Friday, April 29, 2011

Facebook censorship in the UK

In recent months social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have played important roles in the opposition to brutal undemocratic autocracies across the middle east, causing western commentators to sing their praises and struggling middle eastern dictators to shut them down entirely as part of their last desperate attempts to cling onto power.

Back in the UK it is a different story with Facebook carrying out a large-scale account deletion drive against UK based anti-establishment Facebook accounts on the royal wedding day which also saw large scale police action across London to prevent anti-monarchy protesters from exercising their rights to free speech. It was seemingly an exercise of power on the day that the idle rich chose to rub our faces in their centuries old inherited privilege and that the establishment yet again act as if free speech officially is a crime against the state.

Activist organisations that had their accounts sumerily deleted include Save NHS, UK Uncut Bristol, York Anarchists, Sheffield Occupation, Central London SWP, North London Solidarity, Chesterfield Stopthecuts, Camberwell AntiCuts, Tower Hamlets Greens, No Cuts, ArtsAgainst Cuts, London Student Assembly & dozens more.

The pretext for these deletions is that these organisations should have created Facebook pages rather than registering as Facebook user profiles, in violation of their "real names policy". It seems to be no coincidence that lots of UK left leaning anti-establishment pages were targeted while far right extremist groups registered as individual users have been left alone to continue spreading their hate.

Facebook implicitly supports the racist EDL
as they chose not to apply the same profile deletion technicality
to EDL groups in Nottingham, Tamworth, Dorset & Carlisle.
The fact that Facebook has been selectively deleting only UK based left leaning anti-establishment accounts suggests that they have been presented with a list of anti-establishment profiles and have carried out this purge under request.

Anyone with experience of Facebook's intransigence when the public try to get a hate page taken down must realise that such a large scale operation must have been requested by someone powerful within the UK establishment, someone from within the government or police perhaps.

To me it is sickening that Facebook chose to disrupt the legitimate activities of activist groups like Save NHS and UK Uncut using a technicality that they are unwilling to apply to far-right nationalist Facebook hate mongers like the EDL, especially on a day of national flag waving.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the organisations disrupted by Facebook's royal wedding day profile deletions.
  • Save NHS
  • Socialist Unity
  • No Cuts
  • Tower Hamlets Greens
  • Bristol Bookfair
  • Open Birkbeck
  • UWE Occupation
  • Chesterfield Stopthecuts
  • Camberwell AntiCuts
  • IVA Womensrevolution
  • ArtsAgainst Cuts
  • London Student Assembly
  • Beat’n Streets
  • Roscoe ‘Manchester’ Occupation
  • Newcastle Occupation
  • Whospeaks Forus
  • Ourland FreeLand
  • Bristol Ukuncut
  • Teampalestina Shaf
  • Notts-Uncut Part-of UKUncut
  • No Quarter Cutthewar
  • Freedom Isa StateofMind
  • Claimants Fightback
  • Ecosocialists Unite
  • Comrade George Orwell
  • Jason Derrick
  • Anarchista Rebellionis
  • BigSociety Leeds
  • Slade Occupation
  • Anti-Cuts Across Wigan
  • Firstof Mayband
  • Don’t Break Britain United
  • Cockneyreject
  • SWP Cork
  • Westiminster Trades Council
  • York Anarchists
  • Rock War
  • Sheffield Occupation
  • Central London SWP
  • North London Solidarity
  • Southwark Sos
  • Rochdale Law Centre
  • Goldsmiths Fights Back




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Do you hate Nick Clegg?

Over the last couple of years Clegg's public image
has developed from "Nick who?" through
"I agree with Nick" to "I hate Nick Clegg"

Some time ago I read an article by Martin Kettle which used a somantic definitoin of the word hate as a bizarre defence of Nick Clegg. It also included a comparison with Tony Blair and concluded with the patronising and incoherent explanation that what "we" actually hate about Clegg is the fact that he is getting the "hard things right" during the "superhumanly difficult business of governing complex modern societies successfully".

