Wednesday 30 November 2016

Tory economic platitudes

David Cameron kept saying that austerity meant "paying down the debt", but in six years his government borrowed way more than every single Labour government in history combined and ended up nearly doubling the national debt.

George Osborne's favourite economic platitude was "all in this together". During his time as chancellor the super-rich minority doubled their wealth while ordinary workers suffered the longest sustained decline in real wages since records began (the only country in the developed world to suffer a comparably bad wage collapse is crisis ridden Greece).

Cameron and Osborne are gone, but Theresa May is keeping up the Tory policy of addressing the public in mind-numbingly stupid platitudes.

On the economy she says she believes in "living within our means" but her Chancellor Philip Hammond has admitted that the Tories will still be borrowing £billions in 2021, 11 years after George Osborne promised to eliminate the deficit within 5 years!

On Brexit Theresa May is even worse. People keep pressing her on what on earth the Tory economic strategy for Brexit is going to be, but she keeps falling back on the repetition of the tired tautological platitude "Brexit means Brexit".

The Tory figureheads at the top of the UK government have changed, but they're still talking in exactly the same kind of over-simplistic and staggeringly dishonest platitudes as their predecessors. The worst thing about this is that despite (or perhaps because of) all the idiot-fodder platitudes, the Tories are currently more popular than at any point since the Lib-Dems enabled them into power in 2010!

There are clearly millions of people out there who prefer to think in ridiculously over-simplified economic platitudes rather than doing just a little bit of thinking about the economic realities we're facing.

Unfortunately the Tories look guaranteed to hold onto power until the British people learn to stop believing in Tory economic fairy stories and actually start thinking about the economic issues for themselves.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


The Tories are defending their sanctions regime with outright lies

The draconian Tory sanctions regime has come under fire in a November 2016 report by the National Audit Office (NAO). This is far from the first report to slam the sanctions regime as chaotic, ineffective, discriminatory and a major cause of destitution and homelessness (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Crisis, Citizens Advice Scotland, Church Action on Poverty) but this NAO report is particularly damning because it comes from the government's own spending watchdog.

Selected findings

The findings of the NAO report reiterate the damning findings of previous reports into the draconian Tory sanctions regime. Here are a few extracts:

"The fact that sanctions are widespread does not mean they are well designed, fairly administered or effective."
In other words: The sanctions regime is badly designed, unfairly administered and ineffective.
"Use of sanctions varies substantially between jobcentres and between providers."
In other words: The sanctions regime is not being consistently applied. It's basically a postcode lottery of a system where some Jobcentres and private contractors apply sanctions for the most trivial of reasons, while others are much less trigger-happy about throwing people into absolute destitution.
"26% of all sanctioned Work Programme participants had their decision overturned, compared to 11% of jobcentre sanctions."
In other words: Employees of the rash of parasitical outsourcing companies that the Tories have brought into the welfare system are more than twice as likely to use spurious reasons to throw people into absolute destitution as actual Jobcentre staff are.
"The Department [DWP] has not used its own data to evaluate the impact of sanctions in the UK."
In other words: The draconian Tory sanctions regime is based on ideology, not evidence.
"The Department has not supported wider work to improve understanding of sanction outcomes."
In other words: The Tories are terrified of evidence being uncovered that their draconian sanctions regime is counter-productive, so they refuse to support evidence based research into the consequences of their policies.
"The Department does not track the costs and benefits of sanctions."
In other words: The Tories don't give a damn whether their draconian sanctions regime actually costs the taxpayer money. They're determined to economically cripple people, often for the most trivial of reasons, regardless of how much this vindictiveness costs the taxpayer in the long-run.
"Our review of the available evidence suggests the department’s use of sanctions is linked as much to management priorities and local staff discretion as it is to claimants' behaviour."
In other words: Whether a person is impoverished with a benefit sanction depends on the attitudes of the people making the sanction decision as much it does on the actual behaviour of the person being thrown into poverty!

Apologist responses

In response to this damning report the Tories and their DWP minions came out with a predictable pack of lies. A DWP spokesperson claimed that sanctions "are only ever used as a last resort after people fail to do what is asked of them in return for benefits" which is a demonstrable lie.

