Politics

Carillion Collapse Will Leave Taxpayers With Big Bills, Produce Knock-On Failures; Shows Danger of “Public/Private Partnerships”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 9:50pm in

A first look at the implications of the failure of Carallion, a top UK infrastructure firm and provider of outsourced services to governments

A Word of Encouragement after Esther McVile Returns to the DWP

Like everyone else, who really cares about what happens to the poor and disabled in this country, I am angered and dismayed by the return of Esther McVey to the cabinet in charge of the DWP. When she was in charge of disability, McVey presided over a system that saw tens, if not hundreds of thousands of severely ill people declared ‘fit for work’, and left without any means of support after their benefits were cut off. People like Mike, DPAC and other disability rights activists and campaigners have accused her of pursuing a murderous, genocidal policy against the disabled. For them, it’s eugenics by the back door. The disabled are being culled, but unlike the Nazis and their infamous Aktion T4 programme, with which Tory policy has been compared, they aren’t dragging the disabled away to be gassed in a hospital run by murderous doctors and uniformed, military thugs like the SS. No, they’re simply told their fit for work, and have their benefit cut off, so that they starve to death, or take their own lives through misery and hunger. Stilloaks has compiled a list of the victims, as have various other left-wing bloggers and activists. One artist even made a picture composed of the faces of all those the Tories had murdered through their welfare reforms.

If you want to know just how nasty McVile is, take a look at some of the recent articles Mike has written about her return over at Vox Political. And some indication of the depth of feeling against her is shown by the fact that someone altered her Wikipedia page a few years ago, so that it read that she was in charge of the genocide of the disabled.

It’s an utter disgrace that this woman, who was nicknamed ‘the wicked witch of the Wirral’ by her constituents, and who lost her seat at the last election, should come back into front bench politics.

And her return has resulted in very vulnerable people feeling afraid. Florence, one of the great commenters on this blog, said here in a response to a previous post, that she knew disability activists, who worked hard for 48 hours solid after her return, trying to stop frightened and distressed disabled people from committing suicide. That alone shows how disgraceful the Conservative party and their attitude to the disabled is. The Tories consistently deny that there is any link between their murderous and pitiless ‘welfare reforms’, and the suicides that have already occurred. Even though some of the victims have written suicide notes explicitly stating that it is. All you get is May, IDS, McVile or some other Tory spokesperson coming out with a flat denial, and then assertions that these reforms are helping people into work – they aren’t, but the Tories don’t worry about the truth when a lie is so much better. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail and the rest of the pestilential right-wing press tries to tell us all that everyone claiming sickness benefit, ESA or whatever, is a malingerer sponging off the British taxpayer. Florence said that she’d been abused when she’s had occasion to use her wheelchair. I’ve a friend in Cheltenham, whose wife is severely disabled, and similarly has to use a wheelchair if she goes out. He told me that they’ve been abused.

This shows how low this country has sunk under the Tories and the Blairites. One of our uncles, with whom our family used to go on holiday when Mike and I were young, had Parkinson’s Disease. This is a deterioration of part of the brain governing movement, and it leaves sufferers paralysed. There are drugs that can treat it, the best known being L-Dopa. Despite this many sufferers, including our uncle, was confined to a wheelchair. I can remember Mike and myself pushing him along esplanades on holiday with the rest of our family, and no-one made any adverse comments. In fact, I don’t recall my aunt telling us that there had been any problems when she had gone out with him, though she was embarrassed about going into cafes. But here again, I don’t recall anyone else saying anything at the time.

Britain has, thanks to four decades of Thatcherism, become more hate-filled and prejudiced.

