The Labour membership should listen to the PLP.

July 24, 2016

The chamber of the House of Commons erupted at mid-day on Wednesday with the arrival of the new Prime Minister to her first PMQs. The Tory Party, torn apart by the EU referendum, was now seemingly united behind its leader. By contrast, the chamber fell silent on the arrival of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. His own backbenches, ignored after a no confidence vote, threatened with de-selection for disloyalty, constantly attacked as red Tories and Blairites for daring to criticise the leader, were understandably quiet. And yet, Diane Abbott took to the airwaves immediately afterwards to express surprise that the PLP isn’t dancing around like cheerleaders with Corbyn tattoos and unveiling massive statues to him around the World. Abbott, Corbyn, McDonnell, and members are unable to understand that the Labour leader cannot command any Parliamentary support, and that in itself is a massive problem.

Let’s quash the myth immediately that the Parliamentary Labour Party is in any way acting undemocratically in opposing the Labour Leader. It isn’t. When Jeremy Corbyn was a backbench MP and sought to dethrone both Kinnock and Blair, he was well within his right to do so. In 1988 when supporting Tony Benn’s campaign to oust Kinnock, Corbyn said:

“By having an election, we will force a debate about the direction of the party in which it will be more difficult for Kinnock to make everything an issue of loyalty to him.”

– Quite. One when or two Labour MPs rebel against the leadership, it’s easier to put down. But think of this recent rebellion as an entire Party of 1988 Jeremy Corbyn’s. The leadership simply cannot secure confidence in that environment.

Four years later, Corbyn was supporting a challenge against the next Labour leader he had no interest in supporting. In 1992, Corbyn insisted that John Smith had shown “no real opposition“. 10 years later in 2002, he did the same when asking for a challenger to Blair to come forward. In 2003, he demanded an annual leadership election. At no point did the hard-left accuse him of undemocratic disloyalty. Now that he has hold of the strings of power, their demand is loyalty or leave. Jeremy Corbyn was not undemocratic then, and the PLP are not undemocratic now.

Let’s also quash the myth that Labour MPs are not representative of Labour Party at large. Those Labour MPs were selected, cleared, and elected by constituents for the 2015 general election. They represent the Party as it was voted on by constituents. That is the epitome of Parliamentary democracy. Members were not trying to deselect those MPs when they were winning constituencies for Labour. New members may not represent the view of the 2015 Labour Parliamentary Party. They can change that in 2020 if they want. But right now, Labour is not a hard-left Parliamentary Party, it wasn’t elected as the main opposition party on a hard-left platform, and MPs should not be betraying the message they were voted on, to suit new members.

To be clear, the PLP’s first commitment is to maintain a Labour Party in Parliament as ready for government at any moment as the only way to legislate in favour of Labour principles. This means appealing to a broader coalition of voters, than simply the hard-left. This means being able to produce a full shadow cabinet with a reserve pool of talent as well. This means a leader that the PLP is willing to fully support. Everything the PLP has done has been democratic and with the aim in mind that in order to change the country, it needs to win an election. It has used a perfectly acceptable Parliamentary procedure to issue a vote of no confidence in its leader. Shadow Cabinet members tried to work for Corbyn, and it didn’t workout. For that, his supporters have abused and attacked them. The PLP then sparked a leadership challenge and asked for clarity on the rules. It will now run a leadership challenge on the basis of those rules. That’s it. That isn’t undemocratic.

On election of the leader, I would agree that the Parliamentary Party should listen to its members. The members vote for the candidate put forward by the PLP. Indeed, at that point the members haven’t challenged the idea that the PLP decides who can stand for leader. Their lack of challenge implies acceptance. They accept that the PLP has to have a form of power over the process of electing their leader in Parliament. I’d presume they accept this premise, because the Labour Party is a Parliamentary Party within a Parliamentary democracy. So clear is this, that The Labour Party’s own rulebook, Clause 1.2 says:

“Its purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.”

– It would seem clear to me, that if the Parliamentary Party that must be maintained and ready for an election cannot work with the leader nor has any confidence in the ability of the leader to win that election, it would relay this message back to the membership in the form of a vote of no confidence, and the membership then have a duty to return a leader that the people in Parliament – not the hard-left Parliamentarians they hope make up the majority of MPs – the ones elected on a far more moderate platform in 2015, can work with. At that point, it becomes the responsibility of the membership, to support the Parliamentary Party with a candidate they can rally behind. Continuously sending the same leader that the PLP decidedly cannot work with, implies that the membership care very little for actual political power – where societal and economic change happens – and only care for flexing hard-left muscles with the illusion of power.

At this point, it is the Labour membership that must return a Parliamentary leader the Parliamentary Party can support and unite behind. If the membership does the opposite, the membership is entirely to blame for handing the 2020 general election to the Conservative Party.


Sarah Vine & Daily Mail land.

June 11, 2014

In the green pastures of Daily Mail land, where the year is perpetually 1950, Dvorak’s Symphony 9 plays on a loop, and everyone attends Church on a Sunday. Where someone with slightly darker skin in the village is a frightening novelty, morality and normality are defined by Christianity, gay folk are trying to destroy humanity, and someone with tattoos can only mean one thing; the decadent youth and their alien ways are throwing their lives away, destroying this once great country, and they don’t even know it. If only they’d suspend their critical faculties, and pick up the Daily Mail from time to time, the country could be great again!… Or something like that.

I woke up shocked this morning. Shocked that my life has been a lie. Thanks to Sarah Vine over at the ever illuminating and rational Daily Mail, I learnt this morning that my tattoos are simply a “hideous” form of self harm. This came as a shock, because up until now, I thought I had my tattoos as a form of self expression, that I chose them because I felt they represented me in a way that I wanted to represent myself, and that they had a certain meaning to me and me alone. I thought I was pretty happy when I had my tattoos. Of course, we all have our problems in life, but on the whole, I really fucking love me. At least, that’s what I thought. I thought I knew what my tattoos meant to me, because, well, I’m me. That all changed this morning when I read Sarah Vine’s column for The Mail (and Tory’s and the Mail are notoriously excellent at understanding young people) and discovered I have serious mental health issues that I address by harming myself with tattoos. I discovered my friends must be covering their intense inner sorrow, with outward displays of faux-happiness and joy. I discovered that the word “self-harm” can now be thrown around whenever we see someone doing something we personally wouldn’t do.

But then I thought, maybe it’s an ironic piece? I mean, there appears to be a noticeable irony in someone writing for the Daily Mail, and being married to Michael Gove having the nerve to refer to anything other than writing for the Daily Mail and being married to Michael Gove as “ghastly” and “self harm”. Perhaps it is Sarah Vine’s cry for help. I mean, she has her ears pierced; a needle pushed through the body, and a piece of metal shoved into the hole. Does this not also count as self harm? There can’t be much pleasure in writing for a newspaper famed for its tacit support for Fascism in the 1930s, and that recently hounded a transgender person – Lucy Meadows – to suicide, whilst married to a man universally hated by the profession he’s the Minister for. Perhaps at this point you’re thinking that I’m being incredibly judgmental in presuming that I get to tell someone else that their private life, their private loves, and the way they express themselves is “ghastly” or “self harm”. Yes… you’d be right. It’s pretty shitty and irrational of me, isn’t it?

There is a degree of irony in the article itself:

“Think of poor, frail Amy Winehouse, her emaciated limbs decorated like a navvy’s; think of the ethereal, fragile Peaches Geldof.”

– Yes. Think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’, like The Mail did when they plastered unflattering pictures of Amy Winehouse all over a completely irrelevant article, whilst needlessly poking fun at her, despite this being in the middle of her health issues:

“At first glance it may seem she had forgotten to get dressed.
But bra, shorts and ballet slippers almost count as overdressed for Amy Winehouse these days.”

– Think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’ like The Mail did with this article dedicated entirely to how ill she looked coming out of a restaurant:

“The Rehab singer looked worse for wear after dining at Balans restaurant in London and exposed a small pot belly after the meal.”

– Nothing says compassion and sensitivity for those suffering quite like having a gutter photographer selling you photos of every troubled moment, for a paper that gets a bizarre kick out of dehumanising those struggling. So yes, think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’ and the grotesque rag of shit with a business model that relies on perpetuating the suffering and misery of others.

The article goes on:

“When I was Barkley’s age, tattoos were the preserve of sailors, Hell’s Angels and ex-cons.”

– When my grandfather was my age, in the 1940s, writing for (or owning) The Daily Mail was the preserve of Nazi supporters and the British far right. Some things change, some things remain remarkably similar.

The article goes on, still:

“Twenty-year-old Ross Barkley, by contrast, has used his to illustrate his more contemplative side. On the outside of his arm, in Chinese script, the word ‘fengxian’, meaning ‘to devote’. And at the base of his hand, a quotation from none other than the Greek philosopher Aristotle: ‘No notice is taken of little evil. But when it increases it strikes the eye.’
Wow. Who knew that beneath that rugged exterior lurked the sensitive soul of a classicist?”

– This came as a shock to me too, because I have a rose tattooed on my arm, and I haven’t even studied botany. There is absolutely no reason why Barkley would need to know the first thing about the classical period, to take away something meaningful from a pretty universal quote. Indeed, that is part of the timeless genius of Aristotle. You don’t have to be a connoisseur of classical Greek philosophy, to take something meaningful from a fifteen word quote. Similarly, Sarah Vine doesn’t have to be an expert in the art of jewelry making, to have a piece of metal shoved in her ear.

There is no single reason someone gets a tattoo. Do some people get tattoos as a form of self-harm? It’s a possibility, though I don’t know of anyone who has. For some, their bodies are a canvas for the art form. For others, a tattoo might commemorate a moment in time. For others, a tattoo might be a middle finger to a neat and tidy, soulless, and robotic business-defined culture they find to be so devoid of individuality. For me – as for all others – it is simply a form of self expression. I don’t care what someone else thinks of my tattoos. There is no hidden anguish in my choosing to be tattooed. Like the clothes I wear, the haircut (to an extent; though nature took away most of my hair) I have, the photographs I take, the words I write, the tattoos I have; all are forms of expressing myself, and myself alone. They mean something to me. We express ourselves in a variety of ways and what is important is that I decide what it is that represents expression to me. No one else. Certainly not a Tory journalist flippantly using the subject of mental health to explain away her personal dislike of tattoos, from the unbearably stagnant pastures of Daily Mail land.


