Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Now is the Time to be Active!

Capitalist Crisis

For more than six years from 1939 to 1945, there was no meaningful unemployment in Great Britain and in other countries fighting the war. In wartime, the production and output of countries are centralized—it is commanded by governments according to need. Free for all capitalism is suspended, even if capitalism continues under government supervision. Centralizing command makes for the efficiency needed to win serious wars. The almighty “market” is no longer good enough for success.

Indeed it was so inefficient under pre-war capitalism that around 20 percent of people seeking employment could not get it, so at any one time, one person in five were not contributing to the national wealth—we were so efficient, it seems, they were not needed. Then the war came, and suddenly they could be employed!

For a decade before WWII, the figures recorded in Great Britain for those out of work never fell below ten percent. Usually, they were much higher. For three years on end, from 1931 to 1933, they were 21.3, 22.1 and 19.9 percent. In those days, long, dreary queues had to form every day to get hand outs called dole. Year after year, myriads did not know what it was to have a job. Even in 1939, when we were supposedly busy preparing for war, every one in ten workers could not find an employer.

Unemployment Pre-War

The situation is getting similar today, but today the politicians bleat on behalf of the capitalists that those out of work are “work shy”—lazy! Why then are people not lazy when it comes to a command economy in war time? The were not lazy. They were kept unemployed and on the pittance of the dole or, today, Income Support so that the competition for work is intense and the pressure for better wages and conditions evaporate in the pressure to be employed.

Of course, it helps when a lot of manpower is forced into the military to work and die for not much more than they would have got in the dole queues—one of the reasons why the west is gradually following the US in keeping up a permanent war economy which is not centralized. There is no necessity to win modern wars. In fact, the US hardly ever does win them, but they consume manpower and men, and waste vast amounts of productive capacity making stuff to be destroyed—a perpetual money making machine which is paid for by the tax payer and the rewards of which go to mega rich warmongers like the Cheneys, Bushes, and the rest of the tiny elite that run the USA.

The similarities between the crises in capitalism in the 1930s and now have been repeatedly highlighted, not just by the left. Have employed people conditioned themselves to be helpless? In the last post, speaking of the crisis of the 1840s, even the London Times warned the wealthy to beware! These days, there is evidently no need. The people have indeed learned to be helpless. Yet it is the people who have all the real power, the economic power, and the power of numbers. Instead of being helpless, now is the time to be active, moving motions in unions and party branches, joining demonstrations, lobbying MPs and in the US, Congressmen or governors, and co-ordinated striking. Don't be helpless, be active!

Monday, July 30, 2012

People: Let this be the Final Crisis

wow unite

Capitalist society in England stood at a parting of the ways. The crisis was far more than commercial and industrial—it was a profound social crisis, a turning point in social development. The times were apocalyptic. All social values were being re-valued. Society was racked by the civil strife of the “two nations”. The air was full of doubts and questionings and suffused with the…

…deep wrath of the whole working class, from Glasgow to London, against the rich, by whom they are systematically plundered and mercilessly left to their fate, a wrath which before too long as time goes by—a time almost within the power of man to predict—must break out into a Revolution, in comparison with which the French Revolution, and the year 1794, will prove to have been child’s play.
Condition of the Working Class in England, 17

This startling sense of imminent social upheaval, this feeling that we stood face to face with a crisis, solvable to all appearances by force only, was not the exceptional apprehension of the great revolutionary. It is to be found running through the literature of the period. It was the theme of all serious thought and utterance on social affairs. It runs through the pages of Disraeli, Carlyle, Kingsley, Gaskell (who was prophesying revolution as early as 1833), John Stuart Mill:

I cannot think that the working class will be permanently contented with the condition of labouring for wages as their ultimate state… It is not to be expected that the division of the human race into hereditary classes, employers and employed, can be permanently maintained).

