Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bhagwati On Manufacturing

While Professor Jagdish Bhagwati might not seem to be aware that Falstaff is a character and not a performer, what seems to be his attempt, in my opinion, to corral the public back into what some economists might consider to be the right way of thinking on the role of manufacturing reminds one of Bertrand Russell's observation on Leibniz's role at the court of Prussia - to tell the Queen that her oppression of her serfs was a good and wholesome thing.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Short Thought On Alex Salmond's Induction Into Starfleet

While The Tartanissimo might have practiced being a Vulcan as a child, he seems to have matured into a Bolian - chubby, balding, blue-faced and always causing trouble.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Short Thought On 'The Spirit Level'

I have not read the book of that title, but when its findings are greeted with intellectual violence on this scale from the right, one can only believe that its findings must be of some merit.
Must see if the library's got it.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Overkill

If you try to take a good man's, and a very honest man's, good name away from him for no purpose higher than selling newspapers, then he has nothing.
Earlier this evening, I had cause to reply to an email from a very good friend of mine named Paul McConville. Amongst his many other attributes, Paul stands at least six foot six inches tall, which is why I will hereinafter refer to him by my usual diminutive of 'The Big Lad'. Paul is not only a very good friend - he did me the singular honour of acting as my best man at my wedding.
Over the past 12 months, the big lad has run into some business problems, which have unfortunately resulted in him being sequestrated. However, he wasn't just in any business, no, no, no. He was a solicitor in Scotland, you see, one of that caste of unfortunates for whom bankruptcy and business problems always seem to be associated with dishonesty.
Yesterday's 'Scotland on Sunday' carried what can only be described as a hatchet piece on my friend. Paul apparently lives in 'a semi-detached house'. I know this; I've eaten dinner in it. What on God's earth are he and his family supposed to live in - tents? This is what passes for journalism in Scotland in 2010? Where is William Howard Russell when you need him?
And there is, of course, the classic passive mudslinging of Strathclyde Police. It upsets me to think how upset Paul will have been at reading what they have said. Glasgow's finest (or so some of them seem to think) have been reported as saying that, in the matter of the firm of Messrs. McConville O' Neill, Solicitors, requiring to cease trading, they have been "unable to find evidence of criminality".
There's a very good reason for this. The Big Lad's not a crook. He's one of the most honest people I've ever met. If anyone had bothered to ask me, I could have told them that. He's also one of the most kind. On both of the occasions when Tourette's Syndrome has rendered me unable to perform to the high and severe standards required of a solicitor in Scotland, events separated in time by 10 years, the big lad has been the only constant professional friend I have had, one who, for my part, is now a firm personal friend. That kind of personal constancy is not found amongst the kind of person who steals money from miners' relicts.
And, of course, there is the obligatory Greek chorus of his former clients, or, perhaps more properly, the clients of his former practice. I have no idea how he did business, but after several readings of 'Scotland on Sunday's' piece it seems to me that some of them would not have known they had any right to claim unless he'd told them. If true, I hope they remember that. I am, of course, deeply sceptical of the British newspaper business; anyone who has read John Pilger's books 'Hidden Agendas' and 'Tell Me No Lies' cannot be anything but sceptical about it. But 'Scotland on Sunday', an entity which really serves no higher purpose than to help sell classic cars in Prestonpans or timeshares in Gairloch (at times like this, Orwell's analysis of the amount of advertising that appeared on a newspaper's front page in 1940 springs to mind), thinks he should be thrown to the wolves. There may come a time when this happens, but hopefully not while I at least have hands to type, nor possess the means to buy electricity.
I would have left the whole thing alone, and looked forward to seeing the big lad and his family at a gathering of my family at which he will be an honoured guest, if it hadn't been for this. Mention of this matter in the solicitors' professional journal was unnecessary. It serves no point, other than to give its editors the chance to print the name 'McConville'. Paul has been sequestrated. To the best of my knowledge and belief, this means that his practising certificate has already been suspended (again, you wouldn't know that the nature of his current professional suspension could be entirely technical if all you read was 'Scotland on Sunday') . He has not, indeed it seems he will not, be convicted of any crime; there is a very good reason for this, which is that he's not a crook. At this stage, he does not seem to have been found 'guilty' of any non-technical breach of professional discipline. Paul has enough troubles to deal with right now, and I hope he knows his friends will do whatever they can to help him. He doesn't need a professional journal gawping at him. He's already had his photo taken at his door, that perpetual bait to the prurient and salve to the salacious. For the journal of his professional brethren, for his professional journal, to do this to him is overkill.

