Music

Tax the rich to counter carbon emissions not to get their money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/01/2020 - 4:48pm in

Tags 

Music

Wednesday snippets follow. Tax the rich! That has become a misguided progressive Left mantra. The intention is to maintain public services including health, education and income support which are core issues for progressives. But then the neoliberal indoctrination that has infested this group intervenes. They seem to think the government needs the money of those with lots of it before it can provide essential and progressive public services and fight the climate emergency. They support political parties that set as their primary macroeconomic target the achievement of a bigger fiscal surplus than the conservatives at a time when there are more than 13.5 per cent of available and willing labour resources not working (either unemployed or underemployed) and households are carrying record levels of (unsustainable) debt. And these parties keep losing elections – it is a global phenomena, most recently observed in Britain. One of the reasons we need to tax the rich is to deal with their (grossly) disproportionate impact on carbon emissions. That is one of many reasons. But you should never include among those reasons a need by government for their cash in order to facilitate spending. Any progressive who articulates that argument is just reiterating neoliberal frames.

This is why we want to tax the rich!

All the ‘world leaders’ as they like to style themselves are in Davos at present at their annual talkfest which will yield nothing of any value to the rest of us.

I was re-reading an Oxfam report that was released on December 2, 2015 today – Extreme Carbon Inequality – and it has two graphs which tell us why we need to tax the rich more.

The answer is that we need to tax the rich more not because we want the government to get their money in order to spend more, but, rather, to stop the rich using it.

It is about a drain not an injection of funds into the economy.

The first graph shows the “distribution of global income from the richest to the poorest 10% of people globally, and Oxfam’s estimate of their associated lifestyle consumption emissions as a share of the global total”.

As a matter of clarification, the terminology used by Oxfam is a little misleading. When they talk about the richest and poorest they are not talking about wealth holdings here.

Rather, the ranking is in terms of place in the income distribution (which is different).

A person can have a high income and not be ‘rich’ and vice-versa.

But we can cut them some slack for that error and just read the graph in terms of high and low incomes rather than ‘rich’ and ‘poor’. After all, we are primarily seeking to impose higher taxes on the incomes of those at the top of the distribution.

We could, of course, also be seeking to impose a wealth tax, in which case, the mantra ‘tax the rich’ is apposite.

Oxfam write:

Global total household consumption emissions in 2007 were 17,187,821,112 tCO2. The top 10% richest people globally have per capita emissions of 17.60 tCO2 and total emissions of 8,431,448,890 tCO2, while the bottom 50% poorest people globally have per capita emissions of 1.57 tCO2 and total emissions of 1,791,265,686 tCO2. The average per capita emissions of the top 10% are therefore around 11 times higher than the average emissions of the poorest 50%, and the total emissions of the top 10% are nearly 5 times higher than the total emissions of the poorest 50%.

And here is their Figure 2, which reinforces that message – “the richest 1% may emit 30 times more than the poorest 50%, and 175 times more than the poorest 10%”.

And: “What is more, the poorest half of people on the planet live overwhelmingly in countries that are considered the most vulnerable to climate change.”

So the actions of the “‘have’ hits the ‘have-nots’ the hardest’. These inequities span income cohorts, gender, race, and nations.

Redressing those inequities has to be a central part of any Just Transition strategy.

You can read the – Technical Briefing – to see how the data shown in the graphs were constructed.

So apart from wanting to stop the rich spending money on self-interested political lobbying and all the rest of the power grab stuff, denying them some of this ‘carbon-intensive’ consumption would also be a help significantly.

That is why we should be supporting politicians who will tax high-income earners considerably more.

It is not to get their money in order for the government to spend on better surfaces.

Any progressive who runs that line really disqualifies themselves from further commentary.

Green Transition presentation, Adelaide, January 10, 2020

Here is the presentation I gave in Adelaide, where I briefly outlined a new initiative that I am part of that aims to do something about those inequities.

I will make further statements about that initiative in the near future. I think it will be significant.

I told the audience that a new initiative was needed because our mainstream political parties were moribund and were stuck in a neoliberal vortex unable to do anything truly progressive and urgent.

In the Q&A, I was attacked by Labor Party apparatchiks for allegedly “dividing the Left” because I indicated I would not be seeking to work within the conventional Labor Party framework.

It is a typical sort of reaction one gets these days. But the reality is that the Labor Party has consistently lost elections and in May last year lost to the worst conservative government we have ever had.

The Labor Treasury spokesperson has spoken on national radio saying the Party would not consider increasing the unemployment benefit, which is way below the poverty line, if it endangered their fiscal surplus objective.

One of its senior MPs (Fitzgibbon) “joined forces with outspoken Coalition MP Craig Kelly to spruik Australia’s coal exports in parliament” (Source).

He also wants Labour to adopt a weak emissions reduction plan in line with the conservative government’s own plan, which is largely reflective of their climate change denial bias.

Craig Kelly was the conservative buffoon that appeared recently on the BBC and called out “brainwashed climate cultists” (Source).

During the BBC interview, Kelly called a British meteorologist, who has several university degrees in relevant fields, a “Pommy weather girl”.

Further, in 2017, it was revealed that the bosses in the Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association (SDA), which represents low pay and precariously employed shop assistants and is a powerful force in the Labor Party right-wing faction, was found to have done deals with the large supermarkets and fast food chains that would undermine the minimum pay and conditions for 60 per cent of the workforce.

The Australian Workers Union, another right-wing contributor to the Labor Party sides with the SDA.

Millions of dollars in lost wages went to the companies under these dirty deals. The employers had agreed to allow the officials of the SDA to use payroll services etc which made their jobs easier and presumably gives their union the fees necessary to pay the officials their managerial salaries. Meanwhile, they are content as the concession to sell their members down the river!

I could go on.

Not dealing with this lot is apparently “dividing the Left”. In fact, our initiative will identify the true Left.

Later, a response to my presentation appeared on social media, where I was attacked by a normally progressive voice for proposing an “idiosyncratic political approach with MMT more broadly” and “if the broader MMT community listened to and followed his political strategy it would be dead in a week.”

This was just a reflection of the fact that I won’t deal with marginal lobby groups in Australia who purport to lead the progressive charge.

One such group displayed their incompetence at the last federal election when they spent millions targetting so-called ‘right-wing conservative MPs’.

Their campaign was so pathetic that three of the worst conservative politicians were re-elected as a result, in part, because of the resentment of the respective electorates to the lobby group’s campaigning strategies.

One MP felt a swing of -0.28 per cent (that is, nothing), another -1.37 (small) and the worst of the MPs targetted, classified as the most ‘unpopular’ politician in Australia (Peter Dutton) gained a 2.95 per cent swing towards him.

To illustrate the confusion these groups elicit, this same group has signed up to another so-called progressive group and they advocate increasing taxes on higher income groups to pay for the services we deserve. Meanwhile, in another guise, they hold themselves out as promoting MMT.

So why would anyone who seeks to promote Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) to the broader population leave our work in the hands of groups like this.

As to the the “idiosyncratic” nature of our new initiative, let me just say that my research group (CofFEE) has formed a collaboration with a major, global climate action group (350.org) and the leading voice in indigenous affairs in Australia (Noel Pearson and his Cape York Institute).

Noel Pearson, is the highest profile indigenous leader in Australia. He was the lawyer that helped secure land rights for indigenous Australian’s which was a huge significant turning point in our history. He is highly connected.

Add to that group, the leading ecological economist in Australia, a high profile sociologist and support from a senior climatologist and others and we have put together a powerful and connected MMT-underpinned action group.

How idiosyncratic is that?

We will release more information in the coming weeks as our program takes shape.

My first presentation at the Adelaide conference (January 9, 2020)- Introduction to MMT presentation – is not yet available it seems.

