Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Risk Assessment for future of the UK

Excellent article – imagination and the power of bringing the impossible into being. Now why is play and the nurturing of the imagination and the arts being driven out of education?

Sacrificing the Vulnerable, From Gaza to America by Chris Hedges. Reblogged from Common Dreams.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Sacrificing the Vulnerable, From Gaza to America

Published on
Monday, September 15, 2014
by TruthDig
Sacrificing the Vulnerable, From Gaza to America
byChris Hedges

The tinder is piling up, and though no one knows when the ignition will take place, it is certain that a popular revolt is coming.
Chris Hedges gave this speech Saturday at the Sauk County Fairgrounds in Baraboo, Wis., before a crowd of about 2,000. His address followed one there by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who seems to be preparing to run in the Democratic presidential primaries. The Fighting Bob Fest, the annual event at which they appeared, brings together progressive speakers from around the country and honors Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette (1855-1925), a U.S. senator from Wisconsin who opposed the United States’ entry into World War I. Parts of this talk were drawn from Hedges’ past columns.

I would like to begin by speaking about the people of Gaza. Their suffering is not an abstraction to me. I was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I spent seven years in the region. I speak Arabic. And for much of that time I was in Gaza, including when Israeli fighter jets and soldiers were attacking it.

I have stood over the bodies, including the bodies of children, left behind by Israeli airstrikes and assaults. I have watched mothers and fathers cradle their dead and bloodied boys and girls in their arms, convulsed by an indescribable grief, shrieking in pitiful cries to an indifferent universe.

And in this charnel house, this open-air prison where 1.8 million people, nearly half of them children, live trapped in an Israeli ghetto, I have witnessed the crimes of occupation—the food shortage, the stifling overcrowding, the contaminated water, the lack of health services, the crippling poverty, the endemic unemployment, the fear and the despair. As I have witnessed this mass of human suffering I have heard from the power elites in Jerusalem and Washington the lies told to justify state terror.

An impoverished, captive people that lack an army, a navy, an air force, mechanized units, drones, artillery and any semblance of command and control do not pose a threat to Israel. And Israel’s indiscriminate use of modern, industrial weapons to kill hundreds of innocents, wound thousands more and make tens of thousands of families homeless is not a war. It is state-sponsored terror and state-sponsored murder.

The abject failure by our political class to acknowledge this fact, a fact that to most of the rest of the world is obvious, exposes the awful banality of our political system, the cynical abandonment of the most vulnerable of the earth for campaign contributions. Money, after all, has replaced the vote.

The refusal to speak out for the people of Gaza is not tangential to our political life. The pathetic, Stalinist-like plebiscite in the [U.S.] Senate, where all 100 senators trotted out like AIPAC windup dolls to cheer on the Israeli bombing of homes, apartment blocks, schools—where hundreds of terrified families were taking shelter—water treatment plants, power stations, hospitals, and of course boys playing soccer on a beach, exposes the surrender of our political class to cash-rich lobbying groups and corporate power. The people of Gaza are expendable. They are poor. They are powerless. And they have no money. Just like the poor people of color in this country whose bodies, locked in cages, enrich the prison-industrial complex.

When you are willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable for political expediency it becomes easy, as Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have amply illustrated, to sacrifice all who are vulnerable—our own poor, workers, the sick, the elderly, students and our middle class. This is a Faustian compact. It ends by selling your soul to Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil. It ends by deifying a military machine, now largely beyond civilian control, that, along with our organs of state security, has established surveillance and a security state that make us the most spied-upon, eavesdropped, monitored and photographed populace in human history. It is impossible to describe yourself as free when you are constantly watched. This is the relationship of a master and a slave.

Politics, if we take politics to mean the shaping and discussion of issues, concerns and laws that foster the common good, is no longer the business of our traditional political institutions. These institutions, including the two major political parties, the courts and the press, are not democratic. They are used to crush any vestiges of civic life that calls, as a traditional democracy does, on its citizens to share among all its members the benefits, sacrifices and risks of a nation. They offer only the facade of politics, along with elaborate, choreographed spectacles filled with skillfully manufactured emotion and devoid of real political content. We have devolved into what Alexis de Tocqueville feared—“democratic despotism.”

The squabbles among the power elites, rampant militarism and the disease of imperialism, along with a mindless nationalism that characterizes all public debate, which Bob La Follette denounced and fought, have turned officially sanctioned politics into a carnival act.

