Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Frightened by Donald Trump? You don’t know the half of it

George Monbiot in The Guardian

Yes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.

I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.

Among those I clashed with was Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The CEI calls itself a thinktank, but looks to me like a corporate lobbying group. It is not transparent about its funding, but we now know it has received $2m from ExxonMobil, more than $4m from a group called the Donors Trust (which represents various corporations and billionaires), $800,000 from groups set up by the tycoons Charles and David Koch, and substantial sums from coal, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies.

For years, Ebell and the CEI have attacked efforts to limit climate change, through lobbying, lawsuits and campaigns. An advertisement released by the institute had the punchline “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution. We call it life.”


Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, like other members of Trump’s team, came from a group called Americans for Prosperity. Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Images

It has sought to eliminate funding for environmental education, lobbied against the Endangered Species Act, harried climate scientists and campaigned in favour of mountaintop removal by coal companies. In 2004, Ebell sent a memo to one of George W Bush’s staffers calling for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to be sacked. Where is Ebell now? Oh – leading Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Charles and David Koch – who for years have funded extreme pro-corporate politics – might not have been enthusiasts for Trump’s candidacy, but their people were all over his campaign. Until June, Trump’s campaign manager was Corey Lewandowski, who like other members of Trump’s team came from a group called Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

This purports to be a grassroots campaign, but it was founded and funded by the Koch brothers. It set up the first Tea Party Facebook page and organised the first Tea Party events. With a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, AFP has campaigned ferociously on issues that coincide with the Koch brothers’ commercial interests in oil, gas, minerals, timber and chemicals.
In Michigan, it helped force through the “right to work bill”, in pursuit of what AFP’s local director called “taking the unions out at the knees”. It has campaigned nationwide against action on climate change. It has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into unseating the politicians who won’t do its bidding and replacing them with those who will.

I could fill this newspaper with the names of Trump staffers who have emerged from such groups: people such as Doug Domenech, from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, funded among others by the Koch brothers, Exxon and the Donors Trust; Barry Bennett, whose Alliance for America’s Future (now called One Nation) refused to disclose its donors when challenged; and Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, funded by Exxon and others. This is to say nothing of Trump’s own crashing conflicts of interest. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of the lobbyists and corporate stooges working in Washington. But it looks as if the only swamps he’ll drain will be real ones, as his team launches its war on the natural world.

Understandably, there has been plenty of coverage of the racists and white supremacists empowered by Trump’s victory. But, gruesome as they are, they’re peripheral to the policies his team will develop. It’s almost comforting, though, to focus on them, for at least we know who they are and what they stand for. By contrast, to penetrate the corporate misinformation machine is to enter a world of mirrors. Spend too long trying to understand it, and the hyporeality vortex will inflict serious damage on your state of mind.

Don’t imagine that other parts of the world are immune. Corporate-funded thinktanks and fake grassroots groups are now everywhere. The fake news we should be worried about is not stories invented by Macedonian teenagers about Hillary Clinton selling arms to Islamic State, but the constant feed of confected scares about unions, tax and regulation drummed up by groups that won’t reveal their interests.

The less transparent they are, the more airtime they receive. The organisation Transparify runs an annual survey of thinktanks. This year’s survey reveals that in the UK only four thinktanks – the Adam Smith Institute, Centre for Policy Studies, Institute of Economic Affairs and Policy Exchange – “still consider it acceptable to take money from hidden hands behind closed doors”. And these are the ones that are all over the media.

When the Institute of Economic Affairs, as it so often does, appears on the BBC to argue against regulating tobacco, shouldn’t we be told that it has been funded by tobacco companies since 1963? There’s a similar pattern in the US: the most vocal groups tend to be the most opaque.

As usual, the left and centre (myself included) are beating ourselves up about where we went wrong. There are plenty of answers, but one of them is that we have simply been outspent. Not by a little, but by orders of magnitude. A few billion dollars spent on persuasion buys you all the politics you want. Genuine campaigners, working in their free time, simply cannot match a professional network staffed by thousands of well-paid, unscrupulous people.

You cannot confront a power until you know what it is. Our first task in this struggle is to understand what we face. Only then can we work out what to do,

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

How Isis recruiters found fertile ground in Kerala

Michael Safi in The Guardian


Padanna in Kerala is the home town to at least six young men who are believed to have left to join the Islamic State Photograph: Sasi Kollikal for the Guardian



Residents of Kerala like to call their lush south Indian state, “God’s own country”. Hafizuddin Hakim disagreed.

The 23-year-old left his wife and family in June, telling them he was headed to Sri Lanka to pursue his Islamic studies. Around the same time, 16 others slipped out of his district, Kasargod, and another four from neighbouring Palakkad.

The next anyone heard from the missing 21 was an encrypted audio recording sent from an Afghan number. “We reached our destination,” it said. “There is no point in complaining to police ... We have no plans to return from the abode of Allah.”

The mass disappearance of the group, widely believed – but not confirmed– to have joined Islamic State, is one of a number of incidents this year that have raised fears that India, so far unscathed by the terrorist group, might be seeing increased activity.

India’s Muslim population, the third largest in the world, has so far contributed negligible numbers to Isis – fewer than 90 people, according to most estimates. “More have gone from Britain, even from the Maldives, than India,” says Vikram Sood, a former chief of India’s foreign spy agency.

But growing concern over the group’s influence was made official this month, when the US embassy in Delhi issued its first Isis-related warning, of an “increased threat to places in India frequented by Westerners, such as religious sites, markets and festival venues”.

However, it is not India’s harsh, dry north, nor Kashmir, the site of a burning Islamic insurgency, where Isis has found most appeal. The group’s unlikely recruiting ground is Kerala, one of India’s wealthiest, most diverse and best-educated states.

Minarets and palm trees intersperse the skyline along Kerala’s Malabar coast, a verdant region of paddies and waterways that weave between villages like veins.

Padanna, in the north of the state, is a typical backwater town: orderly, lined with oversized houses, and made rich by remittances from its share of the nearly 2.5m Keralites who work in the Arab gulf.

It is also from where a dozen people, including Hakim, vanished in June. “He was a carefree, easy-going boy,” recalls his uncle, Abdul Rahim. “He used to indulge in all kinds of activities, smoking, drinking. He was not that religious.”

Hakim had worked in the United Arab Emirates in his late teens, returning to Padanna two years ago. A little aimless, he fell in with a new crowd, centred around an employee of the local Peace International School, an education franchise that adheres to a hardline Salafi Muslim ideology (but which has denied any involvement in the group’s disappearance).


The Keralan backwaters are a pretty network of lakes, rivers and canals stretching almost half the length of the state. Photograph: Oyster Opera Resort

“All of a sudden he became a recluse,” Rahim says. He grew a wispy beard, cut the TV cable to his home and one day, stopped driving his car. “He said it was taken on loan, and a loan was anti-Islam.”

Salafism is not new to southern India, but an influx of Saudi Arabian money in the past decades – partly detailed in Saudi diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks – has produced a harder-edged Islam in the region, says Ashraf Kaddakal, a professor at the University of Kerala.

“It is a very narrow, very rigid, very reactionary kind of ideology,” he says. “And it has attracted many youngsters, especially students.

