The Left Doth Protest At The Wrong People Too Much

I think the soon-to-be-law welfare caps and cuts that will affect millions of families and hurt the most vulnerable in our society, especially disabled people, is mind-bogglingly awful legislation. I also think blocking off one of the busiest areas in London as a protest against this bill is, like most of UKUncut’s actions, really fucking stupid.

Given that recent polls have shown a bump in support for the Tories, movements opposed to the Tory-led government’s aims should be attempting to win over public support and informing people of the dire consequences of this Government’s policies. Instead, they choose to have wheelchair bound people chain themselves across the breadth of Oxford Circus, creating a massive backlog of traffic stretching all the way up Regent Street. I don’t need to point out that the people stuck in that traffic aren’t politicians, or fat cats, or bankers, but ordinary citizens, who upon being inconvenienced by a protest group, are not likely to be in a mood to be sympathetic to the protesters’ aims.

And aside from the PR perspective, what is this protest going to achieve? How is blocking a road putting any sort of pressure on politicians? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked similar questions to well-meaning people who are for doing the right thing, but going the wrong way about it.

The Real Benefits Scam

With the House of Lords voting to approve the coalition government’s truly awful welfare reform package which will plunge thousands of families below the poverty line, and Ed Miliband’s Labour Party already stating that they’ll vote for amendments to the bill, and won’t actually oppose it, Britain took a considerable turn for the worse today. And the worst of it is it’s a bill based on out-and-out lies and pure, vicious ideology.

Let’s start with the £26,000 cap on household benefits, and how the Government arrived at that figure. Iain Duncan Smith claims that this is the average household income in Britain, but this is extremely misleading, as the Guardian points out (the article as a whole is an informative Q&A piece on the consequences of welfare reform):

Critics say it is excessively draconian. The Children’s Society says the cap confusingly compares non-working household income with average household earnings. Were it to align the former (more fairly) with average household working income – which includes tax credits, and a range of benefits – the cap would be set at £31,500. This would mean thousands of poorer households would not be pitched into poverty by the cap.

What the Conservatives have successfully bludgeoned out of people’s minds is that housing benefit is not actually income. It does not in fact go into the pockets of the people receiving it, but goes to pay the rent their private landlord is charging.  And as housing benefit makes up the bulk of the average household on welfare’s payments, the right wing’s justification for this horror of a bill, namely that people on welfare at the moment can earn more than people who work, is shown for the pack of lies it is. If you want to blame anyone for ‘excessive welfare spending’, as our dear Prime Minister David Cameron puts it, blame the landlords who jack up the rent to ridiculous levels. After the banking industry, the housing industry is probably the next most in need of regulation. But of course, the Government’s attitude to this is: if the rent is too damn high, move!

Yesterday, the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the reforms were not designed to “punish” families.

He told Sky News: “I simply make the point to them that the purpose of this is not to punish people but it is to give fairness to people who are paying tax, who are commuting large distances because they can only afford to live in the houses that they have chosen.”

It’s particularly galling that this dismissive ‘just move to a cheaper area’ message is coming from a group of people to whom moving house involves using taxpayers’ money to finance the mortgage and furnishing of a second home in London. Unfortunately, poor people don’t have the option to put the costs of upping sticks on expenses. And, of course, there’s the fact that moving house would have a serious impact on children in myriad ways; being uprooted from a place they call home, having to change school and start all over at a new one with no friends, living in reduced circumstances (but hey, you and your siblings, who may be of the opposite sex, being packed together in one bedroom is no big deal according to Duncan Smith, who also lies about the charity Shelter defining this as homelessness on its website; it doesn’t). And there’s the problem of finding another house. As anyone with any actual experience of the real world will know, a great many landlords refuse to accept people on welfare as tenants. Finding a house that suits your family’s needs is not easy either. Hard as it may for the green-eyed monsters of the Daily Mail to believe, the reason those large families they pin on their front page in their idea of public shaming live in large houses is – this will come as a shock, I know – large families need more space.

