The Plastic Hippo

September 21, 2012

On yer bike

Filed under: Law,Media,Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 2:46 pm

Before we all get carried away and grab the pitchforks and flaming torches and lay seize to Sutton Coldfield, let us consider which “news” outlet ran the story of Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell`s rather predictable behaviour.

When the Sun devoted its front page to report that a millionaire, public school educated Conservative MP had been rude to somebody, social media types screamed outrage and disgust and called for blood. Given the character and record of the current coalition cabinet and the Tory back benches, a toff being a prat is hardly news. Elements of the twitterati, who last week were calling for a boycott of the Sun, were tweeting direct links to the Sun`s front page. Even John Prescott helped to increase the advertising revenue for News Internationals online presence. The temptation to click on the link was considerable but this humble blog has and will continue to boycott the Sun in all its manifestations. After the truth emerged regarding the Hillsborough disaster, some commentators suggest that we should never believe a word printed in the Sun, but now we should take it as gospel. Waiting patiently for credible news source to corroborate the story proved to be a long wait. Sure, the BBC ran it but the BBC, with its obsession with royal breasts and its refusal to report the sell off and destruction of the NHS, is no longer a credible news source.

So, who are we to believe; a police officer protecting Downing Street, a disgraced “newspaper” with a long, dishonourable history of falsehood or a privileged fat cat with a penis problem demanding that the great big gates should be opened for him because he is the chief whip? Opening the great big gates might be appropriate for the entry of the Queen of Sheba and all her entourage, but a little rich man peddling a bicycle with a wicker basket? The Sun, of course, has its own agenda. As senior management at News International continue to shop its own hacks in a desperate attempt to avoid the Murdoch`s having their collars felt, anything to discredit government and big up the old bill has be an option. If you thought “The Thick of It” was a satirical comedy, it`s not. It`s a documentary.

The Met have made no complaint or, more importantly, no arrests and the only proof that an incident took place is a half-hearted apology from the member for Sutton Coldfield. Interestingly, he denies using the word “plebs” but does not deny arrogance, egomania, a misplaced sense of self-importance, causing offence or the liberal use of an Anglo-Saxon expletive. The former investment banker may or may not have said to the police officer that was there to protect him: “Best learn your f***ing place. You don`t run this f***ing government. You`re f***ing plebs” but that is not the point. Remove the offensive expletive and the sentiment remains the same; a sentiment much more offensive than any word heard in the pub or the playground, a sentiment that is at the very core of Conservatism and, by association, 21st century Liberalism. If he had said, as is probably said in the common room of Rugby School: “You`re beastly oafs”, it still demonstrates exactly what this government believes and stands for. The idea that one human being is superior to another human being because of wealth, power, position or accident of birth was wrong when mankind first descended from the trees and it is wrong now. This current government and its backers and benefactors are in the process of dragging us back into medieval serfdom and subjugation. Little shits like Andrew Mitchell and the rest of the cabinet are simply the public face of a backward step to feudalism.

On any day, Mitchell`s comments would have been abhorrent, but following the deaths of two unarmed police officers in Manchester, the expression of his actual mentality is obscene. If he has in him any shred of honour or humanity, he should resign. If Cameron has even one iota of credibility left, he should sack this bastard. If not, we can expect a new peasants` revolt, only this time it will be supported by the forces required to suppress insurrection.

It`s not going well, is it Dave?

September 20, 2012

Strange days

Filed under: Education,History,Music,Politics,World — theplastichippo @ 5:36 pm

“Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They`re going to destroy our casual joys
We shall go on playing or find a new town.”
The Doors – 1967.

One might think that a Republican presidential candidate who thinks “my job is not to worry” about half the population of his nation would be dropped like a stone by his party. Similarly, if a British Education Secretary actively engaged in reducing the life chances of children and young people, the ensuing public outrage would be deafening. Mitt Romney is still in the race for the Whitehouse with opinion polls apparently unaffected. Michael Gove has not resigned, has not been sacked, continues to enjoy oxygen and has not been spotted swinging from a lamp post. Strange days have found us.

Mitt Romney shared his thoughts with a small, private gathering of very wealthy Republican donors. Secretly filmed, he said:
There are 47 per cent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what, all right? There are 47 per cent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.