And it was symptomatic that The Times of London found it necessary to thunder editorially:

War to the palaces, peace to the cottages—that is a battle-cry of terror which may come to resound throughout our country. Let the wealthy beware!


It seems that as long as the people who do the work in our society will not learn from history they are doomed to repeat it. This is not a description of the present crisis but one of England in the 1840s, edited lightly from Allen Hutt, The Final Crisis, (1935). At least two similar major periods of economic crisis, paid for by the people who are employed in unemployment or wage cuts, have interverned between the 1840s and today—four crises in 170 years, yet those who suffer to pay their price simply accept the lies of the rich, and continue being exploited. Isn’t it time that people who have to work for a living—us!—pulled the rug from beneath the idle fat cats who purport to rule us? To do so we first need to recognize that we are being made fools of, and then to do what The Times saw as a likelihood:

Let the wealthy beware!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Intolerable Social Conditions will Provoke More Riots Despite Severe Punishment

Professor Fabian Kessl, an academic visitor in London University’s Royal Holloway College, Department of Social Work, studying last year’s English riots, thinks:

As long as the politics in England go in the same direction as we have experienced in the last years—disrespecting people’s everyday needs, demolishing the idea of the public, and strengthening consumer capitalism—the pre-conditions for a new political revolt are a given. It’s just the question of another “trigger” like the death of Mark Duggan on August 4 last year.

Much commentary regarding the cause of the riots has focused on the “opportunism”, but Professor Kessl thinks this takes many forms, the opportunity to…

  1. “get back” at the police and an unjfair society
  2. be a sovereign consumer for a few hours
  3. show their anger at youth and racial discrimination
  4. put down the animosities and battles between the gangs for a while in the face of a bigger enemy.

One observer said, “it was about just being visible.”

Kessl believes the riots are symbolic of changes occurring in society, and unless the problems are addressed, it is only a matter of time before further riots occur. Unless the underlying social causes of the riots are tackled politically, August 2011 will happen again, and the Government’s reliance on severe punishment will not stop it:

The extraordinary dimension of punishment—especially in regard to the sentence of young people made by some courts—symbolises the logic of the policy of the current administration. It is authoritarian, not interested in a proper discussion of the context of the riots—present day English society. Fortunately discussions take place anyhow all around the country between those engaged in them, youth workers, artists, researchers, local administration, and so on. This can be a good starting point for a different future politics…

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Biased US Syria Reporting Now Getting Rebutted

Tariq Ali: 'I live more in the US now than in Britain'

CBS News just reported on the latest massacre in Syria. Not a word that the UN observers had found the dead men were all rebels and deserters from Assad's army, as reported by the BBC, hardly itself objective in its Syrian reporting. US propagandists don't seem to realize that they are now so blatant, that even we half wits can see they are completely biased.

Author and Middle East expert Tariq Ali confirms it on an RT video interview, saying new evidence destroying the official Western view on the Syrian events is now emerging from trustworthy sources in the media:

I have now seen evidence from journalists in the field I trust—like Charles Glass—who’ve been there, who insist that atrocities carried out by the Syrian National Council and their organization’s supporters [the rebel forces] are creating mayhem in some areas and they are deliberately carrying out these atrocities so that they can be blamed onto the regime.

A journalist from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung some weeks ago explained what happened in the Houla Massacre and was denounced. But we now have other reports coming from journalists. Charlie Skelton in The Guardian has written a very detailed text pointing out extremely ably as to who the people are, who we see on CNN, BBC, and who are promoted by the State Department and the British Foreign Office, who control these networks or influence them.
Tariq Ali

He added that the West itself has unleashed the rebels, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar—“those beautiful examples of democracy”—are arming them, and the Turks are playing their part too, all to get rid of the regime. Russia and China are so far resisting attempts by the West to take over Syria.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Seeking a Better Understanding of Islamists through their Qur’an Citations