I could spend a great deal of time slagging off this very poor article, however I'm just going to stick to it's central notion that the general public shouldn't hate Clegg and a discussion of what is actually meant by the word "hate".

Kettle deliberately uses the strongest definition of hatred making comparisons with old firm sectarian violence and intimidation and contests that "Hate is responsible for more misery and wickedness than almost any politician, however hated, has ever inflicted". He is wrong to use this approach for many reasons. Claiming that the concept of hate is a more powerful force than the doings of any one politician relies on an absurd comparison and discounts the reality that in many cases politics is precisely what allows politicians to act out their hate inspired fantasies. This can be seen in extreme case such as Hitler's hate inspired policies towards the Jews, Roma, Polish, homosexuals, communists and dissidents to the apparent mix of hatred, contempt and fear which seems seem to drive Tory party policies towards the poor, the needy and the working class.

The people I have spoken to about Clegg hate/despise/can't stand/dislike/distrust him because they see him as two-faced turncoat who abandoned all the keystone Liberal Democrat policies for a tiny taste of Tory power. His pre-election speeches about making Britain a fairer place, especially for children, reforming politics and controlling the greed of the banking sector sit completely at odds with many of the hard-line Tory party policies he has publicly supported and voted in support of over the last year.

Unless the person uttering the phrase "I hate Nick Clegg" is sociopathic, psychopathic, delusional or just plain evil they are not asserting that Clegg should be tortured, maimed or killed, they are just utterly sick of him and despise him for the way that he has acted. A similar kind of meaning is expressed in the phrase "you either love Manchester United or you hate them, there is no middle ground".

I "hate" Manchester United and their disrespect for referees,
but not much in proportion to Hitler's hatred of the Jews.
Clegg's perceived dishonesty over important issues like NHS reforms, the commodification of higher education, huge public service cuts, destruction of legal aid and Sure Start and his abandonment of his "progressive new approach to politics" raise the intensity of the "hatred" above the revulsion felt by a true football fan at the familiar sight of Manchester United players surrounding the referee attempting (and succeeding) in their attempts to intimidate him into giving favourable decisions. Kettle seems to be stating a case that for the general public the concept of "hate" only exists as a blind and dangerous kind of rage, however I believe that the majority of people in this country have a proportional understanding of the word "hate" depending on the context.

During the 2010 election campaign Nick Clegg publicly held a huge signed pledge to oppose tuition fees, then before the year was out he had canvassed in support of and voted in favour of intruducing the highest public university fees in the world for English students. Anyone capable of human empathy should be able to understand the strength of feeling provoked by such a betrayal of students, the younger generation and people who oppose the commodification of higher education out of principle.

Nick Clegg's pledges,
not worth the paper they're written on.

Even the people that support the introduction of these socially and economically damaging fees must admit that this volte face is a particularly swift and dishonest looking one. Anyone who cares to defend him by repeating the conjecture and misinformation that higher fees are an economic necessity and that Clegg had no choice about the matter under the current economic climate can't defend his backslapping of Gideon Osborne and his cosy off camera chummery with David Cameron.

Many of the people that claim to "hate" Nick Clegg are of the generation that have suffered government imposed student debt over the last decade. Betraying and alienating hundreds of thousands of your own voters is not good political strategy, especially if they are young enough to never vote Lib-Dem again in another dozen or more General Elections. 

What have the progressive voters that supported the Lib-Dems been rewarded with in return for seeing Clegg and other Lib-Dem MPs enacting hard-line Tory policy for the last year? The terrible prospect of political reform being kicked into the long grass after his miserable compromise on the AV referendum is destroyed by a combination of the big budget Tory bankrolled and utterly misleading NO2AV campaign and a growing distrust and contempt towards the Lib-Dems and Clegg himself.

