Out-of-touch Tory claims life better for British workers now because coffee tastes better than in 1997

Pride's Purge

Well now.

Tory MEP and leading Brexiter Dan Hannan thinks life is better for British manual workers now because coffee tastes better than it did in 1997.

No, really.

He does:

Mind you, Hannan also thinks the NHS is a “relic” and a “60 year mistake” which he once told Americans he wouldn’t wish on anyone.

But who needs affordable healthcare and hospitals when there’s Starbucks, eh?

hannan coffee

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The Litvinenko inquiry – a legal critique and alternative view

OffGuardian

The death in London of Russian ex-patriot Alexander Litvinenko, allegedly through polonium poisoning, has become a major part of the anti-Russian, anti-Putin narrative in the West. The story told to us by the likes of the Guardian, New York Times, WaPo etc, is that Litvinenko, an ex-“KGB spy”, was assassinated by the Russian FSB as a revenge attack for his anti-Putin rhetoric. This version of events has been so relentlessly pushed at us in articles, documentaries, books, even light entertainment that many many people, even sophisticated and politically aware individuals, accept this as established fact. Worse, this “proven” example of grisly ruthlessness is regularly used as a rationale for alleging further crimes of the Russian state, including its supposed support of a “mass-murderer” in Syria. People are being conditioned to reflexively accept and internalise the image of Russia and its president as lawless, corrupt and gothically evil, and the Litvinenko…

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Atos’s PR company director wants me to phone him about one of my articles

Politics and Insights

Image result for atos healthcare controversy

Atos don’t provide medical assessments for disabled people needing to claim support: they provide ‘functional’ assessments, as ‘disability analysts’, who ‘focus on what you can do, rather tan what you can’t.’

I wrote an article recently, which was published by Welfare Weekly, about the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) assessments. 

The editor of Welfare Weekly, Steven Preece, forwarded an email to me regarding my article, marked ‘high importance’. It said:

Subject: Atos FAO Sue Jones
Importance: High

Hi there, 

Please could you ask Sue Jones to give me a quick ring on 0141 221 0707 re the article in the link below. We represent Atos and I’d like to have a quick chat about a couple of point in the article which are inaccurate.

http://www.welfareweekly.com/thousands-of-disability-benefit-assessments-deemed-unacceptable-by-the-governments-own-quality-audits/ 

Apologies for the email but I couldn’t find any numbers…

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Trump White House preparing sweeping attack on the poor

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/12/12/cuts-d12.html
By Patrick Martin
12 December 2017

The Trump administration is preparing a frontal assault on social programs for the poorest Americans, according to a report published Monday by the Politicoweb site. This would involve “the most sweeping changes to federal safety net programs in a generation, using legislation and executive actions to target recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and housing benefits,” the web site said.

“The White House is quietly preparing a sweeping executive order that would mandate a top-to-bottom review of the federal programs on which millions of poor Americans rely,” Politico reported. “And GOP lawmakers are in the early stages of crafting legislation that could make it more difficult to qualify for those programs.”

The executive order could be issued as soon as next month. It amounts to a political conspiracy against the poorest sections of the working class involving the White House, the congressional leadership and dozens of state governments, working together to slash spending on programs for the poor through a combination of direct benefit cuts, tightened eligibility standards and mistreatment of vulnerable families to drive as many as possible out of programs on which they now depend.

The Department of Agriculture said last week it would give states greater power to limit eligibility for food stamps, which it administers, by imposing drug testing or tighter work requirements, even though the vast majority of families receiving food stamp benefits have at least one working adult.

Congressional Republican leaders indicated that the attack on domestic social spending would not be limited to means-tested programs such as food stamps and Medicaid, which are available only to low-income families. The broadest entitlement programs, which provide services to all families, regardless of income, will also be targeted.

House Speaker Paul Ryan told a radio interview last week, “We’re going to have to get back next year to entitlement programs.” He singled out health care, pledging not only to repeal Obamacare, an effort that failed earlier this year in the Senate, but to privatize Medicare, which he denounced as “government-run health care.”

Voicing the claim endlessly repeated by Republicans that it hurts poor families to provide them access to adequate medical care or put food on the table for their children, Ryan declared, “We have a welfare system that’s basically trapping people in poverty and effectively paying people not to work.”