Not only is the assertion that sanctions are "only ever used as a last resort" contradicted by the actual findings of the report the DWP are trying to smear, it's also contradicted by countless examples of sanctions being imposed for utterly spurious reasons.
  • Sanctioned for failing to complete a fitness for work assessment due to having a heart attack during the interview. [source]
  • Sanctioned for not carrying out a job search on Christmas Day. [source]
  • Sanctioned because the queue at the Jobcentre took so long that the appointment time was missed, even though the claimant arrived in plenty of time. [source]
  • Sanctioned for nine weeks for missing a Jobcentre appointment due to suffering a heart attack earlier in the day. [source]
  • Sanctioned for missing an appointment due to being in hospital with his wife who had just had a stillborn child. [source]
  • Sanctioned for four weeks for being 5 minutes late to an appointment. [source]
  • Sanctioned for four weeks for being 9 minutes late to an appointment. [source]
  • Sanctioned for thirteen weeks for the "crime" of not wasting an employers' time by applying for a job that the claimant knew they didn't have the skills to do. [source]
  • A 60 year old veteran sanctioned for selling poppies for a few hours a day. [source]
The NAO report makes it absolutely clear that thousands of people have their spurious sanction decisions overturned on appeal, and anyone who has read the above list of atrociously harsh reasons that people have been hit with absolute destitution must know full well that the DWP spokesperson was brazenly lying through their teeth when they claimed that sanctions are "only ever used as a last resort".

The Tory DWP minister Damian Green (a seasoned liar) got in on the act by dismissing the findings of the NAO report with claims that the sanctions regime encourages people to look harder for work, which is a claim that the actual report found that there was no actual evidence to support.

In all likelihood it's probable that Damian Green didn't even bother reading the report he immediately began slagging off, because it's not so long since he slurred the Ken Loach film I Daniel Blake as a "monstrously unfair" portrayal that "bears no relation to the modern benefits system" before admitting that he hadn't even bothered to watch the film before drawing his conclusions and then furiously spouting off in public about it.

One of the below-the-line comments on the Guardian coverage of the NAO report perfectly exemplified the vindictive evidence-free mentality of people who continue to support the draconian Tory sanctions regime.

A commentator calling himself Danny Sutherland said "I would hope sanctions are not about saving money, but about getting people out of bed".

In one short sentence this guy sums up several things that are wrong with the vindictive Tory mentality. He displays a complete disregard for whether this regime costs the taxpayer money or not (presumably he doesn't give a damn that the Tory disability assessment regime costs the taxpayer far more in corporate outsourcing fees than it will ever save in reduced benefits payments either) and also he demonstrated a total disregard for the actual evidence by simply expressing a "hope" that sanctions are "about getting people out of bed".

It doesn't take much brain power to understand that far from being an incentive to get out of bed, absolute destitution is a massive impediment to active job searching. Imagine a person is left with no money whatever to pay for food, heating, transport costs, cleaning of clothes or even a haircut, do these conditions really mean that they would be more likely to find work? Or would they actually be more likely to try to stay warm and expend as little energy as possible by staying in bed?

There are clearly a lot of vindictively minded Tory apologists out there who don't give a damn how much it costs the taxpayer, how hopelessly ineffective and unfair the system is, how many innocent people get caught up in it ... they just want to see savage kickings meted out to people they perceive to be below themselves in the social pecking order, because the suffering of others makes them feel so much better about themselves.

Equilibrium unemployment

One of the worst things of all about the vindictive treatment of unemployed people by this Tory government is that the Tory government and the Bank of England have a deliberate policy of keeping a certain percentage of the population unemployed.

The reason the political establishment like to deliberately keep a percentage of the workforce out of work is that full employment allows workers to demand higher wages and better working conditions. If there are plenty of jobs for all, then people can just move on to a better job if they feel they are being underpaid or exploited in their current job.

If, on the other hand, there is a constant pool of unemployed people vying for insufficient jobs, this creates the fear of destitution amongst the workforce, meaning employees are much less likely to demand higher wages or better working conditions, which means higher profit margins for their employers.

The harsh benefits sanctions regime can be seen as part of the plan of stoking even more fear in the workforce. If workers know they're one step away from a cruel and draconian benefits system that dumps people into absolute destitution for weeks or months at a time for "crimes" such as having a heart attack, attending hospital, being five minutes late for an appointment, or selling remembrance poppies, then they're much less likely to rock the boat by asking for a pay rise or complaining about dangerous conditions in their workplace.

