Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Not-voting is not revolutionary

  
Elections are looming and the "don't vote" brigade are once again out in force. I don't actually have anything against the concept of not voting, the people who annoy me are the ones who go around actively propagandising for other people to not-vote, as if they're participating in some kind of heroic anti-establishment revolution.

Not-voting isn't wrong in itself

Back in 2013 a friend of mine received their local election postal ballot but found that the only two candidates were a Tory (part of the coalition government they despised) and a Lib-Dem (part of the coalition government that they despised). I think their choice to tear the ballot paper into little pieces and send them off in the return envelope was perfectly justifiable.

The problem I have is with people who utter sub-Brandian platitudes like "if only everyone stopped voting then ..." because the huge glaring fault with this kind of assertion is that it's an exercise in extremely juvenile wishful thinking.

It's profoundly annoying that so many people keep repeating this kind of ludicrous appeal for everyone to "stop voting" based on the idea that revolutionary political change can be achieved through a vague hope that the powers that be will suddenly take notice if we all begin protesting against them by ... err ... doing nothing.

The PCC elections

A look at the results of the utterly farcical 2012 PCC elections in England demonstrate why this idle wish for mass non-participation doesn't have a hope of succeeding.

The average turnout for these ludicrous elections across the whole of England was just 15%, yet not a single one of the "winning" candidates refused to take up their cushy £65-£95,000 per year salaries because of their appalling lack of a democratic mandate. Several of the PCCs actually took up their positions with the backing of less than 5% of the eligible electorate in their constituencies!

The 2012 PCC elections were absolute proof that a lack of mandate from over 95% of the electorate still wasn't enough to prevent politicians from taking up their jobs. This leaves us with the question of how anyone thinks that wishfully appealing for everyone to just stop voting could ever result in revolutionary social change?

Even in the extraordinarily unlikely even that 99% of people refused to vote, it's still certain that the politicians themselves and their inner-circles of supporters would just cast a few dozen votes to "win" the election for themselves.

Not-voting is not revolutionary

There's nothing clever, or contrarian, or heroic about telling other people not to vote as if it's a revolutionary thing to do. It's a stupid stance that is literally indistinguishable from outright apathy when the voting statistics are compiled. If you want to make yourself indistinguishable from the hopelessly apathetic lumpenproletariat in the electoral statistics that's fine by me, but don't think that there's anything clever or revolutionary about telling other people to do it. There isn't.

Revolutionary social change certainly doesn't come about by taking the exact same non-action as the hopelessly apathetic. It comes about through direct action.

Social progress has been achieved when people have come together in solidarity to demand change from the powerful, when people educate themselves and educate each other, and when they cause enough economic disruption to cause the powerful and wealthy to give in to some of their demands (one of the best ways to frighten the wealthy and powerful is by threatening to hit them in the pocket).

Demographics

A look at the voter demographics from the 2015 General Election reveals a lot of interesting information about those who did and didn't vote. Old people are an awful lot more likely to vote Tory than young people, and they're also an awful lot more likely to actually vote too. The very wealthy are an awful lot more likely to vote than the very poor, and an awful lot more likely to actually vote Tory too.

Given these demographic trends is it any wonder that we ended up getting stuck with a Tory government that endlessly panders to the very wealthy and shields pensioners from the most brutal austerity measures, while they deliberately load the burden of their economic attacks on the poor, the young and the disabled?

If just a small fraction of the 35% of people who didn't bother to vote at all (either through apathy or disillusionment with the system) had've voted for anyone but the Tories, this extremely malicious and desperately incompetent government would never have achieved a majority of MPs, and they would never have been able to continue their project of tearing up long-standing British values and turning the UK into one of the most right-wing authoritarian state in the developed world.

Voting obviously isn't the "be all and end all" of politics

I'm entirely sceptical that revolutionary political change can be achieved through voting alone. Politics is about far more than scrawling a mark on a piece of paper every few years and then sitting back and waiting for the next paper scrawling exercise. The best way to effect political change is undoubtedly to demand it outside of the ballot box. However I do believe that voting is important because votes do determine who the custodians of political power are while progressive change is being demanded from those who are determined to achieve it.