Researchers with Arizona State University’s Center for Strategic Communication (CSC) analyzed more than 2,000 items of propaganda from al Qaida and related Islamist groups from 1998 to 2011. In their report, How Islamist Extremists Quote the Qur’an, they catalogued more than 1,500 quotes from the Qur’an that extremists used to support their arguments, and identified the surah and verse represented in the quote. Most of quotes are about enduring hardships and maintaining faith and hope in the face of attacks by enemies of Islam. The so called “Verse of the Sword” (9:5) that says “fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them” was used only three times. Bennett Furlow, one of three co-authors of the study, said:

We were surprised at the very limited use of the sword verse. Conventional wisdom says Islamists are bent on world domination and this verse is the justification. We found it to be insignificant.

The verses most frequently cited came from three surahs:

  1. “Surat at-Tawbah” (surah 9, “The Repentance”)
  2. “Surat al-Imran” (surah 3, “Family of Imran”)
  3. “Surat an-Nisa” (surah 4, “The Women”).

They address enduring hardships and the importance of fighting against the unjust outsiders who oppress men, women and children. Lead author, Jeff Halverson, a professor of communication in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in reference to the theory that future wars will be fought over religious identity rather than national boundaries, said:

These findings challenge the idea of a clash of civilizations. What extremists are really saying to Muslims is, “our communities are under siege and God will defend us if we have faith and courage”.

It is important to be realistic about Islamists’ arguments when trying to counter their influence attempts. ASU’s Herberger Professor and study co-author Steve Corman noted:

If we try to portray them as evil conquerors when their audience sees them as protectors and champions, it damages our credibility and makes our communication less effective.

The study concludes with four recommendations for the West:

  1. abandon claims that Islamist extremists seek world domination
  2. focus on addressing claims of victimization
  3. emphasize alternative means of deliverance
  4. reveal that the image of “champion” sought by extremists is a false one.

Other studies have shown in fact that militants linked to al Qaida are 38 times more likely to kill a Moslem than a member of another group—hardly the activity of a competent champion, the ASU study states.

Click to see the Project Video

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Then as Now: the Deceit of Imperial Torture

Negative Image of a letter from directors of the East India Company ordering an inquiry into the allegations of torture raised in a recent parliamentary debate.Credit: Parliamentary Archives, 26 July 1854

Allegations of torture by government officials are emerging each day from countries fighting US imperialism. The British Labour government under Tony Blair were involved in the euphemistically called US special renditioning of captive alleged terrorists to torture centers in various parts of the world, with no hints of justice. But, during the period of British imperialism, the British were never innocent of such torturing anyway. It is a true sign of imperialist superiority—racism, in short.

Derek Elliott, a researcher in Cambridge’s Faculty of History, is looking at governmental torture and violence in colonial India and has uncovered surprising links with modern states. In April 2011, the UK government released to the public the first set of documents from its hidden archive of decolonization, a lengthy process that saw most of Britain’s extensive colonies gradually gain their independence. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office had claimed that the archive did not exist, and later that the documents had been simply “lost” or “misplaced”. It is more likely that these records were deliberately hidden in Hanslope Park, a high security center in Buckinghamshire, to protect government and its agents from embarrassment and litigation.

This huge archive charts the end of British colonialism and the brutality that often accompanied the end of Empire when independence movements, like the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya during the 1950s, were violently put down. The massacres that took place led to a group of Kenyans last year claiming the right to sue the British government for the systematic torture they had experienced. It was these claims that resulted in the “discovery” of the lost archive.

Beneath London’s streets in the basement stacks of the British Library’s India Office Collection is another substantial archive telling a story of brutality and torture in colonial times. The archive of the East India Company covers two and a half centuries, from the Company’s foundation by Royal Charter by Elizabeth I in 1600 to its dissolution by Parliament in 1858. Its records—which contain documents pertaining to maritime commerce, wars of conquest and all branches of governance—have never been concealed, but have remained largely undisturbed, including that of the Madras torture allegations of the mid-19th century.

