Futiledemocracy & The Shorty Awards

January 25, 2014

It’s rare that I write anything even slightly personal on here. But I figure once in a while isn’t too bad a thing. I’ve been blogging for quite some time now, and I’ve accumulated a wonderful and diverse readership across social media platforms, from over the World. From those who share most of my ideas and opinions, to those who thoroughly disagree with much of what I write, I appreciate every reader that has taken the time out of their lives to read any of my thoughts that end up on my blog. To know my ideas and thoughts are being read and shared, keeps me wanting to write, which in turn keeps me needing to learn, to trying to improve my understanding of the World, and the institutions that govern us. Most importantly for me, it is a creative outlet too. It works as a wonderful way to arrange my thoughts coherently and creatively in the only real way that I know how. I absolutely need that.

As a result of blogging, my thoughts on a lot of subjects have evolved but stayed relatively similar throughout the years though much more considered and rounded. Other times I have completely changed position. Sometimes I read over old articles on old blog pages, and I cringe. But it’s great to see how far I have progressed in my thought processes. This is almost entirely down to my desire to keep learning and writing, to which I owe my enjoyment of both – an enjoyment I never had at school – largely to this blog. An archive of articles over the years is a wonderful indication of one’s intellectual growth, and a perfect incentive to progress further. It’s difficult to describe how much I value this space, and those who have subscribed and/or read my thoughts regularly over the years. I appreciate it hugely. Thank you.

I have recently been nominated a few times for a ‘Shorty Award’ for blogging. This humbles me. Every retweet, every facebook post that includes my article, and every nomination for an award like a Shorty are all far more than I expect when I write a blog. I am not a journalist, nor a professional writer. I make terrible grammatical errors, and I can spend hours reading over the same paragraph not happy with how it reads, before editing the entire thing and eventually publishing. And still, people read! It got me thinking about those of you who I don’t know, who are complete strangers, who have your own lives, your own loves, your own passions, your own memories, and yet somehow in your daily life, you found this blog, you perhaps read it, took the time to comment on it, or you maybe even shared it with others. This is a connection I value hugely.

The Shorty Awards are now in their sixth year and honour the best of social media across a range of subjects. If you appreciate my articles, and believe I deserve your nomination for a blogging award, clicking the graphic below will take you to the nomination page! Thank you! And I hope I can keep you coming back and reading in the future!

Nominate Futile Democracy for a social media award in the Shorty Awards! Nominate Futile Democracy for a social media award in the Shorty Awards

The wisdom of Philip Davies, MP

June 22, 2011

Twitter Philip Davies MP

A couple of nights ago, Twitter was alive with the news that Tory MP for Shipley, Philip Davies had stood up in the House of Commons and said this:

“If an employer is looking at two candidates, one who has got disabilities and one who hasn’t, and they have got to pay them both the same rate, I invite you to guess which one the employer is more likely to take on.

“Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, cannot be as productive in their work as somebody who has not got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that, given the employer was going to have to pay them both the same, they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk.

“My view is that for some people the national minimum wage may be more of a hindrance than a help.

“If those people who consider it is being a hindrance to them, and in my view that’s some of the most vulnerable people in society, if they feel that for a short period of time, taking a lower rate of pay to help them get on their first rung of the jobs ladder, if they judge that that is a good thing, I don’t see why we should be standing in their way.”

Philip Davies ideal England is one in which sweatshops, full of people with disabilities create cheap goods for the overly privileged Tory benches to feed from, whilst the sweatshop bosses drive up to the gates of Downing Street in their brand new Mercs, accompanied by a lovely big donation for the Tory Party.

Perhaps we could use the £161,300 in expenses he claimed rather dubiously in 2009, on top of his £65,000 a year salary, to pay people a better salary? On the subject of his expense claims, he claimed the most of all Bradford MPs, and claimed £10,000 more on his second home allowance than Bradford North MP Terry Rooney. I am not entirely sure how that’s warranted, or helps him does his job to a greater degree. Incidentally, claimed for more in second home allowances than my dad makes in a year. Unsurprisingly, he clings onto this gravy train by opposing much needed Parliamentary reform. The lobby for Parliamentary reform, Power 10 label Philip Davies as one of the six MPs who will happily block reform of Parliament. This isn’t surprising, given just how much he has financially benefited from the current corrupt nature of Parliament.

