Refuse to be complicit in austerity and council budget cuts

I just sent the message below to all of my council representatives. Feel free to use it as a model for your own emails.

Dear ____

I am writing to you as one of my representatives to object in the strongest possible terms to Edinburgh Council’s cynical budget cuts consultation exercise.(https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/budget).

    • I consider that if I participated I would become complicit in imposing further hardship on the poorest and most vulnerable in society who most rely on council services.
Owen Jones on tax avoidance

The wealthiest typically contribute proportionally less than others to the common good and have also benefited hugely from the neoliberal policies of recent years. This must cease. They should fund council budget shortfalls.

  • Instead,I call on you, as one of my elected representatives, to present us with alternative ways of raising funds from the wealthiest in society – those who have benefited greatly from neoliberal policies in recent decades. Examples would include raising council tax for properties in the highest ratings band, imposing a land-value tax, raising income tax on the wealthiest and imposing a tourism tax.
  • Where powers to make such changes do not lie with the local authority, you should demand that the Scottish Government enact the necessary legislation.
  • Where the Scottish Government lacks the necessary power, it should demand that Westminster enact the appropriate legislation.
  • I maintain that simply to accept the necessity of cuts at any level is to be complicit in them, and therefore I call on you to resign rather than participate in making the poor pay, yet again, for the policies of the rich.
  • The UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It is entirely unacceptable to attack the poorest rather than ask the wealthiest to make a fair and entirely affordable contribution to the society from which they benefit.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

NOTE

You can find your Edinburgh Council representatives here: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/councillors/search .

Other Scottish Councils are doing similar things.  For example, here is Midlothian Council’s consultation exercise – http://www.midlothian.gov.uk/press/article/641/balance_our_books_with_new_budget_simulator – and you can identify your Midlothian Council representatives here: http://www.midlothian.gov.uk/councillors.

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Letter to my MP: Please vote against the UK taking military action

Bombing.

Bombing will solve nothing. It will kill innocents and make the rich richer.

[Update:  See the excellent response I received from my MP in the comments section below.]

I just sent the following to my MP. If you wish to take similar action, you can find out how to contact him/her here: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/.

Dear ____

I urge you, as my MP, to vote against the UK taking military action against IS. I also urge you to read this MediaLens article on the issue: “The Purpose And The Pretence – Bombing Isis“.

There is no reason to believe that IS is any worse than other forces in the area and, in any case, it is highly unlikely that airstrikes would resolve anything. The only certain outcomes of the UK’s participation would be further civilian deaths and the transfer of public wealth into private hands (through the arms industry, at the very least). A likely outcome would be the generation of further so-called “terrorism”. (In reality, as I hope you will acknowledge, “terrorists” are simply our enemies du jour; to many we are the “terrorists”.

I would also suggest that you might like to refresh your memory of George Orwell’s 1984. The parallels with the present-day UK are striking. I shall not insult your intelligence by pointing them out for you.

Thak you for considering this. I look forward to your response.

Best wishes

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No-voters, read ‘1984’ as you smugly sip your Victory Gin and, Big Brother, we are watching you. #IndyRef

1984

George Orwell’s ‘1984’ was supposed to be a warning, not a how-to guide.

Saddened

I am saddened by the No-victory in the Scottish independence referendum. For many years I have been campaigning for a fairer society and world, trying to shake people from their states of complacency, obliviousness, apathy or hopelessness, and to alert them to the horror and ruthlessness of what is variously called neoliberalism, hypercapitalism or ‘free-market’ capitalism.

An opportunity missed

It seems my comrades and I failed to inform and motivate enough people to take advantage of an historic chink in neoliberalism’s armour and to vote Yes. While Scottish independence would not, in itself, have guaranteed escape from neoliberalism’s clutches, it would at least have been a first step to freedom, which is, of course, why all the forces of neoliberalism were ranged against us, using all the tricks at their disposal to bludgeon the masses into voting No.

Free markets?

Note the quotation marks I used around ‘free-market’. This is one of neoliberalism’s biggest lies – that the markets are free. As anyone who takes the trouble to look into it will discover, they are rigged, in favour of the super-rich and multinational companies. (Search, for example, ‘transfer pricing‘ or look at the World Development Movement’s interactive graphic, demonstrating the links between the UK government, financial institutions and the fossil fuel industry.)