But I don’t think people need despair just yet. McVey is a vile piece of work, as is Tweezer for appointing her. But she must surely be aware of how much she’s hated, and this will take its toll. Remember when the Gentleman Ranker, IDS, wanted to leave the DWP? He was whining about how everyone was blaming him for food banks, when it was Blair who introduced them. Well, it was, but only in a limited way for asylum seekers. Which is bad enough, but it wasn’t the wholesale replacement for state aid that it’s become under David Cameron and Tweezer. IDS was held in contempt by everyone concerned with disability issues and poverty, and it clearly got to him. Just like the outcry against Toby Young’s appointment to the university’s legislative panel clearly got to him, and forced him to resign. Even though Tweezer had given her backing to this far-right, eugenicist clown.

The Tories are vulnerable. Even those like IDS, who was boasting how he’d been a major in the army. Despite the fact that no-one can find any record of him actually being one.

People know McVile, and massively and collectively hate her. She isn’t going to have it easy, by any means. She may well be tougher than IDS – this is, after all, a man, who came into a parliamentary inquiry with armed bodyguards, just in case the peeps in wheelchairs and their carers in the public gallery turned violent. And who hid from demonstrators in Scotland in a hotel laundry basket. But enough people complain, criticise and attack her, it should make her feel uncomfortable, and hopefully bring her down.

And people are going to do just that. Just like they did when she was in charge of disability the first time round.

So don’t despair.
Get mad.
Get even.
And get her out!

What Is The Democratic Party? (and WILDING et al. v. DNC SERVICES CORPORATION et al. Gets a New Lease on Life)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 5:55am in

What is the Democratic Party as a legal entity, and institutionally and functionally?

WWN’s Guide To ‘Voting With Your Conscience’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 2:01am in

MANY politicians will soon be faced with voting on a Dáil motion to hold a referendum on abortion in Ireland, before going on to vote in the subsequent referendum some months later. The Dáil vote will likely be held on putting a referendum to the public on the repeal of the 8th amendment of the... Read more »

Iran’s protests: time to reform

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 1:28am in

Without addressing head-on the drivers of the protests and pursuing popular reform, the Iranian leaders are only buying time until the next standoff between the state and the society.

Protesters took to the street in Iran to demand economic and political reforms. Picture by SalamPix/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved. The protests in Iran
seem to have died down, but if Iranian leaders fail to recognize that
the status quo has become untenable and major reforms are
unavoidable, they are only buying time until the next uprising, which
could lead to greater instability.

It is easy for the
leadership in Tehran to dismiss the outpouring of popular ire over
economic and political stagnation. The latest protests were
leaderless, too amorphous, too scattered, too provincial, and too
shallow. Above all, they lacked a unifying
objective. Protesters knew what they did not want, but differed on
what they wanted. Slogans ranged from “death to inflation” to
“death to embezzlers” to “death to the dictator” and “give
up on Syria! Think of us”.

Conversely, the
Islamic Republic remains too resilient, its leadership’s resolve to
cling to power too strong, the capacity of its parallel security
organizations and paramilitary squads for coercion too fearsome, and
its control over the airwaves and cyber arena too inviolable.

The Islamic Republic remains too resilient, its leadership’s resolve to cling to power too strong

The three million
demonstrators who marched silently on the streets of Tehran on June
15, 2009 shook the political system to its core, but failed to
dislodge it. Despite Iran’s practiced capacity to surprise, it was
naïve to believe that tens of thousands of demonstrators, mainly
outside the capital, could bring the current order to its knees in
2018.

Long-standing
grievances

The story of what
transpired on December 28th,
2017, in Mashhad, the site of the first demonstration and supreme
leader
Ali Khamenei’s hometown, remains to be told. Its trigger was
disgruntlement over economic malaise, endemic corruption and glaring
income inequalities, but some of president
Hassan Rouhani’s hardline rivals might have poured fuel on the fire
– that they initially loudly welcomed
the protests suggests this possibility. But who/what lurked in the
shadows is not as important as what was in plain sight.

In 90
percent

of more than 80 towns and cities that experienced unrest, riots
already had occurred in the past six months over basic socio-economic
issues: from unpaid wages to lost deposits and environmental
disasters. Dashed expectations of rapid economic recovery after the
2015 nuclear deal, compounded by unbreathable smog that had descended
on several metropolitan areas, a chain of earthquakes and their
mismanaged aftermath, and an austerity budget hiking prices, and
slashing subsidies, while granting more perks to religious and
military institutions – these together made for a perfect storm.

