Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Tories just sanctioned a blind man for not being able to read


The Tories just sanctioned a blind man for the "crime" of not being able to read! Alan Moody suffers from cerebellar ataxia and blindness. The DWP hit him with a benefits sanction for missing a disability denial WCA assessment that they only informed him about by letter.

Every time you hear an appalling story like this it's vital to remember that these savage Tory punishment regimes actually cost the taxpayer far more to administer than they save in reduced benefits payments.

It's been known since January 2016 that the Tory disability denial factories cost far more in corporate outsourcing fees to administer than they will ever save in reduced benefits payments.

In December 2016 a damning National Audit Office report found that the brutal Tory benefits sanctions regime also costs far more to administer than it saves in reduced benefits payments to the unemployed.

Sanctioning a blind man for the "crime" of not being able to read the letter they sent him is appalling enough in it's own right, but anyone who pays the remotest bit of attention to the Tory sanctions regime and their disability denial regime knows full well that extraordinarily unfair cases like this are all too common (see the list of examples in this article).

I'll say it again just to be clear. Every time you hear about someone who has been unfairly thrown into absolute poverty by benefits sanctions or had their disability benefits unfairly stopped by the Tory disability denial system, it's vital to remember that this savage mistreatment of vulnerable people actually costs the taxpayer money.

The Tories are so damned malicious that they see their savagely unfair sanctions and disability denial regimes as "taxpayers' money well spent".

Maybe there are some appallingly vindictive right-wingers out there who actually enjoy the thought of their tax money being spent on abusing disabled and unemployed people, but surely anyone with a shred of human decency should be absolutely outraged at the thought of their tax money being used to treat human beings in such appalling ways.


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Saturday, December 3, 2016

The cost of Tory malice


For the last six years the Tories have harked on endlessly about the need to save money to justify their austerity con, but when it comes to the treatment of vulnerable people they've proven themselves perfectly happy to waste hundreds of millions of pounds on schemes designed to force vulnerable people into destitution, anxiety, stress and depression.

The Tories have wheeled out their "saving money" rhetoric to justify all kinds of socially and economically ruinous lunacy like the forced closure of NHS services all over the country, massive cuts to police, military and emergency services budgets, the scrapping of university maintenance grants and NHS bursaries, savage local council cuts, the annihilation of flood defence spending, abandoned and delayed infrastructure projects, and severe cuts to wages and to in-work benefits for the working poor.

But there are now two glaring examples of the Tory government actively wasting money in order to pursue their malicious ideological vendetta against people they consider to be way below them on the social pecking order.

Disability denial factories

It's been known for almost a year that the cost of the Tory policy of putting disabled people through humiliating Work Capacity Assessments far outweighs the savings from reduced disability benefits claims. Ever since the cost to the taxpayer of this regime was revealed the Tory government has been absolutely determined to carry on wasting money in this way.

Given that the WCA reign of terror for disabled people costs far more in corporate outsourcing fees than it will ever save in reduced benefits payments, it would make sense for a government that actually cares about saving money to abandon the policy, but the Tories absolutely refuse to.

The fact that the Tories absolutely will not scrap the appalling WCA reign of terror for disabled people even though it costs far more to administer than it will ever save is indicative of the disgusting Tory mentality.

The Tories are so desperate to strip disability benefits claimants of their social security that they don't give a damn that the corporate disability denial factories they've outsourced the work to cost the taxpayer way more money to administer than the money saved.

The sanctions regime
In November 2016 it was revealed that the savage benefits sanctions regime is another Tory welfare policy that costs far more to administer than it saves in reduced social security payments.

The Tory response to the slew of criticism of their sanctions regime was to spout a load of blatant lies and express their intention to carry on regardless of the money they're wasting in order to ruin people's lives.

It clearly doesn't matter to the Tories how much taxpayers' money they waste on their programme to condemn people to absolute destitution. They consider their policy of forcing people into starvation and homelessness to be a brilliant investment that's worth every penny of the tens of millions of pounds per year it costs the taxpayer.

It's absolutely clear that the Tories are so intent on humiliating disabled people and condemning benefits claimants to absolute destitution that they're actually prepared to waste hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer's money to do these horrific things.

As far as the Tories are concerned these schemes to humiliate and impoverish vulnerable people are money well spent.