European and UK Teaching and Speaking Tour, February 2020

  • Monday, February 03, 2020 – Speaking on ‘What is the meaning of political economy today?’ at Think Corner, Helsinki – 17:00 to 19:00.
  • Tuesday, February 04, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 16.15-17.45 Porthania P674 – all lectures are public.
  • Wednesday, February 05, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Language Centre in Fabianinkatu room 207.
  • Thursday, February 06, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45 Main building, Hall 16.
  • Friday, February 07, 2020 – Presentation at Italian Parliament, Rome – details to follow.
  • Saturday, February 08, 2020 – Events in Rome with activists – details to follow.
  • Sunday, February 09, 2020 – Travel.
  • Monday, February 10, 2020 – Breakfast presentation – ‘The future of monetary policies’ – Nordic West Group, Helsinki.
  • Tuesday, February 11, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 16.15-17.45, Porthania room 723.
  • Wednesday, February 12, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Language Centre in Fabianinkatu room 207.
  • Thursday, February 13, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45 Main building, Hall 16.
  • Friday, February 14, 2020 – Presentation, Dublin.
  • Saturday, February 15, 2020 – Presentation, Dublin.
  • Sunday, February 16, 2020 – Athens.
  • Monday, February 17, 2020 – Meetings and Presentations, Athens.
  • Tuesday, February 18, 2020 – Paris, Reception, French Senat, Palace of Luxembourg – 18:00.
  • Wednesday, February 19, 2020 – Paris, events and interviews – details to follow.
  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 – Paris, Presentation to French Senate Commission, Palace of Luxembourg – 8:30-10:30.
  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 – London, GIMMS presentation, MMT education – afternoon – Details.
  • Friday, February 21, 2020 – Manchester, GIMMS presentation, The Harwood Room in the Barnes Wallis Building, University of Manchester, Details.
  • Saturday, February 22, 2020 – MMTed Masterclass Workshop, London, for Details and Tickets. Limited spaces available.
  • Sunday, February 23, 2020 – Amsterdam – travel home.

This tour is fully booked. I will be back in Europe in June-July 2020. If you want to book an event or a meeting, then please contact me.

Music today …

Here is one of the all-time great reggae bands – Steel Pulse – a band from Birmingham, UK.

This song – Ku Klux Klan – is taken of one of my favourite albums – Handsworth Revolution – which was released in 1978.

The band sings in this song against racism and intolerance.

Just listen to the hi-hat and timbales in the introduction for musical perfection.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Nonviolent Protest Groups Placed on Anti-Terrorism List

Last week it was revealed by the Groaniad that the environmentalist group, Extinction Rebellion, had been put on a list of extremist organisations, whose sympathisers should be treated by the Prevent programme. Extinction Rebellion are, in my view, a royal pain, whose disruptive antics are more likely to make them lose popular support but they certainly aren’t violent and do keep within the law. For example, in one of their protests in Bristol last autumn, they stopped the traffic for short periods and then let some cars through before stopping the traffic again. It was a nuisance, which is what the group intended, and no doubt infuriating to those inconvenienced by it. But they kept within the law. They therefore don’t deserve to be put on an anti-terrorism watch list with real violent extremist organisations like Islamist and White fascist terror groups such as the banned neo-Nazi group, National Action.

But Extinction Rebellion aren’t the only nonviolent protest group to be put on this wretched list. Zelo Street put up a piece yesterday revealing that the list also includes Greenpeace, the campaigners against sea pollution, Sea Shepherd, PETA, Stop the Badger Cull, Stop the War, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, CND, various anti-Fascist and anti-racist groups, as well as an anti-police surveillance group, campaigners against airport expansion, and Communist and Socialist parties.

I can sort of understand why Greenpeace is on the list. They also organise protests and peaceful occupations, and I remember how, during the ‘Save the Whale’ campaign, their ship, the Rainbow Warrior, used to come between whalers and their prey. I also remember how, in the 1980s, the French secret service bombed it when it was in port in New Zealand, because the evil peaceful hippies had dared to protest against their nuclear tests in the Pacific. From this, and their inclusion on this wretched list, it seems they’re more likely to be victims of state violence than the perpetrators of violence themselves.

Greenpeace’s John Sauven said

“Tarring environmental campaigners and terrorist organisations with the same brush is not going to help fight terrorism … It will only harm the reputation of hard-working police officers … How can we possibly teach children about the devastation caused by the climate emergency while at the same implying that those trying to stop it are extremists?”

And Prevent’s independent reviewer, Alex Carlile, said:

“The Prevent strategy is meant to deal with violent extremism, with terrorism, and XR are not violent terrorists. They are disruptive campaigners”.

Zelo Street commented that this was all very 1960s establishment paranoia. Which it is. You wonder if the list also includes anyone, who gave the list’s compilers a funny look once. And whether they’re going to follow the example of Constable Savage in the Not the Nine O’Clock News sketch and arrest gentlemen of colour for wandering around during the hours of darkness wearing a loud shirt. This is a joke, but the list represents are real danger. It criminalises any kind of protest, even when its peaceful. About a decade ago, for example, Stop the War held a protest in Bristol city centre. They were out there with their banners and trestle tables, chanting and speaking. Their material, for what I could see where I was, simply pointed out that the invasion of Iraq had claimed 200,000 lives. They were on the pavement, as I recall, didn’t disrupt the traffic and didn’t start a fight with anyone.

As for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, this is a knee-jerk attempt to link pro-Palestinian activism with terrorism. But wanting the Palestinians to be given their own land or to enjoy equal rights with Israelis in a modern, ethnically and religious diverse and tolerant state, does not equate with sympathy for terrorism or terrorism itself. Tony Greenstein, Asa Winstanley and Jackie Walker are also pro-Palestinian activists. But as far as I know, they’re all peaceful, nonviolent people. Walker’s a granny in her early 60’s, for heaven’s sake. They’re all far more likely to be the victims of violence than ever initiate it. In fact, Tony was physically assaulted in an unprovoked attack by an irate Israeli, while one woman from one of the pro-Israel organisations was caught on camera saying how she thought she could ‘take’ Jackie.

I realise the Stop the Badger Cull people have also physically tried to stop the government killing badgers, but this is again disruption, not violence. And one of those against the cull is Brian May, astrophysicist and rock legend. Apart from producing some of the most awesome music with Freddy Mercury and the rest of Queen, and appearing on pop science programmes with Dara O’Brien showing people round the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, he has not, not ever, been involved in political violence.

This shows you how ludicrous the list is. But it’s also deeply sinister, as by recommending that supporters of these organisations as well as real terrorist groups should be dealt with by Prevent, it defines them as a kind of thoughtcrime. Their members are to be rounded up and reeducated. Which is itself the attitude and method of suppression of totalitarian states.

Zelo Street pointed the finger for this monstrous shambles at Priti Patel. As current Home Secretary, she’s ultimately responsible for it. The Street wanted to know whether she knew about it and when? And if she didn’t, what’s she doing holding the job? But there’s been no answer so far. And a police spokesperson said it was unhelpful and misleading to suggest the nonviolent groups on the list had been smeared.

The Street said it was time for Patel to get her house in order, but warned its readers not to bet on it. No, you shouldn’t. This is an attempt to criminalise non-violent protest against capitalism and the actions of the authorities and British state. It’s the same attitude that informed the British secret state’s attempts to disrupt and destroy similar and sometimes the same protest movements in the 70s and 80s, like CND. And it will get worse. A few years ago Counterpunch published a piece reporting that the American armed services and police were expecting violent outbreaks and domestic terrorism in the 2030s as the poverty caused by neoliberalism increased. They were therefore devising new methods of militarised policing to combat this. We can expect similar repressive measures over this side of the Atlantic as well.

This list is a real threat to freedom of conscience, peaceful protest and action. And the ultimate responsibility for it is the Tories. Who have always been on the side of big business against the rest of society, and particularly the poor and disadvantaged.

They’re criminalising those, who seek peaceful means to fight back.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on the Economic, Academic and Social Costs of Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/01/2020 - 9:17pm in

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown issued another stinging attack on Brexit in the I yesterday. She sharply criticised the Brexiteers triumphalism, that made them demand the mass celebration of Britain’s departure from the EU with a ‘festival of Brexit’, churches ringing their bells up and down the country, street parties and ‘a big, fat, jingoistic party in Parliament Square on January 31st’. She compared the proposed celebrations with the forced, state-mandated festivities of North Korea, and quoted the Roman satirist Juvenal on how the rich distracted the plebs with bread and circuses while taking away their liberties. She also bitterly complained about the way Remainers were now seen as somehow treacherous for their rejection of this wave of jingoism despite the closeness of the vote in the referendum. But she also made very good points about the immense cost Brexit had already inflicted on our economy, education, and society. She wrote

According to a detailed report by ratings agency S&P, Brexit has already cost the economy £66bn. It calculates that the amount is more than we paid into the European Union for 47 years. The economy is stagnant. The Union  of the four nations may not hold. Migrants and black, Asian and minority ethnic Britons are experiencing more hostility. Complaints are met with increased hostility or disbelief. Universities are panicking about the potential loss of EU grants and the Erasmus+ scheme – a travel bursary for young people which enriched their lives.