The system is a mess, but not-voting won't fix it

The current system in the UK is an absolute disgrace, I know that this is the case because I spend so much of my time trying to expose the appalling malice, incompetence and corruption that's going on. However typing platitudinous "if only everyone would stop voting ..." type comments on political threads is definitely not the way to resolve the appalling problems we face, because it's absolutely clear that under the system we have not-voting simply transfers even more political power to those who do vote.

Under the ludicrously unrepresentative Westminster voting system we suffer from, the sheer number of non-voters meant that the Tory party only needed 24% of the registered electorate to vote for them in order to gain a majority government.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who thinks that simply not-voting is the route to revolutionary political change is even more delusional than the person who thinks that sticking a bit of paper in a box every few years is an adequate level of political engagement. 

Conclusion

If we want serious political change we need to educate ourselves, articulate it, demand it, fight for it.

Sticking a bit of paper in a box every few years is extremely unlikely to lead to revolutionary change, but it can help to ensure that things aren't quite as bad as they could be, while we build solidarity and take the direct action that is needed to promote the actual changes that we want to see.

If anyone thinks I'm wrong about not-voting doing nothing more than transferring more political power to those who do vote, I'd really like to see someone attempt to explain the exact mechanism by which an individual not-voting supposedly leads to revolutionary political change.

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How a "list" vote for the Scottish Greens carries more weight


During the 2015 General Election campaign Scotland was awash with infographics advising the Scottish electorate to vote SNP in 2015, and SNP/Green/SSP in 2016. Unsurprisingly after their landslide triumph at the General Election this message of pro-independence solidarity has morphed into a "both votes for the SNP" campaign in 2016, with staggering levels of vitriol being spat by a vocal minority of SNP supporters at anyone who suggests that "list" votes might actually be better used in support of other pro-independence parties such as the Scottish Greens.

It is beyond doubt that the SNP are going to win a majority in the Scottish parliament, the only question is how big their majority is going to be. The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is the most popular living person in Scotland, and the SNP administration in Holyrood has been the most trusted government in the whole of Europe. The majority of polls predict that the SNP will win almost every constituency seat in Scotland, leaving the other parties to scrabble around for the regional "list" seats that top up the Scottish parliament to make it a a much more proportionally balanced chamber than the staggeringly unrepresentative House of Commons.

"List" seats

The way the proportional "list" seats are calculated means that if the SNP win the huge majority of constituency seats they are predicted to, they are going to lose an awful lot of their "list" seats. The largely pro-SNP Wings Over Scotland site predicts that as a result of the SNP looking set to win so many constituency seats they will likely lose some 11 of their 16 list seats. The SNP will still have enough MSPs to form a majority government, but significantly more of their MSPs will have constituency seats and fewer will be list MSPs.

The Wings Over Scotland analysis shows that in most of the Scottish regions the SNP will win zero "list" seats despite taking vast numbers of "list" votes. This happens because the number of list votes is divided by the number of seats already won plus one, so in a region like Mid Scotland and Fife where the SNP look likely to win all nine constituency MSPs, their list vote will be divided by 10. This means that a list vote for any other party would carry ten times as much weight as a list vote for the SNP.


The Wings Over Scotland analysis shows that the vast majority of constituency seats will go to the SNP, while the "list" seats look set to be split between Labour, the Tories and the Scottish Greens.

Constituency seats

SNP 69 (+16)
Lib-Dem 2 (=)
Conservative 2 (-1)
Labour 0 (-15)
Green 0

"List" seats

Labour 24 (+2) 

Conservative 17 (+5) 
Green 9 (+7) 
SNP 5 (-11) 
Lib-Dem 1 (-2) 
Independent 0 (-1)

It is of course impossible to predict with any certainty whether such a huge SNP landslide victory in the constituency seats will happen, or whether Labour, the Lib-Dems and the Tories will unexpectedly scrape a few extra constituency seats. However what is certain is that "list" votes for the Green Party are far more likely to return additional pro-independence MSPs than "list" votes for the SNP.