Nevertheless, there is an unnerving essence to a member of our national legislature, insinuating that a person’s worth should be based solely on their physical or mental capability, and then using defensive rhetoric, heartfelt sentiment, to sound as if he only wishes to help disabled people, rather than line the pockets of his Party’s donors, and make it easy for employers to exploit without worry. It is equally as unnerving for a politician to tacitly suggest that wage discrimination is not only acceptable, but entirely the fault of those who are being discriminated against. His words sound as if he is suggesting being disabled is a lifestyle choice, that requires a bit of a punishment. That punishment should apparently be an agreement to work for less money that one needs in order to live, along with the added expense that comes with certain disabilities.

It would be right to point out that those with disabilities, who Davies wants to be paid less, did not cause the financial problems we’re now in. Ironically, for Davies, it was the private sector’s excessive greed (of which he clearly has no problem in promoting) that caused the mess, through unproductive excess profit being used – not to pay people better even when it had accumulated enough to easily manage paying more – but on dodgy asset deals. The problem in 2007 wasn’t that there appeared to be a lack of capital caused by the need to pay disabled people, or anybody a national minimum wage, but by the fact that there was an abundance of concentrated excess capital that wasn’t being put to good and productive use. Wages were stagnating for the majority of people, whilst wages at the very top climbed higher and higher. That, is entirely the fault of the private sector. Is Davies saying that if we dropped the minimum wage, wages would flourish, failed Tory economics would be proven right, and disabled people would be working shorter hours, for a loyal boss, who paid wonderfully? Because I foresee a bunch of employers driving even bigger Porsche’s whilst their £2 an hour disabled employees can no longer afford adequate care. Davies certainly didn’t offer any added benefits that some disabled people may require due to being paid below minimum wage. Grants for specialised equipment? Incomes and the ability to pay for necessary care and equipment cannot always be planned for even on a week to week basis, for those suffering certain disabilities. To promote the idea of wage discrimination against those with disabilities, at the same time as cuts to Disability Living Allowance take hold

It is a minimum wage for a reason. Do we really believe employers wouldn’t use an “opt-out” for their own advantage? Wages at the top are already obscenely high in the private sector. In 2009, for example, the chief executive of the Anchor Trust, which provides home for the elderly, took home £391,000. Anchor Trust is a charity! Whilst donations are down and employees are facing redundancy it is ludicrous for a CEO of an organisation that so many people rely on, to take home almost £400,000 a year.

I continue to be of the opinion that if an employer cannot afford to pay somebody a decent enough wage to live on, he/she shouldn’t be running a business. They are a danger to the public. £5.89 is not a lot of money, and to suggest that the rest of us are entitled to at least that, whilst a disabled person is entitled to less, purely because of a natural affliction is sensationally regressive.

The far right narrative is the problem, not minimum wage legislation. Philip Davis is attempting to remove responsibility for fair pay away from the employer, and onto the employee. Citizens UK found that of the companies in London willing to sign up to paying their lowest paid members of staff a “National living wage” rather than a “National minimum wage”, of £8.30 an hour, they managed to lift 3500 families out of poverty in 2009. It didn’t have an adverse affect on prices, in the same way as the minimum wage introduction in the late 1990s didn’t have an adverse affect as many Tories claimed it would. Campaigners for a National Living Wage are screaming out at Tesco, who have failed to ensure their cleaning staff are paid a fair living wage, despite the company making £3.8bn profit last year. Employers do not, ever, take paying their staff a respectable wage seriously. Ever. Surely if they were made to pay more, of which they can definitely afford, the money would be divided among a workforce who would pay more tax, and use the added disposable income on goods and services from businesses across the Country, rather than wasting it on the very very small band of wealthy elites?