A one-size-fits-all plan is a supremely cack-handed approach at the best of times, but when it impacts actual human beings, the results are even more horrendous. A single parent family with, say, 3 kids in London will have very different needs to a two-parent family with one child in Liverpool. To force the same cap on everyone receiving benefits, regardless of individual circumstances, is not only incredibly stupid, it’s unfair and yes, contrary to what Iain Duncan Smith says, punishes people. Because that’s what this is all about, really. The Tory approach to winning elections is and always has been: further improve the lives of their traditional voting bloc, the rich; then get a big slice of the middle-class to vote for them not by making their lives better, but by fanning the flames of resentment towards those on welfare and making the poor’s lives shittier, to make the middle feel better about themselves. It’s the same dynamic you see in the battle over public sector pensions; instead of encouraging the private sector to offer their employees better deals, the Tories instead dishonestly bash public sector employees and work to strip them of the pension rights they have earned by accepting reduced salaries during their working lives. It’s disgusting, it’s despicable, and tragically, it works.

And here’s the most depressing thing about this whole sorry debate:

All three parties are behind the benefits cap in principle – but there are disagreements over the details.

And then there’s this, which makes you wonder what the fuck the point of even having an opposition party is:

Labour reacted cautiously, suggesting that it would try to find a compromise. “Labour won’t be voting against the benefits cap, but we will be seeking to amend the Bill.”

That’s the sort of bold, principled leadership we’ve come to expect from Ed Miliband’s Labour!

In Britain, people on welfare are now everybody’s whipping boys – not just the right wing’s. And this a prime example of why I laugh my head off at the idiotic liberals in America who whine when a bill that is inherently progressive whatever happens to it gets watered down. Here, the only thing that gets watered down by our allegedly ‘left wing’ (ha!) parties is right-wing political and economic theory.



I’m Just A Teenage Douchebag, Baby

The Oxford University application process goes like this: you fill in an application form, attach a sample of your work relevant to the subject you’ve applied for along with a teacher’s reference. If you’re in luck, they invite you for an interview and entrance examination which takes place over a couple of days, while you stay as a temporary guest in the halls of residence at the Oxford college you chose, or were assigned to. You then get either a rejection or acceptance letter in the post some weeks later.


Miss Elly Nowell, pictured, had other ideas. She decided that she would turn her nose up at Oxford immediately after the interview. You see, she’s just too grand for one of the best universities in the world, as her the rejection letter she wrote to Oxford indicates.



Ms Nowell’s letter began: “I have now considered your establishment as a place to read Law (Jurisprudence).

“I very much regret to inform you that I will be withdrawing my application.

“I realise you may be disappointed by this decision, but you were in competition with many fantastic universities and following your interview I am afraid you do not quite meet the standard of the universities I will be considering.”

Should the university wish to “reapply”, her letter continued, “while you may believe your decision to hold interviews in grand formal settings is inspiring, it allows public school applicants to flourish… and intimidates state school applicants, distorting the academic potential of both”.

Someone should study how it is teenagers manage to cultivate and refine smugness, arrogance and condescension to the highest level, because it’s a talent that really does peak in this age group and afterwards declines at varying speeds depending on the kind of person you are.

But yes, Elly, you’re right. It’s appalling that Oxford chooses to interview students in its college buildings which have existed for centuries, are some of the most glorious architecture to be found in Britain, and are steeped in history and the presence of the great and good who passed through its doors. Down with this sort of thing, I say! Bring in the bulldozers, and wipe out centuries of history, beauty and achievement so that snotty teenagers may avoid being exposed to those things…sorry, avoid being ‘intimidated’, I mean.

She said: “It was while I was at interview that I finally noticed that subjecting myself to the judgement of an institution which I fundamentally disagreed with was bizarre.

I spent my entire time there laughing at how seriously everything was being taken.

It’s at this point that I wish I could reach through the screen and smack this horrible, bratty little bitch silly.

There’s an unfortunate tendency amongst the British left to treat the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and their graduates with contempt because a majority of attendees are wealthy ex-public schoolkids. Never mind that these universities are the best in Britain, are the only British universities to feature on the world’s top universities list, that they offer an exemplary standard of education, have resources like the extraordinary Bodleian Library (Oxford) or the Botanical Gardens (Cambridge). No, instead the attitude is: they’re elite, therefore they suck.British left-wingers, in other words, behave ironically exactly as US right-wingers do towards the Ivy League.