Clive of India

A scandal concerning officials of the East India Company hit the headlines, shocking Britain and India alike. In the summer of 1854, Parliament ordered the East India Company to conduct an investigation into torture allegedly being used to extract tax payments from subjects in the Madras Presidency of India, one of the three main administrative bodies of Company-controlled India subservient to the Governor-General in the capital, Calcutta. The East India Company was at the height of its territorial and administrative powers in India, having recently annexed vast sections of central India and renewed its charter with the British government, continuing its rule indefinitely. In the House of Commons, its chairman, Sir James W Hogg, vehemently denied the allegations, claiming that they were completely “unsupported by proof”.

The charges of torture were brought as a result of petitions from the Madras Native Association, established by the leading Madras political activist and merchant, Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty, to advocate government reform and speak out about injustices during the run-up to the Company’s 1853 Charter renewal. The allegations of torture, publicly made in the House of Commons, stirred debate in the English and Indian press, both of which condemned the “despotic rule” of the Company.

In the spring of 1855, the investigation was published and released to the public as the Madras Torture Report. The report found that the use of torture was widespread in India, encompassing not only revenue matters but also police activities, and had been occurring for decades under the company’s rule. Initially dismissive of allegations of abuse, the directors of the Company could no longer deny the overwhelming evidence of torture. The Company undertook to put measures into place that would put a stop to the use of physical force. However, the outbreak of the 1857 Indian Rebellion, and the subsequent dissolution of the East India Company, quickly overshadowed the Torture Report’s findings—they were largely forgotten. Elliott explained:

I first came across the investigation into torture in the work of other scholars who made passing reference to it and I began to look closely at the records of the East India Company’s Torture Report. In the short three months in 1855 that the three Company-appointed investigators operated from an office in the Madras Polytechnic College, they received a total of 1,959 individual testimonies from Indians complaining of torture being inflicted upon them. Some even travelled 400 miles to prefer their charges against the Company in person. The victims complained of a wide range of abuses suffered, from beatings, being tied up and left in the tropical sun, to being suspended from trees, pinched, placed in a sack of chillies, sodomy—the list went on and on.

Two incidents, far from the worst, serve as a glimpse into the contents of the report. In early 1854, one Annish Pillay was severely abused by the police. His brother Subapathy told the investigators that “they tied his legs, hung him up with his head downwards, put powdered chilly in his nostrils” to elicit a confession from him for a crime that he did not commit. In another case, a woman identified only as Baulambal told how she was first tied up and “slapped… on the head”. Her account continues, “[a] rope suspended to a beam was then passed behind the rope which tied my arms, and I was hung up about a foot from the ground”. She was abused in other ways until she passed out. She was then raped. Stories like these fill the over 300 pages of the Torture Report, and can be found scattered throughout the Company archive.

Elliott is interested in the ways in which a regime, that was outwardly liberal, used torture. By the 1850s, the East India Company had ruled most of India, either directly or indirectly for almost a century and had outgrown its 17th-century maritime and trading origins to become a government in its own right, ruling over foreign people many times more numerous than the population of Britain. The Company came to view itself as an enlightened alternative to the “oriental despotism” of its Mughal predecessors and India had even served as the laboratory for the utilitarian ideals of governance proposed by the social reformer Jeremy Bentham.

To the British and to the Company, torture was, as the President of Madras, George (3rd Lord) Harris wrote in September 1854, a “matter so deeply affecting the honour of the British nation, and so utterly repugnant to its principles of government”, yet it was carried out by agents of the state for years. Elliott said:

In this manner, the 1855 Madras torture revelations were similar to the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal. This incident exposed US agents acting in ways that were damaging to the image of nation, one that prides itself on liberal democratic values.

