Thursday 17 March 2016

Osborne clobbers low paid freelancers and deals fresh blow to women born in the 1950s in Budget 2016

Budget 2016: Low paid freelancers are likely to see their NICs INCREASE five-fold from Class 2 £2.80 pw to Class 3 £14.10 pw

Women born in the 1950s have been truly gang-banged by George Osborne and his Tory cohort. While the rich saw their income triple since the 2008 crash, women who earn only 80 per cent of their male counterparts, who have had their pension age leap from age 60 to 66 and beyond, now find their lower cost Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs) abolished with the cost jumping five-fold from £2.80 per week to £14.10 in Class 3 if your earnings are below £8K. This means an annual bill soaring from £147 to £733 if you wish to continue making voluntary payments to qualify for the state pension — 35 years of NICs.

So not only have they moved the goalposts and added 6 years, we can't afford to pay for them. And if we don't pay for them, we get an even lower pension than expected.

According to the government paper on abolition of Class 2 NICs (consultation closed):
In order to qualify for Class 4 NICs you have to be self-employed and must additionally pay Class 4 contributions once your profits reach a certain limit.

In 2016-17 Class 4 contributions are 9 per cent of taxable profits between £8,060 and £43,000. On profits over £43,000, Class 4 contributions are 2 per cent of profits.

Figure 2.B: The proposed Class 4 NICs structure

So what happens if your income falls below this threshold?

Those with profits between the SPT and Lower Profits Limit (LPL) (£8,060 in 2015/16) would no longer pay any NICs but still build entitlement to contributory benefits.

State Pension entitlement
Following these reforms, those with profits below the SPT [Small Profits Threshold — currently £5824] would need to make use of the existing provisions in the NICs system that serve to protect an individual’s State Pension record, in the same way as for employees who do not gain entitlement through Class 1 NICs. These are NI credits and Class 3 voluntary contributions.
While the Government recognises that the rate of Class 3 contributions is higher than Class 2 contributions, those for whom Class 3 may be prohibitively expensive may be eligible to claim means-tested benefits, which would protect their State Pension record via NI credits. [My italics]

Means tested. No savings above rock bottom.

Remember, this is not voluntary in the true sense. Fail to pay for those qualifying years and your state pension will feel it.

... those whose profits are below the SPT in only a small number of years may not need to pay Class 3 NICs to fill gaps. It is those with successive years of low profits who may see their State Pension entitlement affected if they did not pay Class 3 NICs. [My italics]

Read section 2 very carefully. Low cost Class 2 NICs has been abolished so you will have to pay the higher rate of Class 3 after 2018 if you do not qualify for Class 4 contributions with an income over around £8K.

Women born in the 1950s — who have not been given a reasonable time to make the transition — will lose around £36K in having to wait the extra six years for their pension. But that's not enough for the Tories and their "hard working people" mantra. We now have to pay thousands more in order to pay for those years to get as near to 35 years of contributions as possible.

Labour should be all over this like a rash. You may have the angels on your side but, as I learnt in the field, it's in the first moments of an issue breaking that the dominant narrative is formed. If you can't grasp that, stop being a dog in the manger and get someone on board who does. For all our sakes.

EDIT added 17 March 2016:
Paul Johnson at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says:
The disingenuousness of the rhetoric on the personal allowance continues. The chancellor boasted yesterday that the increase in it “means another 1.3 million of the lowest paid workers taken out of tax altogether”. No it does not mean that. Taken out of income tax, yes. But not taken out of direct taxes on income. It remains the case that National Insurance Contributions, which are just another tax on earnings, start to be paid once earnings rise above about £8,000.

Gallantry? Chivalry? Here's John Ward at The Slog
"... faced with what they thought in 2005 was approaching Armageddon, the Sir Humphrey clan DOUBLED the pension payout for the 600,000 top civil servants. The measure bypassed the Public Accounts Committee, which means that legally the pension awards were embezzled from the taxpayer. And the bypassing of the PAC means it was done with the complicity of elected Ministers. Consider the size of this heist: unfunded Civil Service pension liabilities today stand at £1.4trillion. 50% of the National Debt is down to the greed of 600,000 Sir Humphreys. Indirectly as a result of this, around 325,000 Waspi women have been left destitute."
How the establishment is stealing everything that isn't nailed down. Via @therealslog

Another Budget scandal exclusive from John Ward at The Slog. Why Big Corporate lobbying made Osborne more tearful than 500,000 WASPIs on the breadline
"Look at some of the other ‘priorities’ Osbollocks put ahead of pensioner destitution:
Freeze on fuel duty – £435m
Relief for oil companies – £265m
Freeze on alcohol duty – £85m
New rights to buy – £35m
Tax cuts to personal allowance & higher rates – £2bn
ISA savings allowance – £170m
Not investigating senior mgmnt tax fiddles on loans – £260m
Reduced corporation tax – £1.1bn (2020) ... the Government lie about 'having to wait a further 18 months for a State pension' is in fact SIX YEARS for women born in 1955 or later. That should be cut to one year from 60th birthday with immediate effect. For the 150,000 WASPIs involved in that, there is a 50% duplication with more women who have no partner, private pension or other means of support. That group should now get their pension immediately, backdated to 60th birthday. The remaining 175,000 WASPIs not in either group should have their delay halved, as a penalty levied on the Treasury for ignoring the Turner Commission. This would mean that all those who were, say, 60 in 2011 will get their pensions immediately, backdated to 2013."

