The homeless are still with us

IMG_2470The mid to the late 80s, the daily run from the apartment near the Elephant and Castle took me to Waterloo Bridge and down to Cardboard City and on across the bridge and along the Embankment towards the Mall and the grotesque absurdity that is Buckingham Palace. “Oh, she’s got bags of room,” I thought, and, “in an ideal world a lot of the homeless could move in there.”  Well, they didn’t, of course, but Cardboard City did sort of just go away, and where did the people move to?

Well, back in ‘Blighty’ and the problem is most certainly still there even if those without a roof are no longer allowed to congregate en mass. Along Chester’s city walls and the marathon man of yesterday drifts at walking pace down into the underpass, and there they are, only two of them, and out of sight, out of mind and I bet you’ll find them up and down the country, from Dover to Dundee.

Nice to get them at least scattered about the place, no more Cardboard Cities, don’t want them staring us in the face and that is what you have these days and it’s all a wee bit three monkey like; you have got all these problems but they seem to think if they cannot see them, close their ears to them, and, if they do talk about them, deny the nature of them, …… well life is just hunky-dory in middle England, or that is what they would have you believe.

Neoliberalism creates the scapegoats and helps pave the way for the Tony Blairs

Still plodding through Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s, ‘Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy’ and she really hits the nail on the head when she using a little joke to exemplify how scapegoats are created to change our culture from one which embraces social democratic ideals to one which welcomes neoliberalism:

“A banker, a teacher, an immigrant and a pollitician are sitting at a table, on which rests a plate with ten biscuits on it. While the teacher and the immigrant are deep in conversation, the banker reaches forward and grabs nine of the ten biscuits. He places two of these biscuits in the pocket of the politician. When the teacher sees there is just one biscuit left on the plate he begins to worry, the politician leans over and says, “watch out that immigrant is after your biscuit!””

And that little witticism coupled with a story in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ on how Tony Blair receives briefings and access to diplomatic cables, by Foreign Office officials before embarking on one of his regular business trips to Beijing and Shanghai were the main source of my on board entertainment on the way back down south from Glasgow today.

Of course, with “The Torygraph” it might be a proverbial case of the pot calling the kettle black. Nevertheless, wouldn’t it be nice if Mr Blair were just to disappear from the news alltogether? Well, maybe he would if we were to tackle real issues. Of course, that means undermining the fascist gobblydegook narrative outlined in the joke above. After all, Mr Blair is a product of that narrative; a war criminal masked as a moral crusader who, among other things, has the audacity to use taxpayer funded institutions to pursue his own private business interests.

Notes from a small island: Queen gives Nazi salute, essential services poor, austerity bites, and Cameron promises to fight brainwashing

Working in the UK in the summer is something of a habit with me. I have been doing it, with two exceptions, every year since 2003. Therefore, the process I am going through at the moment invokes a sort deja-vu with alienation invariably accompanying the first couple of weeks and that despite the fact that I am originally from this small island.

Still, it has to be put into perspective. Here to work and I also don’t quite live in the “saus und braus” that I am used to when I am not here. The Audi is left at home as are the super duper coffee machine, the tap that spouts out boiling water and, of course, the Persian and Afghan rugs. Did someone raise their eyebrows at what might just be a spoiled brat? However, be that as it may, I am not here to criticize my living conditions in England’s green and pleasant land. No, the room is generous, it is quiet, the internet is reliable and fast enough, and the satellite television is even available when I am lying in my bed. Indeed, only last night I noticed that RT is available and a dose of the ‘Keiser Report’ is just the tonic before nodding off.

No, the disgust, the frustration, the alienation, is because of the outside world here. There is the mainstream media and while Josef Joffre’s ‘Die Zeit‘, or Stefan Kornelius’s ‘Die Süddeutsche Zeitung’ are hardly representative of an objective and free press, we can at least read between the lines in their journals. In short, those newspapers represent a less adulterated propaganda and when we compare them to the daily drivel in the United Kingdom, it is a bit like comparing ‘Die Frankfurter Zeitung’ to the ‘Völkische Beobachter’. Apropos the following little story which is doing its rounds in the little island’s mainstream press.

The ‘Sun’ has published a picture of the Queen giving the “Hitlergrüß” in 1933 when on holiday at Balmoral and here we have the media tripping over itself to explain that she was “only waving”. Well, she might have been, but were the other two ladies, including her sister Margaret, also only waving? And look there is the well known big Hitler fan, Uncle Edward, kneeling behind them. Still, forgive and forget, after all she was only seven at the time, even if it is old enough to be killed by an unmanned drone in Yemen or Afghanistan, or an Israeli missile in Gaza. Nevertheless, she was only seven and at the end of the day this silly picture is almost irrelevant.

After all, the real question should not be about whether a seven year old girl was sympathetic to a particular nasty German type of fascism, but rather is there any need for the absurd institution that is British royalty? And, of course, the answer to that depends on which side your bread is buttered. If you are a member of an elite that needs something to hold a disintegrating, socially unjust, divided society together, then the answer would be in the affirmative.

Think about the Queen who doesn’t fart and her extremely insensitive, xenophobic, racist, sidekick, think about the handsome prince, the beautiful princess, and their two lovely children, and there is no need to think about the train to Birmingham being ten minutes late, or the fact that when it arrives, it looks like something from a bygone age. There is no need to dwell on the fact that the cafes close in the early evening and that socializing for a lot of people is mainly about getting into a bar and drinking themselves into oblivion. Still, that is really all about me and my little gripes,but if the infrastructure fails miserably for me personally, I haven’t got round to using the NHS yet, I don’t need support from the state, and I don’t work for a wage that I cannot live on. Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s, ‘Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy’ is my current read. It’s all in there but when you get a real life glimpse of it, it’s even worse.