A study in America called “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 researches sent out 5000 applications in sales, marketing, clerical and customer service positions. The names they used were a mix of white sounding names, and black sounding names. The report showed that white applicants with stronger resumes than other white applicants received 30% more callbacks, whereas black applicants with stronger resumes than other black applicants received just 9% more callbacks. It proved that regardless of credentials, black applicants were 50% less likely to get a callback than a white applicant. I wonder if Philip Davis thinks black Americans should agree to work for less money than their white counterparts, purely because they are black? What about a black person with a disability? Back to slavery?

We should though, not be surprised by the ignorance that Philip Davis displayed. Here is an MP who voted against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which state that it is unlawful to discriminate when selling goods or services, education or facilities based on sexuality. Davies therefore thinks it is acceptable for a school to expel a gay student. Or for a shop to ban a lesbian lady purely for her sexuality. He also voted against removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords. So, he wants more freedom for shop owners to ban people based on sexual orientation (individualism and all that Libertarian bollocks) yet that same individualism, he doesn’t extend to the most privileged of people passing that privilege onto their children, who may or may not have worked or produced anything worthwhile in their entire lives? Oh the hypocrisy.

In 2011 he even invented his own logic based on a lie, when it comes to making cigarette packaging plain:

“I believe that the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes is gesture politics of the worst kind. It would not have any basis in evidence and it would simply be a triumph for the nanny state and an absurd one at that.”

– The objection I have with the line “it would not have any basis in evidence” is that it does have basis in evidence. Cigarette companies spend millions on their packaging, and over the last couple of decades, they have used the idea of “light” packaging to sell products to people who believe smoking “light” fags, means less danger. A 2004 British Medical Journal research article found that:

The increase in lung cancer risk is similar in people who smoke medium tar cigarettes (15-21 mg), low tar cigarettes (8-14 mg), or very low tar cigarettes (≤ 7 mg)

– So smoking a cigarette from a package that claims to be “ultra light” means nothing. But do people really believe “ultra light” means they are at less of a risk of developing lung cancer? Does the advertisement on the packaging work? If it does, then Davis is either a liar, or a massive idiot. Well, surprisingly……. he’s a liar or a massive idiot. A University of Toronto research paper, titled “‘Light’ and ‘mild’ cigarettes: who smokes them? Are they being misled?” published in 2002 found that:

In 1996 and 2000, respectively, 44% and 27% smoked L/M (light and mild cigarettes) to reduce health risks, 41% and 40% smoked them as a step toward quitting, and 41% in both years said they would be more likely to quit if they learned L/M could provide the same tar and nicotine as regular cigarettes. These data provide empirical support for banning ‘light’ and ‘mild’ on cigarette packaging.

– The policy of plain packaging is absolutely based on evidence. It is time we started to ignore the “nanny state” hysterical screams from manic, misinformed, ignorant right wingers.

Not only that, but in 2006, after an act of vandalism was initially blamed on a group of Muslim men, Davies said:

“if there’s anybody who should fuck off it’s the Muslims who do this sort of thing.”

– It later turned out that the act of vandalism was caused by white men. Davies did not apologise, nor did he take the same tough far-right, BNP-esque line with the white vandals as he had done when he imagined the vandals were all muslim.

You might think the incessant stupidity stops there. You’d be wrong. In 2009 Davies asked:

“Is it offensive to black up or not, particularly if you are impersonating a black person? Why it is so offensive to black up your face, as I have never understood this?

Maybe he would be happy for black people to take a pay cut after all.


Pig Society Part III

February 19, 2011

David
Cameron took a break today from trying to convince a very very
unconvinced public that the Big Society idea is such a wondrous
agenda, to work for a No vote for AV. So whilst he’s doing that, I
thought i’d continue my series of blogs on the Big Society, by
going one by one through the Tory/Lib Cabinet, and letting you all
know what it is each is doing for the Big Society; what they
volunteer for. Which ones run their public libraries, which ones
have found the time, like the rest of us must do, to run their
local school. I’m almost certain they practice what they preach. It
would be terribly pathetic if they didn’t.

  • Prime Minister David Cameron, Tory: No
    voluntary work declared.

  • Deputy Prime
    Minister Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat:
    No voluntary
    work declared.