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What I'm Reading

'Churchill' by Roy Jenkins, a biography that suffers from the defects of both its subject and its author. Also, I'm not sure if 'friendlily' is a proper word.
'Europe 1450-1661' by Murphy, Tillbrook and Walsh-Atkins, an interesting if PC textbook that has been a challenge to the blogger's intellectual vanity since he first failed to complete it two years ago.
It was 'Private Eye' weekend, and 'Bookworm's' evisceration of Professor Simon Schama's 'Scribble, Scribble, Scribble' was well worth the read. Money quote - "...numerous hyper-ventilating pieces about how Obama is going to save America and end racism, which read embarrassingly at the time, now seem actually deranged in the light of the reader's historical advantage over the writer." I would qualify that - to my eyes, they seemed deranged at the time.
Lastly, I finished James McConnel's Tourette's memoir 'Life, Interrupted' last night. Let's start with the minusses - too much mention of sex and relationships, and while Mr. McConnel's attempts to write the unwriteable, what goes through your head when you have Tourette's, were very worthy, those sections were, to my mind, largely unreadable. I will be charitable and assume he wasn't trying to be sensational.
However, it also had big plusses. He seems to have the same insight into the conditions for heritability that George Burden surmised existed in 'The Imperial Gene'. His comments on the condition helping him make 'spontaneous leaps in (his) mind that perhaps (he) might not otherwise make' certainly rang a bell.
But the clincher was a small comment on page 233-
"Obsessive counting has made me an expert at seeing a word and knowing exactly how many letters it contains".
That's been my party piece for years.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

An Offence Aggravated By Prejudice

The irony of this, of course, is that if Catholic Care has to close, then children who would be perfectly suitable for adoption with non-homosexuals will remain in the care system. While many of those who work in it do so with the best intentions, it's a fact of life that the care system is a breeding ground for crime and dysfunction. The removal of children from the care system should be the supreme aim of all those who take money for saying they are interested in childrens' welfare. Preventing children from leaving the care system, the outcome to which this decision will lead, is surely an offence crying out to Heaven for vengeance, and one aggravated by prejudice; not socially unacceptable anti-homosexuality (I refuse to use the term 'homophobia', a lazy and inaccurate shorthand the use of which implies dislike of oneself), but prejudice against those who refuse to proclaim their love of homosexuality because their Church teaches that it's a grave wrong. No doubt those indulging in such prejudice would be shocked at the idea that some consider them to be prejudiced. That might be unfortunate, but it's also accurate. The Charity Commission indicates that the principle of non-discrimination against homosexuals is of greater weight, is a greater public good, then the removal of children from the care system. There may be vocal, activist homosexuals who will say that this is a good thing; I would merely say that by placing their own really very narrow interests over the needs of the most vulnerable children in society, such men and women show themselves to be prone to the vice of all vocal activists - narcissism.
The vulpine Blair is donating the proceeds of his memoirs, or part thereof, to the Royal British Legion. This is sold to the public as an act of philanthropy. Bearing in mind Chesterton's observation that the practice of philanthropy indicates nothing more than an affinity for anthropoids, I would be very interested to know what kind of tax advice he took, if any, before deciding on his great giveaway. His henchman Alistair Campbell once remarked that Blair and his government didn't 'do God'. As shown by the appalling official treatment of Catholic Care, the private citizen can't just not do God at the same time as their business, they no longer have any right to express any view on what they believe to be merely right or wrong, and certainly cannot act on their beliefs in the public square. The New Bosses have a perfect opportunity to rectify this wrong, a state of affairs in which we really all are in it together, although I am very doubtful that they will do so. I hope they do. British Catholics could be doing with something to restore their faith in human good nature.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Double Jeopardy

