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Cori Bush Demands FBI Data on Her Protest Activity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 5:45am in

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At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Thursday, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., asked FBI Director Christopher Wray for information the bureau had collected on her work as an organizer and activist before her time in Congress. In 2014 and 2017, Bush protested in Ferguson, Missouri, and St. Louis — after police killed 18-year-old Michael Brown and after a judge found the officer who killed 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith not guilty, respectively — and the FBI is known to have collected data on several of the demonstrations in which she participated.

On June 4, Bush sent a letter to Wray requesting that the bureau deliver access to all information it had collected on her protest and organizing activities before Wray’s scheduled testimony on Thursday. Her office said the inspector general for the Department of Justice responded Thursday to a different letter she sent in February, asking about the disparate treatment of protesters last summer and the people who participated in the January 6 attacks on the Capitol. According to Bush’s office, the inspector general’s review is pending.

“Public reporting leaves little doubt that the FBI did, in fact, investigate and surveil those who were protesting for racial justice against police brutality,” Bush wrote. “I was one such protester.” She had not received a response by Thursday morning.

“When can I expect to hear back from the bureau regarding that information?” Bush asked Wray at Thursday’s hearing, referring to the data the FBI had compiled on her protest activity. Wray replied that he had only recently learned about the letter, that the bureau receives thousands of requests for files, and that he would have his staff follow up to help her understand how the process works. Bush went on to ask him whether the bureau had deputized federal agents and law enforcement agents in response to civil unrest last summer; if the FBI was authorized to use force in response to the Capitol attacks; and why Wray had stated, earlier in the hearing, that the FBI doesn’t surveil First Amendment protests when there is ample evidence to the contrary. 

Federal authorities have long surveilled and infiltrated activist movements in the United States, with a particular focus on Black social justice and civil rights organizers, including Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, and Black Lives Matter. As The Intercept reported in 2015, the Department of Homeland Security has routinely monitored activists since the 2014 uprising in Ferguson. The FBI’s counterterrorism division identified a fictional “black identity extremism” movement as a threat until as recently as 2017, and it warned that “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans” drove “an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will likely serve as justification for such violence.” 

The practice continued last summer, when the FBI flew an advanced spy plane over Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, D.C. — the same vehicle they used to surveil protests in Baltimore after police killed Freddie Gray in 2015. Meanwhile, the agency says it does not monitor “First Amendment-protected activities” without a tip or open investigation; the bureau cited that as a reason it did not catch social media activity related to planning the January 6 attacks on the Capitol.

“For so long we’ve been criminalized and intimidated,” Bush said. “And I’ve watched this. And I’m one of those people. I have a unique position now to be able to ask those hard and key questions that nobody else can ask the director the same way that I can — coming directly from the movement and still being very much a part of that same movement.” Bush said she was targeted as an activist “quite a bit” and believes that she was under surveillance, adding that “the FBI has this history of surveilling Black activists and protesters and civil rights leaders.”  

 Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, pauses during a House Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on April 15, 2021.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

To further suppress protests for racial justice, federal and local governments have also resorted to stacking criminal charges against activists to increase their penalties and passing new laws to criminalize specific kinds of demonstrations. Earlier this year, dozens of states introduced anti-protest laws designed to crack down on protests against police brutality, and some states rebranded “anti-terror” bills to apply to activities associated with protests for Black lives. In April, Florida adopted some of the most chilling anti-protest legislation in the country: a new law granting civil immunity to a person who drives their car through a crowd of protesters. As The Intercept reported last month, much of the push behind such legislation was driven by law enforcement groups.

“For so long we’ve been criminalized and intimidated. And I’ve watched this. And I’m one of those people.”

Hundreds of people who participated in protests last summer were charged with high-level felonies, including charges of terrorism for several teenagers. In October, federal agents arrested Anthony Smith, an influential activist in West Philadelphia known for helping topple a statue of former mayor and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo, claiming that he had “aided and abetted” in the arson of a police car in May. In July, Smith had been a lead plaintiff in a civil rights suit against the city after police shot rubber-tipped bullets at protesters and tear-gassed hundreds of demonstrators marching through an enclosed tunnel. Smith was released from pretrial detention after local activists organized a petition and sent more than 70 letters of support to the judge in Smith’s case. His trial is pending. 

“I remain concerned that many law enforcement agencies continue to characterize Black protestors as a threat to public safety rather than as citizens who are more than justified in exercising their First Amendment right to organize and voice their grievances,” Bush wrote, pointing to the bureau’s past use of the term “black identity extremism.” She added that she would introduce legislation to “correct the Bureau’s excesses, if necessary.”