Musicians and artists are losing essential EU connections. Care homes cannot get workers because EU citizens are leaving. Too many feel unwelcome or are discouraged by new, costly and unfair immigration rules. NHS workers from elsewhere are becoming disillusioned.

She then describes how an Asian friend, Priti, told her about the increasing racism she was experiencing.

My friend Priti, a nurse who came over from India five years ago, says: “This is not the country I came into. Not the place my parents loved when they studied here. It has become so impolite. Even when I am changing a bandage or putting drops in their eyes, some patients shout at me to go bac. My colleagues are great but I am going – I have a job in Dubai. They need us but don’t behave well.”

We need these foreign nurses and doctors, who do an excellent job caring for our sick. It’s disgusting that they should be treated with such contempt and abuse.

Brexit is wrecking our economy, placing the Union under potentially devastating stress, and impoverishing our education system, our arts and culture, and denying needed expertise and labour to the NHS. But somehow we are meant to celebrate all this as a victory for Britain.

Alibhai-Brown herself says that Remainers should follow Will Hutton’s advice, and light candles on 31st January before going back to Brexit. She says that we must, for the sake of the younger generation and the future of this once-formidable nation.

I don’t think we can reasonable go on opposing Brexit forever without isolating ourselves politically. But I think we should be trying to get the best possible deal with the EU and trying to forge lasting, beneficial links with it.

While pointing out that so far, it is a massive, astronomically expensive failure.

Mock Spaghetti Western Trailer for ‘The Mandalorian’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/01/2020 - 4:17am in

The Mandalorian is an American SF series. It’s a spin-off from Star Wars about a bounty hunter from Boba Fett’s people, who roams the Galaxy rounding up fugitives from justice. As far as I can make out, his companions include a war droid and an infant clone of Yoda.

I found this highly entertaining video on Kingkida’s channel on YouTube. This is mock cinema trailer for the show in the style of those for Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood, For a Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It’s a really well put together spoof. It has the grainy quality of the film used in them days for low budget movies, the text is in Italian with English subtitles, as in the spaghetti westerns, and it uses the iconic music. Oh yes, and it also nods to the third film in Leone’s trilogy with the captions ‘The Good’, ‘the Bad’, and ‘the Ughnaut’ – one of the aliens from the Star Wars universe.

The German government celebrates its record surplus while infrastructure collapses

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/01/2020 - 6:19pm in

Tags 

Eurozone, Music

Wednesday blog post – so only a few snippets including some discussion about Germany’s latest extreme outcome – a record fiscal surplus, which the Ministry of Finance is claiming is responsible. Judged by the fact that the economy has ground to a halt and there is a massive infrastructure deficit in the country as a result of a systematic starving of capital expenditure by the government, one has to ask: are they joking! The surplus was, in part, the result of the German government not spending allocated public investment funds because there are insufficient skilled public servants on tap to manage the projects. So the government has hacked into skilled employment first, then it finds that there are not enough qualified officials left to oversee essential projects. So capital formation contracts and the allocated funds go unspent. So, the Government records a surplus and cheers while bridges, roads, hospitals, IT infrastructure, transport infrastructure decays further. Modern day Germany – ridiculous.

Germany being irresponsible – as usual

On Monday (January 13, 2020), the German Finance Ministry announced that Germany has recorded a record fiscal surplus of some €13.5 billion.

Its – Press Release (in German) – claimed that such a result was “Klug und verantwortungsvoll handeln – Vorfahrt für Investitionen” (Acting wisely and responsibly …) and will help it increase public investment while maintaining fiscal balance over the period to 2023.

Further, there was an amount equal to €5.5 billion that was allocated to helping refugees which went unspent – so the total fiscal surplus was, in fact, around €19 billion.

Tax revenue was up and spending down as a result of negative interest rates.

While the Finance Minister Olaf Scholz claimed the ‘surplus’ would be spent on investment projects, the reality is that past allocations for infrastructure development were not spent apparently because, in part, there has been a shortage of skilled employment in the public sector such that there are not enough “skilled civil servants to process applications” (Source).

The German government is clearly ignoring the calls from European economists and the central bank officials (not the least Mario Draghi as he left the ECB job) to provide some fiscal stimulus to Europe to break the stagnation and high unemployment that the fiscal austerity has created.

And even in the context of the German economy, quite apart from its central place in the Eurozone, the pursuit of fiscal austerity is plain irresponsible.

On November 14, 2019, the German statistical agency DeStatis released the latest – National Accounts – data for the third quarter.

It found that:

1. Real GDP grew by just 0.1 per cent in the third-quarter 2019 after falling by 0.2 per cent in the second-quarter.

2. Gross value added in the goods producing sector was down by 3.1 per cent over the 12 months with manufacturing down 2.6 per cent.

3. Gross capital formation was down by 3.8 per cent in the third-quarter 2019.

4. Labour productivity growth has stagnated.

The following graph shows the evolution of real GDP since the beginning of the GFC (March-quarter 2008) to the September-quarter 2019.

Both Italy and Germany are now stagnating with Greece still in nowhere land.

The interesting point, apart from the sheer idiocy of the German position, is that the way we think about these flows for Germany or any nation that uses a foreign currency is different to the way we would construct the situation for a currency-issuing government such as Australia or the UK.

In both cases, a fiscal surplus means a net withdrawal of spending power by the government which squeezes the non-government sector for liquidity, and, once the transactions are completed causes non-government financial wealth to decline overall.

But in the case of Germany, which uses the euro as a foreign currency, the surplus allows it to put the excess flow into bank accounts somewhere and increase its spending power in periods ahead.

But talking about a currency-issuing government ‘spending’ its surplus is misleading.

A surplus results after the public spending flows into the non-government sector are below the spending withdrawals (drains) via tax flows into government.

The stock adjustments that accompany this result forces a reduction in net financial assets in the non-government sector and a reduction in debt-issuance, if the government is, unnecessarily, matching the deficits with debt sales.

But to say this provides the government with more resources to spend in the future than it did before it ran the surplus makes no sense for such a government.

It can always spend X, if desired, irrespective of whether it has run a deficit or a surplus in the previous period.

The surplus flow is accounted for and disappears from the monetary system.

Film to see if you can – Racism in Australia

I don’t often watch movies on flights, preferring to read and listen to music. But the other day I was able to watch – The Australian Dream – which I had missed when it was in the cinemas because I was away at the time.

It is about racism in Australia and traces the life of one of our greatest Australian football players Adam Goodes who was driven out of the game because fans took exception to him having a voice.

They don’t mind ‘black fellas’ being absolute stars in our local football code but when they get a voice and talk about racism then the pack turns on them.

This is what happened to Adam Goodes.

The film documents how we are unable in this country to come to terms with our history – a brutal invasion by white colonialists intent on destroying the population that had lived here for some 60,000 years.

It was a very disturbing movie.

Adam Goodes and his mother are legends.

A number of people come out well from it (Sam Grant, Michael O’Loughlin, Brett Goodes, Natalie Goodes, Tracey Holmes, Nova Peris, Nicky Winmar, Gilbert McAdam, Linda Burney, Paul Roos, John Longmire, Nathan Buckley), while others (Eddie McGuire and Andrew Bolt and all the social media heroes who hide behind their screens and vilify and pump out toxic stuff about people they do not know or have any understanding off) do not.

See it if you can.

This ABC article (September 3, 2019), written by the script writer for the movie (Stan Grant) tells you some more about it – The Australian Dream tells Adam Goodes’ story but its message is universal.

He talks about introducing the film to an American audience at the Telluride film festival in Colorado last year.

We need to change some things in this country and all nations.

February 2020 – European and UK Speaking and Lecture Tour

Here is my current schedule for February in Europe and the UK.

The ‘tba’ listings mean either I haven’t agreed yet to current proposals to speak or that the day is free of events so far.

If anyone wants to organise and event or set up a meeting, then please contact me and we will see what is possible.