While none of them might say so in public, it is difficult to see how the announcement that double jeopardy is to be scrapped in Scotland, apparently as a matter of urgency, can be interpreted as anything other than the soi-disant, ersatz, 'Scottish Government's own hatred of the Scottish people, and its belief that the correct legal status of Scots in Scotland is not citizens, but suspects. However, it could also be much more sinister than that.
The mantra of the extreme right which justifies the application of permanent and universal measures in answer to temporary or even individual situations is 'You can't let a good crisis go to waste'. Indeed, the fostering of an appearance of a crisis is critical to the success of the extreme right agenda. In the case of double jeopardy in Scotland, that crisis is the 'World's End Murders'.
While one must observe the pieties of such matters and express sympathy for the families of the murder victims, it really has to be said that the reason why Angus Sinclair's prosecution for those crimes in 2007 collapsed was that the Crown should not have brought it to court at that time, or in that form, or indeed at all. That trial was a botch by the Crown. They and they alone are responsible for any distress caused to the victims' families as a result of the matter not proceeding to their satisfaction. Far from showing why the abolition of double jeopardy is necessary, the World' End case is a textbook example of why double jeopardy is not only necessary but shoul remain sacrosanct. Abolition will not serve to remedy injustice. It will, however, give the Crown any number of chances to remedy its mistakes - in the World's End case, mistakes so huge they call into question the competence of the Crown Office's leadership.
Since the collapse of the World's End trial, the Scottish public has been treated to what are presumably the personal opinions of Frank Mulholland, the Solicitor-General for Scotland, regarding the circumstances in which he believes that double jeopardy should not apply. One of the oddities of the devolution settlement, and in my view an unsatisfactory one that urgently demands revisiting, is that the former political offices of Lord Advocate and Solicitor-General are now held by two career civil servants. As committed to justice as the next man as he might be, Mr. Mulholland does not answer to any electorate, and as someone who pays his wages I have no interest in any opinion he might care to express on any matter at all, whether it might be the state of civil liberties in Scotland or whether Greased Lightning is going to ace the 4.30 at Shawfield.
One would expect nothing less but cheap authoritarianism from the soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government'; The Tartanissimo is, after all, a former parliamentary bad boy once suspended from the House of Commons for interrupting a Budget speech. His brand of hooliganism is cosy and cushy, and gets your name in the papers for all the right reasons - but it was hooliganism nonetheless. The intervening 20 years have done nothing to dispel what was then an initial impression of hooliganism and thuggery; his posture in the Scottish Parliament, always looking as if he's ready to square up to his opponents, is not that of a statesman but of a thug wanting a square go in the back court. Yet he has quietly presided over, or at least done nothing to prevent, the quiet establishment of a cosy and cushy police state in Scotland, one which has had some welcome light thrown on it over the past few weeks, and from an unusual quarter.
Twice in the past few weeks, Sheriff Kevin Drummond has criticised the Crown's attitude to the prosecution of cases involving domestic violence. These criticisms are the first intimation that the public appears to have had that a policy on prosecuting domestic violence has been agreed between the Crown Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos). Acpos is a top cop talk shop. It is a voluntary organisation for senior members of the police services, a private body. It has no constitutional function regarding the prosecution of crime. In Scots law, the prosecution of crime is the exclusive function of the Crown Office and local Procurators Fiscal. For any person or body to seek to influence these bodies is a gross interference with their rights. If the Crown Office does not immediately rebuff any attempts to interfere with its rights and those of the local PF's, then it is either being very poorly led, or else those who lead it identify the interests they serve as being identical to the interests the police serve; which is another way of saying the Crown Office may be very poorly led. It is to be hoped that this policy does not represent the deep capture of the Crown Office by the police. If it does, then the case for not having career prosecutors but elected officials leading the Crown Office becomes unanswerable. If a local procurator fiscal were to be caught deciding prosecution policy with his mates at the bowling club, he would be tainted with corruption, or else branded a cosmic incompetent. I fail to see how supposedly independent prosecutors agreeing prosecution policies with a private body that represents the vested interests of some police officers is any different in any way, shape or form.
That such policies also interfere with the rights of the judiciary doesn't seem to occur to those who make them. In this case, one must offer three cheers for Sheriff Drummond, for having the guts to asserts the rights of the bench. It is to be hoped that more of his brethren do likewise.
Better for The Copfighter General to concentrate on attacking the formulation of such cosy and cushy policies - for how many more might there be? - than on abolishing double jeopardy and making it retrospective. Taking the ability to prosecute crimes retrospectively on a multiple basis to yourself is only one step away from taking the power to create crimes retrospectively to yourself. If you think Alex Salmond and the SNP would not do this if they thought their vision of an independent Scotland was under threat, or indeed weren't really happy with the type of Scots that an independent Scotland would inhabit, you are cordially invited to think again.
Eilish and Frank. Double jeopardy indeed.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