In the aftermath of the 2010 General Election had Clegg held out for some serious political reforms like a democratic house of Lords, real Proportional Representation in the Commons and the right of recall for corrupt politicians, the Tories would almost certainly have refused and formed a minority government. The Lib-Dems would have taken a potentially strong public perception as the critics and moderators of brutal Tory devastation and vested interests, a progressive party and principled party with a no compromise approach to political reform.

Clegg should have taken a firm stance on something like reforming the
undemocratic shambles that is the House of Lords.

A competent leader could have directed the party to present themselves as the viable political alternative to the "nasty party" while distancing themselves from the discredited New Labour people that led us into this economic and political mess in the first place. Instead of putting themselves in a position of strength the Lib-Dems have have exposed themselves as extremely poor strategists, hopeless negotiators, deceitful Tory supporters and sell outs that ditch their election promises even more dramatically than neo-Labour did in 1997 (Lords reform, PR) and 2005 (Tuition fees).

Under strong leadership the Liberal Democrats could have been looking forward to the biggest Liberal vote in Britain for over one hundred years in the local elections or even the prospect of taking a much larger share of the vote after the floundering Tory party are forced to call another General Election. Back in reality though, thanks to Clegg's supine leadership many hard working Lib-Dems face the prospect of being completely wiped off the local government landscape, losing their seats in the Scottish and Welsh parliaments and losing the referendum on the Clegg's shitty AV compromise in a public backlash against Clegg's dishonesty and the actions of his spineless Westminster Lib-Dem MPs.


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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gordon Brown & PFI: neoliberal economic alchemy

The UK is in an economic mess. This became pretty much indisputable after the government borrowed £900 billion (91% of GDP) in order to rescue the insolvent financial sector and the Bank of England started printing new money and holding interest rates at artificially low levels in order to keep the reckless speculator classes from the natural consequences of their own stupid gambling.

Gordon Brown is responsible for a lot of the mess, but not in the simplified way right-wing nut-jobs like to claim. Their contemptible contributions go along the lines of "Gordon Brown's left-wing big state policies have created this debt" when anyone can see that his adherence to orthodox neoliberal pseudo-economic (ie very right-wing) policies such as the deregulation of the banks, turning a blind eye to tax-dodging, refusing to regulate the buy-to-let slumlord sector and the introduction of extortionate PFI deals are some of the major factors in the economic meltdown.

To cram through all of those insane "off balance" PFI deals that were designed to funnel vast quantities of public money into private enterprises, whilst shifting the ownership of state infrastructure into private control - Gordon Brown either had some serious vested interests, or he was the most economically illiterate man ever to serve as chancellor (a title quickly snatched from him by Gideon Osborne).

In simple, Gordon Brown's PFI schemes are privatisations but with massive state subsidies. Instead of simply selling stuff off on the cheap to fund tax cuts for the rich like Thatcher's Tories did in the 1980s, these scams are actually designed to pay the private sector many times the value of the assets over the course of decades.The government bulldozes the old school/hospital/city hall, arranges for private interests to build a new one, then pays them many multiples of the construction cost over the course of decades. Future generations of taxpayers are shafted by these absurdly one-sided and inflexible deals and the private interests are left to cash in even further by restructuring the loans they took out to build the projects (once the risky construction phase is over and the subsidies are rolling in, they can get the rates on their loans slashed dramatically).

After the financial sector imploded in 2007-08 what happened to Brown's self imposed 40% "golden rule" of economics that incentivised all of this dodgy off balance sheet borrowing in the first place?

He ditched it as soon as his rich banker mates started squealing that they had pissed away all their money on bad bets. Then he meekly paid off all these debts to keep the whole shambolic and corrupt banking system afloat, without even bothering to nail them down with tough lending conditions or nationalising them if they wouldn't/couldn't comply. 

Instead of doing something sensible like using all of the money he wasted on the bankers' bailout to support British industry directly, we still have the same parasitic economic minority that caused the economic crash through their reckless speculation soaking billions out of the real economy in massive bonuses and convoluted tax schemes, and all it seems to cost them these days is a few million in political donations to the nasty party.

