Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Two laws, one result?

April 30, 2009

One law makes it a criminal offence to disseminate, prepare or possess literary materials which appeal for the overthrow, subversion or weakening of the political and social system. The sentence ranges from 6 months up to 7 years imprisonment. This is article 58 of Section 10 of the Soviet Penal Code introduced in 1927 and used to fill the Gulag labour camps with millions of political dissidents.

Section 58 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000 states that a person commits an offence if he collects, possesses or makes a record (including taking photographs) of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism. The penalty is up to ten years in prison.

Our terror laws exist against a background where fear is being whipped up to a frenzied level, where people are actively urged to spy on one another, even to suspect your neighbour is a terrorist. The recent radio ad and poster campaign by the Metropolitan police has a photograph of families in a shopping street with a CCTV camera in the background. The words read: “A bomb won’t go off here because weeks before a shopper reported someone studying the CCTV cameras.” Another ad shows the bulging lid of a suburban wheelie bin brimming with plastic chemical containers: “These chemicals won’t be used in a bomb because a neighbour reported the dumped containers.”

The Soviet law was the key statute used to deal with anti-Soviet agitation. These laws allowed a quarter of the population of Lenningrad to be shipped to the Gulags. This prison system, described by Solzenhistyn in The Gulag Archipelago, was a network of labour camps spread throughout the Soviet Union. Most inmates were given ‘tenners’ or ten year sentences for their crimes. With many children imprisoned as well; the age of criminal responsibility was twelve . The Soviets went as far as convicting people for social parasitism, notably the future Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky who in 1962 was convicted for being nothing more than a poet.

Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000, enacted in the UK before the attacks of September 11th 2001, allows as a defence for a person to prove that he had a reasonable excuse for his action or possession. That is, if charged, once your trial comes round. The main difference rests on the interpretation of terrorism.

Shouldn’t we be worried when a democracy starts to be run by fear mongers who seek to intimidate? The next stage will be the arrest of people for failing to report or denounce someone the state has defined as a terrorist. If you don’t denounce a neighbour or colleague the suspicion will be directed towards you…

Collectively, we hope that the batch of anti terror laws now on the statute books will be interpreted reasonably. We hope that a Stalin, Mao or Hitler won’t come along and use them to repress people. But anti terror laws have been used to detain people reading out names of war dead at the cenotaph, walking on a cycle path or shouting ‘nonsense’ at Jack Straw.

Perhaps you can dismiss these actions as the result of over zealous cops misusing the law. But it shows you how quickly society could disintegrate if the law enforcers are given quotas for arrest and told to go out and do it just as they were in Russia. Look at the London G20 protests for an example of how easy it is for ordinary policemen to become storm troopers once they have been tooled up like Robocop and pointed towards the public who they think are ‘up for it’. Thankfully, they weren’t armed with Taser electroshock guns.

Fortunately, the recently revised Mental Health Act didn’t make it onto the books in a form that would have made if possible for the UK to emulate the Soviet’s use of ‘punitive psychiatry’. The Soviets used psychiatry as a weapon against hundreds of dissidents who were incarcerated and subjected to drug and electroshock therapies because they were diagnosed as suffering from ‘politically defined madness’ or ‘sluggishly progressing schizophrenia’ (“ideas about a struggle for truth and justice are formed by personalities with a paranoid structure”).

Recently, our government wanted to update the Mental Health Act to allow people to be detained against their will even if there was no evidence that treatment would be shown to benefit their condition. Fortunately, the House of Lords stopped the draft bill that would have used cultural or religious beliefs as grounds for diagnosing a mental disorder. So, at least the state cannot detain you in a mental institution because you have aberrant political beliefs.

It does leave the door open for drug companies to bring out a pill that treats ‘social opposition disorder’ making it easier to lock up dissidents once a convenient cure becomes available. (Imagine people like the psychotherapist Derek Draper queuing up to drug you into compliance.)

We all need to be very concerned about the laws in place when the definitions of terrorism seem to be getting ever more general. Incrementalism is very dangerous to freedom, as is being governed by surprise. One day you wake up and realise that the freedoms you thought you had aren’t enshrined in law any more.

Is this happening today?

April 30, 2009

‘The conditions necessary to create a genocidal mind-set within any given population are a depressed economy, uneven distribution of wealth, the existence of an identifiable minority, the strong political ambition of an oppressor group, and impunity’ p195 The Secret Hunters, Ranulph Fiennes.

Virtual UK Budget

April 22, 2009

Here is my UK budget.

Tax those earning more than £200,000 per year at 50%.

End occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, saving £4.5 Bn a year.

