Friday 27 December 2013

Culture & politics attacked by plutocrats and oligarchs nicking our stuff

Wake up. Take the red pill.

Government spinners appear to be borrowing from Dr Who's The Silence. As soon as you look away, you forget them and what they're doing. For everyone looking away from the main action in the current catastrophic reshaping of our society, I'd like you to know that we're being attacked on a cultural front as well as economic and political.

Greg Dyke, former Director General of the BBC and one of the few bosses with any sort of old fashioned integrity left, warns that BBC "Trust" Chairman Lord Patten is a busted flush:
"The BBC is very good at regrouping and sustaining itself. In the end it has the support of the country and it always has had. That's why Thatcher never took on the BBC – because it has the support of middle England."
Tory Lord Chris Patten has presided over the Savile scandal; allowed Mark Thompson a destructive free-hand, manipulating a lurch to the right (enough of the militarised drama and content, already); turned a blind eye to unearned pay-offs to BBC management including a million to outgoing deputy Director General Mark Byford to which he wasn't entitled; and blocked publication of documents relating to the corporation's £100m Digital Media Initiative (DMI) fiasco. Excellent facilities including the iconic TV Centre with its rich history and state-of-the-art studios are lost while workers are crammed into inferior facilitates at the new Broadcasting House and transport-guzzling Salford (thanks to New Labour for initiating that move).

It's as if the malign forces now in the ascendent wish to decapitate us and separate us from our memories of the long post-war period in Britain when the mass of society enjoyed unprecedentd access to education, health, housing and jobs, when pride and confidence was standard. It wasn't perfect: there was racism, sexism and all sorts of phobias but it was something British society was building on. There's an intensifying agenda at work attacking our cultural memory in order to ease the take-over by the Super Rich. One tactic has been to pick off the weak men who used their star power to abuse children but strip the events of context that might shed light on the power nexus (Margaret Thatcher, health minister Edwina Currie and so on) that created the opportunities. Who next — our rock gods?

While sex offenders and expense cheat politicians should certainly be held to account, one wonders why household names from showbiz and Labour politicians dominate the lists of shame. Where are the swinish Tory grandees? What about the seriously rich and their little perversions? Money can buy anything and insane amounts purchase insane fantasies. Did the horrors of the Jersey boys' home and Elm Guest House move to superyachts and private islands — decadent settings for degenerate lifestyles made possible by taking our assets? It's a logical link that if the class at the top has no conscience when it comes to cutting us loose and destroying lives in order to acquire even more wealth, that they'd exhibit no qualms of conscience when it comes to gratifying other needs as well.

Does the system really care about Stuart Hall and Jimmy Savile abusing children? It didn't during their reign. How many knew about the abuse at the Haut de la Garenne home on Jersey? Who gave Savile a free run in Broadmoor? Justice for the abused victims never seems to touch those holding the keys and hosting the dinner parties.

Like the NHS — privatised by MPs, ministers and Lords with financial interests in its destruction — the BBC is another one of our institutions established in kinder, more democratic times, whose days seem numbered. Just watch the looting and pillaging taking place at the top. It's everywhere. To have rail companies who already make 147 per cent PROFIT each year demanding even more from working people is a vivid illustration of the dynamic at work.

Unfortunately, while Greg Dyke may be one of the few remaining good men running things, Marx was right and the capitalist system is a juggernaut whose inbuilt dynamic swallows everything by brute force.

I'm not surprised the Centre For Economic And Business Research (CEBR) and their media shills are supporting George Osborne's austerity for the masses, tax cuts for the very rich. The economy would indeed look wonderful, a perspective dependent on an exalted position, if you suddenly ditched the civilians and nicked all their stuff. Where's Labour's instinctive rebuttal of this garbage? Is this yet another Tory narrative they're allowing to set like concrete?

Here's a nuanced and intriguing warning from Michael White (not someone I'd nornally quote) that we dump our politicians — our last defence against the feral elite — at our peril:
"For all their (much exaggerated) faults, elected politicians in a country like the UK are still a barrier that protects us from the rising power of unaccountable oligarchy and rampant plutocracy which clearly threatens the democratic gains of the last 200 years. Who do you think whips up much of the voter anger against MPs? Why, the oligarch-owned press whose owners and their lapdogs rail against wasteful use of taxpayers' money without paying too much themselves – even as they seek to persuade us that plutocracy is good for us all. Check out Priyamvada Gopal's excellent piece about the cult of the super-rich."
Michael White was a New Labour enthusiast who often facilitated them in the pages of the Guardian but a thing can be true even if the freshly awakened White says it is true.

Listen to the lively discussion on Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge Resonance FM radio programme about the Super Rich with Aditya Chakrabortty and Kate Belgrave for more on the self-indulgence of our masters.

We should keep our eyes on the Super Rich and watch out for the smoke and mirrors used to divert our attention from the all-out frenzied thieving of everything that was publicly owned. After criminal activities and staggering incompetence by A4E, Serco, G4S; aggressive tax avoidance strategies employed by some of our biggest companies; the emergence of forced free labour and zero-hours contracts; the explosion in food banks, how can any intelligent person with any ethics, integrity and basic fellow humanity, continue to champion the upward suck of our assets, wellbeing, our culture and our planet?