A Reflection On Mentoring

That hard-faced old pike Francis Maude deploys the semi-schizophrenic phrase 'frontline public sector entrepreneurs' in a piece outlining how these creatures, whatever they might be, will be 'mentored', 'for free'.
The actual policy of mutualising the public services, what this guff from Maude is a foretaste of, is just another form of pillage. Like all such projects, they will have to be seen to be successes, or even just portrayed as successes, regardless of whether or not they are in fact successes. It is to be hoped that the mentors mentoring these mentorees into thoroughly mentored public sector entrepreneurs will be donating their services absolutely free of charge; for it would be a great shame if funds that could go towards, you know, providing a service were diverted towards some ideological rubbish cooked up by 22 year old snots in Tory Central Office.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Short Thought On The Populism Of The Rich

While I usually have a lot of time for Jeff Randall, his most recent piece for the 'Daily Telegraph', on the need for a 'radical' approach to welfare reform, is replete with the language of rich man's populism.
These are a sample of his remarks, some of them even quoted in context - 'welfare indulgence', as if British welfare is as lavish as the fare at a Flavian orgy; "successive Conservative and Labour governments colluded with able-bodied claimants "on the sick" in order to massage down unemployment figures" (one wonders whether the ministers responsible for such policies will be pursued by a credit rating agency for being accomplices to benefit fraud before, during and after the fact); and "irrespective of where you stand on party politics, the current system of subsidising unemployment while, in effect, disincentivising personal enterprise has been tested to destruction", to my mind an almost gross elision by Mr. Randall of his beliefs onto the public couched in the pseudo-scientific, quasi-religious language of 'subsidies' and 'incentives'.
Irrespective of where you stand on party politics, it is beyond doubt that Mr. Randall's primary economic function is to help sell advertising space in the 'Daily Telegraph', and while he has my best wishes in that endeavour absolutely every word that appears under his name in that newspaper must be interpreted through that prism.
One of his commentors has already been kind enough to remind him that his suggestions for curing the welfare state are in fact the same as those enacted under the Speenhamland Act, one of the principal means by which England's rural poor were pauperised at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th Centuries. Way to go, Jeff.
Refusing to cater to populism seems to be a constant amongst our elites. Much criticism of recent immigration policy, or the lack thereof, seems to have been ignored on the sole basis that it may have had a populist great-grandparent, thus rendering it liable to be blackballed for membership of the country club. Yet elite talk of 'dole cheats', 'scroungers' and so on is nothing but the populism of the rich. Yes, there are some dole cheats on the fiddle, as I am sure there were those who attempted to cheat the Roman corn dole, but nowhere near as many as the rich bastards who avoid paying the tax that should fund a very much generous dole like to think and therefore would also like us to think; if they can stand the idea of us thinking at all.
This strange reactionary doublethink has other manifestations. In the Victorian era, it was the law of England and Wales that breach of contract by master to man's prejudice was a purely civil affair, while breach by man to master's prejudice was a criminal offence. Believe it or not, there is a modern equivalent to this injustice.
It is a criminal offence to claim benefits fraudulently. That this should be so is perfectly right; both morality and natural justice demand nothing less. However, it is not a crime to prevent people from claiming benefits to which they may be entitled, either by making the system so complicated that they become discouraged, or by losing paperwork, or, indeed, by pressurising them into dropping claims. This seems like an odd dichotomy, one in need of correction. If a shakeup of our welfare system is required, then this might be a suitable starting point.
I await what the rich man's populists have to say about that suggestion with great interest; but I bet that many of them would still want to kick the poor.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Benefit Bounty Hunting

