Thatcher: Neither A Lioniser Nor A Ghoulish Hater Be

 

Since the news of Baroness Thatcher’s death broke, I’ve been bouncing back and forth on Twitter trying to push back against two completely opposing attitudes – the first, and on the surface most obnoxious being the gleeful cries of ‘Ding dong!”while apparently opening magnums of champagne in spontaneous street parties while dancing to the Clash. People have plenty of reason to despise her, but such macabre delight in the death of a fellow human being reflects badly not on Margaret Thatcher, but her haters. I deliberately put a photo of the young Margaret, because as always with polarising politicians, we forget they didn’t always exist in the form in which we knew them while they were in power. We forget they’re as human as we are, and so we feel free to spew the kind of hate usually reserved for mass-murderers.

On the other hand, we have the many, many conservatives -on both sides of the pond – hailing her as the greatest PM since Churchill and possibly the greatest peacetime PM full stop. Communism’s greatest foe, scourge of the Argies, a champion for freedom and liberty, Britain’s Iron Lady and Saviour, etc, etc, etc.

Bollocks.

A particularly egregious case of this is – surprise! – Andrew Sullivan. It baffles me how a gay man can admire a woman who passed the singularly horrendous Section 28, which banned local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’ in general and especially not in schools. The message to gay people was clear: your country is ashamed of you, and is going to pretend you don’t exist. This nasty, discriminatory, humiliating piece of legislation designed to keep gay people as second class citizens exposes a rather large chink in his idol’s armour, yet Sullivan (whose sense of irony seems to have been surgically removed) titles his piece “Thatcher, Liberator”. Life in Britain pre-Thatcher, he writes, was insane. She restored much needed sanity. The cruel unionists were slowly killing their members  by forcing them to work in the mines.  Never mind that for these miners this was the only way to put food on the table for them and their families,  St Maggie nobly put an end to such suffering by putting them out of work to suffer from desperate poverty instead. Sullivan was, of course, a student at Oxford for the entirety of Thatcher’s first term, followed by an almost immediate move to America to work for the New Republic. So as you can see Sullivan experienced virtually nothing of the real Thatcher’s Britain, which oddly enough seems to be a pattern among her fervent admirers.

Having been born just as her rule as PM was coming to an end, I know nothing of 80s Britain either. But I know my father, who held a degree in mathematics and was a member of a professional body as a qualified actuary, had to leave Britain for South Africa to find work. There were absolutely no jobs, or opportunities to be had. Though Thatcher’s spiritual successor Iain Duncan Smith would have called my ridiculously qualified dad a snob for refusing to stack shelves after all that hard academic work.I know my grandmother, a weaver from Dundee, saw factories close as British industries crumbled under the Iron Lady’s iron fist. She and her family moved, coincidentally, to South Africa too to escape Thatcher’s new ‘sane’ Britain.

Margaret Thatcher is an object lesson in irony, in that her policies produced results contrary to her very strident beliefs. She trumpeted the need for people to be self-reliant, and implemented policies that made millions dependent on the dole. She hailed the British spirit during the Falklands War, even as her intransigence during the strikes caused bitter divides between families, friends and communities. And what about Margaret Thatcher, champion of freedom? She deplored and fought against the oppression of Communism, and declared anti-apartheid political prisoner Nelson Mandela a terrorist. In the case of South Africa, first Thatcher not only did nothing to bring down apartheid, she actively opposed sanctions – with the laughable reasoning that it would ‘hurt the black majority most’. You can’t hurt people who’ve got less than nothing.  She was anything but a champion of liberty to an oppressed Chilean under Pinochet, Thatcher’s BFF. Or to a Cambodian living in fear of the Khmer Rouge. These aren’t small blots on an otherwise pristine copybook, but ugly, glaring contradictory holes in the carefully cultivated myth of the Iron Lady, foe of tyranny.