It only affects me marginally; waiting on the bus that has broken down, or waiting on the train that arrives late and then stops in the middle of the journey leaving us to board buses in order to continue on to our destinations. However, what does it mean for the vulnerable in a state that is being plundered by crony capitalism and its handmaidens as they grab everything worth having before it comes down like a house of cards?

The sun has come out somewhere between Chester and Birmingham and the train is still moving. Back to the newspaper and the ‘Sunday Times’ informs me that the Royals are hunting for the “source” of the Nazi salute film. You poor soul and you only wanted to earn a few bob. Still, thanks for providing the entertainment. After all, it is your story and the one with the sub-headline “Cameron to fight brainwashing of young Muslims” which dominate pages 1,2, and 3 of the paper.Cameron to fight brainwashing, now isn’t that hilarious.

They don’t trust Tsipras

A postscript on the post below, which I have just taken from ‘The Guardian’ live updates. Tsipras has, according to the finance ministers, “lost creditors trust. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch Finance Minister asks if the Greeks can be trusted, while Germany’s Schäuble says, “ We are not ready to accept calculations that are not believable.”

Of course, what we have here is a climb down and it is the Greek people who voted “No” who should be asking if Tsipras can be trusted. The evidence would appear to suggest that the beacon of hope that Greece provided in the battle against privatisation and the squeeze on public spending is in the process of being extinguished, while the handmaidens of an economic system which quite simply doesn’t work are getting ready to remove Syriza and Tsipras from power.

Syriza capitulates

Picking up hard copies of the British newspapers to read on the train can be done anywhere. It is, however, normally avoided and the real news is to be found elsewhere and that is usually online. However, back in Blighty and the short hop on the train from Chester to Liverpools lends itself to at least a skimming and scanning of Daniel Finkelstein’s “quality press”.

Well, not his version of the daily drivel exactly, ‘The Financial Times’ it was today and not ‘The Times’, and it did at least provide some factual content away from the tripe. In view of my post from yesterday that content was mainly provided on Greece and in the sub-heading we can read, “cash strapped country’s apparent climbdown over creditor’s terms cheers markets.

There we have it and the newspaper that is read by a “who is who” of the City of London is confirming exactly what the Greek Communist Party feared long before the referendum, while also finding itself in agreement with Trotskyist 4th International.

Of course, many will argue that Tsipiras had no choice, but the fact is that in accepting the Structural Adjustment Programmes which will be dictated by the IMF, World Bank, and ECB, the Greek government will be stuck in the debt trap for decades to come and the bankers in Frankfurt, London, and New York will be rubbing their hands in glee.

Greece and a revolution already betrayed

it would appear that the Greek Communist Party (KKE) analysis that the “NO” in the referendum would be interpreted by the government as a thumbs upfor its own harsh antiworker-antipeople measures was quite accurate, even if some commentators tend to view the party as some sort of stalinist leftover from the past.

Indeed, none other than the Trotskyist International Committe of the Fourth International, who are at least strange bedfellows for a supposedly stalinist party, would appear to agree with them when they state in their ‘World Socialist Web Site’ that:

“Greece’s Syriza-led government agreed to a massive new €13 billion (US$14.34 billion) package of austerity measures yesterday evening, less than a week after Sunday’s landslide “no” vote in a referendum on European Union (EU) austerity.”

An “agreement” will be reached, but then an agreement was always going to be reached and the eveidence would appear to suggest that Syriza and Tsipras never had any intention of fighting the austerity programme that was being imposed by the troika. Indeed as soon as the “No” was announced the government in Athens quickly consulted with the pro-austerity parties in Greece in order to seek approval for a deal that would satisfy the European banks.

The package is on the table; €13 billion cuts, which include raising the retirement age and the introduction of regressive sales taxes and one is reminded of the last lines of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm':

“No question now what has happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Mr Tsipras and Syriza have just become “Salonfähig”, and while “Socialists” of the stalinist should still be avoided like the plague, one cannot help but thing that the “revolution” that was coming out of Greece has been betrayed in its infancy.

The Cuts and a small demonstration in Chester

IMG_2329In analysing George Osborne’s smoke screen budget, the Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson, is succinct and to the point saying that “tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the budget on average.” His institute puts the figure at up to £1,000 a year worse off.

Of course, George doesn’t stop there and we can also read of the maintainence grant for students from poor families being scrapped, while housing benefits and job seekers allowances for young people are also being done away.

‘The Guardian’s’ Mary O’Hara, respeonded to the Government doing away with the Independent Living Allowance for disable people by saying “If you were to have a serious accident that left you with a severe disability, would you want to be shut away, out of sight and out of mind?” She hits the nail on the head, and George, David, Ian, and their cronies, just don’t see the working poor, disabled people who are trying to live independent lives, and vulnerable young people.  Yes, indeed, “out of sight and out of mind.”

Manchester Airport is not too far from Chester. Wel, not as the crow flies, but the not being invested in rail mant that the battered, antiquaited train, sort of stuttered, and started, and stopped at every station, before rolling into Chester. Yesterday evening I went for a little stroll around this rather pretty town and there was this little demonstration in the centre of the town against the Tory cuts generally and against this budget in particular.

The Chinese have a saying, “Tiān gāo, huángdì yuǎn”, which translates as “heaven is high and the emperor is far away”. In the Chinese context it might be used to describe a remote lawless place far from the authorities. Where Blighty is concerned distance is not really the issue,but it does, of course, help to keep “them” out of sight. My heart sort of went out to that little demonstration, but if I were asked, what can you do? Well, it is time to get in the emperor’s face and at least embarass these heartless, self-serving, parasites.