What interests Elliott is how self-professed “good” states make use of “bad” practices to serve their own ends, and what means they used to employ, justify, rationalize and evade its detection. He said:

The current, almost daily exposure of the use of torture committed by the Assad government in Syria or in Libya under Gaddafi surprises almost no-one; crimes against humanity under such regimes are almost expected to occur,. Liberal democracies, like Canada and Britain, are also being charged by human rights groups of being complicit in torture by deporting individuals to countries with poor human rights records. The US has gone furthest by legalising enhanced interrogation techniques supposedly to serve the greater good of protecting liberal democratic values and way of life.

In 19th-century India, torture was employed to serve the fiscal demands of the state. Committed by low-level Indian servants of the state, tortuous acts were excused by Company officials as “native barbarity” that would naturally diminish as the liberal imperial project brought the fruits of civilisation, modernity and morality to India—another form of the greater good:

Comparisons between Company India and current states should not be too closely made, but parallels certainly exist concerning the use of violence and torture among liberal imperial and liberal democratic systems.

The reason the issue of torture under the East India Company has not yet been fully examined is partly due to the fact that evidence for it is scattered throughout the archival record. Mentions of torture are found across committees and departments, within the Company’s six kilometre-long records. Moreover, the issue needs to be examined in conjunction with other contemporary sources such as archived private papers, family collections and missionary reports and records, newspapers and parliamentary proceedings. A close reading of all these sources is required to grasp the extent to which torture prevailed in India. The Parliamentary Archives, housed in the Victoria Tower of the Palace of Westminster also provide useful, yet under-researched, insights into the way in which the torture allegations were debated and considered by its members at the time, and into the relationship between Whitehall and India under the Company. Elliott concluded:

Given the substantial amount of research into torture and “enhanced interrogation techniques” taking place in today’s world, surprisingly little scholarly research has been undertaken to provide any kind of useful comparisons or arguments for continuity or disjuncture in how states and governments have developed in their relation to corporeal torture. I hope that my research will make a contribution to this understanding.

Derek Elliott is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of History, and affiliate of the Centre for South Asian Studies, at the University of Cambridge.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blair: the UK's Living Perversion of Democracy

So democracy is about winning elections, is it? Ex UK PM Tony Blair’s friends think he should come back into domestic politics because he won three elections. So he did, but to what end? Richer rich! Poorer poor! Continuous warfare. Interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Evil is not a word normally in my lexicon, but this Catholic convert surely is it. He charms a gullible floating vote, and keeps a large body of Labour Party loyalists who stick to Labour even when it's policies are crypto fascist, if not fascist in fact, and then does what he wants because he is divinely appointed, it seems.

There is one place only for this man. In the dock alongside Bush and other supposedly “democratic” warmongers. If the British have any sense, we should shout aloud, “We do not want him anywhere in Britain”.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Middle Class Support for Welfare Goes Up When They Feel at Risk Themselves!

Welfare or Welfare Reform

Three researchers from Yale and Ohio State University, Philipp Rehm (Ohio State), Jacob S Hacker and Mark Schlesinger (Yale) examined attitudes to welfare policies within the US and across 13 other countries. The researchers surveyed people’s support for unemployment insurance across 13 nations (Portugal, Switzerland, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Germany, Australia, United Kingdom, United States). They then surveyed US residents alone on their support for specific social policies within the United States and asked people to assess major economic risks—both their level of worry about them and their level of expectation that they themselves would experience them. Rehm said:

We also probed their attitudes about spending on existing programs, the role of government relative to the private sector in providing economic security, and hypothetical social programs that could be created to deal with major economic risks. Our research all produced highly consistent results across nations and within the US.

They found that support for welfare policies goes up when economic difficulties strike higher up the social scale. Popular support gets broader and opinion less polarized. Where the risk of unemployment or other misfortune threatens mainly people already on low incomes and at the bottom of the social scale, opposition to the welfare state among the generally better off is strongest. When, in times of widespread recession, that threat begins to climb the social ladder, support for welfare policies tends also to migrate up the ladder and to widen out among a larger proportion of the population.