  • Monday, February 03, 2020 – Speaking on ‘What is the meaning of political economy today?’ at Think Corner, Helsinki – 17:00 to 19:00
  • Tuesday, February 04, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 16.15-17.45, Porthania P674 – all lectures are public.
  • Wednesday, February 05, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Language Centre in Fabianinkatu room 207
  • Thursday, February 06, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Main building, Hall 16
  • Friday, February 07, 2020 – Rome, Presentation to Parliament – details to follow.
  • Saturday, February 08, 2020 – Rome, Events with activists – details to follow.
  • Sunday, February 09, 2020 – Travel
  • Monday, February 10, 2020 – Breakfast presentation – ‘The future of monetary policies’ – Nordic West Group, Helsinki.
  • Tuesday, February 11, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 16.15-17.45, Porthania room 723
  • Wednesday, February 12, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Language Centre in Fabianinkatu room 207
  • Thursday, February 13, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Main building, Hall 16
  • Friday, February 14, 2020 – Presentation, Dublin.
  • Saturday, February 15, 2020 – Presentation, Dublin.
  • Sunday, February 16, 2020 – tba
  • Monday, February 17, 2020 – tba
  • Tuesday, February 18, 2020 – Paris, Reception, French Senate, Palace of Luxembourg – 18:00
  • Wednesday, February 19, 2020 – Paris, events and interviews – details to follow
  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 – Paris, Presentation to French Senate Commission, Palace of Luxembourg – 8:30-10:30
  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 – London, GIMMS presentation, MMT education – afternoon – Details.
  • Friday, February 21, 2020 – Manchester, GIMMS presentation, The Harwood Room in the Barnes Wallis Building, University of Manchester, Details.
  • Saturday, February 22, 2020 – MMTed Masterclass Workshop, London, for Details and Tickets. Limited spaces available.
  • Sunday, February 23, 2020 – Amsterdam – Private meetings.

Music for the day

I was listening to this album this morning as I worked. It is from US jazz pianist – Bill Evans – who is best known for paying with Miles Davis but recorded a lot on his own.

This track from 1- Like Someone in Love (written by Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke in 1944) – is from the album – Time Remembered – and was recorded in 1962 but not released until the 1980s, when I acquired it.

I could write a lot about his playing style, but for now, I will leave it to the ears.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 BIll Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Failure of Hague’s and Jolie’s Scheme to Combat Use of Rape in War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 2:43am in

It’s not just the people of Britain that the Tories are failing. Last Friday’s I carried a piece by Hugo Gye, ‘Hague and Jolie’s sexual violence scheme ‘let down survivors’, about the failure of an international initiative by Willliam Hague and Angelina Jolie to raise awareness of and fight the use of rape as a weapon of war. This was well-funded right up to the moment Hague stopped being responsible for it. As soon as that happened, its budget was drastically cut, and the scheme may have ended up doing more harm than good. The article ran

A UK Government effort to curb the use of rape as a weapon of war did not succeed and may even have harmed victims, a report suggests.

The Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) was launched in 2012 by the then foreign secretary, William Hague, and the actress Angelina Jolie in her role as a United Nations special envoy.

Its aim was to “raise awareness of the extent of sexual violence against women, men, girls and boys in situations of armed conflict and rally global actions to end it”. But as soon as the Conservative politician left office a few months later, work on the scheme was drastically scaled back.

A report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact says that withdrawing support for victims of violence may have left them worse off than if it had never been offered. The PSVI’s budget fell from £15m to just £2m with only four full-time civil servants working on it.

The aid watchdog concluded that the project had helped to make Britain a “leading voice in the international effort to address conflict-related sexual violence” but fell short of the ambitions originally set for it.

It said: “The initiative lacks a clear strategy and overall vision to guide its activities, and the lack of a shared understanding of the problem has inhibited cross-departmental collaboration on addressing conflict-related sexual violence.

“There is little monitoring and reporting on how outputs translate into lasting outcomes, making it difficult to access [its] effectiveness.”

Last night, the Foreign Office said that the report failed to “fully recognise the impact of the UK’s leadership on PSVI, which has mobilised the international community and brought real change for survivors.”

I’d like to believe that Hague was sincere about this scheme when he set it up, but it does look very much like a typical Tory plan: inaugurated with great hoo-hah and fanfare, but lacking substance and immediately cut the moment it loses the public’s attention. Like Boris Johnson’s plan to build forty more hospitals, most of whom have no more than seed funding to sort out legal problems.

And I’m not sure how successful a scheme to suppress sexual violence in war is going to be when some of the worst offenders are the Tories’ Fascist friends. Rape was used by Thatcher’s friend, General Pinochet to torture his regime’s political prisoners. The building used for it within the concentration camp in which they were interned was nicknamed ‘the discotheque’ because of the thugs’ use of disco music when they raped their victims.

No matter how well Hague or Jolie meant, that policy was definitely going to be scrapped if it got in the way of good relations with their real Fascist mates.

Right, Guido Fawkes?

Australia’s bushfire dystopia – another entry for the neoliberal report card

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/01/2020 - 9:04am in

I decided that I would run the CFA Franc series in three consecutive parts to maintain continuity and allow me to edit the final manuscript which Pluto Press will use to finalise the book by Fanny Pigeaud and Ndongo Samba Sylla. That meant that my usual Wednesday snippets sort of blog post didn’t happen this week. So, given that I have to travel for several hours today, Thursday becomes Wednesday and I just want to write a few comments about the current crisis in Australia (from the perspective of someone who has done considerable research for the United Firefighters Union here over many years) and also announce the details of the first MMTed Masterclass to be held in central London in February. I will be in Adelaide for the sustainability conference and other commitments over the next few days.

Australia’s crisis

It is hard to feel any further shame about my nationality than I already do given the way that we have allowed successive Australian governments to indefinitely imprison innocent refugees on Pacific Islands over many years now.

These people were seeking shelter from oppression and turmoil, much of it sourced, initially, by the fact that our governments decided to play ball with the disgusting and illegal invasions of various nations (Afghanistan, Iraq, etc) by the Americans.

There is a deep cultural insecurity in Australia where we seem to think that anything American is to be celebrated and prioritised over our own identity and capacities.

That ‘cultural cringe’ cuts across all areas of our lives – political, cultural and educational. We need to grow up.

In the 1960s, our Prime Minister was asked to summarise our foreign policy. He replied “All the way with LBJ”!

In 1999, various media outlets started referring to our Prime Minister (then John Howard) as America’s deputy sheriff in reference to our compliance in joining the US military activity, mostly illegal in the region. Howard never denied or disabused the use of the term.

It was deeply embarrassing for an independent nation but we still went along with the Americans.

Here we were, like a lap dog, joining illegal ventures at the dictates of a crazy character like Bill Clinton and then George W Bush.

We should have lauded our independence and our own confidence to resist the US imperialist culture and the cult of the celebrity.

All very shameful.

But, that level of shame has risen in recent years, as it becomes obvious that our government is leading a climate change denial cabal, which is undermining global efforts to fast track reasonable responses to the crisis.

For some years now, I have been undertaking commissioned research projects for the United Firefighters Union on a range of different issues.

I like to think that as a result of that work I have a fairly good understanding of the sector, its challenges, and the risks that our communities face in this context.

If people in the wider population really understood how vulnerable we have become in terms of protection from fire as a result of government austerity then the sense of alarm would be massive.

We calculate response rate and damage quotients and are able to fairly accurately compute when the damage moves from minor to serious property losses to human losses.

Response rates are driven by the investment in infrastructure and skill development, and numbers of firefighters able to be deployed quickly.

I’ve written before about the myopia of neoliberalism (for example):

1. Mental illness and homelessness – fiscal myopia strikes again (January 5, 2016).

2. British floods demonstrate the myopia of fiscal austerity (January 4, 2016).

3. The myopia of fiscal austerity (June 10, 2015).

4. The myopia of neo-liberalism and the IMF is now evident to all (October 8, 2014).

There are countless examples throughout this neoliberal era where governments, seeking to reduce their net spending, in order to run surpluses without regard to whether that ambition is appropriate given the non-government spending and saving decisions, end up having to increase their net spending by multiples of the amounts initially reduced as a result of the impacts of those initial reductions.

My own research for the UFU over many years has indicated a substantial underfunding of fire services.

The federal government, which issues the currency, always sheets home the blame for any issues like this to the state governments, which according to our Constitution, assume most of the spending responsibilities within our nation.

However, it is obvious that the federal government can always increase grants to the states to fund essential national infrastructure.

So, ultimately, the underfunding of essential services such as fire protection comes down to the failure of our federal government.

Both sides of politics in Australia are obsessed with obtaining a fiscal surplus, even though they have no comprehension of what that goal actually means in terms of its impact on the overall economy.

It is a mindless pursuit of ignorant men and women who are blindly devoted to their own image and maintaining power.

