Sunday, 29 March 2020
With the prospect of 'Getting Back to Normal,' seeming to slip further from the UK's and certain other government's grasps, we should all find the time to consider the two bookends of the current global worry. First we should think seriously about what got us to where we are now. Then we should more seriously consider the route that we might take from here on in! Or, we could maybe address the two, as co-dependents of the whole sorry affair! To dust off and use the government's most recent catchphrase, in order ".. to help us to bounce back!"
As a lifelong socialist I've become increasingly morose with regards to humanity's (UK) likelihood of ever turning the corner and electing to tread the more benign route. But dare we just to hope?
The powers that be are demonstrably desperate, beside themselves, tearing their hair out... to quickly, 'get back to normal.' As every single day currently sets us further from their oft-hailed solution to everything. And, it terrifies them! Them and their thoroughly discredited 'market!' Apply another patch, why don't we?
Boris Johnson's daily 'togetherness' fudge, Rishi Sunak's splashing of the 'whatever it takes' cash, Skin-deep Patel's manufactured social conscience! Lord alone knows what is being fed to the masses in the US, all are but a plastered on facade! Already, the gypsum has begun to chip, the exposed angry red sinews now visibly straining to turn back the tide!
Just under seventy-two hours previously we had determined that we would step outside and clap and cheer for our NHS. Even if the local response was lukewarm, we dared to contemplate- there are just so many empty second homes here- we reasoned that our noise alone would draw some sort of attention. But no, rising from our chairs in readiness, already the streets and balconies were full- the occupied ones- the air a-rippling with the sound, the response heartening! It was difficult not to cry, so we did, a little. It was dark, probably nobody noticed, likely others were crying also, crying or cheering, or both, whooping, banging kitchen items! The response was perfect! Exactly as it should have been! Heartening!
Heartening, as has been the response to requests for NHS volunteers, as has been the effort of food manufacturers to feed the overstretched doctors and nurses and other NHS staff. The buses are running reasonably efficiently, although mostly empty... obviously! Schools are staying open for the children of NHS staff, again mostly empty. Supermarket staff and other food distributers are out and facing the invisible threat, constantly compromising their social distancing 'guidelines,' never more so than when the over 70s make the early rounds. Homeless people are being housed. Refuse is being collected. Unemployment allowances have risen! Suspended competition between supermarkets- Socialism- will the puffed-up Cheesy Wotsit ever talk down to us again? Sensibility is screaming out for more Roosevelt and less viral hot air! More Attlee, rather less Churchill!
Boris Johnson is 'so proud'... sort of... but theatrically so, don't you think? Look into Matt Hancock's eyes, I thought he was simply out of his depth (which he is), but it's a sort of fear! Rumour has it that Dominic Cummings has recognised the fear and has prescribed them both two of the very mildest doses of the virus yet seen, rumour has it!
The UK Government, "so very proud" of the public response, has meanwhile missed the deadline for an EU scheme, to source lifesaving ventilators. Initially, it was an old Empirical call to arms of "going it alone," instead "no longer a member, we were" "making our own efforts," adapting vacuum cleaners! But then the buffoon, upon being accused of "putting Brexit first," quickly reverted to type with the lie of "Owing to an 'initial communication problem,' the UK did not receive an e-mail from the EU, asking it to participate." Boris and Team Deception yet again counting on those certain factions of the country not knowing, or caring really, that Matt Hancock, prior to the deadline, specifically mentioned the scheme during BBC's Question Time. Fill the Cabinet with a bunch of well-practiced liars and it's hardly surprising that all the parts end up on different pages. But the deceit won't slow the Coronavirus. Instead, it'll assist and cost even more lives. 20,000 is the current government 'calculated' loss, in order to save the economy! Perhaps unavoidable now, but one wonders what figures might have been. That's quite a few casualties who won't be bouncing back!
The nation now has regional Gold Commanders, helping to cooperatively coordinate the fight. Either this is socialism, or we're fighting the virus with prefixes.
The good old United Kingdom has rallied to the call! And it terrifies them! Prince Charles is self isolating in a wing of the Balmoral Estate and, this time, I strongly sense that I'm not the only soul not to give a damn! The national NHS applause warmed the TV screens! But footage of Downing Street and some royal castle, somewhere or other, sort of spoiled the general feel of togetherness, don't you think? Together, for a heartbeat, but eager to get back to differently socially isolating once again.
'Worryingly' it's the socialism issue, again raising it's 'ugly' head! And, we though the Daily Mail, Piers Morgan, the British MSM, and two decades of increasingly spiteful Tory rule had buried it for dead! And yet, here we are again!
The globe is in crisis, variably so. And, the measures that seem to be dealing best with the issue are all socialist measures. Sharing, pulling together, rallying round! We haven't all fought two world wars, that was the generation of our grandparents and great grandparents, as if we need constantly reminding. If we're old enough, just maybe, it was our parents' generation. They were the ones who actually fought the world wars, we didn't!
The threat is very different this time around, but many people are responding similarly, as you might hope of humanity! Just so long as they don't want to 'over respond,' eh Johners? Because, it's all very well the UK gathering at the appointed time, upon their doorsteps and balconies, but heaven forbid that they might also want to ensure that the NHS is better equipped next time round! Whisper it, so Trump upon his golden throne- more orange really- does not hear, "Why, this is socialism!"
Housing the homeless? Ensuring that those without work or too sick or otherwise unable to work are looked after? Volunteers, pulling together to ensure that everyone's chances of survival are enhanced? Socialism!
Consider a drawn parallel- not the daft and boastful one that we've fought two world wars- instead this one of a potential global annihilation of human life, one that might open people's eyes to the necessity to far better look after one another? When this battle's over- assuming that the virus doesn't attain some sort of more permanent dominion- why shouldn't the people who pulled together want to continue pulling together? Liveable unemployment benefits, sickness pay, shared responsibility for shared rewards, a ready and working NHS for the whole nation, free at the point of delivery! Why not? Socialism, why not? 'All in it together,' for real! Why not?
Curiously, the contagion is now almost (formerly) biblical! For those, like myself, who are loath to accept such a diagnosis, biblical pertaining to the Bible an' all that- mine was instead more a reference to scale- we might instead think of our planet (almost) as a single living entity. Sometimes, certain marine biologists refer to the Great Barrier Reef as a single living organism, each part thereof highly interdependent of each other part, well, we could think of the earth, that precious shining jewel, as an interdependent single organism (oxymoron), always seeking to balance itself. A greater intelligence might instead reappraise our far too compartmentalised diagnosis. After all, are we not in body, in complexity, a teeming mass of microorganisms, ideally all striving to attain that tenuous balance that equates to a thriving human entity?
Brimming with life, which undoubtedly it is- although not quite so brimming of late- the planet would quite naturally evolve. Wholly alive it might seek out, identify and fight contagion! As a living organism, wanting always to thrive, what might it identify and line up for rectification or cleansing? Over what kind of timescale? Coronavirus? Or humanity? Which is currently causing the greater damage? Humanity or Coronavirus?
If the antibodies, for want of a better analogy, are able to more accurately pinpoint the contagion, where or what would they better target? The human infection is quite widespread, atmospheric pollution, corruption of waterways and oceans, plastic and other pollution, destruction of habitat, extinction of species, disregard and contempt even for its own species, despite it's self proclaimed 'superior intelligence,' resources wars, discrimination, greed! Any greater being might easily draw a very different perspective upon the human species than we appear to have done.
If we acted collectively, and in my analogy, to prioritise greater numbers of our species over the economy- this actually might demonstrate a higher intelligence. We would have to be honest. No longer could we use our MSM to lie or to evade, not to a viral antibody. We would surely have to pinpoint the human contagion element to capitalism, although it has now cancerised in terrifying timescale, into neoliberalism. To save the human planet target instead neoliberalism! Surely every bit as true in real time as it is analogically!
Unless I am the next Messiah, and I know that I am not- heaven yet again help us- surely I cannot have been the only living soul who thought, as the first signs arose in Wuhan, as the virus was identified and recognised as being immune to all current vaccines, why the Hell is the world not treating this as a potential global issue? Why is the globe not locking down and funding the treatment and restriction at source? At the very least think about restricting air travel!
The issue, the answer, was, of course, neoliberalism. The globe was incapable of acting in unison! The globe was busily competing with itself instead to undermine health, to monetise health, to privatise health! Don't let it harm the economy, and the fireside illusion of eternal economic growth! Oh, and perhaps we could save a few lives, give the privatised pseudo-health services some financial justification?
I thought it yet again, why aren't we collectively locking this down and saving more lives, as holidays to Italy, all too frequently adjacent to the newest hotspot, continued to prioritise instead 'the economy!' Save lives, treat the epidemic at its source, now multiple sources, I hoped.