  • Secretary of State for
    Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague,
    Tory:
    No voluntary work declared.

  • Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne,
    Tory:
    No voluntary work declared

  • Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander,
    Liberal Democrat
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for the Home
    Department; and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May,
    Tory:
    No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and
    Skills, and President of the Board of Trade Vince Cable, Liberal
    Democrat:
    No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan
    Smith, Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
    Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat
    : No voluntary work
    declared.

  • Secretary of State for Health
    Andrew Lansley, Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.
    Far too busy selling the NHS to American Private health firms.

  • Secretary of State for Education Michael
    Gove, Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Communities and Local
    Government Eric Pickles
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Environment, Food
    and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman Tory:
    “I have
    been chair of two local charities MABL and Welcome although in my
    new role as a cabinet minister I have had to step back to be a
    patron but the first of these has hit a very difficult patch
    financially so I have had to spend a lot of time trying to help
    secure sustainable funding for MABL which helps the victims of
    domestic violence. We are not out of the woods yet and I have yet
    more meetings planned this week to try and save it. I have to be in
    the department in Whitehall even when parliament is not sitting so
    it is not easy to schedule the time but I come home every Friday
    and help also at the weekend.” – I fully salute Spelman for this.
    Not so much for trying to privatise trees.

  • Secretary of State for Transport Phillip Hammond,
    Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for International Development
    Andrew Mitchell, Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics,
    Media and Sport Jeremy C….Hunt, Tory
    : No voluntary
    work declared.

  • Secretary of State for
    Northern Ireland Owen Paterson, Tory
    : No voluntary
    work declared

  • Secretary of State for
    Scotland Michael Moore, Liberal Democrat
    : No
    voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of
    State for Wales Cheryl Gillan, Tory
    : No voluntary
    work declared.

  • Leader of the House of
    Commons, Lord Privy Seal Francis Maude, Tory
    : No
    voluntary work declared.

  • Attorney General
    Dominic Grieve, Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Solicitor General Edward Garnier,
    Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin, Tory:
    No voluntary work declared. So that’s one out of 23. I’m not too
    good at maths, never have been, but I believe that’s about 4%. Just
    saying…..


  • The Pig Society Part II

    February 16, 2011

    The Big Society grows ever stronger, and support grows ever wider, charity bosses and workers applaud it and sing its praises, because it is a wonderful plan that is definitely not a cover for a mass of Corporate tax cuts.

    That is what delusional Conservatives believe.
    Except, it’s bullshit.
    The voluntary sector is being absolutely gutted of funding.
    As the previous post pointed out. But to make it clear, the Guardian today featured a story of a lady named Denise Marshall. She is Director of Eaves and also the Poppy Project. These charities work with victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking. She has dedicated her life to this cause. She has fought some pretty high powered members of the criminal underworld across Europe. Eaves provides housing and counselling for victims of abuse. They offer up to 35% savings on gas and electricity and other necessities for vulnerable women. In short, Denise Marshall is a heroine. She was recognised for this in 2008 by being given an OBE. She is one of the very few who actually deserve the honour.

    Denise is now handing back the OBE, to David Cameron personally, because she has said that the extreme and needless cuts to funding for charities and organisations like Eaves, means she will no longer be able to support and fight criminal gangs who traffic women for the sex trade. She feels that she would be hypocritical and unworthy of an OBE when she can no longer protect the women she has the award for protecting.

    Marshall said:

    “I received the OBE in 2007 specifically for providing services to disadvantaged women. It was great to get it; it felt like recognition for the work the organisation has done.

    But recently it has been keeping me awake at night. I feel like it would be dishonourable and wrong to keep it. I’m facing a future where I can’t give women who come to my organisation the services they deserve – I won’t be able to provide the services for which I got the OBE.”

    “If you run a refuge where you don’t have the support staff it just becomes a production line, where you move people on as quickly as possible to meet the targets. You’re not helping women to escape the broader problems they face. They may get a bed, but no help with changing their lives and moving out of situations of danger.”

