Who Will Rid Us of This Callous Government, Assaulting the Poor, the Unemployed and the Disabled?

14.2.12

Last month, while I was in the US for 12 days to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening, I was actually pleased to be away from the UK, not because I wanted to be away from my family, or my friends, but because I needed a break from the relentless anger that anyone with a heart must feel when confronted by the Tory-led coalition government’s cuts programme, and the British public’s widespread acceptance of it.

I have written about various aspects of the austerity programme over the last 16 months, including the assault on university education, the plans to savage the NHS, and the unprecedented cuts to the welfare state, but it was my anger about these latter two topics — focused on the Health and Social Care Bill (for the stealth privatisation of the NHS) and the Welfare Reform Bill (comprehensively attacking the poor, the unemployed and the disabled) — that I was glad to escape temporarily.

Of course, for those most fundamentally affected — disabled people terrorised by their own government, the tens of thousands of poor families wondering if they will be made homeless by a welfare cap — there is no respite, and I cannot even begin to feel what they must be feeling, but I identify strongly with their plight, as I believe it is fundamentally unforgivable for the government of one of the wealthiest nations on earth — and one whose leaders espouse Christian values — to be targeting the most vulnerable people in society.

This is a government that has been talking openly about the “undeserving poor,” with a minister in charge of reform (Iain Duncan Smith) who openly believes that dysfunction creates poverty and not the other way round, and with other ministers (from David Cameron downwards) stirring up hatred against the disabled as “workshy” and “scroungers,” while working out how to deprive them of state support that might make their lives slightly more bearable than otherwise.

This has led to some very disturbing outcomes — a disability review process designed to find deeply disabled people fit for work, which involves an almost constant review process that causes widespread despair and has also led to suicides, and a deliberately manipulated coarsening of public attitudes to disability that has started to lead to the physical and verbal abuse of disabled people on Britain’s streets. The tabloid newspapers have been horribly complicit in this process — and much of the supposedly respectable media has not done enough to oppose it. Rubbing salt into the wounds, Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, said last week that she blamed unemployed people for “a lack of an appetite for some of jobs that are available,” even though, as the Guardian (whose coverage has been excellent) explained:

Her comments [were] likely to provoke anger among those desperately seeking work with little success. The latest official count of unemployed people stands at 2.68 million, while the number of new workers being sought by employers in the last quarter of 2011 was 463,000. This is equivalent to about six people for every vacancy in the country.

In addition, this is a government that seeks to impose an ill-conceived cap on housing benefit, with David Cameron openly asking why anyone unemployed should live somewhere that working people cannot afford, without ever mentioning that most of the money paid goes not to those living in these homes, but to their landlords, because of greed, an overheated housing market, or a shortage of social housing that began when Margaret Thatcher started selling off council houses in the 1980s, and refused to let councils use any of the revenue to build new houses — a prohibition that has never been lifted.

Today (Tuesday February 14), the government’s disgusting Welfare Reform Bill returns to the House of Lords, where, just two weeks ago, the Lords passed seven key amendments, only to have them overturned by the government in the House of Commons, “deploying a rarely used parliamentary device,” and “asserting that only the Commons had the right to make decisions on bills that have large financial implications,” as the Guardian described it.

As the Welfare Reform Bill returns to the Lords, there will be a vigil and lobby of Parliament today from 1-3pm at Old Palace Yard on Abingdon St, London SW1, hosted by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and another tomorrow (Wednesday February 15), at the same time, when the bill returns to the House of Commons.

For those interested in mounting further resistance to the Welfare Reform Bill, please sign the e-petition urging the government to “Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families,” which currently has nearly 30,000 signatures, and will be discussed in parliament if it reaches 100,000 signatures.

The petition states:

The government were embarking on wholesale reform of the benefit system when the economic crisis struck. These welfare reforms had not been piloted and the plan was to monitor and assess the impact of the new untried approach as it was introduced in a buoyant economy. Unfortunately since then the economy has gone into crisis and the government has simultaneously embarked on a massive programme of cuts. This has created a perfect storm and left disabled people/those with ill health, and their carers reeling, confused and afraid.

