Thursday, 30 April 2015

Why doesn't the Sunday Times Rich List lead to a political revolution?

Every year the Sunday Times does us the favour of telling us how the super-rich have got super-richer: the top one thousand and their billions. Even when it's a crisis, says the Sunday Times, it's not a crisis for them.
Even when it's a crisis for you, says the Sunday Times, it's not a crisis for them.
I send this information to my friends. We tweet it. We Facebook it. We recycle it as damning info, evidence that this is how capitalism works, an argument for showing that all this talk of benefit dependency or the deficit or 'balancing the books'; are a smokescreen for a system that creates inequality. This is not the Big Issue saying this. Or Socialist Worker. Or Socialist Revolutionary Worker. Or Revolutionary Worker Socialist.
The Sunday Times must be so confident that we'll do nothing.
Maybe moan a bit. Write a really angry poem perhaps.
Is it because in the end we think this is how it has to be?
That it's the best way to divvy things up?
Or that it's the only way?
Or that trying anything else would be too risky and would end up with prison camps and starvation?
So in the meantime we should just carry on doing what we do, knowing that everything any politician says about fairness, justice and equality is complete hooey?
Or is it that people think we aren't strong enough or clever enough to change anything or run things ourselves?
Or are we each so in debt that we don't dare defy anyone in case we get thrown out of our homes?
Or that we so long for things in the shops that even when we can't afford them we want to hang on till next week, next month, next year, next decade…when we might just possibly be able to afford it?
Or is it that we're all in a race which any of us could win so we'd better not do anything that might stop the race, even though there will only be a tiny handful of winners, who will only be winners because the rest of us are in the race, doing the running, doing the work, that makes those tiny few the winners anyway?

Monday, 27 April 2015

Proof that Telegraph's 'Small Business' letter is a Tory letter

How to find out where the Telegraph's latest small businesses support the Conservatives letter came from.
1) Click on the PDF link in the story below (about halfway down)
2) Save the PDF to your computer
3) Right click the file name on a PC or ctrl-click on a Mac
4) On a PC choose Properties, on a Mac choose Get Info and then click More Info
5) You should see that the author of the PDF file is CCHQ-Admin - Conservative campaign headquarters. Something the Telegraph story neglected to mention.

(this is from Facebook contributor Dan Barrett) 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Grant Shapps Poem or 'clerihew'

Grant Shapps
is several chaps.
People in the
think he fiddled wikipedia.
Grant Shapps
never lies.
He mistakenly
over firmly denies.

[I originally put this up on Facebook but then tweeted it and more by luck than design it just fitted the tweet 140 characters.)

Cleggy Sacrifices the Poor

Cleggy said public sector workers had "made enough sacrifices".

Who voted to make them make those sacrifices, Cleggy?
Who's benefited from their sacrifices, Cleggy?
Why should the poor make sacrifices for the rich, Cleggy?

Debt, Deficit, Wages - what Humphrys forgot to ask this morning

1. Total government debt up in absolute terms. They have borrowed more in five years than every Labour government in history - something over £517bn. (As a share of GDP they have claimed it has, just, fallen but as someone says - if memory serves - this is because they counted in the sale of Eurostar).

2. Deficit down, but they forecast £40bn for start of this year. It is more like £90bn. Instead of being gone by the end of this year, they have shifted the target to being gone by the end of the next parliament.

3. Average real wages down 2% on 2010 (IFS figure). Would be worse but falling oil price has brought inflation down, boosting real wages.

(this comes from economist James Meadway, on a thread on my Facebook account) 

Monday, 20 April 2015

A Photo of a Milking Machine

A photo of a milking machine
won't tell you
how fast the milk is going into the tank
It won't tell you
whether the milk going in is speeding up
or slowing down
nor whether it's going in faster than
it was yesterday or slower.
And - come to think of it:
it won't tell you whether the milk is going
from the cow into the tank
or from the tank
into the cow.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Dentist and the Toe

I was at the dentist and when he had finished
I said, One of my toes is hurting, could you
take a look at it while I'm here?
He said, Sure.
I took off my shoes and socks and he looked
closely at the the toe I was talking about.
He said, I can do a variety of things here, I
can drill down behind the nail and then give you
a temporary filling; I could take a mould, then
remove the toe and give you a new toe; or
I could send you to a chiropodist.
I said, I like the sound of the new toe.
So he said, Fine and got to work straightaway.
It all went fine. This was a few weeks ago
and I've got the new toe. It's OK - not great
though. It's a bit inflexible because it's made
of the stuff they fill teeth with. I was talking to
someone the other day about it, and she said
that all I had probably needed to do was
cut my nails a bit more carefully.

