The Con Is On

Here come the Tories
Brass neck
Fabricating stories
Tall tales of glory

Needs imagination
Pimping out the
Lower deck
In the national interest

Spin it ’til they
Win it, innit?

Lest we forget why
The citizens must suffer
They are clearing up the mess
That was left
Blue blessed
It’s a real fixer-upper

They made poverty
A Bloodsport
Cradle to the grave
Plenty profit in a slave
No pay
No say
While the gold plated
Upgrades, grateful
To the State
For their fate
Look the other way

Culture of benefits?
Who benefits?

Who benefits?

Those on the scrounge
Sing a-lobby in the vip lounge
Schmoozing in the Blue Room
Fluffers to the podium
Of suckers for the hopium

They all play along
For the Con
Is well and truly on

Do you know
Any Tory women?
Is hardly brimming.

Lowering the voting age

Should 16/17-year-olds be given the vote? No, quite simply. Why would we do that?
I’ve heard all manner of reasons over the years, told again these past few days and not one of them is new, nor are any of them made more convincing by their repetition.

It would boost turnout – so what? And would it? It doesn’t boost the adult turnout. It doesn’t guarantee a ‘better result’ or the edge to one party over another either and to seek that through this change would be appallingly cynical and undemocratic. All lowering the age would do is add to the numbers overall and probably make this demographic directly subject to the most abusive and nigh-on corrupting propaganda.

I know 16/17-year-olds who are more switched on than some adults – well, so what? Those adults were sixteen and seventeen once too. The fact that some teenagers are more savvy – which is actually a generalised and rather subjective reality to start with – is merely an observation about human nature and not a reason for adding to the numbers. It’s no secret or great mystery that some people are more engaged with their environment than others, or that some people ‘mature’ faster than others, or that some seem to never reach maturity, no matter how many years they have. By that measure we could introduce a competency test and make it mandatory to any age group. By that token we could withdraw the vote from stupid people – again subjective; again undemocratic – however tempting the notion is. I read an opinion yesterday which went my daughter is 16 and I’m sure she could be trusted to vote sensibly – Well, whoop di doo! I could have said the same of mine at that age! Actually I could have said that about one of my kids at the age of eight but I wouldn’t dream of legislating based on such a subjective bit of good fortune.

The problem is they’re not taught politics at school – Some people argue that the only barrier to lowering the voting age is the lack of political education in school. I never wanted my kids taught ‘politics’ per se – and most certainly not one restricted to current party assignations. The school curriculum regarding our civic rights and responsibilities and the complexity of our democratic processes is woefully inadequate, to be sure and this needs addressing but it does not follow that this is the only argument against lowering the voting age. Nor should the intent of such a syllabus be the politicisation of our young. Parents and the Media would seem to do quite enough of that. The intent should be that people leave school understanding the purpose of our system and the way it works and thereby being able to think for themselves, critically, based on the facts. Opinion is best formed when accompanied by facts. The political is personal and the personal is political – that is politicisation enough. The last thing our young need is to be herded by yet more doctrinal thinking, even by good intent.

The young can possess all the cognitive ability they like – that is not, in itself, a qualification to vote. Just because some kids can express a political view does not mean they should have the right to influence the choice of a government at the ballot box. By all means involve them – their interest and input is surely to be encouraged – but it is not necessary to give them the right of majority in order to do so. There are plenty of outlets for exploration and participation and no reason why that can’t be extended and made more accessible.

16-year-olds can have sex, join the army and get married; 17-year-olds can drive, yada yada – again, so what? These are discretionary levels of personal choice (two of which require parental permission, though not in Scotland, in the case of marriage) that affect only the lives of those engaged in the activity and are not necessarily beneficial or detrimental to Society or even the individual, particularly. Yes, friends and family may feel the effects of such choices but the whole country and her citizens do not automatically suffer directly from these individual and localised choices. And, if we do, perhaps we had no business lowering the age at which such choices can be made in the first place. If 16/17-year-olds were deemed to have reached an age of majority, they would be allowed to serve on the front lines of conflict. They are not. Why not? Not just because Society is uncomfortable with such a dramatic participatory level in our young but because the law has distinguished an age – 18 – to be the age at which, barring sufficiently severe mental incapacity, a person, mature or not, informed or not, is expected and allowed to be responsible for their own actions.

