Occupy Wall Street for all of us

Thomas Jefferson said “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency they will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” As is often the case, Jefferson was right and his comment contained an unwelcome fortune tale. Every aspect of American life is controlled and governed by financial corporations. They own the government, the media, the police, the entire state apparatus and all those things feed back in a grand loop to benefit the small elite at the top, the 1% as they have been dubbed.

The American people have realised that the time for talking has stopped and there is no room for negotiation any more. The American people have been sleeping for so long and dreaming their American dream, but no more. It was a dream built on the fabrication of ideals that knew no boundaries of falsity. A giant concocted fairy tale engineered to squeeze false hope from the masses. People are slowly but surely realising this and they are standing, shoulder to shoulder as they look their tormentors in the eye and say as one “we will take this no more!”

The American government and their police protectors believe protests in foreign lands are democratic, but to do it at home is somehow unpatriotic. Every avenue of their oppressive regime will be employed to cow the masses in to retreat. The people must not retreat. The state is scared, this is obvious from the level of wrongheaded commentary coming from the mouthpieces of the wealthy. The death throes of any dying regime will be their most aggressive and ultimately most futile as long as the people stay the course.

The Americans have a great tradition of popular protest, from anti-colonialism to civil-rights. The rest of the world looks to the self styled leader of the free to give us what they so long claimed as theirs. That very freedom to hold that state to account. We follow where they lead. When they wrongly chose capitalism, so did we. When they wrongly chose nuclear weapons, so did we. For the first time in a long time the most powerful nation on earth can choose reason, rationality and right. And we will follow! This could be the proudest moment in the short history of the United States of America. Good luck, and good night.

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Gideon and Workers Rights

George Osborne is using the mask of global financial crisis to ram through ever more draconian policies with regards to workers rights. The Tory-led coalition government have attacked women, children, the sick and disabled in their austerity measures so far and the new target is firmly set upon the rest of the working class. He wants to bring in a system of charges that will make it incredibly difficult to bring bad employers to justices, these charges will fall on the applicant rather than the company. Unfair dismissal cases are notoriously difficult to prove and now they will even struggle to get to a judicial stage thanks to the interference of big-business-friendly George and co. who want nothing more than to see workers as slaves, seen but not heard. He intends also to restrict eligibility for protection from unfair dismissal to people employed for two years rather than one as it currently is. All this does is make it easier for bosses to sack workers they don’t like for any reason be they lawful or not and the employee has no right of reply. Boss is a racist? He can fire you for being black. Boss is right-wing? He can fire you for joining a trade union. Boss is a bully? He can fire you for whistleblowing. The UK has the most unfavorable Trade Union laws in the developed world outside of the USA and these laws are about to get tougher and tougher under this government whose whole agenda seems to be geared towards climbing on the backs of the underprivileged to get a better view of the smouldering ruins of our towns and cities. If you don’t like trade unions then stop taking weekends off because it was trade unions that fought for leisure time, work 12-15 hours a day as well, oh and take your infant son with you, well, that or send him down the pit or up the chimney, well you can’t survive on your wage alone can you since there would be no minimum wage without trade unions. Women, you better stay at home and give the vote back and don’t expect to be educated if your parents aren’t members of the aristocracy. And for Gods sake, don’t get sick. Support trade unions, they’ve supported you your whole lives and you’ve never even known.

In amongst all this is his do-nothing approach to the economy. He cuts and cuts and cuts but places no value whatsoever on stimulating consumer spending. There are a number of methods he could use; he could increase the old age pension for two years, pensioners tend to spend any extra income they receive and it would be a good boost for the economy, not to mention a vote winner. He could raise the minimum wage to a living wage which would have the same effect as the previous proposal, more money at the lower end of the financial ladder always results in high spending on the part of the public, and that money will be spent in the ever-struggling high street. What he really wants to do in true fiscal conservative fashion is give a tax break to the wealthy, ie himself and his friends. All this does is give people more money to save. The rich don’t spend their extra cash, the watch it grow, usually in offshore bank accounts where the taxman can’t, and doesn’t want, to touch it. He could cut VAT which provided a useful boost to the economy last time around. A few pence doesn’t sound a lot but as a famous parasitic supermarket says, every little helps. He still firmly believes the private sector will pick up the “slack” as he calls it of all those public sector jobs that were cut but it simply isn’t happening. ONS statistics show that while public sector employment fell by 111,000 between March and June 2011, private sector employment increased by just 41,000. Youth unemployment is stunningly high and all the government want to talk about is abolition of the Human Rights Act and pet cats (see Theresa May if you don’t know what I mean).

