Monday, 31 July 2017

Still Hiding The Real Reason For War

One-hundred-years-ago today – July 31st 1917 – the first shots were fired in the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres.

It is this battle that most of us picture when we think about the First World War of 1914-1918.

Torrential rain for much of August 1917 turned the Passchendaele battlefield into knee-deep mud, forcing soldiers from both sides to live and fight in atrocious conditions. Most of us considering the Battle of Passchendaele from the distance of one-hundred years cannot begin to imagine the reality of those soldiers: constantly wet, scraping mud from boots and leggings, uniforms crawling with lice, trenches infested with rats, and all this before being committed, over the top, to fight; trying to run through mud, running into gunfire from enemy trenches.

The battle-ground at Passchendaele consisted of just five-miles of Belgian countryside. After three-months the British-led Allies secured victory, only for much of the land to be lost again in later conflicts. In total, estimated figures suggest more than half-a-million men, from both sides, were killed or wounded at Passchendaele. This figure, which some argue underestimates the actual total, works out at almost 4,000 casualties every day. Try to picture four-thousand men standing before you: then imagine all of those men falling, killed or wounded...every day, for three months, and all for five miles of mud.

Today, on broadcast news channels, we see official ceremonies commemorating the Battle of Passchendaele. In the UK, the news reports lead with Prince Charles reading a poem. Of course, today's British royal family are ancestors of the German and British monarchs who 'ruled' as men from their countries killed each other at Passchendaele and other horrific battles during the First World War. The ancestors of Prince Charles – King George V and Kaiser Wilhelm II – were cousins.

The bravery of the men who fought in the First World War was incredible. It is right we mark battles such as Passchendaele and never forget the price men paid for what they believed was a just cause.

Today, on one of the British television channels, a UK Government minister said, “These men fought for the freedom we enjoy today.” Presumably, one-hundred-years-ago, the soldiers in German uniforms also believed they were fighting for freedom. So, what was the purpose of two armies killing each other in the name of freedom?

The soldiers, on both sides, certainly believed they were fighting for freedom but, in reality, Britain and Germany plunged into all-out war in 1914 to secure economic dominance. The First World War was all about imperialism.

Most of the soldiers, on both sides, marched off willingly to fight for ‘King/Kaiser and Country’, but few of those men fully understood the nature of the conflict they were about to take part in. Not just the new mechanised killing they would encounter, but the actual reasons for the war.

In both Britain and Germany, so-called 'ordinary' men and women were whipped-up into a jingoistic fervour by capitalist-owned newspapers, with the working class told they had to ‘do their duty’ by defending their country, when, in fact, the war was all about the imperial aspirations of the ruling class and the wealth they could accumulate through colonial expansion and exploitation. In a situation unchanged since medieval times, 'ordinary' men were to fight and kill each other at the behest of their lords and masters. One unattributed comment perfectly summed-up the reality of the First World War when it described the close-quarter use of the bayonet fixed to a rifle in the following terms: “A bayonet is a weapon with a worker at each end.”

Any commemoration of the First World War must tell the story of so many lives destroyed – on both sides – working class men sent to kill other working class men, while capitalist arms-producers on both sides amassed personal fortunes running into millions-of-pounds.

One-hundred-years later, the real reason for the First World War and the inhuman carnage of battles such as Passchendaele is still not being told. Today, in UK broadcast news-reports, we are hearing of bravery and courage, which is as it should be. However, we should also acknowledge that so many 'ordinary' men were killed and maimed, not for freedom, not to save their country, but in the interests of capitalism, exploitation and financial profit.

A modern version of the capitalist media-owners who whipped-up the jingoism that drove men into the knee-deep mud of the trenches at Passchendaele are, today, hiding the true reason for the First World War. It is not in the interests of the capitalist exploiters for 'ordinary' men and women to know how we have been used, and continue to be used, to make the rich even richer, while our lives, and those of our families, remain expendable.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

So, You Thought 'Big Brother' Was A Thing Of Fiction

Latest plans announced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will result in around 750 people losing their jobs. Ironically, as the plans relate to the closure of Jobcentres, the people losing their jobs are currently employed to help others find work.