“These youngsters have detached from their [orthodox Sunni] leaders and started following the online Islam, the preaching and sermons of these Saudi and other Salafi scholars,” he says. “They indoctrinated many through these internet preachings.”

Kadakkal himself has tried to counsel dozens of young people, whose parents fear their children’s increasingly rigid faith. “My counselling has been a total failure”, he admits. “They blindly follow their masters. They get their fatwas from the internet.”

Whatever threat Isis poses to India is fundamentally different, and probably less pressing, than that which most occupies the minds of Indian security officials.

“For us the major fear is from groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed,” says Sood, the former intelligence chief. “That is where the real, organised, state-sponsored threat lies.”

In contrast, those arrested so far on suspicion of Isis links or sympathies, numbering 68 people, have largely been self-starters, operating in small, unskilled networks.

“And they were almost all well-short of coming close to actually carrying out anything resembling a lethal operation,” says Praveen Swami, an author and journalist who specialises in strategic issues.

Still, the militant group has explicitly tried to ignite fervour among Indians. Its propaganda wing released a video in May featuring interviews with Indian recruits, including members of an existing jihadi group, the Indian Mujahideen, that pledged allegiance to Isis in 2014.

According to a National Intelligence Agency charge-sheet issued against 16 alleged extremists in July, authorities also believe Shafi Armar, a notorious Indian Mujahideen member believed to be in Syria, has been actively trying to groom recruits back home.

As well, Subahani Haja Moideen, one of six members of an alleged extremist cell arrested in northern Kerala in October, is believed to have actually returned from fighting with Isis in Iraq, where he reportedly met with some of the alleged organisers of the Paris terror attacks, according to Indian news agencies.

On the numbers, overall – and like al-Qaida before it – the group has so far failed to make deep roots in India.

Kadakkal suggests India’s idiosyncratic religious culture just doesn’t blend well with Isis’ highly orthodox worldview. “Indian soil is not right for this kind of extremism,” he says.

Sood agrees: “There is a lot of laissez faire in India, much more than in the more ordered societies of the modern world. We let things be, and that’s terrible when it comes to driving, but otherwise ... it has upsides.”

But the fault-line between Hindus and Muslim in India is a deep one, and the symbolic power of a successful attack could far outweigh any toll of casualties.

“I guess that is the real fear,” Swami says. “If even this small Isis thing succeeds in carrying out large acts of violence, the political and knock-on consequences could create serious trouble.”

Sunday, 27 November 2016

On British Rule in India

An Era of Darkness - Shashi Tharoor Review by Karan Thapar

Until recently, to be anti-establishment you had to be opposed to the establishment. Not anymore.

Mark Steel in The Independent
Image result for farage trump


From the way Donald Trump is trying to place Nigel Farage as British ambassador to America, it seems he must think part of his prize for winning the election is he can appoint whoever he likes to every single job.

Next he’ll demand Boris Johnson is made Prime Minister of Pakistan, Alan Sugar plays in goal for Brazil, and Farage combines his role as ambassador with being an underwear model for Marks & Spencer.

Then he can insist he chooses all official delegates at every summit, so the next G20 will be him and Farage, with a bloke he met in a lap-dancing club in Milan, a woman from Japan who was Miss Tokyo 2012 – until he realises she’s put on four pounds so is hardly suitable to discuss climate change – and his daughter, who can represent Mexico.

He can act like this because he’s anti-establishment which is why he’s such good friends with Farage. And there’s no greater sign of two mates bravely fighting against the symbols of wealth and power, than being photographed smiling in a solid gold lift that one of them owns so he can go up and down his tower. Jeremy Corbyn, look and learn.

This week Farage secured his position as spokesman for the common man by having a party at the Ritz, because he’s determined to stay rooted in the community.

Men of the people always have their parties at the Ritz, so this was Nigel’s way of keeping it real, with a homely affair for old friends and the neighbours, such as the Barclay brothers and Jacob ‘Salt-of-the-Earth’ Rees-Mogg, who must have got time off from an evening shift driving a forklift truck.

It reminds me of my Auntie Joyce’s do when she retired from the Co-op. And what a lovely moment it was when she said: “Ooh, look who’s popped in – it’s Lord Ashcroft who delivers the fruit and veg.”

Also there was Jim “down at the old Bull and Bush” Mellon who is worth £850m and is so down-to-earth he bases himself in the Isle of Man for some reason, probably because he is shy.

It is common for prominent people in independence parties to be based outside the country they wish to be independent, because they’ve been exiled, and the UK Independence Party follows this tradition.

In their case they all seem to be tax exiles but the principle is exactly the same.

So Nigel’s celebration must have been the grassroots event you’d expect, just like your brother-in-law’s 50th birthday upstairs in the pub. We’re all familiar with how these evenings end, with Lord Ashcroft trying to separate the Barclay brothers as they squabble over who had the last of the Twiglets, and journalists from The Times throwing up in the garden after a pint of Malibu and Crème de Menthe.

Someone else who went to the Ritz party was Ukip donor Aaron Banks, who has companies in the Isle of Man but also in Gibraltar. That’s because he’s so passionate about the United Kingdom he doesn’t want its tax officers wasting time counting his payments when they could be doing something more useful, so he gives a tiny bit to places abroad instead, to help Britain out.

As Nigel is so adamant he’s an ordinary chap, he’s transformed the way we see the establishment altogether. Up until recently, to be anti-establishment you had to be in some way at least in part opposed to the establishment. But now that stuffy rule has been destroyed, and in these more creative post-truth times anyone can be anti-establishment as long as they claim to be.


This Christmas, the Queen will start her speech: “This year, I for one have had just about enough of the establishment. It’s all right for some, lauding it with their posh crockery, and buying the latest Swarovski crowns rather than having to make do with hand-me-downs from Queen Victoria. But your la-di-da types can say what they like, and I can moan about immigrants whenever I fancy coz I’m a simple gal living in South London and I know what’s what.”

Then the politicians will try and copy Trump and Farage as it seems to work. Philip Hammond will start a speech about Brexit negotiations: “Yesterday evening I met with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who I have to confess I found a particularly cracking piece of arse.” Then all his front bench will groan “Hear, hear, hear” and wave bits of paper.

There will be a scandal as it emerges Michael Gove paid the proper amount of tax, but he’ll make a statement: “I can assure you these are malicious lies and I paid hardly any.” And there will be calls for Hilary Benn’s resignation, when it’s claimed he met his wife at a regional meeting of a Labour Party committee on road policy in rural areas. But he’ll deny this, saying, “I can assure you I met her in proper fashion, groping her in a taxi after giving her second prize in the competition for Miss Weston-Super-Mare 1996.”

Vince Cable will publish election leaflets showing him in a jacuzzi with a ladyboy, but his opponents will accuse him of having it Photoshopped. And the Conservative Party political broadcast will be a hip-hop video in which Jeremy Hunt stands by a swimming pool in a white suit with a gold cane pouring rum over Amber Rudd as she wiggles in a bikini.

Because at last we don’t have to obsessively cater for special interest exotic minorities such as people from abroad and women, and we can give the country back to the ordinary grafting working-class millionaire at the Ritz.

Are we all really expected to work until we drop?