We ask the government to stop this massive programme of piecemeal change until they can review the impact of all these changes, taken together, on disabled people and their carers. We ask the government to stand by its duty of care to disabled people and their carers. At the moment the covenant seems to be broken and they do not feel safe. Illness or disability could affect any one of us at any time, while many more of us are potential carers.

And for a powerful analysis of what the cuts mean for disabled people, I’m cross-posting below an extraordinary article by “BendyGirl,” on her website, Benefit Scrounging Scum, which was written the day after the government overruled the Lords’ amendments. “BendyGirl” describes herself as follows: “Life in a broken bureaucracy with a bendy & borked body. BendyGirl has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and blogs about the highs & lows of life lived with joints that dislocate as frequently as the British weather changes.”

If this doesn’t make you take to the streets in support of the disabled people of Britain — and against the callous politicians with their cruelty and their cynicism — then you are, I fear, beyond hope. Below this, I’m also cross-posting another blog post that I found insightful — explaining the broad scope of this hateful bill, and what it means — written by Ness the Hat for the Hull RePublic collective, which was published last week on the Huffington Post UK. For further insights, see this post by Darkest Angel, providing even more detail about the bill, and also see the We are Spartacus website, which features disabled people’s views on welfare reform.

The Death of Decency
By BendyGirl, Benefit Scrounging Scum, February 2, 2012

It’s been a long, hard eighteen months. Harder and tougher than I could ever communicate to you. I could try and tell you of the times Sue and I spent hours fevered, medicated and desperately unwell just trying to string together a few coherent sentences. The times we tried frantically to finish articles for newspapers interrupted by journalists, politicians or charities wanting us to help with research about issues they didn’t really understand, or the times we took turns to cry with despair about what was happening to our country which no-one but a handful of seriously ill people seemed to care about.

I could tell you of how receiving messages from people so terrorised they wanted to tell us their lives were no longer worth living became routine. Of sleepless nights fearing that the person had gone ahead with their plans, or even of the devastating night when despite the online community rapidly rallying help we heard that the prompt police response was too late and another person was found dead.

I could tell you that we always knew this to be an unwinnable battle. That very early on we decided that whatever dirty tricks politicians pulled we would not sink to that level. That we would always act with honesty, ensuring our facts were double and triple checked, that we would counter lies with integrity and truth. That the more justice appeared to be absenting herself from this process, the more we were determined to ensure her voice remained.

I could tell you all those things and more, but never would you be able to truly understand how much this battle has cost those who had least to give. We have lobbied, debated and pleaded, often ignoring issues which would affect us personally as we decided on principle that we would act for the the best interests of all our community, even if that was to the detriment of our own personal lives, financial situations and our long term health.

I could, but that’s not the most important thing to say.

The most important issue of all is the message sent by a British government to the British people. That disabled children who aren’t the most disabled of all will have their support cut to ‘justify’ increasing the support to the most severely disabled children by less than £2 a week. That newly disabled or seriously ill adults living alone will lose the money previously deemed vital to pay someone to provide care. That children with serious illnesses and disabilities will have their entitlement to National Insurance contributions removed. An entitlement previously supported by politicians of all parties as sending a crucial message of the inherent value of life. That people with serious illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis, early onset Alzheimers or cancer will, after 12 months, no longer be entitled to the financial support they spent their working lives paying National Insurance for if their partner earns more than £7500 per year.

I could tell you of how this was sold to the British public. A people with ‘it’s just not cricket’ hardwired into our DNA. Of how carefully, deliberately, knowingly successive governments moved from all agreeing that it was inhuman to demonise the sick or disabled to carefully, deliberately, knowingly, drip feeding a complicit media into a propoganda exercise stunning in its success, to label these very same people as unworthy of empathy, compassion or support. Of how calculated this rebranding exercise was to ensure the public believed the empty promises of ‘always supporting the most vulnerable’ because, after all, these people are mostly faking fraudsters anyway. Doesn’t it say so in the papers, on the news, even on the BBC?

I could try and explain to you that this isn’t about eliminating fraud, that this will affect you or your family when inevitably accident, sickness or ageing moves you from being ‘not yet disabled’ to ‘one of us’. I could try, but that’s the nightmare of 4am no-one wants to remember when they awake. I could tell you that understanding, that empathy, that sense of life altering devastation is an insight that will only come to you when it’s too late.