My apologies for being about 48 hours behind with the news, but the announcement that a credit rating agency may be paid to hunt down benefit cheats cannot pass without comment.
One issue that springs to mind is that bounty hunting is a phenomenon usually found in areas where institutions are weak and the arm of the law is very short indeed. Is this a symptom of how weak Britain's institutions have become, or is it instead indicative of the process of promoting the private over the public by which they have become weak? It would appear to be an admission that any number of authorities are incapable of policing the benefits system. Given the substantial sums paid to provide police services and benefit fraud investigators, and the attack on the professionalism of all these groups which is implied and inherent in this announcement, we are entitled to ask what is being done to strengthen them, to make them fit for purpose, before the spastic response of bringing in the private sector is indulged.
The question of safeguards is also important. We are entitled to ask by what miraculous process the staff of credit rating agencies can suddenly be expected to transform not merely into expert witnesses on the benefits system but also on benefit claimants. They will presumably be unable to carry out medical examinations. They will not have access to confidential correspondence in the, perhaps limited, number of cases where claimants of Incapacity Benefit or Disability Living Allowance are able to sustain lifestyles far beyond their nominal incomes because they have won the Victorian equivalent of a triple rollover on the lottery and become the sole beneficiary of a South African gold mine owner, or, like Pip Pirrip, of a wealthy sheep farmer in New South Wales. It might not happen very often; but it might happen, and with non means-tested benefits it's really nobody's business but the claimant's. Being profit rather than service driven, they will presumably concentrate on the lowest of low hanging fruit; the young and stupid, probably females with infants in tow, will almost inevitably not merely be caught more often but also targeted more often than the old and wicked. It would be very interesting to know whether police informants who are themselves engaged in criminality will somehow achieve a miraculous exemption from scrutiny. I wouldn't bet against it.
As an aside, it seems that jailing intellectually unaccomplished young women is an activity at which We the British have become really quite good. Nobody seems to be ashamed of it, and nobody in power really actually seems to give a damn why that should be so. Oh, Iain Duncan Smith, The Chingford Slaphead, pops up from time to time wearing the kind of melancholy look that made Alistair Sim a great deal of money, to do his Alistair Sim routine about the need to get people to get into work and all that, and he seems sincere most of the time, but one can't really escape the feeling that any social conscience the Conservative Party proclaims itself as having operates strictly within that body's very narrow ideological limits. In their mind, if you're not in their Big Tent you might as well be in a cardboard box.
As a number of Glaswegian tobacconists and vintners so large as to be actuarially unacceptable will tell you, I'm not at all averse to doing business with the private sector. Indeed, I've only ever worked in private businesses. However, when I do business with them, it is on the understanding that it is them I am doing business with. I do not accept asking for a packet of Berkeley Menthols and receiving a packet of Richmonds. By the same token, I do not accept submitting a claim to a state agency and finding myself being a profit opportunity for a credit rating agency as a result. One action, the purchase of cigarettes, is a purely private transaction, and rightly so; but the other involves the interaction of citizen with citizen and the need for a citizen to justify themself in order to establish title to claim benefits available to all if they require them, and a private company has no place in this process at all.
It is to be hoped that this particular acid trip-inspired abortion of a policy is placed in the round file at the earliest opportunity. The potential for abuse is too great in relation to any savings likely to be made, or indeed capable of being made. And all it needs for the contractor to be bankrupted is to get someone's details wrong. When you have a name as common as mine, that doesn't fill you with much confidence.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