Actually, staff employed in Jobcentres have seen their roles change substantially over recent years. Most members of the public who haven't had cause to recently visit a Jobcentre probably think the facility is a centre where there are jobs. Those people would be wrong.

Long gone are the days when Jobcentres had boards on which local and national vacancies were posted, and people without work or looking for a change could peruse the jobs and apply for any that seemed to fit the bill. Vacancy boards were removed years ago, replaced by computer terminals where 'Jobseekers' could search for vacancies. The terminals, too, were phased-out a few years ago.

Now, 'Jobseekers' must do their 'jobsearch' online, using their own computer or smartphone, and their own broadband or Wi-Fi. Attendance at Jobcentres is now to confirm with a 'Jobs Advisor' that 'Jobseekers' have done a sufficient amount of 'job-seeking' to qualify for a Social Security payment. Currently, 'Jobseekers' are told they must prove they have looked for work over a 35-hour period per week. So, 'Jobseekers' are required to prove they have done a week's work in looking for work.

The role of the 'Job Advisor' at the Jobcentre is to verify the 'Jobseeker' has spent at least 35-hours looking for work, and to offer advice on how the 'Jobseeker' could better use their time to find employment.

If the 'Jobseeker' is deemed to have not done a week's work in looking for work – the 35 hours – then a 'Job Advisor' has the power to refer the 'Jobseeker' for a sanction, which can result in a 'Jobseeker' having every penny of their income instantly stopped, plunging them immediately into destitution. Fortunately, 'Job Advisors', in the main, have sympathy for the plight of the unemployed. This is the human element that tempers the process of sanction referrals.

'Jobseekers' are also told they should allow Jobcentre staff to access their online 'Jobsearch', so it is easier for a 'Jobseekers' 'Jobsearch' activity to be monitored.

At present it isn't legal for Jobcentre staff to insist a 'Jobseeker' allows access to their personal 'Jobsearch', which is done using their personal IT equipment, at home, and in their own time. However, 'Jobseekers' are led to believe this intrusion into their personal life is normal and should be accepted. Of course, once the Tories have dragged us out of the European Union and have scrapped the European Convention on Human Rights, then it will become legal to monitor the personal use of computers to search for work. Our right to a personal life will be gone.

Once the Human Rights hurdle has been crossed, the UK Government can then move swiftly to fully automate the 'Jobsearch' process, and there will be no need for Jobcentres or the real people they employ.

When the UK Tory Government has removed our Human Rights – as they fully intend to do – 'Jobseekers' will be legally required to allow central monitoring of their 'Jobsearch' activities. This will be done by an app. If a 'Jobseeker' fails to log at least 35-hours active 'Jobsearch', the central app will automatically issue a sanction. No human input will be required.

This system would generate substantial financial savings for central government: no Jobcentres would be required and, by extension, no workers needed to staff the Jobcentres. In addition, the automatic sanction triggered by the central app would remove any human sympathy for a 'Jobseeker' trying their best to find employment but who hasn't actually sat at a computer doing a week's work looking for work – the 35 hours. So, even more financial savings could be made as Social Security payments would be stopped and charities would have to pick up the tab of preventing the sanctioned 'Jobseeker', and their dependents, from starving.

The current programme of Jobcentre closures is the latest result of more automated central government control being exercised over 'Jobseekers'. Once that pesky Human Rights Convention is removed, and we no longer have the right to a personal life, then the full programme can be rolled out. No more Jobcentres, no more 'Job Advisors', no more attendance at Jobcentres by 'Jobseekers, no more human interaction. Instead, the whole process will be streamlined by the central app monitoring the 'Jobseekers' actions and automatically imposing sanctions by e-mail.

You thought 'Big Brother' was the all-controlling, central government organisation of a dystopian society described by George Orwell in his work of fiction, '1984', didn't you? Think again, we are fast racing towards the actual creation of a Big Brother system of control over our actions.