The state’s
response, however, was atypical as security forces refrained from
resorting quickly to brute force – at least by their own standards.
The restraint might have been because most of the protesters seemed
to be the system’s own constituents – the more pious,
lower-income, blue-collar workers from the country’s peripheries.
It might also have stemmed from the leadership’s reluctance to
alienate human-rights conscious Europeans, on whom Tehran counts for
salvaging the nuclear deal in the face of president
Donald Trump’s hostility towards
it; or from a calculation that violence could play into the hands of
those who are seeking to destabilize
Iran, and thus roll back its gains in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and
Yemen.

The question is what Iranians will do next

Many
outsiders were projecting their hopes onto this Iranian drama, but in
the end, they were mere spectators.
The
question is what Iranians will do next.

A
history of reluctance

Rouhani has struck the
right
tone
:
admitting that the ruling elite is out of touch, recognizing people’s
right to protest, noting that their dissent stemmed not just from
economic malaise, and emphasizing that they seek a more open society
and polity. Ayatollah Khamenei, however, has blamed
the protests on a triangle of Iran’s enemies: the U.S. and Israel,
Saudi Arabia, and Iranian exiled dissidents.

What
is not clear is whether the leadership can accept a civic culture in
which peaceful protests are tolerated and deemed normal, and whether
it can evolve.

Past patterns,
especially the record of Rouhani’s predecessors, are not promising.
In the face of popular and/or elite wrath at their reforms, Ali Akbar
Hashemi Rafsanjani (after the protests of the early 1990s) and
Mohammad Khatami (after the 1999 student uprising) became more
risk-averse and pursued only superficial change.

Yet marching in circles this time
potentially could bring the country to the brink. Its predicaments,
from chronic unemployment (hovering around 30 percent for the
educated youth) to its bankrupt financial system and its
environmental challenges can neither be ignored nor resolved using
the failed policies of the past.
After years of sanctions and economic mismanagement, the unemployed
and disgruntled Iranian youth have less to lose, which means they may
be more prepared to throw caution to the wind and resort to violence.

There is still a
significant constituency, however, who while sympathizing with the
popular grievances, fears the chaos that will come with radical
change. The 1979 revolution’s memory and the Arab uprisings’
experience have been instructive for the large, and increasingly
mature
Iranian middle class, which has sought reforms for nearly 20 years.
The hashtag “we will not become Syria” was trending among
middle-class Iranians.

Managing reform

Ayatollah Khamenei has
the authority to drive change, but is nearing 80 and almost certainly
is not eager for fundamental reforms. Denouncing this “sedition”
as a foreign conspiracy is more familiar ground, and – to him –
less risky. For his part, Rouhani’s ambition to succeed the leader
might stop him from forcefully pushing for change and instead invest
in the longer term. Among the political and military elite, there is
also
strong vested interest in preserving the status quo.

The hashtag “we will not become Syria” was trending among middle-class Iranians

But by failing to
allow gradual evolution, Iran’s leaders, themselves former
revolutionaries, could be making instability more likely in a country
that experienced two major revolutions in the past century (the
constitutional revolution in 1906 and the Islamic revolution in
1979). At some stage, events might spiral out of control.

Iran’s recent
history offers constructive lessons.

First, it might get
too late too soon for the system to absorb the shock. The Shah
realized in the late 1970s that there was a need for change. But the
reforms he implemented were tardy and timid. Second, ill-conceived
action could be worse than inaction. In 1989, shortly before his
death and cognizant of the deadlock in the system’s power
structure, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini started a process to amend the
constitution and abolish the prime minister’s office. In the end,
however, that change bifurcated the political system and created
more, not less, friction between the system’s theocratic and
republican institutions.