I thought it again, as BJ talked incessantly about protecting the economy, and the first Coronavirus outbreaks began to chickenpox the UK. Even as the space behind his eyes more brightly spoke of the deceit, as the UK's vetted science team were being called upon to field and repurpose the PM's words with ever greater frequency. Treat the damn (now) pandemic cooperatively, fund the fight collectively, I pleaded at the radio or the TV, not always politely!
Now, almost 72 hours since the nation loudly applauded our NHS, the government is again fudging at the fore! Already our gratitude to our health workers has been semantically repurposed, in the words of the latest spokesperson, the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, elusive as morning mist, "acting on scientific advise," to "save lives by staying at home and social distancing, unless we have to go to work upon crowded tube trains and not social distance." Clear as Johnson! Now we learn that we weren't at our doorways and windows, at our balconies and in our front gardens, cheering the NHS, not exactly. What we were instead doing was helping to, "keep the economy going, readying the nation to bounce back!" Oh, and to perhaps save lives in the process. Who knew, we were there more for Richard Branson and Mike Ashley. Standing together, we minions, and Piers Morgan, for the betterment of the economy. Sharma's words deftly slipping through the net of questions from the likes of The Mail and The Sun. Back on point?
But, properly on point, the nation has again been driven to revert to a socialist ideology and has repurposed The Excel Centre, as the NHS Nightingale Hospital, a 4,000 bed, specifically Coronavirus treatment, facility- adequate ventilators not withstanding. Presumably named in honour of Florence Nightingale? Undoubtedly not referencing the nation's destruction of Kent's premier Nightingale site, at Blean Woods. "Standing shoulder to shoulder," for "our businesses (first mention) and our people (trailing in second)" On point!
This challenge is different though, and the UK government is (almost) palpably fearful of properly addressing the neoliberal contagion with socialist principles. The challenge is no longer 'just' an ostensibly unseen island of plastic whirling out of sight, out of mind. It's not spiralling inequality, pat the island-hugging 'entrepreneurs' on the back and cross our fingers. It's not almost imperceptibly dulling our skies, that slightly grey film, thickening daily and dulling the sun. It's not big-wig smiles and cosy chats about eternal economic growth. It's not the ongoing mass extinction, where we can just switch over to one of the Sky Sports Channels.
Although, think on it, it might just be part of the latter.
Socialism, by any other name!
Wednesday, 25 March 2020
With all due regard to the prospect of getting 'back to normal,' at some indeterminate time after the ravages of the Coronavirus, it would appear that no nation is yet talking a wholly good game. Instead we have those who are 'currently' talking a lot- often misinformation from several notable sources- and those who are talking rather less.
The UK's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson- still I have to sit up, take stock and to drive down the deathly chill in my chest, whenever I even consider those two entities so dreadfully juxtaposed- has positioned himself in the former category, amongst the 'talk-a-lots.' Bouncing around, between such poles there is not yet an ultimate 'right,' more frequently an 'ostensibly wrong,' position. Instead, there can currently only be 'aspiring-towards-open' and 'dishonest-through-evasion' options, uneasily bracketing a whole cornucopia of variables that lie somewhere betwixt the two.
I would have to surmise that the UK's PM has currently wedged himself at a comfortable 'social distance' from Trump's fantasy US, yet still he is definitely rather more verbose than he is honest. However, he is talking. Matt Hancock instead looks entirely baffled to have to impart so very much fog in such a short duration. "We might even have to police this," he's thinking... "with what!"
But, the cupboard (cabinet) is bare. Who next IDS?
Still, it is far from ironic that the UK government's stated desire to usher the 'Good Ship UK' 'back to normal' is more determinedly steering its rhetoric towards those worryingly tumultuous and dishonest of waters. Obviously, it goes without saying that I passionately hope that Mr Johnson's 12 week target can be met. At this stage many would happily settle for 13, 14, even 15 weeks! But, I've paid attention to his record and optimism eludes me, as it currently eludes our former neighbours in Europe and beyond. One Greek paper, Ethos,' described Johnson's efforts as being, "more dangerous than coronavirus," Singapore's national development minister, Lawrence Wong, commented, that the UK had "... abandoned any measure to contain or restrain the virus." The New York Times- no doubt thoroughly versed in the translation of evasion- thought he was, "... a leader acting under duress... playing catch-up to a private sector (some of it) that has already acted on its own." "Boris Johnson is gambling with the health of his citizens," bemoaned an Irish Times.
Already it is inevitable that too many of us will not live to witness the UK's and the entire planet's eventual docking, half-mast, at that safe haven of port 'Back-to-Normal.' And already it is clear that it is going to be either the 'whole ship,'- more lightly populated- or is is going to be 'nothing' that properly completes this journey. Misguided thoughts upon a third option, as have been Trump's, would see the globe dreadfully transformed- dreadfully transformed for humanity, maybe not so dreadfully so for nature? Already nature has benefited!
At such chilling times gleaning also human positives is proving to be more tenuous. So, is there anything to be learned?
First, we should consider what may be meant by 'back to normal.' But, in doing so, we absolutely must not permit our lords and masters to set our course without first wholly considering the times before, the times of 'viral supremacy,' the now! And they must be rounded upon to further consider the times yet before those, the times formally labelled as 'normal!'
Back to normal, then!
A first question, and a glaring one, might be how the UK government intends to help the UK through the contagion. Here, even we socialists cannot have been overly outraged at the Chancellor's commitment to support all contracted employees to the value of 80% of current salaries (up to £2,500 per month). Of course, we know that Corbyn would certainly have done at least as well, because this aspect of state support is really socialism, currently and in very small part, therefore, best left to socialists, the ones with the compassion.
But then, we must also look at those self-employed citizens, those who have, by comparison, been short-changed. They have been told that they must, if denied employment, rely instead upon the UK's rightly discredited Universal Credit- "You are currently Five-hundred-thousand-six-hundred-and seventeen in the queue."- or else jump through the requisite hoops in order to access Unemployment Benefits. Eventually, and if successful, they may access as little as £94.25 per week, some of them. Here, we know that a true socialist PM would have faired far better. Why not instead a more fitting commitment to a living Universal Income?
In order to better grasp the UK's response always keep in sight the capitalist's mantra, 'Nationalise debt and privatise profit!' Think back to the treatment of the culpable banks, in 2008! And search also between and behind the token words.
Chancellor Sunak has 'told' Andrew Marr (Sunday 22nd) that supporting the self-employed is a more difficult economic manoeuvre. Certainly, the treatment of these people is a far more familiar Conservative response. The UK has first strong-armed this section of our population into the gig (and zero-hours) economy- many lives already made far more tenuous- then it has cut them adrift. Thus, the UK government has failed in its dusted-down, yo-yo pledge to ensure that "we are all in this together!" Undoubtedly, this trough is far, far deeper but, in other respects it closely reflects this same (non) pledge of the 2008 crash. So, make no mistake, "We are all in this together!" is effectively a worthless pledge. But in working to 'get back to normal,' in the UK, it has become entirely a familiar one.
Except, this is different, and significantly so. Whereas in the US, the gaseous Trump still presides over an interstate economic battle for precious resources, here it might appear that the UK has almost, within its highly flawed system, done something half-right. Except, really, we know that it has not, that it cannot! Boris and his cabal do not operate within an ideology of what is right. So, what then is their pseudo-socialist angle?
Allow me to suggest that instead of protecting all of the people, the Conservative government is really looking to protect, ostensibly, the bigger corporations, semi-hibernating their respective workforces, slimmed down, ready for a sprint start upon reaching that mythical 'back to normal' state. Looking to gain the delusional Brexit head-start! Thus, we find ourselves currently adrift of the WHO's suggested scientific approach to engagement with this deadly pandemic. The UK, it appears, has hand-picked its top medical team such that they might suitably adapt their science so that it conforms more closely to 'back to normal!' So, sprinkled in amongst the undoubted science- often ever so slightly lagging behind- we might notice elements of softening and of modification, such that the former economic model is never given to resting the engine, instead always ticking over, hidden in the back garage. Thus the self employed are deemed less worthy of this current dose of socialism, more disposable!