The final myth that needs to be torn down is Margaret Thatcher the Feminist. “I hate feminism. It is poison,” said Maggie herself. And say what you will about her, she was never disingenuous. This hasn’t stopped people from declaring her a ‘feminist icon’. Why? Because she’s a strong woman? History is littered with equally powerful women who broke the mould, but nevertheless remained the exception rather than the rule and did nothing to raise the status of their fellow women. And that is what Thatcher did. If Emmeline Pankhurst had only fought for and won the vote for herself, would we applaud her as a feminist icon? Thatcher is worthy of women’s admiration in many ways:  she was a trailblazer, pursued her own path, won the leadership of a party in a overwhelmingly male-dominated profession, and did all this while raising a family. But those achievements did not unlock doors and shatter glass ceilings for women as a whole.

Sanity Is Relative

 

There’s a claim I’ve heard many times from my American friends. “The UK Conservative Party is more liberal than our Democratic Party. Those guys are sane, sensible conservatives.” And every time I see a claim along these lines, I roll my eyes.

Yesterday, it was announced that Britain’s double-dip recession is intensifying:

The economy shrank by 0.7 per cent between April and June, the Office for National Statistics said. It is now smaller than when the Coalition came to power in 2010.

Since then, the Chancellor has pursued a strict policy of austerity – “Plan A” – in an attempt to bring down the deficit, leading to accusations that he has not done enough to stimulate growth.

Wednesday’s fall was worse than expected and means that Britain is firmly back in recession, with negative growth for the past nine months.

Amid a growing clamour from business groups for radical action, one senior Conservative figure admitted that the economy was likely to be in “intensive care” for another two years.

The Coalition’s  been in power for 2 years, and things are now even worse than they were when they were elected. As a clearly on-the-ball politician points out here, the world’s economy is recovering albeit slowly while austerity-driven Europe is struggling:

“The challenge is particularly great in our neighbourhood…since the financial crash the world economy has grown by 20%. But Europe’s has hardly grown at all.”

…said Prime Minister David Cameron. Cue frustrated headdesking.

The Tories’ solution to economic disaster caused by austerity has been the same as George W Bush’s to Iraq: stay the course, and unsurprisingly had the same results. The Tory party might not obsessively attempt to restrict women’s and gay people’s rights, but their economic policies are as destructive as their counterparts’ would be and threatening to bring about both a lost decade and a lost generation of young people who simply cannot find employment. Supporting gay marriage doesn’t make David Cameron a liberal (as some would hold) – it makes him a typical conservative: supporting one kind of family value, while harming families with his idea of ‘reforms’.

Let’s compare and contrast what our Coalition and US Democrats have done or attempted to do:

UK: Undertaken a policy of austerity which has led to crippling cuts in public spending with only one of the promised effects: it’s causing a lot of pain to British people, but making our economy worse.

US: Passed a stimulus bill which stemmed the economy haemorrhaging  jobs and turned it around to the point where America has now had 27 months of job growth and 11 consecutive quarters of economic growth. US conservatives would like America to follow our plan.

UK: Raised caps on tuition fees to a maximum of £9000, which resulted in virtually every single university choosing the maximum fee, as anyone not a Lib Dem could have predicted. Students now face leaving university burdened with a minimum of £36k debt.

US: Extended low student loan rates to make life easier for college students.

UK: Overhauled the welfare system, with the following impacts: disabled people are worse off, companies get free labour from young people on ‘work experience placements’ (workfare) which still does not help them find work, families lose out on child benefit, household benefits are capped at £26k because everyone’s situation is the same, cuts to housing benefit instead of regulating landlords, and proposing that all young people should be deprived of housing benefit altogether.

US: Reluctantly renewed all the Bush tax cuts so that the unemployed could continue to receive the unemployment benefits held hostage by Republicans. The Obama Administration also offered states waivers from the work requirements in Bill Clinton’s welfare reform.

UK: Passed NHS ‘reforms’ which will create massive amounts of bureaucracy, put patients’ interests lasts, open the door for privatisation of the NHS which will lead to more of this awfulness, and saddle doctors with responsibilities they don’t want at the expense of doing their actual job of treating people.

US: Passed healthcare reform which will expand healthcare coverage to millions and act as a foundation to eventually progress to a single-payer system. In other words, Britain and America are now moving in opposite directions on healthcare.

