Atos, in return, have been roundly criticised for declaring people to be “fit for work” only to have them die a few weeks later. Charities and other organisations connected with disabilities have pointed out the flaws in Atos’s methodology.

But now, in a bizarre twist, Atos are outsourcing many of those assessments to the NHS.

So the Public sector outsources to the private sector, a nasty task, who in turn outsource it back to parts of, the once, Public sector.

Atos is using this to deflect criticism on how many of those declared fit either die or end up destitute, whilst Atos rakes in millions.

From Lebanon, Hezbollah has been attacking Syrians with rockets.

Mapping child poverty, not something the Tories or their LibDem allies will welcome.

In other news, a UN official wonders about food banks in Britain. I am just waiting for some idiot Tory to trumpet them, saying “…at least we are world leaders in food banks!”

The privatisation of education continues a pace as Gove brings in help to sack people.

Polly Toynbee on the bedroom tax and housing.

Not above shelf stacking.

Finally, NHS privatisation: Compilation of financial and vested interests, well worth a read. I can’t even imagine how scathing George Orwell would have been, of a society which attacks the poorest and weakest whilst selling off the family silver, and for once a Tory was right about something.

Tories, Adulterated Food And Horsemeat

You might suppose, given the recent outburst by Lord Dalmeny, that the Tories are either fools or knaves.

Gummer feeds beefburger to daughter

Such an assessment is fairly incontestable, but the horse meat scandal has shone a stronger light on the Tories’ conduct and actions in government.

We shouldn’t forget that Andrew ­Lansley tried to emasculate the Food Standards Agency in 2010:

“For the past four years the FSA, which was set up to protect consumers after the BSE crisis, has been at the centre of a regulatory battle that has pitted big food companies against consumer groups and public health professionals, with both sides accusing each other of misinformation campaigns and excessive lobbying.”

Critics noted that the end of the FSA was floated days after the health secretary offered a pact with the food industry. “

The mad cow disease crisis in the 1980/90s and its aftermath should have been a wakeup call, however according to Farmers Guardian, the Tory-led government has decided to relax the rules on abattoirs testing cattle for BSE.

According to the BBC, even Edwina Currie “…made a scathing attack on the Conservatives’ record on BSE, the so-called mad cow disease.”
Experts intends that:

“Since the recognition of BSE in 1986, over 180,000 cattle in the UK have developed the disease and 1–3 million are likely to have been infected with the BSE agent, most of which were slaughtered for human consumption before developing signs of the disease.”

So it is perfectly possible that horse meat entered the food chain along before it came out in the press:

“John Young, a former manager at the Meat Hygiene Service, now part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), told the Sunday Times he helped draft a letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in April that year that he said was ignored.

The letter to former minister Sir Jim Paice on behalf of Britain’s largest horsemeat exporter, High Peak Meat Exports, warned the government that its passport scheme, designed to stop meat containing the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone, known as bute, getting into the food chain was a “debacle”.

“Defra gave nearly 80 organisations the authority to produce passports and some of them are little better than children could produce … It’s a complete mess,” he said.”

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Mark Steel On The Ryan Air Attitude To Running Society

I am not Mark Steel’s biggest fan but his lacerating of privatisation in this clip is excellent, particularly the part about libraries and the Ryanair attitude to running society.

Chagossians, An innumerate Iain Duncan Smith And More

I had hoped to start 2013 on a better footing, with longer, more thoughtful post but time and life are not so generous. I think the plight of the Chagossians deserves a wider audience:

“For the uninitiated, in the 1960s, the US wanted Diego Garcia (one of the Chagos Islands) as a major air base. It spoke nicely to the UK, its owners, who consequently evicted and banned all the inhabitants from it and the neighbouring islands. The constitutional arrangements were apparently decorous. A new UK colony was established (the British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT) with a Commissioner to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory. “

Iain Duncan Smith is a loathsome politician, but he’s also innumerate as Channel 4′s Factcheck shows:

The claim

“Tax credit payments rose by some 58 per cent ahead of the 2005 general election, and in the two years prior to the 2010 election, spending increased by about 20 per cent.”

The verdict

We asked the Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which administers work and child tax credits, how much has been paid out since the current system started under Labour in 2003 (before that it was the Working Families Tax Credit).

It said that in 2003-04, £16.4bn was paid, and the following year – the one that included the general election to which Mr Duncan Smith refers – £17.7bn.

That’s an increase of 8 per cent, not 58. “

The German army still has a problem with neo-Nazis as Zeit On-line points out, original in German or the Google translation.

In the US, White Supremacists are planning an anti-immigration rally according to the ADL.

The Guardian looks at the companies set to benefit from the privatisation of the NHS.

The Automatic Cat’s commentary is to the point:

“That doesn’t matter, anyway. The purpose of his statement was to demonise a section of the public in order to justify cuts which themselves are aimed at proving to ‘The Markets’ how fiscally astute and fearless we are. ‘The Markets’ being, in large part, the global banking system which brought us to the edge of catastrophe in the first place.