Instead of constantly knocking them and making fun of ordinary kids who want to go to Oxbridge, we ought to be applauding these dreams and fighting to make it easier for state school and poor kids to achieve them. And it’s precisely because there are so many students who would dearly love or have loved to have the opportunity to go to these educational utopias that Elly Nowell’s little stunt makes me so angry. She was given an opportunity…and she spat on it, before declaring it never meant anything to her anyway.

Ms Nowell admitted that her email was not meant to be taken 100% seriously.

She said: “Oxbridge is a fairly ridiculous and prominent elitist institution, yet unlike the monarchy or investment bankers it is rarely mocked.

“Even comedians tend to avoid Oxbridge as a subject.

“Being a successful student should depend on the student, not on whether or not a couple of academics have deemed you to shine in a twenty-minute interview.”

So basically: she messed Oxford and busy academics’ time around for a cheap laugh. Seriously, fuck you.

As I’ve pointed out above, this is absolute bollocks. Oxbridge gets mocked all the time, both in good-natured Stephen Fry’s dig at Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder: “Oxford’s a complete dump”, anyone?) and mean-spirited ways. But yeah, it’s elitist. Fuck yeah, it’s elitist! Because elitism isn’t necessarily a bad thing! What people forget is that while the university’s make-up is skewed in favour of those from privileged backgrounds, it doesn’t let people in for being rich. It lets people in for being really bloody smart.

And, Elly dear: if you carry that “a twenty-minute interview shouldn’t decide your fate” attitude into the job market…in your case it won’t be the Tories’ fault that you can’t get a job.






There’s Nothing Wrong With Cenk Uygur…

…that a straitjacket and a lot of alone time in a padded cell wouldn’t help.

Basically, if you thought Cenk jumped the shark with that hilarious “RAWR! FEEL THE WHINY WRATH OF ME, OBAMA!” rant at the Huffington Post, our boy is here to tell you: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

So yeah. For defending Obama, putting his actions as President in a rational context that actually, you know, makes a lot of sense, Andrew Sullivan is more dangerous than, to name just a few: the actual 9/11 plotter currently rotting in an American jail cell; the 20 to 50 serial killers that are on the loose at any given time; the Republican candidates who would start World War 3 in Iran, Dick Cheney, Nancy Grace. and the people who take this deranged, uber-retarded mush-mouthed clown seriously. Whoops – that last one’s dangerously stupid, not dangerous. My bad.

Oh, by the way, Cenk’s foaming-at-the-mouth response to Sully’s Newsweek article puts him in the company of Fox News and Andrew Breitbart. Now, I’m not saying that Mr Uygur has a predilection for engaging in sexual relations with a particular variety of rodent, but those rats sure don’t fuck themselves, ya know?

[cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]

Quote Of The Day

Andrew Sullivan, on Hardball, in a great follow-up to his must-read Newsweek piece robustly defending President Obama and extolling his successes:

SULLIVAN: [Liberals] invested into Obama a whole bunch of fantasies, that he was some kind of far-left radical who is going to transform the world. He never was…And there`s a sort of purism on the left that if you`re not that, therefore, we must stay home. If I hear another person in their 50s with a pony tail tell me they are not going to vote this year because they couldn`t get a public option, I will scream.

Watch the whole thing:


Not Sure How Much More Of A Beating Irony Can Take, Folks

Posted without comment.

The founder of a movement to increase racial diversity within the Republican Party told a crowd of tea party supporters on Sunday that they weren’t racists because “the Democratic Party is the party of the KKK.

Speaking at the first ever South Carolina Tea Party Convention, Raging Elephants leader Apostle Claver explained that Republicans would need to attract black and Latino voters if they intended to win elections in the future.

“Look around,” Claver told the mostly-white crowd. “Y’all hear me? Turn around and take a look. Where’s our black brothers and sisters? Where’s our Hispanic and Latino brothers and sisters? Our Asian brothers and sisters?”

I will however, note that the Onion’s continuing sustainability is the greatest unsung success story of our time.

No, The Obama Team Did NOT Claim They Would Raise $1 Billion

Hackery in a nutshell:

1) Make a false and exaggerated claim as to the amount the Obama campaign expects to raise this election season.