It is now clear, that delegations of experts in the fire sector, including former fire chiefs at the state level, sought extra funding from the federal government in early 2019 on the pretext that Australia was facing a disastrous immediate future as a result of a long-term drought, which had left our forests and grasslands dry and vulnerable.

As I understand it, the Prime Minister refused to meet with them.

It was clear from as early as winter, when the bushfires began, that something unprecedented was ahead. Our bushfire season is typically in February (at the end of summer) not during winter.

The government didn’t respond to those early season bushfires, which then progressively became worse until almost the whole country is ablaze.

Millions of animals have been burned alive. Their habitat destroyed. An unknown but huge number of houses have been destroyed and in some cases towns wiped out.

The whole town has had to seek shelter on the beach and wait to be rescued by Navy vessels as their town burned and ran out of essential items such as food and water.

Here they are waiting:

Millions of hectares of bushland have been destroyed.

It’s estimated that the regrowth might take 100 odd years given how dry our nation has become and how ferocious these fires have been as a result.

The Conservative government keeps saying that Australia always has bushfires. But it’s very hard, for anyone who understands our history, to match the current disaster.

When the bushfires began, the federal government made a huge thing of criticising anyone who dared link the disaster with the climate change debate.

Their agenda has been clearly to deny any climate change and to refuse appropriate policy action.

While I know all the arguments about data trends and the fact that data has only been available for so long, so extrapolating from a limited (hundreds of years) dataset might be fraught, the fact remains that 2019 was a record-breaking year for weather extremes in Australia.

The Bureau of Meteorology reported that (Source):

1. “There has been a clear upward trend in average temperatures over the past century.”

2. “it was the first time an annual anomaly had been two degrees above average.”

3. “It was also Australia’s driest year on record, with only 277.6 millimetres of rain for the country on average, 40 per cent less than the long-term average.”

4. “Dry years are often hot because rain cools things down, but this is the first time a year has been both the hottest and driest on record.”

5. “Major flooding from February to April across western Queensland brought relief to some and devastation to many.”

6. “dust storm after dust storm swept across the country along with a number of storm storms that caused havoc — from wrecking the vineyards of South Australia’s Riverland to pelting down 11-centimetre hail in Queensland’s Wide Bay region.”

7. “The south-east of the country was even sprinkled with snow at one point.”

8. “January was plagued by heatwaves, making it Australia’s hottest month on record.”

9. “Fires burned through Tasmania for weeks, resulting in the state’s worst fire season since 1967.”

10. “There were also major blazes in Victoria and Western Australia early in the year, only for that devastation to be eclipsed by the recent horror fires.”

11. “On December 17 and then 18, Australia surpassed its hottest day on record — the 19th only missed out on the hat-trick by a whisker.”

They link these extreme shifts in our weather to “very-well-defined and clear trends … that we’ve seen over the past seeral decades.

On February 9, 2017, our Prime Minister who was then Treasurer brought a lump of coal into the national parliament as a statement of support for the fossil fuel industry and a indication that he rejected any climate change narratives.

Here he is, in full mindless mode:

And his colleagues on the front bench thought it was hysterical:

The government keeps saying that even if there was climate change occurring, Australia should not act in any significant way because we are too small to influence the overall outcome and therefore would only damage our economy.

The argument, of course, has no moral value.

But, it is also clear that our position, for example, at the recent United Nations climate change conference in Madrid, was a disgrace.

Not only did our government seek to cheat the process through the use of an accounting loophole to meet our climate target, we also combined with the US and Brazil to thwart progress at the meeting.

And then, our forests and towns really started to burn.

So we have a scientifically ignorant government, who refuses to use its fiscal capacity in a responsible way, and the result is massive destruction across our nation.

The government, ultimately for political reasons, will be dragged into the recovery process and will be forced to outlay billions of dollars as a result.

The media is already banging on about how this will jeopardise the fiscal surplus.

The fiscal surplus aim was always irresponsible given we have more than 13.5 per cent of our willing and able labour resources idle.

The media should learn that first and stop holding out the fiscal surplus as being some reasonable policy target that is just been made impossible to achieve because of the massive environmental and civil disaster brought on by the bushfires.

We should understand that the scale of the environmental and civil disaster, is in part, due to the pursuit of the fiscal surplus and the underfunding of environmental programs and fire protection.

In that sense, the federal government has acted in a criminal manner.

There has also been an outpouring of offers of financial assistance from various well-known people, which get headlines in the local media each day.

One almost gets the impression, in a similar vein to what happened after the fire at Notre Dame in Paris, that these ‘celebrities’ into some sort of competition as to who can offer the most.

We are also exhorted daily by the media to donate to various charities to help the recovery process.

The problem is a vexed one.

On the one hand, the financial assistance will probably provide some relief, although the lack of accountability in some cases raises doubts as to the effectiveness of the funds.

On the other hand, it lets the government off the hook.

One of the hallmarks of the neoliberal era has been the rise of charities to fill the spending gaps left by the withdrawal of the state as they pursue fiscal rectitude.

The government offers a smoke screen that isn’t it wonderful that the citizens of all demonstrating their generosity at times of crisis, while at the same time undermining the capacity of the communities to deal with crisis through their pursuit of mindless fiscal austerity.

So the act of private donations really takes the pressure off the government to use its fiscal capacity appropriately, and, often just shuffles funds from those in need to others in need, under the guise of community generosity.

It’s not an easy thing to discuss or to solve.

And in the cities, it has come to this.

Yesterday, the smoke pollution in Newcastle was so bad that I had to put on a P2 Mask (we purchased a whole box) to go for my early morning 10k run around the ocean front.

I have never had to do that.

Life in this environmental dystopia.

MMTed Masterclass – London, February 22, 2019

As part of the MMTed initiative, I am holding an MMT Masterclass in London on Saturday, February 22, 2019.

The class will run from 14:00 to 17:00.

The syllabus will be covering basic MMT concepts and the material will be accessible to all. However, it will be an academic-oriented presentation meaning that I want to advance educational goals as a priority.

The Masterclass will be held at:

2Northdown
2 Northdown Street, King’s Cross
London, N1 9BG

https://www.2northdown.com/about

This is a small venue in the heart of heart of King’s Cross, London.

There is space for 65 people to attend.

The venue has a licensed bar for refreshments. No catering will be provided by MMTed.

Here is a map to guide you to the venue:

There will be a small charge – £5 – for attendance, which will help cover the costs of the venue hire.

Tickets can be purchased via the eventbrite site in the coming week.

Alternatively, if you wish to secure a spot in advance, you can write to me and I will send you details of how to pay and guarantee a seat.

Sustainability Conference, Adelaide, South Australia, January 10-12, 2020

I will be speaking at the Sustainability Conference on Friday and Saturday but have other commitments during those days as well.

On Friday afternoon, I will be engaged in discussion: “Why MMT Is Good for All Workers”, which is a public event hosted by Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union.

I was invited by the AUWU to discuss how Modern Monetary Theory can help the Australian working class movement advance its interests.

The event will take place at the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) offices at 47 King William Rd, Unley, South Australia.

It will be held on Friday, 10 January 2020 from 16:30-18:30.

I urge all those concerned with this topic to attend.

February 2020 – European and UK Speaking and Lecture Tour

Here is my current schedule for February in Europe and the UK.

The ‘tba’ listings mean either I haven’t agreed yet to current proposals to speak or that the day is free of events so far.

If anyone wants to organise and event or set up a meeting, then please contact me and we will see what is possible.

  • Monday, February 03, 2020 – Speaking on ‘What is the meaning of political economy today?’ at Think Corner, Helsinki – 17:00 to 19:00
  • Tuesday, February 04, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 16.15-17.45, Porthania P674 – all lectures are public.
  • Wednesday, February 05, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Language Centre in Fabianinkatu room 207
  • Thursday, February 06, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Main building, Hall 16
  • Friday, February 07, 2020 – tba
  • Saturday, February 08, 2020 – tba
  • Sunday, February 09, 2020 – tba
  • Monday, February 10, 2020 – tba
  • Tuesday, February 11, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 16.15-17.45, Porthania room 723
  • Wednesday, February 12, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Language Centre in Fabianinkatu room 207
  • Thursday, February 13, 2020 – Teaching, University of Helsinki – 10.15-11.45, Main building, Hall 16
  • Friday, February 14, 2020 – Presentation, Dublin.
  • Saturday, February 15, 2020 – Presentation, Dublin.
  • Sunday, February 16, 2020 – tba
  • Monday, February 17, 2020 – tba
  • Tuesday, February 18, 2020 – Paris, Reception, French Senate, Palace of Luxembourg – 18:00
  • Wednesday, February 19, 2020 – Paris, events and interviews – details to follow
  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 – Paris, Presentation to French Senate Commission, Palace of Luxembourg – 8:30-10:30
  • Thursday, February 20, 2020 – London, GIMMS presentation, MMT education – afternoon – details to follow
  • Friday, February 21, 2020 – Manchester, GIMMS presentation, The Harwood Room in the Barnes Wallis Building, University of Manchester, details to follow).
  • Saturday, February 22, 2020 – MMTed Masterclass, London, details above.
  • Sunday, February 23, 2020 – Amsterdam – tba

Call for financial assistance for MMTed

If I am to get the – MMTed Project (aka MMT University) – up and going to provide formal courses to students in all nations to advance their understanding of Modern Monetary Theory then I need financial assistance.