The Golumesque Dominic Cummings- for those who know of the character, really, he is far more 'Gormenghast's' Steerpike- perhaps put it best, when he was heard to utter the highly significant words, "... herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad!" And, in these words, shared in the government's think-tank, we have this government's more honest idea of 'getting back to normal!' Here, where the 'herd immunity' concept was first seen to light up the gathered faces; those such as scientific advisor, Sir Patric Vallance, NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens, figures from big tech, and others, like Mark Easton from the Nudge Unit's 'behavioural scientists' (surely an oxymoron). Herd Immunity was briefly the love-child of Cummings's superforecasting dogma. That is until many a school child was seen to be able to calculate that any herd immunity, that which might reap 1% of the UK's under 70s, could see the number of deaths exceeding half-a-million people. And then only if the over 70 year-olds were fully-leak-proof-protected, and how's that working out? Thanks, Dom!
Whitehall is currently fire-fighting that particular leak- Cummings's words- but ask yourself, 'does Cummings seem like the kind of man who would dare to say such a thing?' The man who was seen to casually shrug, when it was put to him that his Brexit rhetoric was risking angry (often vociferously bigoted) crowds resorting to violence upon the capital's streets? Of course, he said it! Or he thought it out loud!
But we could get 'back to normal!' Maybe. Theoretically.
Still, we can so easily see that the desperate needs of the millionaires must be preserved at the serious risk of death to tens of thousands, as those on £94 or less are driven back to work, through the 'selfish' need to eat and to feed a family, 'selfishly' flouting the government's 'social distancing' rules. And not just the sort of social distancing daily practiced by the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg.
Stop press, the Prince of Wales has the virus! Heavens, where to self isolate? Maybe he and the good duchess could self isolate in separate wings of Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate? Remember to keep the two staffs socially distanced from one another!
As we everyday people quickly realise that 'my enemy's enemy can temporarily be (if never 'my friend,' then) my collaborator,' so the panic-buying seems, at least in Norwich, to have eased. Maybe, in the shorter term, the food supply chains just could remain intact. The low-paid lady at my checkout, on Tuesday, was charming if a bit frightened. In contrast the woman in front of me had bagged the full two dozen toilet roll allocation, leaving the shelves again empty for those still queuing outside. Two days previously I'd witnessed a woman 'thoughtfully,' if rather theatrically, pronounce that she wished to return her dozen toilet rolls "for the benefit of others." Then I watched on, as her mask fell away, "I can't fit any more bags in the loft!" Social distancing was well observed yesterday (24th). Mostly! There are those who have recognised that humanity really does beat this all together, or it fails in factions. Maybe then we have to pretend that we have an uneasy truce. Otherwise!
I know that there are a great many who have recognised the "all in this together!" call to battle for the empty words that they are, but then this virus will not be taking sides. Remember, you Donalds and Dominics, socialism places everyone on the same side, without all that need to constantly crane the necks of the minions!
With little else to do other than to watch or listen to the news of humanity's teetering dominion over nature, the evidence is every day there before most of us; the selfless actions of lower-paid workers keeping the UK afloat. Bus and train drivers, food producers, supermarket staff, the tens of thousands who are charged with caring for others, those working in the food banks, those still working with the children of NHS staff, those on the front line, anyone redistributing or selling food, or medicines, all of them at greater risk, many of them already insecure, far too many of them struggling in the gig economy. If the virus could make judgments it might almost recognise that we are collectively caring for one another more like a socialist state! Take away the ever-present threat of death and we could almost be enjoying it. Some of us! Those who can still afford to eat!
But, don't look too closely! All of those doctors operating without UK citizenship are still being expected to pay an NHS surcharge, just incase they contract Covid-19 whilst battling the same contagion in others, and then need to avail themselves of some reciprocal treatment. In the event of a death are they, do we think, still expected to pay for their own repatriation, or funeral service?
So, if and when the war is won, quite what is this 'back to normal' to which we are all battling?
Is it perhaps the "There are no easy rides here, sonny!" society of the beloved IDS? Is 'back to normal!' that same normal that regards the zero-hour culture as being driven by disposables? Back to a society with strangled unemployment benefits? A sudden turn-around to the state of 'nobody here can afford to be sick?' Back to the investor security of instant evictions? Back to hidden food-banks? Back to stepping over the street homeless, as we rush headlong into somebody else's profit-margins? Back to corner-cutting social care? Back to share-holder heaven? Back to denying the elderly and infirm their choice of a dignified death, as we instead pick their savings clean? How we've missed you all!
Back to a state of having to listen to Priti Patel telling the nation how "deeply sorry, from the bottom of my heart," she is for Teresa May's persecution of the Windrush families, and the nation having to pretend that they believe her. Please! What are the chances? Bet now!
Back to unqualified assistants standing in front of classes at the local academy? Secretly and 'efficiently' cutting away all of that surplus fat in the NHS- the 'fat' that may well have just saved thousands, fingers crossed! Back to virtual policing and sleeping police measures? Back to under-regulating future housing stock- new investment shoeboxes for the developer's portfolio? Perhaps the 250,000 volunteers for the health service can stay- might have to open up a few more food banks. Back to incentivising tax cuts for the holed-up entrepreneurs, an economy again made safe for the remote islanders? Back to incentivising service cuts for the unemployed? Comic Relief to salve the wealthy consciences of the tax evaders?
Think! What would any fictitious God want? If this God is a benign one what lessons might this God enact in preservation of such a precious jewel as Planet Earth?
Don't be daft! Such an event'll never happen again- note to self to ignore pollution and climate change, the ongoing mass extinction, oh and the impending food crisis... Back in the bubble, everyone! Back to normal!
Monday, 16 March 2020
The idea behind the title of this post is, hopefully, crystal clear. The suffixed '19,' maybe, could also represent the number of lies than 'our' Prime Minister relays, or seeks to hide behind, in the course of a month, a week, a day?
The internet is flooded with fake news! Undoubtedly it is! Perhaps the internet is more flooded with falsehood, than the UK has been flooded by the 'unseasonal' rains? A subject for another more than deserving post.
We shouldn't be surprised about the sheer weight of these falsehoods. With so many, many people posting angry comments, gleaned from so many, many angry (disingenuous) broadcasters, the internet is quite awash with hatred and misinformation. But, it is also generously furnished with inadequately-informed or poorly researched yet ostensibly-well-intentioned commentary. I try my best not to fall too heavily into the latter category, moreso the "poorly researched' aspect, but may accidentally lapse into doing so from time to time. With regards to the former category of 'emotive misinformation,' I often find myself angry, and do 'rarely' permit a degree of contempt to spill into the occasional comment. But then, often such spoken or written contempt is duly warranted, more than likely it is long overdue. I endeavour always to steer more towards the well-considered commentary, and I do also seek to back this up with, hopefully, reliably sourced information, although it is not always linked, or otherwise attributed.
Of course, the floods of misinformation have swollen up and flourished in a highly-conducive climate of political-untruthfulness, brought to fruition under the auspices of, significantly, the UK government and 'free press.' Formerly the 'misinformation' was perhaps more along the lines of 'selective evasion,' but this has now 'blossomed' into a surfeit of fully fledged political lies. Oh so many political commentators have traced this worsening climate back, four decades, to the ill-conceived election of Thatcher. Experience and much reading has unearthed nothing to contradict such a hypothesis.
With all of this in mind, it is best if I here seek to avoid the many pitfalls strewn across my pathway, through any conveyance of medical misinformation, misunderstanding and or ignorance. Of course, I have no medical training (as of yet), but then neither is any apparent in the UK's current, nodding dog, Minister for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock.
So, this post does not seek to promote Coronavirus related medical advice.
More, this posting looks only to address this Conservative Government's response to the aforementioned pandemic. So, where better to start than with Rishi Sunak's March Budget? This 'statement,' at least presents the mask that 'our' current government wishes, albeit momentarily- and in the context of a highly dynamic viral world- to offer to the nation.
In the face of what has quickly become a global pandemic, the man really almost, almost, had no alternative, other than to set aside political divide. Indeed, he kicked off with as much, setting out his stall with the contention that multiple deaths on such a scale were to be regarded as an, "issue above party," that the House must, "put aside politics and come together." New to the task of facing down such an immense crisis- identified by even the likes of May as inadequate for any cabinet role- the nation may have been 'prepared' to overlook the novice's early hiccup, when he momentarily set aside the pandemic, in order to commit to delivering upon, "economic promises to the electorate," by which he naturally meant, 'big business interests.'
Indeed, we were several minutes in before, over his right shoulder, those nodding prompts from his master became that tiny bit more assertive. On cue, Skin-deep Priti's sneer twitched such that the venom momentarily burst free to dribble down her chin, and the Chancellor was off! Matt Hancock was perhaps unaware- amongst oh-so-many other things- that the TV cameras had drifted away from the now battle-clad mighty knight, to hunt out the current Health Secretary's vacuous stare, empty eyes and nodding Churchillian (the car ornament, not the man) response.
