Monthly Archives: September 2015

Yanis Varoufakis Slaps Down An Economic Simpleton

I had to post this clip from last night’s Question Time of Yanis Varoufakis demolishing this audience member’s simplistic economic analogy. It’s the first time I can remember anyone on television ripping apart the Thatcherite notion that household and personal finances are equivalent to state finances. Glorious.

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Filed under Government & politics, Public spending

The Rank Hypocrisy Of The DUP Must Be Challenged

The stench of hypocrisy coming from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has been overpowering. In the last few weeks, we’ve been treated to Peter Robinson flouncing out of Stormont on the grounds that “the IRA continues to be active”, while Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s leader at Westminster rose to his feet during Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday to accuse John McDonnell of being in league with the IRA. Yesterday, Dodds appeared on The Daily Politics to repeat his smear. Andrew Neil, who had earlier interrupted economist, Richard J Murphy, sat there passively while Dodds came out with smear after smear. Not once did Neil mention Dodds’s appearance at the funeral of John Bingham, a Loyalist thug. Not once did Neil mention Dodds’s leader’s involvement with Ulster Resistance, a Loyalist outfit with links to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Red Hand Commando (RHC). Not once did Neil challenge the DUP’s credibility. It was as if none of this mattered. This told The Cat that the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media continues to have a blind spot when it comes to links between the DUP and Loyalist paramilitaries. Some of those paramilitary groups, the UVF especially, acted as death squads for the British state.

Since Jeremy Corbyn entered the Labour leadership election, the mainstream media has constantly sought to discredit him. Once he became leader, those efforts have intensified.  Now it’s guilt by association. The recent accusation that Corbyn and McDonnell have accommodated ‘terrorists’ is predicated on two things: first, that talking to the IRA is in itself an indication of support for terrorism and second, the Thatcher government never made any contact with the IRA. Both of these things are untrue. The Thatcher government maintained contacts with the IRA throughout the 1980s. This has been continually overlooked by the likes of Andrew Neil and others.

In 1986, Nigel Dodds attended the funeral of UVF commander, John Bingham. Dodds was quite happy to do this, yet no one at the BBC seems to have spotted it nor brought up the matter in any interviews with him. You can read more about Bingham here (Hat tip to Michael Rosen for the link).

Nigel Dodds was recently pictured with Winston ‘Winkie’ Irvine, a UVF commander and member of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP). Irvine also claims to be a “community leader”. Here’s an expose of him produced by BBC Northern Ireland.

Here’s Dodds with Irvine (left) pictured outside the PSNI Headquarters in Belfast in 2013. Hypocrisy much, Nige?

The DUP’s Peter Robinson on parade with Ulster Resistance. Cat got your tongue, Nige?

Here’s Robinson denying the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) are terrorists. Instead he describes them as “counter terrorists”.

Last year, the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, a former member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) appeared to speak on behalf of Loyalist paramilitaries. This BBC article says that Donaldson claimed that Loyalists “will take a peaceful approach” when protesting about planned parade restrictions.

Then there are the links between Loyalist paramilitaries and far-right parties like the British National Party and National Front. Britain First was not only inspired by Ulster Loyalism, it is an outgrowth of it.  Founded by Jim Dowson, a Christian fundamentalist and Loyalist who ran the BNP’s call centre in Dundonald, Britain First has adopted the motifs of Ulster Loyalism right down to its use of military style uniforms and its logo.

If the IRA is still operational as the DUP claims, then so too are the various Loyalist outfits. There’s an old saying where I come from. “People in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones”. Nigel Dodds, Peter Robinson and Jeffrey Donaldson would do well to learn and remember that.

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Is It Time For A New Chartist Movement?

The People’s Charter of 1838

The Cat thinks so. The original Chartist movement began in 1838, six years after the First Reform Act was passed,  which extended the franchise to property-owning males and abolished the Rotten Boroughs. Sadly, it didn’t go far enough. The working class were still effectively excluded from the franchise, yet they were still subjected to the tripartite social dictatorship of the aristocracy, the landed gentry and the industrialists who were represented in Parliament by the Tories and the Whigs. The Poor Act of 1834 provided a further catalyst for the Chartist movement. Fast forward to the present day and Conservative government is threatening to rebrand the Poor Law.

Today’s neoliberal politicians continue to talk about The Deficit. The Conservative Party claims that deficit reduction is their key priority and talk about little else. The Labour Party under the Blairite postmodernists bought into their mantra andrepeated the urgency of cutting the deficit for no other reason than to appear legitimate and responsible (sic). What these parties ignored was the democratic deficit. The Conservative government’s demand for deficit reduction at all costs coupled with their creeping authoritarianism has been matched by the Labour Party’s lack of opposition to some the severest cuts to public services in a generation. A weak opposition does no one any good. Even Francoist Spain had token opposition parties that lent a democratic veneer to a deeply reactionary and authoritarian regime. However, now that Jeremy Corbyn has become the new Labour leader, there is a chance that the party will become a proper opposition.