The NAO report makes it clear that the Tories don't care about how much the sanctions regime costs the taxpayer. It also makes it clear that they don't give a jot about what the actual real world consequences are for people who get caught up in the sanctions regime.

The Tories don't care about these things because the sanctions regime isn't about saving money or encouraging people to find work whatever. It's actually about keeping the people who are lucky enough to have jobs in this rigged system in a state of fear so that they're afraid to rock the boat. It's all about protecting the interests of corporations and employers, and absolutely nothing to do with combating unemployment.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Tuesday 29 November 2016

The Tory Snoopers' Charter is now law

"Pry Minister image credit: Richard Littler
The Snooper's Charter became law on the 29th of November 2016 meaning that the United Kingdom now has by far the most invasive state surveillance laws of any nation in the developed world.

The invasive domestic snooping legislation means that the UK state will attempt to maintain a massive database recording the Internet browsing history of every person in the UK, innocent or guilty. They will then allow dozens and dozens of government agencies and quangos to trawl through this database looking for dirt.

Of course it makes sense to allow the secret services to look into what suspected terrorists are plotting, but this legislation doesn't just do that. It goes much much further. The first thing it does is presume that every single UK citizen is a potential criminal who needs to be spied on, then it allows all kinds of non-terrorism related agencies to trawl through people's Internet browsing histories.

The Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd has continued with the bullshit excuse that this bill is about preventing terrorism by claiming that "the Internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge", but this kind of fearmongering provides no explanation of why the government just passed a law that allows people working for the Health and Safety Executive, the Food Standards Agency, various Fire and Rescue authorities, the NHS Business Services Authority and the Gambling Commission to rifle through people's Internet Browsing histories.

With even the slightest understanding of the unprecedented powers this bill gives to huge numbers of non-terrorism related government agencies and quangos it becomes absolutely clear that Amber Rudd's justification story makes literally no sense whatever (see image).

A major concern is the potential for corruption in allowing so many agencies the power to trawl through people's browser histories. Just imagine the potential for scammers and stalkers looking for dirt to blackmail their victims with. Allowing the employees of such a huge number of agencies to access people's private data doesn't just provide direct opportunities to scammers and stalkers who might work for these agencies, it also offers them opportunities to steal and sell people's private data to criminals.

Aside from the extraordinary number of agencies that will be allowed to trawl people's Internet histories, there's obviously the problem of keeping such huge stockpiles of private data secure from data loss and hackers. We all remember the stories of government ministers and civil servants losing vast amounts of sensitive data by leaving it on the train, sending it via unrecorded mail or simply stuffing it into bins in public parks. The creation of such vast databases of private information means the potential for human error is absolutely enormous, and that's before we even get to what kind of damage hackers could do with access to the Internet browsing histories of pretty much everyone in the UK.

The German government have recently claimed that they're worried that Russian hackers could interfere with their voting systems and the Chinese have developed incredibly advanced cyber warfare capabilities. The idea that Russian and Chinese hackers wouldn't see the potential value in access to massive data dumps of the Internet browsing records of pretty much every UK resident and business is fantastically naive stuff.

Aside from state sponsored hackers, there are also plenty of criminal hackers out there who must be ecstatic at the idea of the government creating massive stockpiles of private information for them to hack into.

Aside from the security issues and the assault on British liberties this legislation represents, just imagine the precedent that the UK is setting to other authoritarian regimes across the globe by collecting the browsing histories of the entire population. Just imagine the potential for political repression when barbaric and repressive regimes like Turkey follow Britain's lead and begin spying on every single citizen and trawling through their private data looking for anything to persecute their citizens for.

Predictably, despite the obvious concerns, large numbers of right-wing authoritarians are cheering this appalling assault on the right to privacy, the presumption of innocence and the ability of British journalists to do investigative journalism without fear of meddling from any number of state agencies with vested interests in interfering in their work.

These right-wing authoritarian cheerleaders endlessly repeat the idiotic mantra of "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear" without the remotest concern that this new law creates huge new opportunities for corruption, repression, persecution of the innocent and for the loss/theft of private data.

In a way these people are displaying an astonishingly naive and staggeringly hypocritical faith in the ability of government. When it comes to the latest Tory privatisation scam these right-wing apologists will always claim that the state is woefully pathetic and inefficient, so the private sector has to take over. But when it comes to the government running vast databases of private information they've trawled from innocent people, suddenly in their minds, the state becomes so wonderfully and exceptionally efficient that the chances of corruption, data loss and vulnerability to hacking are 0%!

