26 March 2009

God doesn't exist and is irrelevant

Let us make the absurd supposition for a moment that there is a God.

If God can intervene to save the world but doesn’t, then he’s a sadistic voyeur. If God lacks the power to intervene in human affairs and weeps as a loving onlooker, then he’s useless.

It seems to me that in any kind of rational argument about what will or will not happen talking about God is a red herring.

19 March 2009

Political exclusions from Britain

People should only be banned from visiting the UK to argue their political case, if it likely that they will commit crimes here. However we see the power of exclusion used against people simply because the government disapproves of their opinions or they may cause the government embarrassment.

New Labour’s exclusion policy is but one aspect of its attack on civil liberties.

What I think is not sufficiently understood is that exclusion does not just take way rights from the excluded person, but from the British people who invited them or who want to meet them.

I think Wilders, for instance, is a bigoted rightwing twit. But why should those who want to talk to him in person have to travel to the Netherlands to do so? Imagine the outcry if the Netherlands responded by following New Labour’s example and banning British parliamentarians.

The exclusion of nasty, but non-criminal, people from the UK threatens British freedom.

18 March 2009

Don't consider economics without politics

Unfortunately many articles don't really say anything other than the capitalist economy is cyclical with expansion and contraction.

What I find missing from these articles is not so much empirical data, but a false separation of the economic from the political. The thirty years of market fundamentalism marched alongside a profound shift in politics in both Britain and US. There is a hidden assumption that the upturn when it comes will take place in a political configuration akin to that of the 1990s or early 2000s.

The economic ideology that underpinned 1979-2009 has now fallen apart; unemployment, debt and poverty are multiplying. There is today a feeling of a phoney war as socio-political pressure builds up. It is highly unlikely that in the next half decade there won’t be major political changes which will themselves impact on economic structures.

17 March 2009

Privatising welfare the last straw

Privatising welfare is more about supporting the profits of the companies concerned than it is about helping recipients.

New Labour is no longer just disapproved of or simply unpopular, it is hated and despised on account of its corruption, lying and total betrayal of ordinary working people. Many would like to hang the lot of them from the lampposts on Whitehall.

That means that honest men and women can no long be the left wing of this monstrosity. If you want a hearing and you want to organise for ordinary working people, you need to break with the whole rotten New Labour edifice.

16 March 2009

Thirty years of market fundamentalism was the wrong path

Undoubtedly the political impasse of the 1970s characterised by intensified class and other conflict did not represent the ideal society. Neither left nor right claimed that it did. What was unfortunate, I believe, was that Thatcherism emerged as the so-called solution to this crisis.

In essence, Thatcherism was about centralised authoritarianism which was used to weaken democracy and smash working class power. Inequality and poverty soared in the new framework of unbridled capitalism; and it was this model that has been continued and deepened by New Labour.

The thirty years of market fundamentalism after 1979 were not ones of joy, security and abundance for many. Britain became a society increasingly scarred by an insecure flexible workforce burdened with debt. While the poor rotted on crime-ridden junk estates, at the top the rich lived a life of luxury giving Britain a socio-economic profile like the countries of Latin America.

Today even the service and finance sectors (the sole economic achievement) have imploded with Britain having little left to show for all the pain of Thatcherism. I believe that had Thatcher never existed and had Tony Benn won a couple of elections in the last thirty years, Britain would be a better place today.

13 March 2009

New Labour should not have access to and independent currency

I have no faith that New Labour can manage the current economic crisis. Had they taken into public ownership the bankrupted banks, and used the new printed money to invest in industry through a public enterprise board, I would have supported the continuation of an independent currency to make that possible.

Instead we have billions printed and wasted in the banking sector for no gain for ordinary people. For that reason I would prefer the Euro, so my savings would be more likely to keep their value and Gordon would not have access to the printing press.

Thatcher is to blame for the current crisis

Undoubtedly the political impasse of the 1970s characterised by intensified class and other conflict did not represent the ideal society. Neither left nor right claimed that it did. What was unfortunate was that Thatcherism emerged as the so-called solution to this crisis.

In essence, Thatcherism was about centralised authoritarianism which was used to weaken democracy and smash working class power. Inequality and poverty soared in the new framework of unbridled capitalism; and it was this model that has been continued and deepened by New Labour.