Monday, 13 April 2015

From Labour Deficit till Now in 7 Steps.

1. Under Labour, there was a deficit of £36 billion or so. None of our leaders on either side of electoral politics said it was a problem.
2. There was a worldwide banking and finance crisis.
3. The deficit shot up.
4. The Tories cooked up the idea that this high deficit was caused by Labour's deficit and not by the banking crisis. Not even Mervyn King ex-boss of the Bank of England believes this.
5. The Tories cooked up the idea that the way to bring this high deficit down was to cut wages, cut welfare, cut public services.
6. When that didn't work, they've spent some more government money and printed £350 billion. That has hardly worked either.
7. The super-rich have got super-richer, the poor have got poorer, a lot of people in between have stood still or lost in real terms against prices. Some of us think that has been the real aim of deficit-talk and austerity anyway.

Thieves: Taxmen or…someone else?

Bloke tells me that taxmen are 'thieves'.
Hang on, pal.
Every minute that the workforce works,
the pay they receive is only a percentage
of the total value of all goods or services
that are outputted.
So, yes, some of what's left goes on investment,
buying materials, marketing and rent.
What's left after that is profit.
This profit produces the rich and the super-rich.
The super-rich are getting richer by the day.
The workforce is either staying the same or
going backwards.
Now, let's talk about 'thieves' again...

Both Rich and Poor Took a Hit (Not)

When someone stands in front of you and
claims that both rich and poor took a hit
following the great bankers' crash of 2008
you know that you're dealing with someone
who thinks that buying a Merc 

instead of a Rolls
is the same as buying bread 
instead of meat.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Our gods: 'the city' and 'the markets'

I love the way in which commentators and experts
say the words 'the city' and 'the markets'.
They aren't given to us as groups of people
carrying out actions based on self-interest
or their desire to finish the day richer than they were
the day before.
They are talked of as elements in nature,
like the wind or mountains, yet mysteriously
and magically endowed with the power of manipulating
and determining our standard of living,
how much food we eat or what kind of home
or hospital or school we're allowed to have.
'The city' and 'the markets', we're told, are 'uneasy'
about us having too much.
And commentators invite us to think that
that's because some law of nature has been broken.
'The city' and 'the markets' are like the gods
in ancient Greece, like Poseidon who was
enraged when Odysseus maimed his son,
and went on taking revenge for years after.
Yet 'the city' and 'the markets' are just people
who do things like sell each other debts so big
they'll never be paid back
or buy promises and guesses that can never
And they don't stop doing what they're doing
even as the great towers and offices they work in
have to close
and thousands lose their jobs.
These are our gods.

Great Big Bogeymen

Once upon a time, there was a great big bogeyman.
It was called 'Balance of Payments'
and everyone made a fuss about it.
Then 'Balance of Payments' disappeared.
Another time there was another great big bogeyman.
It was called 'Devaluation' and everyone made a fuss about it.
Then 'Devaluation' disappeared.
Another time there was another great big bogeyman.
It was called 'Productivity'.
Everyone made a fuss about it, then 'Productivity' disappeared.
There have been other bogeymen but because they disappeared
I don't remember what they were.
Now we have 'the Deficit'.
That's a very big bogeyman.
Everyone makes a fuss about it.
It's got to 'come down', everyone says.
Our newspapers and politicians love these great big bogeymen.
At the end of the day, making a fuss about
all these different bogeymen does the same thing:
it says to people that they should have lower wages.
Hurrah for great big bogeymen.
Maybe we'll have a new one soon.

The Conjuror Returns and Arranges the Economy….

‘...Ladies and Gentlemen
let me show you something else.
You know and I know that conjuring
is often about distraction.
We entice you to watch one thing
while we are doing something else altogether.
So if I say, I would like you to keep your eyes
on what I’ve got here, you’re going to be
suspicious, aren’t you?
Well, I’ll try it all the same.
It’s a deficit. I want you to watch the deficit.
I am going to do all I possibly can to make
it disappear.
Now to do this I’m going to have to
move some money around over here.
Some people have a lot.
Some people have hardly any.
Will I be able to change that?
So, now you’re confused.
Are you watching the deficit
or are you watching the money?
Remember, if I don’t make the deficit disappear
I will have failed.
It’s getting a bit smaller...
I promised I would...
but, Ladies and Gentlemen
it would be true to say
I haven’t made it disappear.
Oh dear...
But Ladies and Gentlemen
what if that was all a ploy?
While you were watching the deficit
hoping to catch me out,
look what I did with the money over here.
I took money from those with hardly any
and gave it to those who have a lot.
And you didn’t notice,
because you were watching the deficit.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen
I may not have made the deficit disappear
but I certainly moved the money.
I call that a success.
What do you think?
Thank you very much.
You’ve been a lovely audience.’

