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Archive for March, 2012

Blogged by @stavvers

Another angry woman

The Telegraph thinks it has a scoop. ONE IN FIVE ABORTION CLINICS BREAK THE LAW, it screams. Womb enthusiast Nadine Dorries and other uterus-fanciers have also jumped on this bandwagon, wheeling out faux-concern with the implicit subtext that maybe we should just shut down everything.

The Telegraph alleges:

The Daily Telegraph understands that more than 250 private and NHS clinics were visited and more than 50 were “not in compliance” with the law or regulations. Doctors were regularly falsifying consent forms and patients were not receiving acceptable levels of advice and counselling in many clinics, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) discovered.

I immediately decided that a better source of information on the matter would be to find the original CQC report, rather than a right-wing newspaper which has been quietly agitating against women’s bodily autonomy for the last few months. I searched and I searched. And it appears that 

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A letter to the editor #saveourNHS

So, what do we do now? The bastards have voted it through with the expected disregard for public and professional objections. Each and every MP and Peer who has aided the passage of this bullshit bill can now be seen as an enemy of the people.

I’ve written a letter. Sounds pathetic, I know. Will this help? I dunno, but the more we can do to continue to highlight the iniquity of the bill the better, right? We must not let this go, the pressure must not be let up. My letter has been sent to a local paper highlighting the part that my MP, Nick de Bois, played in this farce. With the mainstream media seemingly willing to let the privateers plunder without passing comment it is left to us to get the truth out there.

To find out how your MP voted tonight (20th March) click this link.

To find a local paper to write to click the relevant link below:

London

Eastern England

Midlands

North East

North West

South East

South West

Finally, to see if your MP appears on the list of those with vested interests in the plunder of our NHS and to add those details to your letter click this link.

In my letter I pointed out…

* how the govt has ignored one and all
* how the Transitional Risk Register has been sidelined
* the £8m+ the Tories have received in donations from private healthcare companies
* Nick de Bois’ personal interests in private healthcare
* the detrimental effect of existing ‘outsourcing’ in the NHS (private cleaning companies/rise of MRSA)
* how privatision/’competition’ has affected other essential services, such as with the private monopoly of energy companies/fuel poverty.

This is not the end and more actions will follow – la luca continua!

Living in Westminster: for the privileged on the Right

March 18, 2012 1 comment

“Living in Westminster is a privilege, not a right” the leaders of Westminster council are keen on telling us. This is the same council that in the late 80s under Shirley Porter kept council properties empty to sell to the ‘right’ sort of people, moved suspected Labour voters against their will, and subverted council services for political gain – the Tory council’s majority had been slashed at the 1986 elections and they were willing to do anything, however illegal, in order to stay in power. Porter was eventually found guilty of willful misconduct and gerrymandering and ordered to repay the £36m the council had lost in revenue due to her tactics. She ended up paying back only £12m as agreed with the Tory council in place in 2004. In 2009 the Tory council finally apologised for Porter’s actions two decades earlier and declared that her actions were the opposite of contemporary Tory policy. But were they?

It has emerged that Westminster council will be scrapping existing tenancy agreements and moving over to the ‘affordable rents’ model. They will also be doing away with secure tenancies and replacing them with five year contracts subject to financial conditions, or means testing.

I have written about the problem of affordable housing several times before. The proposed rents for such properties are around 80% of market value – in a market which is vastly overpriced, especially in London and Westminster in particular, the idea of using unrealistic rates in order to calculate affordability has to be questioned. But for some the market contains all the answers to our problems, and we can see where that has got us.

I have also written on means testing for social housing, at most length here – again, applying market forces to public services simply does not work.

Westminster have also announced that in line with changes in 2013, when local authorities will be able to set council tax benefit levels rather than adhere to a central government tariff, they will be awarding benefits based on tenants’ ‘behaviour’ rather than their need – I wrote on their intentions here.

All of this adds up to a newer, ‘legal’ form of gerrymandering and social engineering/cleansing and is really not so very different from what Shirley Porter tried to do in the late 80s. It is also an example of how Eric Pickles’ much vaunted ‘localism’ can be used, a far cry from the supposed enabling and empowerment of communities he would have us believe.

The ‘policies’ employed by Porter worked and the Tory council was reelected with a landslide in 1990 – this was never redressed. The aims of the current regime are pretty much the same, all about engineering ‘their’ borough to ensure the right people live there. And it’s not just Westminster, this is happening on a national level with changes in social housing and housing benefits, and benefits caps being introduced. This is not happening in the name of ‘fairness’ or ‘necessity’, but in the name of an ideology that seeks to divide and rule.

