Ed Balls, Timid Labour And China

Ed Balls is not an impressive politician, not by virtue of his shrewdness, delivering or occasional principles. Still, you might hope of paid politician, someone who does it for a living, would eventually get the hang of it.

But no, Balls doesn’t, as Neil Schofield argues:

“There’s some nice triangulation there. Balls is trying to play both sides of the street on welfare and benefits, and manages to get in a bit of One Nation rhetoric as well. But the point is that his underlying assumptions are both wrong and, in my view, counter-productive.

The problem with Ed Balls really lies in that second quote, where he continues to use the rhetoric of austerity. Austerity is failing, and there is an increasing body of evidence to show why that is the case – I’ve referred to the IMF’s evidence about the multiplier before. The evidence is increasingly showing that we need precisely the opposite of spending cuts, and that any tax increases should fall overwhelmingly on the wealthier, for reasons of both equity and to ensure that they do not damage demand (Balls’ argument that his scheme should be paid for by reducing the pension tax advantages of those on the highest incomes is very welcome, but misses the point – more spending and an end to austerity would increase tax revenues across the economy as a whole). “

Any compassionate person reading the Where’s the Benefit blog would be struck by the ferocity and persistency of government attacks on the disabled, a Testing Journey and If you can only walk twenty metres you’ll get no help :

“When PIP starts to replace Disability Living Allowance next year anyone who can walk just twenty metres will not qualify for help with mobility. Twenty metres is less than the distance most of the disabled parking bays at my local Tesco are from the door. It’s really not much. Hundreds of thousands of people will no longer get a mobility allowance and as a result will no longer be eligible to lease a Motability car. One day it might be you that needs this.

The government has also left out the phrase “safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner” from the PIP regulations. This means that if a person can do something just once, or can push through pain to do it, they might not get help and can’t even challenge it at tribunal. “

The Labour Party has a problem challenging the Tories on this issue, they essentially agree with the Tories’ underlying assumptions as Liam Byrne’s thinking has shown.

It’s a pity that it takes The Children’s Society to point out the downside of Tory policies:

“Half a million soldiers, nurses and teachers will have their income slashed under the coalition’s benefits crackdown, according to a new report. The chancellor’s sub-inflation rise in benefits and tax credits over the next three years will hit a whole range of the country’s most trusted professionals.

Up to 40,000 soldiers, 300,000 nurses and 150,000 primary and nursery school teachers will lose cash, in some cases many hundreds of pounds, according to the Children’s Society. The revelation appears to contradict the government’s stated intention to target shirkers and scroungers, and will raise the temperature of the Commons debate and vote on the plan on Tuesday. “

A reminder, for timid Labour, of what Tory attacks really mean:

“On Friday night Christina Martin posted a link which caught my eye. It was a few lines from a local paper which said that a blind, deaf, tube-fed, non verbal, disabled man from Scotland had been deemed fit for work by the DWP. As a result of not completing the form correctly his benefits will be stopped on 7th June and he will have to access the appeal process to have this decision over turned.

This man has to have 24 hour care and the person who had completed his form for him as his disability prevents him had not included something in the 30 page form which meant that due to that error his money will stop. “

That was not an isolate incident:

Elsewhere, Syrian journalists caught in middle of conflict

In the US, Who Is The Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower is surprising.

Austria still has issues:

“(JTA) — The number of anti-Semitic incidents documented in 2012 by Austria’s Jewish community has doubled from the previous year, the leader of Vienna’s Jewish community said.

Oskar Deutsch told the Kurier newspaper that the Jewish community registered 135 such incidents last year, compared to 71 in 2011.”

Tom Pride’s post on China is worth thinking about:

  • China is the world’s largest authoritarian dictatorship.
  • About one third of the industrial waste water and more than 90 percent of household sewage in China is released into rivers and lakes without being treated.
  • Half of China’s population lacks safe drinking water.
  • China’s incredibly high rates of liver, stomach and esophageal cancer have been directly linked to contaminated drinking water.
  • In China, in 2008 six babies were killed and 300,000 were left sickened after consuming infant formula contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine.
  • In summer of 2011, the China government reported 43 percent of state-monitored rivers are so polluted, they’re unsuitable for human contact.
  • Most of China’s rural areas have no system in place to treat waste water.
  • An estimated 980 million of China’s 1.3 billion people drink water every day that is partly polluted.
  • In October 2009, Greenpeace identified five industrial facilities in southern China’s Pearl River delta that were dumping poisonous metals and chemicals—such as beryllium, manganese, nonylphenol and tetrabromobisphenol— into water used by local residents for drinking.
  • In March 2010, more than 3.5 tons of “yard-long” green beans contaminated with banned pesticide isocarbophos, were destroyed after being discovered on sale in the central city of Wuhan.
  • In Shenzhen, southern China, nearly one third (28pc) of food made with rice flour were found to have levels of aluminium above national standards.
  • An undercover investigation in March 2010 estimated that one in 10 of all meals in China were cooked using recycled oil, scavenged from the sewerage drains beneath restaurants.
  • Research showed that 10 per cent of rice sold in China was contaminated with heavy metals, including cadmium, some contained up to five times the legal limit.