Mainstream media complicity

Unfortunately the majority of mainstream media commentators don't give a damn about the fact that these outrageously malicious Tory schemes actually cost the taxpayer money. Most of them are apparently way too busy whining about immigrants, propagandising against Jeremy Corbyn, fawning over Theresa May and abusing judges to care.

These schemes ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year. The decisions to put people through these appalling situations are often staggeringly unfair. Consider the ridiculously harsh reasons people have been hit with benefits sanctions or the fact that one of the disability denial decision makers was a bigoted Britain First fanatic who gleefully used her position to discriminate against disabled people from ethnic minorities.

If the mainstream press wanted to stick up for people who have had their lives absolutely devastated by these appalling Tory schemes, there are easily enough cases for them to run front page headlines every day, but they chose not to because most comfortably well-off mainstream media hacks simply don't care about the fact that "the lower orders" have to endure the taxpayer subsidised Orwellian nightmares of disability denial assessments and the sanctions regime. They're comfortable in their bubbles of privilege and they wouldn't want to rock the boat by incurring the wrath of savagely right-wing press barons like Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers, Richard Desmond and Jonathan Harmsworth by daring to criticise the Tory government.
The vast majority of the mainstream media won't explain what's going on which means that it's up to people like us to spread the word.

Not only are the Tories guilty of the savage mistreatment of disabled people and the unemployed, they're also guilty of wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money to administer these utterly barbaric schemes.


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Friday, December 2, 2016

The hypocrisy of the Daily Mail knows no bounds


The hypocrisy of the Daily Mail clearly knows no bounds.

On December the 2nd 2016 the Daily Mail front page included a fond farewell to the actor Andrew Sachs who played Manuel in the 1970s comedy show Fawlty Towers.

Andreas Siegfied "Andrew" Sachs was born in Berlin in 1930 and arrived in Britain with his parents in 1938 as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany.

Back in the 1930s the Daily Mail was actively cheerleading for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. They also supported Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and openly encouraged their readers to join the fascist movement in the UK.


In 1938, in the year of Andrew Sach's arrival in the UK as a child refugee, the Daily Mail ran an editorial whining about the way Jewish refugees were "pouring" into the UK and describing the arrival of these refugees as "an outrage" (see image).

If the Daily Mail would have had their way in the 1930s the eight year old Andrew Sachs would have been sent back to Nazi Germany to be persecuted and eventually exterminated in a Nazi concentration camp.

The hypocrisy of celebrating the life and career of a guy their own newspaper would have condemned to death is staggeringly hypocritical, even by the Daily Mail's woeful standards.

The most sickening thing about this utter hypocrisy from the Daily Mail is that they're still pushing exactly the same kind of disgusting anti-refugee propaganda as the 1930s, just the targets these days are refugees from the appalling Syrian civil war, not Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.

One of the most extraordinary things about this Daily Mail front page is that they actually juxtaposed their fond farewell to the German born migrant Andrew Sachs against a front page headline whining about the current levels of migration into the UK!

Not only did the Daily Mail have the brass neck to celebrate the acting career of a guy their newspaper would have condemned to death in the Nazi concentration camps, they were also blatantly playing the game of using glaringly incompatible front page headlines to ridicule the idiocy of their own readers again.


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Another humiliating slap-down for Zac Goldsmith


As regular readers will know I'm not a big fan of the so-called Liberal Democrats. Most of my contempt for them stems from their strategically inept decision to enable the Tories back into  absolute power in 2010.

During the five years they propped up David Cameron's government the votes of elected Lib-Dem MPs and unelected Lib-Dem peers enabled 
all kind of appalling Tory malice. Years of socially and economically ruinous austerity, the flogging off of the Royal Mail at way below its true market value, "Bedroom Tax", the tripling of university student fees, the annihilation of flood defence spending (with disastrous consequences in several Lib-Dem constituencies), the NHS privatisation-by-stealth bill, Iain Duncan Smith's regime of terror for disabled people ... it was all enabled by Lib-Dem votes.


Perhaps even worse than the social and economic destruction the Lib-Dems helped David Cameron and George Osborne to inflict on the British public was the slew of gratuitously illiberal legislation that this supposedly "liberal" party helped to push trough.

No party with the word "liberal" in their name should ever have backed appalling stuff like Secret Courts, DRIPA, The Gagging Law or Theresa May's policy of tearing apart tens of thousands of British families. But that's precisely what the so-called Liberal Democrats did.