A Pro-Independence parliament

Given that it is inevitable that the SNP are going to lose a lot of their list seats as a result of winning even more handsomely in the constituency seats, it makes sense for pro-Independence voters to lend their "list" vote to the Scottish Greens in order to prevent as many "list" seats as possible from being soaked up by the anti-Independence parties.

It's beyond doubt that the SNP will form the next Scottish government, but the balance of pro-independence and anti-independence MSPs is still at play. An SNP majority plus ten Green MSPs would have a much stronger pro-independence platform than an SNP majority plus two Green MSPs.

Limited opposition

Whatever happens in the Scottish elections, opposition to the SNP is going to be limited and divided.

Scottish Labour are in an absolute mess, and look likely to lose all, or almost all of their constituency MSPs. They really should have learned that cosying up to the Tory party during the independence referendum was a catastrophic mistake, and that the Scottish electorate are completely sick of centre-right Blairism, however somehow they saw fit to elect Kezia Dugdale as their leader, making a Labour resurgence in Scotland look about as likely as Irn Bru suddenly becoming the national drink of England.

The Lib-Dems used to do pretty well in Scotland, but they've screwed themselves even worse than Labour with their double dose of collusion with the Tories. Not only did the Lib-Dems cosy up to the Tories in the Independence debate, they also spent five years propping up David Cameron's malicious Westminster regime. If the Lib-Dems somehow manage to hang onto the five Scottish parliament seats they have it'll be a massive triumph for them.

One of the most shocking aspects of the collapse in support for Labour and the Lib-Dems due to their dalliance with the Tories is that the Tories look set to be one of the two main beneficiaries in the Scottish parliament elections, picking up a few extra list seats as a result of the D'Hondt proportional election method.

The only other party with realistic ambitions of taking more than a single seat in the Scottish election are the Scottish Greens. Anyone who would like to see a pro-independence opposition party pulling the SNP towards the left should seriously consider giving their "list" vote to the Scottish Greens. It's unlikely that they will win enough seats to overtake Labour and the Tories to become the official opposition, but just a few tens of thousands of votes extra could help them win four or five times as many MSPs as they currently have.

Conclusion

I'm not in the habit of telling people how to vote, so I'm certainly not going to insist that voting Green with your "list" vote is a better idea than voting SNP or even giving Labour the benefit of the doubt because things look different under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. However, barring a spectacularly improbable collapse in 1st vote support for the SNP, it is unquestionable that the majority of "list" seats looks set to be carved up between Labour, the Tories and the Scottish Greens, so a "list" vote for one of those parties is certain to carry much more weight than a "list" vote for the SNP because of the way "list" votes are divided according to the D'Hondt method. To argue against that is to argue against maths.


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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The leaked TTIP documents


In May 2016 Greenpeace Netherlands released copies of the highly secretive negotiation documents on the TTIP so-called "trade deal" between the EU and the US.

The highly secretive nature of the TTIP negotiations and the extremely anti-democratic attitude of the EU institutions towards opponents of the deal have already created a huge rise in opposition to TTIP. In fact almost 3.5 million European citizens have already signed a petition against TTIP and several European governments are threatening to veto the deal if it is presented in its current format.

One of the biggest complaints about the TTIP corporate power grab is the inclusion of Investor State Dispute Settlements, which are designed to allow multinational corporations to completely bypass national democratic and judicial institutions in order to sue nation states in secretive transnational tribunals. These appalling ISDS rules have already been written into countless so-called free trade deals across the world, allowing corporations to sue countries whenever their democratically elected governments introduce policies that might reduce their profits. From the introduction of plain cigarette packaging, through bans on toxic petrol additives to environmental laws to stop the corporate destruction of the natural environment - multinational corporations have been using ISDS rules to sue governments all over the world.