“They will vote for this President no matter what. These are people who pay no income tax…My job is not to worry about those people. I`ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Mitt is a very wealthy man and estimated to have a net worth of between 190 and 250million US dollars made in hedge fund management, venture capitalism and asset stripping in aggressive take-overs. We may never know the reality of his fortune as the money is safely off-shore and Mr Romney has consistently managed to avoid publicly declaring his tax arrangements. It is not clear if the Republican candidate regards himself as part of the 47 per cent of American voters who do not pay tax but clarified his bizarre policy to split the Union by targeting the five per cent regarded as swing voters. The US electoral system is such that in a nation of 300 million, the most powerful person on the planet is chosen by a handful of key marginal wards in swing states. Who could forget the election of George W Bush in 2000 when the hanging chads in the swing state of Florida decided the outcome in favour of the brother of Florida Senator Jeb Bush?

Romney, like George Dubya, is a God-fearing man and Mitt is particularly devout. In the 1960`s being a Mormon missionary, he took his sacred duty to France and in doing so was exempted from the Vietnam War draft. When asked about this later, he said that France was a dangerous place for an American in 1968. Not quite as dangerous as the Mekong Delta during the Tet Offensive though. As a man of God, his views on the rights of a woman be in control of her own body are unequivocally clear. As a young missionary for the Church of the Latter Day Saints, abortion was a sin against all that is holy. Later, as a venture capitalist, when he “invested” in a medical waste company called Stericycle that made him millions of dollars, abortion was okay with him. The company, with a dreadful safety record, disposed of aborted foetuses. Now, appealing to the trailer park vote, he believes that abortion is only acceptable in cases of rape, incest or the mental health of the potential mother. Strange days have tracked us down.

If Mitt Romney is a man of God, then Michael Gove must be a saint. After writing the foreword to a new printing of the King James Bible intended to take pride of place in every school, the Secretary of State for Education has and is performing miracles. His most divine act of wonder has been to transmogrify a successful albeit flawed state education system into a church of imposed failure for all except the privileged and wealthy. His Beatification was assured when he halted the shameful waste of money being squandered on rebuilding schools that were falling down and by rushing through legislation to allow the privatisation of education. He branded teachers, parents and children as failures and after fiddling his expenses, fiddled with the National Curriculum to ensure that Primary Schools taught maths by memorising times tables, history by memorising dates and literacy by dictation. As it became apparent that his Academies programme was and is an unmitigated failure, he changed the qualifying criteria for Academy status on an almost monthly basis. When it became clear that too many working class oiks were reaching his meaningless and inflated GCSE targets, he allowed the pass mark to be raised thereby quashing the aspiration and ambition of thousands of young people.
Now, his latest madness, the English Baccalaureate has confirmed his Canonization as Saint Michael the Idiot. Claiming that GCSE`s are a very bad thing because they give the undeserving poor an opportunity of a job or, God forbid, a chance at tertiary education, St Michael has cast them out. Instead, eleven years of study will be judged on a single, three hour examination, just like he had to do. The working class must learn to know their place and that place is not university. Transubstantiation is a very big word; can you spell children?

When Mitt Romney banished the 47 per cent to the wilderness, rather than chastise the high priest, Republicans praised their lord with Murdoch owned Fox News screaming for more. When Michael Gove, a former Murdoch journalist, announced his latest heresy in the House of Commons, he remained unmolested and was able to leave the chamber without being torn to pieces. Sat behind him on the front bench was a certain David Laws, a proven embezzler, liar and cheat. Nothing unusual there given the current coalition cabinet. Instead of being in prison, Laws is a minister at the Department of Education. Strange days have found us.

If Romney is victorious in November, the US will become the most powerful, most heavily armed and most dangerous rogue state on the planet. With Cameron and Gove as trusted allies in the fight to fill their own pockets, the wealth takers will crack down even harder on the wealth makers and those that are expendable due to being unable to produce profit for the very, very few. Greed will finally completely replace compassion and the extremist anarchic doctrine of loving your fellow human beings. Strange days indeed.

At the height of the Cold War and with Vietnam raging, the Doors recorded this:

September 14, 2012

The truth

Filed under: Law,Media,Politics,Rights,Sport — theplastichippo @ 2:04 pm

Truth, it is said, is stranger than fiction. Who could have imagined that in a mature and, until recently, a reasonably successful capitalist democracy, it would take 23 years for the truth to triumph over the most appalling of fictions?