If the oodles of bailout cash had been diverted directly to British industry, universities and research facilities instead of pouring it into a black hole of bankers' debts, the nation could already be seeing good returns on the investment in terms of economic growth & employment.

The fact that our supposedly "socialist" party was up to its elbows in neoliberal economic alchemy schemes like PFI shows how pervasive the crony capitalist greed has become. Add to that the fact that New Labour also started other neoliberal processes such as NHS privatisation by stealth, Royal Mail privatisation, corporate outsourcing of the welfare state, the digital economy bill and the commodification of higher education. The New Labour adherence to neoliberal economic orthodoxy gave the Tories far more destructive power than they would have had if they had been forced to begin their crazy neoliberal agenda again from scratch after 13 years of genuinely left-wing governance.
 
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Bailouts & Sovereign debt

How the World Works: Part 1 - Bailouts &  Sovereign debt

The global banking elite squander trillions of pounds on bad investments then run squealing to democratic governments for bailouts. The governments and national banks bend over backwards to save the banking sector with free money, de-facto nationalisations, quantitative easing (printing money for the banks) and secretive multi billion low interest loans from the Federal Reserve. Despite all of this assistance the democratic authorities impose no real austerity measures on the banks and carefully avoid bringing in any serious reforms to prevent the bankers from crashing the global ecnomy again. The banking sector are allowed to carry on paying themselves billions in bonuses despite having brought the global economy to it's knees through their greed and stupidity.

A couple of years down the line the global banking elite decide that the cost of the bailouts has to be paid for by someone, so they set about downgrading the credit ratings of whole countries in order to impose severe austerity measures so that the costs can be extracted from the poor, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed and from ordinary working people.

Governments like the Tory party are more than happy to go along with this bailouts for the super rich and cuts for the poor strategy because more than half of their donations come from their super rich banker mates. It is also in accordance with their party motto of "Take from the poor to give to the rich".


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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tory immigration policy, lies and spin

The far right British National Party claim that
Cameron has nicked their immigration policies.
On 14 April 2011 Prime Minister David Cameron made a speech about immigration where he made a whole load of misleading and inflammatory claims about the issue. He has been criticised from across the political spectrum, from Vince Cable of their political allies the Liberal Democrats who said that the remarks "risked inflaming extremism" to the far right British National Party who accused Cameron of stealing their fascist policies in order to win votes before the upcoming local elections.

Perhaps it is criticism enough just to note that the BNP fascists are claiming ownership of Tory immigration policy and accusing Cameron of cynical opportunism, however I am going to outline a few of the fundamental flaws in this speech which was clearly aimed at gaining votes from people with extremist attitudes to immigration.

The first major issue is the target of reducing immigration to a net increase of only 50,000 per year. Acceptance of this theme goes further than Tory policy, the policy of reducing immigration to the UK "to the low tens of thousands" is a stated aim of the cross-party parliamentary group on balanced migration. Anyone with the vaguest understanding of current issues in immigration will know that the whole idea of capping inward migration is utterly absurd given the fact that hundreds of millions of Europeans have a legal right to migrate here under European freedom of movement legislation. The majority of migrants to the UK have come here from elsewhere in Europe, it is illegal to turn them away even if they have a long criminal record or no work history. As long as British wages remain significantly higher than eastern and southern European states the inward flow of migration will not stop. It does not matter how hard the British government stamps down on the minority of non-EU migrants if the door is left wide open to anyone who wants to relocate from Europe. Any politician speaking about reducing immigration to a set target would be being utterly disingenuous unless their party's immigration policy included removing Britain from the European Union and/or revoking Britain's acceptance of European freedom of movement legislation (which would have a severe impact on many hundreds of thousands of Brits living and working abroad).

