Sunday 25 November 2007

Swimming against a tide of hate

It's not often I agree with something I read in the Daily Telegraph. (No, this has absolutely nothing to do with Respect and the split between the SWP and George Galloway, lol). Or have any sympathy for the military. But then I read the Daily Telegraph's Disabled veterans jeered at swimming pool news report.

It really is appalling how common disability prejudice is in our supposedly "civilised" society, and how deep it runs. This ignorance is far from unprecedented; as far back as 1998 I was banned from using certain facilities at a local swimming pool because of my disability, and 2 years ago the parents of a disabled girl (involved with the local "A pool for Megan" charity) were abused by other parents at a local country park for "scaring their kids".

What is unusual this time is that disabled combat veterans - normally treated as heroes, even by the Establishment - are the subject of such abuse. It is true that our soldiers - who have been recklessly sent to fight illegal, immoral and dangerous wars by our government, for the benefit of the British and American capitalist Establishments, and have been killed and maimed for oil - deserve far better than this!

Yet it does feel bitterly ironic that disabled military veterans are now on the receiving end of such prejudice; back in 2000, a heavily-charged debate about whether people with disabilities should be employed in non-combat jobs within the armed forces flared up, as a result of General Guthrie (then head of the British Army) decrying such a possibility. (My views on this issue can be found at Red Disability's Disability and the British Armed Forces article - which has itself attracted an amount of feedback, both positive and negative).

The usual myth parroted by the Establishment is that disability prejudice is a part of "human nature" and therefore "apolitical". But disability discrimination and prejudice are very much a product of capitalism and propagated by the capitalist Establishment - my views on that matter can be found in more detail on Red Disability's Is Human Nature a barrier to Disability Rights article.

More recently, it seems too coincidental that disability prejudice is rearing its ugly head again, so soon after the government has announced plans for yet another attack on Incapacity Benefit claimants. Apolitical? Maybe. Maybe the German Nazis sent over 100, 000 disabled people to the gas chambers just for a laugh ...

The individual parents responsible for such abuse should be dealt with; what I find "scary" is that such parents are not just brainwashed themselves, they are actively helping the Establishment to brainwash their kids with such poisonous prejudice. (Although the idea of "naming and shaming" them goes even further than my idea, mooted in July in my Register of emotion article on this blog, for a "hate crime offenders register"!)

But to stop others like them, we must first get rid of the root cause not just of disability prejudice (see Red Disability's Got a problem? article) but also of racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and countless other forms of oppression. Namely, the capitalist system.

Friday 23 November 2007

The road to Hell

It's virtually impossible not to sympathise with the road hauliers who are threatening to re-start fuel price protests, and I - along with countless other motorists - wish them luck. Caught between the taxman bleeding me dry, and the capitalist petrol companies forever hiking the fuel prices (and their profits), I certainly feel more badly stung than someone who's had a naked romp in an ongaonga tree!

As if the petrol price hikes aren't bad enough, the ever increasing car tax and the threatened road-pricing plans are also igniting considerable anger. What's more, the new structure of car tax discriminates against older cars, driven predominantly by working class people who can't afford newer models - my car is a 1.9 litre Renault Laguna diesel, in a high tax bracket because it's over 1.5 litre. and was made before 2002. (OK, maybe it's a "chavmobile", but 1.9 litre for a diesel car is hardly a "gas guzzler" is it ?!?)

All, officially, in the name of cutting CO2 emissions from cars and protecting the planet. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for protecting the planet and stopping the greenhouse effect, and on a selfish level I'd like to see less traffic on the roads - it's no fun at all being stood for ages in traffic jams (or, to be politically correct, "congestion") when you're already late for work.

However, I'm extremely sceptical about whether the increasing costs of motoring are going to have much - if any - impact on car use. Any motorist who's run into debt paying for fuel, taken out an IVA to pay for the car tax and insurance, and auctioned their organs on ebay to pay for repairs, will tell you that motoring ain't cheap!

So what is the solution? To answer that, we must look at what is causing the problem...

Many of us (myself included) must commute long distances to work. This can be traced to the decimation of local jobs, notably the closure of coal mines and steelworks in the 1980s and early 1990s, and there have been several factory closures and cutbacks in public sector jobs since. Not just under the Tories, but also under the current Labour government which is now laying the belt into those of us who now have to travel much longer distances (50 miles in my case) to work.

It's not just to work we have to travel. Local shops are being replaced by out-of-town shopping centres, so we must travel to do shopping. And the "school run" has been aggravated by the increasing selection in schools, gathering pace as a result of the government's obsession with new PFI schools and "specialist" acedemies, leading many kids to travel larger distances to school.