Newspeak

‘Free-market’ is but one example of the deceitful terminology used by the proponents of neoliberalism to brainwash and control us, exactly as Newspeak was used by INGSOC to subjugate the people of Oceania in George Orwell’s 1984. Just as ‘free-market’ means the opposite of its superficial cuddly, sunshine-and-happiness connotation, so do the terms ‘defence’ (Ministry of Defence/defence force) and ‘together/togetherness’ (Better Together).

The oxymoronic nature of ‘defence force’ needs little explanation, what with the mass-murders perpetrated by the US-UK military-industrial complex in Iraq and Afghanistan and this complex’s unconditional support for child-murdering, ethnic-cleansing Israel. Since WWII how often have the UK and US ‘defence/defense’ forces been used to legitimately and unambiguously defend their respective countries against attack?

The Newspeak credentials of the phrase ‘Better Together’ are best understood with reference to the obscene increase in socio-economic inequality in recent decades (is one human being really worth billions of pounds more than another?) and the societal divisions this causes: the scapegoating of relatively powerless minorities, the breakdown in trust and the increased lack of empathy. (You’ll find plenty of evidence for this linked from my toolkit.) By Scotland staying ‘together’ with the neoliberal UK we are sustaining and financing this massive force for global division and conflict.

Big Brother is watching you.

No-voters, please read ‘1984’ as you sip your Victory Gin.

The parallels with 1984 do not stop with Newspeak, of course. Here are some other examples:

  • WAR IS PEACE (We are constantly told that this war, that war and the other war are necessary to defend peace, ‘our values’ and ‘our way of life’. In reality, war is largely a means of expropriating natural resources and public goods for private benefit.)
  • The frequent flipflops between countries with which Oceania is at war/peace and the eradication of the memory/knowledge of this from popular consciousness (The Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi…)
  • The need for a hate figure. (No explanation required.)
  • FREEDOM IS SLAVERY (In fact, debt induced through, amongst other things, the instilled belief that we need and should have the ‘freedom’ to buy various consumer goods and material markers of status, traps most of us in economic servitude: our ‘freedom’, to buy essentially meaningless trinkets, traps us in slavery.)
  • IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH (Our ignorance is their strength.)
  • BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU (The monitoring of our internet use, emails and mobile phone communications, pervasive video camera surveillance.)
  • Pornosec ‘which turned out cheap pornography for distribution among the proles’. (No explanation required.)
  • The Lottery (No explanation required.)
  • The constant economy drives. (= austerity)

Victory GinAs you sip your Victory Gin…

Triumphant No-voters, as you smugly sip your Victory Gin, please read 1984 and compare it to the world we live in: the book was supposed to be a warning, not a how-to guide!

Then, if your conscience troubles you at all, join us, the broad movement of environmental and human rights activists (one example of which is the Radical Independence Campaign), in campaigning to make the world a better place. You will be welcomed, and possibly forgiven, by a diverse group of dedicated and imaginative people.

Remember that if your eyes have been opened by something we have written, said or done (and I include George Orwell as one of us), it is possible for you to open the eyes of others, and if enough of us can see clearly, we may yet win.

BIG BROTHER, WE ARE WATCHING YOU.

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Big money won it for No, but the moral victory is ours. #indyref

Indyref postcard

Her spirit shall live on

The side that spends the most…

With hindsight, we should have realised what was going to happen. All the evidence shows that in political campaigns the side that spends the most money wins (as Dr Rosslyn Fuller says).

David against an army of Goliaths

In the case of the Scottish independence referendum the No side (Project Fear) not only had significantly more direct funding (from its wealthy donors), but it also had virtually the entire neoliberal establishment behind it – practically all the mainstream media (with the honourable, if late, exception of the Sunday Herald), most of the super-rich, the majority of multinational companies, and the British state (= the US-UK military-industrial complex). Their input would have been valued at billions of pounds had it been paid-for advertising. There was therefore a difference in effective spending between the No campaign and the Yes campaign of not one but several orders of magnitude – a battle not so much between David and Goliath, but between David and an army of Goliaths.

Indyref postcard2

The struggle for equality and liberty is a long way from over.