Bush said she couldn’t yet discuss specifics of the legislation, but her office is working on a protester’s bill of rights, similar to local proposals in Missouri. “We know that we want to protect our protesters and curb any intimidation tactics,” Bush said, noting that states across the country, including Missouri, introduced or passed anti-protest legislation this year. 

“We’re not protesting because we don’t have anything else to do. We’re protesting because we’re trying to save Black life. So where are those measures?”

“Rather than using last year as an opportunity for the racial reckoning that it should have been, lawmakers we saw all across this country proposed, and then they passed, all of these dozens of punitive measures to prevent protest instead of actually dealing with what was the real issue,” Bush said. “Where is the police accountability? We’re not protesting because we don’t have anything else to do. We’re protesting because we’re trying to save Black life. So where are those measures?” Bush said she and Missouri state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, who also came out of the activist movement in Ferguson, spoke out against similar proposals in Missouri, and the bills died in session.

Following the January attacks on the Capitol, Bush introduced a resolution calling on the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether members of Congress violated their oath of office in seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. “It’s not going away, but we’re not at the point where we’re able to move that the way I would like to see it move,” Bush said. Given that the Senate couldn’t pass a bipartisan commission to investigate the attacks, she said, the resolution is more important than ever, but its chances of moving are bleak. “We won’t let it go. But we saw how hard it is to even get the commission passed.”

When people call the movement fighting for Black lives a “terrorist organization,” Bush said, “it couldn’t be further from the truth. When the truth is that white supremacist groups have been behind over 60 percent of the attacks last year. The real threat that we need to take seriously, they don’t want to touch.” On top of that, she said, “We have to be very clear that the bureau has a white supremacy problem in their ranks.” The FBI has long been aware of the issue of white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement, The Intercept has reported

At the hearing on Thursday, House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., asked Wray if the bureau was conducting an internal review “to root out white supremacy and other extremist ideology” or if it would commit to doing so. Wray said the bureau takes the “insider threat” very seriously and would provide Nadler with more information on existing procedures and related internal review processes.

Bush told The Intercept that she didn’t know before coming to Congress that she could request this kind of information, and many activists still don’t realize that they can do so. She added that she wants people to know that they can call her office if they need help with a public records request.

“You gotta push back against what seems like this system of intimidation and suppression,” Bush said. “The more we do this, they will have to do something.”

The post Cori Bush Demands FBI Data on Her Protest Activity appeared first on The Intercept.

Tunnels of thought..

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 5:41am in

This week is, I understand, Carers’ Week and it is good that Ed Davey has been trying to get government to give carers some resources for time off: Liberal Democrat leader Davey added: “Unpaid carers have taken on dramatically increased caring responsibilities during Covid. “Most haven’t been able to take a single break since the... Read more

States Are Making Tenants Jump Through Hoops to Get Federal Rental Assistance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 2:06am in

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Allilsa Fernandez was about to start a full-time job as a home health aide when New York City went into lockdown in March 2020. She had to give it up due to health issues like asthma. Fernandez still had a part-time aide job she could do remotely, but finances became dire quickly. “Sometimes the money wasn’t even enough to eat, so I would go to sleep hungry,” she said.

Her roommate also lost her work as a babysitter when families told her to stop coming. The two of them struggled to make rent on their apartment in Briarwood, Queens. But their landlord refused to let them use their security deposit to cover rent as allowed in New York and would only accept full payments.

At this point, she owes about $24,000 in back rent.

In two separate pandemic relief packages approved in December and March, Congress sent a total of $46.5 billion in rental assistance to states, theoretically meant to help people like Fernandez. Nearly 400 programs have been created around the country to get this money to renters. While national data on how much money the programs have dispersed is difficult to track, Fernandez is one of countless Americans who still haven’t received a cent, even as they stare down the end of eviction moratoriums that have helped keep them in their homes. The federal moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ends June 30, and just three states and Washington, D.C., will have full protections that last beyond that.

At first, the biggest problem was that many rental assistance programs hadn’t gotten off the ground; New York’s online application, for example, didn’t open until June 1. But as applications become available, tenants are facing an even bigger hurdle, according to data being collected by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, an affordable housing advocacy organization: Many cities and states are making it difficult for tenants to make it through the application process and start receiving funds, risking a failure to get money into the hands of people who desperately need it.

