Thursday, 15 September 2016

Brexit and Demographics - the most solid case yet for another referendum

The news today was sneaked out; serious negotiations on Brexit will not begin until september 2017 at the very earliest. This means that the earliest possible date that the UK could leave the EU will be September 2019, and that is if negotiations go smoothly, something which looks highly unlikely to say the least; the British side does not even know what it wants yet, or indeed understands the nature of Britain's links with the EU that will need unravelling. 

However, as all this is happening, or as is more likely, not happening, the electorate is changing due to basic demographics. 

Each year about 500,000 people die, most of those of old age. In the referendum over 65s voted 60% - 40% in favour of Leave. So 300,000 Leave voters are dying every year while 200,000 Remain voters are dying. This may seem a bit macabre but that means Leave is losing around 100,000 a year of its majority, just through natural demographic changes. 

This is only half of the story however because around 1,333,000 people a year reach the age of 18 and become eligible to vote. The youngest voters voted 75% - 25% in favour of Remain, which means the net Remain vote is increasing by around 667,000 each year. Add this to the net 100,000 reduction in the number of Leave voters in the over-65 category and the Leave majority is going down, just through demographic factors, by 767,000 a year.

767,000 over three years (actually three and a bit years) is 2,301,000 votes which the Leave camp is losing relative to Remain over the period before the earliest date at which the UK might leave the EU arrives.

The Leave majority on 23rd June was 1,269,501.

That means that, through demographic processes alone, the Leave majority of 1,269,501 turns into a Remain majority of around 1,032,000. Even accounting for different levels of turnout and not everyone turning out to vote this is still likely to result in a Remain majority. And the longer it goes on before the actual leaving date, the greater the Remain majority becomes. after 5 years the Remain Majority is likely to be around 2,000,000.

Of course all this does not include the likelihood of Leave becoming more unpopular (as it has already done in Wales, as the principality has now become majority Remain supporting) due to other factors such as economic effects starting to bite, the government's obvious confusion and the efforts of groups such as Leavewatch monitoring the antics of the Brexiters. Even though the mainstream media has imposed an effective blackout on any news regarding the £350,000,000 a week that the Leave campaign says will not now materialise for the NHS, this message will start to get through to all but the most resistant Leave supporters.

The case against another referendum has never looked weaker.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Vacuous Arguments from a Hoover Salesman

“Sir” James Dyson is a man who got very rich from selling overpriced vacuum cleaners, one of the reasons he got rich was because he could export production from Berkshire to Malaysia, which he did just after showing her Majesty the Queen around his factory near Reading. This enabled him to benefit from low wages and dire conditions of work for those desperate enough to need employment in his Malaysian plant.

Today however he has gone from trying to sell us hoovers to trying to sell us Brexit. Claiming leaving the EU and the single market will enable Britain to negotiate better trade deals with other countries in the world. Almost in the same breath he also claims that exporters don't need trade deals in order to export around the world. In other words you don't need trade deals to export but we need trade deals to export. One would have thought that someone who describes himself as a “scientist” would have been rather better than this at thinking logically.

BTW he has also deliberately omitted eliminating Non-Tariff Barriers to trade which come with trade agreements and which are likely to present far greater problems for exporters.

It is a function of our failing neoliberal economic system that throws up very high differences in wealth, exaggerating the success of some people who like to present themselves as particularly innovative entrepreneurs. One upshot of this is that the media routinely gives these people who are largely wealthy due to luck and the polarising effect of neoliberalism airtime and column inches to preach their “wisdom” as though they represent the messiahs of capitalism.

In this instance however Dyson has exposed himself as no-one special, with no particular insight into anything as his vacuous logic is splashed unquestioningly over our media.


He should stick to selling Hoovers rather than lies about Brexit. We have already been sold too many of those.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Are we witnessing the precursor to a British revolution...?