2) When a very healthy quarterly fundraising figure is announced, use the exaggerated claim to try to cast what is actually very good news for President Obama as very bad news for President Obama.

Noah Ashman of, hang your head in shame.

Here’s his post claiming Obama’s campaign raising $68 million last quarter sucks because it means they’re way off target to reach their supposed target of $1 billion.

On Wednesday night, the president attended several fundraising events in Chicago, but it will be an uphill battle to get to the much ballyhooed “billion dollar” campaign that the Obama White House had claimed they would mount in 2012. In 2008, then-Sen. Obama raised $745 billion for his election effort.

At this rate, Obama’s reelection team would need to raise nearly $200 million per quarter to get to $1 billion by November. When asked about the lackluster total, Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina said that “the billion-dollar number is completely untrue.”

Wondewhat I was reading that led me to believe that was the Obama teams goal? Once again, the White House reaches for the “who should you believe; me or your lyin’ eyes” argument. It must sting when you’re underperforming George W. Bush’s fundraising pace at this point in his presidency – in the fourth quarter of 2003, Bush had raised $47.5 million for his reelection effort.

If, unlike Rothman, you actually read any of the links he’s provided in his post, it would be immediately apparent that nowhere does Obama or a member of the Obama team claim that they’re aiming for a target of $1 billion dollars. The only mentions of this mythical figures are: a completely sourceless claim that ‘advisers are hoping’ to raise it, and this:

[On Obama raising $1 billion] It’s definitely within reach, as he raised three quarters of a billion last time,’ said Michael Malbin, executive director of the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.

Non-partisan institutions apparently speak for Obama’s campaign. Now we know why Gingrich and co want to do away with the CBO.

The truth is, as this ABC report states, the Obama campaign never came up with this $1 billion figure, it’s purely an invention of the media and has absolutely no basis in fact. So, yes, Mr Rothman, it appears your eyes are deceiving you. Or you’re too lazy to read beyond a headline. Or you’re a deliberately dishonest hack.

Also: George Bush raising more in the 4th quarter of 2003 can’t have had anything to do with the fact the economy hadn’t crashed at that point, leaving people with greatly reduced disposable income, if any income at all. Nah.


The Iron Lady

Finally went to see The Iron Lady yesterday. From a movie standpoint, I thought it was excellent; as a biopic, it was good, but distinctly lacking in vital areas.

It’s impossible to comment on this film without addressing the controversy surrounding it – namely, that should it have been made while Margaret Thatcher was still alive, and should it have portrayed her dementia? Having seen it, I must say the treatment of Thatcher’s senility has been tastefully done, and served to humanise her in a way that little else could have done. A woman known as the ‘Iron Lady’ and for being the most divisive political figure in modern British history is not likely to arouse much sympathy, but this film has managed to do just that. As to whether it should have been made while she’s alive…books that examine public figures far more intimately than any movie have been published during their subjects’ lifetimes for decades now, so it’s hard to find a convincing argument why The Iron Lady should not have been made.

Now, to the film itself. I must add another round of plaudits to the universal acclaim given to Meryl Streep for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. To call this mere impersonation is an insult to an extraordinarily talented actress and what she has achieved here. She doesn’t mimic Thatcher to a high standard, she is Thatcher. It is one of the most multi-dimensional performances I’ve ever seen on screen; as the film revolves around flashbacks, we see the contrast between the frail, lonely, dementia-stricken widow of recent years and the ferociously strong, sharply intelligent politician who blazed a trail to Downing Street for future British women to follow, and both Thatchers are brought vividly to life by Streep. I will confess, some of the scenes between the elderly Maggie and her husband Denis (another wonderful turn by the wonderful Jim Broadbent), who having been dead for several years exists only as a figment of her imagination, brought a tear to my eye. The supporting cast is also strong, if wasted; Richard E Grant as Michael Heseltine is barely more than a cameo.