We’ve seen this kind of demonisation before, with the unemployed and the long-term ill. The suggestion that they’re really putting it on somehow, or shirking, or somehow otherwise undeserving of any help at all. It goes hand in hand with the policy that the safety net has made us all soft and needy and that taking it away will get us off our lazy behinds and make us take all those jobs which are out there.

It really won’t do. Personally I’m rather insulted that the government thinks so little of us that it believes we’ll swallow this nonsense. It shows a rather interesting lack of sophistication and, indeed, compassion. A government which believes we can be so easily manipulated is really not a government worth having. “

Reuters reminds us of the ever increasing death toll in Syria: 60,000 at the last estimate.

Will 2013 be better than 2012? Not looking good thus far.

Polly Toynbee vs. Ed Balls

Last week I briefly glimpsed an interview with Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and major figure in the British Labour Party.

It was a general discussion on the Tories (misnamed) Autumn statement. The interviewer, whose name I forget, tried to pin him down into criticising George Osborne’s measures. However, the ever so cunning Balls was having none of it. He hummed and ahhed, instead of giving pointed answers and making it clear that Labour was stridently oppose the Tory measures, he prevaricated.

And that, for me, is the problem with the Labour leadership, they don’t really know which Tory measures there against, or even if they should oppose them totally, which is bewildering.

But I am not the only one to notice the malaise within the Labour leadership. The hardly radical, Polly Toynbee has some suggestions:

“To turn the public mood, Labour needs to find its voice and tell the stories that counteract Daily Mail scrounger anecdotes. For every cheat claiming disability while running a marathon, there are thousands of tales of the hard-working and the desperate-to-work queuing at food banks. Labour MPs’ surgeries brim with stories that need to be told, of families evicted unable to pay soaring rents, of children trapped in bed-and-breakfast single rooms, of “strivers” sinking through no fault of their own.

Labour needs to say what they see. Forget the polls and the focus groups, let the facts speak for themselves. Ed Miliband’s best instinct is that people are sick of Osborne’s callow politicking. Voters will reward honesty in politicians who speak their minds. If not, why bother at all?

My feeling is, that the useless Balls and Miliband are too wrapped up in the Westminster bubble to take this shrewd advice.

An Occasional Murdoch, NHS and Misogyny Roundup

Rupert Murdoch ate a mountain of humble pie at the Levinson inquiry and looked distinctly uncomfortable with his newfound humility.

That’s a thing of the past. Murdoch reveals his true feelings on Twitter:

“Told UK’s Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws. Trust the toffs! Transparency under attack. Bad.”

Charlotte Church was a bit annoyed.

Over at the NHS they are not happy, according to one of its honchos:

“The head of the NHS has laid bare his fears that the government’s controversial reforms of the health service could end in “misery and failure”.

Women in the media, why the disparity?

An ex-Wikileaks supporter explains why:

“For a long time now I was a strong supporter of Julian. I used to donate regularly to him. I defended and supported his actions because I believed in the cause that he was fighting for. Since the days of the original attack I ran the primary South African Wikileaks mirror (www.wikileaks.za.org). Back in those days thousands of us rallied to support Wikileaks when it was under constant DDOS attack.

Now I see the absolute disdain the Assange`s treat this cause with I can no longer put my support behind the idea. To the Assange’s it has become the Assange Road Show. Wikileaks is all about them and their own personal agenda. “

Malatesta covers the activity of the British Far Right with humour, look out for Mike Mosley, yet another neo-Nazi that likes guns.

This is a piece of understated reporting if ever there was one.

French antisemitism comes to the fore on Twitter.

An indicator, if one was needed, of Tory failures, food banks serving more.

In Australia, the definition of misogyny is being updated.

When Universal Credit is introduced in Britain, the disabled will lose out.

Radovan Karadžić’s lying know no bounds.

When you think about buying an iPhone remember that Foxcon are still using youngsters to make their bits.

Worried by Americanisms? Linguistic traffic is not one way, as the Beeb shows.

Good news, neo-Nazi’s plans for social media thwarted by Twitter.

Tens of thousands have disappeared in Syria.

Paramilitary abuse and raped in Colombia, one woman’s tale.

Thanks to the UK Human Rights Blog and Irène Solomon there is an unofficial English translation of the Rachel Corrie judgment.

The Beeb and its mistakes over the Jimmy Savile investigation.

The New Yorker on Romney:

“Romney’s conviction is that the broad swath of citizens who do not pay federal income tax—a category that includes pensioners, soldiers, low-income workers, and those who have lost their jobs—are parasites, too far gone in sloth and dependency to be worth the breath one might spend asking for their votes. His descent to this cynical view—further evidenced by his selection of a running mate, Paul Ryan, who is the epitome of the contemporary radical Republican—has been dishearteningly smooth. He in essence renounced his greatest achievement in public life—the Massachusetts health-care law—because its national manifestation, Obamacare, is anathema to the Tea Party and to the G.O.P. in general. He has tacked to the hard right on abortion, immigration, gun laws, climate change, stem-cell research, gay rights, the Bush tax cuts, and a host of foreign-policy issues. He has signed the Grover Norquist no-tax-hike pledge and endorsed Ryan’s winner-take-all economics. “

Finally, the CST’s Online radicalisation. ‘Lone wolves’ of all stripes.