Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Layer 242 . . . More Stocktaking - January 09, Part One

How much has changed since the start of 2009?

In January 2009 Oxzen said

[Obama and his team can] “start to redress the unbelievable inequalities that exist through the USA, through a modern-day New Deal - building decent housing for the poor, and decent schools for the nation’s children. They can also put funds into proper health care for those who need it, and decent hospitals and clinics for every section of the population.

No wonder the poorest sections of society feel a sense of excitement and anticipation. This can really happen. As Obama bravely said - what’s wrong with spreading the wealth around a little?” [Oxzen – Layer 109]

Simon Jenkins said -

If there is one sentiment that should have died in 2008 it is faith in the collective intelligence of Whitehall. The economic forecasters league table for 2008 was published last week and, of the 42 pundits listed, no public authority was in the top half. The Treasury came in at 37th and the IMF was bottom.

This is the mob that brought us City deregulation and the house-price bubble. Yet I doubt if a single one has been upbraided, let alone sacked. The entire Bank of England monetary policy committee is still in office - except for the only one who called the recession correctly, David Blanchflower, who has mysteriously been stood down.

Banking is a profession that excels at making money for itself. For 10 years it mesmerised Blair and Brown, who showered it with tax loopholes, offshore profits, PFI contracts and vacuous government consultancies. Ministers and bankers enjoyed a revolving Whitehall door.

Frustrated ministers are still expecting the City to rescue the economy in 2009, continuing to trust it with the public's money to an extent that they will not trust the public. They seem unaware that bankers do not rescue economies. They rescue banks.

Radio 4 news had a lead item on a new survey which highlights the fact that the English white working class feels abandoned, resentful and betrayed. As well they might. They also complain about unfairness, lack of decent housing, and unequal resource allocation . . .

Oxzen said,

We could have [changed] these things years ago if this government had done its job properly and not squandered huge landslide victories and a massive mandate for change.

Franklin Roosevelt spoke about the Depression being caused by selfish and callous wrongdoing by financiers and bankers. How come our Prime Minister can’t bring himself to use similar language?

Hazel Blears was still in office and talking her usual shit.

Christine (Nessa) Gilbert was talking about getting rid of boring teachers – having been one of the main New Labour players in a decade of forcing teachers to work in ways that were the opposite of interesting, relevant or inspiring.

Oxzen said

According to last night’s edition (of Panorama) there are 750,000 Primary school children who regularly disrupt their class. Some of them have deep-seated social and emotional problems, whilst some of them are clearly reacting against teachers who fail to connect and stimulate, and a curriculum that’s for the most part unengaging and downright boring, meaningless and uncreative.

Alan Gibbons said in a letter to the Guardian -
It is not because dull people become teachers. Most student teachers start out enthusiastic. The reason far more lessons are routine than when I trained as a teacher is that now there is in place a rigid tracking and testing regime that remorselessly marginalises creativity and fun. The whole Sats apparatus has been grotesquely wasteful and demotivating. Children are most engaged when lessons are challenging and fun. Being constantly drilled for tests causes the very disenchantment Gilbert highlights.

The Guardian reported on £100,000 salaries failing to attract candidates for headship.


The media was full of reports of Israel's horrendous and murderous attack on Gaza. Oxzen wrote -

There was a major demonstration in London this weekend against what’s taking place in Gaza. We learn from the media that demonstrators were treated roughly, and possibly very harshly indeed, by the police. Thank goodness there are still people, young and old, who are willing to speak out and put themselves on the line to show their anger at what’s happening in Gaza.

What happened to them is absolutely nothing compared with what’s happening in Gaza itself:

“Incessant bombardment, no electricity, no water, and the hospitals are overflowing - how Gaza was torn apart”, says the Guardian headline.


Michael Meacher called for the government to nationalise the banks -
The banks are making monkeys out of the government. After hoovering up all this Treasury largesse to prop up their balance sheets, the banks are still - despite the crash they have now visited on the real economy - determined to save themselves rather than the customers they exist to serve.

The Guardian reported -

The leaders of France and Germany [have] issued a stark warning to Washington and the global financial community that Europe would lead the way in restructuring the global financial system and ushering in a more "moral" form of capitalism.