Catherine Bennett in The Guardian


As Tony Blair repeatedly confirms, and John Cridland notes in his interim report on the state pension age, a “significant” number of workers who left the labour market before the age of 63 “wish they had postponed their retirement”.

In many ways, the response to Blair’s longing for a second act, in full knowledge of his power irredeemably to contaminate any political project, is a timely reminder to younger workers, as the retirement age rises, of the need to plan ahead. Leave early – whether for reasons of ill health, burn-out or for being universally denounced as an avaricious, world-blighting menace – and it may prove almost impossible, as the TUC recently noted, for the older worker to find another job. 

But with his determination to defy the above obstacles, Blair is also a terrific example of the model, can-do, older worker. One whose undimmed desire to serve – or do incalculable harm to his own side – so compellingly supports the proposition, one especially dear to British politicians, that increased longevity should naturally be accompanied by an ever-extended working life. Cridland, the former Confederation of British Industry chief, is the latest to reassess the retirement age and is still consulting for a report due next year.

As it stands, the state’s reward for scientific advances that should usher millions more people into their 90s is the raised retirement age of 68 (rescheduled for 2041), the highest in the OECD. Behind Cridland’s interim report is the expectation, supposing longevity keeps increasing, that it should be raised again.

Quite why the British older worker should, if only in this respect, have become synonymous with drudgery, has never, so far as I can discover, been explained. Maybe decades of strong tea are what helps our oldest people to become, with their furious, late-onset capacity for record-breaking productivity, the envy of the world. Or maybe younger workers, or the politicians who should represent their interests, are lamentably passive. As it is, with their proved success in delivering, by adjusting the retirement age, what are, in effect, huge fines on generations too youthful and busy to notice, there is every reason for British politicians to continue to impose penalties for age-defying insouciance.

And with so much to divert public attention, now is the perfect time for the pensions minister, Richard Harrington, to mention that he has asked the Government Actuary’s Department to recalculate life expectancy and project what might be a nifty way of relieving younger generations of a few more hundred billion pounds – if the percentage of adult life (from the age of 20) considered eligible for state-pensioned retirement were lowered from the current 33.3% to 32%. “People are living and working longer than ever before,” Harrington said. “That is why it is important we get this right to ensure the system stays fair and sustainable for generations to come.” Or, alternatively, until modern medicine buys the government another year or two’s pension deferral.

Supposing the lower figure were adopted, a pension consultant told the Telegraph, the government “would struggle to find a more politically painless way to take £8,000 off tens of millions of people”. Moreover, if and when affected workers began to make a fuss, many of those responsible would, themselves, be safely retired on final salary pensions, and protected, as Women Against State Pension Inequality protests – by 50s-born women obliged to work beyond 60 – has shown, by intergenerational indifference.

Described by the New Statesman, in its article “Tony Blair’s Unfinished Business”, as looking “anything but broken” – and allegedly reminiscent of the figure whose cojones were so esteemed by George Bush – the tanned Blair, no less than orangeTrump, is, in contrast, a poster boy for the five decades of toil that will, if some pension lobbyists have their way, become the norm in the UK and the US. Trump’s example was somewhat compromised, in this respect, by his age-related insulting of Hillary Clinton. “Importantly,” he said, “she [also] lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on Isis and all the many adversaries we face.”

As many future, almost 70-year-old workers may eventually discover, strategies for reducing age prejudice and intergenerational resentment have failed – largely through not existing – to keep pace with deferments of state pensionable age and the end of obligatory retirement. Outside politics and the BBC, and anywhere else Farage’s “big silverback gorillas” are not delightedly deferred to, the lingering presence of pension-defying, grandparent-age colleagues can, one gathers, be distinctly unwelcome to co-workers – and not only those hoping for promotion within the next century or so.

The recent proposal, by the Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway, that older graduates consider, like her, a pre-retirement switch to teaching elicited some wry responses from members of a profession where the average retirement age is 59. For instance: “Teaching is a young person’s game.”
The word “ageism” does not appear in Cridland’s 100-page report, a document that may not only cheer politicians praying for the go-ahead on 70, but reassure anyone who fears – whether from experience, or from listening too closely to health officials, or from reading too much literature – that advancing age and physical decline are in any way connected.

“Old age isn’t a battle,” thinks one of Philip Roth’s ageing protagonists. “Old age is a massacre.” Not any more, to judge by the cheerful Cridland. “Longevity is changing the pensions landscape.”

A decade after Roth’s Everyman, Cridland depicts many of us as promisingly situated for the payment or, rather, non-payment, of pensions, since, with “quite substantial” geographical variations, “healthy life expectancy (the proportion of life someone can expect to spend in ‘good’ or ‘very good’ health) appears to be keeping track with overall life expectancy”. If a man aged 65 can expect around nine years of good health, some will ask: why not use up over half of those at work?

It is for academics and actuaries to judge how Cridland’s analysis squares with the gloomier conclusions of a 2015 government report: Trends in Life Expectancy and Healthy Life Expectancy. Its key finding: “Increases in health expectancies in the UK are not keeping pace with gains in life expectancy, particularly at older ages.”

Still, if Cridland is willing to factor into his pension recommendations the assumption of protracted liveliness in Britain’s long living over 65s, Generations X and Y may want to consider how this sunny outlook might feature in their own career plans. With flexibility on the government’s part they could offer to work, say, between 70 and 80, later if the actuaries agree, in exchange for a state pension in their 20s or 30s. Just in case, through sheer over-optimism, a Cridland-influenced proposal keeps them indentured until the last five years, or less, of healthy life.

Any interested generations have until 31 December to tell Mr Cridland how they feel about becoming the oldest non-pensioners in the developed world.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

My year of no spending is over – here's how I got through it

Michelle McGagh in The Guardian


Just over 12 months ago I gave myself a challenge: give up spending on all but the essentials for a whole year. I started on Friday 27 November, just as many other people were hitting the shops. It hasn’t always been easy, but a year on I am wealthier and wiser. Embarrassingly, I have also realised just how much money I’ve squandered down the pub, in restaurants and through mindless shopping.


The challenge

As a personal finance journalist people assumed I was good with money but while I wrote a lot about the merits of saving, I wasn’t practising what I preached. I figured that because I earned a good wage, didn’t have any credit card debt and my bank account was in the black, I didn’t need to worry about how much money was leaving my account.

I was spending without thinking, lured in by advertising and the promise that I could spend my way to happiness. I was stuck in a cycle of consumerism – earning money to buy stuff I didn’t really need, which wasn’t making me happy.

Giving up spending for a year was an extreme approach, but the aim was to embrace extreme frugality, shake up my spending habits and overpay my mortgage instead of shopping. I could continue to pay my bills, including mortgages, utilities, broadband, phone bill, charity donations, life insurances, money to help my family and basic groceries.

I’ve learned to shop for food in a better way than I did before – I have planned meals, batch-cooked and improved my dire cooking skills slightly. My husband agreed to do the grocery part of the challenge with me this year and we reduced our weekly shop (which covered three meals each a day, toiletries and house cleaning products) to £31.60 a week.

 
Michelle McGagh’s cycle became her best friend.