As of June 10, the NLIHC has found that less than half of the 396 programs created by states and localities so far — 183 — allow tenants to self-attest that they qualify, essentially swearing under oath that they meet the requirements. Instead, most states require reams of paperwork. That’s despite the fact that in early May, the Biden administration released guidance telling programs to allow them to rely on proxies and discouraging “burdensome documentation.”

Requiring tenants to provide proof that they qualify — that they have experienced coronavirus-related hardship, that their income is low enough, and that they are at risk of housing instability — is slowing everything down, said Rebecca Yae, senior research analyst at the NLIHC. It will take program administrators, who were already overstretched to get things up and running, a long time to wade through so much paperwork.

Tenants who don’t have access to those documents may be unable to apply altogether. “There are a number of documents that are extremely difficult to produce,” Yae said. Lake County, Florida, for example, requires all adults in a household to provide an official piece of mail, a tax return, and a government-issued ID. Fulton County, Georgia, asks for documentation to prove risk of homelessness as well as records of all assistance received during the pandemic.

Some of the eligibility categories are confusing. After a year of living in a pandemic, what does it mean to experience hardship related to it, and how do you go about proving it? “If a tenant can’t see at a glance that there are alternative forms of documentation that are allowed or alternative ways to show income,” Yae said, then they may be discouraged from even trying to apply say. Others will get partway through and give up.

While New York’s program allows tenants to self-attest that they qualify for help, it still asks for “a ton of paperwork,” said Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator of Housing Justice for All. The state’s documentation list requires identity verification for each household member as well as proof of residency, income, and the monthly rent amount. “The application is onerous and it turns people off,” she said.

Fernandez logged onto the state’s website at 9 a.m. the day it opened to submit her application. But it was “a mess,” she said. She found herself scrambling to track down documents — such as a copy of her ID, her lease, and this year’s taxes — as she went through the process. The application also asked for information from her landlord she doubted she could get, such as a letter and his bank account information.

The other big problem, according to the NLIHC’s data, is that many tenants might not get the money at all if their landlords refuse to participate. Just 103 programs have stipulated that, in that case, funds will go directly to tenants; instead, many will have to wait or simply give up if their landlords remain opposed. There is no requirement that landlords partake in the programs. The Biden administration has pushed programs to bypass reluctant landlords, but not all are following along. “Some programs have really said, ‘No, we just won’t provide that assistance,’” Yae said.

A lack of landlord participation has been an obstacle in previous state-level programs. A survey in Los Angeles found that less than half of small and midsized landlords participated in the city’s previous rental assistance program; over a quarter of large ones in Philadelphia refused. “I can’t imagine that it’s just magically not a problem now,” Yae said.

Under New York’s program, landlords have six months to decide whether to take the money from the federal government. If the landlords refuse to participate, the state will hold the funds in an account that the tenant can use as a defense in housing court. As Fernandez waits for her application to be adjudicated and her landlord to respond, she notes that she’s more or less stuck in her apartment. “I’m dying to be able to just move out and rent a place that I’m actually able to afford,” she said. But if they leave, they forfeit their rights to any money. “I feel like I am stuck in a wheel and I can’t get off.”

The Biden administration has required programs to prohibit landlords from evicting tenants over the rent that was owed and encouraged the programs to do so for some time into the future. While this measure is meant to protect tenants, it has made some landlords hesitant to participate, said Weaver. The advocate noted that one tenant in New York, a state which has banned landlords from evicting tenants for a year after receiving the money, reported that her landlord refused to fill out the paperwork because he wants to be able to remove her and raise the rent.

Even if people are able to make it through the application process, there is likely just not enough funding to wipe out the back rent owed. The money has been sent to states based on their total population, not on how many people rent, how high rents are, or how many people are behind. States like California, New York, and Florida, which have a lot of renters, high rents, and big service-sector job losses, will struggle to cover the need.

It’s hard to say just how much is needed. But the amounts are large and growing. Renters taken to court in December owed double or triple compared to those the year before. Among about 13,000 families living in New York City affordable housing, back rent jumped 66 percent, while those owing more than $10,000 increased 140 percent.

“The hardest-hit families,” said Emily Benfer, visiting law professor at Wake Forest University and chair of the American Bar Association’s Covid-19 Task Force Committee on Eviction, “will have amounts of debt that they may not be able to repay in their lifetimes.”

The post States Are Making Tenants Jump Through Hoops to Get Federal Rental Assistance appeared first on The Intercept.