There has never been a revolution in Britain. I am sure part of this is a result of the huge financial resources amassed by the aristocracy and ruling class from the empire and slavery, riches which have largely remained hidden, undocumented, untaxed and held unaccountably. This has allowed them to exercise greater power over the rest of us, through control of the media, for example, than has occurred in many other European countries. 

To take the French revolution as an example, however, it was largely caused by a combination of widespread poverty and a complete insouciance on the part of the ruling elite; an ignorance of their position, how precarious it was and a consequent inability to head the revolution off at the pass through a pacifying redistribution of wealth or the like; "let them eat cake!". So could the same be about to happen in the UK?

On the face of it, no. Despite six years of a Tory government exercising its neoliberal ideology (or should I say excuses) as a means of redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich in a way that would have made the Sheriff of Nottingham deep olive with envy, conditions for the majority have not deteriorated to the levels seen in France in the 1780s. Food banks abound for a million people, which is shameful in itself but the other 62 million of us do not (yet) need to use them. People, by-and-large have cars, phones, TVs, full refrigerators, clothes, technology, etc.

Yet the insouciance and ignorance of the ruling class which ended the French aristocracy is clearly in evidence over Brexit. A desire to get the UK out of the EU has become a totally irrational fanaticism in many quarters of the Tory party and the consequences, as well as the means, of exiting the EU are little understood, in particular by those who are charged with negotiating it. Additionally the country, and in particular the media, seems in denial about the consequences of a hard Brexit. A staggering 85% of our external trade is either with the EU or comes as a result of trade deals that have been negotiated for us by the EU and will become invalid as soon as we leave. It is possible that not all of that trade will be affected of course, but the Leave Alliance's own reckoning suggests that the element which kills our trade will not be tariffs or quotas (difficult as they are to navigate for exporters) but what are called "Non-Tariff Barriers" (NTBs) to trade. 

NTBs include items such as standardisation of quantities and quality, which is vitally important to international trade, but also the accreditation and affirmation of those standards. Outside the EU our own accreditation systems will no longer be considered valid, and as such each shipment will require inspection at the port of entry at a significant cost in terms of money and time. The Leave Alliance's figures (of a consequent rise in unemployment to 7 or 8 million) cannot be dismissed as "scaremongering" because they come from the Leave campaign, however they can be regarded as underestimates. Their figure of 7-8 million is based on the assumption that only trade with the EU will be affected by NTBs; that trade constitutes around 48% of our exports. Now that we know more about the other trade deals which come as a part of our membership of the EU, extending to around 70 countries, that figure of exports negatively affected by brexit grows to a staggering 85% with the corresponding rise in unemployment likely to exceed 14 million people, close to half the UK workforce.

The reduction in tax receipts for the treasury would be huge, and the government would become liable for social security payments to huge numbers of people, further depleting the amount of money available to spend on other important things like the NHS. The NHS is already creaking under the strain of Tory cuts and when the £350,000,000 a week promised by Leave turns into a cut many times that size, the compound anger will hit critical mass. 

The only problem is likely to be leadership. With Corbyn a closet Leave supporter and considered a joke outside his own group of devotees, and regarded by many as an out-of-touch metropolitan politician like his friend Emily Thornberry, leadership, if it is to be credible, will need to come from somewhere else. One can hope it emerges from the ranks of the impoverished and dispossessed as many capable people would be included in that number. However what is certain is that, without leadership, any revolution could soon become directionless and descend into looting, lawlessness and become easy for the ruling class to deal with. 