Both leaders stressed the need for Europe to play a significant role at the summit of G20 nations in London in April, when the group of leading and emerging countries will hammer out ways of reinforcing the architecture of global regulation.

Sarkozy gave a characteristically frank verdict on the role of the US in future negotiations. "Let's be clear: in the 21st century it is no longer a single nation who can say what we must do, what we must think," he said, adding that Britain's place in the economic discussions was with her European allies "and not just with the US".

Speaking at a conference in Paris on the future of capitalism, the leaders of the EU's powerhouse member states agreed on the need to make long-term changes to the old financial order, which Sarkozy said had been "perverted" by an "amoral" form of unbridled finance capitalism. Hailing the "return of the state", the right-wing market liberal said he hoped a more responsible model of global finance would emerge from the wreckage of the current crisis.

The Associated Press [said] that Sarkozy and Merkel are calling for a new form of capitalism.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the system "cannot continue as it is" and called for better-regulated financial markets.

Tony Blair called for a new financial order based on "values other than the maximum short-term profit."

Oxzen said -

[This] is interesting, since I don’t remember the bastard B-Liar saying any such thing when he was running the government. Talk about the wisdom of hindsight. Will Hutton said all of this in 1995, in The State We’re In, but NuLabour paid it not the least bit of attention.


Oxzen wrote -

The Guardian had a wonderful centre-pages photograph yesterday showing an aerial view of the Olympic site in the vicinity of the main stadium - the whole place looking like a hive of activity. To the right of the photo you can see the high-level footpath/cyclepath that’s still open, and from which you can see clearly into the site. You can access this footpath from the River Lea, and I strongly recommend a visit to see the work in progress, regardless of what anyone may think about the Olympic movement and its ludicrous costs - this is a hugely important moment in the history of the East End.


The United Nations voted for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza (with only the USA abstaining), but the assault on the Palestinians continues, with no reduction in the shelling and bombing whatsoever. It’s Israel against the world, with only the USA abstaining.

15,000 people gathered in Hyde Park to protest against the Israeli bullying and butchery and shelling of schools. Demonstrators marched on the Israeli embassy, many of them carrying shoes for the purpose of throwing thereof. That Iraqi guy has really started something.

Naomi Klein is urging the rest of the world to treat Israel like the apartheid state it has become, and impose cultural isolation and economic sanctions.


Social mobility and inequality seemed to be the buzz words.  Lots of talk about why very bright working class kids with decent exam results who still fail to get into the best jobs or enter the professions.

Liam Byrne MP [was] popping up everywhere, from Radio 4 to Newsnight, talking about the need to invest lots more in Nursery and Early Years education, in apprenticeships, and in measures  that will give the children of working class families better access to the professions.

Oxzen said,

“He’s also taking about ensuring that more jobs are created that have skills training attached. All of which is very welcome, but should have been tackled by NuLabour a decade ago.”

Polly Toynbee wrote about  the social mobility White Paper, and said,

Here comes startling news. The social mobility white paper published today will propose legislation of extraordinary radicalism - simple, fundamental and profound. It should have been Labour's guiding light for the last 11 years - but better late than never.

The government will create a new over-arching law creating a duty on the whole public sector to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. This single legal duty will stand as the main frame from which all other equality legislation flows. Race, gender and disability injustices are all subsets of the one great inequality - class. It trumps them all. The gap between rich and poor in Britain is greater than in almost all rich nations, putting the UK with the United States among the most unequal.

This new duty to narrow the gap would permeate every aspect of government policy. Its possible ramifications are mind-bogglingly immense - as astonishing as Tony Blair's promise to abolish child poverty: it will make that pledge more achievable by 2020.  [Oxzen Layer 113]

A Guardian editorial said -
Mr Obama intends to flood the world with diplomats rather than pilotless drones. But here too he will have to be selective. The search for peace in Palestine must come higher up his agenda. After what has happened in Gaza in the past fortnight, saying that Israel has the right to defend itself is not enough. The US has to reset the parameters within which the next Israeli prime minister, probably a Likud one, operates. Washington can do this. It provides the smart bombs, the X-band radar and the spare parts of the F-16s that Israel uses. Israel should be told: if you use our weapons, you play by our rules.

So that was the first part of January 2009. And how much has changed?