Poverty Is A Weapon Of The Powerful: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/06/2021 - 11:12pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/fcb2cc95df1be514fab68aa0a6fbe061/href

Learn enough about what’s happening in the world and you realize that most people in your society have worldviews that are completely and utterly wrong. This can seem bold, perhaps even arrogant, but if most people weren’t deluded about the world, the world wouldn’t be so fucked.

And it’s not that people are dumb; intelligence has little to do with it. Some of the most intelligent people on earth promote the same deluded worldviews as everyone else. The problem isn’t intellect, it’s manipulation, and anyone can be manipulated no matter how smart they are. This mass-scale manipulation is the result of wealthy people buying up narrative influence in the form of media, political influence, think tanks, lobbying, NGOs, etc, in conjunction with the mass-scale manipulations of the powerful government agencies which are allied with them.

The powerful work to manipulate the way the general public thinks, acts and votes to ensure that they remain in power. They pay special attention to who the most influential people in our society are, which is why the most prominent voices are so often the most delusional. There are filters in place designed to keep anyone from rising to positions of influence if they don’t support the consensus worldview promoted by the oligarchic empire, and once they do rise to influence they are actively herded into echo chambers which reinforce that worldview.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that the most influential voices in a virulently capitalist society will be those who have profited and benefited from the status quo. Of course they’re going to believe the system is working fine; it treats them like royalty.

This is why you can’t defer to recognized authorities when it comes to understanding your world; the system which selects and installs those authorities is designed to serve the powerful, not to tell the truth. The responsibility for understanding your world is yours, and yours alone.

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Poverty itself is a weapon of the powerful. Keep people too poor to fund political campaigns and you keep them powerless. Keep them too busy to research and they can’t see through your propaganda. Keep them desperate and you can get them hating each other instead of hating you. They’re not just robbing ordinary people so they can have more for themselves; the poverty itself actually benefits them. They would benefit from keeping you poor even if it gave them nothing else.

It is not a coincidence that the most crucial nation in the oligarchic empire, the US, has the highest level of this kind of weaponized poverty. There’s a lot of power riding on what happens in America, so the powerful do everything they can to keep Americans under control.

People who act like China lifting millions out of poverty is no big deal have never lived in poverty.

If you don’t oppose western imperialist agendas against China then none of your other anti-imperialism matters. All of the western empire’s aggressions on the world stage are ultimately about smashing China; that’s checkmate on the global chessboard in the eyes of the empire. Preventing the rise of any other nation has been the foremost priority of the US empire since the fall of the Soviet Union. All the other little chess moves on the board have revolved around this ultimate goal. China is the only nation in a position to surpass the US.

The western empire has been acutely aware that China would need to be smashed since before the empire had its headquarters in Washington. As Winston Churchill once put it:

“I think we shall have to take the Chinese in hand and regulate them. I believe that as civilized nations become more powerful they will get more ruthless, and the time will come when the world will impatiently bear the existence of great barbaric nations who may at any time arm themselves and menace civilized nations. I believe in the ultimate partition of China — I mean ultimate. I hope we shall not have to do it in our day. The Aryan stock is bound to triumph.”

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Uh-oh, looks like Peru is going to need some help with its Freedom and Democracy. Anyone know any powerful governments who might be interested in helping Peru get some Freedom and Democracy?

Still mad at Assad for arming Al Qaeda and ISIS against himself and then imposing starvation sanctions on Syrians to keep himself from rebuilding the country.

I’m writing a horror movie about a group of psychopathic murderers inserting themselves into the world’s most powerful positions and terrorizing entire populations using the most deadly military force ever assembled.

It’s weird how few of the people opposing specific aspects of the imperial war machine do so on the foundational principle that murdering people is wrong and trying to dominate the entire planet is bad.

Electoral politics is decoy revolution. Don’t like the status quo? Elect Obama for Hope and Change! Still dislike the status quo? Elect Trump, he’ll fight the establishment! Oh no, Trump’s a fascist! Quick, fight fascism by electing Biden! And you elect the status quo each time.

Trump may have permanently broken liberals’ ability to think about politics in a way that doesn’t revolve around Trump.

Only infantile bootlickers want government-tied monopolistic internet platforms controlling what people can and cannot say about government Covid responses that affect everyone.

Oligarchs using disasters to rob the people and siphon their wealth to themselves is a feature, not a bug, of capitalism. Covid isn’t an aberration but a continuation of a well-established pattern, one which will necessarily last as long as the exploitation of the working class.

“The Covid scam is the most evil thing happening in the world!”