As for those American liberals who think the Democrats are too awful to vote for this November, I’d like to point our ‘Liberal’ Democrats aided and abetted all of the above horror stories – in some cases after having campaigned for the exact opposite – which are helping keep Britain stuck in the mire along with Europe while the rest of the world pulls itself out. And that your Democrats voted for all the good stuff on that list. You have no idea what betrayal of principle is, so grow up.

So America, you have a choice. You can vote Republican this November and go the same way we in Britain have. Or you can vote to keep climbing out of the well towards the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Narrow-Mindedness of Andrew Sullivan

Here’s what Andrew Sullivan believes: if you are gay and a public figure, as the late Sally Ride was, your country needs you to expose your private life to public viewing and be Jesus for LGBT people. Not to do so makes you a moral draft dodger, for you ‘had a chance to expand young [LGBT people’s] hope and esteem’ and didn’t (so all those gay suicides are on you, bucko).  To paraphrase Batman,  it’s not who you are underneath, but which gender you do that defines you. Oh yeah, and any paper that doesn’t make a dead gay person’s sexuality front and centre is forcing gay people back in the closet. Or something.

This isn’t the first time Sullivan’s worked himself into a lather about a public figure’s sexual orientation. When Elena Kagan was nominated for a SCOTUS seat and was up for confirmation, Sully decided, based on the following, that, that Kagan was secretly a lesbian:

[W]e have been told by many that she is gay … and no one will ask directly if this is true and no one in the administration will tell us definitively.

In a word, this is preposterous – a function of liberal cowardice and conservative discomfort. It should mean nothing either way. Since the issue of this tiny minority – and the right of the huge majority to determine its rights and equality – is a live issue for the court in the next generation, and since it would be bizarre to argue that a Justice’s sexual orientation will not in some way affect his or her judgment of the issue, it is only logical that this question should be clarified.

So, several anonymous sources saying Kagan is totally batting for the other team meant she has a question to answer. What the fuck is this, high school? And note Sully’s claim that a SCOTUS’ sexuality would be a key issue because it would affect his or her judgement – is exactly the same argument put forth by the anti-gay right against Judge Vaughn Walker, who was revealed to be gay, when he struck down Prop 8 (more on this convergence with the homophobes below). Additionally, it’s telling that in both cases it’s been women on the receiving end of Andrew’s ire regarding what they did or did not do for LGBT people. So when Sullivan writes dishonest, generalising shit like this:

And one often over-looked aspect of this is the long-standing discomfort of some in the feminist movement with lesbians in their midst. Feminists often “inned” lesbian pioneers, or the lesbians closeted themselves. This was not because they were in a reactionary movement; it was because they were in a progressive movement that did not want to be “tarred” with the lesbian image.

….bear in mind there is some serious projection going on here.

Now, I don’t deny we feminists work hard at getting our hate on. We hate men, we hate women who fancy men (traitors!), we hate women who…don’t fancy men, we make Rush Limbaugh’s dick shrivel up: our crimes are indeed legion. But here’s a pro-tip: the reason there are few prominent lesbians in the gay rights movement isn’t that the feminist movement’s uncomfortable with lesbians, it’s that there’s a lot of gay men uncomfortable with women.

So let’s get down to the fundamental question here. Is defining LGBT people by their sexual orientation good or bad? Put it this way, do we define straight people by the fact they’re straight? Nope. The only group that doesn’t get tarred with this ‘your minority status defines you’ brush  is, surprise, surprise, white straight men. So, if you insist on a public figure’s sexuality being a big deal, you’re basically acknowledging an inherent inequality, and enabling that inequality. Because in the main, the people who look at a gay person and think their sexuality is the most important thing about them are the homophobic crowd that think the pornos they watch are documentaries of the average gay person’s daily life. Look at the Richard Grenell affair – the guy is a neocon and was an aide to John “No Such Thing As Too Many Wars” Bolton, but the Religious Wrong was blinded by Fifty Shades of Gay and so Captain Courageous Romney…let him resign. Sullivan attacked both Romney and the Religious Right for this, and rightfully so. It’s a shame he can’t get the plank out of his own eye when it comes to defining LGBT people.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

The Ratfucking Begins in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Republicans get right down in the mud to thwart the will of the people, by planning to crowbar spoiler candidates into the Democratic primaries for the recall elections.