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Found Prose Poem: Cameron and His Origins

[from wikipedia]

David Cameron is the younger son of stockbroker Ian Donald Cameron (12 October 1932 – 8 September 2010) and his wife Mary Fleur (née Mount, born 1934,[6] a retired Justice of the Peace, daughter of Sir William Mount, 2nd Baronet).[7]Cameron's parents were married on 20 October 1962.[6]

Cameron was born in London and brought up in Peasemore, Berkshire.[8] Cameron has a brother, Alexander Allan(born 1963, a barrister and QC)[9] and two sisters, Tania Rachel (born 1965) and Clare Louise (born 1971).[10][6] His father, Ian, was born at Blairmore House, a country house near Huntly, Aberdeenshire, and died near Toulon, in France, on 8 September 2010;[11] Ian was born with both legs deformed and underwent repeated operations to correct them. Blairmore was built by Cameron's great-great-grandfather, Alexander Geddes,[12] who had made a fortune in the graintrade in Chicago and returned to Scotland in the 1880s.[13]

Through his paternal grandmother, Enid Agnes Maud Levita, Cameron is a lineal descendant of King William IV by his mistress Dorothea Jordan. This illegitimate line consists of five generations of women starting with Elizabeth Hay, Countess of Erroll, née FitzClarence, William and Jordan's sixth child,[14] through to Cameron's grandmother (thereby making Cameron a 5th cousin twice removed of Queen Elizabeth II).[15]

In the 1830s Cameron's first cousin six times removed was compensated with £4,101 for 202 slaves when they were liberated by Parliament.[16] Cameron's paternal forebears also have a long history in finance. His father Ian was senior partner of the stockbrokers Panmure Gordon, in which firm partnerships had long been held by Cameron's ancestors, including David's grandfather and great-grandfather,[10] and was a Director of estate agent John D. Wood. David Cameron's great-great-grandfather Emile Levita was a German Jewish financier and a direct descendant of Renaissance scholar Elia Levita, the author of Bovo-Bukh, the first secular work ever published in Yiddish. Emile Levita obtained British citizenship in 1871 and was the director of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China which became Standard Chartered Bank in 1969.[15] Through Levita, Cameron is a descendent of the Levites, who themselves claim to be descended fromMoses.[15] His wife, Cameron's great-great-grandmother, was a descendant of the wealthy Danish Jewish Rée family on her father's side.[17][18]

One of Emile's sons, Arthur Francis Levita (died 1910, brother of Sir Cecil Levita),[19] of Panmure Gordon stockbrokers, together with great-great-grandfather Sir Ewen Cameron,[20] London head of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, played key roles in arranging loans supplied by the Rothschilds to the Japanese Central Banker (later Prime Minister) Takahashi Korekiyo for the financing of the Japanese Government in the Russo-Japanese war.[21]

Cameron's maternal grandfather was Sir William Mount, 2nd Baronet, an Army officer who served as High Sheriff of Berkshire, and Cameron's maternal great-grandfather was Sir William Mount, 1st Baronet, CBE, Conservative MP for Newbury 1918–1922. Cameron's great-great-grandmother was Lady Ida Matilda Alice Feilding. His great-great-great-grandfather was William Feilding, 7th Earl of Denbigh, GCH, PC, a courtier and Gentleman of the Bedchamber.[22] His mother's cousin, Sir Ferdinand Mount, was head of 10 Downing Street's Policy Unit in the early 1980s. Cameron is the nephew of Sir William Dugdale, brother-in-law of Katherine, Lady Dugdale (died 2004) Lady-in-Waiting to HM The Queen since 1955,[23][24] and former Chairman ofAston Villa Football Club. Birmingham-born documentary filmmaker Joshua Dugdale is his cousin.[25]

Cameron has said: "On my mother's side of the family, her mother was a Llewellyn, so Welsh. I'm a real mixture of Scottish, Welsh and English".[26]

Statement from the Not-National Union of Non-Doms

Those of us in the NNUND
(the Not-National Union of Non-Doms)
utterly condemn the vicious and greedy threat
issued by the Labour Party, a threat that
will endanger our living standards.
We wish to express our solidarity with
the brave leadership of the Conservative Party
who have done all they can to maintain
our standard of living throughout these
difficult times. We would also like to thank
the Daily Mail, a paper owned by one of our
members who continue to highlight our hardship.