Reconstruction hasn't even begun in Gaza. Israel won't allow in any building materials, and apparently neither will Egypt. I read somewhere that Egypt is even considering building its own wall to prevent access to Gaza. Clearly the Egyptian leadership has no more liking for Hamas than the Israelis, and therefore does nothing to assist with humanitarian aid for families and children.

The has been no proper 'New Deal' in the USA. As Joseph Stiglitz said this week, there should have been massive projects to improve public housing, schools, infrastructure and technology, and this hasn't happened. Neither has a national health service been set up. All that the health care proposals would do is allow more of the less well-off some access to affordable health insurance.

Bankers have continued to rescue banks, rather than the economy or citizens. The bastards have even continued giving themselves massive bonuses, even though they'd have no banks to work in had it not been for public bailouts using OUR money. As for proper nationalisation – forget it.

The English white working class still feels abandoned, resentful and betrayed, still lacks decent housing, and is even more likely to vote BNP as even more jobs disappear.

Christine Gilbert is still running Ofsted, and schools are still subject to a terror regime of management by targets and league tables, and payment by results. Children go on being excluded because they continue to crack up and not cope with schools where there is so much pressure, and so little joy or caring.

We're still waiting for any signs of a 'moral capitalism' appearing.

Obama appears to have made no impression on the Israelis. The theft of land in the Palestinian territories continues, more settlements have been built, the wall stays up, poverty and destitution in Palestine get worse.

And here's Jim with the weather, as Bill Hicks would have said.

More tomorrow.

Further to Oxzen's comments yesterday about whether millions of people were actually worse of at the end of the decade than they were at the beginning, both in absolute and in relative terms, I saw this today on the counter of my newsagent, on the front page of the Daily Mail -

A generation in denial: Millions face retirement poverty because they've remortgaged their homes and saved too little

Millions of people approaching retirement are being hit by a crippling combination of large mortgages and no savings.
Those aged between 55 and 64, known as 'pre-retirees', have been unrealistic about their pensions and are living in a state of denial about their finances.
Parents are remortgaging their home to give money to their children to help them on to the property ladder. Others use their house as a 'cash machine', taking out money to put into a business, fund a better lifestyle or pay off debt.

In another blow to those approaching 65, research reveals that even pensioners who have saved have been hit by a 70 per cent collapse in their retirement income in the past ten years.

Two research reports make a mockery of the myth that older people are debt-free and enjoying themselves with extra cash to spend on holidays, eating out and other treats.

The Aviva research found there is 'a growing disparity' between the haves and have-nots, with some pre-retirees enjoying the good life - although they are in a minority.

Clive Bolton, a director at Aviva Life, said the research painted a 'worrying' picture of people approaching retirement who cannot afford to stop working.

Record numbers of elderly people are working, with this number set to climb. At present, 1.4million people over state pension age - 60 for women and 65 for men - have jobs.

Last year, a record number of pensioners were plunged into insolvency, with the number of 'penniless pensioners' rising faster than any other age group - up 44 per cent.

In 2008, 4,816 pensioners were declared insolvent. Last year, the number ballooned to 6,952, and it is expected to reach 8,000 this year.



Today thousands of people are out on the streets in Greece, and there's talk of revolution. People are determined to resist government plans to cut wages and jobs at a time when the people can plainly see the profits of the bailed out banks going stratospheric again. Workers are saying that they won't stand back like the people of Ireland did whilst the government carried out the usual shock-doctrine catastrophe-capitalism "solutions".

Greece is an interesting country. It has a history of intervention by outside forces subverting and preventing a socialist movement taking power.

After liberation, Greece experienced a bitter civil war between communist and anticommunist forces, which led to economic devastation and severe social tensions between rightists and largely communist leftists for the next 30 years. The next 20 years were characterized by marginalisation of the left in the political and social spheres but also by rapid economic growth, propelled in part by the Marshall Plan.

King Constantine's dismissal of George Papandreou's centrist government in July 1965 prompted a prolonged period of political turbulence which culminated in a coup d'état on 21 April 1967 by the United States-backed Regime of the Colonels. The brutal suppression of the Athens Polytechnic uprising on 17 November 1973 sent shockwaves through the regime, and a counter-coup established Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis as dictator. - Wikipedia

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