Joie de vivre

Given the thickness of the resultant propaganda-cocoon that swaddled most of the population, the Yessers can take enormous pride in the very significant section of the population they managed to reach. This was due to the blood, sweat and tears of thousands of unpaid activists, their idealism, optimism, humour, creativity, camaraderie (old hatchets buried) and sheer joie de vivre. To do as well as we did amounts to an overwhelming moral victory.

The thousand butterflies

Let the thousand butterflies not be broken on the wheel of neoliberal ruthlessness, or driven by this death-cult into greed, callousness, apathy, fear and ignorance, as many No-voters undoubtedly were. (I may discuss the many ways the No camp’s strategy worked in another short essay, although Noam Chomsky has already said much that is relevant.) We can only hope that the accuracy of our interpretation of the British state will become obvious soon, and that there will be fertile ground for us, ground that can no longer be confiscated by the plutocracy, but which a peaceful revolution (that will blossom in ways we can not yet imagine, and of which the outcome will not be dependent on finance), will claim.

Our day will come

Stay strong, comrades. It has been an honour and a pleasure working alongside and getting to know so many of you. Our day will surely come.

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The Yes campaign is aggressive?

David Cameron and Israeli flag

The UK supports Israel, a nation that murders children with impunity. Yet passionate supporters of Scottish independence are accused of being aggressive when they point out the links between the UK and such atrocities.

I am so weary of us being accused of aggression. We are passionate, of course. We are passionate because we are campaigning for a fairer country and world. The ridiculousness of us being accused of aggression is startling.

We are aware of the links between the UK and global horrors – the UK’s role in directly and indirectly generating terrorism and suppressing democracy, in plundering resources and facilitating tax evasion, in increasing inequality and societal division, both locally and globally, and its planet-destroying pursuit of profit.

The UK supports Israel. The UK supported Pinochet and Suharto, both mass-murderers and torturers. The UK backed the Taliban. The UK brutally kicked the Chagas islanders off Diego Garcia, to clear it for a US military base.  Now we have an amazing opportunity to break up this aggressive entity, peacefully and legally.  Bearing in mind the words of Pastor Niemöller, we surely must take action. He said:

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

I think the least we can all do, to make the world a better place, is to avail ourselves of this unique opportunity and vote Yes.

And yes, I do think that those who fail to do so are to some extent complicit.

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Manchester Dogs’ Home fire should remind us what the UK is capable of and why we should vote Yes

Manchester Dogs' Home fire

The fire at the Manchester Dogs’ Home made me think about the UK and what it stands for…

A caring lot?

The fire at the Manchester Dogs’ Home is receiving significant coverage at the moment. The million pounds donated to date would seem to suggest that the great British public are a caring lot. However, the vast amount of money donated in such a short time contrasts with the response to some human tragedies and perhaps also reflects the fact that many find it easier to empathise with animals than with people? I heard the men who rescued some of the dogs interviewed on the radio this morning. They seemed to imply that animals were more deserving of help because they were less capable than people of helping themselves. Well, that depends on circumstances, surely?

Direct and indirect killing of children

…And I think of the children of Gaza, murdered in their hundreds by what remains the UK’s great ally, Israel.  I think of the children of Iraq and Afghanistan, killed by UK and US bombs, shells and drones –  acceptable collateral damage? I also think of the children of the poor in the extremely unequal UK, doomed to lead significantly shorter and less healthy lives than their rich counterparts.

Remember Diego Garcia

My first thought, however, is of what the UK did to the people and dogs of Diego Garcia, an island cleared of its inhabitants so that the USA could establish a military base.  Here’s how John Pilger describes a particularly nasty tactic used by the UK and its ally:

At first, the islanders were tricked and intimidated into leaving; those who had gone to Mauritius for urgent medical treatment were prevented from returning. As the Americans began to arrive and build the base, Sir Bruce Greatbatch, the governor of the Seychelles, who had been put in charge of the “sanitizing,” ordered all the pet dogs on Diego Garcia to be killed. Almost 1,000 pets were rounded up and gassed, using the exhaust fumes from American military vehicles. “They put the dogs in a furnace where the people worked,” says Lizette Tallatte, now in her 60s,” … and when their dogs were taken away in front of them, our children screamed and cried.”