'Magically,' we were momentarily transported onward, to a future world where 2.5% projected economic growth is no longer dictated by the meagre resources of a finite globe. Onward and upward we were ferried to, well, essentially the same cling-filmed world, that has embraced the cutting to the bone of the NHS- post virus, deaths aside, absolutely nothing proudly learned!
But I diverge, the Budget! "The gig economy is going to get (well not quite) all the help it needs... " Priti audibly sneered at this juncture- I felt as if an invisible claw had grasped at my throat, did anyone else feel it? "Whatever extra resources the NHS needs... ", it was almost as if we'd woken from two decades of nightmare! There was absolutely no mention of Priti's 'economically idle.' "Public services (which ones are those?) are well prepared!" Bring it on!
Prouder in the spotlight than the nation's shiniest cardboard policeman, anti-theft deterrent, Sunak was off the leash. The 'hands across the house,' sentiment was ceremonially shredded upon the floor! "Getting things done!" Johnson's, no Sunak's, voice briefly squeaked with adolescent devilment, before rising to a triumphant crescendo!
"This Budget gets it done!"
"This budget gets it done!"
"This budget gets it done!"
"This budget gets it done!"
"This budget gets it done!"
"This budget gets it done!"
At which point either Johnson, or else Priti- at Johnson's instruction- kicked the turntable, and we were effectively done! There were those on the benches- Mark Francois, Jacob Rees-Mogg- who whooped as if the nation had already unilaterally, globally administered the vaccine, presumably in some sort of last minute, 'health for profit' deal! Priti may even have shed an acidic tear- Johnson quickly slid his right toe out of the line of fire ('Alien' reference)- at the thought of so many of the 'economically idle' being spared.
The budget then turned out to have been far more about 'oil' then, than it was about 'oil upon troubled waters.'
So then, given that the nation now (almost) instantly requires, how many intensive care beds? how many doctors? how many nurses? how many respirators and ventilators? how many intensive care wards conjured within hospitals that are already full-and-a-half? quite where is it proposed that we collectively turn? Will we be poaching 'economically idle' staff from other nations, in order to somehow and miraculously plug that unacknowledged medical black hole? Will the UK, in a matter of weeks (months?) be expecting to rebuild an NHS, that it has spent the previous two decades dismantling? Perhaps those necessary (mysteriously origin-non-specific) nurses and doctors- those who cannot be arm-wrestled back into a profession that caused them to retire early, maybe on ill health, working under the same culpable government- perhaps they will be encouraged to migrate here, Windrush style upon a fleet of Saga-recommissioned ocean liners, from that second and secret Earth, the one from which we are hoping to source our future eternal economic growth? Surprise!
If we should deign to shed a tear for shiny Rishi- and we really shouldn't- we might reflect upon the concerning likelihood that, even if his budget had ticked every (available) medical box, even if it had genuinely reached across the House, even if he'd rushed across the floor and hugged Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, perhaps shed a tear, even if health had honestly been prioritised over profit, even under these circumstances, it is likely that this budget would have fallen woefully short of the required mark! Because the NHS is not "prepared." The funding was needed twenty years ago, and it's been needed ever since, moreso year on year!
Decades of neoliberal deceit have left nothing in reserve. Even though some of the electorate were foolish, stupid, or distracted enough ('reasoning' varies) to have given Boris his magic majority, the levels of faith in the man and his unholy cabal this same electorate has may, more openly, be reflected upon the supermarket's empty shelves. Some of the UK's hospitals have now had to start locking away their hand-sanitiser gel, because visitors are stealing the bottles from the foot of the bed that is perhaps accommodating their loved one. Dominic Cummings has been rumoured to have 'observed' that, "If the ball curve is already out of sight, who's to say we're behind it?" More superforecasting?
If the UK's rationale is quite so scientifically derived, why is is that all of those other scientists, those WHO doctors and scientists living beyond the shoreline, are so up in arms? Is it, perhaps, the case that, the evolving global scientific hypotheses are being filtered and sorted specifically to endorse predetermined UK government conclusions? "Will all of those who arrived at conclusion 'A' please stand over there. There is no conclusion B. Just the two of you, then? The exits are here, here and here!" If our government non-scientifically filters out scientific thinking that does not endorse the government's economic agenda then that's not really a science derived approach, is it?
The thinking part of the UK very early on realised that the UK's Brexit mentality- that angry, misinformed and uninformed shrinking minority- would not take long to highlight the error. But very few could possibly have predicted quite how soon those very English chickens would come home to roost. A pandemic that yields to unilateral actions- many of them, entirely uncoordinated- how likely is that? Scientific theories on a post card, please? Remember not to lick the stamp!
In some sort of parallel UK, if we'd planned instead not to accept homelessness as a necessary consequence, if we'd though to consider child poverty as a failure of an aspiring civilised society, if we'd planned to reduce rather than to enhance inequality, if we'd realised that any healthy society needs to aspire to a healthy whole population, if we'd properly funded our NHS, if we'd recognised housing as a human right rather than an investment opportunity... ? But, 'we' didn't!
I wonder if it is not still the case that there are some in the UK cabinet who secretly harbour the hope that the pandemic will work its natural course, at minimal medical outlay and manageable costs to the economy- hoping to be 'first out of the starting blocks,' as it were!
Are there unspoken plans afoot, whereby food-banks magically pick up the slack and provide the necessary meals, should schools suddenly have to close and free school meals provision for the 4 million school-age children who are living in poverty suddenly stop? Those over 70 to self-isolate for how long? Maybe now they'll have time to wait for an answer if they phone 111, something to pass the time.
Unprecedented times! Maybe self-isolation is the way forward, but will it work under such neoliberal constraints? If the (hugely voluntary) social care dries up- maybe instead repurposed into child-minding?- will we even know where some of these people are, when the doors are again flung open to the elements? "Bring out your dead?" Go, Matt go!
In the spirit of Dominic Cummings's superforecasting ideology, may I humbly be one of the first to volunteer one potential and highly-suitable candidate for the growing death toll? Bet 365? Bet Fred? Ladbrokes? Sky Bet? Take your pick, but I'm currently favouring the former.
"British society is ready!" Rishi trumpeted to 'his' public. And the fictitious Lord alone knows that vast swathes of ordinary peoples are already up and running, throwing full weight behind this most worthy of causes. What else is the choice? Many of those 'running on empty' have yet again managed to refuel- thank the heavens- surely through nothing so much as osmosis. So, there's at the very least one huge segment of British society that has unilaterally recognised this pandemic for the whole-societal crisis that it surely is- pulling together in the toughest of times- but we already know (and it's not through the mystery of fortune telling or magic) that those work-shy hands across the growing divide will once again revert to the tight battle-fists that they usually are, the very first second that this virus appears beaten into retreat.
The monied spokespeople may currently sound like they're just plucking non-ideas from the aether, but Cummings is there, buried deep in the fabric. Calculatingly, 'our' government still chooses its words with a surgical precision. They're not yet closing theatres, pubs and restaurants, but they're strongly urging people not to partake, because then, if the small business 'chooses' to close, it's the choice of the business and compensation maybe won't be so forthcoming. "Oh, and by the way, if you (venue) do go ahead with your event, you're very much on your own! Your choice! We're just offering our best touchy-feely advice." Lovely!
Is there abdication afoot? We already know who the losers stand to be, but who're going to be the beneficiaries? The banks, excepting the minions, of course, are often key. Likely the pharmaceuticals, the larger loan companies, HMRC, the most combative of the supermarkets?
Johnson's 'scientifically derived' plan to see the UK's expendables (or Priti's 'economically idle') assist in achieving super-race herd immunity- seen to send shivers down the spine of the WHO- seems to rely upon more than an element of 'thinning out,' one whereby said immunity is shared by precisely what percentage? Oops, we forgot to test! Except we didn't forget, we just allowed the economics to dictate the health provision.
Trump has tweeted that the UK is doing a good job, a very good job, "a very very good job!" But, even this isn't seen as warning enough! So, there's somewhere in the world that's consistently further behind 'the ball curve' than is the UK? Those thinking globally, about this 'pandemic'- the clue's in the word- have been given due cause to worry about the Muppet President, as he attempts to steal Germany's anti-virus efforts, and continues not to understand that partial population testing and/or vaccination may not hold any of his sought for neoliberal solutions. Whisper it, "It's because they're not there, Don!"
"We've fought two world wars!" the old British grit reminds us. But we haven't! Chances are, that if someone's just shouted this at you, then they won't have been around to have fought in either of them. If they fought in WW II then they'll be at least 88, if they lied about their age in 1949. What's more, they'll likely be breaking their curfew.
Crossing one's fingers doesn't usually work, but the UK Coronavirus Combat Team are rumoured to have just endorsed the practice.