This isn't the only example of right-wing hypocrisy over these invasive new surveillance powers. Just a few days before this legislation gained Royal Assent, these right-wingers were busy lecturing everyone about how horrible and authoritarian Fidel Castro was, but now they're wildly cheering an invasive state surveillance regime that Fidel Castro and the Cuban communists could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.

"Boo to nasty repressive Fidel Castro" these appalling hypocrites shouted, then just a few days later "Hooray for the introduction of the most invasive Orwellian state surveillance infrastructure in the developed world".

The hypocrisy of right-wing authoritarians really does seem boundless.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Monday 28 November 2016

What kind of monstrous God has Theresa May been talking to?

Theresa May's claims that God and her faith have been guiding her Brexit decisions is extraordinary stuff that is reminiscent of George W. Bush's claim that God told him to invade Iraq.

Other political commentators have already pointed out a couple of glaring flaws with Theresa May's claims that she's being guided by God.

Political Scrapbook pointed out that Theresa May argued against Brexit before the referendum, meaning that if she was guided by God to tell a bunch of Goldman Sachs bankers that leaving the European Union would be a terrible move for British businesses and British security, then God must have changed his mind about Brexit if he's now telling her to lead the UK into the economic catastrophe of a hard Brexit!

The other point that numerous political commentators have made is to imagine the reaction if a Muslim (or any other non-Christian) spoke about their God(s) influencing their political decisions. There would obviously be a huge outcry if Sadiq Khan (for example) decided to claim that his relationship with Allah and his Islamic faith was guiding his political decisions as the Mayor of London. Either personal relationships with deities have a role in political decision making or they don't. You can't get outraged about one politician gabbling on about their relationship with their deity if you're going to give a free pass to another politician doing exactly the same thing.

The point I want to raise is even simpler. It's to look at Theresa May's voting record and some of her political speeches and consider what kind of God would have told her to behave in such appalling ways.

One of the things that springs immediately to mind is Theresa May's appalling bragging to parliament that she would use nuclear weapons to incinerate 100,000 innocent men, women and children. What kind of God would have told her to say that? Obviously the kind of vengeful old testament God who drowned almost every human on earth, but one who has now decided to outsource his genocidal tendencies to Theresa May.

Another thing that springs to mind is the appalling legislation Theresa May introduced as Home Secretary in order to tear apart tens of thousands of British families. What kind of God would approve of immigration laws that discriminate so strongly against women and people outside of wealthier areas like London and the Home Counties? A misogynistic Tory God apparently.

For six years Theresa May loyally and repeatedly voted in favour of George Osborne's socially and economically destructive austerity agenda, despite the mountains of evidence that ideological austerity hits women much harder than it hits men. If God telling Theresa May to introduce immigration rules that discriminate against woman wasn't evidence enough that Theresa May's Tory God is some kind of misogynist, then her support for George Osborne's catastrophic austerity experiment surely is.

Theresa May is one of the most savagely authoritarian politicians in Westminster. She is of the ilk who believe that the government has a right, and even a duty, to interfere in the lives of ordinary citizens as much as possible. If this God Theresa May has been consulting told her to introduce legislation to create a massive database to store the Internet Browsing histories of millions of innocent people so that quangos like the Health and Safety Executive, The Food Standards Agency, The NHS Business Services Authority and the Department of Transport can pick through them without even applying for a warrant, then he must have been mightily pleased with the work of the Russian KGB and the East German Stasi too.

Theresa May's government is currently trying to push through an absurd piece of legislation designed to prevent UK resident adults from watching certain kinds of pornography. Theresa May and her government seem particularly preoccupied that British adults have been watching film clips of female ejaculation on the Internet. Perhaps it was God who told Theresa May that adults watching female ejaculation is sinful and should be banned by her government, but adults watching male ejaculation is perfectly fine and dandy?

Maybe one of Theresa May's conversations with God inspired her to give the deeply divisive anti-immigrant speech she made at the Tory party conference in 2015? It seems that the God Theresa May has been consulting is of the opinion that people should stay in the country they were damned well born in (unless they're stinking rich of course, then Theresa May should serve him by making it easier for them to simply buy their way into Britain), and that divisive anti-immigrant shit-stirring is a valuable public service.