    “I’ve worked in this sector for almost 30 years. I don’t want to sound melodramatic but I don’t think I have ever felt as depressed and desperate as I do now,”

    How then, do the Big Society advocates justify the fact that on the same day as a true heroine feels she can no longer protect very very vulnerable women in her care, the Tories are trying to stop an EU law on the banning of naked short selling (which I shall try to explain as much as possible shortly)? The EU law, if the Tories get their way, will not affect the UK on naked short selling. Germany have banned it, the U.S have banned it, Australia have banned it, Hong Kong have banned it, Japan have banned it. We have kept it. It makes a very small elite group of speculators very rich, whilst risking money that is not theirs. How are these people protected, yet the vulnerable women like those that Denise Marshall represents have their funds slashed. The Government and its banking friends and business associates are sitting sipping champagne, whilst Rome burns. Nero would be in awe.

    Short Selling (not naked short selling) is a little confusing, and utterly absurd. It has no social use. It is not to the benefit of any of us. It is dangerous and it should be banned. When you buy shares, you buy them in the hope that the price will rise and you can sell them some time in the future, to make a nice bit of money. It is all to do with how you obtain shares. You and I would buy shares. Naked short sellers borrow shares in the hope that the price will fall. So, if for instance I was to borrow 5000 shares from Broker A. I will then sell them at £1 a share, so £5000, hoping the price falls. Say the price falls by half. I now buy back all the shares, at £2500. I have netted myself a nice little £2500 and I give the 5000 shares back to the Broker A.

    Naked Short Selling is different, because you don’t even borrow the shares you’re selling. You don’t have them. You’re selling a promise that you will obtain the shares that you’ve just sold, at some point in the future. You may as well walk into a bank, take all of their money, and promise to give it back at some point in the future. There is then an incentive for short sellers to wreck companies, because the share price has to fall for them to meet their promise. On a grand scale, this can lead to massive crashes.

    This little practice lead necessarily to the 1997 Asian Financial Crises, that left millions in poverty. This wasn’t the fault of too much Government interference in people’s lives, or too many people on the dole. It was a direct result of unproductive short sellers and a massively deregulated financial sector.

    The law looks to ban naked short selling in the EU. The UK will be trying to exempt itself from that banning.

    This of course comes days after the announcement that there would be vast changes to the offshore tax laws, which mean that large and medium sized businesses who offshore their profits and then move them back to the UK, no longer have to pay the difference between the tax they paid in their tax haven and the tax they pay in the UK. They no longer have to pay any tax on profits that are made outside the country and brought back to the UK. Not only that, but they can claim expenses against tax they pay in the UK, to fund their overseas departments. That represents one of the biggest changes to Corporate tax law, and a massive shift of wealth from the poorest due to cuts, to the very wealthiest on a level far beyond anything Margaret Thatcher could have dreamed of. Suddenly the veil of an omni-benevolent Tory government is falling off, to be replaced by a face stamped with the logos of Diageo and Barclays.

    On the 9th February, George Osborne told the House of Commons:

    Those entrusted by us to regulate those bankers and run our economy washed their hands.
    Meanwhile the rest of the country is left paying every day for their failures.
    The government has to pick up the pieces.

    It would seem that what Osborne believes is “picking up the pieces” entails giving away massive tax cuts, destroying the voluntary sector, and inviting the World’s naked short sellers to come and set up home in Britain.

    Welcome to the Pig Society.


    Futile Scribble

    February 4, 2011

    I am writing more and more in my little notebook recently, and I’d quite like to blog the notes I make, in some sort of vain attempt to appeal to my creative writing side. So alongside Futile Democracy and Futile Photography, I now own Futile Scribble.

    The difference between this blog, and Futile Scribble, is that I do not want Futile Scribble to involve much thought. It is just for simple, quick, off-the-cuff notes that I feel the need to write down, and then to preserve. Almost an experiment for my own sake, to note how my thought patterns change over time. It is also an attempt to think in the moment, rather than becoming deeply anxious constantly through only thinking about the future. I am finding spontaneous note taking, to be rather settling and serene, in an odd way.
    That is why Futile Scribble now exists.

    Go subscribe!