What is highly likely however, is that the conditions for insurrection and revolution will soon be created by botched brexit negotiations conducted by individuals who have no idea what they are doing. What is clear however, is that we are going to need better leadership on the left if this is not to descend into chaos, violence and simply result in a human rights crackdown, martial law and institutional oppression.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

An extraordinary warning from Japan

Japanese culture is sophisticated and often considered impenetrable by Europeans. Part of this is because the Japanese speak in a subtle and indirect way, almost always avoiding direct assertions and categorical statements. Sometimes the English do this in a few situations; “Might I join you?”, “Would it be at all possible to join you?” The subtleties of the Japanese language are in a completely different league however; allusion, inference and subtly implicit statements with multilevel meanings abound. Indeed they rarely ever contradict each other even in a discussion or debate. It is like the diametric opposite of the direct and plain-speaking Yorkshire culture. It is the Japanese way, as important a part of their culture as raw fish, sumo and cleanliness. I know, I have been in a relationship with a Japanese citizen for 25 years and spent many extended periods there.

This makes the unequivocal and direct way that the Japanesegovernment has reacted to Britain leaving the EU all the more remarkable. It was direct, to-the-point and unequivocal. Incredibly they did not pull their punches or mince their words; Brexit will be a disaster, an unprecedented catastrophe for the UK, and one, which will have lasting effects and be extremely difficult to recover from. The Japanese have every right to say this; they have substantial investments in the UK, and invested here primarily because the UK is in the EU. These will go unless Britain has a very soft Brexit like the relationship between the EU and Norway; the kind of thing the Leave campaign were advocating before the referendum.

This raises the issue of how many other countries that have invested here will also pull out; Korean, Chinese, Russian, American, German, French, Italian, Indian, Swedish, Canadian, British…? I doubt anyone has given these a great deal of thought, and maybe some do not wish to confront the harsh realities of Brexit. The Remain campaign were predicting 3 million people losing their jobs as a result of Brexit, that now starts to look like a conservative estimate. If, for example, the Nissan plant in the North-East closes not only will those directly employed there lose their jobs but local suppliers, transport companies and other local businesses which cannot survive without the spending power of Nissan workers. The 44-48% of UK trade with the EU will probably be reduced to single figures, people will lose their jobs and their businesses will fold because they can no longer trade with the EU.

Ironically, although the City of London will lose out initially it is highly likely that the semi-legitimate (or indeed completely illegitimate) type of banking will fill much of the gap as Euro trades are moved to Frankfurt or Paris; London will become a sort of Cayman Islands without the middle-man, and the kind of casino banking that damaged the country so much during the financial collapse of 2007 will return, with bells on, to fill the gap. As the economies of those parts of England that voted most strongly for Brexit collapse further, London will gain even greater dominance, the North-South divide will be bigger than ever.

Let’s not beat about the bush on public services either. With very high levels of unemployment, tax receipts will go down and social security payments increase; not just temporarily but for a very long time. The tax revenues that the government gets from those exports to the EU will vanish, and be unreplaced. Public finances will worsen, probably to the tune of at least £100 Billion a year. To put that into context that represents almost the entire NHS budget of £114 Billion. The promised £350 million a week extra for the NHS will probably turn into a cut of more £500 million a week. Other aspects of public services will inevitably be cut, including social security payments, pensions, housing benefit, social care and transport budgets. Those who voted Leave because they wanted more money for the NHS will find that instead they have voted for a, possibly terminal, cut to the NHS.  As what Leave described as “scaremongering” becomes facts, make no mistake, Brexit could genuinely mean the end of the NHS.

All this makes the case against a referendum on the terms of Brexit, opposed by both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, even weaker than it already was. The Leave campaign claimed that Britain outside the EU would be like Norway or Switzerland, however it is looking more like Britain will be something between Albania or Bosnia afterwards. Shortly after the referendum, Ed Miliband talked about how one of his constituents told him that she had voted Leave “for my granddaughter”. This woman and many like her need to know that, in contrast to their wishes the harm their action will cause themselves, their children and grandchildren will be severe and long-lasting.

The Japanese warning should be heeded not merely because Japan is a trading partner and huge investor in British industry and business as well as a country that has been friendly towards us for a long time. We should also heed their words because the Japanese rarely speak so directly and forthrightly. Their extraordinary language makes their dire warnings all the more significant. We should heed them.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Brexit and generational warfare...