The leaked TTIP documents show that the US are refusing to budge on demands for removal of the ISDS components of the TTIP corporate power grab. This is no surprise whatever given that the highly lucrative and rapidly growing transnational law industry is almost entirely based in the US*, and many of the biggest beneficiaries of ISDS tribunals so far have been US based multinational corporations.


Greenpeace analysis of the leaked documents also reveal that the TTIP negotiations are designed to weaken European laws and regulations, especially in areas like the food industry, pesticides and insecticides, genetically modified organisms and the chemicals industry.

TTIP negotiators have already defined things like energy efficiency labels; fuel efficiency standards for cars; sustainable public procurement policies; regulation of unconventional fossil fuel extraction, including shale gas and tar sands; sustainability standards for bio-energy; and the banning of climate-damaging f-gases in appliances such as refrigerators and freezers as "technical barriers to trade".

It's absolutely clear that TTIP is designed to weaken European standards and create a situation where European governments are powerless to restrain the excesses of multinational corporations, because they will be sued in US dominated secret transnational tribunals every time they try to introduce new laws that multinational corporations object to.

John Hilary of War on Want had this to say about the TTIP leaks:

"We have long warned that TTIP is a danger to democracy, food safety, jobs and public services. Now we see it is even worse than we feared. Today's leak shows the European Commission preparing to sell us down the river, doing deals behind closed doors that will change the face of European society for ever. It is simply unacceptable that a group of unelected officials should be allowed to contemplate such a thing without any public scrutiny."
The fact that the people of Europe are reliant upon secret documents leaked via Greenpeace in order to get a proper idea of what is being negotiated between unelected technocrats behind closed doors is appalling, especially since the establishment class are always willing to trot out the Orwellian mantra of "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear" in order to justify the highly intrusive, privacy destroying state surveillance powers they want to award to themselves.

Now that it's absolutely clear that the TTIP corporate power grab will erode European standards and allow multinational corporations to completely bypass democratic and judicial institutions in European states, the deal should be scrapped in its entirety. What is more, the EU should begin an enquiry into how secretive negotiations towards a damaging, anti-democratic corporate power grab were ever allowed to develop so far in the first place.

  • If you want to download the leaked TTIP documents and look at them for yourself, here's the link again.


  • If you would like to join the 3.4 million+ people who have signed the petition against TTIP, here's that link.

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* If you want to know more about the transnational law industry I highly recommend this German documentary.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Zac Goldsmith's BNP style fearmongering tactics

 

Once upon a time Zac Goldsmith used to pretend to be "the nice guy" of the Tory party. He created this impression by talking up environmental causes, promoting cycling and pushing for the right to recall corrupt MPs. It was a good act, in fact it was good enough to fool me into thinking that he was one of the least objectionable Tories. Admittedly "the least stinky turd in the sewer" is damning with faint praise indeed, but it's testament to Goldsmith's "nice guy" act that he had me convinced that he was far from the worst of the Tories.

Zac Goldsmith's "nice guy" pretence took an absolute hammering even before the London Mayoral election when he was sacked as the patron of a London disability charity for voting to slash subsistence benefits for sick and disabled people by £1,500 per year.

Once the London Mayoral campaign got under way the "nice guy Zac" persona he had been carefully cultivating for so many years got well and truly thrown under the bus. His campaign has veered from Islamophobic smears against his Labour rival Sadiq Khan, through racially targeted fearmongering leaflets and then back again to more Islamophobic smearing.

It's been pointed out many times that the accusations against Sadiq Khan are desperate smears. It's also been pointed out that it's pretty damned hypocritical for members of a party that sucks up so pathetically to a brutal murderous Islamist theocracy like Saudi Arabia to go around criticising other people for having debated against Islamist extremists in the past. But it just doesn't seem to matter to Zac Goldsmith and the Tories. They know that fear and hate are powerful political weapons, and realistically the use of such tactics are the only way they're ever going to install another out-of-touch Eton posh boy as the ruler of London.