Stay awake. Happy new year.

Aditya Chakrabortty's Guardian article on how champagne-swilling councils are selling off our housing to developers.

John Kampfner on the history of the super rich.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

George Orwell on the final Madam Miaow Resonance 104.4FM tonight at 5.30pm

News, music and poetry
Presented by Anna Chen
5.30-6.30pm Tuesday 3rd December 2013
(To listen to Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge series on Resonance FM for WINDOWS, download VLC media player)

Guests: Professor John Newsinger and Paul Anderson. With Charles Shaar Murray.

The final programme in this year's series of Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge asks if George Orwell was as much of a right-wing anti-socialist as is claimed. Think you know the answer? You may be surprised.

Far from being turned off the necessity for revolution, John Newsinger makes the case in his book, Orwell's Politics, that Orwell remained truer to his progressive politics than the Stalinists who viciously denounced him.

In the year that the vast scale of covert government surveillance has been revealed, sales of Orwell's 1984 have shot up 7000 per cent. His X-ray vision is proving even more relevant in these turbulent times than we imagined, so it's vital to understand what it was he was saying.

Also in the studio, helping untangle the myth from the man, is author Paul Anderson, former editor of Tribune and deputy editor of the New Statesman — both publications for whom Orwell wrote — and who edited the book Orwell in Tribune.

With great themed music and lively discussion.

We're back next year. Thanks for listening. Have a wonderful festive season.

George Orwell: a literary revolutionary? — 5.30pm Tuesday 3rd December
Listen live
or afterwards
listen online

Previously …

How the CIA funded the Halas Batchelor animated cartoon film of Animal Farm.

Monday 2 December 2013

George Osborne says we can't afford the welfare state. Here are some reasons why.

George Osborne says we can't afford the welfare state. Of course we can't afford it. £70bn pa in tax avoidance, tax cuts ... Someone has to pay for all that and the 147% pa profit made by the train companies. Fire sales of public assets. All those extra billionaires with tastes to match: £20K cocktails (£35,000 at Movida), £330K rounds of drinks, £49mn apartments planned at Battersea Power Station making residents of No 1 Hyde Park look like paupers, £32mn Ferraris, £6mn bras (see pic above), diamond encrusted everything. Not to mention the odd war (check out those politicians' arms portfolios).

According to The Sunday Times Rich List in 2010, after a short dip in the collective wealth of the top one thousand weathiest Brits in 2008, it went up by a third in one year, 30 per cent in 2009 in the wake of the economic crisis. That's over £77bn up to £333.5bn, the biggest annual increase in the 22-year history of The Sunday Times rich list. Worldwide, the 358 people with assets of more than $1bn were worth more than the combined annual income of 45 per cent of the world's population.

There were 447 billonaires in January 2013. The world's richest hundred people could end world hunger now.

Randeep Ramesh wrote in the Guardian in 2011:
"In Britain, a dramatic rise in inequality has been fuelled by the creation of a super-rich class. The (national wealth) share of the top 1% of income earners increased from 7(.01)% in 1970 to 14(.3)% in 2005. ... Just prior to the global recession, the OECD says the top 0.1% of highest earners – accounted for a remarkable 5% of total pre-tax income, a level of wealth-hoarding not seen since the second world war."

Michael Meacher wrote in his open letter to the press in 2012:
" ... the richest 1,000 people make up only 0.003% of the population and yet they have made £155bn extra in the past three years, in the depths of the recession. If they paid off the entire deficit they'd still have £30bn with which to console themselves. Their combined wealth is the highest in history: 1,000 individuals own £413bn, more than a third of Britain's GDP. Their increase in wealth has been £315bn over the past 15 years. Capital gains tax on this at the current 28% rate would yield £88bn, that's 70% of the entire deficit. And yet it's the poorest and weakest who are paying: 77% of the budget deficit is being recouped by public spending and benefit cuts. Only 23% comes from tax increases, and half of that is from VAT which we all pay and hits the poorest hardest. None of the tax increases are specifically aimed at the super-rich."

Not to mention that the Coalition government has borrowed more in three years than Labour did in 13: £430.072 billion compared to £429.975bn.

C'mon, Tamara Ecclestone has to pay for her half a million quid shelf of Birkin bags somehow.

Listen to The Super Rich with Aditya Chakrabortty, Kate Belgrave and Charles Shaar Murray on Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge, Resonance 104.4FM.

John Kampfner on the history of the super rich.

From Vice magazine: The Seven Reasons Why Super Rich British Tax Dodgers Don't End Up in Jail.
A 2014 report by the Equality Trust revealed that the poorest 10 percent of British households pay eight percent more of their income in all taxes than the richest; 43 percent compared to 35 percent. And that's before tax avoidance schemes have been taken into account. What the rich fail to put in, the rest of the country must cover in taxes like income tax and VAT.