Finding a new way to live

There were two instances in the last year when I had to put my hand in my pocket. The first was on a cycling holiday when I spent £1.95 on a bag of chips because there was nothing to eat in the only local shop except for pork pies. The second was when my next door neighbour – who didn’t know I was on a no-spending challenge – had given a roofer the OK to fix a missing tile between our terrace house and his. The work had already been done and the roofer paid. It cost £100 and we owed him £50 so I paid up. I’m not too upset by the fact I’ve paid out £51.95 all year.

I’m not going to pretend it was easy, especially in the first few months when I tried to live my old life without money and found it wasn’t working. There were plenty of times I wanted to abandon it and indulge in some retail therapy, buy a pint in the pub, or even just purchase a bus ticket instead of getting on my bike for another journey.

But I realised I just had to find new ways to have fun that didn’t include putting my hand in my pocket and defaulting to the pub. Using sites such as Eventbrite I have been to film screenings, wine tasting evenings and theatre productions for free. I’ve also used SRO Audiences to see comedy shows and TV programmes being filmed, and none of it cost me anything.

Living in London I have a wealth of free cultural activities on my doorstep and I’ve been to more art exhibitions this year than ever before – my favourite being First Thursdays, where 150 galleries in east London open late and hold private views and talks.

I even managed a free holiday, cycling the Suffolk and Norfolk coast and camping on beaches. It’s something I’d never done before and probably wouldn’t have, were it not for the challenge – and now I can’t wait to go again next year.

I would like thank those who engaged with me on social media to say they were enforcing their own spending bans

There were lows, such as when I missed gigs and blockbuster films. And I’ve not been able to join friends when they have gone out for a nice meal. There have also been some awkward moments when I’ve turned up to a friend’s house for dinner empty-handed because I couldn’t buy a bottle of wine as a thank you. I did a lot of washing up at my friends’ houses this year as a way of saying thanks for feeding me.

The savings

After my expenses were met, I started overpaying my mortgage. We also took in a lodger, and my savings and their rent have helped us pay off an extra 10% of our loan.

Paying off a large chunk of the mortgage has made me realise that I don’t have to stay indebted to the bank for another 25 years like it wants me to and that I have an option to pay it off earlier. By getting rid of my mortgage faster I not only cut the amount of time I spend paying it off but also the interest I pay to the bank.

I’m grateful to have disposable income to save and feel I should make the most of it – I hope I have encouraged other people to reconsider their spending patterns too. I would like to say thank you to those who engaged with me on social media to say they were enforcing their own spending bans whether on clothes or a month-long ban – they all helped me keep my resolve.

That’s not to say that everyone was happy about my experiment, with some accusing me of poverty tourism, but there is a big difference between poverty and frugality. This experiment was not about living in poverty because poverty isn’t a choice. I could still pay my mortgage, bills and food. The last year has been an experiment in extreme frugality and choosing not to buy, rather than not having a choice.

 
Michelle McGagh’s jeans have seen better days

Despite the awkward moments and missing out, this year has been the shove I needed to try new things. The best thing about the challenge is that I’ve been willing to say ‘yes’ more and that I’ve become more adventurous.Having the choice to spend, or not, is a privilege and I have become far more aware of why we buy. I have come to realise that consumerism keeps us chained to our desks, working to earn money to spend on stuff we think will make our lives better. And when the stuff doesn’t make us happy, we go back to work to earn more money to buy something else. The last 12 months have allowed me to step outside this cycle and I can honestly say I’m happier now. I’ve gained confidence and skills, done things I would never have done and met lovely people I wouldn’t have otherwise met.

Many people have said to me, “I bet you can’t wait to get down the shops and have a splurge”, but in all honesty, I’m not interested in hitting the shops. There are a few practical items I need to replace, such as jeans and trainers, and my bike could do with a decent service but that’s about it. I have one more day of no spending to get through and after that there are just two things I will be buying this weekend: a round of drinks for my friends and family to say thanks for their support, followed by a flight to see my grandad in Ireland.

A year of no spending has taught me what things I really need, and it really isn’t that much.

Five things I really missed


There were lots of big events and nights out I expected to miss out on, but there were some small, more everyday items that I hadn’t expected to miss quite so much.
Decent curry: I’m not the best cook and my home-made curries just can’t compete with my local takeaway.

Fresh flowers: I realised how much I’d missed flowers at home when I was sent a bunch for my birthday – they brightened my home and my mood.

Moisturiser: this didn’t make it on to the “essentials” list, which was probably a mistake judging by my wind-whipped face.

Perfume: my Lidl deodorant stood up to the test of cycling everywhere but a spritz of perfume may have helped me feel a bit more human and less of a sweaty mess.

The bus: while I love cycling, not being able to get on the bus in the cold and rain could be trying; taking the bus, especially to meetings where I had to look smart, would have been a big plus.

How to delete yourself from the Internet

Harriet Marsden in Indy100

In our smartphone-obsessed digital age, we effectively live our entire lives online, which makes us increasingly vulnerable to unseen threats.

Cyber crime, fraud and identity theft are exponentially growing concerns. Our personal lives, locations, and increasingly our passwords are made public online for anyone to find.

If the highly invasive Investigatory Powers Bill (AKA the Snooper's Charter) isn't blocked, then every single digital move you make will be recorded for up to 12 months.

Also, infinite junk mails.

But erasing your digital trace from the World Wide Web can seem overwhelming, especially since each person has on average 1,000,000,000 preferences, passwords, subscriptions and linked accounts. So how would you go about tracking them all down?
In step two Swedish developers, with the easy-assemble, Ikea-style approach.

Wille Dahlbo and Linus Unnebäck have created Deseat.me, which allows you to log in with a Google account, and immediately see which apps and services are linked to it.





The genius part is, instead of having to search all those accounts separately, the site links you directly to the relevant unsubscribe page for that service. It's easy, efficient, and free.

Unfortunately, thusfar the service is only available for accounts and subscriptions linked to Google, which leaves your Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL-related content untouched.

For a similar service, you can use Just Delete Me or Account Killer, both massive directories of links to delete account pages. However, these are only effective when you know the accounts you have. 

Here are some other helpful hacks to help ease your digital footprint:


Change your passwords - billions are now available online, and letter-only English-word passwords are the easiest to crack


Consider using symbols and numbers, as well as different passwords for different accounts


Delete unnecessary social media accounts - this could also benefit mental health and productivity


For any accounts you deem necessary, check privacy settings (also consider whether your Instagram page needs to be public)


Since 2013, every tweet posted from your Twitter account from 2006 onwards is archived, even if you delete your account. Consider converting your privacy settings so only approved followers can read your tweets


​For undeletable accounts such as Evernote and Pinterest, change your name to a pseudonym, create a random email address to reassign, and delete all the information


Go to 'My Activity' section of your Google account, wipe all search/location history and change account preferences


Similarly, delete all activity from other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing


Consider using a search engine that doesn't track your activity (e.g. DuckDuckGo) rather than Google or Bing


Make sure you click 'unsubscribe' at the bottom of each spam email, before blocking it


Request that search engines delete certain results about you (e.g. via a URL removal tool)


Consider employing the services of a data clearinghouse - although this can be a lengthy and time consuming process
  • Check with your phone company to make sure your number isn't listed online, and request that they do not post your details in future
  • Remove yourself from data collection sites such as Spokeo, Whitepages and PeopleFinder - this can be difficult, so consider paying for a service like DeleteMe

Warne and Jayawardene Tutorial on Bowling Spin and Batting against Spin


Warne and Jayawardene on Bowling and Battling Spin

7 ways to tell if you’re heading for divorce

Krystal Woodbridge in The Guardian


‘When one person is stonewalling, the person being stonewalled may try to trigger a row in order to get a reaction’ (photograph posed by models). Photograph: JackF/Getty Images/iStockphoto




Problems such as stresses brought on by circumstances (new job, moving, living somewhere too small, a new addition to the family, etc) are often fairly easy to address and work on. They are usually a blip unless they are ignored and turn into some of the bigger things below. None of the things listed mean your relationship is heading for divorce unless one, or both of you, are not prepared to work on it, either because one of you no longer wants the relationship to work, or can’t admit anything is wrong. While you are both still committed to making it work, there is always hope.