Bloomberg’s Mapping China’s Red Nobility is excellent for detailing the interconnections and relationships amongst China’s elite.

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Heinz-Christian Strache

Austria’s Far Right, Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache plays the victim after his latest gaff:

“(Reuters) – The leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party is taking a public relations beating after refusing to apologize for likening anti-fascist protesters to a Nazi mob and his supporters to Jews.

Heinz-Christian Strache’s comment that “We are the new Jews” to an undercover journalist at a Vienna ball that critics say draws right-wing extremists has caused uproar and triggered at least a temporary setback for his resurgent euroskeptic party. “

Surprisingly, at least 11% of Austrians thought this neofascist in a suit fit to be Austria’s Chancellor, but as the Guardian reminded us in 2008:

“The far-right triumph was greater than its breakthrough in 1999 when Haider’s Freedom party came second in a general election with 27% of the vote and entered government, sparking a crisis that saw Austria isolated internationally.

Strache, who has been associated with neo-Nazi militants who deny the Holocaust, according to a court ruling, and who wants a new government ministry created to manage the deportation of immigrants, wound up his campaign at the weekend by calling Muslim women who wear the burqa “female ninjas” “

The Indy has more:

“The Viennese ball might have escaped with UNESCO’s rap on the knuckles, had it not been for an initially unreported anti-Semitic tirade delivered from Strache’s ballroom box to some 3,000 of his right wing guests last Friday, describing Austria’s far-right as the “New Jews”.

By yesterday it had become the focus of a blistering political row about everyday anti-Semitism and the disturbing, yet seemingly inexorable, rise of popular right-wing Austrian nationalism.

Referring to the protesters outside, Mr Strache told his audience they should not be prepared to have their “wonderful cultural party” ruined by protesters whom he described as “anti-democratic perpetrators of violence”. He then claimed the violence outside was like “Kristallnacht” – the 1938 Nazi pogrom that foreshadowed the Holocaust – and declared to his ball guests: “We are the new Jews!” Reports in the Austrian press subsequently revealed that Strache’s Freedom Party aide, Klaus Nittmann, had referred to the yellow star the Nazi regime forced Jews to wear and told ball guests: “Organisations behind the ball end up getting a Jewish Star pinned on them.”

And in what was seen by many as adding insult to injury, last Friday’s Vienna student ball just happened to fall on Holocaust remembrance day – the anniversary of the Soviet army’s liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Eva Glawischnig, head of Austria’s Green Party, suggested that those who attended were effectively “dancing on the graves of Auschwitz”. The organisers chose to ignore the charge.

Austria’s Jewish community has since been sufficiently outraged and insulted to demand that state prosecutors investigate Strache. Austria’s ruling centrist People’s Party described his words as a “slap in the face for all victims of the Nazis’ criminal regime”. Strache’s Freedom Party dismissed the criticism as “artificial and ridiculous outrage”, while Strache himself said he did not intend to “play down the agony forced upon the Jews”.

Yet his outburst has raised more disturbing questions about his party, an organisation which is now Austria’s second political force. It made huge gains in recent Vienna city elections with a virulently Islamophobic campaign.”

So the spectre of fascism hasn’t really died, just changed into a sharper suit and plays the victim.

Meanwhile In Austria

We should never forget that those ideas and sentiments that lead to mass murder during WW2 are still very much with us:

“VIENNA (AP) — Austrians gathered in memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis condemned plans to hold a ball of extreme rightists later in the day Friday, saying the event’s timing transformed it into a macabre dance on Holocaust victims’ graves.

Friday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, celebrated each year on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Ball organizers insisted the fact that their event coincided this year with the 67th anniversary of the death camp’s demise was coincidental and denied suggestions that those attending were extremists.

But opponents vehemently criticized both the day chosen to hold the WKR ball and the political views of those attending it, suggesting it regularly attracts elements from the neo-Nazi fringe. The ball is to be held in Vienna’s ornate Hofburg palace, less than a minute’s walk away from the memorial event.

The dispute reflects both the distance Austria has come in acknowledging its role in Nazi atrocities and stubborn rightist sentiment among some here, who see themselves as Germans and Germans as the superior race — a common regional building block of anti-Semitism.

Some of the most bitter comments came from the crowd that converged on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, or Heroes’ Square, to lay wreaths for the victims of the Holocaust.

“You, who will dance and celebrate here; we remind you of the murder of two-thirds of Europe’s Jews,” proclaimed death camp survivor Rudolf Gelbard. Insisting that Nazi atrocities must never be forgotten, Greens’ Party head Eva Glawischnig declared, “It is all the greater perfidy that there will be dancing today on the graves of Auschwitz.” “