The Hillsborough Independent Panel has spent a very long time going through an awful lot of documents that an awful lot of people wanted to remain secret. Led by the Bishop of Liverpool the Right Reverend James Jones, the panel have delivered a report that goes way beyond the truth that the victims of Hillsborough have demanded to know for so long. It gives our nation and the world an insight into just how our mature democracy functions. The sad fact is that government and the instruments of government operate on fiction. For any buyers of The Sun that might be reading this humble blog unable to fathom that statement, here is a translation: “HILLS BILLS ARE LIARS – SEE HILLARY`S BREASTS ON PAGE THREE.”

Some people might be offended that weak attempts at satire might impugn the memory of those that died but the offence and the offences finally exposed by the Hillsborough Independent Panel are beyond satire. The report is frightening. It is frightening because we can glimpse the truth that lies behind the motives of those that seek to govern us. Cowardice, self-interest, corruption and a denial of responsibility are the bed-fellows of the blind ambition of the greedy who seek power and wealth at any cost. It comes as no surprise that the so called “establishment” lied about Hillsborough. What is a surprise is that the usual deception has been made public and the number of the good and the great offering profuse apologies which, unsurprisingly, were veiled by attempts to divert blame. Sadly, the ensuing collective grief of those responsible and those who defamed the dead comes too late. It is difficult to decide which is the most insulting; the shrieking of outrage from politicians and media types who stayed silent for so many years, senior police officers insisting that times have changed and it is time to move on or the revolting hollow apology from a certain Kelvin MacKenzie who continues to masquerade as something other than pond life.

As the full horror of that dreadful day finally unfolds and the demand for criminal prosecutions become louder, the “establishment” of the powerful becomes more apologetic and are closing ranks. For the first time, David Cameron actually appeared dignified at the dispatch box but blotted his copy by refusing to quash the previous inquests claiming that the decision could only be made by the Attorney General, a man appointed by David Cameron. The distancing from blame became more apparent as he repeatedly talked of “new” evidence. Sadly for him, and for Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown, the evidence was always there. It took the courage, tenacity and outrage of the families of the 96 to establish the truth. If they lied about Hillsborough, what other lies have been peddled?

The people that we elect to represent us and the people we trust to protect us have some very serious questions to answer. To hear the likes of David Mellor, a Home Office minister at the time of the disaster, screaming outrage on the radio and watching Jack Straw who sat in implacable silence during the Hillsborough statement is stomach churning enough, but then to read a statement from a senior police officer that still suggests that the dead were the cause of the of their own deaths is breathtakingly offensive. The dead who had their breath squeezed out of them and left unattended are in no position to listen to grovelling apologies 23 years later.

It would be wrong and inappropriate to name the guilty in the way that The Sun named the victims and survivors of Hillsborough. Instead, let`s just say that any witch hunt and vilification of individuals has to be avoided at all costs.

So for the sake of clarity;
Chief Superintendent David Duckinfield and senior officer Bernard Murray are completely exonerated for their actions.

The current Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, Sir Norman Bettison and senior officers from West Midlands police did not alter witness statements including statements from police officers who were actually there.

The local MP at the time, a lovely old man call Sir Irvine Patnic who did not attend the game, did not tell the press that drunken fans urinated on the dead and sexually assaulted corpses.

The Sheffield Coroner Dr Stefan Popper was correct in saying that the 41 people still alive at 3-15 were actually dead.

The current mayor of London was only joking when he wrote an article in the Spectator and our current health secretary Jeremy Hunt was obviously misinformed by comparing Heysel to Hillsborough.

Rupert Murdoch made an excellent decision by appointing Kelvin MacKenzie as editor of The Sun. Who else but Kelvin could report the truth?

Margaret Thatcher.

It is for others within the “establishment” to decide if these people deserve to call themselves “Sir” or doctor or Baroness. If a state funeral is to take place, then the body that should be buried is Murdoch`s Sun.

An afterthought:
By complete coincidence, I had a gig in Liverpool on the Monday following the Hillsborough disaster. Approaching the western end of the M62 there was a hand painted banner festooned across a motorway bridge. In big, red letters it said: “You`ll Never Walk Alone”. At the end of the motorway there were signs displaying telephone numbers for returning fans who might need stress counselling.