Thatcher gave birth to a socio-economic regime which both pulled apart the social fabric and which has now failed in its own economic terms. Blaming Thatcherism is fully justified. Had the miners won in 1984-5 she would have been stopped in her tracks; the rest is the what-ifs of history.

A conditional right to privacy

I think the key point is missing in your article.

People do have a right to privacy in their private lives: i.e. what they legally do in their private space, even for people who hold public positions. So Max Moseley was right to argue that his private sexual activity should not have been splashed across the tabloids for public titillation.

Such privacy, however, should be lost if the person makes public representations which contradict their own behaviour. In other words had Moseley said or implied in public that he disapproved of sadomasochism, the press would have the right to rebut his utterance with evidence of his own behaviour.

Such a privacy law would, I believe, provide both privacy and reduce much of moralistic hypocrisy spouted by our politicians.

The right to internet privacy

There are two types of information about which people are particularly sensitive.

Many people use the internet to access pornography and have discreet encounters with others. Records of this activity could potentially be used for blackmail or vindictive embarrassment by criminals or by the state.

Some people (too few in my opinion) use the internet to make political statements. People fear that they could face discrimination in employment or become subject to state surveillance as a result.

Privacy is a valuable right not a luxury.

The British military is in a mess

Such a chaotic state of affairs can only exist precisely because fortunately Britain is threatened by nobody, and all Blair’s wars have been symbolic wars of choice launched against the weak.

Britain should withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as scrapping its order for US Trident replacements. Instead British defence should focus only on European security with a small well paid and well equipped military.

Britain should lose both its delusion of grandeur and its desire to play first lieutenant to the United States.

In Britain anyone can be arrested, detained and harassed

Yes, under Section 110 you can be arrested for any offence.

The related issues is that with elastic common law offences plus thousands of statutory offences (over 3000 introduced under New Labour), even the most innocent unavoidably commit several offences every day.

The result is that the police can arrest and detain anyone (even Conservative Front benchers, it would seem) whenever they feel like it. The only liberty we cling to is that for most of us for most of the time they leave us alone.

The police are not today our servants; they are our masters to whom we must bow our heads or avert our gaze when we pass them. To keep our freedom we must obey their commands whenever we are unfortunate enough to encounter them.

9 March 2009

The state warning women about violent boyfriends

The idea of the police using the surveillance state to inform women who are seen with men who have criminal records for violence is just silly.

Violence by A against B, irrespective of sex or the relationship between them, is a serious matter. If the victim wishes, rightly or wrongly, to be reconciled with the attacker then that is a matter for the parties involved. If the victim needs the help of social services or the police, then that help should be readily available.

Any attacker who seriously or repeatedly attacks a victim should be in prison, and required on release with the threat of further imprisonment to keep away from that person.

Jacqui Smith cannot be allowed to avoid the shortcomings of the police and social services by proposing daft measures such as this one.

5 March 2009

Gordon Brown addresses the US Congress

It is utterly sickening to learn that the zenith of Brown’s miserable New Labour career is to address the Congress of the United States.

What we want is a government whose first loyalty is to the British people and which will cooperate on the basis of equality with our partners in Europe. Britain should not be a satellite of the US, whether that country be governed by Bush or Obama.

By all means, ask the US to give Brown and Blair US citizenship and then send them there, never to return.

Ireland and Schengen

The borders of most of Europe are open on account of Schengen; you can drive from Budapest to Lisbon without showing a passport or identity card. Britain has decided it wants, not to share in Europe’s common external border, but to become a fortress Island. That is its right.

To date Ireland has fallen in behind Britain’s demands. Yet there is nothing to stop Ireland joining Schengen with one slight modification; i.e. travellers leaving Ireland for other Schengen states would have to go through passport control. This would be to ensure that persons entitled to be in the UK, but not in the Schengen zone, could not leave for other Schengen countries through the Republic of Ireland.

What Britain would do about people entitled to be in the Schengen area but entering the UK over the Northern Ireland border is a problem for the UK, not for Ireland.

NB The advantage of Schengen membership is not just borderless travel within the area, but that only one visa needs to issued to travellers (e.g. from China, Nigeria, etc) who wish to travel in Europe. The country which issues the visa assumes responsibility for the visitor.

What the left in Britain can do in 2009

New Labour is finished. There was never any possibility of them surviving a crash when their economic policy consisted of an unbridled market with low wages supplemented by unaffordable credit for working people.