Guide to Education

You get education in schools.

To find out how much education you get,

the government gives you tests.

Before you do the tests

the government likes it if you are put on

different tables that show how well or badly

you are going to do in the tests.

The tests test whether they

have put you on the right table.

The tests test whether you know what you’re

supposed to know.


don’t try to get to know any old stuff like

‘What is earwax?’ or ‘how to make soup’.

The way to know things you’re supposed to know

is to do pretend tests.

When you do the pretend tests

you learn how to think in the way that tests

want you to think.

The more practice you do,

the more likely it is that you won’t make the mistake

of thinking in any other way other than in

the special test way of thinking.

Here’s an example:

The apples are growing on the tree.

What is growing on the tree?

If you say, ‘leaves’, you are wrong.

It’s no use you thinking that when apples are on a tree

there are usually leaves on the tree too.

There is only one answer. And that is ‘apples’.

All other answers are wrong.

If you are the kind of person that thinks ‘leaves’ is a

good answer, doing lots and lots and lots of practice tests

will get you to stop thinking that ‘leaves’ is a good answer.

Doing many, many practice tests will also make it

very likely that there won’t be time for you to go out

and have a look at an apple tree to see what else

grows on apple trees. Like ants. Or mistletoe.

Education is getting much better these days

because there is much more testing.

Remember, it’s ‘apples’ not ‘leaves’.

The Conjuror

...and the conjuror appeared

and said,

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the art of conjuring

is to make things change before your very eyes

without you knowing how or why.

We show you things and in a flash

they disappear and reappear somewhere else

or reappear as something else altogether different.

Ladies and Gentlemen, watch closely, see

the fingers never leave the hand,

I want you to tell me what I have here:

Yes, it’s a banking crisis, a full-blooded

international banking crisis, thank you.

Now, watch closely, don’t take your eyes off it

and with no more than a moment of patter

look again and what do I have?

A crisis in government spending.

That, Ladies and Gentlemen

is what conjuring is all about.

Thank you very much.’

Friday, 3 April 2015

How the hell did they get away with it?

Call me naive or stupid but when the financial crash came I will admit here and now that I thought that because, for the first time in my lifetime, that 

a) the workings of capitalism had been laid bare in a way that they had never been before, 
b) as people found that their standard of living was being cut and c) as people found that their hard-won and precious public services and welfare was being cut too, 

people would be outraged in ways that we had never seen before.

I confess I imagined that people would perhaps occupy their places of work, or their public services institutions - hospitals, schools, social services offices in order to defend them. I imagined that people across public and private industries would find that they had common interests in defending their standard of living. After all, I reasoned, as never before, the nakedness of capital (finance) screwing up all on its own, with no excuses that they had been driven into a corner by 'high wage demands' or 'trade unions holding them to ransom' and the like, would make it clear to us all that there is a difference between money and wealth - money being the stuff that rich people play with in order to keep themselves rich and wealth being the stuff that we need and make to keep ourselves safe and warm and productive.  

But how wrong could I have been? And why or how has it turned out that I was so wrong? 

1. It has been possible for very powerful people - politicians and news media - to repeat over and over again that the 'mess' or the 'crisis' was caused by one political party which happened to be in power at the time of the most severe point in that crisis - namely the Labour Party of GB, even though the crash was (and still is) global and was caused by financiers taking risks that were…er…too risky. 

2. It has been possible to keep the illusion going that the 'remedies' put in place to put things back together, are fair and just - even though they are nothing but a simple system of redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich. The richest 1000 people increased their wealth last year by over £40 billion while the poorest have seen their income (or standard of living) cut. The proportion of money earned by waged people in relation to money acquired by owners of capital has shifted and is shifting in favour of capital. 

3. Interventions like £350 billion of quantitative easing ('printing money') have enriched the rich with hardly a murmur from those with the megaphones whose social duty was to tell us about it. 

4. A constant burble over the last five years about the 'deficit' and 'balancing the books' and 'paying our way' has been like a mass education force telling us that 

a) the deficit must be reduced or we will all go to hell in a handcart 
b) the people in power are dramatically reducing it and this is improving our lives 
c) we must re-elect them so that they can go on doing what they've been doing to reduce it further.  

It has made very little difference that some people to repeat that a deficit can be productive in any economic system if it is used to invest in producing things we need, that demolishing public services has had a double effect of harming thousands of people's lives whilst handing over what remains of the services to subsidiaries of the super-rich. 

It has made very little difference that some people have pointed out that the deficit is at levels we were told at the outset were unsustainable or impossible. 