Tories can question Labour all they like on fiscal responsibility but those of us in the north remember the 80s only too well. The Conservative Party of this country have lead us in to recession after recession and if George Osborne sticks to his so called plans it is a cast-iron guarantee that we will be in another one by the end of this Parliament.

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Nadine “Mad” Dorries and the abortion vote

I just had the misfortune to watch Nadine Dorries debase herself at the font of fundamentalism in the House of Commons. Thankfully MP’s have voted against her ridiculous amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill which was nothing more than a veiled attempt at reducing a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion or not. Her idea of introducing “independent” counselling is shown up for what it is by Dorries’ own supporters, many of which are hard-line Christian and Catholic groups who have an ideological interest in guilt-tripping women out of abortions even in the case of incest and rape. Bids for independent counselling work could come from the network of crisis pregnancy centres (CPCs) linked to churches and run by CareConfidential, and the anti-abortion charity Life. These people have no place in a 21st century country.

Her arguments were loosely based around the fact that current counselling is given by abortion providers such as Marie Stopes clinics and BPAS who have a financial interest in keeping the abortion rate high. It is inconceivable that these organisations, which are not-for-profit, have been “procuring” abortions from vulnerable women, they were set up in the first place under the banner of choice and continue to work under that mantra. These organisations have kept a remarkable level of dignity and got on with the hard work of counselling and providing services for women all over the country in the face of this bullshit.

As for Dorries herself her speech floated through an early calmness in to conjecture and circumstantial evidence, and on to blatant lies about abortion provision and potentially criminal libellous allegations about former Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris, all this while giving way almost exclusively to Male Tory MP’s who wanted to pat her on the back while sniggering at having one of Lenin’s useful idiots do their dirty work for them re: women’s liberation. At one point she even compares getting an abortion to acquiring a mortgage, somewhere property has to come in to it for these Daily Mail types. It was left to Diane Abbott to come to the floor and was masterful in her deconstruction of Dorries arguments. She was passionate, concise and damning in her criticism of the amendments, which have no place in a Health and Social Care Bill and potentially overshadowed the point that this bill aims to dismantle the National Health Service and hand over its profitable parts to private companies such as Atos Health Care and Bupa.

I have friends who have been through abortions and at least one who didn’t go through with it and at all times they never felt pressures one way or the other by these services. Pressure came from outside; friends, family, boyfriends particularly and overwhelmingly from our present society, patriarchal as it still is and assumes women are there to be told what to do, be it by government or church or “the family” as though women aren’t half of that last example, as they should be half of the others.

Mad Dorries also supports abstinence only sex education. These two policies go hand in hand; not only will that result in more teenage pregnancies ala Texas but those young women won’t be able to access fair guidance on abortion services. Of course most of these girls will be from the working classes, or the “feral underclass” as Kenneth Clarke unhelpfully labelled them recently who will come in to a future Tory dystopia where benefits have been slashed, the NHS is privatised and there are no jobs. What a utopia Dorries and her ilk are fighting for! As I say, the vote defeated her but there is one prize left. It’s going to be a close run thing for most deluded person of the year between Mumar Gadaffi and Nadine Dorries.

Please do click here for a great example of how the service currently operates.

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David Starkey and Racism

Having just watched Newsnight with David Starkey, I felt the need to blog about it, as you do in these times of instant analysis and feedback. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, click here, and watch an old, out of touch historian (historian, not political commentator) either committing career suicide, or cunningly getting himself trending all over place to promote his, rather good, popular history books.

Was he being racist, is a rhetorical question Toby Young has asked on his all too predictable Torygraph blog. Toby thinks not, I, and it seems countless others think differently. Of course he was being racist. He equated black culture, language and influence with violence, thuggery and thieving. I imagine his favourite joke goes something along the lines of “what kind of key can open any lock? A darkie”, chortles and brandys all round. If what he was saying wasn’t racist, then I too am out of touch, because if I said at work what he said last night I’d probably be fired, justly according to our equality and diversity policy.

The BBC don’t have people like Starkey or Kelvin McKenzie or Jon Gaunt on to say sober things and provide accurate analysis of current events. They ask them on because they know they’re going to get controversy that provokes debate and gets people talking. I can’t stand them, but I’ve seen more people talking about, and defending black culture and youth culture more broadly this morning than I’ve seen in a long, long time. That’s what these people are good for, fostering and tickling out the ties that bind us all. They throw their bile at us as useful idiots will and we stand, shower in it and dilute with magic beans and fairy dust. There’s no point banning these people from our screens because you also ban our ability to defend ourselves against such views.