The Frackers of Downing Street.

January 17, 2014

There are very few more pressing issues on the planet right now than climate change, and sustainable energy. For that reason alone, throwing dangerous chemicals down a well and splitting rocks to extract gas, leading to complaints of contaminated water supplies in Texas, and earthquakes in Blackpool, was always going to be a controversial topic. Without getting into the pros and cons of the industry and the practice, I thought I’d focus on the names and faces attached to fracking in the UK, who seem to be extraordinarily close to a government that is now suddenly fully embracing fracking.

Lord Browne is the Managing Director of Riverstone – a private equity firm that backs Cuadrilla Resources (of which Lord Browne in the Chairman). Cuadrilla is a Shale Gas operator that was found to be the likely cause of two minor earthquakes in 2011 through its drilling in Lancashire. Lord Browne is lead non-executive director – a Coalition advisor – at the Cabinet Office and a crossbench member of the House of Lords.

Also at Riverstone was Ben Moxham. Moxham was a vice President at Riverstone – the equity firm that backs a company responsible for a small earthquake – until 2011. Moxham was then a lead advisor for the Coalition on climate change issues, and a senior policy advisor for energy issues, to the Prime Minister. Moxham, like Lord Browne, was also at BP for a time.

The Senior Independent Director of of BG Group PLC is Baroness Hogg. BG Group is a British oil and gas company with interests across the planet, including shale gas in the US, where it claimed to be wishing to produce 80,000 barrels a day by 2015, growing up 190,000 barrels a day by 2020 through its shale production. Baroness Hogg was appointed Lead Non-Executive Board Member to the Treasury.

Sam Laidlaw is the CEO of Centrica. He was also Lead non-executive director on the board of the Department for Transport, and a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group . Also at Centrica for a time, was Tara Singh. In May 2013, Number 10 announced that Ms Singh would be the Prime Minister’s personal advisor on energy and climate change. This is the same Tara Singh whose previous role was Public Affairs Manager at Centrica – owner of British Gas. A few weeks after Singh was appointed to a government advisory role, Centrica – her former employer – bought a stake in Lord Browne’s Cuadrilla for its shale gas production. Singh has also worked for PR firm Hill & Knowlton, a firm that represents the Norwegian energy giant Statoil, a company with investment in fracking in North America.

Lord Green, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, was also non-executive director of chemical giant BASF. BASF supply gas-based chemicals for the fracking industry.

The Windsor Energy Group in March 2013 discussed, according to its own documents:

“…the energy revolution from shale gas and tight oil and other game-changers so far looking east, west and south…”

– This excitement was echoed by the Chairman of the Windsor Energy Group – Lord Howell – who told Parliament that the former colonies were ripe for picking:

“…wake up and realise where our future and our destiny lie…the new range of Commonwealth countries coming into the prosperity league either side of Africa, as they find through the shale gas revolution that they have fantastic raw energy resources and prospects.”

– Lord Howell – the Chairman of the W.E.G – also happens to be the father-in-law of Chancellor George Osborne. The Windsor Energy Group takes time on its website to thank Shell and BP for its support. It is unsurprising that two of the biggest players in the oil industry might choose to be close friends with an organisation whose chairman is the father-in-law of the Chancellor. Lord Howell was also former energy advisor to William Hague.

Lord Howell – the Chairman of the W.E.G and father-in-law of the Chancellor – is also the President of the British Institute of Energy Economics. The BIEE is sponsored by Shell and BP. In 2013, Howell was appointed President of the Energy Industries Council.

It comes as no surprise then, that in July 2013, Howell’s son-in-law Chancellor George Osborne announced a massive tax break for the fracking industry, setting the rate at 30% for onshore shale gas production, as opposed to 62% for new production of North Sea Oil. Echoing the wording by his father-in-law, and the Windsor Energy Group that his father-in-law Chairs, Osborne referred to fracking as a revolution:

“This new tax regime, which I want to make the most generous for shale in the world, will contribute to that. I want Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution”

– But it isn’t just Osborne. Vince Cable, whose Party spent the best part of the last decade insisting it was the party of green energy, took to TV news to defend the tax breaks. The fact that Cable here suggests that fracking would have to be heavily regulated and watched, must raise eyebrows as to its potential dangers. It is worth noting that Vince Cable was the former Chief Economist at Shell (supporters of the W.E.G, and financial backers of the BIEE, both run by George Osborne’s father-in-law) and that Malcolm Brinded – the former Chief Executive of Shell Upstream International – referred to Cable in a letter to the Secretary of State as the “Contact Minister for Shell”. Here:

shell
– Shell is positioning itself to be a major player in the UK Fracking industry. It’s also worth noting that William Hague worked for Shell UK before entering Parliament.

The tax breaks must have felt like a wonderful victory, not just for Shell and Osborne’s father-in-law, but for everyone’s favourite soulless lobbyist Lynton Crosby. The Prime Minister’s election advisor and strategist founded the lobbying firm Crosby Textor, which lobbies on behalf of The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, and fracking is one of its main objectives. One of the members of The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association is Dart Energy, whose UK subsidiary holds a fracking licence in the UK.

So to summarise, Lord Browne from Cuadrilla is a coalition advisor, and Tara Singh from Centrica who own a stake in Cuadrilla is a coalition advisor, and Sam Laidlaw – the CEO of Centrica – was a coalition advisor. Baroness Hogg – a lead non-exec. board member to the Treasure – is Senior Independent Director at a company with huge interests in fracking in the US Ben Moxham – an advisor to the Prime Minister on climate change and energy – was at an equity firm that backed Lord Browne’s Cuadrilla. Lynton Crosby whose firm lobbies on behalf of the fracking industry is a key strategist to the Conservative Party. George Osborne’s father-in-law is the President of a group financially backed by BP & Chairs another organisation supported by Shell among others that pushes for the fracking industry at the same time that his son-in-law announces incredibly generous tax rates for the fracking industry. And the Business Secretary is referred to as the “Contact Minister for Shell” by a former Shell CEO. It is an incredible state of affairs.

Those who are in a position to be making a very large amount of money from fracking, also appear to be at the centre of a government that will make the key decisions on the future of the industry including its regulations and safety procedures. By contrast, there don’t appear to be any members of local communities close to proposed fracking sites, at the centre of government. For a Tory Party needing to shed its image as the Party of big business, this isn’t helping. The fracking industry hasn’t even taken off in the UK to any great extent, and yet it would appear its representatives are well placed right at the very heart of government.


Abusing the Filibuster: Some Stats.

November 28, 2013

800px-Rand_Paul_Filibuster

It has been an interesting week since Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option to ensure Presidential nominees are no longer blocked by an increasingly power-hungry Tea Party minority. From the right of the Republican Party, there appears to be a constant “We’re a republic! Not a democracy!” odd little tantrum, in a curiously weak attempt to justify their horrendous inability to accept that they lost the election. It should be noted that the US is indeed a republic, framed by the Constitution, which, in the case of Congressional rule changes quite clearly states:

“Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.”
Article 1; Section 5; Clause 2.

– Also, when it comes to Presidential nominees to executive branch positions, the President has that right. As long as those nominees are qualified, they are entitled to be confirmed, with the President shaping his administration as he sees fit. The Senate traditionally is there to advise and consent, to block only in the most extreme of conditions, and not to usurp that power and use it for fringe-partisanship. The filibuster not only gives a voice to the minority (who are entitled to that voice, via debate), it gives that minority far more power than both the majority party in the Senate, and the President combined.

That being said, it’s true that both President Obama and Harry Reid condemned the nuclear option during the Bush administration, whilst Democrats were the minority party in the Senate. But it is equally true, and needless to point out that President Bush wasn’t facing the sheer force of extreme obstructionism facilitated by the filibuster that the Obama White House faces today.

The nuclear option, in short, means that nominees by the executive branch require a simply majority of 51 votes for appointment, rather than the 60 votes needed if filibustered.

So, why did Harry Reid feel that he had to use a procedural measure to prevent further nominee filibustering in the Senate? Well, it’s quite obvious when you look at the past three years.

Let’s start with the most staggering.
Number of Presidential nominees filibustered over the course of US history: 147.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered before Obama took office: 68.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered since Obama took office: 79.
More than half of all filibustered nominees for executive branch positions – since before the White House was even built – have taken place during President Obama’s five years as President. This stat alone should be more than enough to convince anyone of the need to curb the abuse of power by a minority wing, or a minority party, that could not win the Presidential election, nor the Senate, nor the popular vote for the House. But in case you’re still on the fence, here are a few more stats:

Between 1949 and 2008, 20 cloture votes had been held to end filibusters, and push for a three-fifths majority vote. In 59 years, 20 votes. Between 2008 and 2013 – just five years – cloture has had to be invoked 27 times.

In President Bush’s two terms, the number of cloture votes for Presidential nominees was 7. In President Clinton’s two terms, the cloture votes for Presidential nominees, was 9. By early 2013, 16 of the President’s executive branch nominees had required cloture votes. In one Presidential term alone.

Interestingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who seems to have no problem with the obscene amount of obstructionism his party is willing to adopt in preventing the appointment of Presidential nominees, wasn’t too happy with it when the shoe was on the other foot. During the Bush Presidency, McConnell said:

“To correct this abuse, the majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedents to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It is time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.”

– Ironically, McConnell is now the King of the obstruction he harshly condemned in 2005.

Damningly for McConnell, on top of the 16 cloture votes by March 2013, we see the situation getting worse. Between March 2013, and November 2013, a staggering 11 more cloture votes – taking the total to 27 – for executive branch positions were required after being targets of filibusters from Senate Republicans.

75 executive branch nominations, to incredibly important positions, have waited an average of 140 days for confirmation. The obstruction in the Senate, leads to gridlock across agencies. This isn’t just unfair, it is dangerous. There is absolutely no need nor requirement for the Senate to demand a super majority for Presidential nominations.

And that’s just on nominees. Motions to end a filibuster by procedure during George Bush’s term, and when the party in the White House also controlled the Senate stood at 130 over two terms. Over just one term, and six months of President Obama’s Presidency, that number stands at 307. The era of block-over-debate had to come to an end.