I can, with pride, tell you of a demonised community who have found strength in each other. I can tell you of how inspiring it is to feel the love and support of these people, and the awesome sense of privilege in witnessing the broken come together. I can tell you of the values we all grew up with, principles our ancestors fought for, our playground guilt as we were chastisted for hitting the bespectacled child.

I could tell you of how bewildered we have been to witness a British government act in a manner more befitting China. I could tell you how each deliberate lie, each serpent tongued statement and guarantee of consultation rankled and oozed. I could tell you that something fundamental in us was mortally wounded when finally we produced cold, hard evidence to prove the government were saying one thing and doing quite the other, to then witness the government’s nose grow proportionately only to its falsehoods.

I could tell you that actually, this is not about the money. That the financial cuts will be detrimental to lives, but that the message the government have sent to the British people, that the weakest, the frailest, the most vulnerable are no longer worthy of collective support will be rejected once that same public understand that message.

I could tell you all of that, but over the next few years you will discover this for yourselves. So all I will tell you is this:

Something fundamentally British died yesterday. If you thought it was already dead, think again.

Soundbites, Spin and Spartacus
By Ness the Hat for Hull RePublic, Huffington Post UK, February 7, 2012

The problem with the truth is that it’s complicated. Lies are simple, they can be altered to fit any audience, they can be sensational without any boring honest bits to dilute the story. Honesty doesn’t make headlines. That’s the problem with the Welfare Reform Bill; not the only problem, obviously, but the reason that there won’t be a huge public outcry until its too late.

For over a year now disability campaigners have been opposing the Welfare Reform Bill, countering the tabloids’ lies and the government’s spin with detailed research and clear logic. Most of the proposals sound great in principle but if you take a closer look and work out the implications a completely different story unfolds.

Take Disability Living Allowance, the non means tested benefit paid to disabled and ill people to help with the additional cost of daily living and getting around. The proposal is to scrap DLA and replace it with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) cutting the caseload by around 20%. As the present fraud rate is 0.5% it’s clear that many genuine claimants will no longer qualify. DLA has been very successful in enabling disabled people to live independently and in many cases to stay in employment but the government believes it is ‘outdated’. The DWP says ‘most people receive DLA for life after just filling in a form’. That’s a great soundbite. The truth is that many people with permanent disabilities or degenerative conditions can receive a lifetime award after filling out a very detailed and intrusive 50 page document AND submitting evidence from their GP, hospital consultant etc. That’s not so good a soundbite.

The DWP states that everyone will undergo a face to face medical assessment on a regular basis. This sounds very reasonable at first glance and another great soundbite. The problem is that the medical assessment will be modeled on the Work Capability Assessment used for determining qualification for Employment Support Allowance. These assessments are universally accepted as flawed and have generated an unmanageable caseload for the Appeals Tribunal Service which overturns 40% of decisions at huge cost to the taxpayer. Continually reassessing claimants sounds good but as a large percentage of claimants have permanent disabilities, checking to see if amputated limbs have re-grown or if MS has gone away is a waste of everyone’s time and money.

Frustrated by being told by the DWP that disabled people were in favour of the planned changes to DLA, a group of disabled activists researched, funded and published a report called ‘Responsible Reform‘. The document, known as the Spartacus Report because a huge number of individuals were involved, explains how the Government ran a flawed consultation process and then published misleading statements about the level of approval for the proposed changes. The Spartacus report is supported by almost all of the major charities representing ill and disabled people, healthcare professionals, carers and pretty much everyone else who reads it. Sadly, a factual document will never catch the eye like a dramatic soundbite.

The Spartacus report did help to influence the House of Lords. After receiving unprecedented numbers of letters and emails from disabled people, concerned individuals and organisations, many Lords considered our views and debated the Welfare Reform Bill thoroughly, making several amendments. Although the amendments don’t make the bill perfect, or even good, they do mitigate some of the most damaging aspects.