To the Tories running the UK, people do not matter. All that matters is money, making profit. So, the central monitoring app, spying on the actions of citizens, would be privatised. American IT corporations are already queueing-up to run the system, with government-imposed targets to reduce expenditure on Social Security payments by strict appliance of the 35-hour 'Jobseeking' rule and the imposition of automated sanctions.

If you voted Tory, you are responsible for this happening.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Christmas

As Bart Simpson once said, we all seem to have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Santa.

Personally, I don’t hold religious beliefs, but I respect those who do. Faith is a very powerful conviction, and those who believe in the birth of Christ, the son of God, clearly derive great benefit from their religion. For practising Christians the ‘season of goodwill’ is about celebrating a miracle and a core tenet of their beliefs.

However, in the 21st Century, Christmas has been almost entirely taken-over by capitalist commercialisation, the pursuit of profit and, on the part of the general public, a belief that happiness can be achieved through the giving and receiving of largely expensive presents.

Before anyone begins to think this article is a ‘bah humbug’ socialist denunciation of the ‘joy of Christmas’ in its various forms, let me state for the record that I enjoy the festive season. I succumb to the commercialisation, I love the feeling of togetherness when families and friends share gifts and, more importantly, time. I have even attended midnight Carol services in local churches, both Roman Catholic and Church of Scotland. Does that make me a hypocrite?

If I am, then there are a lot of us around.

Whatever our personal beliefs, Christmas offers an opportunity to reflect on our lives and to spend time with the people who matter most to us. Scots, in particular, have perfected the extension of the ‘feel good’ atmosphere of the festive season by carrying it through Hogmanay and into the New Year. But, of course, for some there is little respite from the struggle that life has become.

Parents who are unemployed will do whatever it takes to give their children a Christmas, which often involves spending money they don’t have. Loan sharks, including those who advertise on television, will be only too happy to offer the cash for presents. Come the cold light of January, however, the loan will have to be repaid, and for those already-struggling parents the depressing spiral into unaffordable and unrepayable debt becomes a reality. In an increasing number of households, the joy of Christmas doesn’t last long.

Some years ago I came across a video in the discount bin of the Woolworths store in Saltcoats. It was marked-down to £1.00, so was worth buying. The film was one I had seen many years before and it had made a big impact on me, so I parted with a pound and took home a copy of It’s A Wonderful Life.

Since then, the 1946 movie has become fashionable. It’s now cool to say It’s A Wonderful Life is one of your favourite films, but I wonder how many of the recently-acquired fans actually understand the message of the story.

On the face of it,
It’s A Wonderful Life is a feel-good Christmas story, with the added religious element of an angel (second-class) earning his wings through helping George Bailey, the story’s main character. However, there is a much deeper dimension to the film, one for which the director, Frank Capra, was denounced by Hollywood right-wingers and US government agencies as ‘a socialist’ and ‘communist sympathiser’.

It’s A Wonderful Life, while culminating in a happy ending set around Christmas-time, actually tells a story of how much each of us touches the lives of others. We may be individuals, but how we live our lives and the actions we take impact on our family members, our friends and our communities. In one of the film’s classic scenes, George Bailey decides it would have been better for everyone if he had never been born. On a blizzard-swept bridge, George decides to commit suicide by jumping into the icy river below. However, he is rescued by Clarence Odbody, who we later discover is an angel not yet ‘fully qualified’ and so without his wings.

Clarence then shows George how things would have been if he really had not been born. Every member of his family, his friends and people they in turn interacted with would have been affected, many adversely, if George had never existed. The message is that, often without even knowing it, we, as individuals, contribute to the greater good of our families, communities and society.

The other main storyline in It’s A Wonderful Life involves the triumph of the community-backed Building & Loan Company over the capitalist, profit-driven bank operated by the corrupt Mr Potter.

Behind the human story and the feel-good Christmas message lies a narrative about socialism versus capitalism, a story that has never been more relevant than today. The impact each of us makes on others, and the huge shared benefits of working together for the greater good, produce a better life and a fairer society when compared to the inequality and struggle of the majority that results from the capitalist system operated by the Mr Potters of the world.