In his speech Cameron also used some highly misleading statistics by claiming that 75% of all newly created jobs since 1997 have gone to foreign born individuals. This claim is clearly just a conflation of two different statistics noting that the number of immigrants working in the UK has risen by 75% of the number of new jobs created in the UK in the same period. The claim that three in every four new jobs are filled by immigrants is clearly just an inaccurate and cynical attempt to stir up anti-immigration sentiments. He used more misleading statistics citing net migration figueres of 2.2 million since 1997 and then later in the speech claiming that European migration only accounted for 27,000 immigrants in 2010. He knows as well as anyone that the majority of the 2.2 million immigrants since 1997 have been Europeans and that the flood of European migrants reduced to a trickle because of the severe economic conditions that his party is intent on exacerbating with their ideologically driven cuts agenda. Picking the 2010 figures ahead of say the 2006 figures or an average since 1997 is a classic example of cherry picking statistics to support a pre-determined agenda.

Cameron also took a swipe at another minority group in seeking to blame the unemployed, claiming that the blame for immigration lies with Labour's failure to deal with the long term unemployed. Cameron should know as well as anyone that many of the biggest hotbeds of long term unemployment are communities that had their principle industries closed down by the Tories in the 1980s (manufacturing, mining, ship building, steel factories etc). Had the Tories supported these industries or implemented policies to find alternative jobs for the communities they decimated then welfare dependency (and other factors like mental health issues, drug use, crime and poor health) in these areas would be a much smaller problem. These places are rarely desired destinations for immigrants, given the lack of jobs, poor services and high crime rates.

Aside from stealing far right policies from the BNP, misusing statistics to stir up anti-immigrant sentiments and seeking to blame the poorest members of society for high immigration there are many other problems with these far-right policies. The Tory policy of limiting the number of skilled immigrants coming from outside the EU to 20,700 is clearly nonsensical. Why are they seeking to reduce the number of economically and socially beneficial skilled migrants coming into the country while simultaneously allowing in hundreds of thousands of unskilled Europeans? Why are they seeking to limit the number of student visas to 80,000 when the high fees paid by non-EU students are a valuable source of revenue for British universities, especially at a time when they are suffering from large cuts in state funding?

Another issue is Cameron's faux concern that immigrants are settling in the UK without learning the English language. If this was a real Conservative party concern surely they would not be imposing big cuts on English language classes for immigrants.

Have £millions in the bank?
One of these could be yours within two years.
Have skills? GO AWAY.
The terrible fact is that the Tories are not alone in this, all of the major parties seem to have agreed on these far right policies as evidenced by the statement from the cross-party parliamentary group on balanced migration when they made the bizarre and unfounded assertion that "the whole country will support" the prime minister's "splitting of the right to come here to work from gaining citizenship". I for one am fundamentally opposed to the discrimanatary policy of reducing non-EU doctors or nurses working in the NHS to second class citizens that can be thrown out of the country as soon as their working lives are over. If someone comes to Britain to work, contribute to British industry or to British welfare and make tax contributions they should be able to earn the right to become a citizen. At a time when the government is actively discouraging young people from training as doctors and nurses by increasing fees and attacking NHS bursaries the policy of refusing citizenship to the immigrants that must come in to fill the gaps seems like it is actually designed to damage the NHS.

As is always the way with the Tory party there is one set of rules for the rich and another set of rules for the poor. As they set arbitrary and economically damaging caps on skilled immigrants and students, make inflammatory anti-immigration speeches and remove rights from economically beneficial working immigrants they quietly announce that any immigrant coming to the UK with at least £5 million in the bank will get a fast track passport in only three years and anyone arriving with more than £10 million in the bank will get their passport within two years.

The reason Cameron chooses to make inflammatory and misleading immigration speeches in the run up to local elections is pretty clear. The people that generally approve most strongly of this kind of bombastic anti-immigration rhetoric are the baby boomers and older generations who are also the people that are statistically most likely to cast their votes in local elections.