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue sounded the same theme, calling for further cutbacks in the food stamp program, officially titled the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. “SNAP was created to provide people with the help they need to feed themselves and their families, but it was not intended to be a permanent lifestyle,” Perdue said.

The measures being prepared by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans, behind the backs of the American people, would effectively make the poorest sections of the working class pay for the massive tax cut for the wealthy that is now in the final stages of congressional passage.

Both the House and Senate have named members to participate in a special conference that will combine the different versions of a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the rich that passed the House in November and the Senate last week. All indications are that far from representing a “compromise,” the conference will choose the most reactionary measures from the House and Senate versions to produce a final bill that is substantially worse than either of the separate bills.

Last Thursday, 54 House Republicans sent a letter to the House Republican leadership demanding that they stand firm on the House plan for a full repeal of the estate tax—paid by only 5,500 super-wealthy families—rather than accept the Senate plan, which retains the tax but raises the minimum size of the estate to which it would apply from $22 million to $44 million.

Similarly, Senate Republicans are demanding that the conference committee accept the Senate version’s elimination of the Obamacare tax penalty for those who do not buy health insurance, an action that would destabilize the individual insurance market and leave another 13 million people without health coverage.

The essence of the bill, certain to be retained in whatever version is ultimately adopted, is the lowering of taxes on the earnings of capitalists and the raising of taxes on the earnings of workers. It is class legislation of the most flagrant and reactionary kind. As an analysis of the bill in the New York Timesexplained, for the first time since the United States adopted an income tax, a higher rate would be applied to employee wages and salaries than to income earned by proprietors, partnerships and closely held corporations.”

Under these conditions, the Democratic Party has chosen to focus not on the historic nature of the attack on working people, but on a series of political scandals, first involving claims of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and now involving a hunt for alleged sexual predators in the entertainment industry, the media and politics, which the Democrats hope will undermine Trump.

Four Democratic senators, including Bernie Sanders, who challenged Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination in 2016, and Kirsten Gillibrand, who is spearheading the sexual misconduct purge, have called for Trump to resign the presidency because of allegations of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women, involving incidents spread out over three decades.

It is remarkable that the Democrats do not demand that Trump resign because of the crimes his administration has committed against millions of working people—attacking social programs, slashing enforcement of safety and environmental regulations, rounding up immigrants and revoking DACA protection for nearly 1 million immigrants brought here as children—let alone Trump’s threatening the world with nuclear war in North Korea.

Their focus is entirely on Trump’s personal conduct before he entered the White House, not on the policies being pursued by his administration. That is because the Democrats largely support these policies and would do so openly and enthusiastically if the same measures were being carried out by a President Hillary Clinton.

Similarly, the Democratic campaign in the Senate race in Alabama, where voters go to the polls today, is focused entirely on allegations of sexual misconduct against the Republican candidate Roy Moore, dating back as much as 40 years, while the Democrats are silent on the appalling social conditions created by decades of Republican rule in the southern state.

According to a United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, who visited the state last week, Alabama has the worst poverty of any area in the developed world, including the prevalence of diseases like hookworm, normally found only in the poorest areas of sub-Saharan Africa. The UN official, Philip Alston, toured a rural community where “raw sewage flows from homes through exposed PVC pipes and into open trenches and pits,” he told an interviewer.

The United States has 41 million people living below the official poverty line and the second-highest poverty rate in the developed world—below only the state of Israel, with its large super-oppressed Palestinian population.

These issues are of no concern to the Democratic Party, which shares responsibility for the devastating conditions facing the working class, made significantly worse by eight years of right-wing policies under the Obama administration.

From the commetns section:

  • Oh, BTW, here’s an easily accessible article on the “chained” CPI for those interested:

    http://beta.latimes.com/bus…

    And one more thought: I haven’t heard one single Democrat issue any statement, much less any objection, to this clause in the Republican’s tax plan.

    Avatar

    These guys already have initiated an attack on the social programs, one which renders the measures outlined in the above article icing on an already-been-baked cake.