Just a few days before the election Zac Goldsmith's campaign plummeted to a dispiriting new low when he wrote an article in the Daily Mail making the same tired old slurs against Sadiq Khan, which was illustrated by a picture of the deadly 2005 Tavistock Square bus bombing.

The tactic of using images of this Islamist terrorist atrocity was first used by the BNP back in 2005 when they used a picture of the bombed bus in a by-election leaflet just a few weeks after the event.

The BNP were roundly condemned for exploiting the victims of a terrorist atrocity in their political propaganda, but times have obviously changed, since the tactic is now apparently considered perfectly acceptable by the Tory party.

A look at the comments beneath the Daily Mail article is revealing:

"I predict certain parts of london will be voting for the eye sis sympathiser, but hopefully the British parts of London will do the right thing..."

No capitalisation of the Word London, a bizarre misspelling of the acronym ISIS and a clearly bigoted assumption that the likes of Muslims and non-whites are not British. 
1,300+ upvotes
"I wouldn't vote for him simply because he is called Khan. We all know where his loyalties lay and it's not with the British anglo saxon minority is it."
An admission that the commentator wouldn't vote for anyone with a non-British name, a bizarre claim that white-British people (87.2% of the population at the 2011 Census) are a minority and a claim that people of non Anglo-Saxon origin are incapable of loyalty to the United Kingdom.
850+ upvotes

"London is no longer a British city"
An utterly bizarre claim. The capital of the United Kingdom is not British! The tactics of speaking about culturally diverse places as if they are "lost" or sticking "istan" on the end of place names are right out of the BNP handbook on bigoted political posturing.
750+ upvotes

It's absolutely clear that Zac Goldsmith is desperately trying to whip up hatred and play the BNP style tactic of creating racial and cultural divisions, and that such tactics are highly successful with a lot of bigoted Daily Mail reader types. The problem for Goldsmith is that London is a culturally diverse and largely tolerant city, where diverse cultural groups have a long history of standing together in solidarity against the fascistic division tactics of the extreme right (like the Battle of Cable Street in 1936).

In the end it will be up to the people of London whether they see through these deliberate BNP style hatemongering tactics and reject the latest nasty Eton posh-boy the Tories have lined up to rule over them at the ballot box.


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Saturday, April 30, 2016

More blacklist victims receive compensation


Several of Britain's biggest building firms have agreed to pay £millions in compensation to 420 workers for destroying their careers through the use of an illegal blacklist designed to deny jobs to workers who did things like get involved in trade union activity or complain about safety violations at work.

This settlement follows on from a £5.6 million payout to 71 blacklisted construction industry workers in February 2016.

Another 90 construction workers look set to take their case to court in May rather than accept out-of-court damages. Hopefully this case will go all the way to court so that the appalling facts of the case can be given the full public investigation they deserve.

The companies who made use of the illegal blacklist (including Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McApline, Skanska UK and Vinci) have implicitly admitted their guilt by handing out compensation to many of the victims, however to hear an explicit guilty verdict declared in a court of law would be much more satisfying to the thousands of men who had their careers destroyed and their lives blighted as a result of this blacklist and it's widespread use across the UK construction industry.

The existence of this illegal blacklist has been known about since 2006 when a construction industry manager called Alan Wainwright blew the whistle. Since then, like so many whistleblowers before him, Wainwright has suffered severe repercussions for doing the right thing. It's hardly surprising that an industry that denied work to thousands of workers though a secret illegal blacklist now appears to be denying work to the manager who blew the whistle on these illegal practices.

It is incredible that it has taken ten years for these workers to get the compensation they deserve from the companies that colluded to deny them work. In fact, it's taken so long that the guy who profited from maintaining the illegal list (Ian Kerr) has long since died.

    
Astonishingly the companies responsible for this campaign of illegal discrimination tried to gloss over their culpability with absurd language, even referring to the compensation payouts as "fair and reasonable" and saying that they want to "draw a line under the matter"!