Brexit: the generational war is taken up by David Davis

The new minister for Brexit, David Davis has lost no time in taking up the cudgels in his party's ongoing generational war. His apparently generous offer to allow people from the EU who are already living in the UK to stay after the country leaves, sounds good, on one level. Potentially no mass deportations of friends and co-workers. However the more one looks at the reasons behind this, the more it can be revealed for what it is, generational war on British young people.

The reason he is making this apparently "generous" offer is so that British people resident in the EU will also not be forced to return to the UK, these people are mostly retired or middle-aged people who have established themselves in places like France and Spain. Obviously, to his mind, having a couple of million of these people returning to the UK very unhappy that their lives in Europe have been disrupted by a government which professes a desire to keep state interference in people's lives to a minimum.

When I was younger, experiencing the fag end of the horrible Thatcher government and the dreary and pointless Major government, I needed to find work abroad in the EU. I was able to do that, in the absence of any work in the UK, because we were in the EU. I worked in Greece, Denmark and France (twice). It was a whole lot better than the dole in the UK. That possibility will not be available for young people growing up in the dismal grinding poverty of Brexit Britain. No option to find work in Germany like the workers of Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Stuck in the UK, probably in dead-end jobs, if they are lucky. Denied the opportunities to travel and develop their careers and lives in Europe the younger generation, already under pressure from their elders whose never-had-it-so-good lives continue to outshine the younger people who can barely afford the rents the older generation charge them to live I their homes.

Brexit is generational warfare at its most damaging and its most oppressive. Davis is currently commander-in-chief of the forces of oppression directed at the young since the Tories came to power. As with everything else this government has done, Brexit will harm everyone, but the older generations will be protected and cushioned by their representatives in parliament, while the hopes and dreams of the young are, once again, crushed by economic vindictiveness.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

The Gullible Subject: when facts are fiction.

As most trans people know, media coverage about us is still often wildly inaccurate and misleading at best. It is not just TERFs who churn out deliberate disinformation, straw-man arguments, fabricated information and assertions based on zero data, it is the right-wing "christian" fundamentalists, the Tea Party and the like, predictable "libertarian" white males and former celebs engaging in "greering" (v: to desperately try an maintain the media limelight if you are a celebrity has-been). 

These days it appears that ignorance is news, and is presented as knowledge. From Trump to Boris Johnson and Gove, facts are fiction, the truth is an inconvenience, lies work better. Ideology is more important than reality. We are in a world in which, increasingly, the ill-informed and mendacious but headline-grabbing assertion is mainstream media currency. fact-checking seems to be a thing of the past in most media platforms and is treated as an troublesome inconvenience in the rest.

The idea of "balance" has developed into a source of drama in which those with knowledge and insight are set against someone with no knowledge but a bag full of ignorant "commonsense" one-liners. I am truly surprised that we don't have a flat-Earther on TV  telling us how this is all just computer graphics every time Hubble telescope produces images of a new galaxy or some other celestial wonder.

The dangers of this are clear. Already Baudrillard has argued that the distinction between "reality" and our media-manipulated universe is blurred. The dangers of living in a fantasy world have been manifest throughout history, from Easter Island to the Third Reich. The media's quest to produce Gullible Subjects believing whatever they are fed is exemplified by CN Lester's outstanding article in the Independent. The media has mythologised trans people in the same way for a century to the extent that most of what we see there is so far from the varied and richly diverse experiences of trans men, women and non-binary people that it might as well be fictional.

This is how right-wing fictions of trans people have resulted in transphobic "bathroom bills" in conservative states of the US, by preying on the outdated and fictionalised media representation of the trans woman's transformation being only skin-deep.

However for me there are parallels with far greater fictions that continue to threaten humanity's existence and this was exemplified by Barack Obama's recent visit to Hiroshima. As someone with a strong imagination Hiroshima and Nagasaki were both emotionally painful places for me to visit, as was Dachau, but I felt it my duty as a human being to visit the atomic bomb memorials there since I had the opportunity, after all one of my relatives was a victim of Hiroshima; 6 years old at the time, she was permanently sterilised by the effects of radiation.