Whether or not we agree with the number, eighteen is currently the age of majority as set in Law. It is the age at which you become totally responsible for yourself as a member of your Society and citizen of your country. It is the age at which, not only can you vote, but, precisely because you are an adult and have the vote, you can also hold public office, enter Parliament as a representative of the electorate and serve on a jury as a representative of your adult peers. You could not give 16/17-year-olds these co-associated rights unless 16 or 17 were deemed in law to be the new age of majority. Does Society really want that? The fact that students are now to remain in education until the age of eighteen and are bound until their 17th year as a minimum is hardly an indication of renewed perceptions over maturity. Could Democracy really countenance giving this group the vote but not the right to stand as an MP? Before most of them have paid any tax? Before they can buy alcohol? Before they have even entered the world as legally autonomous beings?

16/17-year-olds will have the vote in the Scottish referendum – well yes, but this vote is of an entirely different nature and the very remit of the question arguably makes the exception more justifiable because the vote is on a single issue and the result potentially determines a permanent change. To me, that special circumstance makes it no more than a red herring with respect to the wider proposition.

If we are all living longer, what’s the rush? Why do we seem to be constantly trying to push our young into the murky adult world before they are ready – whether they think they are or not; before Society is ready..? There is an enormous democratic deficit in this country that lowering the voting age will not solve. There is a tragic lack in emotional intelligence out there at every age but lowering the point at which you can vote can’t solve that either. We are all let down by a common ignorance in our democratic processes, whatever our age. In this regard we, the citizens, all need educating because most of us are pretty ill-informed. We can rectify this, easily, at least in the education system – news media is more problematic – and we should address the same lack in our general, older population. But giving 16/17-year-olds the vote has no purpose I can see other than as some dubious reward for I know not what: a sudden quantifiable jump in their knowledge or emotional intelligence? Some evolutionary jump in maturity? To increase votes in favour of a particular party? I don’t see it. Giving 16/17-year-olds the vote is not the solution: it is simply adding to an already flawed system. Make them wait. It won’t hurt.

First thoughts, post Labour conference

Well, dear Reader! What a turnaround for the left-leaning there has been in the last 24 hours, eh? Oh I’m not all overcome with sudden adoration for the Labour Party, but oh, my – yesterday afternoon I truly felt the first rush of real hope for our short to mid term political future. It became tangible.

Ok, so Miliband’s policies are going to be dissected by all sides of the mediaocracy and the right wing politicians are going to wheel out the usual tedious diatribe about the dangers of too much red, the flight of business and money, the brain drain and the supposed ruin of the free market which, as we all know, is nowhere near free. They will decry the idea of We, the People having control of our common interests and they will cite Socialism as though it were merely some nightmarish extension of Eastern European communism and they’ll draw threatening analogies with Venezuela while not once mentioning China’s model which, let’s face it, is the source of their own envy – all the capitalist growth without the irritation of democracy. The same people will accuse us of being envious of the success and wealth of those who have profited mostly or only by climbing on our backs and dismiss the fact that successive governments have made policies to that exact end. It’s not envy – it’s profiteering. It’s injustice.

For me, it wasn’t the policies so much – not that I disliked them but I know there’ll be gaps and mistakes – lord knows, the Coalition makes them every day – and there will be shortcomings. No, it was that for the first time, I believed that a vote for Labour might not entail me having to hold my nose and settle for the least right-wing party of viable governance just to get rid of the present one. For the first time, I believed someone – Ed – would stand up to the overly powerful and the too bigs to fail. For the first time I saw comprehension, courage, credible strength and integrity.