My wife keeps saying 'No sex tonight': the spreadsheet that lays it all bare



Not having enough sex. This does not mean you need to head to the divorce courts. It’s the mismatch that matters. If you want more, or less, sex than your partner, that can cause problems. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does or doesn’t do, it’s what works for you as a couple. Unless there’s an underlying psychosexual or medical reason, a lack of sex is usually a symptom of a deeper relationship problem rather than the issue itself.

Spending time together. Date nights are not necessary unless you want them to be. But not having them does not mean your relationship is doomed. However, if we replace “date nights” with “spending time together”, that is important. It can be going for a walk, watching a film or cooking together. What it does is say “I’m making you a priority”. Otherwise there is a risk of disconnection. If you don’t make time for each other, you can’t know what’s going on with your partner and without that there will eventually be a loss of intimacy. What make you a romantic, rather than a purely functional couple, is being emotionally intimate.

Appreciation and gratitude. These are really important and if they go (or were never there in the first place) this can start to lead to one of the four bigger warning signs below. It’s not about the grand gesture, but small, everyday signs of appreciation. Saying, “I really appreciate how hard you are working for the family,” or even just doing things like making someone a cup of tea. However, in couples therapy there are the Gottman Institute’s “four horsemen of the apocalypse” signs, which are good to know about and look for. These are warning signs that we would look for in therapy that may signal a relationship where the problems go a little deeper and is in trouble, unless the couple are prepared to recognise and work on these areas.

Criticism. If you or your partner criticise each other habitually, you are attacking their personality. Over time, this will breed resentment. If one person is constantly criticising the other partner this can become a huge problem.

Contempt. This is the hardest to work with but not impossible as long as it’s named, recognised and both of you are prepared to work on it. But if one consistently looks down on their partner, is dismissive, constantly rolling their eyes at what the other says, mocks them, is sarcastic (and not in jest) or sneers at their partner, then they are seeing them as “less than”. Contempt can closely follow behind loss of respect.

Defensiveness. If you can’t talk to one another because one or both of you are defensive, this can be a problem because you won’t be listening to one another’s point of view and, over time, you will switch off. Communication is key to working on any relationship problem – without that you can’t get anywhere. Defensiveness can lead to “blame tennis” where each person is just lashing out in defence: “You did this.” “Yes, but you did this.” You’re indignant and everything is a battle. You’re so busy defending yourself that nothing gets resolved. If you can stop, get some perspective and give each other space and time to talk and listen, you have a hope of sorting this out.

Stonewalling. This is when one person retreats, won’t talk, and will block the other person. It usually happens if the person stonewalling doesn’t want to hear what’s being said, either because they are afraid of it or can’t deal with it, or both. This can result in the person being stonewalled desperately trying to talk to the other; they may even try to trigger a row to get the stonewaller to react and talk. It results in an awful atmosphere and can eventually make the person being stonewalled too afraid to have any sort of discussion because they are afraid of the silent treatment. This then shuts down any hope of communication and reconciliation.
  

Buddha in a Traffic Jam


Friday, 25 November 2016

Don’t fall for the new hopelessness. We still have the power to bring change

Suzanne Moore in The Guardian

 
After the election, Obama told his daughters to carry on: ‘You don’t start worrying about apocalypse.’ Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock


A friend posts a picture of a baby. A beautiful baby. A child is brought into the world, this world, and I like it on Facebook because I like it in real life. If anything can be an unreservedly good thing it is a baby. But no ... someone else says to me, while airily discussing how terrible everything is: “I don’t know why anyone would have a child now.” As though any child was ever born of reason. I wonder at their mental state, but soon read that a war between the superpowers is likely. The doom and gloom begins to get to me. There is no sealant against the dread, the constant drip of the talk of end times.
I stay up into the small hours watching the footage of triumphant white nationalists sieg-heiling with excited hesitancy. My dreams are contaminated – at the edge of them, Trump roams the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. But then I wake up and think: “Enough.” Enough of this competitive hopelessness.

Loss is loss. Our side has taken some heavy hits, the bad guys are in charge. Some take solace in the fact that the bad guys don’t know what they are doing: Farage, Trump, Johnson, Ukip donor Arron Banks, wear their ignorance as a badge of pride. One of the “liberal” values that has been overturned is apparently basic respect for knowledge. Wilful ignorance and inadequacy is now lauded as authenticity.

However, the biggest casualty for my generation is the idea that progress is linear. Things really would get better and better, we said; the world would somehow by itself become more open, equal, tolerant, as though everything would evolve in our own self-image. Long before Brexit or the US election, it was clear that this was not the case. I have often written about the way younger generations have had more and more stripped away from them: access to education, jobs and housing. Things have not been getting better and they know that inequality has solidified. Materially, they are suffering, but culturally and demographically the resistance to authoritarian populism, or whatever we want to call this movement of men old before their time, will come from the young. It will come also from the many for whom racism or sexism in society is nothing new.

Resistance can’t come personally or politically from the abject pessimism that prevails now. Of course, anger, despair, denial are all stages of grief, and the joys of nihilism are infinite. I am relieved that we are all going to die in a solar flare, anyway, but until then pessimism replayed as easy cynicism and inertia is not going to get us anywhere. The relentless wallowing in every detail of Trump or Farage’s infinite idiocy is drowning, not waving. The oft-repeated idea that history is a loop and that this is a replay of the1930s induces nothing but terror. Nothing is a foregone conclusion. That is why we learn history.

I am not asking for false optimism here, but a way to exist in the world that does not lead to feelings of absolute powerlessness. A mass retreat into the internal, small sphere of the domestic, the redecoration of one’s own safe space, is understandable, but so much of what has happened has been just this abandonment of any shared or civic space. It is absolutely to the advantage of these far-right scaremongers that we stay in our little boxes, fearing “the streets”, fearing difference, seeing danger everywhere.

Thinking for ourselves is, to use a bad word, empowering. It also demands that we give up some of the ridiculous binaries of the left. The choice between class politics and identity politics is a false one. All politics is identity politics. It is clear that economic and cultural marginalisation intertwine and that they often produce a rejection of basic modernity. Economic anxiety manifests in a longing for a time when everything was in its place and certain. But the energy of youth disrupts this immediately, as many young people are born into a modernity that does not accept that everything is fixed, whether that is sexuality or a job for life. Telling them: “We are all doomed” says something about the passivity of my generation, not theirs.