I need significantly more funds to get the operations off the ground.

Please help if you can.

We cannot make the MMTed project viable without funding support.

Please write to me with offers of support and I will send you relevant details.

Music

I have always liked the guitar playing of – Jeff Beck – which is different to saying I like everything he has done. The latter is definitely untrue.

But when he offers lyrical work as in this case, he is pretty much at the top of the pile of players.

This version of his band, was in my view, one of the better lineups.

The concert was recorded at Ronnie Scott’s nightclub in central London in 2007. I saw this version of the band around that time while he was touring Australia at the famous – Palais Theatre – in Melbourne.

Not all the material he played was memorable but no-one gets that sort of found from a stratocaster.

The bass player is Australian Tal Wilkenfeld, drums from Vinnie Colaiuta, and Jason Rebello on keyboards.

Imogen Heap provides her almost ‘breathless’ guest vocals to make a pretty good combo altogether.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 BIll Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Lib Dem Politico Bullied into Coming Out as Gay by Mail on Sunday

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/01/2020 - 6:37am in

This is absolutely disgusting. I really do wonder how the alleged ladies and gentlemen of the scumbag British press sleep at night. Zelo Street this afternoon reported that Layla Moran, the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, came out last week. She revealed that she was pansexual, and was in a loving, supportive relationship with another woman. Moran’s a contender for the Lib Dem leadership, and her announcement that she was gay was on ITV news. Moran says that their relationship started six months ago. So naturally, Zelo Street raises the obvious question: why is she telling us all this now?

It’s because, according to Hacked Off, the group representing the victims of press phone hacking, Moran was put under pressure by hacks from the Mail on Sunday.  The organisation said

 “Ms Moran has described how several reporters have been asking questions, door-knocking neighbours and even offering payment to a former partner seeking information about her personal life over the last few months. Ms Moran writes that the Mail on Sunday threatened to publish details relating to her sexuality last Saturday, and that she herself only decided to reveal her sexuality publicly last week because she feared the newspaper would go on to publish”.

She did so on social media, which really annoyed the MoS, who were reduced to running a piece about Mumsnet showing bitterly critical posts of her by its users. One of these accused her of ‘weaponising’ her relationship with the Lib Dems former head of media, Rosy Cobb.

The Street then quotes Nathan Sparkes of Hacked Off on the squalid cruelty the MoS has shown:

“Newspapers have no business revealing an individual’s sexuality against their will, far less a politician who has devoted much of her career to date to furthering the cause of LGBT+ rights and equality … The decision of the Mail on Sunday … to publish an article attacking Ms Moran based on a handful of abusive tweets on a social media site speaks to the vindictiveness and cruelty of parts of our unregulated press”.

The Street concludes ‘Our free and fearless press’ attitude to sexuality stinks. And that has to change.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/layla-moran-bullied-into-coming-out.html

I think I saw something in the I written by Moran about her experience of ‘coming out’. It had the title ‘In the 21st Century Coming Out Shouldn’t Be An Issue’, or something along those lines. I didn’t read it because quite frankly I wasn’t interested. So many public figures have come out over the past decades – pop stars, sportsmen and women, actors, politicos – that you get used to it, even bored. With many public figures, whether gay or straight, who they’re romantically involved with is the least interesting aspect of their lives. What’s more interesting is their talent, or issues such as whether they have an unusual personal background, skill or medical condition. Such as, for example, whether they can speak an exotic language, have mastered an arcane science or intellectual discipline like quantum physics, or are able to fly an aircraft. Or have overcome personal misfortune or a medical condition like autism or depression. For a politician, what really matters is how hard they work for and represent their constituents, and their policy positions. Like where they stand on Brexit, the destruction of the welfare state, rising inequality, racism, the privatisation of the NHS and so forth. Provided that they’re not breaking the law and their partners are consenting adults, who they share their private lives with is their own business.

I grew up in the 1980s, when the gay rights organisations were aggressively outing politicians, who kept their sexuality hidden. I thought that this was pretty shabby, until a gay friend of mine told me that the politicos they targeted were hypocrites, who publicly opposed homosexuality and its toleration. There was a serious point to their actions. But there doesn’t seem to be anything like that here, just a simple desire to boost sales figures through scandal.

And unfortunately, the press has got plenty of previous in trying to bully people into revealing their sexuality in this way. Way back in the 1990s the ‘Street of Shame’ column in Private Eye carried a story about an attempt by one of the tabloids – something like the Scum or the News of the Screws – to blackmail one of the pop stars of the day into coming out in its pages. Wisely, he decided to thwart them by going to one of the other papers instead to make the revelation.

And stalking celebrities in order to find out if they’re gay or not is pretty squalid anyway. A few years ago there was a programme on how the Mirror got that story about George Michael going into a gay toilet in Beverley Hills or wherever. That was when it was edited by Piers Morgan, now adorning ITV’s breakfast news. The photographer was there for a week staking the place out waiting for a celebrity, any celebrity, to come and use it. The photographs he took from a car parked over the road were worth tens of thousands. Which itself shows the squalid morals of the newspaper business. I’ve no doubt his family and children were well fed, clad and educated by the profits of his job, but it’s not exactly something your children can boast about in school. After hearing from all the other children how their parents are builders, engineers, scientists, business people,  artists or whatever, what child really wants to answer the question ‘What does your mum/dad do?’ with the reply, ‘He/she hangs around gay toilets hoping to catch rock stars getting arrested by the rozzers’?

As for Mumsnet, they’ve been described as ‘4chan with prosecco’. From what I gather of 4chan, it’s an internet platform seething with racism, sexism and vicious trolls, so that’s hardly an endorsement.

The Mail on Sunday’s treatment of Moran, and the British press’ treatment of innocent people just trying to live their lives in peace is deeply shameful, and shows why it really does need to be subject to a press watchdog with teeth.

Private Schools Turn Down Bursaries for White Working Class Boys

This is a very interesting story from last weekend’s I. A retired Maths professor, Sir Bryan Thwaites, offered two private schools bursaries for White working class boys. They both turned it down. Their refusal, and the fact that these bursaries are needed, says much about class and race in the early 21st century. The report contained the observation that ‘inverted snobbery and liberal guilt neglect the white poor’. Which is true, but it’s also true that such bursaries wouldn’t quite be so necessary if it weren’t for Thatcherism. Thatcher promised that her reforms would turn Britain into a meritocracy, where everyone could succeed, regardless of class background, provided they had the talent. This has spectacularly not happened. Class mobility was at a standstill during Blair’s administration. Now it seems to have gone into reverse. And at the bottom are the working class that Thatcher and the Tories despise, and Blair neglected.

Thwaites was a working class lad, who had gone to Dulwich and Winchester Colleges on scholarships. He therefore wanted to award them bursaries amounting to £1.2m to set up scholarships for lads from his background. He said he wanted to address the ‘severe national problem of the underperforming white cohort in schools’. The donations amounted to £400,000 for Dulwich and £800,000 for Winchester. They turned them down because they were afraid that the donations broke equality rules. Winchester said that they ‘did not see how discrimination on the grounds of a boy’s colour could ever be compatible with its values’. Dulwich simply said bursaries were available to everyone who passed their entrance exam, ‘regardless of their background.’

Thwaites, who is himself a former college head, told the Times, ‘If [the colleges] were to say ‘We are helping these deprived cohorts of children,’ that would do a hell of a lot for their reputation and show that the independent sector is taking some notice of what’s going on in the world at large. The implication of their refusal… is that they couldn’t give a damn.’