How these companies imagine that there has been a line drawn under the matter when they're facing court proceedings in May is anybody's guess, and I'm pretty sure that no amount of financial compensation would be enough to console the many workers who lost their families as a result of the severe financial stress caused by their inability to find work due to their name being on a secret and illegal construction industry blacklist.

Hopefully the 90 others will hold firm in the face of lucrative out-of-court settlement offers and ensure that the criminal behaviour of these construction companies is fully revealed in the courts.
    
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Image credit: Daily Mirror

Iain Duncan Smith's retroactive workfare legislation was unlawful


It seems a long time ago that Ed Miliband's Labour helped Iain Duncan Smith rush a load of retroactive changes to his unlawful Workfare legislation through parliament as emergency legislation by whipping Labour MPs into abstaining on every vote in the process.

Iain Duncan Smith's plan to retroactively rewrite his own botched legislation came about after the courts had found that the rules he was using to force unemployed people into working for corporations like Poundland for no wages were unlawful because they were neither intelligible nor approved by parliament.

The idea was to get around a court judgement that their own legislation is unlawful simply by rewriting the legislation and then applying it retroactively so that it would have been lawful had it been written in the new way in the past. To most sane people a plan like this seems more like it should have been the plot to an absurd Kafkaesque story than the behaviour of our actual government, but unfortunately it wasn't some menacing and disorientating plot from a Kafka inspired satire, it was what the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition actually did.


Just a few dozen Labour MPs (including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Dennis Skinner) defied the Labour Party whip to vote against Iain Duncan Smith's appalling plan to retroactively rewrite his own botched and unlawful forced labour legislation.

Even after three years it's still staggering that Ed Miliband allowed Iain Duncan Smith to write himself a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card instead of nailing him to the wall over his abject incompetence. If the Labour Party had any strategic nous whatever they would have drawn the process out as much as possible in order to drag Iain Duncan Smith over the coals of his own incompetence and unlawful behaviour. Instead they openly colluded with him, presumably because they approved of the tactic of removing the labour rights of the unemployed and forcing them to work for no wages at major multinational corporations so strongly that they preferred to help Iain Duncan Smith to defend the tactic rather than using the situation to their own political advantage.


In April 2016 the Appeal Court upheld a previous High Court ruling that Iain Duncan Smith's retroactive changes to the workfare legislation were incompatible with human rights legislation, and therefore unlawful. 

Padraig Hughes of Public Interest Lawyers said "The court of appeal has now confirmed what the high court made clear in 2014 – that the government’s cynical attempt to introduce retrospective legislation, after it had lost its previous case in the court of appeal, is unlawful and a breach of the Human Rights Act ... .It is yet a further example of the reckless approach this government continues to take towards the constitution and the rule of law".

It's not surprising that so many people have forgotten about, or were completely unaware of, this extraordinary display of unlawful behaviour from Iain Duncan Smith's DWP, and Ed Miliband's utterly bizarre collusion in helping him to introduce even more unlawful legislation in order to cover up the first batch of unlawful legislation. The mainstream media barely covered this shocking story the first time around, and subsequent coverage has been minimal to say the least.

The Appeal Court ruling is a truly damning indictment of the utter Tory contempt for the rule of law, however this hugely important story has flown almost completely under the news radar because the bulk of the corporate mainstream press are clearly more interested in doing everything in their power to undermine Jeremy Corbyn's growing popularity, than cover the unlawful behaviour of the actual government.

In my view there are two very important things to note. The first is that the Labour Party is now led by some of the genuinely left-wing Labour MPs who refused to participate in Ed Miliband's ludicrous collusion with Iain Duncan Smith in allowing him to rush through his human rights denying retroactive workfare legislation back in 2013. This means that the current Labour Party would be far more more likely to hold the Tories to account, rather than collude with them like their strategically inept New Labour predecessors did.