Pundits and news celebrities on the airwaves engage in fevered speculation about whether the wife of a former president will run for office—and this after the mediocre son of another president spent eight years in the White House. This is not politics. It is gossip. Opinion polls, the staple of what serves as political reporting, are not politics. They are forms of social control. The use of billions of dollars to fund election campaigns and pay lobbyists to author legislation is not politics. It is legalized bribery. The insistence that austerity and economic rationality, rather than the welfare of the citizenry, be the primary concerns of the government is not politics. It is the death of civic virtue. The government’s system of wholesale surveillance and the militarization of police forces, along with the psychosis of permanent war and state-orchestrated fear of terrorism, are not politics. They are about eradicating civil liberties and justifying endless war and state violence. The chatter about death panels, abortion, gay rights, guns and undocumented children crossing the border is not politics. It is manipulation by the power elites of emotion, hate and fear to divert us from seeing our own powerlessness.

As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties. They know that nearly half the country lives in poverty or a category called “near poverty.” Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are harder and harder to hide.

It appears that political ferment is dormant in the United States. This is incorrect. The ideas that sustain the corporate state are swiftly losing their efficacy across the political spectrum. The ideas that are rising to take their place, however, are inchoate. The right has retreated into Christian fascism and a celebration of the gun culture. The left, knocked off balance by decades of fierce state repression in the name of anti-communism, has yet to rebuild itself and turn on a feckless liberal class that has sold its soul to a bankrupt Democratic Party.

The tinder of revolt is piling up. No person or movement can ignite this tinder. No one knows when the eruption will take place. No one knows what form it will take. But it is certain that a popular revolt is coming. The refusal by the corporate state to address even the minimal grievances of the citizenry, the continued pillaging of the nation and the ecosystem, remind us that, as Karl Marx pointed out, unregulated, unfettered capitalism is a revolutionary force. It commodifies everything. Human beings and the natural world become commodities that are exploited until exhaustion or collapse. This is why the economic crisis is intimately twined with the environmental crisis. The corporate state—a system described by the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin as “inverted totalitarianism”—is incapable of a rational response to the crisis. A rational response, especially after your uprising in Madison and the Occupy movement, would at a minimum include a moratorium on all foreclosures and bank repossessions, a forgiveness of student debt, universal health care for all and a massive jobs program, especially targeted at those under the age of 25. But the corporate state, by mounting a coordinated federal effort led by Barack Obama to shut down the Occupy encampments, illustrated that the only language it will speak is the language of force.

Revolutions, when they erupt, appear to the elites and the establishment to be sudden and unexpected. This is because the real work of revolutionary ferment and consciousness is unseen by the mainstream society, noticed only after it has largely been completed. Throughout history, those who have sought radical change have always had to first discredit the ideas used to prop up ruling elites and construct alternative ideas for society, which [today] means the articulation of a viable socialism as an alternative to corporate tyranny.

By the time ruling elites are openly defied, there has already been a nearly total loss of faith in the ideas—in our case free market capitalism and globalization—that sustain the structures of the ruling elites. And once enough people get it, a process that can take years, “the slow, quiet, and peaceful social evolution becomes quick, militant, and violent,” as Alexander Berkman wrote. “Evolution becomes revolution.”

This is where we are headed. I do not say this because I am a supporter of revolution. I am not. I prefer the piecemeal and incremental reforms of a functioning democracy. I prefer a system in which our social institutions permit the citizenry to nonviolently dismiss those in authority. I prefer a system in which institutions are independent and not captive to corporate power. But we do not live in such a system. Revolt is the only option left. Ruling elites, once the ideas that justify their existence are dead, resort to force. It is their final clutch at power. If a nonviolent popular movement is able to ideologically disarm the bureaucrats, civil servants and police—to get them, in essence, to defect—nonviolent revolution is possible. But if the state can organize effective and prolonged violence against dissent, it spawns reactive revolutionary violence, or what the state calls terrorism. And our backlash, if we on the left do not regain the militancy of the old anarchists and socialists, could be a right-wing backlash, a species of Christian fascism.

The people in Gaza deserve to be free. So do we. But do not look to our political mandarins for help, or expect anything but vaudevillian smoke and mirrors from the billions poured into our campaign circus.