Commentators (themselves institutionalized through their role as lobby journalists) have long regarded the United Kingdom’s Parliament as “the mother of all parliaments”. Furthermore, they will also claim that this country has given the world the “rule of law”, which they claim stems from the Magna Carta, a document that freed the barons but not the peasantry. Because the United Kingdom lacks a written constitution and a bill of rights, civil liberties can be suspended at any time at the whim of a sitting Prime Minister. That’s right, your freedoms are entirely imagined… unless you have the money to pay for them.

Later this year, Tory government plans to redraw the constituency boundaries without offering electoral reforms. This is gerrymandering. They may claim that there are too many MPs. What they really mean is that there are too many opposition MPs and they want to rule unopposed indefinitely. They must be held to account.

The original People’s Charter made the following demands for political reform:

1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.
2. The Secret Ballot – To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
3. No Property Qualification for Members of Parliament – thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
4. Payment of Members, thus enabling an honest trades-man, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency; when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.
5. Equal Constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of large ones.
6. Annual Parliament Elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since as the constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelve month; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.

Six simple demands. Yet it would take decades before most of these demands were met.

In 1988, Charter 88 was formed for much the same reasons as the original Chartist movement.  Their demands were:

We have had less freedom than we believed. That which we have enjoyed has been too dependent on the benevolence of our rulers. Our freedoms have remained their possession, rationed out to us as subjects rather than being our own inalienable possession as citizens. To make real the freedoms we once took for granted means for the first time to take them for ourselves. The time has come to demand political, civil and human rights in the United Kingdom. We call, therefore, for a new constitutional settlement which will:

  • Enshrine, by means of a Bill of Rights, such civil liberties as the right to peaceful assembly, to freedom of association, to freedom from discrimination, to freedom from detention without trial, to trial by jury, to privacy and to freedom of expression.
  • Subject Executive powers and prerogatives, by whomsoever exercised, to the rule of law.
  • Establish freedom of information and open government.
  • Create a fair electoral system of proportional representation.
  • Reform the Upper House to establish a democratic, non-hereditary Second Chamber.
  • Place the Executive under the power of a democratically renewed Parliament and all agencies of the state under the rule of law.
  • Ensure the independence of a reformed judiciary.
  • Provide legal remedies for all abuses of power by the state and by officials of central and local government.
  • Guarantee an equitable distribution of power between the nations of the United Kingdom and between local, regional and central government.
  • Draw up a written constitution anchored in the ideal of universal citizenship, that incorporates these reforms.

The inscription of laws does not guarantee their realisation. Only people themselves can ensure freedom, democracy and equality before the law. Nonetheless, such ends are far better demanded, and more effectively obtained and guarded, once they belong to everyone by inalienable right. Add your name to ours. sign the charter now!

Source: Wikipedia

Today, over a century later, we continue to suffer from a lack of democratic accountability and it’s getting worse. It is for good reason that our European neighbours refer to this country as “the most centralized country in Europe”. The lack of modernity in the United Kingdom is more than matched by the antiquated nature of our legislature and electoral system.

The Cat demands:

  1. An electoral system that is proportional and fair. The Alternative Vote system put before the British people in 2011 was neither proportional nor fair and was offered as an inferior substitute to force the issue of proportional representation off the table for generations.
  2. An end to the City of London’s undue and disproportionate influence on Parliament. The cosy deals between corporations, hedge funds and other financial institutions and political parties must be ended. Political parties should be state funded to avoid any conflict of interest or corruption of the democratic process by corporations and finance houses exerting influence on them.
  3. The abolition of the monarchy and the honours system.  The monarch should be replaced with a president that has been elected by the people. The president shall serve for a term of seven years and shall be subordinate to Parliament. The antiquated institutions,  titles and roles that stem from monarchy should also be abolished. These include the House of Lords, Lord Lieutenants, Governor Generals, High Sheriffs and similar titles.
  4. The devolution of power from Westminster to the nations, regions and metropolitan counties of the United Kingdom, and the creation of a federal state. Each political division shall have its own democratically elected assembly that is elected by universal suffrage on a proportional basis. The creation of workers or community councils to supplement and complement the work of the larger bodies.
  5. The voting age be reduced to 16.
  6. A written constitution that contains a Bill of Rights, which enshrines civil liberties in statute and defines the roles of the officers and executives of the nations, regions and other political divisions.
  7. An substantial reduction of the election deposit.

Jeremy Corbyn may have won the Labour leadership, but the work outside of Parliament must continue. Politics neither begins nor ends with politicians or Parliaments!