The ruling classes, of which Starkey is a fully paid up member, will always try to divide the people at the bottom in to useful pigeon holes and set them against one another. If they can blame the riots on a dangerous black culture usurping the Victorian values of the nice whites then they absolve themselves of any blame. The same way they can blame “the Poles” for “taking all the jobs”, never mind that manufacturing has been decimated in this country by governments of all shades over the last 32 years. They build the walls between us and they’re terrified of seeing us knock them down. The British Empire was built on a tactic of divide and rule and that method of conquest has been recreated in our cities and towns all over the UK. They hate the fact that the “feral youth” have rioted and attacked private property, the battle ground for any class war, but they love the chance they now have to use it to divide us all over again, on racial lines, gender lines, class lines (note the talk of an “underclass” separating the rioters from working class people). If they could they’d divide us on hair colour, eye colour and body piercings too.

Let’s not let it happen. Let’s not let Starkey and co beat us again and have it all their own way. Let’s dictate to them our terms of reference for the debate and watch them squirm as one by one the tropes disappear and we uncover, finally, the source of all ill in this country, a burdensome, thieving, criminal and downright evil set of people who have always been, and still are, the ruling class.

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Panic on the Streets of London

Riots have broken out across London in the past three nights after the police shot and killed a man, Mark Duggan last Thursday evening. This event has sparked off a descent in to the realms of riotous behaviour among the citizens of London, the poorer citizens of London, the citizens of London the government were told would enact civil unrest because of the huge cuts programme that disproportionally effects those people.

There are two elements to this, one is a feeling of disgust at the police over what seems to be another innocent man being murdered by the Met which brings the total to at least 333 since 1998 with not a single police conviction. The feeling is that the police can and do get away with murder, specifically of black people. Though it is not just black people rioting, it is a whole class, a class the Telegraph have unhelpfully labelled as an “underclass”.

And this is the second element of the troubles, these people are having every ladder of escape kicked away from them day after day after day and being forced to live in abject poverty. Their government don’t listen to them, they have no voice so the only way they can make themselves heard is through this. Isn’t it strange that local MPs who have been dragged on to news programmes in recent nights to condemn the violence failed so spectacularly to condemn the cuts that lead to this carnage in the first place?

This isn’t an underclass trying to gain mob-rule, it’s a group of frightened kids who have been targeted by and out-of-touch government for mistreatment. This is violence, but it is political violence and as a result can’t simply be tagged as unjust by all and sundry. Equally the violence committed against the poor in this country has been mastered by the political agent. There is a very simple root cause; the institutional racism of the British Police and a cruel and vengeful Tory Party who know they’ll never garner any votes from the poor so choose to attack them instead.

The rule of law itself is organically generated from the violence which it creates. The problem here is that those whose job it is to keep law and order have been usurped by the fundamentalisms of ideology and class warfare, soaked in a toxic liquid of prejudice and discrimination. This is not mindless violence however bad it looks on those plasma screens that other people can afford in the first place, it is quite the opposite, it is intelligent violence because it is making people discuss the issues. The actual people involved may not go down as heroes in the classic revolutionary sense, that role is largely impossible these days. More likely the people, eventually to be arrested and thrown the book at will be martyrs to a class based movement linked intrinsically to the governmental practice of inequality, exploitation and injustice.

It is almost fitting that this is being played out against a backdrop of severe economic turbulence and the obscenity that you have unemployed young people tearing London apart while literally Trillions of chiefly imaginary dollars disappears from stock markets across the globe. This is the comparison that must be made. Our politics and the operators within our system are the symptoms of one deeper, uncontrollable malaise; that of entrenched capitalist exploitation in the name of the free market.

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The Death Penalty

The government’s new propaganda toy, the e-petitions database is up and running with a predictable swathe of right-wing lunacy hitting the headlines as a result. One of the most prominent petitions is one to reinstate the death penalty. It’s quite sad that our government exports death oversees through our “defence forces” and by selling weapons to tyrannical governments but now we want to start bumping our own inconveniences off as well.

Are we really still here? Is this still an argument? One brief look in a westward direction shows us the disaster that is the American death row system. There are countless cases where evidence has been produced after an execution to exonerate those believed to have committed a crime. In total, 138 prisoners have been either acquitted, or received pardons or commutations on the basis of possible innocence, since 1973 in the United States, this one statistic makes a mockery of the right of governments to kill their own citizens. Here is a list of those lucky people  who shouldn’t have been convicted in the first place.