Last Wednesday the House of Commons debated the amendments proposed by the House of Lords. I followed the debate on Twitter as I usually do, holding ‘virtual’ hands with the other Spartacus supporters; we watched in horror and despair as one by one each hard won amendment was overturned after cursory and mostly ill informed debate (one MP even claimed that disability benefits had become a lifestyle choice). The Commons then invoked parliamentary ‘Financial Privilege’ to shut down further debate.

As I watched the distraught reactions of my friends, I noticed several people celebrating the result of the votes. I normally ignore such people but I was angry and upset so I challenged some of them. It was a chilling reminder of the power of spin and the soundbite over truth and reason.

Every one of them was celebrating the benefit cap. For them it was all the Welfare Reform Bill consisted of, they were pleased that ‘work-shy scroungers’ would no longer be allowed to get more in benefits than they earned by working. I can understand this, it’s what the government and most of the media have concentrated on to whip up public support and distract attention for the other elements of the bill.

When I explained what the Commons had actually voted on they were surprised, when I told them about the disabled children getting less money, the cancer patients being forced to look for work, the people who have paid NI all their lives only being able to claim benefit for one year whether they’re well enough to work or not, the disabled children who will never enjoy financial independence as adults and the people being forced to leave their homes because they have a spare room, they were shocked.

The people I spoke to believed that everyone who could work should work, that working was better than idleness and should be encouraged. They were appalled when I told them about Universal Credit and ‘in work conditionality’. They didn’t realise that people who didn’t earn enough not to need Tax Credits or Housing Benefit would be expected to earn more or face financial sanctions; suddenly the Welfare Reform Bill didn’t seem so worthy of celebration. This is typical of the response of most ordinary people when I explain what welfare reform will actually mean to them.

This bill is an eye-wateringly huge piece of legislation, its scope is vast. Everyone of working age who claims any type of ‘in work’ or ‘out of work’ benefit will be affected, many of the people affected don’t even know yet. It’s not just a benefit cap and its not just about disabled kids and cancer patients, it’s about nearly all of us, either now or in the future. No amount of soundbite or spin will change the fact that many of us will be affected badly.

Disabled people are not fighting this bill because we are ‘work-shy scroungers’, we’re fighting it because it is an ill conceived and damaging piece of legislation and the rhetoric which surrounds it is dangerous. ‘Disabled person’ is now synonymous with scrounger and disability hate crime is increasing. If welfare reform did what it promised to do we would support it wholeheartedly; we would love a system that was simple to understand, supported us into work (where appropriate) and deterred benefit cheats. This bill will not do that, it will leave all but the most severely disabled with less support, it will break up families and force many disabled people and carers to give up work and claim more benefits, nor will not deter benefit cheats. Where there is money there will be cheats — just look at the tax system.

I’m proud that we fought an honest campaign, we looked at the facts and we told the truth. We wrote articles and gave interviews, we protested on the streets, we wrote to MPs and Peers of the Realm, we signed petitions and we published a ground breaking report. We gave our time and our health. People who were already struggling with illness and disability gave all they could, the effort of campaigning put some of our friends in hospital. The government had all the resources and all of the power, they fought a campaign Machiavelli would have been proud of. All we had was our fear, our anger and each other. This was not a battle we wanted to fight, but we had no choice because these decisions affect our lives.

The Welfare Reform Bill has been described as a ‘slow motion car crash’. Those of us who have been watching the process closely for months can relate to this idea. Just like a car crash, when you feel the impact it’s too late to shout STOP.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

30 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Thanks Andy…shared… as someone who campaigns for disability rights (my late husband was a haemophiliac) I am horrified to see sick and dying people being hauled over the coals to get them back into work… as the government destroyed their lives in the first place by treating them with infected blood from US prisons you would think they would treated with consideration but no… they are once again being made to suffer…

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Andy Hemingway wrote:

    For a great example of what happens to the poor and sick in a country without a welfare state, everyone should look under the veneer of the USA.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Nicole Simms wrote:

    good stuff Andy. I was amazed at the attitude to poor and disabled when I was recently in the uk and the extortionate rents. it seemed u had to have a job to rent anything and interesting u pointed out it was Maggie T that whipped out public housing….i dont know why people cant just see that all money the poor gets flows straight through into society and thats a good thing….much better than walking over bodies in the gutter and workhouses….