Bearing these
precedents in mind, President Rouhani should turn the crisis into an
opportunity, pivoting from the protesters’ target to their champion
for change. He should secure Ayatollah Khamenei’s consent and
submit to parliament a package of major reforms, including
constitutional amendments that would empower elected institutions and
a timetable for implementing them. Without such bold measures, the
major
surgery

that the Iranian president admits the country’s economy is in need
of simply will not happen. A fragile garrison state is certainly not
a legacy Ayatollah Khamenei should be satisfied with.

The recent Iranian
protests might not augur deep change, as the country’s leaders may
not be prepared to relinquish their old ways. But without addressing
head-on the drivers of the protests and pursuing
popular reform, they are only buying time until the next standoff
between the state and the society.

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

Iran: the revolt of the deprived

Critical voices in critical times: revolution without revolutionaries, an interview with Asef Bayat

To become a bit more human: Review of Belén Fernández, “Letter from Iran”

The return of Banisadr to the heart of Iranian politics

Country or region: 

Iran

Topics: 

Democracy and government

Rights: 

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The Feminist Arguments against the Metoo Activism at the Golden Globes

Last Sunday, 7th January 2018, was the Golden Globes. This got on the news around the world, not just because of the coverage of which actors and films were given awards, but because the female actors wore black in solidarity with all the women, who had suffered sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation. This culminated in one of the leading actors at the ceremony announcing that Hollywood’s ladies would stand in solidarity with every woman, who had suffered such sexual abuse and assault, and that they would be dedicating a special fund to help poor women sue their abusers.

Coming after the scandals about Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes and others at Fox News, including its long running host, Bill O’Reilly, such an announcement is clearly well meant, and for many women facing the cost of having to drag their abuser, who is probably their boss, through the courts, the prospect of being able to get some money from a charity dedicated to helping them would surely be welcome. But not all women, and not all feminists, saw it quite like that.

Roza Halibi in Counterpunch and the Sane Progressive on YouTube both put up pieces about it, criticising the move. Many women, including the French actress Catherine Deneuve, are critical of the #Metoo movement as they feel it demonises men. All men are now being viewed as sexual predators, real or potential. They also object to the way distasteful and unpleasant forms of sexual contact – like the boss with wandering hands – has been lumped in and conflated with far more serious forms of sexual abuse, like rape and women being told that if they don’t sleep with their boss, they’ll lose their jobs. Groping is unpleasant and humiliating, and it’s quite right that there should be a campaign to stop it. But it’s not at the same level as the other two.

They also found the stance of the individual actresses involved in the speech and this display of solidarity hypocritical. Weinstein’s behaviour was known for years by people within Hollywood, including Meryl Streep. And at the time they kept their mouths firmly shut. Some of this might have been because Weinstein was a powerful man, and no matter how respected and successful they were as ‘A’ list actors, he could have the power to destroy their careers, as he threatened numerous aspiring actresses if they wouldn’t sleep with him. But some of it no doubt was also the attitude of the time, to put up with it regardless.

But there’s also an attitude that the speeches against sexual harassment and exploitation were also a form of faux feminism, by rich, entitled women, who were trying to appropriate the protests by ordinary, middle and lower class women. Critics like the Sane Progressive and Halibi have argued that the successful protests always come from below. They are won by ordinary working people standing up for themselves and demanding further rights and change. They are not achieved by members of the upper classes deciding that they will charitably act as the saviours of the lower orders. The #Metoo activism at the Golden Globes represents very rich, entitled women trying to take control of a protest by their sisters lower down the social scale, and wrest it away from any meaningful challenge to a corrupt system as a whole.