With two or three hour to kill, I went to Anfield. The city of Liverpool was in complete shock and I saw grown men weeping in the street. Near the ground, flower sellers had set up stalls with signs that said that the flowers were being sold at cost price and that no profit would be made. I paid for my 50p bunch of daffs with a fiver and refused the change as did most of the other buyers. The stall holder gave out bunches of flowers to children and we made our way through the Shankly Gate. The silence inside a football stadium was astonishing. By the time I walked out the floral tributes had gone beyond the half way line and scarves illuminated the kop. I placed my flowers and rejoined the column that trudged silently around the pitch. Then something wonderful happened.

As we got to the other side of the pitch, a father holding hands with his young son had managed to smuggle a football into the ground. The Dad produced the ball from under his coat and threw it towards the Stanley Road end. The lad, in full Liverpool FC kit chase after it, dribbled a bit and then planted a beautiful swerving shot into the top corner of the net. The procession of mourners cheered and applauded. This little boy had scored a goal at Anfield.

That little boy, probably now in his 30`s, will never walk alone.

September 7, 2012

All things bright and beautiful

Filed under: Education,Fiction — theplastichippo @ 10:33 pm

Good morning children and welcome back to a new school term and another academic year. For those of you joining this Academy plc for the first time, here are our school rules.

Shirts; tucked in. Ties; up. Brain; switched on. Jewellery; off. Chewing gum; out. Ears; open. Mouth; shut. No running, talking, laughing or playing. In addition to these basics, we are introducing further opportunities in order for you to enjoy a successful and rewarding education. The Department for Education has decided that as you are all thick, your GCSE results will be downgraded to reflect the fact that you are all working class oiks and do not deserve a place in sixth form or, indeed, any place in further education. Accordingly, when you leave this school, you will be expected to provide unpaid labour for major companies who give generous donations to the Conservative party. This, as I am sure you will all realise, is a far more attractive option compared to university and a massive accumulated debt.

These new, radical and wonderful reforms to education are vital if we are to reverse the catastrophic failings of the previous government. Here at Academy plc we are committed to keeping you in your place and making sure that you do not aspire to anything above your lowly station in life. You will learn to understand the natural order of society. You are not part of the seven per cent of the population who have enjoyed a private education and you will never be part of the Department of Education where 83 per cent of ministers attended public school. Am I making myself clear?

This term at Academy plc we will be introducing new subjects to provide pupils, or stakeholders as we now call you, with a greater understanding of society and to prepare you for adulthood. Year seven will be taught modules on “Why trade unionism is evil” and “John Prescott; man, mouse or Chairman Mao?” Year eight will be studying the wisdom of Enoch Powell and year nine will be offered a module on eugenics. Year ten will be taught how to bash metal and then how to bash partners and any potential offspring using vital and groundbreaking resource material from the Jeremy Kyle Show. We will not be bothering with GCSE`s. To make room in the timetable for these exciting new subjects, we will remove redundant subjects such as English, Maths, Music and History and PE will be outsourced to the nearest fast food burger retailer.

Your parents will be asked for a mandatory £100 donation to school fund at the start of every term and your new uniforms can be purchased at reasonable prices from the shopping mall just to the left of the science block. We are delighted that we have entered into a partnership with Fat Dave`s Kebab Shack who will now be running the school dinner operation. The gymnasium is out of bounds as it has been made available for wedding functions. At the start of the school day, every stakeholder will be expected to place his or her hand on the Bible signed by Michael Gove at the reception area and bow their heads to the portraits of the great man and Sir Michael Wilshaw that are hung with pride above the desk.

Finally, will those stakeholders with physical or learning disabilities, those allowed free school meals and those that have special education needs, please make your way to the car park. Cattle trucks are waiting to take you for a lovely shower. The rest of you can go into class. Enjoy your day and enjoy your learning experience and remember; never, never, never vote in an election.

September 3, 2012

Contract killers

Filed under: History,Politics,Rights,Society — theplastichippo @ 10:14 pm

On the first day of September 1939, Adolf Hitler signed what was to become known as the “euthanasia decree”. It must have been a busy day for Adolf because after breakfast he ordered his army to invade Poland and in doing so started the Second World War.

A mere 73 years later, gay people were kettled at a Pride march in Brighton for daring to be political yet the EDL were allowed to parade their loathsome carcasses through the streets of London unmolested. If he had lived, Hitler would today be a very happy 123 year-old. On Friday, the Metropolitan police served and protected our community by using excessive force to break up a peaceful demonstration by people with disabilities outside the Department for Work and Pensions. It`s good to know that our fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers victory over fascism was not in vain.