    The tax reform bill and the proposed budget plan both include horrific and obvious assaults on the poor and middle class; but those aside, one very overlooked clause in both the House and the Senate tax bills is to switch the way inflation is measured from the current Consumer Price Index (CPI) to a “chained” CPI. The measure of inflation is used as a determinant for figuring tax rates, social security payments to retirees, funding for programs such as Medicaid, Headstart, food stamps, etc. Right now, the government uses a variety of indexes in its CPI figures and the official inflation rate is kind of a mixed bag of several of them. By switching to a “chained” CPI, inflation is artificially held to a lower number; the “chained” CPI carries an assumption that if the price of beef goes up, people might buy chicken instead. Might be a reasonable assumption, although eventually one runs out of substitutes. I mean, the price of chicken goes up next, they assume people will buy oatmeal instead. Eventually, they are assuming we are all eating grass. You see how that works. The “chained” CPI even goes so far as to offer this substitution model for unalike items: if the price of food goes up, the assumption is that people will cut back on buying heating oil. Presto-change-o, the consumer has not suffered from an increase in inflation!

    The government publishes both the traditional and the “chained” CPI numbers every month now, and one can see that the “chained” CPI numbers suspiciously do not include some common household expenses, such as housing costs. I can only assume this is because the price of renting or buying a home has grown so preposterous since ’08 that it would completely wipe out the official mantra that there is no inflation.

    By using the “chained” CPI, which both the Senate and House tax reform bills include as a provision, Congress is already chipping away at retiree income, social programs, and raising the tax rate on lower-income workers. They don’t have to openly attack SS, for example; simply by switching how they measure inflation, they are using a back-door method to reduce benefits. The executive order Trump is considering is just extraneous and egregious piling on. I guess the beating we are going to get from their tax and budget plans aren’t going to destroy enough of us fast enough.

    Damn, these misanthropes are RUTHLESS.

    denis ross • 11 hours ago
    The Affluent Society has become the Effluent Society it seems, at least for the have nothings in America. American financial analyst Bill Bonner reports (www. bill bonner’s diary.com) stories about the buoyant US economy are not supported by government tax receipts that should be rising if the economy is growing but are not, forcing the administration to borrow to keep the military, administration (including politicians salaries) civil services, and government services operating.
    The US government debt stands at $20 Trillion and the government continues to borrow to pay for services while slashing taxes for the rich. Borrowings have to be repaid by the public. Providing government services now is called “entitlement spending” which has to be cut (rather than raising taxes to balance expenditure with revenue). To cut entitlement spending the poor, elderly, sick and others unfit for the American way of life are being denied supporting funds and services that, with Winter cold now on them, will cause a culling of their ranks and reduce “entitlement expenditures” in an acceptable way for the government. No politician cares, the poor in America have no voice.

Silk Road of 21 st century: “One belt, one road”

This article needs a thorough reading through because of it’s significance to so many.

Eurasia News Online

By Zivadin Jovanovic, Chairman of the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals

Beginning of March I have returned from China where I participated in the International Silk Road Think Tank conference, held in the Chinese Municipality of Shenzhen.
The Belt and Road Initiative refers to the proposal by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. There were 80 think tank participants from about 50 countries of Europe, Asia, Middle East and South America. High representatives of the government agencies from a number of countries, such as high ranking diplomats were also present (from Israel, Iran, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan). Among prominent politicians who participated were Alfred Gusenbauer, former Chancellor of Austria, Roza Otunbayeva, former President of Kyrgyzstan, and others.
Hosts and organizers were the Chinese Center for Contemporary World Studies (CCCWS), the Government of the Municipality of Shenzhen and the Fudan University of Shanghai. The International Think Tank Association of the New Silk Road was established and the Shenzhen Declaration were launched.
Foreign guests also visited Beijing, Chongqing and the district of Dazu, Sichuan…

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The Nutball the Neocons Wanted in NATO

By Patrick Buchanan

December 08, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Even interventionists are regretting some of the wars into which they helped plunge the United States in this century.

Among those wars are Afghanistan and Iraq, the longest in our history; Libya, which was left without a stable government; Syria’s civil war, a six-year human rights disaster we helped kick off by arming rebels to overthrow Bashar Assad; and Yemen, where a U.S.-backed Saudi bombing campaign and starvation blockade is causing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Yet, twice this century, the War Party was beaten back when seeking a clash with Putin’s Russia. And the “neo-isolationists” who won those arguments served America well.

What triggered this observation was an item on Page 1 of Wednesday’s New York Times that read in its entirety:

“Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia, led marchers through Kiev after threatening to jump from a five-story building to evade arrest. Page A4”

Who is Saakashvili? The wunderkind elected in 2004 in Tbilisi after a “Rose Revolution” we backed during George W. Bush’s crusade for global democracy.