Even though the Lib-Dem's savagely illiberal actions between 2010 and 2015 speak very much louder than their cosy liberal words post-2015, I'm still pleased for their winning candidate in Richmond Park Sarah Olney.

Olney is very new to politics having only joined the Lib-Dems in July 2015. The fact that she joined them after the end of the toxic coalition with the Tories absolves her of the blame that much of the rest of the party deserve for their active participation in such a hard-right and illiberal government.

Another factor that makes Olney's victory very enjoyable is that as the de facto Liberal-Green candidate she managed to defeat the de facto Tory-UKIP candidate Zac Goldsmith.

It's an absolute pleasure to see how rapidly Zac Goldsmith's political career has collapsed after the failure of his bigoted BNP-style campaign to become the Mayor of London.

A lot of political commentators have tried to make this by-election all about Brexit, but in my opinion it represents something much bigger. It represents a resounding defeat for the bigoted right-wing dog whistle racism that Zac Goldsmith embraced in his failed bid to succeed his fellow Eton toff Boris Johnson as the Mayor of London.

The Lib-Dems have claimed that around a third of the Tory voters who abandoned Zac Goldsmith in order to vote for Sarah Olney were Brexit supporters who are disillusioned with the anti-democratic hard-right Brexit posturing and divisive immigration fearmongering of Theresa May and the Tories.

If the Lib-Dem claims are true and lots of Brexit supporters turned against the joint Tory-UKIP candidate in this by-election, it looks like a hefty slap-down for the hard-right bigotry that Zac Goldsmith was all-too-keen to appeal to during his failed mayoral campaign.

It seems that Goldsmith completely failed to learn his lesson that London doesn't want divisive extreme-right bigotry. He failed to distance himself from the Ukippers and Biffers who supported his by-election campaign, and he's lost his seat in parliament as a consequence.

If people do insist on viewing the Richmond Park by-election through the prism of Brexit, then one thing that really stands out is the way that Sarah Olney's win turns the plucky anti-establishment Brexiter narrative completely on its head.

Here we saw a comprehensive school educated political novice beating a well-connected, Eton educated, establishment insider from a super-rich elitist family. The novice from an ordinary background won for the Remain side and the establishment insider who took such a humiliating slap-down was a committed Brexiteer.

The idea of Brexit as an anti-establishment rebellion was ludicrous enough with people like Boris Johnson, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, Nigel Farage, Richard Desmond, Jonathan Harmsworth and Douglas Carswell cast as the working class anti-establishment heroes, but this by-election really did show this plucky anti-establishment Brexiter narrative up as the woeful drivel that it is.

Despite the joy any right-thinking person must feel at Zac Goldsmith's humiliation, it's vitally important to temper this surprise defeat for the hard-right with a bit of perspective. The joint Tory-UKIP candidate was beaten by a narrow margin in a wealthy liberal part of London. It's going to take an awful lot more effort to beat hard-right bigotry in places that have suffered appallingly as a result of four decades of relentless neoliberal economic dogma.

The "blame foreigners, blame refugees, blame the EU, blame lefties" snake oil of the extreme-right is obviously going to sell a hell of a lot better in politically abandoned places where huge numbers of people are desperately struggling to get by, than it does in well-to-do parts of London.

In conclusion I'd like to bid a cheery farewell to Zac Goldsmith's political career and hope that he never comes back (he'll probably soon reappear as an unelected crony in the House of Lords though, as is the Tory way), and I'd also like to wish all the best to Sarah Olney and hope that she represents a new start for the Liberal-Democrats; one that involves never again propping up hard-right illiberal Tory governments in return for a a few years of six figure ministerial salaries and chauffeur driven ministerial cars.



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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The intense gullibility of Snoopers' Charter cheerleaders


Unfortunately there are an awful lot of hopelessly gullible people in the United Kingdom. In fact these days the hopelessly gullible are clearly an important electoral demographic, hence the Tory government's ever increasing insistence on addressing the British public in glib, over-simplistic and downright misleading platitudes ("all in this together", "living within our means", "Brexit means Brexit" ...)

Out of this hopelessly gullible demographic, one group stands out above all others: the cheerleaders for Theresa May's introduction of the most invasive state surveillance regime of any democratic country on earth.

I've already written an article explaining how the Tory "catching nasty terrorists" justification is an utterly insufficient explanation for why their Snoopers' Charter gives all kinds of non-terrorism related institutions like the Food Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Gambling Commission the ability to trawl through the Internet browsing history of any innocent person they may take an interest in. You can read that here.