The second thing is that this case is a perfect illustration of the real reason that the Tories want to scrap the Human Rights Act and abandon the European Court of Human Rights. The Tories hate the fact that our pesky human rights prevent them from doing whatever the hell they want. They don't want to have to ensure that the legislation they push through parliament is compatible with our human rights. It would clearly be much easier for them if they scrap our human rights so that they can do whatever the hell they like



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Friday, April 15, 2016

Criticism of Israeli policy ≠ anti-Semitism


In April 2016 I was accused of having anti-Semitic views after posting a clip of the Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders talking about Israel.

The sheer irony of getting accused of anti-Semitism by an Israel apologist for daring to share a clip of a Jewish man (Bernie Sanders) criticising Israel's deadly bombardment of Gaza in 2014 is quite staggering. 


If I really was an anti-Semite would I really be so impressed with Bernie Sanders' mediating language that I'd share it on my Facebook page? Would a bigoted Jew-hater really approve of Bernie Sanders so much that they'd like to see him become the first ever Jewish President of the United States (as I would)?

Here's what Bernie Sanders said in the clip I shared:

"If we are ever going to bring peace we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity ... I believe it [Israel's bombardment of Gaza in 2014] was [disproportionate] ... We had in the Gaza area some ten thousand civilians who were wounded, and some 1,500 who were killed."
If I'm apparently an "anti-Semite" simply for expressing agreement with Bernie Sanders' views, does that mean Bernie Sanders is an anti-Semite by extension? Will partisan Israel apologists call him a "self-hating Jew" because he dares to express an opinion that not everything the Israeli state has ever done is perfect?

In my view the only way the Israel-Palestine conflict will ever be resolved is if the US government stops supporting the worst excesses of the Israelis, and accepts the proposition that Palestinians are people too. Bernie Sanders apparently shares this view, and I applaud him for it. As a Jewish man his sympathies are obviously going to be drawn towards the people of the Jewish state, so it obviously takes a great deal of humanity for him to be able to see things from both sides of the conflict, and to want to mediate in an even-handed manner.

If that kind of approach makes Bernie Sanders a "self-hating Jew"  
in the eyes of some, and me an "anti-Semite" for agreeing with him, then so be it. I'm not going to shut up and say silent simply because some highly partisan Israel apologists are going to smear me for daring to express an opinion they don't like. 

It doesn't seem to matter how often it is pointed out to "anti-Semitism" wielding Israel apologists that


Criticism of Israeli policy ≠ anti-Semitism

they keep on using this outrageous "anti-Semite" smear to try to shut down legitimate criticism of atrocities committed by the Israeli state.

It doesn't matter how legitimate or even handed the criticism of Israeli policy, time and again these people - who know no better debating tactics than slinging ugly smears in order to try to silence dissent - turn up to spew their ugly partisan bile.

The really awful thing is that this disgusting bad faith debating tactic is very effective. Fear of being hit with this kind of toxic smear is enough to scare off a lot of people from expressing their opinions on the Israel-Palestine situation, because nobody ever likes to be called a disgusting bigot on a public forum (even if the accusation is completely unfounded).

This tactic of using "anti-Semite" smears to scare moderate people away from contributing to the Israel-Palestine debate is very effective in polarising the debate so that in many cases the vast majority of people left contributing are people expressing extremely partisan views in favour of one side or another, which is absolutely no recipe for a mediated settlement to be achieved.

I'm not sure if keeping the debate as polarised as possible in order to diminish the chances of a fair negotiated settlement is the objective of people who use these "anti-Semite" smears. I guess probably not, most of them probably just see it as a convenient way of shutting down legitimate criticism that they don't want to hear. However, whatever the intention of this kind of appalling smear tactic, it's clear that by hounding anyone who expresses anything other than undiluted praise for Israel, extreme polarisation of the debate is a logical consequence.




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Sanctions against low income workers for the "crime" of not earning enough


It's never difficult to find examples of the shocking contempt the Tory party have for the general public, and especially for the working poor.