Look within.

We too are powerless. We have undergone a corporate coup d’état in slow motion. It is over. They have won. If we want to wrest power back, to make the consent of the governed more than an empty cliché, we will have to mobilize, to carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience to overthrow—let me repeat that word for the members of Homeland Security who may be visiting us this afternoon—overthrow the corporate state. And maybe, once we have freed ourselves, we can free the people of Gaza.

© 2014 TruthDig

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

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Benefit Sanctions – David, a diabetic, had his benefit stopped because he missed a DWP appointment. He died a month later.

Please support and forward this as these sanctions are cruel and unnecessary.

Thank you.

xxxxxx

David Cameron: Hold an inquiry into benefit sanctions that…
by Gill Thompson · 206,602 supporters

PETITION UPDATE
David could have been saved #BenefitSanctions

Gill Thompson
Stevenage
15 Sep 2014 — There used to be a time if a vulnerable adult missed a job centre meeting there would be concern and outreach by job centre staff. Now they cut off your benefits and people suffer – my brother died.

When starting this petition I was asked “what I wished from doing this”.
My response, was for no more suffering, for no-one else to die and for lessons not just learnt but acted on.

I received a letter from the DWP, saying “sorry for your loss” and confirming they knew of David’s diabetic condition, but had followed procedures and that “no errors were made” – David had no food and with his electricity cut off making him unable to chill his insulin. He died of diabetic ­ketoacidosis.

There is an old saying “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” – but you don’t take away the water. David was vulnerable, the sanctioning took away his lifeline.

Please help me to spread David’s story. The more we talk about him, the harder it will be to ignore this injustice and we can help eliminate further suffering. Please share this recent article about what happened to David:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/alanwhite/200000-people-have-signed-a-petition-for-an-inquiry-into-the#2r4gtzj

Tweet it and share it on Facebook. Forward this email to your friends.

Let’s make David’s story difficult for the government to brush under the carpet.

Thank you ever so much for your continued support, you will help make a difference

Gill

200,000 People Sign Petition For Inquiry Into Benefit Sanctions That “Killed” An Ex-Soldier200,000 People Sign Petition For Inquiry Into Benefit Sanctions That “Killed” An Ex-Soldier
http://www.buzzfeed.com

1. This is David Clapson, who died in July, aged 59. 2. According to the BBC, his £71.70 weekly allowance was stopped for a month in July because he missed an appointment for the government’s Work Programme in May. He was found dead in his flat on 20 July.

Stormclouds Gathering – Geopolitics of WW3

Must Watch.  A very clear explantation of  economics and the rise of sanctions and demonisation of Russia since Reagon took the dollar off the gold standard.

Groups Lauded for Work Towards Communities’ Rights to a Just Food System – Reblogged from Common Dreams.

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Groups Lauded for Work Towards Communities’ Rights to a Just Food System

Published on
Friday, September 12, 2014
byCommon Dreams
Groups Lauded for Work Towards Communities’ Rights to a Just Food System
Sixth Food Sovereignty Prize honors Union of Agricultural Work Committees in Palestine and Bellingham, Washington-based Community to Community Development
byAndrea Germanos, staff writer

A member of the UAWC, which works towards the human rights to food, land and water. (Photo: Food Sovereignty Prize)
Despite confronting occupation in Palestine or the effects of failed immigration policies in rural Washington, two grassroots groups have continued the struggle for their communities’ rights to a just food system.

For their efforts, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in Palestine and the Bellingham, Washington-based Community to Community Development (C2C) are being honored with this year’s Food Sovereignty Prize. The announcement was made this week.

Now in its 6th year, the Prize is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, a network of anti-hunger advocacy organizations, and seeks to laud those who work towards combating the injustices created by the global food system. “In honoring those who are taking back their food systems, the Food Sovereignty Prize affirms that nothing short of the true democratization of our food system will enable us to end hunger once and for all,” a statement from the Prize’s website reads.

Previous winners have included La Via Campesina, the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil and Family Farm Defenders.

The UAWC’s nearly three decades of work is borne out of the Israeli occupation’s continued land and water grabs—issues that directly affect farmers. The group’s efforts include creating seed banks and farmer cooperatives.