Scrap Trident nuclear weapon programme, saving £70 Bn.

Scrap ID cards, saving £9 Bn.

Pass the baton on the Olympics. Use the savings to properly regenerate East London.

The UK government will issue bonds using money generated by itself, not borrowed from the Bank of England which then has to be repaid with interest.

Public sector cuts: Abolish all political Special Advisors, saving £6 million per year.

Don’t re-inflate the housing market. Let average house prices come back into line with the hirstoric level of three times av. earnings.

It’s a start.

We Need a Jubilee Year to Write off Debt

January 20, 2009

We need nothing short of a Jubilee year where debts are written off to solve this depression. Now is the time to wipe away the mountain of derivative debt that is about to avalanche and bury us.

Conventional methods for de-leveraging the bottomless pit of banker-created debt aren’t working. The Brown government isn’t making any promises of success either. Everyone else is up the same creek is the best they can say. The £37bn hoovering up of debt was declared a failure after a mere two months. The next in line £200bn cash bung will help push public debt up to an estimated 10% of national GDP by 2010. By this time the credit rating of the UK will be downgraded meaning that the government will have to up interest rates if it is to entice anyone to buy the bonds needed to finance the spending spree. Aside from the inflationary effect of all the money being created to stimulate the bankers, high interest rates will start set off an inflationary spiral.

Instead of saddling the tax payer with debt by spending billions on strategies with uncertain results, why not wipe the slate clean of derivative created debt? Who would it hurt aside from those banks are about to collapse anyway? After all, isn’t it generally seen as enlightened when we wipe out the debts of struggling Third World nations to give their people a chance of survival?

If money keeps disappearing down the every hungry mouths of bankers with little or no long term effect, the inevitable payback will come when the government has to start cutting social security, pensions, education and NHS budgets. Maybe ultimately the tens of billions for Trident will be lopped off the defence-offence budget. Perhaps.

Maybe, it’s inevitable that the government will end up going to the IMF with a begging bowl. IMF and World Bank aid comes at a price. Further infrastructure sell offs, more budget cutting and loss of national independence over economic affairs. Oh, and throw in a few riots as the disappearing middle classes say enough is enough. Look at Iceland, Argentina, Indonesia…

The same rich investors who are being supported by tax payer money are now short selling on bank stocks as that’s the only certain way of making money at the moment. Who would want to buy shares in a failing bank? The only mug is the tax payer.

Greek Riots coming here soon?

December 9, 2008

Greek riots – the flashpoint of a 15-year-old son of a bank manager shot dead by police. Another western society that has been destabilised by a new left government implementing IMF/World Bank neoliberal policies that has left one fifth of population living in poverty while the rich have gotten richer under a deregulation and low tax program. The government is perceived by the people as corrupt and ineffective. With an insulated governing class; and a prime minister himself the nephew of a previous president.

The Guardian newspaper interviewed a Greek who spoke of a generation who see their parents stuck in debt who themselves have no hope, living on 500 Euros a month.

In some ways it is invigorating to see people rise up and say ‘Enough!’ Refreshing that technology has not been deployed to prevent people from doing so – such as microwave cannons designed to cause burning sensations and nausea in people. For now, it still comes down to tear gas and truncheons; with the usual media focus of ‘anarchists’ and ‘stone throwers’ when no mass movement can consist entirely of those elements. Though mobile phones and internet allow flash mobs to form according to CNN: “These young people — often referred to in Greece as ” the known-unknowns” — use texting and Web sites to organize and communicate.” A linguistic legacy of Rumsfeld.

These riots follow hot on the heels of those in Iceland, where one third of people are trying to exit the country. Discontent bubbles quickly to the surface as citizens realise the government is unaccountable and incapable of managing the economy effectively as it is the international bankers who pull the strings. And then what can you do but take to the streets? We are going to see more of this – like the so-called ‘IMF riots’ seen in Argentina, Russia, Mexico, etc. in previous decades as the middle classes feel the chill.

The Financial Times reports today that UK corporate pension pots are falling in value at a time when corporate insolvencies are mounting. The dangers of unrest increase as the middle class gets looted and every day seems to bring a story telling us that the recession/depression will be deeper than feared.

When will it happen here?