It’s early days. I’m not entirely convinced. I have questions, doubts and misgivings. But I have hope now, too. Tangible green shoots of hope.

What is this ‘full employment’?

What is ‘full employment’? Does it really mean anything?

Apparently this has never really been quantified because economists who believe in it in the first place vary quite markedly in their definitions – from 0% to think of a number. Well, apart from the obvious fact that some people are unlikely ever to work, it sounds vague to me. Like that other indeterminate phrase: ‘make work pay’, it could mean a lot of things and probably not at all what we might assume or like it to mean.

Like the theory that says the fuller the employment, the higher the inflation which is hinged on the supply-demand theory which hinges on the ‘free’ market which hinges on more and moar and every man for himself. Sadly, the supply-demand paradigm didn’t settle at observation over lengthy periods of time, some interesting charts, useful analysis and sensible application. The musings were deemed so wonderful that whole economic models were created upon which people would henceforth be named consumers and would now be expected to fit their behaviour to the blueprint. It’s like a nature-nurture paradox: people are greedy for more therefore let’s make people needy; create demand so supply can go up; increase supply so the price can come down; decrease the supply so the price can go up…

Governments and ‘capitalists’ lapped this up and decided that this was indeed a most fruitful model and so set themselves about using it to justify, manage and manipulate the economy until people were consuming any old gratuitous crap from a very deep and wide pool of mass exploitation. And, to this day, the faithful and the blind still see this very ridiculous, unsustainable and unethical ideology as the saviour of the problems it helped so much to create. Now, I know I’m no economist – I probably just proved that – but building the entire economic structure on what looks like a massive umbrella Ponzi seems to me to be not only top down capricious artifice but myopic and confused, too. There’s nothing natural or healthy any more (if there ever was) about the cycles in our economic structure. It is macromanaged and micromanaged with pure cynicism.

But I digress… What is ‘full employment’?

Is full employment when everyone, willing and able, has access to a full-time job that is in and of itself a sufficient means by which to live well, keep children, save a bit and contribute taxable revenue? Is this full employment objective possible any more? And, if it is, why would we need a scheme to kick in to guarantee it? The jobs either exist or they don’t. Is full employment actually necessary? Or even desirable? Aren’t there enough of us yet to do three.. ish days each without reducing our living standards? Isn’t that the traditional pitch of those who sell us grand technological dreams of automation? After all, many more people work to live rather than do live to work and working so hard and for so long is only necessary because it costs so much just to maintain the most basic of standards. Where is the guilt-free leisure we were promised?

Is full employment when everyone does whatever cruddy job they are given and/or takes whatever they can get and requires Social Security because it’s still not enough to live a decent life?

Is it everyone being kept busy doing anything, no matter how lousy, futile or (self-) destructive – and without proper financial reward, as a way of keeping certain demographics in line?

Does full employment mean you have to be engaged in an activity which has been officially defined as employment because the prevailing ideology extols it as the only way to prove one’s worth to Society?

Where does full employment place our familial carers? What is being a mother and particularly a lone parent, if it is not a 24/7, on-call occupation? No main political party addresses this – I’m not counting that tax-break for married couples tripe – extending free or at least affordable child care is a lovely idea except that it appears to be being expanded mostly to provide somewhere for adults to store their children while they justify their monetary worth and contribute to making the country look like it has full employment. Why is bringing up children being relegated to a job that other people must be poorly paid to do? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to offer payment to the parent? Isn’t that providing a real choice? Is that too something for nothing for modern politicians, because I’d call it common sense.

Everything is inflated, from the value of assets to the importance of growth. Growth in what? More crap we don’t need, more greed and more poverty. Poverty may be the most sustainable supply-demand commodity since fossil fuels. Oh, and bubbles. We love growing bubbles.