Poor White Educational Underperformance

The newspaper then printed some stats to show why Thwaites believed such bursaries were necessary. Only 15 per cent of White boys receiving free school meals achieve a grade 5 or higher in English and Maths at GCSE in 2018 compared with 33.6 per cent of Asian boys and 23.4 per cent of Black boys.

It also noted that four years ago universities were told to recruit more working class students – particularly boys – after statistics showed that just 10 per cent of young men from the poorest areas went into higher education.

Thwaites therefore said he was turning his attention to state schools and academies would be only too glad to accept his money. Referring to Stormzy’s decision to set up two scholarships for Black undergrads at Cambridge, he asked ‘If Cambridge University can accept a much larger donation in support of Black students, why cannot I do the same for under-privileged White British?’

Trevor Phillips Attacks ‘Inverted Snobbery’ over White Children

The I commented that ‘it is these barriers – of structural inequality and the intersection of race and class – that society tends to tiptoe around in order to avoid honey-yet-difficult conversations.

However, in last month’s Standpoint, Trevor Phillips, the broadcaster and former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, attacked the ‘inverted snobbery’ which held by poor White boys. He claimed that modern society had made institutions ridiculously squeamish about accepting that their treatment of Whites as a ‘non-race’ was itself racist, and added ‘They have become so confused in these ‘woke’ times that a lethal cocktail of inverted snobbery, racial victimhood, and liberal guilt ends up rewarding schools for favouring the Black and Brown rich while neglecting the White poor.”

Comments from Other Academics

The report then said that campaigners have long tried to level the playing field so that every child, regardless of its race, gender or background, was given the best possible start in life. They then quoted Dr Lee Elliot Major, the professor of social mobility at Exeter Uni. He said

Philanthropists want to help people similar to them and, of course, that is their prerogative,. But often the bigger issue is help people who are not like them.

Success comes in many forms. Social mobility is not just about getting those magical tickets to the top schools, because that’s not for everyone. State schools cater to all sorts of potential – some students will be high-flyers, so will need support in applying for prestigious universities. Others will seek out an apprenticeship or attend a local college.

I think it’s great that [Sir Bryan’s donations} could be used to support many pupils going through different routes – not just academic study.

However, Major also pointed out the differences between Stormzy’s and Thwaites’ donations. Major said that he had many conversations with Black undergraduates at Cambridge, who were the first in their families to go to university, and who felt isolated there. He remarked

There are very specific issues around highly selective, very academic universities, because they are quintessentially middle-class and very White and I think [Stormzy’s scholarship] was a legitimate move to address this.

He said that there were discussions leading universities could have to make their campuses more inclusive, continuing

If you’re looking at achievement in schools, I would argue taht this comes down to culture in the home, to class and [household] income.

It’s often the case that White working-class boys are [products of] those backgrounds-but equally there are children from all sorts of backgrounds who live in poverty and aren’t getting as much support as they deserve. And the reason I’m anxious about it is that social mobility is an issue that should bring us together.

Of course there are lots of white working-class boys living in areas of deprivation – but the very fact they’re deprived is glossed over. We’re wasting talent in this country – talent from all backgrounds. (pp. 33-4).

Finally, there was a report in one of the papers that the donation had been accepted by a charity run by a Black man, which had been successful in combating low educational achievement amongst Black lads. He was looking forward to turning around the lives of White boys as he had done with Black.

Looking through the newspaper reports, it’s clear that some people are very uncomfortable with a grant being set up for poor White boys. It’s understandable. British politics and society is dominated by White men, and so a bursary aimed at raising the achievements of White boys seems reactionary, an attack on the feminist and anti-racism campaigns.

Which is why it needed the support of Trevor Phillips and a Black educationalist. 

Winchester College’s excuse for turning down the bursary because it was ‘incompatible with their values’ seems very fake to me, however. A friend of mine was privately educated. He once told me that these schools don’t exist to teach children so much as to give them the network of personal contacts to open careers and other opportunities. They exist to preserve middle and upper class privilege. Rich Blacks and Asians are welcome, but not the poor generally, although they may well accept working class BAME pupils as a gesture towards meritocracy.

Lee Elliot Major’s comment about Black students finding themselves very isolated at Cambridge university is true, but I also know White academics from a working/ lower-middle class background, who intensely resented what they felt was the entitled, patronising attitude of wealthier students from the Oxbridge set. He is right about funding being made available for academic and training paths that are more suitable to students’ aptitudes. There was also a recent report in the I about the massive drop out rate at university. Some of this is no doubt due to the real financial struggles some students face now that tuition fees have been introduced and raised, and they are expected to become massively indebted to fund their education. But some of it is also due to university education now being promoted as the only academic route. A friend of mine, who worked in university administration told me that this wasn’t working and was leading to people dropping out over ten years or more ago.

And I completely accept his observation about the role class, income and background play in academic aspiration. In my experience, this also naturally includes those from Black and Asian backgrounds.

But Blacks, Asians and girls have had much attention focused on improving their academic performance and improving their opportunities, that have not been directed towards White boys from poor backgrounds. And this needs to be addressed.

Doing so does not undermine, or shouldn’t, the efforts to improve performance and opportunities for women and minorities, however.

But if we are serious about improving poor and working class academic performance, whether White, Black or Asian, it will mean rejecting Blairism and its rejection of the working class in order to concentrate on copying the Tories.

The Beeb’s Biased Reporting of NHS Privatisation

The Corporation’s General Right-wing Bias

The BBC is infamous for its flagrant right-wing bias. Writers and experts like Barry and Savile Kushner in their Who Needs the Cuts, academics at the media research centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities, and ordinary left-wing bloggers like Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out time and again that the corporation massively prefers to have as commenters and guests on its show Conservative MPs and spokespeople for the financial sector on its news and political comment programmes, rather than Labour MPs and activists and trade unionists. The Corporation relentless pushed the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. But it has also promoted the privatisation of the NHS too through its biased reporting.

Biased Towards NHS Privatisation

Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis’ book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, has a chapter by Oliver Huitson, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, discussing the biased reporting of the NHS’s privatisation by the media in general. Here, however, I will just confine myself to describing the Corporation’s role. The Beeb was frequently silent and did not report vital pieces of information about successive privatisations, such as the involvement of private healthcare companies in demanding them and conflicts of interest. On occasion, this bias was actually worse than right-wing rags like the Daily Mail. Although these ardently supported the NHS’ privatisation, they frequently reported these cases while the Beeb did not. When the moves towards privatisation were reported, they were often given a positive spin. For example, the establishment of the Community Care Groups, groups of doctors who are supposed to commission medical services from the private sector as well as from within the NHS, and which are legally allowed to raise money from the private sector, were positively described by the Corporation as ‘giving doctors more control’.

Lack of Coverage of Private Healthcare Companies Role in Privatisation

David Cameron and Andrew Lansley did not include Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill in the Tories’ 2010 manifesto, because they didn’t believe they’d win the election if they did. But in all the two years of debate about the bill, the Beeb only twice reported doubts about the bill’s democratic mandate. (p.152). In October 2010, Mark Britnell was invited to join Cameron’s ‘kitchen cabinet’. Britnell had worked with the Labour government and was a former head of commissioning for the NHS. But he was also former head of health for the accountancy firm, KPMG, which profits greatly from government privatisation and outsourcing. He declared that the NHS would be shown ‘no mercy’ and would become a ‘state insurance provider, not a state deliverer’. But the BBC decided not to report all this until four days after others had broken the story. And when they did, it was only to explain a comment by Nick Clegg about how people are confused when they hear politicians stating how much they love the NHS while at the same time demanding its privatisation. (pp.153-4).

On 21 November 2011 Channel 4 News reported that they had obtained a document which showed clearly that GP commissioning was intended to create a market for private corporations to come in and take over NHS services. But This was only reported by the Groaniad and the Torygraph. The rest of the media, including the Beeb, ignored it. (pp. 156-7).

Lansley was also revealed to have received donations from Andrew Nash, chairman of Care UK, another private healthcare firm hoping to profit from NHS privatisation. But this also was not reported by the Corporation. (pp. 157-8).

In January 2011 the Mirror reported that the Tories had been given over £750,000 from donors with major connections to private healthcare  interests since David Cameron had become their chief in 2005. But this was also not mentioned by the Beeb. (pp. 158).

The Mirror also found that 40 members of the House of Lords had interests in NHS privatisation, while the Social Investigations blog suggested that it might be as high as 142. The BBC, along with several papers, did not mention this. (pp. 158-9).