During the Beijing Olympics in August 2008, Saakashvili sent his army crashing into the tiny enclave of South Ossetia, which had broken free of Georgia when Georgia broke free of Russia.

In overrunning the enclave, however, Saakashvili’s troops killed Russian peacekeepers. Big mistake. Within 24 hours, Putin’s tanks and troops were pouring through Roki Tunnel, running Saakashvili’s army out of South Ossetia, and occupying parts of Georgia itself.

As defeat loomed for the neocon hero, U.S. foreign policy elites were alive with denunciations of “Russian aggression” and calls to send in the 82nd Airborne, bring Georgia into NATO, and station U.S. forces in the Caucasus.

“We are all Georgians!” thundered John McCain.

Not quite. When an outcry arose against getting into a collision with Russia, Bush, reading the nation right, decided to confine U.S. protests to the nonviolent. A wise call.

And Saakashvili? He held power until 2013, and then saw his party defeated, was charged with corruption, and fled to Ukraine. There, President Boris Poroshenko, beneficiary of the Kiev coup the U.S. had backed in 2014, put him in charge of Odessa, one of the most corrupt provinces in a country rife with corruption.

In 2016, an exasperated Saakashvili quit, charged his patron Poroshenko with corruption, and fled Ukraine. In September, with a band of supporters, he made a forced entry back across the border.

Here is the Times’ Andrew Higgins on his latest antics:

“On Tuesday … Saakashvili, onetime darling of the West, took his high-wire political career to bizarre new heights when he climbed onto the roof of his five-story apartment building in the center of Kiev…

“As … hundreds of supporters gathered below, he shouted insults at Ukraine’s leaders … and threatened to jump if security agents tried to grab him.

“Dragged from the roof after denouncing Mr. Poroshenko as a traitor and a thief, the former Georgian leader was detained but then freed by his supporters, who … blocked a security service van before it could take Mr. Saakashvili to a Kiev detention center and allowed him to escape.

“With a Ukrainian flag draped across his shoulders and a pair of handcuffs still attached to one of his wrists, Mr. Saakashvili then led hundreds of supporters in a march across Kiev toward Parliament. Speaking through a bullhorn he called for ‘peaceful protests’ to remove Mr. Poroshenko from office, just as protests had toppled the former President, Victor F. Yanukovych, in February 2014.”

This reads like a script for a Peter Sellers movie in the ’60s.

Yet this clown was president of Georgia, for whose cause in South Ossetia some in our foreign policy elite thought we should go to the brink of war with Russia.

And there was broad support for bringing Georgia into NATO. This would have given Saakashvili an ability to ignite a confrontation with Russia, which could have forced U.S. intervention.

Consider Ukraine. Three years ago, McCain was declaring, in support of the overthrow of the elected pro-Russian government in Kiev, “We are all Ukrainians now.”

Following that coup, U.S. elites were urging us to confront Putin in Crimea, bring Ukraine, as well as Georgia, into NATO, and send Kiev the lethal weapons needed to defeat Russian-backed rebels in the East.

This could have led straight to a Ukraine-Russia war, precipitated by our sending of U.S. arms.

Do we really want to cede to folks of the temperament of Mikhail Saakashvili an ability to instigate a war with a nuclear-armed Russia, which every Cold War president was resolved to avoid, even if it meant accepting Moscow’s hegemony in Eastern Europe all the way to the Elbe?

Watching Saakashvili losing it in the streets of Kiev like some blitzed college student should cause us to reassess the stability of all these allies to whom we have ceded a capacity to drag us into war.

Alliances, after all, are the transmission belts of war.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.” To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at http://www.creators.com.

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Yemen: a western-sponsored genocide

OffGuardian

by Ricardo Vaz, via Investig’action

Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff captures the war in Yemen

Almost three years have passed since Saudi Arabia announced it was intervening militarily, with its allies, in Yemen, to remove the Houthis (officially called Ansar Allah) from power after they had taken over the capital. Western analysts saw it as a bold move from recently-empowered (deputy) crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), weapons manufacturers and their political representatives were delighted. But what had been predicted as a swift military operation has turned into a humiliating stalemate. Unable to impose its will by force, Saudi Arabia and its bold prince have resorted to war crimes and collective punishment, imposing a humanitarian catastrophe on the Yemeni people.

The lack of media interest makes it seem like a crisis unfolding in slow motion. But that is only because outrage and compassion are now meant to be weaponised when they…

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