A particularly clear example can be seen in the way they have built extremely harsh sanctions into their (ridiculously delayed, catastrophically mismanaged and massively wasteful) Universal Credit flagship policy in order to fine working people for the "crime" of not earning enough money.

Conditionalities

Universal Credit has been developed with a number of conditionalities on low-paid workers, especially for those in part-time work. If the DWP decide that the claimant is not earning enough through their job, they can be compelled to search for other jobs and attend interviews. Non-compliance with these rules is already being dealt with by the imposition of harsh economic sanctions.

Universal Credit claimants in low-paid jobs can be forced to skip work to attend job interviews or Jobcentre appointments at 48 hours notice. If they don't comply then they can be forced into destitution.

The vast majority of new jobs created during the Tories' so-called "recovery" are insecure low-paid part-time positions, which means that millions of workers in the kind of low-paid insecure Zero Hours contract jobs that the Tory party favour will be under threat of destitution.

The threat to jobs

One of the worst aspects of this humiliating nanny state policy of harassing low-paid workers is the way that it clearly endangers the job that they do have. If people are forced to take time off work to attend job interviews and into setting up online profiles "to draw attention to their availability", it's not beyond the realms of possibility that their boss might take offence at them searching for another job, especially if they're skipping shifts to do it.

It seems an awful lot like this policy of harassing people in low-paid jobs has the potential to cost low earners the jobs that they actually have!


Evidence-free policy

Another consideration is the fact that this policy of harassing low-paid workers with threats of destitution through economic sanctions is yet another example of vindictive evidence-free Tory policymaking. The stated objective of Tory benefits sanctions regimes is that slashing people's incomes (often for utterly trivial reasons) incentivises them to look for work. The problem is that there isn't actually any evidence to support the proposition that benefits sanctions lead to improved work outcomes.

In fact, a common sense approach to the effects of sanctions tells us that they're actually likely to lead to significantly worse job outcomes. If people are reduced to destitution (for the "crime" of being five minutes late for an appointment for example), then they're obviosly going to be less likely to be able to do things like buy smart clothes and maintain a smart appearance for job interviews, pay travel costs for getting to interviews, print CVs or afford to pay for their telephone and Internet connections to contact potential employers.

Common sense tells us that reducing people to absolute destitution is likely to lead to significantly worse job outcomes, but once again evidence-free Tory ideology trumps common sense.

Sanctioning low-paid workers is even more nonsensical. Not only do the sanctions make the task of looking for another - more highly paid - job harder, it also makes them less likely to be able to hang onto the job they already have. Employers are unlikely to look kindly upon their employees turning up in unwashed clothes and lacking in concentration because they've been cutting back on food to make ends meet. Neither are they likely to have much sympathy for "I can't come in to work tomorrow because I can't afford the bus fare".

Tory ideology

The nanny state harassment policy for low earners stinks of the age-old Tory philosophy that the way to incentivise the poor to work harder is to make them poorer (wage repression, slashed in-work benefits, sanctions), while the way to incentivise the rich to work harder is to make them richer (pay rises, tax cuts, massive bonuses).

Allowing employers to pay poverty wages, and manufacturing an "economic recovery" built on a foundation of insecure low-paid part-time jobs, then enforcing an economic sanctions regime against people who are unfortunate enough to end up in such jobs is an absolute masterclass in vindictive Tory class war politics.

The Tories are always on the side of the bosses. This is true to such an extent that rather than taking steps to encourage employers to offer stable well-paid full-time jobs, they've taken to economically sanctioning low earners for the "crime" of having the kind of crap jobs that it is Tory policy to promote in order to create the illusion of an economic recovery!

Conclusion


This Tory policy of harassing low-paid workers is a perfect illustration of their utter contempt for the working poor. The fact that they impose policies like this whilst trying to dress themselves up as "the workers' party" and harping on endlessly about how they're supposedly "making work pay" just goes to prove how much contempt they have for the general public too. They clearly believe that we're all gullible enough to mindlessly accept their propaganda that they care about working people, when their actual policies demonstrate beyond doubt that they don't.


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