Lying about Scottish independence is nothing…

How much evidence does it take for people to realise that the UK-US military-industrial complex is an utterly ruthless machine, prepared to use anything to boost the profits of the businesses it serves? This entity kills almost casually, and with impunity, and has done for centuries. Little wonder they are in overdrive with their scare stories about Scottish independence. They are desperate to hold onto their oil and their profits, their nuclear weapons, power and “status” (strutting bully-boy supremos).

David Cameron, former Bullingdon Boy.

It’s time for us to escape the out-of-touch Bullingdon Boys who run the UK.

Unique opportunity

We, the people, of Scotland, must use our wonderful opportunity to peacefully leave the UK, an opportunity afforded us because of the sheer arrogance of the out-of-touch plutocrats running the UK, who never thought we would have the courage and integrity to break free.

I, for one, consider it my moral duty to vote for Scottish independence.

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History will judge us. Which side are you on? Compassion and humanity, or terrorist apartheid Israel?

Little girl in Gaza covers doll's eyes.

A little girl in Gaza covers her doll’s eyes that it should not witness what she is seeing – her compassion and humanity shining through despite all she has been through. Those inflicting such horror on children are on the wrong side of history, and all of us should take a stand against their hideous crimes, or be judged complicit.

History will judge us all

History will surely judge the Israeli Zionist state as among the most evil of the present era.

It will also judge those who sought to support or appease this terrorist regime as complicit in its crimes against humanity.

The governments of the UK and USA, who are declared friends of Israel and who support it in many ways, are in it up to their necks.

South African parallel

I lived in apartheid South Africa from December 1979 to June 1987. I know about the justification of violence and the dehumanisation and demonisation of “the other”. I know about the siege mentality, brainwashing and the imperviousness of the brainwashed to reason. It was ultimately the cold hard logic of sanctions, including a cultural and sport boycott, that broke apartheid.

The Israeli mindset is arguably worse – even less amenable to persuasion.  The only thing that will work is force – peaceful force in the form of boycott, divestment and sanctions – which will make it impossible for the Israeli murder, theft and propaganda machine to continue.

Bravo, Latin America!

Latin America takes a stand against Israel.

The people and governments of Latin America are showing the way.

The people and governments of Latin America have shown the way. They have been shaking off the stranglehold of US neoliberal imperialism and they are calling Israel out for what is. They are increasingly  supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Joyce Macmillan article

Joyce Macmillan thinks that an Israeli state-sponsored show should go ahead. I say fine, if it condemns Israel and crowd-sources funds.

Joyce Macmillan

Joyce Macmillan, of course I support freedom of expression, but all those who are sponsored by (or support) the State of Israel are complicit in its crimes.

If an Israeli state-sponsored theatre company wants to put on a show in Edinburgh it should repudiate the Israeli state’s actions, return the funds, and crowd-source alternative funding, as suggested by Neill Walker on Facebook. I would then happily support it. If it does not do this then it is clearly nothing more than paid PR agent for Israel, helping it present itself as a civilised nation rather than the apartheid terrorist entity it is, actively engaged in ethnic cleansing.

Please, Scottish Government…

Please, Scottish Government, understand how history will view you if you effectively side with genocide. Examine your consciences and take a stand. Individual ministers and MSPs, if the government or your party, respectively, won’t condemn Israel and support boycott, divestment and sanctions, I think you should consider resigning. For the sake of humanity.

Humza Yousaf

Humza, please take a lead on this.

Humza, I know you a bit. You are intelligent, thoughtful, caring and principled. Please do what you must know is the right thing and take a principled stand on this. Who is pressuring you? What are they threatening you with? What is most important right now?

Please sign this open letter to Humza Yousaf

Readers, please consider signing this open letter to Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government Minister for External Affairs and International Development, calling for the Scottish Government to unambiguously condemn Israel’s ethnic cleansing and support boycott, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel to compel it to recognise Palestinian human rights under international law.

Let Scotland and its people be judged well when history looks back on us.

We don’t have to wait until after 18 September to make the world a better place.

Now diplomacy has failed, boycotting Israel might be the only way we can protect the people of Gaza The Israeli government has already proven that it fears international isolation

Click on the image to read this article in the Independent. ‘…Let us boycott Israeli academic institutions, Israeli exports and the companies that have ties with Israel. Because even when Israel stops bombing Gaza, it will not be their final attempt to ethnically cleanse the land of Palestinians.’

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