Economic events that make better off people feel insecure are likely to reduce their traditional opposition to welfare. This has the effect of raising a nation’s average support for welfare intervention as those who normally perceive themselves as self sufficient feel at greater risk of losing jobs, homes and other major fundamentals of life.

Conversely, when economic hardships strike only those who are generally on low incomes most of the time, opposition to the welfare state remains strong higher up the social scale. It takes a more widespread misfortune, such as national or global recession, to shift attitudes. The paper says:

To create cross class coalitions—that is, a wider proportion of the population supporting the welfare state—risks have to broaden in reach, not just deepen in impact on the already disadvantaged.

The conclusion is that a broad coalition of support across the social divide is necessary for welfare states to survive:

There seems little question that welfare states cannot long swim in a sea of public hostility, that widespread support is a necessary condition for their sustenance.

It seems a patently obvious conclusion, but says nothing about why people should be so opposed to welfare when the research shows they turn to supporting it when they themselves feel insecure. Welfare is a security net! Remove the net and it is missing when you need it. In other words, it is common sense to want to have a security net, and there is no time better than the present to prove it.

The middle classes, for the first time in several generations, are beginning to realize that they too can feel the need for security when the ruling class starts to pull the snug rug of middle class complacency from beneath them, for the smug rug includes the safety net. For that reason the agents of the ruling class, supposedly democratically elected governments of get rich quick opportunists, will squeeze the blood from the underclasses before they will squeeze anything from the middle class.

The point of Rawls's “Veil of Ignorance” is to put everyone in the situation of not knowing where in society you will end up. If you know you are wealthy and are complacent about your position in society, then you will not care a hoot what happens to your neighbours. If you consider that you might end up poor or disabled, whether by misfortune or bad judgment, then you will insist upon society providing the welfare safety net that you will need to keep you alive and perhaps sane. Quit apart from that, though, which is still an argument from self interest, people in putatively Christian societies ought to have sufficient compassion for the poor and disadvantaged to want to have them protected.

There is a final reason for welfare, another selfish reason for the middle classes, and that is the need for everyone to have some money to spend. In a hierarchical society like western societies, money has to be injected at the base. It is then inevitably spent by the poor on their necessities, and someone has to supply those needs—small shopkeepers and services, or people employed at the lowest level of supermarkets and service industries. That money therefore moves up. The “trickle down” idea is manifestly nonsense, because the rich spend their money wherever in the world they like, and mostly not in western supermarkets!

It is therefore in the best interests of everyone to support the welfare state. Any of us not at the top of the heap might need it, and all of us do need it for society to work properly. It also ensures that we are doing the most honorable thing, and that is caring for the welfare of the least in our society. That alone ought to be sufficient when people like to claim to be Christian.

Corporate Welfare

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Understanding UK Society—Long Term Longitudinal Study

Big Broken Society

Understanding Society is a long term study of 40,000 UK households beginning in 2009. It is published as a series of articles in Understanding Society: Findings 2012, which, drawing on information gathered from the first two years of the study, has yielded a detailed portrait of a society suffering the effects of a deep recession in which young people have been hit hardest. The research, managed by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex, also shows that efforts to get more students from poorer backgrounds to go to university have not been successful and that more needs to be done to get teenagers to live a healthier life in order to assure their future happiness.

Professor Nick Buck, Director of Understanding Society, said:

The findings provide a fascinating insight into UK society and predicted that some of the research would be influential in helping policy and decision makers to address some of the key issues facing a society battling to emerge from the depths of recession. The large number of people and households involved in this excellent survey means that this research really does paint an accurate picture of our society. As we continue to talk to these people in the coming years, that portrait will become even clearer and even more useful in helping us to address many of the crucial issues that affect us all.