All government policies, at time of publication, endorsed according to the UK's "Independent fiscal institutions." Unless Johnson and Cummings are in the process of hand-picking their replacements.
* With reference to an earlier Faerie Son post, 'A Global Coup?' (18/02/2020), I feel that I should draw attention to recent events in the US. Joe Biden seems likely to gain the Democratic nomination to run in the upcoming Presidential Election. In so far as some sort of conspiracy, or coup, is likely to have been concerned, it is of interest (alarm!) to note quite how this turn of events has come about.
Of course, Biden has not at all secured the confidence of everyday Democratic supporters, instead the dark US state of million-and-billionaires has really manipulated the results. After an early positive start for the people's candidate, Bernie Sanders, the lagging support for Biden was crudely bolstered on the eve of Super Tuesday, when all of the other Democratic candidates 'magically' just dropped out, to instead 'endorse; Biden.
Many Democratic supporters have expressed anger and frustration at this, significant numbers saying that they will not yet again be railroaded into supporting the least worse candidate in the upcoming US elections. If Biden (unlikely now) does not get the nomination we are likely, also, to see AIPAC again seeking to play their anti-semite card.
Friday, 6 March 2020
If any nation should ever 'wake up' to find itself shackled and ostensibly governed by one individual it would be a reasonably fair assessment to say that said country is 'in deep trouble.' If the individual just so happens to be unelected, then likely the country is in far 'deeper trouble!' But then, just maybe, the country finds itself somewhere betwixt the two? Could it, at the very last moment, opt to turn away?
Given that the nation in question happens to be the UK, then we should all sit up and pay far closer attention to what is being enacted, presented to us as being upon our behalf. "Get Brexit done!" or some such bellicose response is what we have come to expect. I think that Home Secretary, Priti 'but ugly to the bone" Patel, said something to the effects of 'enacting the wishes of the referendum.' She went on to specify that there are 8 million people who are currently "economically inactive" living in the UK.' I'm guessing that if the Patel family currently has any 'students,' 'pensioners,' 'individuals somehow involved in caring for a sick relative, or another'- Priti's family does not stoop to such valueless work- or disabled, Priti will be looking to bend, or otherwise circumvent, 'her' rules to justify such wanton idleness. Home Secretary, Priti acts with the pseudo-autonomy of someone who does not pay much heed to any of her special advisors- those whom Cummings has not imposed. She also acts with the vindictiveness of a spoils battle-field victor, over an oppressed vanquished.
At the behest of current government the Department of Work and Pensions (Patel, May 2015- July 2016) is these days often to be found effectively bullying the long term disabled back to work- numbered amongst Priti's 'economically idle'- but even this is unlikely to be enough to fully satiate the Home Secretary. If all of those targeted by her words are either deported or else prevented from entering the country, then the only statistic likely to go down is that relating to the UK's population of 'long-term disabled.' More fatalities for the 'covert coup?'
Priti Patel is something of a monster, as I have before made clear, but then she is not the 'unelected-self-appointed-mastermind' behind the UK's current socioeconomic slide, merely another hate-fuelled member of the current Conservative cabinet. The unelected character in question is, of course, Dominic Cummings. Priti is simply someone who appears to think that, one side can only ever believe itself to be victorious if the other believes itself to be thoroughly downtrodden.
At the time of the referendum dark-master Cummings was a 'relative' unknown. He'd worked for Gove, during the man's time as Education Secretary, and before that for the 'save the pound' campaign, before that he was in Russia. There was the briefest of visible spats, at the time of the referendum, when Gove took a figurative knife to Johnson's back, when Gove also said something (at the time seemingly unrelated) about the electorate being "tired of experts." At the time of this utterance the thinking part of the nation took one mighty step back and thought, "Well, not really. Definitely not under these circumstances!" But then Murdoch, Paul Dacre, the Barclay twins and the other MSM bigwigs, had already poisoned the minds of the 'mentally inactive.' Gove was paraphrasing Cummings, of course, who had already set his sights upon 'tools' such as eugenics. In the distraction the ever-poisonous Cummings duly slinked from one camp to another, as befitted his ambitions, and the weight of political might shifted further.
Today, it matters not that Sabisky- surely a scapegoat for the cabinet's eugenicists- has now quit Cumming's think tank, the seed of 'scientific racism' has been sown. The nation's hate media will be looking to nurture and to feed off this, as and when. Cummings terms his current and tiny cabal 'superforecasters' but, just like so many who seek to position themselves amongst the hyper-capitalists, he has sought to cherry-pick his 'truths.'
The concept of superforecasting is already employed by certain aid agencies, in their never-ending battle to deal with the globe's various and proliferating humanitarian crises. One can see that, 'contradictorily,' or else at the whim of some malevolent greater being, much of the work of these agencies is either brought about as a direct, or indirect, consequence of the actions of those who would set their global plans above ones that might far better suit the rest of us.
'Superforecasting' is the brainchild of one Philip Tetlock, a political science professor (oxymoron?), and it consequently kicked off with the 'Good Judgement Project,' back in 2011. In the context of dealing with the globe's multifarious crises who, amongst the more sane inhabitants, wouldn't wish to see our various aid agencies working to the optimum? Who amongst the more sane, and the more honest and reasoning wouldn't wish such a thing?
In a nutshell, and without recourse to elaborating upon the sort of criteria that anyway evades the majority of us, superforecasting may only dream to flirt with above-average returns where it it is able to feast upon all available data. As Cummings makes abundantly clear, in his oration from on high (blog), superforecasters are a breed apart, able to think outside of cliched boxes and, in this detail, he is generally considered to be correct but, in the wider scheme of things, he is also wholly incorrect. Because, as do most of those ranged out on the rightward lip of society, he has also sought to conjure his contentions through slight of hand. He has seriously skewed the field and, in doing so, he has sacrificed that which he purports to hold dear. Henceforth, it matters not that he and his unholy cabal may, or may not, be above average IQ, the data-input process has been corrupted, thus any derived 'conclusions,' reliant upon a method that is precarious at its best, are likely to be invalid.
That is to write that, if one already has a goal to which 'forecasts' are being tailored, then any 'resultant outcomes' must necessarily come into question.
Cummings presents as not much embracing of the heat of the spotlight. Even with the UK fast approaching critical on several fronts, Johnson's slavish adherence to Cummings's ideology should elicit nothing so much as worried concern from (even) Johnson's least-engaged supporters. The divided state of the nation is likely already to have the rest of us 'up in arms!' But, let's here stick with the slippery subject of 'Cummings.'
He seems to shun constructive dialogue, communicating at his most effective, and then rarely, using (oft shouted) short slogans. Judging by the elusive nature of the man, we could conject that even these are not always the clearest forms of communication. Perhaps this is the nature of the more right-wing think-tank, the financial freedoms to so often fall short, or upon more the stony ground? "We need PJ Masks on the job. They're your guys," "The night time is the right time, to fight crime. I can't think of a rhyme," or an answer, presumably? Maybe we should count our blessings, that Cummings's more coherent utterances- not necessarily, constructive ones- are few and far between? Even here he seems to prefer to employ the services of others. 'Get Brexit Done!' was perhaps Cummings's key infamous slogan, yet it is far more likely to be heard upon the tongues of his most empty vessels. It lends itself well to the angry, short exchanges that today so often substitute for differing opinion. But, as has so often been pointed out, 'how can one possibly reason someone away from an opinion that they didn't first reason themselves towards?'
The untucked shirt, the baggy hoodie, we could simply judge the man to be an untidy figure, dishevelled perhaps, busy maybe? More likely, it is a pseudo-antiestablishment statement. This would, obviously, be dishonest, yet it so perfectly befits the movement he seeks to embed. So, maybe instead his untidiness is a disguise? I doubt it's a chicken and egg scenario; Boris has been at this game far longer than Cummings has been in the mix. Despite having an uncle who was Lord Chief Justice of Appeal, it would appear that much of his 'old establishment' credential was acquired through his marriage to Mary Wakefield. The right of 'appeal' is anyway now almost the sole preserve of the monied classes. His Russian background (1994-1997) remains currently quite vague.
He lived in Mosco, shared a flat with Sunday Telegraph reporter, Liam Halligan (author of 'Clean Brexit') Rumour has it that, whilst there, he also forged relationships with characters now riding high in the Putin regime, figures such as Vladislav Surkov, creator of 'post truth politics,' the era of 'relative truthism.'