Anyone who thinks that the threat of terrorism is adequate justification for allowing employees of the Food Standards Agency the opportunity to trawl through the private Internet browsing data of innocent people is obviously astoundingly naive.

One of the most common concerns about state surveillance legislation is the potential for function creep*. The astounding thing about the Tory Snoopers' Charter is that they've already built function creep into the legislation by allowing dozens of non-terrorism related government agencies and quangos to use these invasive snooping powers.


The fact that the Snoopers' Charter enables state spying that goes way beyond the stated justification is far from the only complaint, but the litany of problems with this atrocious piece of legislation simply doesn't deter the right-wing authoritarian "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" crowd.

One of the Tory trolls who regularly bombards the Another Angry Voice Facebook page with his rote learned tabloid drivel tried to defend the Snoopers' Charter by saying that he didn't mind having his private personal data nicked and kept in massive, easily-hackable data dumps, "as long as they do the same to terrorists".

The idea that this mass trawling of the private browsing data of millions of people is going to catch any terrorist aside from the feeblest kind of idiot is laughably naive because any terrorist with a grain of sense is already using VPNs, anonymous Tor networks, end-to-end encryption and the like to evade mass data trawling.

The idea that harvesting the private communications data of millions upon millions of innocent people and dumping it into easily-hackable databases is a price worth paying in order to catch only the most idiotic of terrorists is absurdly naive.

The foolishness of people who would give up their own liberties (like the right to privacy for example) out of fear is best summed up by the Founding Father Benjamin Franklin who said "those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety".

The problem with right-wing cheerleaders for intrusive state surveillance isn't just their naivety, it's also their cognitive inconsistency.

When it comes to the latest Tory privatisation scam these right-wing Tory apologists are always ever so keen to explain that "the state is too big, and too inefficient to run public services properly", hence the need for public assets to be sold-off on the cheap or simply given away for free to the private sector. However when it comes to state surveillance these Tory apologists are suddenly singing a completely different tune. When it comes to the state creating vast data dumps containing the private information of millions of British citizens and British businesses, they suddenly expect us to believe that the state is so magnificently efficient and infallible that the chances of corruption, data loss and vulnerability to hacking are 0%!

Another example of this kind of cognitive inconsistency is the way that in just a matter of days right-wing loud mouths went from damning Fidel Castro as a horrible dictator to ecstatically cheering over the introduction of an invasive state surveillance system that Castro and the Cuban communists could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.
It's clear that right-wing cheerleaders for the Snoopers' Charter are not only staggeringly ignorant about the fact that this bill would only ever catch the most inept of terrorists, they're also capable of the most extraordinary displays of Orwellian Doublethink.


On one level it is actually amusing to witness the remarkably naive and staggeringly hypocritical mental contortions these people are prepared to make in order to justify a state surveillance system that would have made the East German Stasi turn green with envy.

On another level it's deeply concerning that huge numbers of people are actually such enthusiastic supporters of Theresa May and the Tories continually stripping away our rights and liberties that they're willing to overlook the woefully flawed "preventing terrorism" justification narrative; the unlikeliness of actually catching real terrorists through mass data trawling; the dangers of corruption; hacking or data loss; the fact that function creep has actually been written into the legislation; the appalling precedent set to repressive regimes like Turkey and Egypt; and the danger of such surveillance powers eventually falling into the hands of someone even more fanatically right-wing and authoritarian than Theresa May.

What you can do

The Snoopers' Charter is now law, but you can still register your dissent at this atrocious piece of legislation by writing to your MP to complain about it, and by signing the petition to have it repealed.
You can keep yourself informed on security and state surveillance issues by following campaign groups and informative blogs like Open Rights Group, EDRi, Techdirt, Electronic Frontier Foundation... 

On the whole the mainstream media have been pathetically unwilling to give the Snoopers' Charter the critical attention it deserves, so you can also help to spread public awareness of this woeful legislation by sharing this article.


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* = The term "function creep" refers to the way that new laws often end up being used in ways that they were never intended. For example - the use of anti-terrorism legislation to throw an elderly man out of the Labour Party conference for shouting "nonsense" at Jack Straw.

Wednesday, November 30, 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.


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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.


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Tuesday, November 29, 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.


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