UK Tory Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

Longitudinal studies like Understanding Society are invaluable for researchers, decision makers and society as a whole. They provide important evidence on how social and economic factors influence people’s lives, which in turn informs Government policy on a wide range of issues, from education to public health.
Essex University: Understanding Society


  • young people, despite the bad press they receive are, on the whole, well behaved and happy
  • policies to widen access to higher education have failed
  • perceived employment discrimination among ethnic minorities is low
  • women, once they earn 65 percent or more of the household income pick up a greater share of the housework chores than their economically underperforming spouse.
  • middle classes benefit most from higher education expansion:
    • policies to expand access to people from less advantaged homes have not been successful: an analysis of the social backgrounds of almost 34,000 adults between the ages of 22 to 49 reveal that it is the children of the middle classes, not the working classes, that have benefited the most from the expansion of higher education in the last 15 years
    • since 1992, there has been an 11 percent increase in first degree holders among the children of white collar workers, while among children of manual workers this increase is less than half at just five percent
  • A healthy teenager is a happy teenager—teenagers who turn their backs on a healthy lifestyle and turn to drink, cigarettes and junk food are significantly unhappier than their healthier peers
    • young people who never drank any alcohol were between four and six times more likely to have high happiness than those who reported any alcohol consumption
    • youths who smoked were about five times less likely to have high happiness scores compared to those who never smoked
    • higher consumption of fruit and vegetables and lower consumption of crisps, sweets and fizzy drinks were both associated with high happiness
    • the more hours of sport young people participated in per week the happier they were

Whereabouts of Children

Only a minority of 15 year olds say they have been out after 9.00 pm without their parents knowing where they were in the last month, but for those that did, it is associated with problematic behaviour:

  • 14 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls who have frequently stayed out late without their parents knowing in the last month (3 or more times) were visiting pubs or bars once a week or more
  • 25 percent of girls who stayed out once in the last month without parents knowing admitted to consuming alcohol more than once in the last month. Alcohol consumption rises to 64 percent for girls who stayed out past 9.00 pm without telling their parents where they are more than three times in the last month
  • however, family income has little effect on whether a child stays out late without telling their parents
  • living in social housing or with a single mother increases the probability, but living in a stepfamily does not

Defining White British

The UK population remains predominately White British, but if one considers parentage going back just two generations, then the White British majority becomes much less homogenous:

  • of those who define themselves as White British, 17.2 percent have some connection with another country
  • 17 percent of those not UK born call themselves White British
  • 35 percent of those who have parents of different ethnic groups call themselves White British
  • but, 57 percent of White British people, or 48 percent of the UK population, are only associated with England. This means that nearly half of the UK population does not have connections to the smaller countries of the UK over the last two generations and for this period had only family links within England

Youth Unemployment

An analysis using Understanding Society together with its predecessor the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) of what is driving the extremely high employment amongst young people finds that they suffer from a “double penalty” in their attempts to find and keep a job. The two surveys looked at young people and employment over many years, so research making use of them together is able to demonstrate precisely how young people are more adversely affected in the recession and why their numbers in the dole queue continue to swell:

  • before the latest recession, about 50 percent of 16-24 year olds who were not in work in 2006 had found a job in 2007, but it halved during the recession, with only 27 percent of young people who were out of work in 2009 making the transition into employment by 2010
  • in contrast, the proportion of 25-44 year olds entering employment between 2009 and 2010 fell by just three percentage points compared to 2006-07, while year on year transition rates into employment among people aged 45 or above actually increased
  • young people were also more likely to be laid off than older people, and this increased during the recession with 11 percent of employed young people in 2009 became “Not in Education or Training” (NEETs) in 2010, but the proportion of people aged 25 to 44 in employment who found themselves out of work increased from three percent in 2006-07 to 4.5 percent in 2009-10

Shale Gas Fracking Solves No UK Energy Problems But Leaves us with Many

Animals are hurt by fracking chemicals and gases

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says the advent in Europe of a shale gas boom—hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, extracting natural gas from shale using chemicals and water—is not a game changer for energy policy in the UK. Though it has been approved as safe, reports keep emerging with a different message.