The historian and activist Howard Zinn said in his autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: “Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy: it reproduces by crippling our willingness to act.”

Indeed. Campaigning for reproductive rights isn’t something that suddenly has to be done because of Trump. It always has to be done. LGBT people did not “win”. The great fault line of race has been exposed, but it was never just theoretical. The idea that any of these struggles were over could be maintained only if you were not involved in them.

After the election, Obama told his daughters to carry on: “You don’t get into a foetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say: ‘OK, where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.’”

Where can you push to keep it moving forward? Locally? Globally? Get out of that foetal position. Look at some cats online if it helps. We render those in power even more powerful if we act as though everything is a done deal. Take back control.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Whatever you think of him, Donald Trump is right on TPP and TTIP

Youssef El-Gingihy in The Independent

In a YouTube video of policy proposals released this week, President-elect Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This trade agreement encompasses the major economies of the Pacific Rim with the notable exclusion of China. Other policies included a hodge-podge of climate change denial through promoting fracking and coal, deregulation, infrastructure spending and measures against corporate lobbying.

There are mounting concerns about xenophobia following Trump's victory. The appointments of Breitbart's Stephen Bannon as chief strategist, the anti-immigration Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Mike Pompeo as CIA director (in favour of bulk data collection) and General Michael Flynn as national security advisor would appear to reinforce Trump's targeting of Hispanics, Muslims and other minorities.

Yet amid all this soul-searching, the key question liberals should be asking is why authoritarian nationalism is spreading across the West. The answer is relatively simple. Neoliberal globalisation has left millions behind both in the advanced economies and the global south over several decades. Wealth has been siphoned to the top. The economic fallout post-2008 has seen inequality widening, with many falling into poverty. The effects of austerity on southern Europe are a social catastrophe.

The liberal and social democratic parties previously representing working-class constituents have abandoned them and are captured by corporate power. The Democratic party under the Clintons and Obama as well as New Labour under Blair and Brown were emblematic of this process. The result has seen millions of voters turn to candidates positioning themselves as anti-establishment. Hence the success of the SNP, Ukip, Brexit and now Trump.

Free trade agreements are at the heart of the matter. Negotiations have taken place behind closed doors with corporate lobbyists. Transparency has been minimal. It is exactly this kind of undemocratic, technocratic managerialism which is prompting a backlash against elites. It is the same technocratic managerialism that saw the troika of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF impose unrelenting misery on southern Europe, rendering Greece as expendable. The troika even issued memoranda to be rubber-stamped by national parliaments.

Both the EU-US trade agreement, or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are sold as reducing barriers to trade through harmonisation of regulations thus increasing growth. But harmonisation effectively means a race to the bottom with the lowest common denominator regulations being adopted. In fact, there are not many barriers left and the question is more of how growth is distributed. It is now clear that trickle-down economics is a myth.

Trump has stated that he is against TTIP and TPP, and may even reverse the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). Many people do not understand what these trade agreements mean so let me spell it out. They promote trade liberalisation. This essentially means opening up public services to corporate takeover. They would likely make public or state ownership difficult. They would restrict the financial tools available to countries to regulate banks. They would also limit their ability to impose capital controls.

They would lock in privatisation through Investor-State Dispute Settlement clauses. This means that multinational corporations could sue governments if they took steps that harm their profits or even the future expectation of profits. This would take place through private, secretive courts rather than the normal law courts. In fact, precedents have already seen tens of countries sued by corporations for measures taken in the public interest.

The NHS is a good example. It is currently being privatised, paving the way for a private health insurance system. TTIP would mean that if a future UK government took steps to reverse this then they might well be sued. In effect, this acts as a deterrent against government actions harming corporate interests. This would apply not just to healthcare but to all public services, from education and broadcasters such as the BBC to public transport and utilities.

These trade agreements would also enforce enclosure of the commons through intellectual property rights. So drug patents would be extended to combat cheaper generic medicines. Patenting of the human genome would be enforced. Farmers might have to buy seeds from corporations. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a dystopian world to me.

Neoliberal globalisation is not some irresistible force of nature. Economic protectionism may not exactly be progressive but the current status quo of wage stagnation and falling living standards is unsustainable. If steps are not taken to remedy the damaging effects of neoliberalism then the backlash will only intensify, likely leading to rising nationalism, fascism and global conflict.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

White fragility, white fear: the crisis of racial identity

Marcus Woolombi Waters in The Guardian

With the US election now decided it’s interesting watching the fallout asking how this could have happened. I read an article last week that provided some insight. “Behind 2016’s Turmoil, a Crisis of White Identity” was written by Amanda Taub and published in the New York Times. It highlighted the rise of white supremacists across the globe under the veil of conservative nationalism.

Taub claims white anxiety has fueled 2016’s political turmoil in the west referencing Britain’s exit from the European Union, Donald Trump’s Republican presidential ascension and the rise of rightwing nationalism in Norway, Hungary, Austria, Germany and Greece.

Michael Ignatieff, a former Liberal party leader in Canada, said that in the west, “what defined the political community” for many years “was the unstated premise that it was white.”

The rejection of racial discrimination has, by extension, created a new, broader international community. The United States has had their first black president, London a Muslim mayor and Melbourne a Chinese lord mayor. But rather than advancement many whites feel a painful loss and it is here we are seeing the rise of Trump.

Meanwhile across the west we see hate against Muslims, refugees and ethnic minorities with the racist catch cries, “I want my country back,” “we are full,” “Australia for Australians,” and, of course, “let’s make America great again.” Lecturer and author Robin DiAngelo, calls this movement “white fragility,” the stress white people feel in trying to understand they are not special and are just another race like any other.

White fragility leads to feelings of insecurity, defensiveness, even threat. It creates a backlash against those perceived as the “other.” One example is terrorism seen as an act of people of colour, but never perpetrated by white people.

Remember the mass murder in the US city of Charleston, where a white man killed nine black people in a church, seen to be motivated by depression, alienation and mental illness – not terrorism.

In Brisbane, Australia, again depression was cited as the cause when an Indian bus driver, Manmeet Alisher, 29, was burned alive by a white man. Queensland police and media were quick to suggest, one, the attack was not terrorism and two, not racially motivated. Could you imagine if it was a man of colour killing a white man on public transport?

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi even called Malcolm Turnbull to express concern felt in India over Alisher’s death, in light of the racially-motivated attacks on Indian students recently in Australia. But again these attacks were also denied as being racially motivated.

Consider the task force established in Kalgoorlie following the tragic death of Aboriginal teenager Elijah Doughty, who was run down by a 55-year-old white man. The task force is focusing on 30 “at risk families” rather than attempting to close down websites that Debbie Carmody from the Tjuma Pulka Media Aboriginal Corporation says, “incite violence, and murder towards Wongatha youth, and literally tell people to go out and kill”.

Colin Barnett, premier of Western Australia, said that a new safe house would likely offer young children somewhere to go to late at night “if their parents aren’t around or they’re not capable at the time”. The undercurrent of racism within the comment takes away from the circumstances of Doughty’s death suggests problems associated towards Aboriginal families instead.