No, you only think that because most of the time this well-established pattern doesn’t affect you personally in a concrete and observable way. This has been happening for a very long time, and it’s going to keep happening until the end of capitalism.

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It’s funny how people think AI is going to save humanity when the people who control the AI are the worst humans alive.

FYI what divides the left is not leftists saying things that other leftists disagree with, it’s leftists being incapable of tolerating other leftists saying things they disagree with.

Once you’re clear that human behavior is driving us into extinction via nuclear war or climate collapse, once you’ve really grokked into the reality of what this means, it’s hard to take the sectarian ideological stuff seriously. We’re fucking dying, people. Quit dicking around.

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Book Review: What Do We Know and What Should We Do About Social Mobility? by Lee Elliott Major and Stephen Machin

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/06/2021 - 9:20pm in

In What Do We Know and What Should We Do About Social Mobility? Lee Elliott Major and Stephen Machin give an account of the long experience of social mobility in the UK, its barriers and a possible way out. Offering a strong base for those who are new to the subject and fresh viewpoints to those more well-versed in the topic, this is a timely read for all, especially those in the social sciences and policymakers, writes Kishor K. Podh

What Do We Know and What Should We Do About Social Mobility? Lee Elliott Major and Stephen Machin. SAGE. 2020.

Find this book (affiliate link): amazon-logo

Access to success and social mobility in contemporary Britain is disproportionately advantageous to upper-class, privately educated, (mostly) urban elites who pursue higher education at select universities. UK society is increasingly facing downward mobility and rising wealth inequality. It has one of the lowest international standings on social mobility, ranked eighteenth out of 23 developed countries in the 2018 estimate of the OECD. The income gap between the richest and the poorest is further widening and deepening divides. Although sharing a similar social, cultural and historical background, Canada and Australia supersede the UK’s income mobility. Comparative accounts show that British society is rigid and has less social fluidity than the US, where family backgrounds continue to play a significant role in determining future prospects. Children born into the highest-earning families are most likely to find themselves among the highest earners, and their lowest-earning counterparts are more likely to mirror their forebearers by remaining in the same low-earning class.

What Do We Know and What Should We Do About Social Mobility? gives a profound account of this long experience of social mobility in the UK, its barriers and a possible way out. Authors Lee Elliott Major and Stephen Machin meticulously define the 70-year journey of the UK’s social mobility from the 1950s into the present, using a diagram divided into four ages (14).

Image Credit: Figure 2.1 from Major, L.E. and Machin, S. What Do We Know and What Should We Do About…? Social Mobility. SAGE Publications, 2020, page 14. The figure is kindly provided by SAGE and should not be reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder.

First, we witness the golden age of absolute mobility (1950-70), fuelled by a boom in professional jobs in the post-war economy. There was a widespread belief that a growing economy would improve the lives of everyone — a rising tide would lift all boats.

Second, the decade of economic decline (1970-80), triggered by a global recession, coupled with rising inflation (up to 25 per cent) and unemployment. Public expenditure on education significantly reduced, and the standard of education increasingly fell. While the participation of young people in university declined significantly during this period, private schools saw a marked improvement in academic performance.

Third, the era of rising inequality (1980-2008), characterised by increasing joblessness and a widening gap between the richest and poorest in UK society as those on the upper rungs of the social ladder became increasingly detached from the majority below. Those with less education increasingly lost out (18) as technological changes and the weakening of collective bargaining yielded labour market gains to more educated workers.

Finally, the era of falling absolute mobility (2008-20): coupled with the global financial crisis and austerity, this period experienced further shrinkage of opportunities and increased the divides in society. Again, along with previous downturns, in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world, triggering a global recession, with the most vulnerable workers — those on short-term contracts with low pay and minimal benefits — standing to suffer the most.

Improving social mobility is much more than capturing a few deserving individuals into the elites — it is about creating decent lives for all and ensuring that everyone can realise their potential whatever they choose to pursue (94). Globalisation and rapid technological changes have created bigger gaps between society’s logical winners and losers. Widening inequalities in the workplace and the classroom are a toxic mix because they create even deeper societal divides for future generations (93). Therefore, social mobility is necessary to ensure equal opportunities, provide decent jobs and dignified life chances for all and to empower local communities.

The absence of adequate social mobility is not good for any society: it results in missing a sizeable talent pool in the country’s leadership who could potentially contribute to society and the economy. Therefore, the movement of those from diverse backgrounds into the higher echelons would give the benefit of better leadership and decision-making abilities. Cognitive diversities, such as those relating to gender, ethnicity or economic and social class, could also potentially improve decision-making (3).