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Carol, Andy and Nicole, and everyone who has liked and shared this. Carol, I know about your long campaign against uncaring governments, and I know that the creation of the welfare state in the first place involved winning out against the workhouse arguments and the barely suppressed violent disdain of the eugenists and their like — those talking of the “underserving poor” and identifying them as defective, like that disgraceful bigot Iain Duncan Smith (though all the Tories seem to be the same when it comes down to it). I also know that the assault on the unemployed and the disabled was stepped up under the Labour government, particularly through the introduction of the tests for the disabled, which were — as now — designed to find almost everyone disabled fit for work. However, the scale of the Tories’ assault callously breaks new ground.

    And moreover, of course, everywhere you look these cruel idiots are trying to massacre the country for all except the rich — risking the future of the NHS, of our universities, and, as with the welfare reform, failing to even do their research properly, imposing disastrous policies full of holes, which will end up costing more than they do already, but trying to hide their ineptitude behind arrogant bluster.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Andy, yes, the US is exactly what people need to look at, and fear, when it comes to the NHS, and Nicole, thanks for your comments. Outsiders often have perspectives that are missed by those who don’t take a break from the prevailing point of view, as I always find when I visit the US, where the pride encouraged in Americans is not backed up by looking closely at the fabric of society, which reveals a country in long-term decline, in which the wealth has been siphoned off by the few, and far too many people are struggling to make ends meet.

    So much of this has been imported to the UK since Thatcher that it’s not even always a recognisable country to anyone capable of having a long perspective, but one of the things that has particularly distressed me for the last 20 years has been the rise of anger and intolerance in the UK — mostly towards immigrants until the Tories shut down that particularly unsavoury strand of British life by pretty much adopting the BNP’s immigration policy, and then, with a compliant media, cynically shifted the focus onto the poor, the unemployed and the disabled.

    It’s so disgusting — and it really is worth remembering that dehumanising certain groups within society is how the Nazis started.

  6. Tashi says...

    It is truly, truly, truly despicable!
    We choose a democratic, capitalist system – because it is supposedly the most fair and equal for all. That means, theoretically, that we are able to have some say over what our politicians do (they work for us – they are the public’s servants) and anyone has the right to pursue wealth (with no limit). What happens in reality – the few that do amass enormous wealth hoard it and are entitled to; they then, with their power and influence, control the politicians. The rich, take their wealth off shore, avoid paying taxes, and avoid sharing it with the less fortunate of society. And what do the politicians do? Cozy up with the rich so that they too may benefit. They protect the wealthy and they blame the poor for being poor. Not only do they blame them, they then hold them accountable, target them – because they have no power or influence to fight back – and they slash and cut their benefits. If the rich are entitled to hoard then the poor should be entitled to reap.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tashi. Good to hear from you, and very nicely put.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Andy Hemingway wrote:

    Absolutely agree Andy. It has been remarkable (sickening too) how what was originally a crisis in the financial sector has been re-spun and re-launched as a crisis of public funding. The responsibility of paying for the banking crash placed on to the poor and even more measures supporting private companies, sneaked in to aid them in hoovering up the little wealth that is left.

    The cuts have not even begun to really bite yet, as year upon year, more cuts will be rolled out over our councils and public services. 100 years of social progress wiped out by the most brazenly regressive, right wing government for decades. To see what happens when a council goes bankrupt, one only needs to look at Detroit. This particular crop of thieves and liars are set to make Thatcher look like a kindly old matron.

    The great failing of the left over recent decades is that we have allowed the right to frame and dictate the terms of the argument. Their control of the media has allowed the argument to become so narrow, that anything outside of that frame is cast as extremist. So much so that even the Labour party sold (what was left of) its soul to become electable and under Blair, Labour became just another albeit softer face of the right. Even to the point of removing Clause 4 and the word Socialist from its constitution.

    As you say, dehumanisation is the first step to fascism. Cameron’s frankly embarrassing speech on multiculturalism and the first rumblings of religious/non-religious intolerance from Warsi today all point in a frighteningly familiar direction.