Kalgoorlie’s mayor John Bowler went as far to say “social problems” in his town “begin with Aboriginal parents”, while claiming that each generation of Aboriginal people is “worse than the one before”.

Kalgoorlie is home of the biggest open pit mine in Australia where its website proudly claims it donates $460m to the local community each year. So why are our people not benefiting from such support? I will tell you who is benefiting – the local Golf Club that just had a $10m renovation approved by the local council.

As stated by Mick Gooda, co-chair of the royal commission into the detention of children in the NT, such mining towns do nothing to lift the quality of life of our people, instead establishing Aboriginal fringe communities out of town “like we’ve got in places like Kalgoorlie, Darwin and Alice Springs”.

It’s the same in Port Hedland, Australia’s largest distribution centre for iron ore where in March 2016 a record of 39.6m tons was exported. Port Hedland boasts $1m bungalows and apartment blocks, but in South Hedland, where Ms Dhu infamously died in custody our people continue to live in squalor and poverty.

As a young Kamilaroi I witnessed the same apartheid (let’s start calling it for what it is) practised when I visited the Aboriginal community of Toomelah just down the road from Goondiwindi. Rather than identify the problem, columnists like Andrew Bolt refuse to engage with the disadvantages faced by Aboriginal communities.

Only recently in his blog for the Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt published “How activists use Aborigines to censor debate” where the blog stated the Human Rights Commission was “disgraceful” and the Racial Discrimination Act as “sinister”, when writing about the Bill Leak cartoon. The blog went on to add, “so many journalists are on the side of the censors, attacking the free speech they should be defending to the death”.

The anger against “censorship” by the white privileged is explained by Amanda Taub who writes in her article: “For many western whites, opportunities for reaching the top of the hill seem unattainable. So their identity, their whiteness feels under threat and more important than ever.”

In other words, if you were supported for the majority of your life in a world that reinforced whiteness, settlement and colonisation of great white pioneers via invasion and genocide, whites as superior and blacks as inferior and in need of civilisation, rather than embrace a deconstruction of the truth, you become fearful.




'Racist' cartoon stokes debate over treatment of Indigenous Australians



And because the foundations of white identity were based on denial and non-truths rather than acceptance, you fear this “truth” will destroy or diminish an identity you cherish, and because you have no understanding of a world beyond whiteness, you have no culturally acceptable way to articulate what you perceive as a crisis.

In watching the destruction of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and other third world nations of colour around the world at the hands of white developed countries, the days of thinking of domestic terrorism as the work of a few Klansmen or belligerent skinheads are over.

As Morris Dee and J. Richard Cohen wrote in the New York Times in their 2015 article “White Supremacists Without Borders”: “We know Islamic terrorists are thinking globally, and we confront that threat. We’ve been too slow to realise that white supremacists are doing the same.”

They are just better organised, resourced and firmly embedded into our institutions and structures.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

As a judge, I can see the racism embedded in the system

Peter Herbert in The Guardian

Britain often claims to possess the finest justice system in the world, with a “colour blind” approach to the law. Unfortunately, this isn’t true: justice is neither colour blind, nor is it equal.

Historically, the justice system has been used to legitimise slavery, and then colonialism, from Elizabethan England onwards. In Kenya, between 1951 and 1954, during the Mau Mau uprising, more than 1,090 Kenyans were executed by the British colonial judiciary, backed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This appalling figure represents the most liberal use of the death penalty in British legal history and is double the number of those executed by the French during the war of liberation in Algeria 10 years later.


In more recent times, judges have enforced the unjust “sus” laws (the informal name used for stop-and-search laws which still disproportionately affect BME people). It can be argued that racism is embedded in the DNA of the British judiciary and that it has proved uniquely resilient to education or training.

But to what extent is racism present in the system today? A study headed by David Lammy MP, published last week, makes for very disturbing reading.

In 1991, statistics regarding how differently BME and white suspects were dealt with in the criminal justice system helped to trigger race training for all full-time judges over a five-year period. Those statistics have not improved. If you are an African-Caribbean man you are 16% more likely to be remanded in custody than if you are white; you are also likely to obtain a custodial sentence of 24 months compared to your white counterpart’s 17 months. This is not because African-Caribbean men commit more serious offences than their white counterparts – these are punishments handed down for the same or similar offences. African-Caribbean men are also subject to receiving immediate custodial sentences with fewer previous convictions than their white counterparts. Our perceptions have become the reality that means 41% of all young people in detention are now from BME communities.


If you are African-Caribbean you are 16% more likely to be remanded in custody than if you are white

What is critical is that the report highlights, yet again, the fundamental racist disparities in the dispensation, administration and dissemination of justice. There is a crisis of both trust and confidence in the British judicial system among black communities. Their concerns are that it remains arbitrary, inconsistent and discriminatory. This interim report proves them right – despite its diplomatic language.

Of course, poverty, homelessness and drug addiction all play their part, as does the disproportionate influence of an institutionally racist police culture, which means black defendants are stopped and searched seven times more often than their white counterparts. This is despite falling stop-and-search figures, and falling crime generally.

A significant responsibility for this disparity of treatment still lies with an overwhelmingly white, middle class and male magistracy and judiciary, resistant to ethnic monitoring, which hides behind the fallacy that justice is “colour blind and impartial”.

We cannot expect to have a diverse judiciary and magistracy, and to recruit police officers, probation officers, prison officers and lawyers who look like us and are knowledgeable of our communities, if we are forced to operate in a system that is itself unwilling or unable to deliver justice equally to all. As Martin Luther King said, “It is not possible to be in favour of justice for some people and not to be in favour of justice for all people.”

At present, out of 161 members of the high court judiciary, there is not a single African-Caribbean judge, while only two are of Asian origin. Less than 2.5% of Oxford and Cambridge graduates (from whom 86% of high court judges are drawn) are of African-Caribbean origin. The legal pipeline and the outcome are a self-fulfilling prophecy. The race training introduced in 1991, was only introduced on the basis that high court judges were exempt, as they simply did not require it. That rather arrogant intellectual exception must now be addressed.

Lord Neuberger’s comments last night suggest that he knows judicial diversity needs tackling. I am currently suing the Ministry of Justice for race discrimination and victimisation arising out of short speech on judicial racism and human rights I gave. It was at a meeting to protest at the decision of an electoral deputy high court judge to ban the former mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, from holding public office for five years. The allegation was that I indirectly criticised a fellow judge, the first time any judge has ever faced disciplinary action for this charge.

Several months later, in November 2015, there was an attempt to suspend me, approved by several high court judges, and the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, who threatened me with a formal suspension. This was at the same time that a fellow immigration judge of African origin had her complaint of sex and race discrimination ignored while the three white judges accused were never faced with suspension. A fellow Asian district judge still faces disciplinary sanctions for a minor complaint that at most was a competence issue, and three other BME judges are currently suing the Ministry of Justice. The treatment of BME judges by our white colleagues demonstrates a culture in which we are not accepted as equals with a fundamental right to challenge discrimination. Little wonder then that BME defendants and litigants face race discrimination in all jurisdictions.