People For The Ethical Treatment Of People

"What does it matter to ya
When you got a job to do
You gotta do it well
You gotta give the other fellow hell" -
Sir Paul McCartney, 'Live And Let Die'.
'If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian' -
To which the only adequate response is, 'Very well done, thanks, with ketchup and fries'.
One can only wonder at the glee with which the animal rights movement heard that the new bosses were planning to cut free milk for the under-fives, and their similar dejection when Cameron over-ruled Willetts when he was on live TV (by the same token, that action has probably cost Cameron a colleague's goodwill, so one can only hope he intervenes in their interviews more often; sowing the dragons' teeth, and all that). The radicalism of the rich is founded in unjustified Icarian overconfidence. Indeed, it is its only prop, and the embarrassing volte-face forced upon Willetts indicates the speed with which they can lose it.
The issue of free milk for under-fives is unusual, in that it has the potential to render possible an unholy alliance between the animal rights movement and the extreme right (every government we have had since 1979 has been of the extreme right, without any question of greater or lesser degrees). However unwholesome such an alliance might be, it would at least be an interesting example of mutual hypocrisy; it would show the animal rights movement to be hypocrites for getting into bed with those who have no ideological qualms about children being allowed to stuff their faces with burgers morning, noon and night - in historical terms, it was only a blink of an eye ago that a Tory fed his daughter a burger on TV to show that British meat was 'safe' - while also showing the extreme right to be hypocrites for removing the choice to have free milk for under-fives from their parents.
I'm beginning to think there might be mileage in an organisation called 'People For The Ethical Treatment Of People'.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

'Pack Up'

Working in an environment where the radio is on constantly, one has been unable to ignore an extremely irritating 'song' called 'Pack Up'.
Two observations on this 'song' - firstly, it is the sort of bouncy boy-girl type 'song' that broadcasters might credibly have thrown into the British public's face 35 years ago for the purpose of keeping them quiet on a Saturday night, loud, indeed very loud, but without any significant musical merit; and secondly, any so called 'song' which deploys music and/or lyrics that men, you know, died to, on an industrial scale, for the purpose of promoting a young woman's career should be a cause of shame to her promoters.

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Brief Reflection On The Future Of Trident

If we possess Trident as a means of protecting the people from hostile foreign governments, then I can see no reason for continuing with it; if only because the people are far too busy being scared of what their own government is going to do to them to worry about what anyone else might do to them.

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Milkstealing

Bastards.
And not just bastards, but cowardly bastards as well. It's always the weak they go for, and when they're caught out they backtrack in a flash.
Seen their type a thousand times - the bastards.

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A Short Thought On Tony Blair's Travelling Arrangements

With this in mind, does he even come to Scotland any more? Unless I'm greatly mistaken, he could be lifted on a warrant issued here and English law would be unable to do a damn thing about it.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Future Of Rights For the Disabled