But it’s not just the innocents, it’s the people who change when given the chance and the basic belief that nobody is born evil and equally nobody has to die evil. Evil is a word we use when our society produces someone we can’t comprehend, it absolves us of our own guilt when in truth evil exists as a capability in every one of us and we as a city/nation/planet collectively give birth to absolute nutter sometimes. They’re not aberrations, they are direct results of our own increasing lack of humanity towards one another. People can be reformed, just one case among many who was executed in the end was Stanley “Tookie” Williams, a former gang member in LA who co-founded the Crips street gang. He was convicted of four murders (he always denied) committed in the course of robberies and sentenced to death. Later on in his life, he became an author of several books including anti-gang and violence literature and children’s books. These books have changed the lives of so many people who were on the wrong tracks similar to those of the author. He was making a difference and people listened to him because he understood them, where they came from and where they might be going. He commanded the respect of young disaffected people, something not many folk can do and yet he was put down in 2005 by, appropriately Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator, never to help another troubled youngster again apart from through his books. He could have done more but he wasn’t allowed thanks to the death penalty.

The people who clammer for this kind of law change are also usually the people who think Islam is a backward religion and yet they are happy to start implementing some of the Islamic world’s most cruel criminal justice procedures.

I have a challenge for anyone who wishes to see the death penalty reintroduced, or indeed any MP who would vote for such a move. All those people are given a number and those numbers are placed inside a bit tombola type machine, then when the inevitable murder of an innocent person comes around one of those numbers is drawn out of the machine and that person faces the same fate. An eye for an eye as these people often biblically say.

We can keep taking an eye for an eye but eventually we’ll all go blind.

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Opera in the Park

This weekend I went to Opera in the Park at Templenewsam House in Leeds. It’s a beautiful setting for such an event with the natural ampitheatre set in the sculpted hills of Capability Brown, overlooked by the Jacobean house built for the Lennox family in the 16th century, rebuilt in the 17th. I go every year with my father and we always enjoy our little night of culture with a few glasses of Australian Shiraz and a sandwich or two.

This year there was a change to the usual run of things. This year the council in their esteemed wisdom decided to levy a charge on the event. More on this later but first I should mention the quality of the music throughout the evening. Political tension aside that is the main reason I went. Aled Jones replaced usual presenter, the fantastic Jon Hammond. He chipped in with a few songs and told a few flat jokes while generally sounding a little disingenuous and irritated to be there. The soloists were all pretty good with tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones the highlight ably assisted by baritone David Kempster, Orla Boylan an soprano Heather Shipp. The Orchestra of Opera North and The Leeds Festival Chorus were lead well by Martin Andre.

The performance was bookended by O Fortuna and Nessun Dorma as always with the latter quite ruined by the premature ejaculation of the fireworks display, another new development for this year. Hughes-Jones looked very put off as he was trying to reach the top notes as the crescendo approached. Some of the highlights in the repertoire were Brindisi from La Traviata, an unexpected rendition of Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla overture and I Could Have Danced All Night from the musical My Fair Lady. There was a decent mix of instrumental work and vocal performances, all delivered with a respectable level of professionalism.

Now, on to the plethora of negatives surrounding the event. In previous years when driving to the grounds I had been stuck in traffic back to York Road, or around two miles if you’re not familiar with Leeds. Now, it’s nice to be able to get through quickly but this wasn’t because of any new fangled route set up by the traffic police, it was because people abandoned Opera in the Park in droves this year thanks to the £12 charge for tickets. I would suggest, very generously, that 10,000 people were present for the event as opposed to the usual 50,000. So four fifths of the usual attendees decided that the charge imposed by the council was extortionate.

Now, £12 doesn’t sound a lot but there were no concessions and I know personally of one case where a single mother who in previous years took her widowed mother, child and disabled brother along. It would have cost her £48 just to get tickets before she thinks about something to eat and drink while there. is that fair? is that what should be expected for a Labour run council? To deny a night of cultural diversity to a working class family? In the meantime, Opera in the Park’s sister event, Party in the Park remains free. This event attracts the likes of JLS, Tinchy Strider, Jessie J and others. it’s a fantastic event for the youth of the city who are generally neglected by people in authority. The fact remains however that this is popular music and the opera event shouldn’t be used to subsidise pop music. It is the media equivalent of using licence fee money to make the X-Factor.

The short sightedness of the council in all this is astonishing. They have priced out the working class from a wonderful evening and turned off the majority of people who are used to getting this one night a year free of charge. Since only a small number of people turned up and paid for the tickets I would suggest the council lost money on this venture. Sponsors, usually large in number also failed to turn up. The car park has always charged for access, but so few cars will have cut revenue even further and the big name of Aled Jones won’t have come cheap either. I smell a freedom of information request coming on. Despite a local campaign to warn the council of just this very thing happening, the council ignored the citizens, broadcasting some guff about times of austerity etc etc ad infinitum. The fact is the council were either stupid in not realising that this would happen, or this is what they wanted all along so they can justify canceling the event outright. That won’t go down well!

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