Photo by Max Ostrozhinskiy on Unsplash

Despite the vast knowledge base on social mobility in the UK, it has made meagre progress in stopping the situation whereby a person’s family background is predictive of their outcomes. The experience of the last 70 years (if not longer) of social mobility in the UK teaches us that the journey of access to education and success is not the same for all: for example, access to and participation in higher education is disproportionately disadvantageous to the poor, marginalised, BAME and geographically remote regions within the UK. Major and Machin highlight the importance of research and the accumulation of data to understand the status of social mobility and the role of government in funding such research. They rightly point out that ‘data are the lifeblood of social science’ (6) and highlight the importance of data-driven evidence-based policy frameworks. Further, they express concern about the government’s funding cuts to social science research, which led to an absence of quality data for British cohort studies during the 1980s and 1990s.

Major and Machin assess possible general principles that can lead to greater equality of opportunity and make society more open through credible policy. But they also observe the predominance of piecemeal policy approaches when it comes to dealing with social mobility in the UK. Therefore, they press the need for a long-term holistic approach through the involvement of all stakeholders to ensure social mobility.

They highlight spatial differentiation and the ‘geography of social mobility’: for example, ‘London’s doughnut problem’, whereby the most high-value jobs and opportunities are in the capital’s core districts. At the same time, its outer boroughs face higher levels of poverty, unemployment and crime. In addition, upward occupational mobility in England and Wales is considerably high in London and the South-East than the rest of the country (44).

Another reason for social immobility in Britain is the concentration of opportunities among a small number of households, who are traditionally elite, wealthy families, privately educated, capable and powerful enough to maintain their presence at select universities like Oxford and Cambridge. These people subsequently end up having greater life chances with high-paid respectable positions: ‘children born into the highest-earning families are most likely themselves in later life to be among the highest earners’ (51).

It is therefore crucial to establish a mechanism where access to education would be fair and equitable. The decentralisation and democratisation of education through community participation must be the priority. There is a need to reframe the goal of education from being a quest to identifying the best academic minds (important as this is) towards being the enabler of all talents. It is time to consider a genuine dual vocational and academic approach in upper secondary education, which will improve future prospects. Major and Machin also highlight the need for paid apprenticeships which help students from the lowest social and economic echelons to earn while learning: one of many recommendations that the authors give for improving equality and social mobility for all.

Although it addresses social mobility in the UK, this study primarily focuses on London; while it analyses the capital in great detail, it does not deal with the rest of the country with that same rigour. The situation in the UK’s remote hinterlands may present different sets of challenges and require different solutions than big cities like London.  However, aside from this limitation, this book accomplishes a lot in a short space. It offers a strong base for those who are new to the subject and provides plenty of fresh viewpoints for those who are well-versed in the topic. With the educational system’s priorities constantly framed around social mobility, and the younger generation’s potential opportunities looking bleaker than they have in decades, it is unquestionably a timely read for all, especially those in the social sciences and policymakers.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

 


Keystone XL Developer Abandons Pipeline Project

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/06/2021 - 8:50pm in

In an apparent victory for environmentalists, the developer of the Keystone XL pipeline has pulled the plug on the project.

No wonder we have a democratic crisis when journalists seem more interested in defending the wrong doer than they are in questioning what should happen to them

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/06/2021 - 5:15pm in

As many will know, The Good Law Project won one of its many judicial review hearings against the government yesterday, showing in the process that Michael Gove acted illegally in placing a contract with a company called Public First.

As they say:

Michael Gove broke the law by giving a contract to a communications agency run by long time associates of him and Dominic Cummings, the High Court has decided.

The Court found that the decision to award the £560,000 contract to Public First was tainted by “apparent bias” and was unlawful. The Court found that Gove’s:

“failure to consider any other research agency… would lead a fair minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility, or a real danger, that the decision maker was biased” (paragraph 168).

I was asked to comment on this case on LBC Radio last night and having read the decision, and knowing something about procurement, felt able to do so.

What surprised me was the opening stance, which was to be I presented with the claim that Dominic Cummings said there was nothing wrong here so what was all the fuss about? Jo Maugham of the Good Law Project faced the same line of questioning on Radio 4.

What is odd about this is that a court has decided Cummings and Gove were wrong here. Public law was broken. Surely the line of questioning should have been in that case that given that the Court had decided the facts what should happen now? Fur example, should Gove be allowed to continue in office? But instead the desire was to rerun the trial.