These incredibly telling figures represent another wing – after the ill-considered Republican shut down – of the Republican strategy to destabilise the operation of government departments that people count on every day, simply because the election did not go their own way. The nuclear option was both necessary and inevitable. The reaction from the Republican camp to Reid’s decision has been predictable. Harry Reid – they claim – had choked democracy. This was the end of America as we know it. The usual hyperbole.

Strangely, the same Republicans didn’t react with equal venom when on September 30th of this year, House Republicans changed House rules to take the power to end a government shutdown away from all members of the House, and bestow it upon the House Majority Leader only. It’s a curious hypocrisy, but nevertheless completely expected from that section of the delusional right that holds nothing but contempt for democracy when it goes against them.


Kennedy, Obama, and the Tea Party extremists.

November 26, 2013

THISLAND JOHN BIRCH

The intensity of paranoid right winged hysteria that faces everything the President says, everything he does, and everywhere he goes has grown substantially over the past few years. From those demanding a birth certificate, to public office holders invoking the image of slavery and Stalin whenever they disagree with any policy coming out of the White House. It is all anchored by a paranoid fear of an imminent communist take over. The intensity of the vitriol is growing… but it isn’t new, nor are the people behind it.

In November 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech in which he warns about the “discordant voices of extremism” on the far right fringes, Kennedy said:

“They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with communism. They object quite rightly to politics’ intruding on the military — but they are anxious for the military to engage in politics.”

– Echoing these thoughts, the former President, Eisenhower – a Republican – also in 1961 registered his concern about the growing tide of right winged paranoia and extremism that the President and the country were facing in the early ’60s. He expresses concern over what he calls the “super-patriot” and that they tend to wish to:

“…go back to eliminating the income tax from our laws and the rights of people to unionize… [and those] advocating some form of dictatorship.”

The far right attacks on Kennedy grew during the early ’60s, and by November 22nd 1963, the Dallas Morning News printed this full page advertisement attacking the President:

jfk_24_flyer1
– It is a page dedicated to the subtle hinting that Kennedy was soft on communism and must be resisted by Constitution loving Patriots. For example, one “WHY” on the list reads:

“WHY have you ordered or permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership?”

– Interestingly, you will note that the name on the bottom of the ad is Bernard Wiessman. During the 60s, Wiessman was a member of the infamous ultra-right ‘John Birch Society’. The society continues to this day. Their website lists Fred Koch – the father of the Tea Party bankrolling Koch Brothers – in its “list of significant figures”. Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society. The society has played host to some particularly unsavoury characters, not least Fred Koch himself, who laid the seeds for his wealth by building Soviet oil infrastructure, and training Soviet engineers. The Koch family has only ever been interested in increasing its own power and wealth. The same is true today.

Haroldson L.Hunt, the Texas millionaire was a keen member of the John Birch Society during the 1960s. Hunt frequented the radio waves of Texas often to warn of the terrible consequences of President Kennedy’s support for Medicare:

“The plan provides a near little package of sweeping dictatorial power over medicine and the healing arts—a package which would literally make the President of the United States a medical czar with potential life or death power over every man woman and child in the country.”

– According to Hunt – the John Birch member, and someone who clearly doesn’t understand the word ‘literally’ – Medicare would lead to dictatorship, and death panels. According to Tea Party today – including groups with links to the John Birch Society – the Affordable Care Act will lead to dictatorship and death panels.

A ’60s associate of the society, Reverand Billy James Hargis wrote:

“This nation today is in the hands of a group of Harvard radicals who have long ago been “hooked” by the insidious dope of socialism and view human life from the international standpoint – They are a dangerous scourge – and they are so deeply entrenched in power that they can be removed only by a nationwide upsurge of conservatism.”

“They are liberals; liberals are socialists; and Khrushchev himself said that socialism is ‘the first phase of communism.'”

– Hargis headed the fifth annual convention of the Christian Crusade against Communism, which included Robert Welch – the director of the John Birch Society.

In 1961, a report by Congressman Morris K. Udall noted another significant member of the John Birch Society:

“For example, the testimony revealed that Gen. Walker is a member of the John Birch Society, an organization whose leader says former President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and other high officials of our government have been Communist dupes. Also, it was revealed that Gen. Walker made public statements which were derogatory of other present and former officials of our government. Such statements, of course, are wholly out of keeping for a military officer.”

– General Walker – also a guest at the Christian Crusade against Communism convention – was using his position as a General to amplify his far-right, aggressive John Birch Society beliefs. According to further testimony to the Warren Commission by the aforementioned Bernard Wiessman, Walker was driving around with copies of this in his car, shortly after November 22nd 1963:

TreasonFlyer.jpg.CROP.original-original
– Anti-Christian, Communist race rioters, betraying the Constitution, treason. Familiar vitriolic terms you will still note coming out of the same far right, largely funded by the same Koch family in 2013.

On October 18th, 1963 – just over a month until the assassination – the Delaware State News ran an editorial:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. His name right now happens to be Kennedy. Let’s shoot him, literally, before Christmas.”

– The fear driven, violent rhetoric is the same. But in 2013, the John Birch Society and its Tea Party has just as much – if not more – power than it had in the 1960s. The dangerous conspiratorial tone that a Marxist takeover of government is imminent, now infects legislative bodies across the US. For example, In March 2012, the Tennessee House Republicans drafted House Joint Resolution 587 that read:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth”

– The wording is eerily similar to a John Birch Society mock-up Bill which reads:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded by society and the environment which would be accomplished by a socialist/communist-style redistribution of wealth”

– When I say “eerily similar”, I mean “exactly the same”.

At a Tea Party rally back in 2010, a speaker from Corpus Christi passionately told the crowd that President Obama’s:

“…goal is to do whatever he can to reinvent the United States of America into the aggressively, militantly, secular socialist and post-Christian state he wants it to be. This means … deconstructing the Constitution however he pleases.

Also in the more recent past, Republican darling Ron Paul was not only the first chairman of ‘Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE)’ which was founded in ’84 by David and Charles Koch, and is now ‘FreedomWorks’ – he was also a key speaker at the John Birch Society’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Wisconsin in October 2008. Interestingly, one of ‘FreedomWorks’ main financers is Crow Holdings, LLC. Crow Holdings has contributed $20,000 to Senator Cruz so far for 2014. This, on top of the $25,000 from Koch industries. 50 years of Koch family promoted vitriol and paranoia, through their hired mouthpieces in Congress.

The opposition to both Kennedy and Obama from the fringe of the right wing has never been a reasonable opposition built on democratically scrutinising ideas. Their brand of opposition has been consistent for the past 50 years; to present any policy slightly to the left of father Koch, as ‘unamerican’, as ‘communist’, as a threat to the fabric of American society, needing to be dealt with outside of the democratic process if necessary, and to spend an obscene amount of money sponsoring candidates and running “Welcome Mr Kennedy” ads to help spread the paranoid fantasies of one far-right family, whilst presenting itself as “grassroots”.

The Tea Party in 2013, and to a growing extent – the Republican Party in 2013 – is the John Birch Society of the 1960s. The same meaningless yet vicious and provocative manipulative and paranoid phrasing, bankrolled by the same family for the sake of the power of that one family, and working to inspire the same reactions from those who suffer the most from its manipulations. They inhabit the realm of paranoid fantasy that is usually considered fringe. It has been key to the far-right’s 50 years of manufacturing false and delusional hysteria, and as of 2013, the power of John Birch-style extremism had the power to shutdown the government in September. That’s a worrying development.


The United States House of Wall Street.

November 25, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

An interesting vote took place in the House of Representatives at the beginning of this month. A vote completely overshadowed by constant Republican tantrums over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. A vote that has potentially serious consequences in the future.

The Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank) included Section 716, which ensured that banks insured Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, move their ‘swaps’ (a certain derivative) into non-bank arms of the business that aren’t insured by FDIC; not eligible for bail out funds. It ensured protection for the consumer’s savings, and ensured protection for the taxpayer, by enforcing banks to place their more risky derivative deals outside of the realm of Federal assistance.

At the end of October 2013, House Resolution 992 passed the House by 292 votes to 122. The Bill – H.R.992 – or The “Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act” – severely limits the reach of Section 716 of Dodd-Frank, ultimately striking down a key regulation that Dodd-Frank implemented back in 2010. The implication, simply put, is that incredibly risky Wall Street behaviour surrounding the dealing of derivatives could be backed by a taxpayer funded bailout – for exchanges that are not at all related to banking – if it all goes wrong again.

Despite the Treasury raising concerns about striking down such an important provision, the House – including many Democrats – voted to pass H.R.922. But why? What is the motivation? Well, one only has to look at the lobbying on this Bill to understand just how this may have come about.

Contributions to House members from interests groups who expressively support H.R.992 are rather eye watering. On the list of top contributions to House Members, Jim Himes (D-CT4) – a co-sponsor of the Bill – received $437,179 from special interests in favour. More than any other Democrat in the House. The second ranking figure in the Democrat House Leadership chain of command, Steny Hoyer (D-MD5) received $266,510 from Wall Street supporters of the Bill. The most expensive ‘Yes’ vote for Wall Street comes to us via Eric Cantor (R-VA7), who received $525,400. The main sponsor of the Bill Randy Hultgren (R-Ill) received more contributions from the Securities and Investment industry than any other industry, at $136,500.

In all, special interests supporting H.R.992 contributed 5.9 times more to House members than those groups that opposed it. Wall Street has been staggeringly influential in ensuring regulations from 2010 are struck down. Citigroup were among the contributors. Citigroup also wrote ‘recommendations’ that appeared to be reflected almost word for word in the final draft of H.R.992. The Citigroup recommendations reads:

(d) Only bona fide hedging and traditional bank activities permitted. The prohibition in subsection (a) shall apply to any covered depository institution unless the covered depository institution limits its swap or security based swap activities to:
(1) Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(2) Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, unless–
(i) such structured finance swap is undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Unsurprisingly, given just how much money Wall Street has spent buying its Congressional support for the Bill, H.R.992 reads:

(A) Hedging and other similar risk mitigation activities.
Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(B) Non-structured finance swap activities.–
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps other than a structured finance swap.
(C) Certain structured finance swap activities.
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, if–
(i) such structured finance swaps are undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance swaps is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Practically word for word. In fact, according to the New York Times, 70 of the 85 lines in the Bill were penned by Citigroup. A Bill that deregulates the risky aspects of the financial industry – and spreads the risk of failure and the obscene costs of such, to the taxpayer if it all collapses again – was written by the financial industry. Welcome to the House of Wall Street.