It has made very little difference that some people have pointed out that low income (engineered by the government) has two results:

 a) people don't earn enough to pay enough taxes to lower the deficit and 
b) people will borrow money to supplement their income…which is part of why the whole thing unravelled last time. 

5. The 'economy' will recover. 

The nineteenth century bearded chap pointed out that in a recession prices will eventually fall to a level at which the people who own and control capital will think once again that it's a good time to invest and produce and distribute. In the meantime, their cycle of boom and bust involves making the lives of the mass of people worse. This period of worsening standards of living can never be given back. They happen, they endure. The damage is done to people's minds and bodies and to the ways in which we hang together. Rich people - even the few who take a small hit in a recession - don't experience this. They have a bit less than a lot. The poor have less than very little. Even though people know this and feel this, it is possible to keep them from despair and anger by constantly suggesting that 

a) it would be even worse if you let back in those terrible people who 'caused it' last time, 
b) it's going to be better for you next year…er…when we cut £12 billion from services that you need and rely on…(not!)

6. Another useful way to distract people from the core fact that money is being transferred from the poor to the rich in the name of 'balancing the books' is to encourage or allow a story to be told over and over again about 'immigrants'. The truth of the matter is that the great cycles of boom and bust are not caused by a few hundred thousand people swapping countries. More often than not, it's a symptom and not a cause. If politicians were honest, helpful people they would spend a great deal of time explaining to us the benefits and drawbacks of the system they believe in - capitalism.

They love gassing on about all the benefits of innovation, competition and the like but hardly ever explain what 'bust' is all about. An honest advocate of capitalism might spend time explaining to us that, yes, it's a system that does demand that at times the poorest have to be poorer so that capitalists can go on making profits, because that's how the system works. Hello, they would say, we compete with each other, we try to cut costs, even as we have to invest loads of dosh in order to stay modern. 

But no, instead, they allow or encourage all sorts of half-truths and lies to circulate in order to 'explain' why times are tough for millions of people. So, in one bust you'll see the bust explained by the fact that the workers have all been greedy and lazy, their pay too high, their holidays too long, their pensions too big. Another time, this story will be modified by saying that the hospitals, schools, social services cost too much. And another time the story is that the problem is what's going on abroad somewhere so the only solution is to go and bomb and kill hundreds of thousands of 'foreigners'. And another time, it's because 'we' are being 'swamped' by 'foreigners'. 

These are all very potent lies to cover up for the fact that what makes people poor is employers paying working people less. And if they were honest, they would say that, yes, that IS what they do, and it's what they need to do in order for them to stay rich (i.e. make profits). But they don't. 

7. So, in some ways, a time of reflection. As I write this, I suppose there is every chance that the Tories will win a few more seats than Labour. This may well mean that there will be another coalition - though it might be one that does not have a full majority. This means that there are certain kinds of legislation that could be defeated by the rest - unless Labour do that classic thing of saying that they are being 'statesmanlike' and supporting legislation which they don't agree with and which damage the majority of the people's standards of living. This will happen if, in the case of a Labour defeat, Miliband is replaced by someone from the Blairite rump. 

Grammar Schools (and Farage)

In the election debate, Farage said that grammar schools shouldn't have been abolished because they gave clever working class children a ladder up…or words to that effect.

The facts are this: in England and Wales, from 1947-1970 about 7 million children failed their 11 plus exam and went to Secondary Modern Schools. Very few of these children stayed on at school long enough to get any qualifications at all. This affected their rate of pay for the rest of their lives.

From 1947-1970 about 3.5 million children went to grammar school and about 1 million went to technical school.

About 15 per cent of all children attending all secondary schools in this period can be described as 'relatively disadvantaged' and gaining from having a grammar school education.

In numerical terms this is about 1.8 million. 

For Farage to be correct, he would have to prove that the same number of pupils between, let's say 1970 and 1993, were prevented from receiving the equivalent of a grammar school education by being in comprehensive schools. 

Can he? Or anyone else? 

Meanwhile, he would  have to balance whatever advantage was given to the 1.8 million 'relatively disadvantaged' pupils at grammar school with the effects of a secondary modern education on 7 million. 

Data from:

Date of birth, family background, and the 11 plus exam: short- and long-term consequences of the 1944 secondary education reforms in England and Wales
Robert A. Hart 
Mirko Moro
J. Elizabeth Roberts

Stirling Economics Discussion Paper 2012-10 May 2012
Online at

nb I've rounded some of the numbers and extended the data from 1964 to 1970 according to the graph given in the article. I'm happy to revise any of the figures above, if I've got them wrong.