Sonia Poulton, a writer for the Heil, stated on her blog that 31 Lords and 18 MPs have very lucrative interests in the health industry. But this was also ignored by the Beeb, along with the rest of the media with the exception of the Guardian. (p. 159).

The Tory MP, Nick de Bois, was a fervent support of the Tories’ NHS privatisation. He is a majority shareholder in Rapier Design Group, which purchased Hampton Medical Conferences, a number of whose clients were ‘partners’ in the National Association of Primary Care, another group lobbying the Tories for NHS privatisation. This was also not reported by the Beeb. (pp. 159-60).

The Beeb also chose not to report how Lord Carter of Coles, the chair of the Co-operation and Competition Panel charged with ensuring fair access to the NHS for private healthcare companies, was also receiving £799,000 per year as chairman of McKesson Information Solutions, part of the massive American McKesson healthcare company. (p. 160).

There were other links between politicos, think tanks, lobby groups and private healthcare companies. The health regulator, Monitor, is dominated by staff from McKinsey and KPMG. But this also isn’t mentioned by the press. (pp. 160-1).

Beeb Falsely Presents Pro-Privatisation Think Tanks as ‘Independent‘

The BBC, along with much of the rest of the media, have also been responsible for misrepresenting spokespeople for pro-privatisation lobby groups as disinterested experts, and the organisations for which they speak as just independent think tanks. This was how the Beeb described 2020health.org, whose chief executive, Julia Manning, was twice invited onto the air to discuss the NHS, and an entire article was given over to one of her wretched organisation’s reports. However, SpinWatch reported that its chairman, former Tory minister Tom Sackville, was also CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, representing of 100 private health insurance companies. Its advisory council includes representatives of AstraZeneca, NM Rothschild, the National Pharmaceutical Association, Nuffield private hospital group, and the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services. (p. 162).

Another lobby group whose deputy director, Nick Seddon, and other employees were invited onto the Beeb to discuss the proposals was Reform. Seddon was head of communications at Circle, the first private healthcare company to take over an NHS hospital. Seddon’s replacement at Circle was Christina Lineen, a former aide to Andrew Lansley. None of this was reported by the Beeb. Their corporate partners included companies like Citigroup, KPMG, GlaxoSmithKline and Serco. Huitson states ‘Through Seddon’s and other Reform Staffs’ appearances, the BBC may have facilitated private sector lobbying on a publicly funded platform without making relevant interests known’. (163).

Beeb Did Not Cover Protests and Opposition to Bill

Pages 164-5 also discusses the Beeb’s refusal, with few exceptions, to interview critics of Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill, the rightwing bias of panels discussing it and how the Beeb did not cover protests against it or its discussion in parliament. Huitson writes

At the BBC opportunities were frequently missed to provide expert opposition to the bill on a consistent basis. the RCGP’s Clare Gerada was largely the exception to this rule. Many of the most well-known and authoritative critics of the bill – the likes of professors Allyson Pollock or Colin Leys, doctors Jacky Davis and Wendy Savage from Keep Our NHS Public – never appeared on the BBC to discuss the plans. Davis recalls being invited to appear on the BBC a number of times but the item was cancelled on every occasion. ‘Balance’ is supposedly one of the BBC’s primary objectives yet appearing on the Today programme of 1 February 2012 to discuss the bill, for instance, were Shirley Williams (who voted in favour of the bill, however reluctantly), Nick Seddon of ‘independent’ Reform (pro-Bill), Steve Field (pro-Bill) and Chris Ham (pro-Bill). It’s difficult to see how that is not a breach of BBC guidelines and a disservice to the public. One of the fundamental duties of an open media is to ensure that coverage is not skewed towards those with the deepest pockets. And on that issue the media often performed poorly.

Further criticism of the BBC stems from its curious lack of NHS coverage during the climactic final month before the bill was passed in the House of Lords on 19 March. One such complaint came from blogger and Oxford Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology Dorothy Bishop, who wrote to the BBC to ask why it had failed to cover a number of NHS stories in March, including an anti-bill petition that had been brought to the House by Lord Owen, carrying 486,000 signatures of support. In reply, the BBC confirmed that the bill had been mentioned on the Today programme in March prior to the bill’s passing, though just once. Bishop replied:’So, if I have understood this right, during March, the Today programme covered the story once, in an early two-minute slot, before the bill was passed. Other items that morning included four minutes on a French theme park based on Napoleon, six minutes on international bagpipe day and eight minutes on Jubilee celebrations.’

Other BBC omissions include Andrew Lansley being heckled by angry medical staff at a hospital in Hampstead, as reported by both the Mail and Sky News. On 17 March a peaceful anti-bill march took place in central London. Those out protesting for their national health service found themselves kettled by riot police despite being one of the most harmless-looking crowds you’re ever likely to see. The protest and the shameful police response were completely ignored by the media, except for a brief mention on a Guardian blog. On social media numerous examples have been reported of protests and actions opposing the bill that were entirely absent from national coverage.

Then, on 19 March, the day of the final vote on the bill, the BBC ran not a single article on the event, despite this being one of the most bitterly opposed pieces of legislation in recent history – it was as if the vote was not taking place. The next day, with the bill passed, they ran a full seven articles on the story. Three days after the bill passed, Radio 4 broadcast The Report: ‘Simon Cox asks: why is NHS reform mired in controversy?’ Why this was not broadcast before the Lords’ vote is a mystery. 

When the Bill was passed, the bill scrolling across the BBC News’ screen ran ‘Bill which gives power to GPs passes’. (166). Huitson remarks that when the Beeb and the other news networks reported that the Bill gave power to GPs and allowed a greater role for the private sector, it was little more than regurgitating government press releases. (p. 168).

Beeb Bias Problem Due to Corporation’s Importance and Domination of Broadcast News

Huitson also comments on the specific failure of the Beeb to provide adequate coverage of NHS privatisation in its role as one of the great British public institutions, the dominant role it has in British news reporting. On pages 169-70 he writes

Campaigners may not expect more from the Sun but they certainly do from the BBC, given its status as an impartial public service broadcaster whose news gathering is supported directly by licence fee payers. The BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on television. Further, the BBC accounts for 40 per cent of online news read by the public, three times that of its closes competitor, the Mail. Quite simply, the BBC dominates UK news. The weight given to the BBC here is not purely down to its dominance, however, but also because, along with the NHS, the BBC remains one of our great public institutions, an entity that is supposedly above commercial pressures. Many of the stories ignored by the BBC were covered by the for-profit, right-wing press, as well as the Guardian and Channel 4, so the concern is not that the organisation failed to ‘campaign’ for the NHS, but that it failed to report facts that other outlets found newsworthy.

The BBC’#s archive of TV and radio coverage is neither available for the public to research nor technically practical to research, but there are a number of reasons for confidence that their online content is highly indicative of their broader output. First, BBC online is a fully integrated part of the main newsroom rather than a separate operation. Consequently, TV and radio coverage that can be examined is largely indistinguishable from the related online content, as demonstrated in the examples given above. During the debate of Lansley’s bill, the BBC TV and radio were both subject to multiple complaints, the figures for which the BBC has declined to release.

Beeb’s Reporting of NHS Privatisation as Biased as Coverage of Miners’ Strike

He also compares the Beeb’s coverage of the bill, along with that of the rest of the media, to its similarly biased reporting of the miners’ strike.

The overall media coverage of the health bill brings to mind a quote from BBC radio correspondent Nicholas Jones, on the BBC’s coverage of the miners’ strike: ‘stories that gave prominence to the position of the National Union of Miners could simply be omitted, shortened or submerged into another report.’ (pp. 172-3).

Conclusion

The Beeb does produce some excellent programmes. I really enjoyed last night’s Dr. Who, for example. But the right-wing bias of its news reporting is now so extreme that in many cases it is fair to say that it is now a propaganda outlet for the Tory party and big business. It’s utterly indefensible, and in my view it will only be reformed if and when the newsroom and its managers are sacked in its entirety. In the meantime, Boris and the rest of the Tories are clamouring for its privatisation. Godfrey Bloom, one of the more prominent Kippers, has also put up a post or two in the past couple of days demanding precisely that.

If the Beeb was genuinely impartial, it would have defenders on the Left. But it is rapidly losing them thanks to its bias. And to the Tories, that’s also going to be a plus.

Thanks to the Beeb’s own Tory bias, it’s going to find it very hard to combat their privatisation.

And in the meantime they will have helped destroy the most valued of British institutions, the NHS, and free, universal healthcare to Britain’s citizens.

Pages