How does this employment-inflation measurement work if the figures available are based on full but underemployment? Everyone working but no one earning enough to buy anything because prices for basic goods are beyond reach? That’s a lot of people depending on a very small tax pot. If full employment has to be achieved through subsidised serfdom then it is surely not an economy but a protection racket?

Is full employment about having any old job or about everyone working because there actually are enough decent jobs? Is it full-time employment or just people looking for work all the time? Is it about finding fulfilling occupations or being fully exploited? Whose world is it that citizens are seen and treated as merely another commodity, subject to the choreography of supply and demand by the powerful and whimsical; to be cynically reduced to an abstract variable on a rickety old framework?

Can we not concentrate on creating a world in which ethical sustainability replaces an economy where a new phone choice every few months, securing an arms contract or finding it cheaper to buy a new t-shirt than wash one is considered successful and progressive? Does an economic recovery really have nothing better to offer? These days we gorge on trifle with our circuses and seem to have quite forgotten the comfort and nutritional value of a good loaf. You can bung nearly anything on top of a wholesome base. I’m sure we would be better off starting our models from ground level. Models which prioritise ethics, sustainability, cohesion and peace of mind. An economy which is a principled means to a commonly beneficial end rather than by selectively dubious means for very exclusive ends. That sort of recovery would feel like progress.

Autumnal Equinox

Harvest own
Self sown
Full circle show

Reflection follow
Inmost depth
And rushing shallow

Both real
And borrowed
Robed in hope
That bids tomorrow

Let night abound
With insight’s glow

New day’s new ground
So cleanse and hallow

Inner light
Reap gold
By Silver’s wheel
Come round
Draw down
Make equal

To bless the Cup
My Soul takes up

LibDem Flimflam

Lib Dem flimflam,
Everyman to any man.
Discernment trashed
For power dash in
Sandals swapped
And values cropped
For fickle, feckless
Flip flops.
Integrity displaced;
Credibility replaced.
Constant grazers with
A panoramic face.
Fib Dem shaftocrats:
Water off a duck’s back.
A niche in capriciousness.
Specious claims for
Squalid gains.
Plans dropped for
Scams and plots in
National Interest ruse.
Shame exchanged
For hubris blue,
Prove the party’s
Worse than useless.
Toothless shills and
Selfish shysters,
Lame excuses for
Lib Dems suffer
Mass delusion;
Serve themselves
Without exclusion.

The West Protests Too Much

It’s about regime change – No! Wait – It’s absolutely not about regime change – except for the Assad must go bit. It’s about security. No, wait a minute: it’s about punishment. Or was that national interest? You want to arm the rebels? Even things up a bit? Which rebels? You know discernment isn’t your best faculty, don’t you? What? Oh, it’s about credibility.. Huh? Sorry, I must have misheard… Did you say credibility? What about the boots on the ground? Yes, I know what you said but is that still ‘a go’ anyway?

Just how stupid do the Dear Leaders think we are? As stupid as them, apparently…

It’s ok for the American, French and British regimes to throw their weight around but when Putin does it it’s suddenly very bad form. Now, I’m no fan of the Putin Regime. I’m no fan of the Cameron Regime, either – or Obama’s. (I also don’t presume that any leader is representative of his/her citizens or subjects either. Those days seem long gone, if they ever existed.) People who agree with the verbal contribution coming out of Russia’s mouth are being deliberately treated as though s/he were a fool who has somehow forgotten or lovingly overlooked Putin’s domestic record and his nation’s history. It’s a good enough proposal that everyone wants to take credit for it but, oh dear, oh dear! How embarrassing for the warmongers: it’s Russia’s coup and Putin knows how to play chess…

The Western powers do protest too much. Except when it comes to China, of course. Funny that…

We are not ignorant of the double standards within the Putin Regime any more than we are ignorant of ours: every pointing finger; every snide remark can be turned back in accusation to our own Regimes. The irony is simply inescapable:

Obama says that America is ‘exceptional’ but he and his Regime seem to have confused the meaning with ‘take exception to’ and ‘make exception for’. I suppose it goes some way to explaining why the US shies away from the International Criminal Court; or why no one can have chemical weapons except them – and perhaps Israel: the former not thus far having destroyed theirs and the latter, not having even ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. Netanyahu wants Syria stripped of chemical weapons and for the world to ensure that those who use Weapons of Mass Destruction pay a price, but will Benjamin go first? Not likely. Apparently he’s special.