The Bill passed the House, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs at the end of October. It is unlikely to pass the Senate, though if somehow it does, it is unlikely to be signed by the President. The White House has already registered its opposition to the Bill, though stopping short of threatening a veto. It might be worth noting that Jack Lew – current Treasury Secretary – worked as Citigroup’s Chief Operating Officer between 2006 and 2008, overseeing the Alternative Investments unit that invested in a hedge fund that had bet on the housing market to collapse.

The US is still recovering from the destruction wrought by, among others; Citigroup. In 2013, Citigroup and Wall Street have successfully managed to lobby Congress into ensuring that incredibly risky derivatives deals – that helped to cause the problems in the first place – are now fully exposed to a risk of a future bailout. This, despite the Federal Reserve reporting in 2012 that Citigroup was one of four financial institutions to fail its ‘stress test’; a test of the institutions ability to withstand another crisis like that of 2008. Also in 2012, Citigroup had to settle an investor lawsuit for $25,000,000 for allegedly misleading investors over the nature of its mortgage-backed securities. Why on earth is this institution allowed anywhere near the strings of government, to shape policy that has such far reaching implications?

Under such circumstances, Citigroup’s lobbyists must be in for a huge Christmas bonus. They’ve certainly earned it.


Accommodation Expenses of Tory MPs who voted for the Bedroom Tax.

November 15, 2013

The Party of duck-houses and moat cleaning expenses voted this week to ensure that the most vulnerable families in the UK struggle to live, with the perpetuation of the hideous Bedroom Tax. So, it’s worth noting exactly how much those same Tory MPs have claimed in their own accommodation expenses.

(For reference, ‘accommodation’ according to IPSA covers
Accommodation, Rent, Home Contents Insurance, Telephone Installation, Approved Security Measures, Internet, Telephone, Usage, Buildings Insurance, Mortgage Interest, Telephone Usage/Rental, Council Tax, Other Fuel, Television Installation/Rental, Electricity, Residential Deposit Loan, Television Licence, Gas, Routine Security Measures, Water, Ground Rent, Service Charges).

Karen Bradley Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, voted against Labour’s motion to repeal the Bedroom Tax, thus voting to cut £16 a week from the budgets of the hardest pressed families. Presumably to help plug the Treasury hole arising from her own accommodation expenses, seen here:

conservatives expenses, karen bradley expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax mps

Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. He also once blamed civil servants for the failure of certain government projects, and is particularly interested in investigating the causes of government overspending. Here, he claimed £22,000+ in accommodation expenses for a very short space of time, whilst voting to take away accommodation expenses from the most vulnerable:

richard bacon mp, mps expenses, bedroom tax tories, tories expenses, conservative party expenses

Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Morgan once told a room full of students at a debate I was at, that business owners make the best MPs. She got a huge boo from the audience. But I agree with her…. in a Parliament that is dedicated to the very wealthy, those sympathetic to the very wealthy to the detriment of the everyone else make the best Corporate-MPs. That’s true. For the rest of us, they are a nightmare. The Bedroom Tax is testament to that hideous Corporate-MP mentality. Anyway, Morgan, whilst ‘Economic Secretary to the Treasury’ and voting to uphold the misery that has lead to so many tragic incidents like that of Stephanie Bottrill, claimed the following in her accommodation:

nicky morgan mp expenses, nicky morgan mp bedroom tax, bedroom tax mps expenses, mps expenses, conservative party mps expenses

Alistair Burt, MP for North East Bedfordshire and former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Here are his accommodation expenses:

alistairburtMP, alistair burt mp expenses, mps expenses, mps accommodation expenses, bedroom tax debate

Ian Liddell-Grainger MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset and great-great-great Grandson of Queen Victoria (as well as the great grandson of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone) claimed £166,109 in 2007/08. After the rule change in 2010/11, Liddell-Grainger claimed £147,004, making him the 6th most expensive MP in Parliament for that year. His wife and two eldest children are registered as his staff. He also voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Here are his accommodation expenses:

liddell-grainger expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax, bedroom tax tories, ian liddell-grainger vote

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and The Deepings, was chairman of the All Party group on Disability. Apparently it did nothing to soften what seems to be an inherent desire to strip those with disabilities of much needed help, whilst himself claiming a small fortune in accommodation expenses:

john hayes mp, john hayes mps expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax, bedroom tax vote

Together, the expenses of these six alone could pay to lessen the horrific burden that austerity – caused by the most affluent – has placed on those who cannot afford it. We have become a country that grotesquely judges its success by how protected those with everything are, rather than those with nothing. The accommodation expenses of almost every Tory and Lib Dem MP who voted against the repeal of Bedroom Tax comes in at hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions. Here is the full list posted on change.org. If your MP voted against the repeal of the Bedroom Tax, thus voting to uphold such a cruel attack on the nation’s most vulnerable, get in contact and ask why they believe themselves justified in claiming thousands upon thousands in accommodation expenses, whilst their constituents struggle to afford to live.


ENDA: Civil Rights in the 21st Century.

November 6, 2013

enda, employment nondiscrimination act, usa, speaker boehner enda, house republicans enda, senate enda, politics

The importance of passing ENDA in one quote.

Two days ago, 61 Senators – including seven Republicans – voted to begin debate on the vital role of passing the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA).

ENDA; A bill that if passed in the coming days, would prevent workplace discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In short, the Bill ensures that workers should not feel scared that they might lose their jobs if their employer finds out (yup, it’s still taboo to be gay or transgender in the land of the free) that they happen to be in love with someone of the same gender as themselves, or happen to be transgender. It is a civil rights bill, an equality bill, a bill that levels the playing field. Which is why Republicans in the House oppose it.

Predictably, a Republican House that didn’t wish to reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act if it happened to cover LGBT couples and fought hard (though, ultimately failed) to prevent it passing appear to see ENDA as an opportunity to reiterate how much they dislike anyone who happens to be LGBT. The same heterosexual, male, anti-equality NO votes appear on every Senate roll call; Cruz, Paul, Lee, Rubio. A filibuster proof majority ensured the far-right in the Senate could not hold the country to ransom again.

That being said, despite the fact that ENDA will almost certainly pass the Senate, and has widespread support from the public (60% support ENDA), Speaker Boehner refuses to bring a vote to the House floor. Insisting:

“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs.”

– Just analyse that quote for a second. Really take in what Boehner is saying here. The Speaker of the House has just referred to lawsuits against employers that threaten your livelihood, your income, your ability to pay your mortgage, or feed your family, or pay your bills, the heartache and bullying it perpetuates, based solely on your sexual orientation – which is absolutely none of their business, and does not affect your work – as “frivolous”. The act of firing someone based solely on their sexual orientation, the Republicans do not apparently see as “frivolous”, and in fact consider perfectly reasonable and legitimate. To take this logic to its ultimate conclusion, they must – if they are to be consistent – also support workplace discrimination when it is aimed at race, gender, and religion.

Ironically, this is the same House Speaker that has brought 48 frivolous anti-Affordable Care Act votes to the House Floor, and forced a frivolous government shutdown costing $24bn. I’m not entirely sure the Speaker of the House is in any position to be telling us what is and isn’t “frivolous”.

Not only that, but it isn’t true that litigation would increase. There is no evidence for that at all. In fact, according to the Government Accountability Office there are currently 22 States that have their own anti-discrimination policies. The GAO report concludes that between 2007-2012, of those 22 States:

“…there were relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity filed in these states during this time period.”

– In other words, anti-discrimination policies work. Whether they are designed to level the playing field by working to end white supremacy, male supremacy, or heterosexual supremacy; they are not only morally right, they work.
But that is just 22 States. Texas, New Hampshire, West Virginia and 25 more States currently do not allow for protection against discrimination in the workplace, if you happen to be gay. So, not only can same-sex couples not get marriage in Texas…. they also can’t mention their partner incase their employer finds out and fires them. This is why ENDA is vital.

That being said, ENDA is not completely equality-oriented. Under ENDA, a religious organisation, or institution; including educational, can still proscribe LGBT people from holding office. A watered down ENDA Bill enshrines institutionalised bigotry, by suggesting that that bigotry is acceptable, if it is based on religious conviction; an exemption ensured by the voice of the Christian-right minority. ENDA doesn’t go far enough, but it’s a good start.

Secondly, Boehner’s statement says unequivocally that the ENDA would cost American jobs. How so? Surely having the option to fire someone based on their sexuality orientation rather than the quality of their work, is a jobs killer. Is Boehner willing to tell the majority of Fortune 500 companies that have non-discrimination policies, that they’re killing jobs? Boehner’s comment implies that discriminating against gay people actually has a positive effect on the economy. For Boehner, the measure of your success through the quality of your work, is less important than who you fall in love with. Hard work pays, but only if you’re straight. For some odd reason, Boehner seems to saying that being able to prevent qualified and talented people from being employed simply for being gay, grows an economy. It quickly becomes easy to see past the “economy! jobs” veil that the Republicans tend to place over their faces to mask their inherent religiously motivated dislike for anyone who isn’t exactly like them. And don’t be fooled, this is just another attempt to allow religion to dictate policy and the concept of rights.

Even if the Speaker’s claims were correct – that jobs were lost, and litigation increased due to ending workplace discrimination – it would not be a legitimate argument to perpetuate oppression and workplace bullying. Speaker Boehner has no credible argument for refusing to allow a debate and vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

When recently re-elected Republican Governor of New Jersey – and potential Republican Candidate for President in 2016 – Chris Christie was asked how he would respond to the news that one of his children was gay, Christie said:

“[If] my children came to me and said that they were gay, I would grab them and hug them and tell them I loved them, just like I would do with any of my children who came to me with news that they wanted to give to me that they thought were important enough to open themselves up in that way. But what I would also tell them is that Dad believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. And that’s my position… And I know what [my child] would understand is that their father loves them, and that’s the most important thing.”

– What he essentially saying is: “I love you and everything, but I will continue to vote to uphold a system that made it difficult for you to come to me in the first place, and that will inevitably lead to discrimination and bullying against you in the future.” Whilst Christie isn’t willing to protect his children against bullying, fear and discrimination, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act currently passing through the Senate works to address those problems. It is of vital importance to the cause of civil rights and equality that a secular and democratic nation like the United States has fought since its conception to ensure.