A Tory government is highly likely in 2010, although a better case of jumping from the frying-pan into the fire is hard to find. But it is wrong to propose that the focus of left-wing activity should be in the formation of Tory Party policy.

If New Labour is finished, the strategy of progressives must be to smash up that useless edifice, and on the basis of new recruits, Labour councillors and some Labour MPs to build up a left-leaning social democratic party (don’t laugh) which will defend civil liberties and regulate capitalism. In other words we must restore the left in politics.

Gary McKinnon is threatened with extradition to the US

McKinnon is a British citizen who committed a relatively minor crime in the UK. There is no case for his extraordinary rendition to the US where he faces wholly disproportionate punishment.

The New Labour government wishes to destroy the life of one of their own citizens in order to avoid mildly irritating the US. Who remembers Verdun Quisling?

Britain torture and Iraq

The Iraq War was never a liberation of any kind, but was a US invasion, which led to diverse but extensive local resistance bolstered by foreign fighters. A tool of the US occupation (with Britain in tow) was the execution and torture of opponents.

True, Britain may have initiated torture independently. The torturing to death of Baha Mousain 2003, seemingly for pure sadistic pleasure, is one such case. Yet, the fact that British hands are contaminated with this filth, flows for the most part from Blair’s decision to collaborate in Bush’s crime: the invasion of Iraq.

Being Anti New Labour does not make one pro-Tory

New Labour is rightly being junked by the electorate: everything from the failed credit boom of the 2000s to Iraq and civil liberties was wrong – or has gone wrong. Hatred of Brown, Smith and Straw runs from liberal blogs to the council estates.

Yet the absurdity of the moment is the belief that Tory Party is any kind of solution to the failings of New Labour. No better case is there of jumping from the frying-pan into the fire.

Is Britain a free society?

Britain may well not be a totalitarian country, but the lights are certainly dimming on Britain as a free society.

With the creation of thousands of new criminal offences any form of political or protest activity which opposes or embarrasses the government can be construed as illegal. More and more people who engage in politics can do so only because the police in effect permit the protest. Nobody can do anything as of right.

If the octogenarian Labour Party heckler, Walter Wolfgang, can be arrested, and Icelandic financial assets seized, under anti-terrorism legislation, what can’t be done under that pretext?

London police stopped 1.2 million people last year. The idea that police officers reasonably suspected 1.2 million people of being murderous knife carriers (or indeed) terrorists is absurd.

New Labour and Torture

Britain’s involvement in torture is too well documented now for Miliband to claim that it is contrary to New Labour policy.

It is not simply a matter of Britain standing quietly on the sidelines while the US did it, reprehensible as that would be. MI5 interrogators have sat in rooms feeding questions to torturers plying their trade in the room next door. CIA planes carrying people for torture travelled through Britain and used British overseas territories. And so on.

Put simply, Bush applauded torture (e.g. waterboarding, extraordinary rendition to secret prisons); Obama says it should stop. Your government, a puppet of the US in foreign policy matters, has been a lying and cowardly accomplice in torture.

It is the British government which does not want the details of Binyam’s torture at the hands of the Americans to be made public for the suspected reason that the details would show British involvement.

Torture is a terrible crime and is always wrong; and your government’s hands are stained with that crime.

Another point is this. The Bush Administration openly used torture (waterboarding. Gitmo, rendition to secret prisons, etc); and Britain was a subservient junior partner in that project.

In the US, however, the administration has changed. Obama says he wants torture to stop. Yet in London, New Labour limps on, subservient as ever to the US, but now to a US under new management. Today Miliband et al are pleading with the US to conceal its collaboration with torture under the previous administration.

This New Labour government is an embarrassment and disgrace to the people of this country.

No to a secret police in Britain

In a democratic country the police should not only be accountable, but should also only be permitted to investigate criminal activity. Secret police units should be forbidden from general surveillance and infiltration of civic organisations in order to prevent protest which embarrasses to the government.

The major problem today is that the government has increased the number and scope of criminal laws to the point that just about any form of political activity is potentially illegal. That gives the government and the police the power and the pretext to spy, infiltrate and repress at will – and to do so secretly.

On Hazel Blears

I have to admit I feel almost physically sick when I see Blears on TV – that sycophantic motormouth. I have often wondered how her mindless subservience to the twists and turns of New Labour actually helps government propaganda.

I also weep that the once admired British Labour Party has been reduced to people like her.