WE DON’T NEED NO SHEDUCATION

December 7, 2008

The following comments made by a well known statesman were overheard by me recently. Of course, I can’t say who it is, but I can tell you what he said…

The main thing to ensure is that our children end up achieving the very best outcomes in their education. We can’t educate everyone to think. What would be the use in that? The lucky ten percent who are perfectly capable of thinking for the rest, will receive a full education, mainly courtesy of public schools. They will be taught how to think critically; to make choices for themselves. The masses will be told that all chances are on offer to them. They will be put into factory schools, en masse, swamped by problems, and vast resources will be channelled into dealing with ‘problem’ behaviour. I call it sheducation. The brightest soon become frustrated by the slow pace of teaching as all abilities are levelled. So when the children fail, and they will, it will be their fault. They must believe they were masters of their own destiny. They’ve had their chance and now the time has come for them to embrace a life of willing servility to the system. I told you a wise man once said that ‘schooled ignorance was more useful than unschooled stupidity’.

Then, once they have internalised feelings of inferiority, they have become the perfect consumer. Always inadequate, never complete, needing to buy something at all times. Only consumption offers relief. In the adult even the purchase of a weekly lottery ticket will be enough to provide a dose of hope that will keep the body going and the mind numbed.

But the trick of it is, the indoctrinated will thank you. In a state of docile cooperation they are freed of the burden of having to think for themselves. Life for them is reduced to series of tasks. Varied repetition and delayed gratification ensure that they continue to work. They are trained to seek out novelty so that the market can never dry up for lack of consumer appetite.

Above all, they must live in fear. Fear of losing what little they’ve got. Fear of the outsider. Fear whipped up by manufactured domestic or foreign crises. We control fear by penalising individuality; opinions and behaviours that may offend or be different. You have to go along to get along.

Our great task is to eradicate the unpredictable. The last vestiges of free will. For the good of society, you understand – as free will cannot be managed. If

left unchecked it will override the systems in place for the stability of society. Those great individual forces of history that caused so much upheaval cannot be allowed to happen again.

Imagine, a whole population that says ‘I know what I believe, but I’ve no idea how I came to believe it.’ It comes about through behavioural conditioning. Remember your Pavlov? Bells and whistles, dear boy, bells and whistles, work for dogs as well as man.”

The truth about top civil service jobs

December 7, 2008

Fast stream entry into civil service is the annual scheme that appoints the leaders for the future.

In 2008, 119 of 400 or 31% of successful applicants were Oxbridge graduates.

In any one academic year, there are 6,000 Oxford and Cambridge graduates out of a total 350,000 UK university graduates. That’s about 1 in 60 or 1.5%. So, proportionally only 1.5% of successful candidates would be from those two universities.

But the figures are complicated further because more Oxbridge students apply than from any other university. There’s an 8% success rate for those who apply from Oxford or Cambridge compared to a 3% success rate from other universities. So on this level, they are 3 times better than the rest.

Perhaps there is an institutional bias that reflects the top heavy Oxbridge cadre at the top of the civil service.  Also, do the selection procedures just reproduce characteristics of the interviewers?

A bias towards Oxford and Cambridge students is another form of advantage for those coming form public schools. Public schools educate 7% of all students, yet they account for 45% of the Oxbridge intake. Similar trends can be found in the group of the top 13 research universities. For example, Durham has a 30% private school intake. Are these privately educated students really four to six times better than their state school peers?

Of course, apart from the high walls surrounding Oxford colleges, there are invisible walls, which also put state school students off applying. Many have little or no history of sending students to top universities and if they do, at interview they can lack the confidence that a private education tends to bestow. Also state school teachers’ attitudes of ‘what makes you think you’re good enough to apply to Oxbridge?’ persist. The rat lines that connect schools to universities, and onwards to prestiguous employers are in rude health. How else do we begin to account for the fact that half of students from Westminster School get into Oxbridge?

Working class kids usually lack a sense of entitlement compared to their better off peers. They have not been groomed to believe they are entitled to the very best in education, career, health and life.

The Sutton Trust’s report on access to university (2007) found that of the 30 top performing comprehensives, only half the expected number by A -Level scores went to the top 13 universities. While a third more pupils than might be expected from top private schools won a place. There is a hidden booster element afforded in coming from a private school.

Other sectors of employment show similar advantages. The Sutton Trust also found: ‘that of the top 100 journalists in 2006, 54 per cent were privately educated – a rise from 49 per cent in 1986. Meanwhile, 45 per cent of the leading journalists overall in 2006 (or 56 per cent of those who went to university) attended Oxbridge. And just under 37 per cent of the journalists in 2006 who were graduates came from Oxford.’

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=203802&sectioncode=26

http://www.suttontrust.com/reports/Journalists-backgrounds-final-report.pdf

Assuming if, at birth, intelligence is pretty evenly distributed among socioeconomic groups, we are swinging towards a system where social background unfairly skews outcomes and talent is squandered.