Whatever your circumstances and beliefs, I hope you have a great Christmas – and if you get a chance over the festive season, watch It’s A Wonderful Life, preferably on Christmas Eve. Whether or not you endorse the film’s socialist message, you can’t fail to enjoy the feel-good Christmas mood it generates.

Happy Christmas!

Monday, 31 October 2016

'IT COULD BE YOU'

'It Could Be You' - the slogan used by the National Lottery to encourage us into gambling, looking for a life-changing win that would see us financially secure for the rest of our lives.



However, the same slogan can apply at the other end of the financial scale. You may be doing okay at the moment. You have a job, a regular income, a nice home, a car. You're working, earning a living and looking after yourself and your family.



That's great, long may it continue. Today, though, work is becoming increasingly insecure. Pay-levels and workplace conditions have been eroded under successive Labour, Tory/Lib Dem and Tory Governments. Zero-hours contracts, with no guarantee of work or pay, are now extremely common. The UK is also one of the easiest places to sack workers, for any reason, including if the boss simply doesn't like someone's face.



How long do you think you'd be able to manage, financially, if the boss suddenly took a dislike to you and decided to 'let you go'?



In a shocking report, the much-respected housing charity, Shelter, has revealed that over one-in-three workers could not pay their mortgage for more than a month if they lost their jobs. Poor and poverty-level wages mean people are living from week-to-week, often day-to-day, and cannot afford to save.



A spokesperson for Shelter described the situation: “The depth of the financial pressure and insecurity felt by people across the country means that millions are living on the edge of a crisis, only secure in their homes for a matter of weeks.”



The charity's research shows that families with children are at most risk of losing their home.



In the insecure, low-wage economy of 21st Century Britain, 'It Could Be You'.



One of the main actions of the UK Conservative Government has been to divide and conquer the working class. The poor and unemployed are demonised as work-shy spongers, living the high-life on supposedly-generous state benefits. Hard-working 'strivers' are encouraged to look-down on the lazy 'skivers' next door. Tory MPs frequently trot out the line about the decent and deserving person going out to work, while the apparently indecent and undeserving unemployed person next door enjoys a cosy lie-in.



The reality is that the unemployed person is likely to have recently lost their job because of savage austerity measures introduced by the Tory Government or as a result of bosses seeking to maximise profits by laying-off workers. The reality is also that the 'decent and deserving worker' could easily join their neighbour on the dole without much, if any, warning.



In 21st Century Tory Britain, 'It Could Be You'.



Of course, were the worst to happen and you lost your job, you would be different from all those 'lazy skivers' already unemployed. Sorry to shatter that illusion, but you would be no different. In the eyes of the Tory Government in London – the government with just one MP in Scotland – you would instantly become just another of the idle unemployed, sponging off the state.



Don't expect different treatment. The people you were willing to accept as 'lazy skivers' were, in fact, previously in the exact same boat as you. They, too, worked but lost their jobs. You are now a 'lazy skiver', and your neighbours in employment will be told to look down on you.



Do you think you will be 'special', that you will be given help to get you back into employment? Think again. You will be bullied and pushed to accept any minimum-wage job within ninety-minutes travel time of where you live. That is any job you could do, not specifically one where your academic qualifications would be of benefit; not one where your experience and skills would generate for you a higher income; not one that would provide you with a long-term career path – any minimum-wage job. In fact, you could be 'sanctioned' if you don't apply for any job you could do, including positions advertised on the Government employment site that turn-out to be self-employed positions offering no guaranteed hours or wages.



A 'sanction' is a period of time – up to three years – where you would be denied any financial support while you attempt to rebuild your life. Sanctions actually mean instant destitution – no money to feed yourself and your children, no money to pay rent or utilities bills.



Look how quickly you went from doing okay in employment to being a social pariah. Look how quickly you moved from a decent 'striver' to a shameful 'skiver'.



In 21st Century Tory Britain, 'It Could Be You'.