Tin soldiers and Cameron coming…

By now you will have seen, heard or read about the presence of machine gun toting policemen at yesterday’s NHS demo in Whitehall. What, you haven’t? You mean the mainstream media aren’t reporting it? Such a display of state force would garner column inches and screen time were it happening in a ‘non democratic’ country, surely it merits at some comment in our shining beacon of democracy? Ah well…

I’m not entirely unused to seeing heavily armed police, none of us who use airports these days will be. And I remember when I would visit a friend who worked in the Central Criminal Court I could always tell when some heavy (alleged) villains were in the building as bobbies would be patrolling with their Heckler & Kochs shouldered. My last trip to Paris coincided with unrest in the banlieues and as a friend and I traipsed la rues Parisienne we saw rozzers fitted out with the biggest machine guns you’ll see outside of a Rambo flick – but that’s the French, never doing things by half, I also saw a great protest at the Gare du Nord by striking Eurostar workers.

Just this week we’ve seen calls for plastic bullets and water cannon to deal with riots, but machine guns at a peaceful demo aimed at saving one of this country’s greatest institutions from the fetid claws of capitalism? Police forces in the UK are inviting bids from private firms for their ‘ancillary’ services, but it strikes me that our constabulary is already acting as a security force for shareholders and their precious dividends.

When talking about protests and anti-government actions our politicians will happily spraff about ‘minorities’ of ‘extremists’ – according to the Tories it was a ‘tiny bunch of left wing radicals’ who brought workfare into such disrepute. But who are the real extremists? The people who choose to make a non violent stand against policies that threaten the well being and indeed lives of millions, or the politicians putting those policies in place?

Since this coalition came to unelected power they have been hammering away at those who are not like them. Millions have been tarred with the brush of scrounger and cheat, those who claim any sort of social benefit are officially a burden to those ‘who are doing the right thing’. Education should not be about being educated but about responding to market forces. Public services aimed at helping and improving the lives of communities are wasteful. The health service isn’t competitive enough, and we have all experienced how competition in the utilities and railways has benefited society, if by ‘society’ you mean ‘shareholders’ and the neoliberal project that’s steamrollered us over the last three decades.

Aside from the current NHS ‘reforms’ debacle, this week we learned that the government wants to tax the rich less while reducing the salaries of public sector workers in accordance with where they happen to live. A wages lottery, in other words. This is all about reflecting the cost of living, says George “I’m not an economist” Osborne. Perhaps this is why he’s being so generous to those who earn £150k and more (much more) a year and reducing their tax ‘burden’ – after all, their cost of living must be so much more than people in lower tax brackets as they have so much more to spend.

Meanwhile, once again the ills of neoliberal capitalism are being pushed onto the public sector. Regional variations in pay already exist – a housing officer in the provinces will already be paid less than someone doing the job in London as differences in area demographics and the needs of local communities are taken into account. Ah, but reducing the pay of public sector workers will enable the private sector to be more competitive we are told. There’s that word again, ‘competitive’, except here it’s being applied in a race to the bottom. Rather than address the often shoddy pay and conditions in the private sector, we must strive to match them in the public services. In this ‘competition’, it’s once again those at the top who will win, and they’ll cut your legs off to ensure that they do.

People have already died due to the policies being enacted by this government, and many more lives have been blighted. This is not mainstream politics, it’s politics in extremis, and extreme actions, such as machine guns at peaceful demos, could lead to extreme reactions. There is a tipping point in all of us and in every situation: how long before we are all extremists and radicals?

Originally posted by lucyfurleaps on her blog

LucyFurLeaps

I’ve been trying to keep this blog for poetry but I feel so disturbed and appalled by what is happening to women in the United States of America, that I am going to start posting about it here.

A fifteen year old girl is being accused of murder because she had a still-born baby at 36 weeks of her pregnancy. She faces a life-sentence…as I saw this, my father read this to me, from today’s Guardian newspaper: “…where infant mortality is on a par with Botswana…”. Where? Mississippi…where the above girl is being criminalised for losing her baby.

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US to ‘intervene’ in UK following Mumfords atrocity?

It had been a quite and peaceful day in New York and then tragedy struck. During a so called ‘benefit gig’ for Amnesty International, suspected terrorists unleashed the ‘Mumford’, a form of dirty bomb that can devastate entire audiences with one faux folky wail.

Following strenuous negotiations with the US Home Dept, deployment of the ‘Coldplay’ had been agreed to as long as sufficient warning was given and audience members were allowed to leave early in order to avoid it. The ‘Mumford’, however, was a completely unexpected turn of events and left hundreds of lives in ruins.

A spokesperson for the US Defense Dept said that “high level talks” had commenced in order to find a solution to “this uncalled for act of aggression”. Among the proposals it is thought that US forces may be mobilised in an attempt to enforce regime change in the UK music industry. There have already been unconfirmed sightings of US submarines in the Thames Estuary.