At the same time, public transport has seen cutbacks in services and/or fare hikes as a result in privatisation, and the profit motive now takes priority over the welfare of commuters, let alone the environment.

The closure of local workplaces and the centralisation of production in a few large workplaces (often abroad) has at the same time increased the number of lorries on the road, as goods must be transported further than when they were producd locally. What's more, back in the 1980s, we saw a massive increase in the number of lorries as a result of Thatcherite moves to weaken the railway unions, by encouraging the use of road transport. So it is sweet and fitting that the lorry drivers are now turning against the same capitalist Establishment which gave them that power (but has so long denied them the wages and working conditions they are entitled to).

So any bogus solution based on attacking motorists in the wallet, or any other underhand method (such as making it harder for young drivers to get driving licences and easier to lose their licences, or charging disabled drivers for parking), ain't gonna have much effect. Just as taxing cigarettes heavily is not going to deal with the nicoting addiction, so taxing road transport more heavily is not going to deal with society's addiction to the motor car.

The answers lie in:
  • creating more local jobs and services, to reduce commuting by workers and excessive transportation of manufactured goods
  • renationalising public transport to provide affordable, regular and frequent services (including off-peak services, to accommodate shift workers)
  • central planning of the distribution of goods and services - it is wasteful when two lorries carrying the same product pass each other on the motorway, going in opposite directions!
Only these measures can properly protect both the planet, and the living wages of ordinary working class commuters.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Who will face the music over missing disks?

In a category 5 blunder, 2 computer disks containing the details of 25 million people - children included - have been lost. These disks contained sensitive data relating to child benefit claims, and the blunder was by HM Revenue & Customs. (BBC News: UK families put on fraud alert).

The immediate fall guy for this fiasco seems likely to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling. Not that I have any sympathy at all for Ali D; he is a horrible right wing Blairite, who was responsible in 2001 for the government's first wave of attacks on Incapacity Benefit claimants. But the buck certainly does not stop there ...

Catastrophic mistakes like this are made much more likely as a result of overworked civil servants due to an understaffed civil service. For this, Gordon Brown himself must shoulder a heavy responsibility - even before he became Prime Minister, as far back as the early 2000s, he moved to decimate the number of civil service jobs in the name of a "war on bureaucracy". (Yeah, I know that sounds good coming from a government which has brought in more petty legislation than it's possible to keep track of, but that's the phrase I seem to remember them using!)

Whether or not Brown, or Ali D for that matter, end up resigning, there will be repercussions. For starters, they'll find it virtually impossible (I hope!) to force through their "pet project" of ID cards, since nobody trusts the government to hold information about us now. And the fact that a private courier, TNT, were responsible for the loss, will hit the government's plans to privatise the Post Office.

Ah well, you can tell when the government are in deep $#!t. Because they always try to take people's minds off it, by dredging up the threat from the bogeyman of the week. This week it's the turn of under-age drinkers (BBC News: PM urges action on alcohol sales).

So, if you're under 21 years old or look it, you'd best have some ID, to avoid being given the Spanish Inquisistion by the sales staff when you go to buy alcohol. Of course, you could apply for a government/police approved proof of age card, by giving your details to whoever is in charge of issuing these cards.

You never know, maybe these details will end up on the follow up disk to HMRC's current smash hit :-P

Saturday 3 November 2007

Shove Trident up Brown's ass!

Although the political scene seems bloody depressing at the moment, there is a rare ray of light shining through the hurricane. And it's from a rather unusual source - namely the Liberal Democrats.

One of the main contenders for the Liberal Democrat leadership, Chris Huhne, has pledged to scrap Trident if he is elected (BBC News: Trident divides Huhne and Clegg). For a number of years, I've considered the Lib Dems as the best of the 3 main parties, if only for their support for Proportional Representation and the lowering of the voting age to 16. But if Huhne is elected, I will be very glad because, for first time since the 1980s, we will have a party opposed to the lethally dangerous, squanderously wasteful, abhorrent monstrosity that is the Trident nuclear weapons system - which the government have committed themselves to squandering £76 billion of taxpayers money on replacing.

I have been anti-nuclear weapons for a very long time. In fact, I left the Labour Party (OK, I admit, I used to be a Labour Party member, how embarrassing) back in 1988 when they sold out on nuclear disarmament.

To read the truth about nuclear weapons and the threat they pose to world peace, and how to campaign against them, you could do far worse than visit the CND website or the Stop The War website.