Cummings then wants to present as an antiestablishment figure, rather than a key figure involved with the forging of a new establishment that is even more impenetrable than is the current one. Other than his buffoon master it would seem then that far more of his privilege comes from his allegedly Boris-groped wife, Mary Wakefield. Cummings contradictorily projects his rebel image from the £2 million town house that he shares with his Mary, that is when he isn't perhaps visiting her family castle in Northumberland. We might wonder if he tucks his shirt in during these visits? We might wonder also quite how antiestablishment is his father-in-law, baronet Sir Edward Humphry Tyrrel Wakefield. How antiestablishment, do we suppose, is the after-dinner talk?
When Mary is not seated at the banqueting table at Chillingham Castle, perhaps tucking into a succulent veal steak from the CAP-funded estate herd, Mary finds time to to co-edit The Spectator. The paper- yet another of the Barclay brothers playthings- much as do the majority of the UK's MSM publications, sits solidly behind the Conservative Party. Johnson's journalistic leg-ups have seen him slip and slide betwixt Spectator and Telegraph, as best suited their shared aims. For such an antiestablishment figure, Cummings's ties to the Barclay Empire, that and the castle estate, would hardly seem his most beneficial of credentials. Will he, do we suppose, soon be commissioning his superforcasting think-tank upon the sustainability of such outrageous privilege, under the reign of his new antiestablishment UK?
Dominic Cummings studied Ancient and Modern History, at Exeter College, Cambridge. Not economics?
Cummings, of course, has no real interests in superforcasting, much like his interchangeable master, he expects to stand far more successfully upon highly-selectively gleaned post-truths. As do so many who thirst after power, he is not so much interested in antiestablishment happenings as he is in personalising the establishment.
Tuesday, 18 February 2020
When General Pinochet laid waste to the Chilean democracy in 1973, with the not-very-covert aid of the USA, there were great many deaths! Chile, now happily rid of the brutal dictator- today recognises that more than 40,000 individuals perished under the iron fist of Thatcher's close friend, and it seems quite likely that the official figure will be incrementally increasing for a while yet to come. Those known-to-be-surviving victims of the general's persecution have been awarded a lifetime pension, if 'pension' is really the right term, of about $260 a month. I think it would be fair to assume that the good ol' US of A will not this time be featuring in the exchange of 'funds.'
If only Pinochet had been able to somehow hide those deaths, if only he'd had a better 'population accountant,' one who'd been more adept with numerical-slight-of-hand. Thousands 'disappeared,' but the general's handiwork required a more rigorous form of accounting.
Still, Thatcher quite liked the man, snuggled him close, alongside such figures as President Regan (illegal mining of Nicaraguan waters) and Jimmy Saville (history of sexual abuse of countless NHS patients and others). Of course, nobody with any sense could honestly believe that, as with the Hillsborough cover-up, and the as-of-now still suppressed/denied Orgreave report, she was ever unaware! Her one time parliamentary private secretary, Peter Morrison- known then as an abuser of younger boys- was not only shielded by the woman, but also later knighted. Aware, and yet never charged as being so, curious... and highly pertinent to the gist of this posting!
But this post is not really about Thatcher or Pinochet, more it is woven about and around the premise that a coup, even one that might bring about the deaths of thousands, could effectively be hidden, just enough, just below the surface, from the public gaze.
Take a step back, take several steps back, and peruse the global scene. Back in the twentieth century it would have been difficult to envision so many populist presidents and prime ministers rising to positions of power, more, it would have been particularly difficult to imagine quite so many countries that nestle so ingenuously under the universal banner of 'democracies' falling prey to the populists. And yet, twenty years later...
The alarms are ringing loud, for those who are prepared to hear. But, slip into the comfy world of, perhaps, one's parents' generation, maybe the pseudo-middle classes, perhaps those with investment property portfolios, and it is as if the sirens are but dog-whistles to be carried away upon the breeze.
To cite but a few, we have India, under Narenda Modi's 'Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with its 'Citizenship Amendment Bill,' which pointedly and highly-selectively offers asylum to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries. We can see that the bill has been created in a manner to exclude Muslims, and that it has effectively opened the door to consequent escalating religious persecution. Modi, as have other populists, recognises that there is strength to be gleaned from carefully targeted persecution.
Meanwhile the 'rise' of Bolsonaro in Brazil has enabled various resource-extraction interested parties to further persecute a whole wealth of Amazonian minorities, favouring 'slash and burn,' and 'escalating logging' of the globe's most extensive remaining rainforest over any kind of respect and protection for the peoples that may reside therein. Brazil, more so than any other nation, has given rise to the phrase, 'the World's on fire!' Myopic in the extreme, but then populism requires more than a fair degree of short-termism.
Australian President, Scott Morrison, worryingly elected despite his woeful grasp of the global climatic situation, quite Trumpesque with that lump of coal grasped so vacantly in his fist, seemed almost to welcome the coastal blaze that quickly engulfed the east coast of 'his' nation. Fortunate indeed then, that the flip side of this climatic emergency has been the record deluge that has recently swamped Sydney and New South Wales. Why, one can almost imagine a half-formed 'thought' bouncing about inside his immense echo chamber of a skull! Affected residents- those who have not perished- have been heard to call the man, "an idiot!" His critics tend to be those adversely affected, or those blessed with the powers of constructive thought, but not generally those employed in the upper echelons of the Australian Coal Board (ACB), or from amongst his populist 'supporters.'
I have, in recent times, devoted much time to highlighting Israel's apartheid politics, so will not dwell overly upon that nation's shameful manoeuvrings, either within the country's internationally-regarded-as-illegal borders or further afield. It almost goes without need of mention that Benjamin Netanyahu's persecution of Palestinians must be regarded as being the actions of yet another populist government, and rather more 'deserving' of closer observation than many of its allies. Israel, 'better' than any other nation, seems to have mastered the dark arts of dabbling in other government's affairs.
More cumbersome, fingers in surely the greatest number of international pies, over the Atlantic Ocean barely a day passes without the US president further seeking to cement his place as easily the most populist president in living memory, to whom the USA has yet fallen prey. The US's internationally questioned or condemned dealings with Israel should be drawing the closer attentions of all concerned global citizens. Meanwhile, inside the its borders, the angry rednecks appear to have quickly grown accustomed to misinformation peddled as whatever the president on-a-whim currently requires. The world watches the president being rightfully impeached, the world knows the man to have abused and likely raped women, and the world watches him walk free and laugh in the face of justice! Populists elsewhere have looked on and are quickly learning the tricks of the trade.
And then there's the UK, currently spluttering along in the US's slipstream, eager to learn and to more frequently exercise the power of 'fake news,' or the lie! It seems that, in barely the blink of an eye, the UK has transformed from a nation where the general population was being increasingly misinformed at the behest of a shrinking elite, to one where 'our' PM's deployment of 'the lie' is so frequent as to have become the preferred political form of discourse.
And yet, all of these nations would call themselves democracies. How so?
And now we need again, to step up close, and to investigate specifically our own nation, although 'own' seems such an inappropriate prefix these days.
The hidden coup requires, more than anything else, an element of control of the means of dispersing information- enough of it- and it requires also time. Time enough that the bloody corpses (like those of Pinochet's coup) might be made a little less obvious, might not pile up so! But this on its own is not enough, it also requires the right levers to be pulled, and that these levers might, where necessary, set one part of a nation against another part. The device has been in operation for eons, coined formerly as 'divide and rule!' The premise is the same, but the parameters have evolved.
Thatcher understood parameters, which is why she so swiftly set about tampering with them. She understood that only an idiot electorate would willingly vote against their better interests, and for her Conservatives, so she set about a program of 'creative' accountancy, bribery, and variable boundary changes. This was really where the dismantling of the Welfare State began. She utilised the nation's assets, small things at first, like British Aerospace. Then, impatient to sell more of what was not her's to sell, the nation lost Jaguar, British Telecom, and all British Gas interests. 'Tell Sid,' was the word on the street- 'Sid' was the archetypal grasping British lesser-thinker of that era. Next it was British Steel, British Petroleum, Rolls Royce, British Airways, Water and Electricity. Perhaps wary of unsettling too many of the nation's clearer thinkers, the NHS was gradually 'introduced' to the concept of the 'internal market.' For 'internal market' imagine a more covert form of privatisation, to be yet further morphed at the end of the millennium, under Blair's New Labour hatcheted upgrade of the Tory 'Private Finance Initiative' (PFI). But that was to come later.
Back in the 1980s, in order to pillage quite so swiftly, Thatcher was going to need to control certain elements within the media; newspapers such as the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the News of the World, The Times, the Financial Times, the Telegraph, not every newspaper's owner or owners was/were quite on board, but the majority were there or thereabouts. The 'free press' we still tend to term this bunch of eager misinformants. Those journalists who wished not to incur the wrath of editors such as Kelvin MacKenzie (he of Hillsborough repute), or wishing to retain their positions of employment, were swiftly knocked into line!