The “euthanasia decree” was one of the very few orders that Hitler actually signed preferring to avoid any written evidence of mass murder. He actually signed it in October but dated it 1st September presumably to justify killings that had already taken place. The decree, in translation, states:
“Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. Med. Brandt are charged with the responsibility of enlarging the competence of certain physicians, designated by name in such manner that persons who, according to human judgement, are considered incurable can, upon a most discerning diagnosis of their condition of sickness, be accorded a mercy death.”

Amazingly, state sanctioned murder was sold to the German people as a progressive, compassionate form of what we might today call assisted suicide. They started with infants and newborns with physical disabilities but quickly moved on to older children and adolescents and included those who they considered to be “retarded”. Families were told that their children had died of pneumonia. It wasn`t long before adults with disabilities became part of the cull. Doctors were issued with tick box questionnaires to assess those considered “unworthy of life”. Individual medical conditions, variability or possible treatment were not taken into consideration. The perverted logic of the Aktion T4 programme led directly to the Holocaust.

Atos are a private IT company employed by the Department of Work and Pensions and, by implication, the British tax payer to assess the eligibility of British tax payers for Employment and Support Allowance. ESA was once called Incapacity Benefit and was the safety net for people unable to work due to illness or disability. At the heart of ESA is the Work Capability Assessment, a tick box questionnaire. Individual medical conditions, variability or possible treatment are not taken into consideration. Atos contract “medical practitioners” who are untrained in mental health or other disability issues to tick the boxes that only exist to save £1billion from the welfare budget. Atos have sent letters to terminally ill cancer patients, quadriplegics, people in comas and even corpses telling them that according to their Work Capability Assessment, they are fit for work and will have their ESA benefits withdrawn. With unemployment on the increase and jobs already scarce, the Office for National Statistics will probably include the dead to prove that unemployment is falling. It is estimated that 32 people who have had rightful entitlement to benefit removed die every week as a result. Some would have died anyway as a result of their medical condition; some would have succumbed to the unnecessary distress and some have taken their own lives. More than 40 per cent of appeals against Atos decisions are upheld which is a cost to the exchequer rather than the profits of Atos. One wonders if Iain Duncan Smith has read Mein Kampf.

Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and the embarrassing Maria Miller are so pleased with the performance of Atos that they are paying more of our money to Atos to undertake assessments for Disability Living Allowance. With a Prime Minister and Chancellor taking every opportunity to slag off and then destroy the public sector; then to stress that our only hope lies with the private sector and billionaires who allegedly “create wealth”, companies like Atos along with G4S, A4E, Virgin and here in lovely Walsall the evil Serco will continue to make money out of misery and not provide an adequate service. We have reached the stage where public services are not provided by publically elected representatives and their officers but outsourced to private cowboy venture capitalists driven by greed rather than care. Aneurin Bevan must be turning in his grave and Adolf must be hugging his knees, rocking to and fro and saying “Ja, ja, ja, imagine what I could have achieved with a full set of testicles.”

Perhaps the biggest irony is that Atos is a major sponsor of the Paralympic Games and the perverted logic of profit means that if you can swim 400 metres in under five minutes 20 you cannot have a disability and if you can break the world record for running 200 metres on springs you will not qualify for DLA. With benefit fraud running at less than 0.5 per cent and billions of pounds going unclaimed, this inept government are happy to destroy the lives of people by withdrawing vital support whilst taking back-handers from the corrupt corporate interests that are actually in control of this once proud nation. The incredible achievements of paralympians must, must, must be celebrated but we still have a long way to go when the retarded Boris Johnston describes wheelchair basketball as being more exciting than “real” basketball and a Channel 4 commentator saying that Ellie Simmonds gold medal was almost as big as the athlete herself. Comparing record breaking paralympians with the majority of people with disabilities is disingenuous to say the least. How would Boris or indeed the equally moronic Cameron do against Usain Bolt or Mohamed Farah?

Prior to the introduction of the Aktion T4 programme, the Third Reich introduced a concerted public relations campaign to vilify people with disabilities. Weirdly, propaganda chief Joseph Goebbles had a congenital club foot and was rumoured to have Jewish ancestry. Governments may come and governments may go but only the hypocrisy remains.
Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Maria Miller and Lord Freud should take a look at this:

With the cursor poised nervously over the publish button, this arrived on the internet this morning. I had thought that the Downfall parodies had had their day and had become rather tiresome but this is more documentary than satire.

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