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By new puritan
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There's a very good piece on labour relations in China over at Jacobin (which is reliably excellent imo).
The Chinese working class plays a Janus-like role in the political imaginary of neoliberalism. On the one hand, it’s imagined as the competitive victor of capitalist globalization, the conquering juggernaut whose rise spells defeat for the working classes of the rich world. What hope is there for the struggles of workers in Detroit or Rennes when the Sichuanese migrant is happy to work for a fraction of the price?

At the same time, Chinese workers are depicted as the pitiable victims of globalization, the guilty conscience of First World consumers. Passive and exploited toilers, they suffer stoically for our iPhones and bathtowels. And only we can save them, by absorbing their torrent of exports, or campaigning benevolently for their humane treatment at the hands of “our” multinationals.

For parts of the rich-world left, the moral of these opposing narratives is that here, in our own societies, labor resistance is consigned to history’s dustbin. Such resistance is, first of all, perverse and decadent. What entitles pampered Northern workers, with their “First World problems,” to make material demands on a system that already offers them such abundance furnished by the wretched of the earth? And in any case, resistance against so formidable a competitive threat must surely be futile.

By depicting Chinese workers as Others – as abject subalterns or competitive antagonists – this tableau wildly miscasts the reality of labor in today’s China. Far from triumphant victors, Chinese workers are facing the same brutal competitive pressures as workers in the West, often at the hands of the same capitalists. More importantly, it is hardly their stoicism that distinguishes them from us.

Today, the Chinese working class is fighting. More than thirty years into the Communist Party’s project of market reform, China is undeniably the epicenter of global labor unrest. While there are no official statistics, it is certain that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of strikes take place each year. All of them are wildcat strikes – there is no such thing as a legal strike in China. So on a typical day anywhere from half a dozen to several dozen strikes are likely taking place." onclick=";return false;
By new puritan
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Good post from some geezer on the potential economic benefits of building social housing. Looking at the data it really is amazing we've allowed ourselves to get into this situation - and not only that, but Osborne seems to have no plan for growth besides trying to engineer another housing and credit bubble.
High rents for private tenants are increasingly a politically salient issue, especially in high-demand areas such as London and the South East. Private tenants feel trapped between expensive renting and unaffordable mortgages, with banks still demanding much higher deposits than before the financial crisis. While this trap is frustrating for those who want to buy and devastating for low-income families with no other options, it may also be having an impact on economic recovery.

Renters are increasingly paying more in housing costs than those buying a property with a mortgage. For some low-income renters, especially in London, the proportion of their wage going towards rent can be over 70%.

We have collected evidence that these costs and uncertainties mean that renters are cutting back their spending on consumer goods and services. Increasing numbers are relying on high-cost credit to make up the shortfall, entailing high cost repayments and deferred spending cuts. ... -recovery/" onclick=";return false;
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By new puritan
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There's a surprisingly good article from Prospect on how neoliberal 'pragmatism' closes down the space for debate. It begs the question - who are the real deficit deniers now that austerity is sending economies across Europe down the pan?
For Blair, what divided people who supported such measures from those who didn’t was not a disagreement of values—about whether the punishment of potentially innocent individuals could be justified by the scale of the threat to the public—but rather the difference between someone living in the present and someone living in the past. His own view is presented as if it were a simple consequence of the fact that we are living in the 21st century. But Blair’s opponents did not support the principle of innocent until proven guilty because they disagreed with Blair about the extent of binge-drinking or drug-dealing; they supported it because they believed in the right not to be punished without receiving a fair hearing.

In this respect, the claim to be non-ideological is often, to paraphrase the critical theorist Slavoj Žižek, itself deployed in service of an ideological agenda. Blair was not a cold, calculating political operator with no ethical qualms or attachments. When he latched on to a moral narrative that he could believe in—as with the Iraq war —he could be gripped by the almost terrifying fervour of a true believer. It’s just that he used language—brilliantly, and dangerously—to try to make people believe that there was no space from which to oppose him.