“This important prize inspires UAWC to carry on its work in defending Palestinian farmers’ rights against the brutal Israeli violations, both through supporting small-scale farmers and fishermen toward their food sovereignty and rights to land and water, and also through coordination with local and international movements for social justice and human rights,” Khaled Hidan, General Director of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in Palestine, said in a press statement.

Though not battling an illegal occupation or the effects of a recent deadly assault, C2C has struggled against failed immigration and trade policies and the dominant corporate food system One of their efforts has been to support the farm worker union Familias Unidas por la Justicia, which won a battle against wage theft.

“In honoring Community to Community, the USFSA honors indigenous farmworkers in the U.S.,” said Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director of Community to Community Development. “Displaced by NAFTA, these peasant farmers from Mexico are practicing a tradition of struggle for justice. Together, C2C and Familias Unidas are promoting food sovereignty in rural Washington State and challenging the corporate agricultural interests that are controlling our food system.”

The Food Sovereignty Prize stands as an alternative to the World Food Prize, created in 1986 by Nobel Laureate and “Green Revolution” pioneer Dr. Norman E. Borlaug. The 2013 winners of the World Food Prize, for example, included biotechnology scientists from Syngenta and Monsanto, prompting criticism from people including agroecology-advocates Frances Moore Lappé and Vandana Shiva.

The Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded October 15 in Des Moines, Iowa.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
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Will direct payment cost social landlords £1.27 BILLION PER YEAR?

Social housing gives the taxpayer a good deal – but with the cuts this government is slicing the amount given by half and expecting the social landlords to take a huge cut. Shocking.

Be There: National Day of Action Against Sanctions, Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cuts 11/09

Good luck!! Sanctions are unnecessarily punitive and totally unacceptable against the disabled, sick or those with young children.
xxxx

Unhelpful things lefties shouldn’t say part 3

Very useful look at taxes, tax avoidance and how resources are financed.

alittleecon

Part 3 of this 3 part series. Here are parts 1 and 2. This part is about probably the most common thing my fellow lefties get irate about, but in a way I think is unhelpful. What is it? Tax avoidance. Here is the line I often hear:

3. If [INSERT COMPANY NAMES] paid their taxes austerity wouldn’t be necessary. In parts 1 and 2 I used pieces by two journalists I quite like as examples, but for this one, I’ve chosen one I have less time for, Polly Toynbee. I wouldn’t say she’s a lefty, more all over the place, but a lot of left-wingers seem to like her work. This piece is a general rant about Amazon, Starbucks etc, but it contains this sentence:

The culture of getting away with what you can has to give way to a popular understanding that one man’s tax dodge is…

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Coming Soon: The privatised sick note service that will email you back to work

Don’t cooperate and you lose your sick pay – another very sneaky way to save money??
As David says, watch this one carefully.
x

Westminster Confidential

In two months time the traditional doctor’s note excusing you from work will start to cease being valid if you are still sick after four weeks.

Just before Parliament went into the summer recess welfare reform minister, Lord Freud, announced that a US multinational company,Maximus, which also operates in Canada and Saudi Arabia will take over running the new Health and Work Service for England and Wales.

My report in this week’s Tribune  reveals that up to one million people will be affected by the change which appears to be aimed to save the government money.

Maximus runs call centres, occupational health programmes, child support and job seekers programmes abroad and in the United Kingdom.

The programme is to be rolled out from November to next May aims to save up to £165 million a year by getting people back to work faster as part of Lord Freud’s welfare…

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Disabled Man Taking Health Secretary And NHS To Court Over Closures

Because funding is changing many GP surgeries in deprived areas are threatened with closure. Guess where the money is going – to more affluent areas!

Same Difference

Jeremy Hunt is facing an unprecedented High Court challenge over the potential closure of dozens of GP surgeries in inner-city areas, as the Government comes under increasing criticism for failing to bring down GP waiting times.

The lawsuit, brought by a disabled Londoner whose surgery has warned patients it could close by April next year because of cuts to its government funding, claims that the NHS in England and the Health Secretary have acted unlawfully, by failing to take into account the impact of potential practice closures on deprived areas and on patients with disabilities.

Changes to the way GP surgeries are funded have threatened up to a hundred practices with closure, potentially affecting 700,000 patients. The changes, which will see a funding stream called the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) scrapped, and more funding going to areas with older populations, will disproportionately affect surgeries in inner-city areas with deprived…

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