The same critics have also made the point that the #Metoo activism has also acted as a diversion. Sexual abuse is only part of a whole series of problems corporate capitalism is inflicting on American society. This includes mass poverty and starvation, the further denial of rights to low paid workers, Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and destroy Medicare, the destruction of the environment, and the political paralysis caused by a corrupt party system taking money and its orders from wealthy donors in big business, rather than acting in the interests of ordinary citizens. All of these issues need tackling, but the leadership of the Democrat party has become, under the Clintons and Obama, as thoroughly corporatist as the Republicans, and has no interest in tackling these issues. That would harm the interests of their donors in big business. So they make symbolic liberal gestures. Like Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency last year. Her policies were more neoliberalism, corporate greed, and aggressive militarism. For ordinary Americans she offered nothing but more poverty and exploitation. But she claimed that, because she was female, she was somehow an outsider, and that a victory for her would thus be a victory for women. Even though, as the lowest paid group, women would have suffered the most from a Clinton presidency. If you didn’t vote for Clinton, you were automatically a misogynist. And if you were a woman, and didn’t vote for her, she and her followers denied it was because you had opinions of your own. Rather, you were just doing what your husband or boyfriend told you. So much for Clinton believing in women’s independence and their agency as human beings.

But this experience of a very rich, entitled woman trying to make herself appear liberal when she was anything but, has clearly coloured some left-wing and feminist attitudes in America towards other attempts by the rich to embrace or promote left-wing causes. Clinton’s liberalism was a fraud, and so some people are suspicious that the actresses stressing their commitment to rooting out sexual abuse are less than wholehearted in their determination to ending the general poverty, exploitation and other issues plaguing American society. And just as the corporate Democrats are desperate to take power away from the real radical left, like Bernie Sanders, so these ladies are trying to take power away from ordinary women, determined to solve the problem their own way. Because this challenges their position in society and their political influence as arbiters and spokespeople of the nation’s conscience.

Now I think the #metoo speeches were well meant, regardless of the possible hypocrisy of some of the actresses involved, and hopefully some women will benefit from the money available to sue their abusers. But the Guardian’s Marina Hyde a few years ago wrote a book, Celebrity: How Entertainers Took Over the World And Why We Need an Exit Strategy, pointing out numerous instances where Hollywood celebs decided to take over a cause, only to make the situation worse. There’s a very good case to be made against such Hollywood activism. And this problem may well become more acute, as more celebs decide to promote symbolic issues, while leaving the other problems affecting ordinary people untouched.

Interview with Jamie Galbraith

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/01/2018 - 11:21pm in

Via Marketwatch Jamie Galbraith states his thoughts on a how the current US economy functions.  Here are a few snippets: University of Texas economist Galbraith, the son of the famous Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, believes mainstream economists and the Federal Reserve are too wedded to old ideas to see what is really going on […]

Martin Luther King also believed…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/01/2018 - 11:07pm in

Via Alternet: 4 Ways Martin Luther King Was More Radical Than You Thought The slain civil rights leader was a critic of capitalism, the Vietnam War, and championed reproductive rights. By Igor Volsky / ThinkProgress January 20, 2014, 7:32 AM GMT Every January, Martin Luther King, Jr. is universally honored as a national hero who […]

LOL! 1.5 Million Hawaiians Thought They Were Going To Be Nuked & We Can’t Stop Laughing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/01/2018 - 10:52pm in

AS stories continue to emerge of the panic and chaos caused by the erroneous issuing of a mass text alert which informed Hawaiians a ballistic missile was on its way to the islands and would obliterate them, we can’t help but see the funny side. WWN Viral Stories Which Are Just Other People’s Tweets Copy... Read more »

Virgin Trains Bans the Daily Mail – Right-Wing Heads Explode!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/01/2018 - 10:18pm in

Last week Virgin Trains announced that at least on one of the lines they operated, they would no longer carry the Daily Mail due to customer complaints. Immediately the Mail and its legions of followers started frothing at the mouth and complaining of censorship. But they don’t really have any basis for complaint, as the ban by Virgin is part of the very capitalism and privatisation that their heroine, Maggie Thatcher, promoted.