You may have your own idea of what the new People’s Charter should look like. Feel free to add some more.

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No Compassion For Refugees Please, We’re British

“Charity begins at home” at least this is what Britain’s “no refugees here” types have been saying on comments threads on The Guardian and Independent websites. Ironically (or perhaps not), these are the very same people who would not only claim that “people are receiving to much in social security payments”, they would also tell you that the existence of foodbanks proves there is a “food shortage” in this country. Logic? It was never there in the first place.

Many people like to think of The Guardian and The Independent as liberal newspapers with socially liberal readerships. In the case of The Indy, this notion was blown out of the water by the paper’s support for the Tories at the last election and in the case of The Graun, there has been a steady rightward drift in its editorial orientation for years. Sadly, however, the change in direction for these papers has also attracted legions of right-wing racists and keyboard warriors, all of whom have been drawn to the stories of what is now being called the “Refugee Crisis” (formerly the “Migrant Crisis”), a crisis that was entirely created by the actions of the so-called West.

Yet the idea that there is a cause behind the Refugee Crisis is barely mentioned by the tabloid hacks and their pals in Parliament. Instead, in the mind of the knuckledragger, these people are coming here variously for “economic reasons” or the “presence of McDonalds and KFC”, or some such nonsense, and not because they are fleeing the conflicts and tyrannies that the West has created and sustained for decades. Causality, as far as these people are concerned, is a hospital drama on BBC1.

Readers, I have been disgusted by the lack of compassion shown by these keyboard warriors and slackwits but I have been even more disgusted by The Indy’s and The Graun’s tolerance of the vile hatred that’s being openly expressed on its comments threads. If I want to read that kind of shite, I can always go to St*rmfr*nt. Dig?

I always remember reading about this country’s hostile reaction towards the thousands of Jewish refugees who were fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s. This article by Anne Karpf from 2002 – in The Guardian – recalls that those years.

The parallels between past and present are striking. Just as the majority of Jewish refugees were admitted less for compassionate reasons than to meet the shortage of domestic servants, so today’s refugees tend to do the low-paid catering and cleaning jobs spurned by the native British. And just as in spring 1940, when German Jews were interned on the Isle of Man, British newspapers blurred the distinctions between refugee, alien and enemy, so today, according to Alasdair Mackenzie, coordinator of Asylum Aid, “There’s general confusion in many newspapers between an asylum seeker and someone from abroad – everyone gets tarred with the same brush.”

Hostility towards the refugees was stirred up by the virulently anti-immigration rag The Daily (Hate) Mail. Many people internalised its xenophobic and anti-Semitic messages and demanded the government refuse to land any refugees. Déjà Vu? Malheureusement, oui.

The comment below appeared on this Guardian article by the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas. Her name, alone, is enough the get hordes of slavering knuckledraggers thumping their chests and declaring themselves the defenders of “common sense”.

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Britons would probably be far more receptive to the idea of allowing many more refugees into Britain had the country not experience almost two decades of mass immigration in which over five million people had entered Britain.

Here, we have a comment in which the views expressed are little different to those expressed by UKIP’ Nigel Farage (or that Nuttall wanker) on a weekly basis. Although it avoids offensive language and isn’t obvious in its racism, its premise is based on the notion that there has been an “invasion”. Yet, this commenter offers no proof for the numbers they’re using; they are seemingly axiomatic.

On the other hand, this commenter doesn’t disguise his hatred. This is what passes for wit.

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So it turns out now that the guy who recklessly ended up drowning his wife and children had turned down asylum.

Oh.

Sickening.

The government’s response to the crisis has been characteristically Tory: blame “people smugglers” and keep repeating the word “criminals”. It’s as if the refugees themselves have become secondary to the need to punish “those responsible for the trafficking”. In April, in response to refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, Michael ‘Polly’ Portillo, the son of a Spanish republican refugee who fled Franco’s dictatorship, said they should be “sent back where they came from” – and should be “dumped on a Libyan beach”. And you thought he’d been rehabilitated? No way, he’s the same as he ever was.

This nation has been governed by bullies for centuries and people have internalised the bullying to such an extent that they, themselves, have become bullies. This is evident from the lack of compassion shown to refugees. The idea that “charity begins at home” is noble one but one which is now being used dishonestly to bolster the fash’s absurd claim that this country is “full up”.

A few days ago, Cameron appeared on television to give an account of his sluggish response to the crisis. He told the reporter with a straight face that the solution is to “bring peace in Middle East”. But that’s after he’s bombed it back to the Stone Age first.

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Filed under Africa, Eritrea, immigration, Journalism, Libya, Media, Middle East, News/Current Affairs, propaganda, racism, Society & culture, Sudan, Syria, World