British Coal, Powergen and National Power, British Rail followed the rest in the mighty conflagration; everything must go! And it pretty much did!
Chief amongst those charged with misinforming the general public was, and still is, a certain Rupert Murdoch, owner (then) of the 'News of the World' (1968) and (still) the 'Sun' newspaper (1969) and chief in command, eventually and amongst others, of the likes of Kelvin MacKenzie (Sun 1981) and Piers Morgan (Sun 1988). It would be naive to assume Murdoch, an Australian, to have concentrated all of his efforts upon the UK's political landscape; far from it, he has been busy upon both sides of the Atlantic, also back at home in Australia. Such dealings though have enabled him to dabble more powerfully in the UK's politics. Branching out exponentially- a great deal of 'you scratch my back' trading- his empire now wields greater clout than do a number of smallish nations. His and Sky's 'partial monopoly' (oxymoron) of the UK's sport has seen Sky taking one meaty cut of the gambling cartels blood-money-profits. Suicides as a direct consequence of gambling debts are disputed, of course they are, so by design are partially obscured. But, if we take the average estimate of annual deaths then we have 450 per annum; projecting this back over the last decade would give us 4,500 deaths. Obviously, the data has been kept deliberately 'muddy,' but then that's true of the wider mental health issue. We might assume then that the figure could be considerably greater!
Murdoch has been a major horsefly in the ointment of democratic due process for longer than the average Brit has been alive. Since his initial interference in Western politics Murdoch has greased and threatened his way into favour with all manner of individuals who in turn have been manoeuvring to exert heavy influence upon the UK's hierarchical structures. All have come and gone and yet the man just refuses to 'die.' He has never presented as a philanthropist nor an egalitarian figure, yet has seldom shied away from seeking to wield his immense political clout to mislead or to bully. If one turns one's face into the Whitehall wind and listens very carefully is it just possible that one might pick up on the icy fear that yet another of the man's dark disciples, Rebecca Brooks- editor of News of the World (2000-2003) and the Sun (2003-2009)- might claw herself unto the ascendancy for the next director general of the BBC?
Brook's reputation follows her around like bluebottles around a corpse, but her might and influence, under the auspices of her mentor, Murdoch, has thus far kept her on this side of the prison bars, unlike some of her former employees-. Imagine the favours that such a role might do for the man's media empire!
The Mainstream Media (MSM) may be the virtual plaything of just a tiny handful of billionaires, yet still the orchestrators of the secret coup are not quite happy with the levels of influence they are able to exert. One of the few more honest journalistic homes, the 'i' newspaper, has recently been bought up by the owners of the Daily Mail, for just under £50 million, whilst the BBC's deputy political editor, John Pienaar, has recently quit the corporation in order to take up another post in the Murdoch empire, at Times Radio. A few of us might be aware of the fact that in 1933, when the German electorate were last permitted to vote in that decade, just under 50% of the voting population actually voted for one Adolph Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party. The persuasive powers were a tad more 'hands on,' but then the UK's not currently beating a path in the opposite direction, is it?
If we are to identify just one from the mighty pillaging pile of Thatcher's acquisitions for the invisible coup, we could do no better that to cite her sell off of council homes. She, or one of her henchmen/women termed this act as 'right to buy.' Properties were undervalued, giving due process to the claim that the sell-off was far more about the redistribution of wealth, than it was the acquisition of further monies for government to utilise. If we think about it for the briefest of moments we soon recognise that it was never intended to 'do as it said on the tin!' Naturally many families did choose to purchase their council home, indeed who wouldn't choose to do so? It was really quite deviously clever. But it was also outrageously wrong! One of her then infamous think tanks will have projected that many of the homes would have swiftly been sold on, or else repurposed as investment properties. Thus was was born the landlord strata, another parameter was duly altered. If only someone in the inner sanctum could arrange to devalue people's pensions. Oh, they did didn't they!
Conservative chancellor Norman Lamont's cut, from 25% to 20%, the tax relief given to pension funds, Advance Corporation Tax (ACT), and, in doing so, significantly weakened the UK's pensions. The later New Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown chose to abolish tax relief altogether, enabling Blair's government to snaffle a whopping £5.4 billions per annum, yet causing, in part, thousands of pension funds to crumble quickly into the dust. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate some of the more callous Thatcherite acts, from those later repurposed under Blair's Tory-lites.
Pertinent to this conundrum, there are two points highly-worthy of consideration. Firstly, prior to Blair's first election victory he is known to have held 'closed door' talks with Rupert Murdoch, whereupon it has been speculated that a swing in support, from the 'Sun' newspaper, from the Tories to New Labour, greatly assisted the result. The subject matter discussed remains a mystery. Secondly, Blair is now an immensely wealthy man. His business empire is routinely estimated to be worth in excess of £60 millions; his Windrush Ventures 'company' has tax affairs so obscure, thus dubious, that the Guardian newspaper for years was offering a cash reward to anyone who might be able to untangle the web. Blair was also a significant factor in Labour's most recent election defeat... not unduly curious, in the light of his monetary situation!
The serious downgrading of the UK's pension funds, when coupled with a wholesale reduction in council and other social housing, by design we could say, brought about the 'property portfolio' generation. It enabled an increased upward pressure always upon the housing market, regardless of the real worth of houses. It generated also a boom in the developer mentality; the TV channels are saturated with such ideology!
It also brought about a great deal of 'red-tape-cutting,' as UK governments quickly came to frame the idea. Smaller homes, with fewer safeguards or worthwhile guarantees, but a great many little 'boxes.' Companies prepared to indulge in a deal of unofficial corner-cutting, those such as RG Carter, threw up construction sites almost overnight. Banks initially allowed mortgages to spiral from a secure 3.5 times salary, to six, seven times salary. Individuals wishing to secure a home were driven to increasingly elaborate upon their abilities to 'keep up payments,' checks became less thorough. In the absence of council homes, rents spiralled and housing costs exploded! A new strata of slum landlords began to exert downward pressure upon checks and safeguards. And homelessness became normalised!
The Office for National Statistics estimated homelessness related deaths (England and Wales) in 2018 to be 726, a 22% increase from the previous year. Obviously this is another shameful statistic, so we know that it is never going to be dwelt upon in the Commons. The (homelessness deaths) figures for the years going back to 2013 state the total number of victims to be 3,353. Roughly projecting this rise back a full decade would bring this bloody total to 4,784 premature deaths.
But the UK's shareholder generation has been born and one of the things about the larger shareholders is that voting records seem to suggest that they frequently value profit over welfare. Another parameter change? The deaths may intermittently feature in the UK's media but the ties with the skewing of the housing market are invariably made more tenuous, and those with longer-projected Conservative goals even more so!
The UK's Mainstream Media (MSM)- headed by highly-manipulative figures such as Paul Dacre- has openly embraced the nation's transformation. Shock jocks and emboldened hate mongers such as Katie Hopkins daily snipe at dissenting-voices from their given platforms. It is said that a character such as Piers Morgan, charading outrageously as a relayer of news, is able to exert far greater national influence through his twitter feed than through his also highly abrasive TV roles. He comments not so much through any discernible insight or evident understanding, merely 'opinion' born of his fledging years under Murdoch's wing, often forcibly Hopkinesque! Meanwhile the greater bastions of variable impartiality, the BBC and Channel 4 are under attack for daring to ask the 'wrong questions' of the current PM. Surely what the nation now requires- diametrically-opposed to the ideology of the unelected Dominic Cummings- is a great deal less of the MiniTrump, twittersphere-emboldened PM, a great deal more in the manner of informed and open political debate!
Any three-word slogans shouted from any podium is never going to inform, but then the quiet coup requires nothing so much as an absence of considered thought. Should Mr Johnson now too-often be pressed to elaborate, with full and proper rhetoric, then maybe the lies will not sit so comfortably. A two-way conversation might cause the man to implode! "There is no press here!" can only feature on national TV if there is.
Deregulation in the housing market has compromised the UK's stock of new homes, many of them. Seventy-two people died as a result of corner-cutting at Grenfell Tower (2017) and the government slight-of-hand seems to have created nothing so much as distance between the perpetrators of this tragedy and those now seeking justice. I doubt that there are reliably compiled figures yet, upon the number of deaths brought about as a consequence of deregulated or unregulated building practices- isn't this, anyway, the sort of thing that our MSM prefers to report of other nations? 'Seventy-two' maybe the headline figure, but the lesser numbers of victims are going to add up to something far greater. Perhaps Johnson's governance will see the 72 reduced, although his fire-service cuts likely contributed, while the true figure of fatalities in the wider nation remains currently out of reach.