David Cameron refused to comment on the increasingly tense situation passing it on to his fag deputy, Nick Clegg, who said “Until Dave says something I really don’t know what to think”.

Privatise my arse…

March 5, 2012 2 comments

“You now have 15 seconds to comply”

Those words were spoken by the ED 209, a robotic private solution to public lawlessness in Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop, his 1987 vision of a dystopic future wherein corporations are running the world. Despite the object of the ED 209’s attention indeed complying, he found himself turned into so much Swiss cheese. The robot’s handler explains “It’s just a glitch” and the ED 209 is set to be rolled out. Robocop was intended to be a satire on the increasing ambition of corporations to profit from every aspect of our lives, or it was a fun shoot ’em up depending on your perspective. Now, with the announcement that police services are to be ‘outsourced’, has Verhoeven’s dystopia arrived in the UK?

Privatisation has been a central tenet of neoliberalism since it began its inexorable surge three decades ago. In the UK we saw one utility after another, each with decades of public money (yours, mine and our parents, grandparents etc.) invested in their infrastructure, subjected to the vulturism of the markets to be asset stripped, rationlised and made fit for ‘competition’. Ah, competition, along with ‘choice’, a buzzword of those who seek to justify the commodification and monetisation of life’s little essentials, like water, heat and health.

Senior police officers have been defending the decision to sell off some of their less glamourous tasks – radical changes are needed in the war on public services, they argue, although they may not quite have put it that way. The impression given is that the important stuff will be kept in house and it will ‘only’ be the ancillary matters that face being farmed out. Well, that’s worked splendidly in the NHS, hasn’t it? Take hospital cleaning services – the rise of MRSA is a shining example of how private companies cutting costs to the bone in order to satisfy shareholders provides a more efficient service. Oh, hang on…

The increasing encroachment of the private into the public is seen to serve two purposes: to cut public spending and to aid the creation of the ‘smaller state’ so desired by neoliberal capitalism. And yet in just one example we have recently learned that Emma Harrison of A4E was paid £8.4 million last year. Of public money. State funds. All for a flawed and far from efficient service seemingly riddled with fraud. Rail companies, energy firms, PFI in education and healthcare – all of these receive huge public subsidies and will continue to do so as private ‘investors’ will only take on the task of profiting from the public need for life giving essentials should there be a suitable sweetener from the state on the table. The selling off of these concerns is reprehensible enough, the fact that we are also paying through the nose in order to motivate investors just adds salt to the wound.

I’ve written before on how Blairite Labour was a major force behind the idea that private sector methods and management styles are the answer to public sector ‘failures’. As a long time local government worker I’ve seen how, since 1997, the public sector has become increasingly corporate and private sector notions of targets, efficiency and best value have taken over. The problem is that these notions are aimed at quantifying ‘output’ in order to rationlise it and produce the maximum amount of surplus value. While there is surplus value to be found in the public sector, it is not of the type that can be easily quantified and monetised. It is there in the millions of unpaid hours worked each year by public sector workers who believe in what they do and so will stay late to finish their casework; will take the extra time needed to help a vulnerable client; will put their heart and soul into providing a service that helps people. You cannot subject a child protection case or a heart attack to market forces; you cannot put quotas on the number of people who can be ‘accepted’ as being homeless and in priority need. At least, you cannot if you truly value humanity and society above profit and enterprise.

The public sector has been ill served by the introduction of KPIs and corporate branding – the target culture is not one that can be enforced on human need. In the privatisation of the utilities and outsourcing of ancillary health services we have already seen how much worse that becomes when it is not only targets that have to be met, but also the needs of the shareholders. The crux of the whole thing is that it is immoral to profit from the essential needs of a population – how can we have more and more people entering fuel poverty when energy companies are announcing record profits year on year?

This government, and others before it, will tell us that it is all about ‘choice’ but this is nothing more than window dressing. Local authorities were ordered to introduce ‘choice based lettings’ systems but this didn’t mean there was more or better housing available. Choice is merely a word used to give the illusion that we are being ‘enabled’, that we are taking back power from the state. In reality people do not want a choice when it comes to the essentials, they want services that are straightforward and can be relied on. They do not want the ‘ability’ to be able to switch energy providers, they want a service where prices are not continually raised in order to boost dividends. The truth is we have no choice – we are being sold a pup in the name of capitalism, a pup that we and past generations have already paid for many times over. The true investors in water, health, education, the railways, and the police service have been and will always be us. Can we truly stand and watch as all that we have achieved is pillaged by corporate raiders?

The irony is that in this quest to end state ‘interference’, inefficiency and red tape we are instead being subjected to a more sinister interference. Decisions that affect lives will increasingly be made on grounds of efficiency and cost rather than urgency and need. Just how far will the outsourcing of police services go? How long before a murder investigation is deemed to be not cost effective? It may seem far fetched, but then again so did Robocop.