When one sees just how nasty the shower now in charge of our government really are, one has to wonder if there is no group that they would not wish to stick the boot into, no vulnerable people whose heads they wouldn't want to use as trampolines.
As I have written before, I am now only able to hold down a job at all through the good offices of the Disability Discrimination Act. Since the Conservative-Liberal coalition assumed power, I have become fearful for this legislation's future. Originally intended to flood the marketplace with disabled people in yet another neoliberal assault on the wage rate, it has become the means by which many disabled avoid the pauperisation occasioned by claiming Incapacity Benefit.
The DDA might be said to impose a cost on business. That nobody in the UK either starts or operates a legitimate business under duress is, to neoliberal ideologues, neither here nor there; the rights of businesspeople to do business are paramount over any other legal right and, indeed, civil liberty. This mindset finds no contradiction in paradoxes such as elections held by essentially private bodies like trade unions being subject to the greatest scrutiny and legal regulation while our parliamentary and municipal elections would disgrace the curviest banana republic, or over 3,000 new crimes of which the private citizen might become guilty being added to the statute book over a 13 year period while businesses, essentially incorporeal entities whose presence can only ever be detected by their symbols but never their essence, have more liberty bestowed upon them in the form of deregulation (it is to be noted that the coalition has not tackled the diminution of civil liberties with the urgency that the citizens deserve; I guess the new bosses are just like the old bosses). This deliberate inversion of priorities is so perverse, so anti-human, that it is almost Satanic.
Sometimes one wonders what government is for. If it is not there to protect the people, to protect the most vulnerable, what is it for? British governments have historically done really very little protecting of the people. Every single progressive advance has been met with screams of outrage from those among us who despise the idea that they might be beholden to others, or who hate acknowledging that what they have has not been achieved solely by their own efforts. It is this extremely reactionary, antagonistic spirit that has animated government since 1979, and the glee with which one sees the rich now proclaim their radicalism makes one wonder whether the act of joining a British political party is now a surrender to collective sociopathy.
The Disability Discrimination Act is an essential tool in helping some of the most disadvantaged people among us support themselves; support ourselves. It may have started off as ideology, but it has proved its worth. Any government that seeks to repeal it must stand accused of Social Darwinism, and I see nothing in the current government that suggests they wouldn't hesitate to have a go at it if they had half a chance.
Ideology helps you hate. If you hold enough ideology, soon you have no problem hating anyone your ideology dictates is standing in the way of its advance. Our benefits and bus passes, our wheelchairs and mobility aids stand in the way of reducing the size of the British state. That wherever the size of the state has been 'reduced' almost always results in a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich passes without comment. That the 'reduction' in the size of the state often means the privatisation of services into the control of those who previously ran them for public benefit, and which often continue to require public subsidy after privatisation in order to ensure that the myth that the private sector is more efficient than the public can be maintained, passes without comment. The government has declared that tests for Disability Living Allowance will be made tougher. Having recently undergone this ordeal, I can only say that the desire to toughen either the qualifying criteria for that benefit or the testing procedure betrays an extremely cruel caste of mind on the part of those now in power. I hate the relish with which George Osborne rolled the word 'tough' around his mouth as he announced those changes; it was the relish of the bully in front of a victim. This diffidence to the weak and the vulnerable might stem from not knowing anyone who's ever had to claim benefits, but somehow I doubt it; somehow, I think that even if they did, they still just wouldn't care.
When they're done with DLA, they'll come for the bus pass. It's inevitable. We, the lame, the halt, the blind, those who say inappropriate things, need frequent medical interventions and even more frequent chemical ones, cannot allow ourselves to be steamrollered into being rendered static. The bus pass is critical to many disabled people's ability to live independent lives; and that's apparently a good thing, when it means keeping us off the benefit paybill. If the bus pass is discontinued, then the disabled will not merely be condemned to the back of the bus; many won't be on the bus at all.
And when they're done with the bus pass, they'll come for the Disability Discrimination Act, freeing business from the burden of decency. Thrusting the already poor into further poverty is not the action of a caring government, one intent on protecting the people. One had higher hopes for the Liberals (it is astonishing to see how quickly the title of 'Liberal Democrat' seems to have dropped from public usage); but they have so obviously been swayed by the trappings of power, the red boxes and official cars, that one is now entitled to question whether any view they have ever expressed under the leadership of Nick Clegg has ever been sincere. They are a right-wing party now, and do not deserve any well-meaning person's vote.
Those of us who are disabled will have many tough choices to make in the months and years ahead. Sometimes, it seems to be assumed that our lives are not full of them already. I, for one, do not wish to see the cause of rights for the disabled pushed back, nor disabled people squashed even further to the margins of society, because some rich bastard doesn't like paying tax. That's the core of the whole 'problem'. There is no problem with the public finances; we do, however, have a problem with rich people who don't like paying tax. Unless we make our voices heard, by writing to newspapers, by going to MP's surgeries about every move to curtail rights for the disabled including entitlement to benefits, then the rich who don't like paying tax will win. We won't have a richer Britain. We certainly won't have a fairer or better Britain. We will, however, have a Britain in which some people are even richer than they are now while the weakest of us all are pushed into the gutter, horsewhipped into penury by the heir of an Irish baronet.
Bugger that, bugger them and bugger George Osborne. To paraphrase the sacred lowing of one of their sacred cows -
'They will only take my bus pass from me out of my cold, dead hand!'

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Thoroughly Modern Problem...

don't you think?

Maybe not. It used to be called 'white slavery'.

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This Would Be Funny...