The social media that seems to be distracting the UK's population, or else seriously reducing its powers of concentration, has given far greater weight to a quickly dispatched three-word slogan. Stumbling half-aware along the nation's pavements, there are citizens today who do not have time to stop and read or to listen. The new parameters are far more given to trading quick insults, heaven forbid someone might compose a whole paragraph, or bother with a bit of research, prior to wading in! Instead, it appears the nation's gearing down to leave the bigger things to those with the plans, then to find out, when the landscape's changed and it's too late, what those plans were.
Maybe that's why there's such reluctance, on the part of government, to tinker with the bigger cogs, when so many of the smaller ones are dancing to the required tune? Never mind the nation's ballooning issues with mental health! In 2018 in the UK there were 6,859 suicides, a rise of 10.9% on the previous year. The rate amongst under 25s rose by 23.7% in the same period, reaching 730 highly-premature deaths in 2018. Even if we are to be very generous and to project backwards suggesting a constant of +10.9% per annum, this would still give us the scandalous total of 40,797 deaths over a decade. As we are being constantly informed by various mental health groups, the rise is accelerating, so the true figures again are likely to be considerably greater.
Also highly pertinent to the theme of distractedness we have the national obsession with the motorcar, or perhaps the motorbike. I understand that Johnson has sought to grab the moral high-ground, and it is to be hoped that this is where he believes himself to be. But this requires that we gloss over the government's record, Johnson's government's record, of the past decade. The clamour for increased public transport, reduced car usage, has been constant- constant and constantly ignored! Buses and trains, trains especially, are invariably overly expensive and often overcrowded. Both are frequently late and otherwise unreliable. Compared to the rest of Western Europe, tickets purchased on the day, the UK's public transport averages out at the most expensive, far lower in the ratings when it comes to reliability! More shareholdings again, profits competing against the provision of more efficient services. As we know, the parameters have changed!
Johnson enjoys the spot light, he is a man of ego more than almost anything else, if we discount 'disinformation.' But, is it not more the case that the industry has been driving the man? Finally there are whispers of progress, now that the motor industry is gearing up to replace the cars with different cars. Why else would it be the case that the modified exhaust has, for an age, featured far more prominently than has modified fuel consumption, or indeed speed? Johnson's clean air act, whilst Mayor of London, seems far more to have driven up the sale of new cars than it has driven down the scale of inner-city pollution. Air pollution in the UK is now linked to 40,000 premature deaths annually! 40,000!
Of course, it would be unfair to attribute quite all of those deaths purely (or impurely) to traffic pollution, there are all of those wood-burning stoves, and, somewhat ironically, various cleaning products. There's smoking, cooking gases, air fresheners, ol' king coal and other industrial contributors. Still, it is reckoned that staying indoors in the capital (for example) is less harmful to one's lungs than is venturing outside, which is where the traffic pollution tends to be. I guess it would be just about impossible to break down the 40,000, into specific forms or combinations of pollution. Even so, I'm going to stick my neck out and to strongly suggest that traffic pollution features significantly more so than say 'air fresheners.' Imagine what the breakdown might look like for the last decade! If we attributed merely half of all the premature deaths to traffic pollution- surely easily the most significant contributor- we'd end up with something in the region of 200,000 deaths that a sensible outlay upon public transport might have prevented.
The secret coup may not always require that people be despatched upon the streets- although 'give the police enough powers and who knows?- but the numbers do still tend to stack up, if not so the actual bodies!
The UK's NHS is systematically being atomised by the increasing number of sniping PFI 'health service providers,' has been for the previous forty years. If one is unfortunate enough to have to avail oneself of the health service, or to become temporarily, or more permanently, reliant upon the service, it is now almost impossible to keep track of which aspects of one's treatment are within and which are now effectively, and by some measures, outside of the NHS. I recently underwent a two-day hospital stay, during which I was moved through half-a-dozen different beds (or locations). I'm guessing that administratively a lot of boxes were ticked, but I still came out the other end with the same (diminished) or another infection. A lot of admin, but 'health-wise' the change was rather too minimal for the patient's (my) better requirements.
Even so, the NHS remains one of the envies of the world. It is run, for the most part, by caring and highly competent staff, many of whom have just been served up one massive kick in the teeth, in the form of the referendum (corrupted) result. But the 'internal market' increasingly now requires that hospital corners are far more to do with 'financial cutting' than 'bed making.' In the field of compromised health even a perfect system is going to witness its fair share of mortality. In the high pressure disciplines of saving, repairing and improving lives, the greater the corner cutting the greater the mortality rates! How could it reasonably be any other way? In 2017 it was estimated that up to 9,000 NHS deaths a year could have been prevented. Search for 'NHS deaths' and one will find the Daily Mail gunning on the part of the invisible coup, the angle for covert privatisation barely hidden from even the vaguely discerning eye.
Given that there is no standard definition of 'avoidable death' the figure must remain a very approximate one. Different NHS Trusts (frequently another unhelpful administrative intrusion) will have different judgement criteria. I doubt that any trust currently holds such detailed data, as to be able to surmise which deaths occurred through actual human error and which were brought about through other constraints, such as time or monetary considerations. Also, had I (for example) failed to survive my hospital stay (most unlikely), and had this been down to human error, quite how would this statistic have been recorded? 'Death through doctor error,' or 'death through time or monetary constrains imposed upon said doctor?' If we are outrageously generous and we attribute one whole quarter of these 9,000 deaths to wholly human error, then the figure for the decade still pans out at 67,500 deaths for the glorious invisible coup!
But, for all of their neoliberal ideology, this government continues to resist the pull of the big narcotics grab. We can speculate as to why this might be the case, perhaps they worry that the element of control they seek to maintain over the population could be threatened. Perhaps they fear that there are answers within cannabinoids that might undermine the mighty grasp that the pharmaceutical giants seek to gain over all medication? "Cannabis, the gateway drug!" it has so often been argued. But they're no strangers to the exploitation of 'gateway' thinking. If one should for a moment doubt their plans for the NHS then one need look no further than dentistry. NHS dentistry, that remnant shell of its former self, now seems to function not so much as a health benefit as a gateway to private treatment. If one is able to locate a dentist still operating under the umbrella term 'NHS,' then one should 'pray' that the NHS side of the practice doesn't simply set things in motion for the 'private design' in the adjoining room.
It has been said that one should judge any nation state, not by how well it looks after its better-off citizens, but by how well it caters for the less fortunate. Of course it's often been said, it's clearly a given. Even in the most outrageously demonic countries those at the top of society are being well catered for. If the character's are far enough up the societal ladder, then the state will ship someone overseas, should the state deem it 'necessary.' The world's final failed attempt at trialling General Pinochet occurred when Chile, then still wriggling free of his misrule, shipped him to Thatcher's Britain, that he might undergo back surgery. Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garson indicted the brute for, amongst other human rights violations, 94 counts of torture. He was arrested but subsequently released under Thatcher's drooling guidance. Even in international 'waters' money and the favour of fellow monsters might afford the wealthy-enough international protection that they remain almost unaccountable.
In the UK the government's commitment to the care of the less-well-off, the most vulnerable, has been slipping steadily backwards for twenty years. Under the awful premiership of Ms May, following on from the awful one of Cameron, and prior to the currently-even-more-awful one of Johnson, the role out of Universal Credit currently caps this intended decline. The 'credit' was sold to the nation as multifaceted, miss-sold as 'umbrella,' and indeed it is multifaceted. It aims to reduce (disguise) unemployment figures, to force unwell individuals into low-quality (zero-hour) non-contracts, to undermine the criteria by which those judged to be unwell qualify for welfare, and to cut back significantly upon welfare payments. It is the case now that the majority of those currently receiving Universal Credit is working families, where one (single parent) or both partners are in full-time employment. These families may well also be those who are increasingly reliant upon the UK's blossoming food-banks! When the figures for subsequent Universal Credit related suicides and other fatalities become more obvious will the victims become further 'mental health' statistics, or will a new category emerge? Another small alteration to the approaching 320,000 deaths?
Likely Pinochet also notched up more than a handful of additional related deaths, on top of the recognised 40,000 to date. Pinochet eventually reaped the international contempt that his reign of terror deserved, albeit far too late! One wonders if the human species' far more covert record (UK or internationally) will ever be so honestly acknowledged?
As Cambridge Analytica came to realise, when one is hiding something of importance from any electorate, one only ever needs to hide it from just enough of the population. Maybe, in the case of our current government, 'hidden from just enough of the population, for just long enough?'
Alternatively, we might more-collectively all just wake up!