As a private firm, Virgin is under no obligation to anyone except to turn a profit for its shareholders and bloated paychecks for its board members. Thatcher deluded herself into believing that privatisation would lead to better services, due to the action of market forces and competition. But this didn’t happen. We’re paying more now in subsidies, for a worse service, than we did under British rail. But this hasn’t bother the Tories, whose ideological commitment is for private industry to run everything, even when this would produce a manifestly worse service, as it would if and when they decide to go all out and privatise the Health Service completely.

But as a private firm, ‘Beardie’ Branson can do whatever he likes with it. It’s his property. And so, by the nature of property rights, the Tories can’t argue against what he’s done. It is censorship, yes, but it hasn’t been done by the state. It’s been done by a private individual, whose right to do what he likes with his property has always been regarded by the Tories and the Republicans in America as absolutely inviolable. Branson is free to decide whatever magazines his trains will, or will not carry, in the same way that newsagents can decide which papers to stock. Way back in the 1980s I tried to order the English version of Pravda, which was then coming out, from my local newsagents in my part of Bristol. No such luck. I was told that Bristol had been divided up between the two national distributors. One operated to supply the newsagents in one half, while the other operated in my area. And the distributor that supplied the newsagents in my area wouldn’t carry it. So I had absolutely no choice whatsoever. Private enterprise had decided that where I was, I couldn’t obtain Pravda. Just as Branson has now decided that the Heil will be unavailable on his trains.

Yes, the decision makes a mockery of Thatcher’s constant mantra that privatisation and private industry would bring more ‘choice’. It hasn’t. But this has been the result of privatisation generally. People have been left with a plethora of companies, all actually providing a worse service than when the utilities were nationalised, and for many people choice is actually an illusion. It doesn’t matter who you go to, you’re still paying very large amounts for services that arguably aren’t worth it. If you want an example, think of the privatised dentists. Thanks to Thatcher’s decimation of the dental service back in the 1980s, there are now few dentists taking NHS patients. The dentists that have gone private charge fees that, for many, make going to them unaffordable. Yes, you can change dentists, looking around for a cheaper service, but unless you find an NHS dentist, you’re still going to be charge very high fees. So from that perspective, you don’t have a choice. And the same applies to the railways and other public services taken over by private contractors.

Secondly, Branson was responding to ‘market forces’. This was the other buzzword of the Thatcherites. The operation of the market was held to be good, just and a guarantee of commercial efficiency and success. Capitalism won over socialism, because socialism took no account of market forces. There’s some truth in that when it’s applied to completely socialised economies such as those of the Communist bloc. But as we’ve seen, various capitalist firms have since failed, and then had to be bailed out by the taxpayer. If you just have market forces as your guide, then these firms, which now include Carillion, should be allowed to go under because of their failure to respond to what the market wants. But instead the right demands that we bail them out, because it’s private enterprise and so can’t be allowed to fail. It’s why the corporatist capitalism ushered in by Reagan and Thatcher has been called ‘socialism for the rich’, as the state is always required to support them, while denying welfare services and healthcare to those genuinely in need.

As for Branson’s ban on the Heil, he was responding to market forces. People had complained about the Heil, and as the service provider, he responded to what his customers wanted. The Mail, which has vociferously and consistently fallen over itself praising Thatcher to the rafters, cannot complain. Thatcher stood for market forces, and market forces have dictated that Virgin’s customers don’t want the Daily Mail. So it’s just too bad for them that Virgin trains will no longer be carrying it. There’s also an element of hypocrisy here. If Virgin had said that they wouldn’t carry what remains of the left-wing press in Britain – the Mirror, the Groaniad or the I, the right-wing press, including the Heil, would be delighted. This shows that the great British public despise the left and its journalism, they would announce proudly. But now that the great British public, or at least that section of it that travels by train, have decided that they don’t want the Mail and its hate and bigotry travelling with them, the Tory press has been screaming ‘censorship’.

Yes, Virgin’s ban on the Daily Mail is censorship, but it’s been done because of the nature of capitalism, Thatcherite ‘choice’ and ‘market forces’. Except that in this case, they haven’t acted to empower the right, but attack it.

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