Stimulus: GOP Letters of Hypocrisy.

October 22, 2013

The Republican hypocrisy machine has been in full swing for quite some time. For the past forty years, it has been Republicans pushing for employer and individual health insurance mandates. Just nine years ago, anti-universal healthcare Republicans were proclaiming the necessity if a US funded universal healthcare system in Iraq. Just three years ago, House Republicans were expressing their staunch opposition to attaching legislative vehicles to Continuing Resolutions. It would also seem that four years after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed, Republicans are still highlighting their “No” votes, as a sure sign of their fiscal responsibility, and evidence for the President’s ‘socialist’ credentials.

With 2014 fast approaching the GOP talking point appears to be “getting spending under control” insisting that only Republicans can achieve a fiscally responsible future. And so the hypocrisy machine is back in full swing.

Congressman Pat Tiberi of Ohio’s 12th District was a vocal critic of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. The entire idea of stimulus angered him to his very core. He announced that:

“it’s loaded with Nancy Pelosi’s grab bag of big spending wishes.”

“What the Democratic Stimulus does include is unprecedented, record-breaking spending that saddles future generations with mountains of debt. Americans deserve better.”

– In public, Tiberi was so incredibly angry with the stimulus package put forward in early 2009, that by September 2009 in private, he signed a letter of support for the TIGER programme built into the stimulus package for a Federal grant for his district, with which he notes would:

“…not only continue the ongoing economic development in the region, but enhance mobility and liveability in the communities in and around Columbus…”

“… enhance economic competitiveness in the region…”

– The grovelling letter continues in that tone for another few paragraphs. But don’t take my word for, here is the final paragraph, and the Congressman’s signature, to see for yourself:

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Rep. Tiberi is of course not the only one. Here is a brief summary of before-stimulus, and after-stimulus GOP statements:

Rep Gus Bilirakis (R-FL 12th) called the stimulus the worst bill he’d ever voted against, adding:

“Congressional Democrats have produced a bill that does nothing to aid small businesses and will not spur economic growth according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.”

– In September 2009, Bilirakis penned this letter:

Gus Bilirakis, stimulus, 2009, obama, republicans, gop hypocrisy, usa economy
– In less than a year, Bilirakis went from publicly insisting that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would not spur economic growth, to producing a letter insisting that stimulus funds to his district would spur economic growth.

The ex-Representative for Ohio’s 7th district, Steve Austria blamed Franklin Roosevelt – elected in 1933 – for the Great Depression – began in 1929 – and used this as a reason why he voted No on stimulus, stating:

“When Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression. He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

– Given how catastrophic (and wrong) Steve Austria believes a Keynesian approach to economic struggle would be for the US, it seems odd that he’d become a part of that predicted catastrophe, by suggesting the opposite is true:

steve austria, gop hypocrisy, stimulus 2009, obama stimulus
– Interestingly the “Republican Liberty Caucus” voted Austria 84% for his support of what they see as economic liberty. An 84% economic liberty rating, despite Austria begging for stimulus funds that the “Republican Liberty Caucus”, in 2009, deemed to be:

“Marxist stimulus”

– I guess that would make Steve Austria 16% Marxist.

On July 28th 2009, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA’s 1st) spent his time in the House Chamber asking:

“Mr. President, where’s the stimulus package? Where are the jobs? […] Mr. Speaker, this is not the change the folks in Coffee County, Georgia, can use. They need jobs.”

– On the same July 28th 2008, the same Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA’s 1st) sent out two Press Releases taking credit for almost $250,000 worth of stimulus money toward hiring new police officers and combating violence against women, and internet crime involving children:

“We’ve seen from experience that local initiatives go a lot further toward solving local problems that policies set in Washington. This funding will provide tax relief by savings local tax dollars and, under the stewardship of Chief Livingston, will go a long way to fight crime more effectively through community policing.”

– What he means by “local initiatives” is “the Bill I am currently shouting down in the House”. Not only that, but less than two months later, the same Jack Kingston was back again, asking for even more stimulus money. According to a Press Release on his own website:

Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA/01) announced today that the City of Savannah is the recipient of a series of grants from U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The city will receive a community development block grant (CDBG), an emergency shelter grant (ESG) and a HOME grant to support affordable housing.

“This series of funding is essential in helping the city strengthen its low-income communities” Congressman Kingston said. “The money enables the city to give continued support to the agencies in the area that support that mission which is even more important during this tough economic period.”

– Needless to say, the Press Releases does not mention that this package comes almost entirely from the stimulus package he spent July insisting wouldn’t work, wouldn’t create jobs, and wouldn’t help the people of Georgia at all. But Kingston was finished there. After claiming credit for stimulus funds directly benefiting his constituency whilst simultaneously fighting against stimulus, he also penned this letter demanding more:

jack kingston, stimulus 2009, president obama stimulus, gop hypocrisy

It would appear that as long as you keep up the bravado of being anti-government, anti-spending, fiscally responsible to a conservative audience who are under the odd impression that the President is some sort of reincarnation of Joseph Stalin, you can simultaneously be as pro-government, pro-spending as you wish in private in the hope of taking credit for the outcome of that spending. Your district can then be shown to be job and wealth creating during difficult economic periods, whilst maintaining an anti-government spending mask, rather than telling those who benefitted from the created jobs that you fought to make sure it couldn’t happen in the first place. It is an unjustifiable, insincere rhetorical device and grave hypocrisy.


#MyDadHatedBritain

October 1, 2013

When the Tories unleashed the racist van a few months back, social media sprung to life in parodying it, thus rendering the miserable venture an episode in ridicule, taking the sharpness out of its nasty sting. Today, Twitter sprung back to life with similar humour, intending to render the Daily Mail’s vicious piece on Ralph Miliband, a piece worth nothing but ridicule. And they succeeded beautifully.

The Daily Mail accused Labour Leader Ed Miliband’s late father Ralph Miliband, of “hating Britain”. So twitter users took to the social media site to confess their own worries that their father might also hate Britain. Here are a selection of my favourites:

del

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dsfds

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4

5

9

6

7

8

Wonderful. And it’s still continuing on Twitter as we speak. Ridiculing irrational slur stories, is a fine way to discredit and disempower the original piece.


The Republican Party: Wealth before Health.

September 20, 2013

Earlier this month a booth at the Kentucky State Fair offered people the chance to sign up to ‘Kynect’ the new healthcare coverage facility for Kentucky. It was an incredibly popular booth, with one Republican gentleman who was told he would qualify for tax credits to purchase insurance, commenting:

“This beats Obamacare, I hope.”

– What he didn’t realise, due to all the misinformation and complete myths invented by the Republicans over the past two years…. Kynect is a part of ‘Obamacare’.

Today, very wealthy, insured Republicans in the House voted to make certain that the most vulnerable, uninsured, struggling people – including children – cannot get access to affordable healthcare. They voted to ensure that women cannot get access to preventative care. These are the same Republicans who also voted against the Violence Against Women Act, and against Veterans jobs bills, but voted to continue tax breaks for big oil. This is the Republican Party in the 21st Century.

After the House vote, Speaker John Boehner said:

“The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare”.

– John Boehner, heroically defending democratic accountability. Well, not so much. If he is to insist that he cares deeply for the will of the American people, he should perhaps take a look at how those people voted in 2012:

For the Presidency 2012:
Democrats: 65,915,796
Republicans: 60,933,500

For the House 2012:
Democrats: 60,252,696
Republicans: 58,541,130
Republican vote down by 4.8%

For the Senate 2012:
Democrats: 49,998,693
Republicans: 39,130,984
Republican vote down by 7.3%

– In each case, the American people did not want the Republicans to have the power that they currently have. So perhaps the Speaker of the House should pay attention to his own logic, and stop wielding undemocratic power. If your Party lost the popular vote for the two branches of elected power… be a little humble, rather than trying to control the entire country. The only reason the government will be shut down, is if one Party that did not win the popular vote for any branch of power continues its spree of blackmail.

According to a Harvard Study in 2009, 45,000 annual deaths are connected to a lack of healthcare coverage. It further notes that lack of insurance now kills more people than kidney disease. Today, Republicans voted to ensure the apparently very important freedom to lose everything you have if you get cancer, and then to die bankrupt. Republican supporters are out in force hailing their victory:

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There are two Tea Party-esque contentions that appear in most anti-Obamcare arguments. Firstly, that the Affordable Care Act is inherently “Marxist”, and secondly, the Affordable Care Act is government compulsion and therefore, tyrannical. Both are supremely over dramatic, that you begin to wonder who takes it seriously. Especially given that the Affordable Care Act is based largely on a Republican law implemented (and working great) in Massachusetts. Myths have been invented by the Republicans, that are easily discredited. I discredit three Affordable Care Act myths here. All completely over-dramatic and over simplified. But, given that the House is currently controlled by the most over-dramatic faction of one Party (but still didn’t win the popular vote), it must be taken seriously.

It is the first time I have heard the making certain that people purchase Capitalist health insurance, from Capitalists, with money that will go to Capitalist hospitals and corporations, described as Marxist. I can say with much confidence that Marx might have disagreed with this contention a little. Unless I missed the part where the Affordable Care Act calls for worker control of the means of production and distribution, the end of the wage system, and abolition of private property, and profit…. it isn’t Marxism.
The Founders recognised the importance of a healthy population, and the role government can play in ensuring that. By Tea Party logic, The Congress of 1798, under the Presidency of John Adams were Marxists. That particular Congress & President signed into law “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” Article 1 referring to the private owners of ships and vessels:

“..and he shall pay, to the said collector, at the rate of twenty cents per month for every seaman so employed ; which sum he is hereby authorized to retain out of the wages of such seamen.”

– This act created government run hospitals for privately employed sailors, paid for by a mandatory (compulsory, or “Marxist” if you’re a member of the Tea Party) tax on sailors. Not only do we have one Founder – the President – signing off on a government run healthcare program, but another Founder, Thomas Jefferson was President of the Senate at this point, and so we can reasonably assume that both Jefferson and Adams had no problem with government running healthcare programs, paid for by a mandatory tax, that sailors had no choice but to pay.