Theresa May also voted in favour of stuff like the Bedroom Tax (which disproportionately affects disabled people) and Iain Duncan Smith's appallingly vindictive disability witch hunt. If God approved of this stuff and told Theresa May to support it, it appears that he must hate disabled people as much as he hates women.

If the God who guides Theresa May's actions is such an indecisive, genocidal, authoritarian, misogynistic, sexually prudish, anti-northern, pro-rich, anti-immigrant bigot who gets a kick out of the suffering of disabled people, it should be no great consolation to anybody that Theresa May is now consulting him over Brexit.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Paul Nuttall absolutely hates the NHS

UKIP are an absolute shambles. Nigel Farage quit as leader immediately after Brexit in order to set himself up as Donald Trump's butler. His successor Diane James lasted only 18 days in the job before she was driven out by the infighting (she's now quit the party completely). The front-runner to replace her was Steven Woolfe but he got himself into a fist fight with another UKIP member and then quit the party in a strop.

This exodus of politicians meant that UKIP were left with the absolute dregs for their latest leadership contest, which was eventually won by Paul Nuttall.

Aside from featuring as the butt of a prolonged Stewart Lee sketch about sending back migrants and being widely detested by his fellow Merseysiders, Paul Nuttall is not exactly a high-profile political figure.

One thing that we do know about Paul Nuttall is that he hates the National Health Service with a burning ideological passion.

Another thing we know about Paul Nuttall is that he's an Internet illiterate who imagines that deleting pages from his website is sufficient to make his rabid anti-NHS views disappear from the Internet completely!

Unfortunately for Paul Nuttall deleting the anti-NHS rants he posted to his blog isn't enough to make them go away because there are plenty of Internet archive services like The Wayback Machine, and pretty much every electronic device these days has the power to take screenshots of his anti-NHS ranting too.

A look at Paul Nuttall's rabidly anti-NHS comments that he so ineptly tried to hide from the public demonstrate how much he hates the NHS.

In one blog post he actually started off by congratulating the Tory government for their massive backdoor privatisation of the NHS in 2012. The way he described this mass privatisation scheme as just "a whiff of privatisation" is a clear demonstration that he thinks that the huge wave of NHS privatisation the Tories initiated in 2012 doesn't even go far enough!

Nuttall's anti-NHS rant uses numerous pejorative terms to denigrate the NHS and its staff as "inefficient" and "second rate".

The evidence is absolutely clear that the NHS is actually one of the most efficient health services in the world, and one that massively outperforms the kind of rip-off private sector dominated system in the United States that Paul Nuttall obviously prefers.

Nuttall doesn't describe the NHS as "inefficient" because it's inefficient at providing care services becuase it isn't. He describes it as "inefficient" because it's inefficient at transferring public money into the pockets of his mates in the private health sector as he would like.

One of the most telling things about Paul Nuttall's toxic anti-NHS rant is the way he openly lied about NHS staffing ratios by claiming that the the manager to nurse ratio in the NHS is 1:1. I researched the claim at the time and found that the real manager to nurse ration in the NHS was well over 10:1.  This is an undeniable example of a right-wing politician telling outright lies in order to denigrate the NHS.

In more honourable times it would be extraordinary for a political party to appoint such a brazen liar as their leader, but after Tony Blair, and David Cameron, and the staggeringly dishonest Brexit campaign, and Donald Trump ... it's no surprise at all that UKIP have chosen a brazen bare-faced liar as their leader.

Aside from the blog post in which Nuttall denigrated the NHS and its staff, openly lied about NHS staffing levels, and congratulated the Tories for their massively unpopular NHS privatisation scheming, there's even more evidence that Paul Nuttall hates the NHS.

In another hastily deleted blog post Nuttall denigrated the NHS again, lambasted the political establishment for not destroying it quickly enough, and then recommended a report from a private health provider recommending ... wait for it ... more NHS privatisation!

The reason Nuttall decided to attempt to hide these bile laden anti-NHS rants is obvious. He hasn't changed his mind about the NHS. A burning ideological passion that strong obviously doesn't just dissipate. He's decided to hide his rabidly anti-NHS views because he knows that the socialist NHS is valued by the vast majority of the UK population.