July 2018: The rape of the National Insurance Fund A draft prepared by Tony Lynes as a basis for a National Pensioners Convention factsheet on the National Insurance Fund

The Guardian piles in a year after the event (18th March 2017) with New bombshell for self-employed. Still, better very late than never.

Socialist Economic Bulletin: Budget shows women bearing the heaviest burden of austerity.

Press finally catch on. Daily Mail 12.04.16: Women were told they'd win in the shake-up but thousands who gave up careers will get almost nothing

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Another chance to hear Anna May Wong: A Celestial Star in Piccadilly on BBC Radio 4 Extra and iPlayer

Anna May Wong: a celestial star in Piccadilly, BBC Radio 4 Extra, 06:30 & 13:30 Wednesday 16th March 2016. Written & presented by Anna Chen

I had the great pleasure to make my programme on Anna May Wong, Hollywood's first Chinese screen legend, in 2008 for broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in January 2009. It's repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra tomorrow, Wednesday 16th March at 06:30 and 13:30, then on iPlayer for 30 days.

Anna Chen writes and presents A Celestial Star In Piccadilly, a half-hour profile of Hollywood's first Chinese movie star for BBC Radio 4.
First Broadcast 11:30am, Tuesday 13th January 2009.
Pick of the Day in Guardian Guide, Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.


While I was growing up in Hackney, there were few east asian women in the culture reflecting anything like my appearance. Those that did slip through were not necessarily an inspiration. Yoko Ono was unfairly reviled in the media as a hate figure, although – far from breaking up the Beatles –she was a respected Fluxus artist in her own right and famous among the avant-garde cognoscenti way before John Lennon was anything more than a pop star. The twin horrors of my childhood, Suzy Wong and Juicy Lucy – happy hookers who migrated from popular literature onto the screen – were always there to define me in the eyes of a society without any other reference points. There were powerful women, too, but they came in the shape of Jiang Qing (Madam Mao), the kleptocratic Imelda Marcos and, in fiction, the evil daughter of Fu Manchu. Her I quite liked.

I wondered who the young Anna May Wong had to look up to. She grew up as third-generation Chinese born in a youthful America when Native Americans were safely out of the way on their reservations and former slaves were consigned to ghettos and plantations. Chinese-Americans were about as low as you could get; depicted as so much of a danger to working men and decent citizens that the US government introduced legislation specifically designed to curb the ambitions of the Yellow Peril within. Their ambitions may have been humble — earning an honest dollar for one's labour, living in safety and security, bringing up families of their own — but the owners of capital tolerated them only as cheap labour, while much of the labour movement in both the Britain and the USA (Wobblies excluded) saw the Chinese as more of a threat than as fellow workers.

Various schools of thought say that Asiatic humans first walked over the Beriing Straits more than 17,000 years ago and populated the Americas down to their southernmost tip. Others contend that Imperial Chinese ships arrived in the 15th century, predating Columbus by decades; or that they initially landed in California on Portuguese ships carrying silver from mines in the Philippines.

What we do know is that in the mid-19th century, the discovery of gold at Sutters Mill in 1848 drew first a trickle and then a flood of Chinese who joined in the Gold Rush, populating the west coast and working the mines in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The next wave of immigration was brought in as cheap coolie labour by Charles Crocker in the 1860s to build his Central Pacific railroad which would link Sacramento with the East and bring the West into the Union during the Civil War. Conditions were harsh and they were paid less than their white counterparts.

But not all Chinese would submit and conform to the role of coolie; there was one major strike with thousands laying down tools as they busted through granite mountains and worked in 20-foot snowdrifts. It was a strike that had the potential to unite all workers, and ever since I found out about it in the early 1990s while working with Sinophile author Martin Booth on his film script The Celestial Cowboys in 1993, it has inspired me, especially as there are those who insist that Chinese are genetically bourgeois and incapable of working-class consciousness. The strikers were eventually starved back to work with a few concessions but they had shown they they weren’t all pushovers.

Many miners and railworkers settled in the US and formed America’s first Chinese communities. These were Anna May Wong’s roots.