Why is it that journalists are so reluctant to hold ministers to account? And why is it that those who want to hold ministers accountable - which is part of their job spec - have to justify doing so?

No wonder we have a democratic crisis when journalists seem more interested in defending the wrong doer than they are in questioning what should happen to them.

Addition at 3.15pm 10 June 2021.

Iain Dale, who in terviewed me on LBC has made it clear he does not agree with the above comment, saying on Twitter:

Iain obviously has his view. I disagree.I was surprised at the opening of this interview and that Cummings was even mentioned. I guessed we would open with ‘What happens to Gove now?’ and we never got there,  so I do have a somewhat different view of this from Iain. I was not looking for justice for Cummings. I wanted to discuss that a judge had decided the case and what the consequences were. In that context I think my comment quite fair. But I think it reasonable to note that Iain disagrees.

Why discuss Covid?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/06/2021 - 4:46pm in

It seems rather odd to write a blog post justifying why I think it appropriate to discuss the Covid crisis. It seems to me to be obvious why I should. But given the hostility that I have had directed at me for doing so I will, nonetheless.

First, I do not claim to be a Covid expert. I never have, and I never will. But I can read a mass of data and interpret it. Rather unsurprisingly that is what accountants and economists do. I have roles as both. Of course I am willing in that case to look at and use data in my decision making. It would be irrational not to, wouldn't it?

Second, I am well aware that the past is not a good indicator of the future. This is exactly what we learn from data. It is why so much time is spent looking at relationships within data within almost any discipline that uses it. Most especially, what anyone doing so is looking for are the most reliable patterns that indicate what may happen. As an accountant snd economists that is always what I have been interested in. As far as I am concerned all data is useful only so far as it assists my decision making. Of course I make decisions about the past: that is why history is not fixed and is always (quite appropriately) open to reinterpretation. But working out what might happen is usually, for me at least, much more interesting.

Third, there are statistical tools - fairly widely known and not that hard to understand - that help us do this. Some are simple. Looking for repeated trends is one such technique and there is nothing wrong with it. Andrew, who is a regular on this blog, does this to great effect without offering a statistical interpretation of the trends: his skill is in having access to data that he uses to show that current events appear to replicate those that have happened before and to then ask whether it is reasonable to presume that what happened next on the previous occasions that this pattern was seen might happen next now. It's a wholly valid method. As heuristics go, we use this technique in our lives all the time, usually without having any awareness that we are doing so. And then there are the more sophisticated tools used by the mathematical epidemiologists and others whose work I read, and rely on. I do not replicate their work. In some (maybe many) cases I doubt I could do so without some considerable effort.  I take it on trust. But in part I use another heuristic when doing so: experience has shown that their judgements based on previous episodes when they have prepared forecasts have been right.

So, fourth, in that case I mix two things when commenting. One is to use heuristic techniques and the other is dependent on data others have developed. And before anyone yells and screams and shouts that to interpret other people's data is not a valid method, it is what every single person who has ever worked with data does: we almost all start with other people's data somewhere in the processes that we use. To claim otherwise is nonsense.

Fifth, and finally, why do this? That's the real question. And there are a number of answers.

In the first instance there is an economic concern. I explained recently that what economists invariably assume when undertaking their work is that the world always returns to what it calls 'equilibrium'. You might as easily refer to that as 'normal'. The assumption is that everything deviates from a mean, to which it returns. Sometimes that is true. What I am interested in are two things. Is it true on this occasion? In other words, are we seeing a systemic change that alters where 'normal' might be located? And if not, when will normal be re-established? I think those are better questions than assuming that normal will return after an event as significant, and unprecedented as this when closing much of the world economy voluntarily took place in a way simply not seen before. Why wouldn't that shift the location of what is 'normal'? I think it has.

More than that though, I think that this might be a part of a series of disruptive events. Even if we do get vaccines around the world in the next couple of years, and assuming that we can control the further variants that might arise in that period with vaccines having an increasing impact in controlling the threat from new outbreaks, what I think we are seeing here is a first major, externally imposed, disruptive event when more are to come. Climate change is the obvious cause for many of those. We will see more extreme weather. There are whole geographic regions that are going to become uninhabitable. There will be attempts at mass migration as a result. The challenge to command resources - so very obviously being seen at this moment when it comes to vaccines - will be replicated in demands to control other, maybe more basic resources, such as water. And because it seems that we are approaching climate tipping points now without adequate steps having been taken to mitigate the consequences there is a real risk of these things happening. So what happens now on Covid seems to simply be a way of learning what might be to come, and how we will have to cope with the greater disruption that might happen when such events really hit us (and some already are).