It seems obvious that Paul Nuttall decided to hide his real views on the NHS because he knew that it would be easier to dupe more people into voting for UKIP if he doesn't go around expressing his true opinion that the "free at the point of need" NHS should be torn down and replaced with a private insurance based model like the US system so that his wealthy private health chums can rake in a load of cash.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Saturday 26 November 2016

They don't hate dictators, they hate disobedience

Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 after the Cuban revolution forced the brutal US backed dictator Fulgenico Batista to give up and flee the country.

The US were absolutely furious that their puppet dictator had been deposed so they orchestrated the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion attempt, attempted to assassinate Castro on dozens of occasions and imposed severe economic sanctions on the people of Cuba.

Castro was committed to socialist principles like universal health and education, and despite the severity of the US trade embargo, Cuba achieved the highest literacy rate of any country in North or South America and developed an extraordinarily successful universal health care system.

It is undeniable that Castro achieved great things, but it's also undeniable that he ruled as the leader of a single party state where political dissent was routinely crushed. Of course it was necessary for their own survival that the Cubans rooted out US backed agitators. Had they meekly done nothing then Castro would soon have been overthrown and replaced with another appalling right-wing US backed dictator (just like the fate of so many other left-wing governments in Latin America). But the necessity of cracking down on US efforts to undermine, destabilise and destroy the Cuban government doesn't excuse all of the repression that went on.

On the one hand Castro achieved miraculous things under extremely difficult circumstances, but on the other hand his regime was repressive and intolerant of dissent.

One of the most interesting things about the social media reactions to Castro's death is the way that so many people have divided themselves into two tribalistic camps, with few people prepared to admit that Castro was a fascinatingly enigmatic character who achieved great things, but who had many flaws too.

Many social media reactions have praised Castro without alluding to any of his failings, while other people have set themselves up as voluntary "Batistabots" with an absolute determination to raid Castro tributes with their efforts to paint Castro as a savage dictator and nothing more (regardless of the fact that the dictator who preceded him was clearly very much worse).

This behaviour is interesting for several reasons. One interesting aspect is the fluidity it demonstrates in right-wing political correctness. We all remember the howls of outrage from right-wingers when people tried to point out Margaret Thatcher's toxic political legacies after she died. Yet given the outpourings of gloating, hatred and gleeful celebration from right-wingers over Castro's death, it's clear that this mandatory "respect for the dead" that right-wingers wouldn't shut up about back when Thatcher died clearly only extends to right-wing demagogues like Thatcher, and not to anyone else.

Another interesting point is the way that right-wingers have used statements of condolence to the Cuban people to attack their political opponents. If a politician is even vaguely left-wing the right-wing attack dogs have been hounding them over their statements of condolence.

Barack Obama is only a left-winger if you're looking at him from a rabidly right-wing perspective. He surrounded himself with Wall Street bankers for his eight years in the White House, he strongly resisted financial sector reform, he oversaw the continued widening of the inequality gap, he pushed hard-right corporate power grabs like TTIP and TPP on the rest of the world, and he was a huge friend to the military-industrial complex.

Here's an extract from Barack Obama's condolence message:
"At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him ... we offer condolences to Fidel Castro's family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people."
That's hardly controversial stuff, but it hasn't stopped wave after wave of right-wingers from attacking Obama, or anyone else who dares to utter anything short of a hateful and divisive Trumpian rant about how completely terrible Castro was and how Cuba needs to cave in to US imperialism at the first opportunity.

These attacks contrast interestingly with the absolute wall of silence from right-wingers when David Cameron paid glowing tribute to the brutal Saudi Arabian dictator Abdullah bin Abdulaziz in January 2015.

You'd have to be suffering an utterly delusional lack of perspective to imagine that Fidel Castro was in the same league as Abdullah bin Abdulaziz when it came to repression. 

Saudi Arabia is a deeply misogynistic Islamist theocracy where women aren't allowed to drive or even leave the home without a male family member to escort them. In Saudi Arabia people are sentenced to death for "crimes" such as being an atheist, being homosexual, or calling for more democracy in the kingdom.

Here's David Cameron's glowing tribute to this savage dictator (who just happened to be the leader of a country that spends £billions per year on British weapons).
"I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abd Al Aziz Al Saud ... He will be remembered for his long years of service to the Kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths ... My thoughts and prayers are with the Saudi Royal Family and the people of the Kingdom at this sad time. I sincerely hope that the long and deep ties between our two kingdoms will continue and that we can continue to work together to strengthen peace and prosperity in the world."
The idea of Abdullah bin Abdulaziz as having a commitment to peace and the strengthening of understanding between faiths is bizarre enough, but painting Saudi Arabia as a global peacemaker is completely ludicrous given that Saudi Arabia finances terrorist organisations all over the world.