The second contention has a little more to it, though is still wildly off the mark and deeply flawed in its premise. The contention being, that Obamacare is government compulsion, and that regardless of the context, government compulsion is “tyranny”. This would of course mean that any form of government interference is ‘tyranny’; medicare, public funded schools, public funded roads, public funded police & fire. All of which paid for, whether the individual wishes to or not. Will Republicans be insisting that these are also “Marxist” in need of defunding? What about the Advanced Technology Program, and other taxpayer funded programs to subsidise business? Will Republicans be voting to repeal these?

The Federal agency; Export-Import Bank loaned $2.5 billion to General Electric at a time when the company reduced the size of its workforce by over 200,000 American jobs, and shipped more abroad. The same is true of General Motors. And of course, thanks to tax breaks for big oil, those companies can afford to fund the vote of Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who unsurprisingly votes in their favour every time. See here. Did taxpayers get a say on this? No. Has this Republican House voted to end any sort of Corporate welfare? No. They are instead completely focused on ensuring the women cannot access preventative care, that children with pre-existing conditions continue to be left to suffer.

Curiously, one Republican who objects to the ‘compulsion’ element of the Affordable Care Act, is Republican Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker. This, despite the fact that Walker signed into law a Bill that forces a woman who wishes to have an abortion, to have a transvaginal ultrasound, for no medical purpose, whether she wants it or not. The Republicans; keep government out of everything…. except a woman’s virgina, obviously.

A program should be judged on its effectiveness, and its results. Is Obamacare compulsion? Yes. But so is government in general, so is Social Security, so is Medicare, so is fire protection, defence spending, policing, public schools and roads. There is no reason why healthcare should not be considered a protection in much the same way as fire and police. Context is required for each situation. Simply yelling “compulsion!” isn’t good enough.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, the system disincentivised those less wealthy, but who wished to start their own business, through fear of losing health coverage. It just wasn’t worth the risk. The tyranny of health insurance. But now, according to the Urban Institute, those wishing to leave their work and start a business have far more incentive, and freedom to do so, because the Affordable Care Act will offer coverage starting in October that just didn’t exist before, and so far more people will have the incentive to self-employment, and wont be victimised for pre-existing conditions. It is already having a positive effect in Massachusetts. This is freedom enhancing, it is good for the economy, and the complete antithesis of Marxism.

Secondly, when the ‘choice’ is between ill health, or bankruptcy and poverty, it isn’t a choice. It is insurance company mandated poverty. Healthcare is not a commodity on a level equal to for example, a TV or phones or lemonade. Health is vital, it transcends economic and political systems, and is a necessity, not a luxury. If the government required you to buy a TV on threat of punishment, perhaps the case for “tyranny” may be a little stronger. What is far more tyrannical, is the influence of the compulsion for profit at the expense of the life of the person. What is more tyrannical, is the exclusion of vulnerable children from insurance, if it cuts into an insurance company’s profitability. There is no choice for those uninsured. Those children don’t have a choice. Those with pre-existing conditions didn’t have a choice. They aren’t choosing to remain uninsured and highly vulnerable, in the same way that someone has a choice between a Samsung phone, and a Sony phone. There are no benefits to being uninsured. It isn’t a free choice, it is putting your life completely at the mercy of financial circumstance. To pass it off as choice, or freedom, is incredibly insensitive to the struggles of those who suffered from being uninsured.

In lieu of a national healthcare system (which we in the UK are incredibly lucky to enjoy) Health insurance companies have a duty, far beyond private companies that make TVs or cars or guitars, to ensure the most affordable and satisfactory care possible; especially when it involves the most vulnerable including children and those with pre-existing conditions. They hold the lives of people in their company wallets. It is this duty that health insurers did not care too much for. It is a tyranny of profit.

It is the tyranny of profit in a sector that it should not be involved in. That tyranny of profit lead to horrendous insurance company abuses & the exclusion of those with pre-existing conditions. The tyranny of profit lead to companies ensuring they squeezed ordinary people for as much money as possible and offered very little coverage in return. The tyranny of profit lead to 60% of bankruptcies attributed to healthcare costs. The tyranny of profit meant that people suffered and died, because they could not afford insurance. The tyranny of profit lead to insurance companies denying children care…. children. The tyranny of profit ensured that on average insurance companies charged women 50% more than men for the same level of coverage. The tyranny of profit ensured insurance companies were not required to provide preventative care. The tyranny of profit lead to multiple family members suddenly seeing empty bank accounts, loss of homes, loss of hope, just to carry on being alive. And this isn’t compulsion to you? If a person cannot afford health insurance…. they have no choice if they suddenly get sick or injured. This isn’t a choice between what TV to own, this is a choice between suffering physically, or bankruptcy and poverty. That isn’t an acceptable choice. The tyranny of profit ensured this. Those 48 million uninsured did not choose to be uninsured. It wasn’t a well balanced, reasonably arrived at decision, it was compulsion. The tyranny already well established. The Affordable Care Act goes someway to addressing those inherent tyrannical flaws within the system; like prohibiting the truly vile practice of excluding children with pre-existing conditions. It has much further to go, until a universal healthcare system ensures coverage for all regardless of wealth; the mark of a civilised, decent, and caring society cannot be met by the tyranny of profit in a sector it doesn’t belong.

The President must step up and show leadership, because when it becomes clear that one extreme section of one Party is focussed entirely on attacking the President regardless of the outcome for Americans across the country; when that one extreme faction is willing to place the health of vulnerable children into the line of fire and smile whilst they watch the Country burn… the President is in a strong position to fight back.

The Republican Party did not win the Presidency, they did not win the Senate, they lost the popular vote for the House, they have no problem with corporate welfare, and they now vote not only to defund the Affordable Care Act, but to shut down government, unless their unelected demands are met. This undemocratic blackmail bought and owned by big business, is far more tyrannical than anything the Democrats could conceive.

The Republican Party: Of the Rich, By the Rich, For the Rich.


Debunking Republican ‘Obamacare’ Myths.

August 28, 2013

The President signs the Affordable Care Act into law. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author:  Pete Souza.

The President signs the Affordable Care Act into law.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Pete Souza.


In between wasting time and money attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act every second of every day in the House, the Republican Party is rather adept at ‘Obamacare’ myth invention. It is as if an entire industry has grown up around the creation of Republican over-dramatic myths, from the early days screaming about ‘death panels’ to myths that provisions in the Act will allow forced home inspections, there have been many in between. And they tend to be pleasingly simple to disprove. Here are three recent GOP Affordable Care Act myths:

Forced Home Inspections.
The ‘forced home inspection’ myth is a particularly new and creative attack on the Affordable Care Act, that swept the blogosphere a couple of weeks back. Republicans on Twitter raged that this was definitely the end of liberty as we know it. The trouble is, it’s a complete fabrication.

The myth stems from South Carolina State Rep. Rick Quinn, at a state House subcommittee meeting back in March. Quinn said:

One of the things we can do … in terms of … preventing state employees from trying to enforce aspects of this law…for example, the forced home inspections that I’ve heard about.”

– This quote then made its way onto numerous blogs, and spread like wildfire. The facts though, do not support the quote. The aspect of the law that Rick Quinn refers to, is actually a state voluntary service providing home visits for new and expectant mothers. It is not in anyway involuntary. The use of the word ‘forced’ makes it appear violent, as if the President has troops waiting to invade your house. It is actually a law to provide a better service, and improve the health of the most vulnerable families. It could not be clearer. Article 7a of Section 2951 – Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visitation Programs – states:

“The participation of each eligible family in the program is voluntary”

– Rick Quinn is wrong. He appears to have tried to cover his inability to investigate for himself the allegations that he wildly spreads with the phrase “…that i’ve heard about”. That isn’t good enough. It’s the abandonment of reason, for the sake of presenting a false narrative for ideological purposes. It’s misleading, and thoroughly disingenuous.

Members of Congress can opt-out of Affordable Care Act:
Ted Cruz, the wonderkid of the Republican Party right now, is learning the ropes rather quickly. Cruz stood in front of the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa at the beginning of August, and said:

“President Obama just granted all of Congress an exception. And he did it because Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats who passed this thing came begging and said, ‘Please, please, please let us out of Obamacare.’ This thing ain’t working.”

– Much like the ‘forced home inspections’ line, this too, is a myth. Here is what that particular aspect of the law states:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law … the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are — (I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or (II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act).”

– There is nothing in this law that allows Congress to opt-out of the Affordable Care Act. Members of Congress are now treated to the same exchanges as small businesses and those who have no insurance. If you are to claim to opt-out for Congressmen, you must also claim an opt-out for small businesses and the uninsured.
Secondly, Cruz claimed that the ‘opt-out’ that doesn’t exist, was passed because Senate Democrats insisted that plan wasn’t working. That also, is not true.
The law quoted above, is actually a clarification, on an amendment proposed by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who argued that:

“members of Congress should get the same coverage that we are coming up with for everyone else.

– And that’s exactly what will happen, by January 2014.

Full-Time Work Destroyed by The Affordable Care Act:
According to the GOP website, 8,200,000 Americans are:

“Unable To Find Full-Time Work Partly Due To ObamaCare.”

– This is a wild distortion of the facts. The figures they quote from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is actually the number of those in part time work, looking for full time work. There is no mention of the Affordable Care Act. The Bureau never claim this figure has anything to do with ObamaCare. In fact, as FactCheck point out, the 8.2 million number is actually part of a fluctuating, yet downward trend in those working part-time, looking for full-time work:

Part-Time-Workers-488x355
– This is exactly as we’d expect to see, during a period of economic recovery following a deep recession.
Republicans have been touting this figure of 8.2 million, and “soaring” numbers of part-time workers forced to do so because of the provisions of Obamacare, for well over a year, and it is based on absolutely nothing of any substance.

I once watched John McCain tell a hall full of people in the run up to the 2008 Presidential election, that the British National Health Service refused to treat patients over the age of 75. This was the same week that my 83 year old grandmother here in the UK, was being treated by the National Health Service. Now, either McCain blatantly lied, or my grandma was younger than she claimed. Whilst I remember her cheating at Monopoly once, I’m not sure she could sustain a lie about her age for so many years.