His legacy lives on. It can be deployed in service of conservatism just as much as in service of radical reform, and this is amplified in times of economic trouble. Cameron, Osborne, and to some extent Clegg have elided questions about the burdens of austerity measures, and how they have been distributed across different social classes, by implicitly characterising their opponents as head-in-the-sand, “unrealistic” idealists failing to acknowledge that something needed to be done about the deficit. Yet that is simply not the question in play when intelligent critics wonder if the burden of austerity measures could not have fallen more squarely on the rich. Clegg, in the same recent speech, again provides a striking example, proclaiming—as if it were some sort of heroically straight-talking admission of what no one else will say—that “bluntly, with the economy still fragile, this is not the time for dogma.” In this way, the vague language of “pragmatism” attempts to justify the status quo without providing any kind of substantive argument. ... ron-clegg/" onclick=";return false;
By Malcolm Armsteen
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Buff the Banana with Paul Dacre has, long ago, taken up the Mail-is-porn meme. ... ot-bikini/

Might be a place we could feed stories to? Or take stories from to spread?
By ezinra
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I like this piece by Hannah Mudge on why the Religious Right is a noisy but marginal force in UK politics. She argues, persuasively, that christianity usually gets drafted in to support and legitimise conservative interests rather than the other way round. As she sees it, the danger of US-style fundamentalism entering the mainstream stems primarily from its usefulness to the moral majoritarians of Fleet Street:
Recent focus on issues such as equal marriage, euthanasia, and "persecution" of Christians in the workplace have meant that newspapers such as the Daily Express, Daily Mail, and Telegraph invariably go to right-wing organisations for comment. These papers would be the first to point out what they might see as the negative influence of supposedly "wacky" churches or individuals (see most coverage of the Alpha Course over the years) but when it comes to "moral" issues, they've been known to give disproportionate column inches to Stephen Green of the fundamentalist Christian Voice group, which holds views so far outside the mainstream and so extreme that it has a minimal number of supporters. I would challenge the media to recognise and value the contributions and more measured approach of moderate and progressive Christian voices. Obviously this makes for less sensational headlines, but in light of the report it would be helpful, as well as more representative of British Christianity.
By new puritan
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This is an interesting, if lengthy read on why Labour's appeal across much of the south is so limited, and how the party might go about rectifying this situation. I don't expect the party leadership to pay it a great deal of attention but at least it's a change from the 'let's be more like the Tories' stuff you often get from the usual suspects. ... apter.html" onclick=";return false;
By Malcolm Armsteen
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This is bloody excellent. Bloody excellent. ... g.html?m=1" onclick=";return false;

7 Reasons Why You Should Stop Bitching About People On Benefits.

1. One day, it could be you.

The welfare state is a safety net. It is there to catch anyone who falls on hard times, including you. Say you got hit by a car and were tragically paralyzed from the waist down; the welfare state would pay you a Mobility Allowance so that you could still leave the house. It would pay for any special equipment you needed and a personal assistant to help you go to the loo, bathe and perform household chores. If you lost your job and were unable to find a new one, the state would support you until you were able to find another one. Sounds pretty fair now, doesn’t it?

2. What do you think the other options are?

Let’s be totally selfish here; the other option is that anyone without a significant safety net is made homeless. Two summers ago I worked out that if I took my family out of the picture, I was one month away from homelessness. Two if my landlord felt like being lenient with the rent. Would you seriously prefer that millions of people had to live on the streets (your streets) if it meant that you would have to pay a couple of pence less tax?
As attractive as it is to bluster on about how we should kick everyone off benefits and into paid employment, the jobs situation now is rather like the time my local library gave me an extension on my library books because if I were to bring them all back at once, they would not have room on the shelves. There simply are not enough jobs and due to 'austerity measures', more and more jobs are being lost. The more impoverished the area, the worse the situation.
Job hunting is a soul destroying process. I have been unemployed twice and both times I was spending around four hours a day, five or six days a week job hunting. I had an excellent CV, a whole bunch of qualifications and lots of voluntary work but the fact was that every entry level job on the system was attracting around 150 applications; jobs at places like MacDonalds and Tesco were attracting over 500. It really isn't that simple.

3. Seriously, the amount of tax you pay into the welfare state is a pittance.

Every time I ‘talk’ to people having a winge about their tax going to ‘scroungers’, they seem to have run away with the idea that they, personally are paying for that flatscreen TV they have heard so much about. Your tax goes to pay for many, many things including schools, hospitals, bin collections, roads, the legal system, the royal family, streetlights, the military and right now, for massive corporations like Tesco to get free labor when they should be actually employing people who need jobs. If you earn £20,000 a year, you pay 0.00003066 pence a year to each individual person on unemployment benefit. I don’t imagine you have paid for even 1% of someone’s flatscreen.

4. If your objection is based around a perception that people on benefits are living a life of luxury, then I’m afraid I have news for you.