Abdullah bin Abdulaziz was a disgusting man who headed one of the most violent and repressive regimes in the world, yet right-wingers didn't see fit to criticise Cameron's glowing tribute to this appalling dictator.

The contrast couldn't be sharper, and it tells us something interesting about the right-wing psyche. These people don't hate dictators because they're dictators, otherwise the howls of outrage over David Cameron's glowing praise for Abdullah bin Abdulaziz would have been far louder than their furious condemnation of anyone who dares to express condolences over Castro's death.

These people don't hate dictators, they hate disobedience. It doesn't matter how brutal and ideologically extreme the dictator is, as long as they stay loyal to the interests of wealthy elites in the UK and US, they get a total free pass on their human rights abuses, misogyny, homophobia, lack of democracy, war crimes and blatant corruption.

However if a dictator dares to stand up against the interests of wealthy elites in the UK and US then the hatred is unbridled, even if it should be absolutely clear that the dictator is nowhere near as bad as "allies" like the Saudi Arabian regime.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Thursday 24 November 2016

13 years of lost wage growth

We already know that since the global financial sector meltdown UK workers have suffered a catastrophic 10%+ decline in real wages (matched only by Greece in the developed world). Now analysis of Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has shown that UK workers look set for even more wage stagnation.

The boss of the IFS Paul Johnson described the latest figures as "dreadful" and pointed out that the woeful economic policies of the Tory government and the failure of David Cameron's Brexit gamble mean that real terms workers' wages will still be well below 2008 levels in 2021.

It's impossible to fully explain how much social and economic damage is going to be caused by this lost 13 years of wage growth.

It doesn't take a genius to understand the economics of demand. If people have money in their pockets they're more likely to spend it. If they suffer 13 years of wage stagnation thanks to Tory policies like ideological austerity, deliberate wage repression, the erosion of in-work benefits and attacks on workers' rights, then they're going to have less money to spend than they otherwise would, meaning less demand in the economy, and fewer stable well-paid jobs as a consequence.

The Tories have created a deliberate downward spiral in workers' wages 
and working conditions (unmatched anywhere in the Western world apart from crisis stricken Greece) and the economic fallout from Brexit is about to make this already appalling situation even worse.

13 years of lost wage growth, a £122bn Brexit
black hole, missed targets, broken promises ...
yet the Daily Mail present their readers with
this "Everything is Awesome" front page!
13 years of lost wage growth would be bad enough in its own right, but it's obviously even worse when you factor in things like soaring housing costs (continued unsustainable house price inflation and the ever inflating rents charged by the unregulated buy-to-let slumlord rentiers), constant above inflation hikes in public transport costs, post-Referendum inflation, and the increased cost of imports due to the collapse in the value of the Pound.

The astounding thing is that despite the six years of severe and sustained decline in their real terms wages that workers have already suffered under Tory rule, millions of ordinary working people continue to believe the propaganda in the right-wing press that the Tories are doing a great job of managing the economy!

People are apparently so susceptible to what the mainstream media tell them that they'll ignore the real evidence of their own lives, and the real evidence of the lives of the people around them, and choose to believe the ludicrous right-wing fairy stories about how awesome everything is.

The fact that we're undergoing the worst collapse in living standards since the Second World War makes me wonder when it was that British people actually lost their spines and became such a grovelling bunch of weaklings who are perfectly content to have a bunch of Tory toffs rob them blind for 13 long years with barely a whimper of complaint?

During the Second World War people accepted the sharp decline in living standards because they knew that their way of life was under existential threat from continental fascism. They put their all into defending our country, then after the war was won they demanded better for themselves, resulting in the foundation of the NHS, the construction of millions of decent affordable homes, the introduction of Legal Aid and the longest sustained improvement in living standards in British history.

What is it about the current generations that we meekly accept a similar decline in living standards to the Second World War when there is no existential threat like Nazi Germany to justify it?

When did the British public become such a weak and docile bunch that they'd accept being robbed blind for 13 years, while the Tories and the right-wing press tell us a pack of ridiculously unbelievable lies about how great everything is?

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