    The Labour Party really need to come up with an effective stance very soon. Become the party of resistance rather than just limp opposition or they face becoming irrelevant. If Labour can’t lead an effective resistance then we must build our own.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Andy. Great to hear from you. Like we were sitting down and having a chat about it – actually, more of a structured rant, like I have in my local coffee shop. I agree about all of the above, although I’m not holding my breath for the Labour Party to remember its roots. As the revolutionary movements in the Middle East, the Madison occupation, the European protests and the Occupy movement demonstrated last year, we need a new people-centred political movement. I’m up for being involved!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    Frankly I have found little difference between parties in latter years in their attudes to disabled/differently abled and I have regularly attended meetings with Department of Health officials under Tory, Labour and Coalition… I am reminded again today of intolerance towards immigrants too in UK detention centres…and poor health care facilites…and downright abuse… the reason for setting up Medical Justice for independent monitoring…and include the obituary of a friend who set up the organisation and has constantly highlighted this issue… http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2012/feb/13/gill-butler-obituary

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    I’m up for a new people centred political movement too… Iceland is starting to move in that direction with the Movement and the excellent Birgitta Jonsdottir… they have the bankers, corrupt politicians, corporations and other exploiters pulled up to attention lol…

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Andy Hemingway wrote:

    It’s been a long time hasn’t it Andy! A little bit of me still holds out hope for Labour. There is still a lot of socialism in the grass roots of the party. Just not so much at the Parliamentary end that makes policy.

    As Carol Anne says, something based on the Icelandic example may be a good starting point. We already have glimmers with 38 Degrees, UK Uncut, Occupy etc but really need somthing that becomes a cohesive whole. A proper alternative to Toryism or Toryism lite.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, agreed. Here in Lewisham there’s a good movement — People Before Profit — that’s beginning to be taken up elsewhere in London, and that could serve as a template elsewhere in the UK. In Lewisham there’s a lot of the old left involved, and not so much of the new politics that has emerged from Occupy, UK Uncut etc. without any previous political affiliations, but they’re a refreshing alternative to the main parties, and have been ably spreading the word about a people-centred politics for the last few years, engaging more and more people as the mainstream chaos has shown that the people don’t count.
    Here’s the website: http://www.peoplebeforeprofit.org.uk/
    And here’s the page (with a video!) about their excellent occupations of five council houses on Monday, which the council was planning to sell at auction, at a knockdown price to developers, but which, as they explained, would more appropriately be used to house some of the 16,500 people on the council waiting list, including those in B&Bs, hostels and temporary accommodation:
    http://www.peoplebeforeprofit.org.uk/lewisham/lewisham-pbp-news/99-defend-council-housing

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Lotus Yee Fong wrote:

    In the late 60s and early 70s when the counter-culture in America created itself, an academic wrote Blaming the Victim which clarified who was victimizing whom; this led to a movement for paraprofessionals where people of color (the term didn’t exist yet) or minorities were hired to work in their own communities, instead of white middle-class professionals who were more prone to stigmatize the poor…

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks also, Carol, for the obituary of your friend. I missed that comment while writing the above.
    And Lotus, good to hear from you. Your comments about the US counter-culture reminded me of a similar neighborhood focus that was beginning with the Occupy movement last year, and which I encountered first-hand via Marissa, a great activist from Chicago’s South Side, who I met last month while I was in the US. If these neighborhood-focused projects continue, by the people for the people, then I’m greatly encouraged.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    David J. Clarke wrote:

    A very troubling and sad state of affairs.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, indeed, David. Good to hear from you, and let’s keep the pressure on. Don’t forget, if you’re in London, that there’s a protest outside Parliament from 1-3 pm tomorrow (Feb. 15), as the wretched bill returns to the House of Commons.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Paul Truthseeker Duckworth wrote:

    Well said Andy Worthington

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Paul. Much appreciated.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Mona Kranke wrote:

    Wow! They let you enter the US! Amazing!