Then there is another more current reason. I think this government has got its Covid responses wrong, time after time. People have died and suffered greatly as a result. That is beyond question. I fear that many more will die soon. Right now that looks to be likely this summer. And I find that unacceptable. When it is apparent that the risk of death and serious long term infection could be reduced by appropriate and timely government action I want to demand that such action occur. When doing so I use a precautionary principle. If there is a risk of peril I suggest that we avert it. It would seem that many do not agree with that. From comments here and elsewhere it is apparent that people think the government should be in reactive and not anticipatory mode. I disagree: that is not what my theory of government is about. People can disagree, but I get very annoyed when my motive is to save people from risk and I am told that is inappropriate, not least when I can see all too well that a great many of those who claim that they are more than capable of looking after themselves will in fact be turning to the government to demand support if and when things go wrong, as has clearly happened to date.

Why else discuss Covid? Because it is a political-economic issue. Political economy is all about how power relationships reallocate resources in society. And Covid has certainly done that. It has made the wealthy much richer because of the impact of government deficit spending. It has provided some with the opportunity to be brazenly corrupt. And it has changed our politics, which are now more centralised within the role of the prime minister than ever before. That is dangerous for parliamentary democracy. It is dangerous for the cohesiveness of society as a whole. And if Covid is to continue for some time (as I think it will) imaging what the consequences of this might be seems to be an entirely reasonable thing to do.

And I guess there is the counter-factual to consider, which is why would I ignore Covid when it is the dominant issue in our society right now? Should I really not wonder what is going to happen, and speculate on the consequences of that? Why not?

Finally, there is the fact that whilst so far I have not always been right, of course, because no one is, much of what I have predicted has turned out to be appropriate. I have predicted many of the economic consequences we are now seeing, and for which the government has clearly not planned despite calls to do so. I have also correctly anticipated upturns and lockdowns, not that this has been especially hard, just as it is not now.

So, I take abuse for having read and used data in various ways. Why the antagonism? It's not because of the techniques, I suggest. I recognise that I have used many techniques, of which judgement is by far the most important. After all, that is what all forecasts are, and no stats or methods can ever replace it. So maybe there are three reasons for the dislike of what I have to say. First, there is a dislike of the message: people want 'normal' back snd saying it may not ever return (and as it was, I think that likely) is not popular. Then there is politics: some will always oppose what I have to say, thinking it leftwing. And if caring about consequences for broad populations of people is left-wing then that is exactly what I am doing. Those in this camp seem to be deeply antagonistic to such thinking. And third? There is a straightforward nastiness out in the world now. It happens on this issue, anything to do with racism, and anything to do with aid. The list can go on to many other issues. There is a deep reactionary spirit about that I find deeply troubling. That it seems so well organised is also concerning. And the opinions I offer clearly offend those who are of this mindset, and so abuse follows. It is an attempt at intimidation. And I will resist it.

In summary, I write about Covid because I think it is changing the way we live in bigger ways than are usually being discussed. I think that discussion is important. And that is why I will persist with it.  I may not be a Covid expert, but I am very much allowed to consider the impact of Covid on society, our economies and the way we organise them, and that requires me to look at likely trends in the impact of Covid. I will keep on doing so. The trolls had better get used to being deleted in that case. I will not be intimidated.

The G7 deal: a Podcast with Common Weal

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/06/2021 - 3:38pm in

I was interviewed by Craig Dalzell for the Common Weal podcast yesterday. This is what we produced. I should add for those who think this is a Scottish podcast, it is, but this one is about the G7 tax deal and has almost no Scottish content. We do instead roam over the whole history of this issue and how we reached the point we're at today, and what that means:

Episode 87 of the Common Weal Policy Podcast

 

 

You can download the episode directly here.

This week, Craig Dalzell is joined by Prof Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK to discuss the G7's proposal for a global minimum corporation tax. Richard explains how the tax works and how it could be calculated then looks at the weaknesses and loopholes in the tax as well as news that the UK, having just agreed to the principle, is trying to carve out an exemption for the City of London.

Richard's policy paper on tax in an independent Scotland can be read here and his 2021 update to the paper for the Scottish Independence Convention can be read here.

The news story about the City of London exemption can be read here.

Book Review: “Mine! How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/06/2021 - 8:25am in

Maxims for ownership, because markets.

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