Our enemies are not our neighbours who find themselves without a job. Our enemy is the uncaring Tory Government in London, which has created a situation where more-and-more people are living a precarious existence, fearful of losing their job and being plunged into desperate poverty.



The Conservative & Unionist Party is called the 'nasty' party for a very good reason. Its members are nasty people. They don't care about others; the only thing that matters is the rich should get richer. The poor are expendable.



Scotland has democratically rejected the Tories at every election over the past fifty-years, but for the majority of that time we have had Tory Governments imposed on us by voters in England. Currently, the Tories have one MP in Scotland, yet that party continues to force onto us its policies of austerity, while spending billions-of-pounds on nuclear missiles of mass destruction, which it intends to house in Scotland, against the wishes of Scots.



All of this can only happen while Scotland remains part of the British Union.



Remember, in 21st Century Tory Britain 'It Could Be You', but it doesn't have to be that way.



By retaking Scotland's status as a normal, independent nation, we retake all of the powers we need to radically transform our economy and society. We retake the ability to build a progressive country where the interests of the people come before the profits of multi-national corporations. We can restore hope and opportunity to everyone in Scotland.



As an independent country, free from malign Tory rule, Scotland can also be a beacon to rally our working-class neighbours in England. They, too, can overthrow the Tory/Labour/Lib Dem elite that governs in the interests of the rich.



Don't let it be you. Fight back, take control; build a better country, a better life for you and your family.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

SCOTS ARE THE ULTIMATE POWER

This morning, Sky News reported a claim by a Law professor from Durham University that argued the UK Government must vote on whether or not Britain should leave the European Union.

The professor stated that 'we' have “parliamentary sovereignty in the UK”, which, he said, means the recent referendum decision is not the final word on EU membership. The UK Parliament exercises sovereign (ultimate) power on behalf of the Sovereign (the Queen), which means that only the UK Parliament can take a decision – in or out – in terms of EU membership.

The professor's statement is wrong in one very important matter: parliamentary sovereignty exists only in England, not across the whole United Kingdom. This issue is crucial in relation to the decision taken by Scots to remain within the European Union.

In Scots law the people are the sovereign power, not the monarch. Dating back to the Declaration of Arbroath (The Letter of the Barons of Scotland to Pope John XXII) in 1320, it has been established that no monarch can ascend the throne of Scotland without “the expressed will and wishes of the people of Scotland”. The Declaration also makes clear that if a King did not act in accordance with the will of the Scottish people, then the 'sovereign power' – the people - would depose the monarch and elect another.

The Declaration of Arbroath, enshrining Scotland's right to exist as an independent nation – and the crucial clause confirming the people as the sovereign power – was accepted by Pope John XXII. In 1320 the Pope was essentially the United Nations, which means that Scotland is one of the oldest-recognised nations in the world.

The difference, then, between Scots law and English law is that, in Scotland, parliament is not sovereign. No parliament – Scottish or UK – needs to ratify a decision of the Scottish people. In fact, neither of those parliaments has the power or authority to overrule a decision of the Scottish people.

In June's EU Referendum, the people of Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain within the European Union. According to Scots law, this is the end of the matter. The sovereign power in the land – the people – has spoken. Scots must not be dragged-out of the EU against their will.

Now, some British Unionists will no doubt argue that a position adopted in 1320 cannot be held as still determining Scots' legal status as the sovereign power, particularly as the Declaration of Arbroath was superseded by the Act of Union in 1707, which 'united' the parliaments of England and Scotland.

However, in April 1689, the Scots Parliament passed 'The Claim of Right', which reiterated the established rights of the Scots Parliament in relation to the Crown – the role of the monarch is to reign, parliament legislates and the people of Scotland are the supreme constitutional authority.

The Claim of Right was not affected, in any way, by the Act of Union of 1707, and therefore remains legally in force today. Both English and Scots law were specifically excluded from the Treaty of Union that established the British Parliament.