Ethnic minorities more likely to be jailed for some crimes, report finds


Even if one achieves a “critical mass” of BME judges and magistrates, the injustice is unlikely to be eradicated if the culture of who is perceived to be the likely recidivist or the most “dangerous” offender persists. The only solution is the one resisted by the Ministry of Justice, and by most senior judges – that is monitoring each crown court and magistrates centre so that there can be proper scrutiny of individual courts to identify where the problem lies.

Allied to this must be a full acknowledgement by the Sentencing Council that sentencing and bail guidance must set out clearly the levels of disparity for each offence. Simply pretending the problem does not exist is a recipe for unconscious but appalling levels of racial bias to continue unchecked.

The training on race from 1991 to 1995 worked, as it forced judges to engage with BME mentors who challenged subconscious bias and racism as equals in a secure setting. The race awareness training practised in the 20 years since has been discredited as wholly ineffective. It is too polite, conducted infrequently and by fellow judges who themselves are part of the problem.

The judiciary is a pillar of our democracy with a historical responsibility for the racism that affects our fundamental freedoms and rights. If that is to change, it must work hard to eradicate disproportionate sentences and bail that remove the freedom and rights of people of colour. Justice cannot be the prerogative of a narrow, white middle-class elite, who believe that racism is a problem for other lesser mortals to confront
.

Demonetisation Explained

War on Black Money : An Interview with S.Gurumurthy

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Brexit and Trump have exposed the left’s crucial flaw: playing by the rules

Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian


 
Illustration by Matt Kenyon


Join me in a little thought experiment. Imagine, if you would, that the Brexit referendum had gone the other way, 48% voting to leave and 52% to remain. What do you think Nigel Farage would have said? Would he have nodded ruefully and declared: “The British people have spoken and this issue is now settled. Our side lost and we have to get over it. It’s time to move on.”

Or would he have said: “We’ve given the establishment the fright of their lives! Despite everything they threw at us, they could only win by the skin of their teeth. It’s clear now that British support for the European project is dead: nearly half the people of this country want rid of it. Our fight goes on.”

I know which I’d bet on. Next, imagine what would have happened if, as a result of that narrow win for remain, a gaping hole in the public finances had opened up as the economy reeled, and even leading remainers admitted the machinery of state could barely cope. Farage and the rest would have denounced the chaos, boasting that this proved they had been right all along, that the voters had been misled and therefore must be given another say.

As we all know, reality did not work out this way. Next week the chancellor will deliver an autumn statement anchored in the admission that, as the Financial Times put it, “the UK faces a £100bn bill for Brexit within five years”. Thanks to the 23 June vote, the forecast is for “slower growth and lower-than-expected investment”.

Meanwhile, the government will reportedly have to hire an extra 30,000 civil servants to implement Brexit – that’s 6,000 more than the total staff employed by the European Union. In other words, in order to escape a vast, hulking bureaucracy we’re going to have to build a vast, hulking bureaucracy. (But these bureaucrats will speak English and have blue, hard-cover passports, so it’ll be OK.) Even the leavers don’t deny the scale of the undertaking they have dumped in our collective lap. Dominic Cummings, the zealot who masterminded the Vote Leave campaign, this week tweeted a description of Brexit as “hardest job since beating Nazis”. Sadly, there was no room for that pithy phrase on Vote Leave posters back in the spring.


The government will reportedly have to hire an extra 30,000 civil servants for Brexit – 6,000 more than the EU's total


And yet you do not hear remainers howling – as the leavers would if the roles were reversed – that this is an outrage so appalling it surely voids the referendum result. “We never voted for this,” they’d be bellowing, through the megaphone provided to them by most of the national papers, as they read that Brussels is likely to demand Britain cough up €60bn (£51bn) in alimony following our divorce.

Instead, the 48% exchange ironic, world-weary tweets, the electronic equivalent of a sigh, each time they read of some new hypocrisy or deception by the forces of leave. The single market is a perfect example. As a few, admirable voices have been noting, during the campaign the loudest Brexiteers were at pains to stress that leaving the EU did not mean leaving the single market. “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market,” said Daniel Hannan. “Only a madman would actually leave the market,” said Owen Patterson. In the spring, Farage constantly urged us to be like Norway – which in fact pays through the nose and accepts free movement of people in order to remain in the single market. Yet now we are told that the vote to leave the EU was a clear mandate to leave the single market, and we’ve got to get on with it.

The correct response to this should be fury, along with a stubborn commitment to use every democratic tool at our disposal to stop it happening. We know that’s what the other side would do, if the boot were on the other foot. But just look at the state of the official opposition. Labour’s Keir Starmer is struggling valiantly to oppose the government on Brexit without appearing to defy the will of the people. He’s arguing for a bespoke arrangement, one that would give Britain full, tariff-free access to the single market, as well as highlighting the risks of leaving the customs union – and, above all making the case that saving the economy matters more than reducing immigration. (Theresa May clearly thinks it’s the other way around.)

I’d prefer an even simpler message: the people voted to leave the EU, not the single market, and Labour should fight for Britain’s place in the latter. But at least Starmer’s message is coherent. The trouble is, it’s undermined from the very top. This week the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, far from opposing Brexit, urged Labour to “embrace the enormous opportunities to reshape our country that Brexit has opened for us”.

That’s not resistance. It’s surrender. And there has been similar weakness on the question of triggering article 50. MPs should withhold their vote until they know exactly what kind of Brexit the government intends. Yes, the government has the right to implement the people’s will. But the people voted to head for the exit; they were given no say over the destination once we’ve gone. Parliament can legitimately use its leverage to flush out some answers.

The point is, none of this is any more than the right would do. And this nods to a wider weakness, one that afflicts the centre-left, broadly defined, on both sides of the Atlantic. Too often, we play nice, sticking to the Queensberry rules – while the right takes the gloves off.

A prime example is unfolding right now. The final tallies of the election show that Hillary Clinton won at least a million more votes than Donald Trump. Oh well, shrug most Democrats: the electoral college is the system we have and, under those rules, we lost. True. But just imagine if Trump had won the popular vote by a seven-figure margin, only to be denied the presidency in the electoral college. Do we think he would have been a good sport and accepted it?

Happily, we don’t have to imagine. We can look at the tweets he posted in 2012, when he briefly thought Mitt Romney had garnered more votes than Barack Obama. “This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!” he said. He called for people to take to the streets and stage a “revolution”. As he put it, “phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one [sic]!”

We can laugh at the inconsistency, but the contrast is striking. Democrats grumble but abide by the rules; Republicans immediately dial up the rhetoric and denounce their opponents as illegitimate, eventually paralysing their ability to act. That was the admitted strategy of congressional Republicans in the first Obama term: a determined effort to prevent him governing at all.

Democrats don’t play that game. Obama constantly strove to be “bipartisan”, even appointing Republicans to key jobs. (The FBI director, James Comey, was a Republican appointee, yet Obama renewed his term – with fateful consequences. A Republican president would not have hesitated to install his own man.)

Again and again, one side bows to the rules and to what’s fair – while the other focuses on the ruthless exercise of power. We’re seeing it now, as Trump stacks his team with a bunch of bigots. I know which approach is the more high-minded and public spirited. But the result is that today, in both Britain and America, the right has power and next to nothing standing in its way. No one wants the left to behave like the right – but it’s time we fought just as hard.