In a world bereft of role models, Anna May carved out an acting career in the early days of the Hollywood film industry. She started young, as an extra on the streets of Los Angeles, learning her craft and gaining proper roles in defiance of her traditionalist father, who wanted her at home in the family laundry.

By 17, she was starring in Hollywood’s first technicolour movie, The Toll of the Sea, as the Madame Butterfly character, “marrying” an American who promptly dumps her when he returns to his homeland and a white wife. She dies tragically at the climax, beginning a pattern that would endure for most of her career.

Trapped in Dragon Lady or Lotus Blossom roles, she grew tired of being demeaned, insulted and limited. Anti-miscegenation laws meant she wasn’t allowed to kiss a romantic lead if he was white, even if he was a white actor playing a Chinese. Your sexuality got you killed, at least symbolically.

In the late 1920s she came to Britain, where she was already a huge star and made the black and white silent feature film Piccadilly for the German director E A Dupont. This was perhaps her greatest starring role, but she still had to die at the end. Death was the fate she had to endure for the crime of being attractive. I take a closer look at this movie in the programme as there’s a plethora of prejudice leaking at the edges, some of it hilarious, much of it still extant today.

Anna May was the toast of Europe: mates with Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich and, strangely, Leni Riefenstahl. Such was the contrast in Europe with what she’d experienced back home that she once stated there was no racism in Germany. And that was in the Thirties, which gives you some idea how bad it must have been if you were a minority in the Land of the Free.

She starred with Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express, acted with a greenhorn Laurence Olivier on the London stage. Philosopher Walter Benjamin had a major crush on her. She dined with royalty and was adored by her fans. Eric Maschwitz wrote the classic song “These Foolish Things” about her.

Yet Hollywood still refused to lower the drawbridge and give her the starring roles she deserved. Those still went to white actresses in Yellowface. Myrna Loy as evil Daughter of Fu Manchu? Loy, Katherine Hepburn, Luise Rainer and Tilli Losch were all considered better at being Chinese than Anna May Wong.

These things take their toll and she died in 1961, at the unnervingly early age of 56.

But isn’t everything different today? Nope, it’s still with us. The form has mutated but the content lives on. A Celestial Star in Piccadilly is one case study in how minorities are rendered invisible in the culture and as producers of culture, while the fruits of their labour are appropriated by those who sit at High Table.

And the danger of that is it’s the sleep of reason where monsters are born.

Hmmm, sounds familiar and rather too close to home ...

Interviewees include:
Graham Russell Gao Hodges, Anna May Wong's biographer, Laundryman's Daughter
Diana Yeh, historian
Alice Lee, writer and actress who performed her one woman show about Anna May Wong, Daughter of the Dragon
Elaine Mae Woo, director of Frosted Yellow Willows about Anna May
Ed Manwell, film producer, Frosted Yellow Willows
Neil Brand, composer of the new score for the BFI Southbank rerelease of Piccadilly on DVD
Jasper Sharp, east Asian film expert
Kevin Brownlow, legendary film historian and filmmaker
Margie Tai and Connie Ho, who remember Anna May Wong visiting their Limehouse neighbourhood when they were kids

Produced by Chris Eldon Lee for Culture Wise Productions
Many thanks to Mukti Jain Campion of Culture Wise for giving me latitude and for her feedback


Sunday 13 March 2016

Lucy Sheen's moving documentary, Abandoned Adopted Here, launched at SOAS, 7th April

Abandoned Adopted Here — SOAS

7 pm.7th April 2016.
DLT Lecture theeatre. SOAS. London. WC1H 0XG.

The first public screening of the acclaimed documentary - Abandoned Adopted Here by Lucy Sheen.

From 50s, 60s Colonial Hong Kong to pre-multicultural UK, a group of Hong Kong foundlings were transracially adopted. Lucy interviewed a few of her fellow adoptees to explore whether their experience of identity and belonging had been as challenging as hers. How far do other British East Asians feel a lack of belonging or identity or is it just something that culturally displaced babies and children feel?

This documentary has been selected for screening at Singapore World International Film Festival, Hong Kong World International Film Festival and Minnesota Transracial Film Festival.

“Abandoned Adopted Here is one of the best treatments of transracial identity in film that I have seen.” - Dawn Tomlinson, President of AdopSource Minneapolis.

Abandoned Adopted Here challenges the idea and concept of transracial adoption. This documentary, by looking through history and the differences of cultures, discusses the impact of this phenomenon and how that affects the adoptees and the British East Asians in the UK society.

The documentary will be screened at the DLT Lecture eatre at SOAS, followed by a Q&A section chaired by Dr. Diana Yeh.