Yesterday, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel uncovered a new dirty trick that some Wisconsin Republican leaders are encouraging among their members. In a letter obtained by the paper, Dan Feyen, the chairman of the 6th Congressional District Republican Party, instructs his “fellow conservatives” to run spoiler candidates in the primaries for Democratic candidates. Referencing the recall election of Sen. Randy Hopper (R), Feyen argues that a primary would allow an extra month until the general election, which would give Republicans time to organize.

Short of waving a magic wand and wiping the public’s memories of the last few months, I’m struggling to see exactly what Republicans could do with that potential extra month to somehow convince voters that they deserve to represent them.

 

 

 

Palin Fans: We Can’t Fix Stupid, So We Must Fix History

Remember that guy in the Bush Administration who said this:

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

That is how the entire right wing from the foot soldiers to elected officials operates, culminating in today’s hilarious attempt by Sarah Palin’s devoted slaves to edit Paul Revere’s Wikipedia page to fit their idol’s completely mangled interpretation of basic American history.

Right now, Revere and the rest of the original Tea Partiers are rolling in their graves because this band of idiots associate themselves with them.

Anti-Choice Movement Hits A New Creepy Low

For some reason, an anti-abortion Republican in New Jersey thinks that a movie showing pregnant women who intend to have abortions being kidnapped and forced to give birth will somehow convince people as to the righteousness of his cause:

Kenneth Del Vecchio, a Republican candidate for New Jersey state Senate and a producer of conservative-themed films, is premiering a psychological thriller this weekend with a pro-life twist: Three pregnant women, who intend to have abortions, are kidnapped and forced to carry their pregnancies to term.

The movie, called “The Life Zone,” was produced by Del Vecchio’s “Justice For All Productions,” and is premiering Saturday at the Hoboken Film Festival in Teaneck, N.J. A press release describes the festival as “one of the nation’s largest film festivals, which Del Vecchio founded and chairs.”

Here is the trailer for Saw VIII The Life Zone:

 

Maybe I’m missing something here, but portraying your side as Jigsawesque figures doesn’t seem to me to be a great way of promoting the ‘pro life’ movement. If the point was to convince people that ‘pro-lifers’ are actually mentally disturbed, controlling, misogynist freaks, however, they have a winner.

But thanks Kenneth Del Vecchio, for really laying bare the true ugliness of the anti-abortion movement. All life is sacred, except those of pregnant women. Freedom and liberty for all, except for pregnant women.

 

 

 

The Very Serious Andrew Sullivan

Like John Cole, I just can’t quit reading Andrew Sullivan, even though he is completely unreadable  for weeks at a time due to a hideous combination of hysteria and self-indulgent twaddle. And even when he is worth reading, there are snippets in his  posts which cause my head to meet desk with extreme prejudice. Like this conclusion to a post about how Tea Partiers want government hands off their government benefits:

Yes, more taxes for the successful is far more popular than any cuts to actual benefits.

You’re right, Andrew. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that the wealthy are currently paying insanely low rates of tax and should be paying more, this is all about liberals indulging a pathological hatred of anyone they haven’t managed to get the government to enslave in their decadent enclaves on the coasts. Or something.

This is why I have such a problem with conservatives – money rules their world.  As any sensible person who watched the financial crisis unfold will know, equating wealth with success is absolute horse crap, because the people who caused it were wealthy on a scale most ordinary people can’t begin to imagine. This attitude is understandable, if completely self-centred, from the people who would be taxed more, but I have never been able to comprehend why ordinary people who would in fact benefit from the uber-wealthy paying extra object to it on the principle that it is ‘unfair’ or ‘attacking the successful’.  How is it fair that someone who earns a fraction of what a CEO of a corporation earns pays a bigger proportion of their salary in tax?

It should also be noted of course, that it’s very easy for a blogger in the DC media bubble to hold such opinions, seeing as he won’t ever have to struggle to pay the bills on time.