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Mona. Yes. As a lawyer friend in NYC explains to me, they allow free speech so long as it doesn’t threaten their interests — and unfortunately, despite six years of work on Guantanamo, I haven’t been able to stem the tide of apathy.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Mona Kranke wrote:

    When I read your post, I remember this 21.000:
    “Report: U.S. More Than Doubles Names on No-Fly List” http://www.democracynow.org/2012/2/3/headlines/report_us_more_than_doubles_names_on_no_fly_list
    I recognized: If this is not a fictional number, and if these 21.000 individuals are really checked by the agencies and FBI or whatever and they have serious reason to add them to their X-files, but not you …. **calculating**….. must be many many more being active to break the rule of the NWO puppet regime – and this is a good result! Isn’t it?

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Mona. And yes, it might indeed be good news!

  24. Jeff Kaye says...

    “Everybody knows the war is over.
    Everybody knows the good guys lost”

    There’s only one way to describe what is going on in the UK… and other countries: class warfare.

    Nothing changes and the wheel of time revolves backwards, until… until with a start it lurches forward again. When that time comes, the cruel, selfish ruling class and its servants will get their comeuppance.

    It’s not “who will rid us…” but “when will we rid ourselves of…”

    No one knows when that time will come. But it’s coming. I’d like to live to see it. I’m prepared I may not. But justice is something we must construct out of the brick and mortar of our own sufferings.

    Thanks, Andy, for giving a damn.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the very supportive comments, Jeff, and thanks for caring too. The “Who will rid me” question was an inverted echo of King Henry’s call to kill Thomas a Becket, as Becket had aroused the king’s wrath by calling out his corruption. We, of course, are in Thomas’s role, and it didn’t end nicely for him.
    However, what I also meant rhetorically was that it’s up to us, as I have been thinking for a very long time; perhaps all of my adult life, having been just 16 and therefore not even able to vote when the butcher Thatcher was first elected in May 1979.
    So yes indeed. When will we rid ourselves of the thieves and their facilitators who created a dystopia in which only greed counted for anything, and everything — countries, entire populations — was just there to exploit for even more cash.
    I don’t think the dissonance between the illusion of stability and the probable catastrophic collapse of society has ever been as strong in my lifetime, Jeff. I imagine that, sudden health problems notwithstanding, we will see the collapse. I think we already are seeing it, only the ripples, like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion, have barely begun to sweep out from Ground Zero — which, it seems, was Wall Street rather than the actual Twin Towers site.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Shared, Andy, thank you. Nothing can surprise me any more. You remember when Tory leading councillor in Hull called anti-cuts protestors retards. They were present at the Hull Council meeting. Among them were people with physical and learning disabilities.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    I missed that particular example of how the jackboots are being complacently reclaimed from history, Dejanka. How depressing. I grew up in Hull. In the 70s the National Front got laughed out of town, but times change. The growth of racism, xenophobia, intolerance, and anger towards manufactured scapegoats has been growing inexorably over the last 20 years throughout the whole country, fed by cynical politicians and dirtrag “newspapers.” And many people are blithely unaware of how they’re being played, and how their better natures are not being encouraged.

  28. jo says...

    i hope the government realize allot of people sick and disabled and people who just cant cope anymore might consider taking their own lives because of them doing this, i am disabled and i do not know what im going to do, as it is i cant afford to eat everyday, some days i am so so cold, i worked all my life, but due to severe illness , disability and pain just being alive is a daily task, no one will employ me, and i know i will lose everything, Cameron should be ashamed of himself, if he thinks he is going to heaven he had better think again, he has allot of sins and for what he has done to people i doubt he will be forgiven for all the lives he is destroying, i feel like giving up but cant because im a christian, so i will have to just freeze or starve to death on Cameron head be it and the rest of his clan, you are all just selfish greedy uncaring poor excuse for a human being, i will vote ukip and just hope when they get in, because they will, that they put right all this damage conservative have done , they will never get into goverment agin that i am sure of

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you for your comments, Jo. I am deeply ashamed right now to have to put up with this bunch of privileged sadists attacking the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Your words are very powerful, and I hope they will be read by others.
    I wouldn’t trust UKIP, though. They’re just another version of the Tory party, and also have no sympathy for anyone who is vulnerable.

  30. Tory reward, a knife in the back | Creators not Consumers says...

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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