Miliband hides the torture of Binjam Mohamed

It is hard to see how the Miliband’s suppression of the details of Binyam Mohamed’s torture by the Americans is even in the government’s own interests.

Not only does his tortured logic for covering up the information make Miliband look ridiculous, but precisely because everybody knows Binyam was in fact tortured, the speculation over the details will continue. Had the government ‘come clean’ the story would have died much sooner.

If ever released alive and sane, this Binyam Mohamed can presumably give first hand testimony of the details his torture at the hands of the Americans.

If this Binyam Mohamed has held British resident status, then even though he is an Ethiopian citizen, it is clear that this country owes him a duty of care; even David Miliband seems to recognise this.

Apart from humanitarian grounds, he should be returned to Britain for two reasons: first, so that the details of his torture at the hands of the Americans can be properly documented; and second we need to enquire into his activities and his kidnap.

All the information should then be placed into the public domain.

Strikes against foreign workers in Britain

A series of strikes involving industrial workers have broken out across Britain

The key fact is simple. Unemployed local workers and their supporters are angry because lower-paid foreign workers have been brought in to do jobs which they could do.

The interpretation is the facts, though, is ambiguous. One version is that it represents the cry for British jobs for British workers; the other is that the workers are protesting against the effects of neo-liberal capitalism.

My guess is that the protesters and the strikers don’t clearly distinguish between these two ideological poles in the way that Guardian commentators do; and that on the ground the two interpretations merge into one another.

Reduced social bonding in Britain

Opposition to the continuing reduction of all social and inter-personal bonds to legal relations seems to unite both the left and right in British politics.

Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you soon find very different thinking. For the right the enemy is the imposition of the so-called politically correct agenda against traditional British practices. For the left the issue is the insertion of repressive and capitalist relations into the community to frustrate solidarity.

The right and left may seem to coalesce on this issue, but only on the surface.

The House of Lords in Britain

The House of Lords should simply be abolished; other than in a federal system, having two chambers of parliament is as useful as two umbrellas in the rain. Far more important for democracy is having ONE chamber elected by proportional representation so it actually reflects how people vote.

A right to privacy on the internet

Does the citizen have a right to look at an internet page without the state or commercial organisations being informed about it?

I say ‘yes’ the government, it would seem, says ‘no’

Such monitoring appears even more intrusive than one where every book or magazine bought had to be notified to the police. In that situation at least the police would not know which page I had looked at and for how long.

New Labour was never soft on the poor

Even in the boom years of New Labour, life was not soft on those at the bottom of Britain’s unequal society. Relative and often absolute poverty has increased for those ensnared in the crime and drug ridden ghettoes. Lives have been scared by insecure employment and housing; and psychologically by exclusion form the “good life” seemingly enjoyed by the richer two thirds of Britain.

What is happening now in the 2009 recession - and what is politically significant - is that poverty is penetrating upwards.

Britain in Superlatives

Reading the papers it seems that Britain is chalking up a number of superlatives.

The most obvious, and the one that directly affects everyone, is the IMF forecast that of the G7 countries, Britain’s recession will be the deepest. Britain’s level of private debt, a key element in the current economic predicament, is the worst in the EU. So much for Britain being well placed to weather recession!

Britain’s debt-ridden system of unbridled capitalism, championed first by Thatcher and then perfected by New Labour, seems to have led the country to the edge of a social abyss – at least that is the picture thrown up by a whole raft of studies comparing Britain to its continental neighbours.

Social democracy is truly dead in Britain, if only because Britain is now under a Labour Government the most unequal society in the EU. British children according to another survey are the worst off in Britain: enjoying the least parental time, having the fewest rights and suffering the highest stress levels. British state pensions are the lowest when compared to average national earnings.

The wider society does not fare much better. In another study published a few weeks ago, I read that, if you exclude older people, the British were among the least likely to trust one another in Europe. Yet another study showed that Britain had the highest transient population (people moving rather than staying in any one location). The result is fractured communities and anomic men and women. As Margaret Thatcher said, ‘There is no such thing as society.’ Blair and Brown have realised her dream.

Then Britain spends more on policing than any other EU country; it has the largest prison population per head and has the most CCTV cameras at one for every fourteen individuals.

OK, Britain does not come out on the bottom in everything. It is not the poorest, does not have the most violent police – nor is it the most corrupt country in Europe. However even in these indicators Britain is slipping down the table rather than moving up.

It stinks. New Labour has failed and has done so spectacularly.