Being unemployed is not a crime. I know that must come as a shock to you, but I’m afraid it’s true. Every citizen has the right to the same freedoms, rights and basic standard of living, regardless of their personal situation. Your perception probably came from sensationalist newspaper headlines urging you to grab torch and pitchfork because the Daily Mail found one family who, if you add up and tweak all of the benefits they receive, seem to be receiving a pretty average wage! And the bastards spent it on some really normal things! Kill them!
Words to look out for are ‘flatscreen’ (seriously, when was the last time you saw a TV that WASN’T flatscreen outside of a school science classroom?) ‘laptop’ (how many families do you know who don’t have a computer?) and any references to irrelevant lifestyle choices such as cigarettes, obesity or alcohol. And that large number emblazoned across the top of the page? Before jumping to conclusions, ask yourself some questions:
· How many people is that split between? Often journalists will find a large family and add up every benefit they claim to make the number a lot bigger.
· Where are they living? The amount of housing benefit paid to each family depends hugely on what part of the country they are living in and the size of house.
· Is the article comparing like with like? I have seen many, many articles that compare an ‘average working wage’ for one week with a jobseekers payment which is paid fortnightly or the total yearly benefit payment for a whole family with the average monthly wage for a single earner. This is because the papers know that if they tell you that a jobseeker is typically expected to get by on around £50 a week, even in London, they don’t have a story.
Just as the NHS has no right to refuse to treat your brain tumor because you enjoy a drink on the weekends, you have no right to dictate how benefit claimants spend their money. Benefit claimants are not being punished and if you think they should be, go away and have a good long think about why.

5. But I work for my money and I can barely make ends meet! Why should I pay for them to sit on their arses?’

This is one area where you may have a serious point-not about benefit claimants, I’m afraid you are probably still being a bit of a cock-but you are right about one thing. You absolutely should be earning the same if not more a year than someone claiming benefits. Why aren’t you? Because in most parts of the country, minimum wage does not equal living wage. Particularly in the current economic climate, the cost of living is rising much faster than the minimum wage. The independently calculated living wage would put most people at around £2000 a year better off; unfortunately, very few businesses pay it.
THAT is something to get angry about. A popular rhetoric employed by Irritable Duncan Syndrome, one of my favouritest Tories in the whole wide world is that people are not taking or looking for certain jobs because they feel they are above them. He's in the right ballpark, but he came in from the wrong dugout.
The reason people feel that many minimum wage jobs are beneath them is that they are hard work, dull, demoralising and generally unpleasant and then on top of that, you still have to go home and choose between putting the heating on and having three meals a day. If I could earn enough to comfortably pay my rent, utilities and food bills and put a little bit aside for emergencies I would happily clean toilets for eight hours a day.

6. Benefit claimants are not criminals.

I know I already said this, but it bears repeating. There are two prejudices here; firstly that the act of claiming benefits is in itself inherently criminal and secondly that people on benefits are inherently criminal. The first one is so ridiculous I’m not even going to bother; if you seriously believe this, you are so far gone as to be beyond saving.
The second one is a bit more interesting. I read a story in The Express yesterday about a woman who had carried out a reign of terror against one of her neighbors; she was a thug and a bully and made this poor woman’s life hell. A sad story you’ll agree, but hardly something for the front page of a national newspaper. But there was one key fact that made this story particularly newsworthy and that was the fact that this woman was ON BENEFITS and the woman she was harassing was A VETERANS WIDOW.
This was such a grossly transparent manipulation that it genuinely stopped me in my tracks. It very clearly highlighted the shorthand of prejudice; the headline may as well have read ‘SLYTHERIN WAS MEAN TO GRYFFINDOOR!’, the caricatures are so firmly entrenched in the political and journalistic canon.
Politicians need you to think that these people are feckless and undeserving so they can get away with slashing the welfare state; Journalists need you to believe this so they can continue printing lazy, knee-jerk puff-pieces. Screw the lot of them over by remembering that all people are just people and a percentage of all people are dicks; I’d be more worried about what the rich and powerful dicks are doing.

7. Supporting the most vulnerable in society benefits everybody

Poverty isn’t good for anyone. (Apart from the economic elite, who need
people willing to polish the parquet for a pittance). Impoverished people are less likely to invest culturally, socially or creatively in their community. Poverty affects the health, education and prospects of the people caught in its trap. It breeds resentment and apathy.
It is crunch time; do you want a society where everybody is empowered to contribute, where people value their communities and incentives to commit crime and behave antisocially are greatly reduced? Or do you want to punish the poor, the disabled and the downright unlucky because, eewww poor people are so last century?
By new puritan
Membership Days Posts
Tory Treasury Twitter account gets into a spat with Jonathan Portes, subsequently gets thoroughly embarrassed: ... asury.html" onclick=";return false;

CCHQ really needs to review its social media strategy.
By new puritan
Membership Days Posts
There are a lot of insecure little men in and around the government, it would seem. A shrink would have a field day with them. Even New Labour at its most neurotic never came across as being quite as unhinged as the current shower.
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