Now, I’m as horrified by chemical/biological weapons as the next Being. I shouldn’t even need to clarify that, should I? But then, I didn’t think I’d have a need to say I’m no great fan of Putin. Or that I didn’t support Saddam just because I was against invading Iraq… Naturally I would like to see these chemical weapons gone (along with many other types) but why being gassed is deemed more terrifying or horrific than being gang-raped or having your jaw blown off is a little curious. Is it a numbers thing, because I hear that missiles are also problematic on that score…

Russia is denigrated over and over again while big, powerful, enigmatic and economically threatening China is left largely alone. Russia is castigated time after time for her use of the UN veto and yet the US has exercised a veto fourteen times since 1991 (in 13 cases to shield Israel, as it happens), while Russia has used it nine times. Personally, I would shut up about that, wouldn’t you? Apparently it is Russia having vested interests which has put Syria in a worse condition because, well, the varied interests of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, the UK, the EU, the USA and Israel couldn’t possibly be factors as well, could they? Russia is a bad bear for propping up her economy by propping up the Assad Regime and yet the US and her willing buddies were and still are more than content to support any old despot if it’s expedient to their own purposes. But gods forbid anyone should mention the West’s own very sordid continuum of interest in the region. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Throughout ‘modern’ history the Western powers have made it their primary business to stomp around the world in the name of ‘national interest’. It’s what empires do before they die. They’re the ones, mostly, who stir the shit and start the wars; they’re the ones who invade governed and ‘ungoverned spaces’, who plunder, manipulate and oppress; they are the ones who enable fantastical profiteering and then have the audacity to call it help. Follow the money. Follow the vested interests. The connections stem from the usual suspects nearly every time. Self-Service is what they mean.

Obviously none of us ordinary people has access to a map. The geo-strategic implications are way over our heads. It couldn’t possibly be about preserving the petrodollar and the fiat global economy in order to maintain a monopoly over energy resources by perpetual conflict, could it, now…

Unless Assad prevails and the world washes its hands instead of pretending to wring them as he re-subjugates the Syrian people, everyone knows the negotiating table is at the end of this. Why we can’t skip straight to that part and prove ourselves good students of history and civility is because the usual suspects keep placing pathetic obstacles in the way. Iran is the ultimate goal of the neo-cons, therefore Iran is the convenient scapegoat for the block. Removal of Assad is the goal, therefore he is the block. Yet having Assad (or his successor) at the table is not a threat if he is calmly negotiated out of the equation. How ridiculous to arbitrarily omit either party from discussion. And how disingenuously self-righteous to mask the myriad agenda as moral high ground.

One certainty is that, regardless of who used chemical weapons, bombing in the name of saving lives is so ludicrous as to be an insult to the intelligence of every rational mind. Whether military force is used or not, these powerful monsters are adept at creating win-win scenarios – it’s not over by a long way – and they seem quite immune to collateral damage in any form. Not one of the vested interests gives a stuff about the actual Syrian people – just as they don’t give a stuff about their own citizens.

Poor old The West! So sure of its superiority; so uptight; so impressed with its own collective ego that it doesn’t occur to these neo-liberal bozos that they are the real danger to world peace; that they move against Humanity.

The Dear Leaders need us to avoid nuance in favour of dumb simplicity. They want us to pick a side and they want it to be the side they choose – until they change their minds. They need our memories to be short, our minds maleable and our overwrought hearts to be easily manipulated. But we are not all stupid. And we are not just ‘war-weary’, Dear Leaders: we are spin-weary.