A lot has been said about The Iron Lady’s refusal to go into detail about Thatcher’s actual policies or offer a critique of the woman and her government either way. While on the whole I think this a wise move, it does tend to make this more of a generic  ‘woman takes on the world’ story than a true biopic. When the film focuses on Thatcher’s growing and virulent unpopularity with the public, we’re shown scenes of protests, strikes and riots being crushed by the police, usually followed by Thatcher making a tough-as-nails, never-back-down speech. The effect of this, whether intentional or not, is to make Thatcher look like an exemplar of reasonableness and tough love; a mother telling the populace to eat their vegetables, if you will, because the policies causing the uprisings are never mentioned. But the structure of the movie itself offers a possible explanation for the apolitical to rose-coloured view of key moments in Maggie’s premiership – what we are seeing is clearly Thatcher’s own memories, triggered by events/ things in the present. It could be that scriptwriter Abi Morgan deliberately invoked the unreliable narrator device here.

On a related note, the Iron Lady’s main weakness is that, unless you are a politico or know a lot about Thatcher herself, certain scenes won’t make sense. As I’ve mentioned above, her policies are unexplained; the words ‘trade unions’ and ‘mines’ each get said about once during the protest montages and that’s it. Another example is the opening scene where an elderly Maggie evades her keepers to purchase a pint of milk at her local shop. It’s clearly a reference to her infamous decision to cut free school milk while Education Secretary, leading to the popular refrain of “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher”, but how many people outside Britain or only familiar with Prime Minister Thatcher will be aware of the reference? Not many, I’d wager. And there’s the habit the film has of including key political figures without bothering to explain who they are or what position they hold. Thatcher’s Chancellor and the man who would start the avalanche leading to her downfall, Geoffrey Howe, is mentioned by first name only for the entire film and while he’s generally heard to be talking of things concerning money, it’s never explained that he is the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Overall, it’s definitely worth seeing on its merits as a drama. Just don’t go in expecting the definitive life story of a controversial, complex leader.




The Coalition’s £500 Million Blush-Sparer

This is unbelievable.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan’s opposition to the proposed high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London was so strong she pledged to resign if the plans were approved. Her main reason for opposing it was the railway line would be an unsightly blemish on the beautiful countryside in her Buckinghamshire constituency. So, to avoid a Cabinet minister’s resignation creating an unsightly blemish on David Cameron, the Government will have a tunnel built in Gillan’s constituency to the tune of £500 million (The Daily Mail’s headline is incorrect – it is the Welsh Secretary, not the Transport Secretary, they are desperate to keep in the Cabinet):

Plans for a railway tunnel costing up to £500million to spare David Cameron an embarrassing Cabinet resignation are expected to be unveiled this week.

Sources say Transport Secretary Justine Greening is likely to confirm the 1.5-mile project when she gives the go-ahead for the London-to-Birmingham high-speed rail line. The proposed new tunnel, in the Buckinghamshire constituency of Cheryl Gillan, comes after the Welsh Secretary threatened to quit at the prospect of some of the loveliest countryside in England being scarred by new trains racing by at 250mph.

But if, as expected, Ms Greening approves the new tunnel under the Chilterns, Whitehall sources say they hope it will be enough to persuade Amersham and Chesham MP Ms Gillan to withdraw her threat. However, the move would come at a heavy price – the planned extra tunnel works out at about £190,000 a yard, or nearly £5,300 per inch.

While the Tories trumpet austerity, make devastating cuts that will harm families and communities all over Britain and are already strangling our fragile economy to the point of sending it back into recession, they will blow £500 million on a project that serves no purpose other than to save a politician’s career and avoid yet more embarrassment for this already ridiculous Government.

As always, austerity is for the little guy, while the big shots carry on as normal.





We All Live In A Post Racial Era, A Post Racial Era, A Post Racial Era…

Thank God President Obama’s election ended all the issues America had with race…wait, WHAT?

Christopher Braxton told ABC News affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta that he couldn’t believe the assignment his 8-year-old son brought home from of Beaver Ridge Elementary school in Norcross.d graders in in Gwinnett County, Ga., were given math homework Wednesday that asked questions about slavery and beatings.

“It kind of blew me away,” Braxton said. “Do you see what I see? Do you really see what I see? He’s not answering this question.”

The question read, “Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”


Whoever the hell thought that this was a good idea shouldn’t be within a 100 miles of a school.