Name of Contact: Heather lai
Company Name: Foundling Productions - Lucy Sheen
Contact Phone Number: 07796678882
Contact E-mail: , Box-office website: Website Abandoned Adopted Here

Saturday 5 March 2016

British Born Chinese panel discussion at the LSE: audio

British Born Chinese film
Kevin and Daniel in British Born Chinese

Here's the audio from last Saturday's panel discussion at the London School of Economics where I'm talking about British Born Chinese, a documentary by Dr Elena Barabantseva.
Speaker(s): Dr Elena Barabantseva, Anna Chen, Andy Lawrence, Dr Véronique Pin-Fat
Chair: Professor William Callahan

Recorded on 27 February 2016 at Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building

British Born Chinese engages the everyday struggles of two boys, Dan (aged between 11-13) and Kevin (aged between 12-14), reconciling their Britishness with Chineseness through their experiences at school, as volunteers at a community centre, and at home. Filmed over the course of two years in an innovative participatory and reflexive style, this film is an example of how artistic practices of filmmaking can work as a primary research tool. Driven by dialogue and close involvement with the film’s subjects, the film challenges the dominant popular representations of British Chinese as a ‘model minority’, and argues for a different understanding of community based on a shared sense of vulnerability.

Elena Barabantseva is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester and Co-Producer of British Born Chinese. She is a member of the Critical Global Politics research cluster, and British Inter-University China Centre (BICC) and author of Overseas Chinese, Ethnic Minorities and Nationalism: De-Centering China.

Andy Lawrence is filmmaker in residence and lecturer in Visual Anthropology at the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology, University of Manchester. He is the founder of AllRitesReversed, a documentary film production company. He is Co-Producer of British Born Chinese.

Anna Chen (@MadamMiaow) writes and presents programmes for BBC Radio 4 as a freelance, and writes, produces and presents her arts show, Madam Miaow’s Culture Lounge, at Resonance 104.4FM. Her blog, Madam Miaow Says, was shortlisted in the 2010 Orwell Prize for blogs, and longlisted in 2012.

Véronique Pin-Fat publishes on ethics in global politics and is Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Manchester.

William Callahan is Professor of International Relations at LSE. His toilet adventures (2015) film was shortlisted for a major award by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Chris Rock throws Jada, Will and the three Asian kids under the Oscars bus

Anna Chen discusses Chris Rock Asian joke on BBC World Service 

Well, Chris Rock REALLY wanted that gig, didn't he? With the eyes of the world on this year's Academy Awards ceremony following the 'Oscars So White' campaign and boycott, how's a chap to hold onto his integrity and reputation and still get to play the big time?

With a shocking number of African American deaths at the hands of cops, the Ferguson protests and the Black Lives Matter campaign coming to a head, the issues of black worth in US society were highlighted by the casual exclusion of a major section of the population from one of America's top cultural prize-giving ceremonies. This was the crisis moment that had so much riding on it. Would Chris join the boycott even if it meant giving up his role as MC for one of the most prestigious events in the showbiz calendar?

What Chris did was to take the job, aim a few soft balls at the white establishment and then show them he was only kidding. For is he not the house clown? He made his bones by reserving his keenest viciousness for Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, the very couple who raised awareness of the total absence of any nominations for black actors at this year's Oscars. The most effective assassins are always the ones from the doomed victims' own group, as it comes with an extra serving of relish. He did what no white person could have achieved: shooting the messengers from the lip. Greater love hath no man than he lay down his fellow black performers for his place at the top table. How the white audience laughed.

It was gruesome to watch, like some sort of a human sacrifice of Jada and Will. And then, in case they missed the point he was making, he tossed in three Asian children as dessert for whichever lower order daemon it was that he was ingratiating himself with on the night.

Hope the crumbs tasted swell, Chris.

I remember when Chris Rock was good. We liked him a lot in our house. The missing link between Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, Chris combined savvy sharp wits with righteous indignation over injustice. His documentary, Bad Hair, made me quite tearful thinking about his daughter coming to terms with her own black beauty and the rancid creatures for whom her black African hair is a mark of inferiority.

I wonder if Chris saw his child in the eyes of the three Asian kids he humiliated on stage at the Oscars. Oh look: Price Waterhouse Cooper clones because, as any fule know, we Asians are all corporate breadhead whores without an ounce of concern for our fellow humans. One of the kids was given a Jewish name, thereby gifting Chris with two racist insults for the price of one.

Then there's Sacha Baron Cohen at the Oscars, another swinging dick hiding his uber-dickness behind insults about Asian guys and small dicks. So brave. "Do it to Julia," screamed Winston Smith in George Orwell's 1984, and here they are as broken and willing to pass the pain on to others in order to escape it themselves.

Anyhow, here I am in last night's World Have Your Say debate on the BBC World Service on the subject of the Chris Rock Asian Joke.

How the Asian kids were tricked into Chris Rock's Asian joke. One of the kids speaks out.

More salient points in 'Eight Reasons Why I Hated Chris Rock's Monologue'.

How Asian model minority stereotypes are used against black people.

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