When the complaints of Politicians toward a particular Act become more and more frenzied and over-dramatic, chances are, they aren’t being entirely honest. It is worth double checking every claim made by opponents of the Affordable Care Act, before accepting the complaint as genuine. It is also worth noting that whilst the Republicans spend an unaffordable amount of time and money attempting to repeal an Act signed into law and upheld by the Supreme Court, they are voting to ensure millions of the most vulnerable people – including children – remain uninsured and defenseless.


Trolling Racist Van.

July 29, 2013

Stewart Lee once said that if ‘political correctness’ had achieved one thing, it had forced the Conservative Party to cloak their inherent racism behind more creative language. This July confirmed that Lee may be onto something. The Tories have evolved from this catchy little 1964 Tory campaign leaflet distributed in Birmingham at the time:

toryrace1964conservativerascismmigrant

To their new, far more subtle campaign, featuring more creative, yet similarly dirty language and imagery:

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The campaign has drawn condemnation from all sections of the political spectrum. From Lib Dem coalition partners like Business Secretary Vince Cable, who called the vans “Stupid and offensive”, to, amazingly, far right, anti-immigration Nigel Farage who quite rightly noted:

“The danger is that the kind of message that is being sent from these billboards will be taken not just by illegal immigrants but also by many people of settled ethnic minorities as being some sort of sign of open warfare.”

Even leader of Redbridge Council, Conservative Keith Prince was unhappy with his horrendous colleagues at the Home Office:

“If we had been consulted, we would have warned strongly that, whatever effect this campaign might be intended to have on people who are in the country unlawfully, that message is far outweighed by the negative message to the great majority of people, from all backgrounds, who live and work together in Redbridge, peacefully, productively and lawfully.”

One cannot help but wonder if Lynton Crosby has recently invested in the van industry.

It was of course, only a matter of time before this wretched little campaign fell victim to both Photoshop, and prank calls. And rightfully so. So here are a few of my favourite racist van trolls:

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ferge

BQWLs8BCIAECZBE

BQVVxMOCIAICRxo

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sketch

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Untitled-6

BQLpCXrCEAATCb4

Racist van 8

Untitled-7

As with all failing Tory campaigns, this particular nasty campaign complete with a thinly veiled, menacing threat – naturally used to pass through poorer, multi-ethnic areas of London – is already being touted as a success by the Home Office, without actually producing evidence to confirm. Child-like, EDL-style fear tactics, with NF procured phrases like ‘go home’, designed to spark up community mistrust, suspicion and division, rather than measured and humane approaches, to, well, anything, seems to be the basis by which all Tory policies are formulated.


Trayvon Martin and racism in 21st Century America.

July 15, 2013

The Trayvon Martin murder case has opened up wounds in American social life, that have been poorly bandaged for decades. A young boy, unarmed, confronted by a racist ‘neighbourhood watch’ patrolman with a gun, is confronted simply for ‘looking suspicious’, and is shot to death. The defendant is subsequently acquitted. The defendant, who, apparently cannot understand the difference between someone who is black and committing a crime, and someone who is black and not committing a crime, shoots the man who isn’t, and wasn’t going to commit a crime (I’m almost certain George Zimmerman would not have racially profiled Trayvon Martin that night, had Martin been white), and is acquitted. You would have to suspend all reasonable faculties, and wish away reality, to believe this has no racist connotations. But if you are in doubt here is Zimmerman’s 9/11 call in which he refers to Trayvon Martin as a “fucking coon“.

The privilege afforded to white Americans in everyday social situations, may be less noticeable on the surface, than it perhaps was fifty years ago, but it is still there.

A study by the American economic review between July 2001 and May 2002 entitled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.” , found that job applicants with a white sounding name are 50% more likely to be asked back than an applicant with a white sounding name. The researchers sent out 5000 applications in sales, marketing, clerical and customer service positions. The names they used were a mix of white sounding names, and African American sounding names. The report showed that white applicants with stronger resumes than other white applicants received 30% more callbacks, whereas African American applicants with stronger resumes than other African American applicants received just 9% more callbacks. It proved that regardless of credentials, African American applicants were 50% less likely to get a callback than a white applicant.

Another study conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 46% of Mississippi Republicans think interracial marriage should be illegal. Interestingly, Sarah Palin is the favoured candidate among Mississippi Republicans who think interracial marriage should be illegal, by 17 points more than second place. It is of course no surprise that a Tea Party-styled candidate may be favoured among racist voters, given Tea Party rallies tend to include racist overtones.

Several times over the past few years, Palin has been on stage with Ted Nugent. The same Nugent invited to the State of the Union. Rep. Steve Stockman (R) said of Nugent’s invitation to the State of The Union:

“I Am Excited To Have A Patriot Like Ted Nugent Joining Me In The House Chamber To Hear From President Obama.”

– Both Palin’s appearance with Nugent, and Stockman’s insistence that Nugent is a “Patriot”, or a real American that Stockman can respect is rather telling given that Nugent once said that real Americans are:

“Working Hard, Playing Hard, White Motherfucking Shit Kickers Who Are Independent.”

– The seemingly racist Ted Nugent, loved by the Republican Party as a “Patriot” once said of the United States of America:

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

– This is the man the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party embraces as a Patriot. A Confederate racist. So it is no surprise that Sarah Palin supporters in Mississippi would like to see interracial marriage banned.

On a side note, Ted Nugent is an NRA board member. The NRA lobby for ‘Stand your Ground’ laws, the very law that failed Trayvon Martin, and is already appearing to be a law of white privilege. A Federal lawsuit in Georgia in 2012 required Georgia strike down its ‘Stand your Ground’ law, because it didn’t specify what circumstances justified “standing your ground”. According to the lawsuit, courts in Georgia had:

“…accepted the race of a victim as evidence to establish the reasonableness of an individual’s fear in cases of justifiable homicide.”

– What this essentially means is, “I shot him, because I was scared, because he was black“. It is a white privilege defence. Ted Nugent, Confederate, racist, advocate of laws that threaten the lives of innocent African Americans, and according to Republicans; a ‘Patriot’.

Institutional racism – an economic, social, or political structure designed to advance one race to the disadvantage of another – is particularly subtle, and so less noticeable in 21st Century America, than it was 40 years ago, though it still exists. If you are African American, you are three times more likely to be pulled over in your car and searched for drugs than if you’re white, despite the fact that if you’re white, on the few occasions when you are pulled over you are four times more likely to have drugs on you. If you are white and you drive past the police without them pulling you over, you are experiencing the privilege of being white. The war on drugs then, is not a war on drugs, if it were, those statistics would be a hell of a lot different. The war on drugs would go where the drugs actually are, not where the people with dark skin are.

Fox News’s Geraldo blamed Trayvon Martin for his own death, rather creatively:
Geraldo-Rivera-GeraldoRivera-on-Twitter
– Geraldo went on to clarify that:

“What I was trying to do was caution parents that allowing kids to wear hoodies or similar clothing in certain circumstances, particularly if they were minority young men, could be dangerous,”

– I’d say allowing your children to watch a ‘News’ network that pushes the seemingly racist agenda of a particular party, is far more dangerous, and perpetuates the problem in the first place. The danger of wearing a hoody, is the product of Fox News, Republican style politics of fear and division. Fox News: Throwing fuel onto the fire, and then blaming those burning for being too flammable.

Thirteen US States currently completely disenfranchise ex-felons. It is predictable, that this form of voter disenfranchisement disproportionately affects minorities; usually people from poorer minority backgrounds, who have already felt the effects of institutional racism within the school system, health system (The infant mortality rate for African American women was 2.4 times the rate of white women), housing system and justice system. Due to previous convictions, 5.3 million Americans were not allowed to vote in 2004.

In June this year, the conservative lead Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, allowing States to change their own voting laws. The Voting Rights Act was of utmost importance in the fight against institutional racism, covering those States most affected by institutional racism through voting restrictions: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia & South Carolina.
The Act prohibited States from imposing:

“voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

– The Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) which creates a formula which determines what a State must do to be subject to Section 5, which forces a State to seek approval from the Department of Justice before changing voting rules. Without Section 4(b), there is no Section 5.
Predictably, like a dog pulling on its leash, desperate to break away; within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision, Texas announced it would rush ahead with changing Voting rules. As if Republican Texans had waited decades for this moment. The Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott announced he would be immediately reinstating the Voter ID rule:

“With today’s decision, the state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately. Photo identification will now be required when voting in elections in Texas.”

– Voter ID costs fall heavily on African American, and Hispanic communities. A hugely disproportionate number of those without photo ID, registered to vote, are Latin American.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that in the last decade alone, Section 4(b) and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, protected minority voters, by striking down 43 attempts to change election rules in the noted States. Between 1982, and 2006, the Justice Department struck down 2,400 state and local voting rule changes. Thanks to voter protection for minorities, the proportion of African Americans registered to vote in Alabama increased from 19% in 1965 to 73% in 2004. The provisions struck down by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, were working.

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was left in place by the Supreme Court. Southern Republicans believe this to be enough to prevent racist policies creeping into the States. Section 2 allows the Federal Government to prosecute any local official introducing racist electoral policies. However, this relies on the victims of the racist electoral policies, pursuing legal action, finding a lawyer, knowing who to contact, where to go. Suddenly, the victims are the ones who must shoulder the burden.

Suppression of minority voters, and playing on race issues, is a key factor in Republican election strategies, and has been for a very long time. Nixon’s Southern Strategy was a way to realign racist voters in the South away from the Democrats, over to the Republicans. Nixon’s strategist Kevin Phillips told the New York Times:

“From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that…but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”

– Well, in 2013 Republicans have the racist vote, and so the Voting Rights Act is no longer required to “prod” them over to the GOP, and so the Voting Rights Act is no longer beneficial to Republicans. In 2013 this means, voter ID, trimming down early voting, enforcing long waiting times at voting booths, banning ex-felons from voting, and as was happening in Michigan in 2008; attempting to block people from voting if they turned up to vote still registered to their foreclosed home. These measures are all designed to suppress minority votes. The Republican Party is institutionally racist.

But it isn’t just conservatives that show horrendous racial prejudice. After the Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, Minnesota State Rep. Ryan Winkler, a Democrat tweeted this:

winkler
– An incredibly ironic statement, in that he is referring to Justice Clarence Thomas, an African American, as “uncle Thomas”, a phrase used to describe an African American who betrays his race to win favour from a structure of white privilege. The implication being that Justice Thomas couldn’t possibly have any other reason for opposing Section 4(b), than to suck up to those he must consider to be his white superiors. A second implication being, that African Americans must place their skin tone at the front of all policy considerations, whilst white people can have a multitude of reasons for opposing or supporting particular policy.

Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel told the court that Trayvon had called her moments before the confrontation with Zimmermand, and had said he was being followed by “some creepy ass cracker“. In an article for The Slate, Craig Pittman says:

“So when Trayvon Martin, who was black, referred to George Zimmerman, a light-skinned Hispanic, as a “cracker,” did he mean it in the “hey, look, it’s a son of the pioneers!” way? Given that the term was modified by the adjective “creepy-ass,” I would have to say no. ”

– The implication being that Martin was the one that introduced racism to the confrontation. It is of course, intensely unimportant given that Zimmerman himself didn’t think to mention this, and so it didn’t actually figure in his decision to confront Trayvon. If Martin did use ‘cracker’, of course it was meant in a racial sense. The fact remains that had Zimmerman not racially profiled, and followed Martin in the first place (the introduction of confrontational racism into the situation), then the term ‘cracker’ (used by Martin in this context, whilst trying to walk away from Zimmerman) would not have been used. Zimmerman introduced racism, and very confrontational racism, into the equation. Any ensuing racism on the part of Trayvon Martin, can only be considered secondary, and completely unimportant to the case, after the fact that Zimmerman had already racially profiled him. The racism that lead to the death of unarmed, innocent Trayvon Martin was on the part of armed, racist George Zimmerman, and no one else.

Trayvon Martin was followed and stopped, because he was black. George Zimmerman – despite his previous appearances in court for domestic violence, battery, speeding and alcohol abuse – will never have to experience that level of profiling. At night, in the street, he is presumed innocent. Trayvon Martin, on account of his skin colour, was presumed guilty. Racism is a social structure, not simply an individual revealing private prejudices.

Those who insist that white privilege is no more, that racism is dead, that a framework built on race-based power is a relic of the past, are the very conservatives on the Supreme Court, and the ruling Republicans in Southern States who stand to gain the most from perpetuating racism and white privilege. America has an institutional racism problem, whose weakly applied bandage is slowly peeling away.


The Party of Poverty.

July 12, 2013

Back in 2008, before the rise of food banks, before homeless rates sky rocketed, before the most vulnerable were forced out of their homes for having been deemed to have one bedroom too many by Conservatives with twelve bedroom country estates; the Tories attempted to reposition themselves as “the party of the poor“. Oliver Letwin told the New Statesman that year:

“It is one of the ironies of the political scene that the leading advocates of radical change to achieve progressive goals are now to be found in the Conservative Party.”

Naturally, the public didn’t agree, and so in 2009 the Conservative Party again attempted to position itself as the “party of the poor“. In a speech that year, David Cameron told us that the Conservatives were now:

“best-placed to fight poverty in our country”

Naturally, the public didn’t agree, and so in 2011 the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith said:

“We are the party focused on the poor, so it follows that you might legitimately say that we are the party of the poor.”

Naturally, the public didn’t agree, and so next week, according to The I, the Tories will launch a campaign designed to try to shake off the ‘rich, posh‘ image (reality) and replace it with yet another attempt at a “We’re the party of the poor” narrative (fiction). It is therefore wise for us to note exactly how the most vulnerable have fared so far under a Tory government:

Chris Mould, the executive chairman of Trussell Trust; a charity that runs over 300 food banks across the country noted the sharp rise in the use of foodbanks by the most vulnerable, hurt by round after round of deep, sharp Welfare cuts by a Party funded by millionaires. It is estimated that around 500,000 people in the UK currently feel they have to resort to using food banks. Mould said:

“The only people who seem unable to accept there is a social crisis driven by the cost of living is the Government.”

– This was in response to the truly reprehensible Lord Freud, who, on questioned in the Lords about the rise of food banks to support the least vulnerable, essentially told those using foodbanks, that they don’t need to, and are just greedy for free food:

“If you put more food banks in, that is the supply. Clearly food from a food bank is by definition a free good and there’s almost infinite demand.”

– This, despite reports by Church Action, Oxfam, among many charities, that note that welfare cuts, insecure work, job-seekers allowance sanctions, and rising costs of living impact the most vulnerable to the point where a foodbank is a measure of last resort. Oxfam said:

“Cuts to social safety-nets have gone too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger.”

– In response, the Department of Work and Pensions, incredibly let those 500,000 people in desperate need of food know that:

“Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities.”

– As with education, as with the NHS, as with the ramifications of deep austerity, the Conservative Party (and I include Liberal Democrats in the category of ‘The Conservative Party’) are in such vast denial when presented with the evidence for the failure of their policies, and the impact it has on the most vulnerable, that we should really be questioning just how such an extremist government is able to find itself electable at all. There is absolutely no way dismantling a safety net, and plunging the UKs welfare system back into the Victorian era, can be spun to appear beneficial to the poorest.
– Party of the Poor.

The Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) Project, in March, published its report into poverty in the UK. The report – ‘The Impoverishment of the UK‘ – found that one in three people couldn’t afford to heat their homes throughout the winter in 2012. It found that 9% of people cannot afford to heat the living areas of their homes, up from 3% in the 90s. It found that 9% of households cannot afford to offer each opposite-sex child in the house of 10 years or over, their own bedroom, up from 3% in 1999. It found that one in three, cannot afford to save. It found that half a million children live in families in which the parents often go without food themselves to ensure their children eat. It found that 13,000,000 do not have adequate housing facilities. It found that 8% of children cannot afford to go on school trips, up from 2% in 1999.
Professor David Gordon, head of the project, said:

“About one third of people in the UK suffer significant difficulties and about a quarter have an unacceptably low standard of living. Moreover, this bleak situation will get worse as benefit levels fall in real term, real wages continue to decline and living standards are further squeezed.”

– Party of the Poor.

The Guardian reported the desperation of disabled people whose needs are considered “moderate“, given that their social centres face closure up and down the country as local councils battle to save money. Amanda Preston, of Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services said:

“I am really worried that by trying to make savings now we are pushing vulnerable people towards a crisis point, when any savings made now will be eaten up by the care and support they will need then.”

– This, after Peterborough Council decided to end services for those considered to have “moderate” needs. Campaigners estimate that around 105,000 disabled people in the UK will go without much needed care, due to cuts made to local services.
– Party of the Poor.

Perhaps the most putrid Tory policy – defended by Liberal Democrats – is its most infamous in decades.
ITV broadcast the story of Tony, Diann, their three year old daughter Shanice, and their 15 year old daughter Stephanie. Stephanie has 1p36 deletion syndrome, and a mental age of four. She struggles with words, and mobility. All three bedrooms in their house are currently occupied. Stephanie requires her own room, because she wakes up around 5am and can become loud and violent due to her illness. But under the rules of the ‘Bedroom Tax’, the two daughters will be required to share a bedroom, because they’re both under 16. That, or face a huge cut to their Housing benefit payment. They will be deemed to have a spare room. Tony and Diann say the cut would mean cutting down on meals.

Maria Brabiner has lived in her home since 1978. It is indescribably cruel of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to wish to see her kicked out of the security of the house she has made a home, all because of a spare room. Do you know why she now has a spare room? It is because her mother, whom lived in the room, died recently. Miss Brabiner said:

“I’m scared of what’s going to happen to me, I’m worried about whether my electric will be cut off, whether my gas will be cut off.

– This is economic violence, by perhaps the two nastiest Parties we have seen in the UK, being forced upon a woman whose mother has recently died, and whose house is more than just a house; it is a home. Worse still, it is being forced on her, by a Cabinet of multi-millionaires, backbenches pushing for a massive pay rise for themselves, with multiple houses that remain unoccupied and included acres of land that could be used to build new houses on.

Upon hearing that local authorities might re-designate houses to help the most vulnerable avoid the crippling Bedroom tax, Lord Freud sent them this memo:

I would like to stress that if it is shown properties are being re-designated inappropriately this will be viewed very seriously. If the Department has cause to believe this is the case we will commission an independent audit to ascertain whether correct and appropriate procedures have been followed. I wish to state clearly that these audits would be separate from the subsidy audits already undertaken, which carry out sample checks on the assessment of Housing Benefit.

Where it is found that a local authority has re-designated properties without reasonable grounds and without reducing rents, my Department would consider either restricting or not paying their Housing Benefit subsidy.

– Party of the Poor.

The number of children living in absolute poverty between 2011 and 2012, rose 300,000 on the previous year, according to the Department of Work and Pensions.
– Party of the Poor.

In March 2012, according to figures by the Department for Communities and Local Government, local authorities registered 48,510 households as homeless, representing a 14% leap. The largest in nine years. A report from the same department also showed the number of people sleeping rough had jumped by a fifth, in a year.
Leslie Morphy the Chief Exec. of Crises said:

“Our worst fears are coming to pass. We face a perfect storm of economic downturn, rising joblessness and soaring demand for limited affordable housing combined with government policy to cut housing benefit plus local cuts to homelessness services.”

Similarly, the Chief Exec. of Shelter, Campbell Rob said:

“These figures are a shocking reminder of the divide between the housing haves and have nots in this country,”

Similarly, Matt Harrison, interim chief executive of Homeless Link said:

“This comes at a time when reduced funding has already hit services and further cuts are expected this year. Our research indicates that there are now fewer projects, fewer beds and more of our members are turning people away because they are full.”

– Predictably, as with every overwhelming indication that Conservative policy is failing the most vulnerable, the Party refused to accept that the situation could ever be blamed on them. Grant Shapps said:

“the debt-laden economy we inherited is leaving a legacy of hard-up households across the country”.

– The refusal to reverse course, or to even acknowledge the damage austerity poverty-driven policies have on the most vulnerable, and his indifference toward the problem, choosing instead to try to score, weak and cheap political points, should be enough to disgust anyone with a sense of social justice.
– Party of the Poor.

Conservatives; where creating poverty, homelessness, rough sleeping, rising food banks, attacks on the disabled, forcing people out of their homes for having a tiny extra room, parents going hungry to feed their children, and pensioners not being able to heat their homes, whilst ensuring tax breaks for the wealthiest is synonymous with being the “party of the poor“.

Austerity is poverty.

Please use #PartyofPoverty hashtag on twitter, to engage in a rebranding of the Tory Party. Thanks.