See Also
  



 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

British businessmen admit that the Tory cuts they supported are causing economic contraction.

In an article entitled Business chiefs who backed coalition cuts raise fears for UK economy the Guardian has reported that a bunch of British "businessmen" who backed George Osbourne's slash and burn economic measures in a letter to the Telegraph back in 2010 have now started to complain that they are not seeing the economic growth they had expected and began talking down the ability of the private sector to create jobs, which is completely at odds the letter's claim that [The private sector] should be more than capable of generating additional jobs to replace those lost in the public sector".

The most surprising thing is that so many of these people referred to as "prominent business leaders" were so shortsighted that they could not understand that if a country's ruling elite pours hundreds of billions of pounds into the banks then prints loads of extra "artificial" money to help their rich mates stay filthy rich, then extracts the costs of these schemes through sacking "alarm clock proles", slashing public services and driving up inflation, whilst millions are suffering the consequences of wage freezes, then ordinary working people are going to have much less cash to buy crap from the half-witted wankers that were publicly applauding these half-baked economic measures as they came in.

The government could have applied strict lending conditions on the banks or let them fold and absorbed the costs into a national investment bank then used all of the money wasted on the bailout to support British industry directly (with 1% loans instead of giving it to the banks for them to lend on to us and our businesses at 12%). Had they done this we could already be seeing good returns on that investment in terms of economic growth and employment, instead we still have exactly the same parasitic economic minority that caused the economic crash through reckless speculation still soaking billions out of the real economy in their massive bonuses and convoluted tax avoidance schemes and all it costs them is a few million in political donations to the nasty party.

Here is a handy list of the people that wrote their stupid letter to the Telegraph in support of Tory cuts, it is always useful to know which companies would like you to boycott them.
  • Will Adderley - CEO, Dunelm Group
  • Robert Bensoussan - Chairman, L.K. Bennett
  • Andy Bond - Chairman, ASDA
  • Ian Cheshire - Chief Executive, Kingfisher
  • Gerald Corbett - Chairman, SSL International, moneysupermarket.com, Britvic
  • Peter Cullum - Executive Chairman, Towergate
  • Tej Dhillon - Chairman and CEO, Dhillon Group
  • Philip Dilley - Chairman, Arup
  • Charles Dunstone - Chairman, Carphone Warehouse Group, TalkTalk Telecom Group
  • Warren East - CEO, ARM Holdings
  • Gordon Frazer - Managing Director, Microsoft UK
  • Sir Christopher Gent - Non-Executive Chairman, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Ben Gordon - Chief Executive, Mothercare
  • Anthony Habgood - Chairman, Whitbread, Reed Elsevier 
  • Aidan Heavey - Chief Executive, Tullow Oil
  • Neil Johnson - Chairman, UMECO
  • Nick Leslau - Chairman, Prestbury Group
    Ian Livingston - CEO, BT Group
  • Ruby McGregor-Smith - CEO, MITIE Group
  • Rick Medlock - CFO, Inmarsat; Non-Executive Director lovefilms.com, The Betting Group
  • John Nelson - Chairman, Hammerson
  • Stefano Pessina - Executive Chairman, Alliance Boots
  • Nick Prest - Chairman, AVEVA
  • Nick Robertson - CEO, ASOS
  • Sir Stuart Rose - Chairman, Marks & Spencer
  • Tim Steiner - CEO, Ocado
  • Andrew Sukawaty - Chairman and CEO, Inmarsat
  • Michael Turner - Executive Chairman, Fuller, Smith and Turner
  • Moni Varma - Chairman, Veetee
  • Paul Walker - Chief Executive, Sage
  • Paul Walsh - Chief Executive, Diageo
  • Robert Walters - CEO, Robert Walters
  • Joseph Wan - Chief Executive, Harvey Nichols
  • Bob Wigley - Chairman, Expansys, Stonehaven Associates, Yell Group
  • Simon Wolfson - Chief Executive, Next

See also