The horror of the atomic bomb is exemplified by two things in Nagasaki's memorial park. These offerings to shrines for the dead are buckets and bottles of water, because that was the one thing the victims of the blast gasped for, in the hours after the explosion.  The second is the collection of names in many volumes of books piled up high to the ceiling in the quiet memorial building. 170,000 people have died as a result of the atomic attack on Nagasaki. The chilling statistic is that "only" around 60,000 of these had died by the 31 December 1945. The rest died subsequently, and are still dying now. The list grows longer, by a few names still, every year. and probably most of the victims of Nagasaki were not even born until well after 1945.

We live in dangerous times when fictions can lead to disaster on a huge scale.  The fiction that a President Trump would be anything other than an unmitigated disaster for the United States and the world, the fiction that the UK will be better as an isolated island a long way off the coast of Maine, the fiction that someone might someday "win" a nuclear war, the fiction that climate change does not exist, the fiction that we can close our borders to the rest of the world, despite growing numbers of refugees from war, oppression and poverty worldwide.  The fiction that Britain is still a great power, that our historically short-lived empire made us great, or that it served anything other than economic imperialism based on slavery and exploitation. The fiction that there is, or was ever can be any such thing as "independence" for nation-states.

These fictions are carefully cultivated by our media. In the second world war our survival depended on being able to mobilise the country and get everyone to contribute to the war effort. Today the media-political complex needs to maintain public opinion in a state of gullibility ready to be mobilised to accept whatever consent they decide they need to manufacture to maintain neoliberal neocolonial exploitation of others as well as our own citizens. Hence the production of the Gullible Subject fed a constant stream of fictions necessary to maintain him or her in readiness to accept whatever they want to manipulate them to believe at short notice, whether for military adventures or economic vandalism designed to oppress the very people being beguiled into supporting it. Marshall McLuhan described media as "extensions of ourselves",  in reality that means extensions of those who control the mass media that shape our lives and produce the fictions that create and maintain the Gullible Subject. These are the real enemies, the Viscount Rothermeres, the Rupert Murdochs, the Laura Kusenbergs whose production of Gullible Subjects the media-political comples's power depends. It is their ability to control the mass of Gullible Subjects which represents the source of their power, a power which is being dangerously misused by those who know how to hoodwink, delude and ultimately, if necessary betray the masses.

So powerful has this culture of decision and the gullible subject become now however, that it appears to have gained a life of its own as people now engage in campaigns of self-delusion, independent of the mass media, since it is so much easier to hoodwink oneself with comfortable lies than to face the uncomfortable and often depressing realities of the world. If we are ever to take back control, break the spell of the Gullible Subject we need to be clear ourselves about reality and fiction. "The masters tools will never dismantle the master's house."

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Statement in Solidarity With The Morning Star

We the undersigned are grateful that the Morning Star has provided a space where transphobia can be expressed openly and hate for those perverts, queers, feminists and poofters who try and look like women to use our women's bathrooms and go for a pee. Now that the war has been lost against gays and lesbians (ugh!) and feminism, we are grateful to have another group to hate. 

We hate trannies, and also we hate that nasty lefty, commie fagot of a president who is supporting them. We are grateful that the Morning Star and a group of TERFs is helping provide the legititimacy we need to root out and destroy those trannies wherever they are (and if a few women who look a bit butch get in the way and are attacked also, well that is just too bad, serves them right for not wearing dresses and for cutting their hair). As everyone knows groups like ours only thrive by having others to use as proxy enemies to nurture hate and unite people behind us in ways that would never have been possible otherwise. We look forward to many years of beating up on trannies as a means of establishing our neocon rightwing agenda to once again re-establish our God-given right to Christian white male dominance.

Thank you Morning Star, thank you TERFs. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord.

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