This position was reconfirmed in 1953, in the case of 'McCormick V The Lord Advocate', where Lord Cooper of Cardross, Lord President of the Court of Session, stated unequivocally: “The unlimited sovereignty of Parliament [the English legal position] has no counterpart in Scottish Constitutional Law.”

The ultimate legal power in Scotland is the people, and the people spoke last June when they decided by a significant majority to remain within the European Union.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

DONALD TRUMP IS A COWARD



Donald Trump is a very stupid person.  He is not bright.  If he hadn’t inherited millions-of-dollars from his dad, the likelihood is he would, today, be struggling in a minimum-wage job.  His very limited intelligence would have offered little alternative.

The successes he’s had in business are down to him having his father’s money to hire intelligent and skilled people to do the work.  He has reaped the financial benefit of others’ labour.

There is also a long list of Trump business-failures, where workers and creditors went unpaid, while he washed his hands of responsibility by declaring his companies bankrupt.  Presumably these were the ventures where ‘Dimwit Donald’ thought he knew best and overruled the advice of staff.

Of course, Trump’s stupidity screams from him every time he opens his mouth on a public platform.  During his run for the presidency of the United States of America, one of his most ignorant and offensive ideas has been to ban all Muslims from entering the US “until we know what’s going on”.  The clear implication being that Mr Trump doesn’t “know what’s going on”, and believes barring entry to millions of followers of Islam would, in some way, stop whatever actually is going on.

Had Trump’s insane and unworkable ban on Muslims already been US policy, decent, hard-working people like Khizr and Ghazala Khan would not have been allowed to emigrate from their home country to the US and become American citizens.  It would also have meant that the Khan’s son, Humayun, would not have grown-up in the States and would not have answered his country’s call by joining the military and fighting in the ill-fated and illegal war in Iraq.

In 2004, Humayun, then aged 24, was killed when an improvised-explosive-device detonated under the vehicle in which he was travelling with fellow US soldiers.

Last week, Humayun’s mum and dad attended the Democratic National Convention, where Mr Khan publicly, and rightly, noted his son’s bravery and commitment, before questioning what “sacrifice” Donald Trump had ever made for the United States.

In response, Trump mocked Mrs Khan because she had not contributed from the convention stage: “She had nothing to say,” argued Trump, before suggesting that she might not have been allowed to speak because she is a Muslim.

The Republican presidential candidate also indicated he had “sacrificed a lot”, because he had built businesses, created thousands of jobs and “been successful”.

As previously stated, Donald Trump is a very stupid person.  He is also a coward.

Unlike Humayun Khan, Donald Trump did not serve his country – the United States of America. 

Trump was at college during the 1960s, while the Vietnam war raged and thousands of young Americans fought and died in the killing fields of Vietnam and Cambodia.  As a student – studying Real Estate – Trump received four deferments from military service to allow him to complete his course.

However, in 1968, as Trump completed his studies, the Viet Cong were inflicting extremely heavy casualties on American forces.  The US was desperate for more young men to join the fight.

Donald Trump, though, discovered he had a medical condition – bone spurs in his heels – which secured for him another deferment, meaning he could join his daddy’s real estate company rather than fighting for his country.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, ‘spurs’ are a growth of calcium that can develop on bones.  The condition causes pain in only half of those who suffer from the condition.  

Generally, doctors recommend a change of footwear for people who have bone spurs on their heels.  Dr John G Kennedy, a foot and ankle surgeon at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, advised, “If people wear the right shoes, most heel spurs will stop causing pain, even though the spurs themselves don’t go away.”

While attending college, Donald Trump played football, tennis, squash and golf, apparently without his heel spurs causing any problems. 

Last December, Trump’s longtime personal physician, Dr Harold N Bonstein, stated that, over forty-years, his patient had “no significant medical problems”.  Dr Bonstein made no mention of bone spurs.

When challenged this week by the New York Times about the bone spurs that exempted him from having to serve his country, Trump said they had been “temporary”, adding, “over a period of time, it healed up”.  He described visiting a doctor who gave him a letter, granting him exemption from military service, but Trump could not remember the doctor’s name.

Donald Trump – idiot and coward.