Dozens of cases of illness, death and reproductive issues in cows, horses, goats, llamas, chickens, dogs, cats, fish and other wildlife, and humans could be the result of exposure to the gases or the chemicals used in the process, Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and veterinarian, Michelle Bamberger, have found. They interviewed animal owners in six states—Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas—and cited 24 cases where animals seem to have been affected by the gas drilling.

The authors note that the “most striking finding” of their study was how difficult it was to get solid information on the link between hydrofracking and health effects. Consequently, it is not possible to make a direct link between death and illness due to incomplete testing, proprietary secrecy from gas drilling companies regarding the chemicals used in hydrofracking, and non-disclosure agreements that seal testimony and evidence when lawsuits are settled. Oswald said:

We have a number of case studies—they don’t tell us about the prevalence of problems associated with hydraulic fracturing, but they do tell us how things can happen.

The case studies include:

  • In Louisiana, 17 cows died within an hour of direct exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluid. A necropsy report listed respiratory failure with circulatory collapse as the most likely cause of death.
  • A farmer separated his herd of cows into two groups: 60 were in a pasture with a creek where hydrofracking wastewater was allegedly dumped; 36 were in separate fields without creek access. Of the 60 cows exposed to the creek water, 21 died and 16 failed to produce calves the following spring. None of the 36 cows in separated fields had health problems, though one cow failed to breed in the spring.
  • Another farmer reported that 140 of his cows were exposed to hydrofracking fluid when wastewater impoundment was allegedly slit, and the fluid drained into a pasture and a pond. “These farmers saw workers slitting the liner to decrease the amount of liquid in the impoundment in order to refill it”, said Bamberger. “We have heard it now on several occasions”. Of the 140 cows, about 70 died, and there were high incidences of stillborn and stunted calves.

To provide better assessments of health impacts, the researchers recommend:

  • prohibiting nondisclosure agreements when public health is at stake
  • increasing food safety testing and research, as the study documented that animals exposed to chemicals were not tested prior to slaughter, and little is known about the effects of hydrofracking chemicals on meat and dairy products
  • improving the monitoring of routes of exposure, including in water, soil and air
  • most importantly, fully testing the air, water, soil and animals prior to drilling and at regular intervals after drilling is completed, and disclosing fully the chemicals used when hydrofracking.

Bamberger concluded:

Without knowledge of all the chemicals being used, you can’t test before drilling. And if we don’t have predrilling tests then if you find a chemical postdrilling, how can you prove that it came from hydrofracking.

The CCC in its annual report to Parliament examines the notion of a second dash for gas by some who are optimistic that Europe will benefit from the same sort of cheap shale gas boom as that experienced in the USA. The first dash for gas in the 1990s reduced the UK’s emissions as power generation switched from dirtier coal. It thinks a cheaper option than a new “dash for gas” is a fourfold increased investment in clean energy to avoid breaking laws on renewables and climate change, though that would still raise the annual energy bill of a typical household by £100 by 2020. It says the government is giving mixed messages on gas, and should explicitly rule out a new dash for gas.

The report confirms that greenhouse gases fell in the UK by 7 percent in 2011, but says most of this was down to the warm winter, rising fuel costs and falling incomes. Only 0.8 percent of the CO2 cut was due to policies from government.

It says investment in wind power has been running at only a third of the annual amount that will be needed by the end of the decade. Plans for new nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage projects have also both slipped. There has been an improvement in insulating roofs and cavity walls but little progress on solid walls and low carbon heating. Emissions from new cars have continued to fall but there has been scant progress with vans.

The committee draws on International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts to project that gas costs up to 2020 will remain around 80p per therm, which will make it unaffordable for electricity when the price for carbon is added. However, its projections are challenged by some who believe the global glut of gas will eventually lead to much lower prices if the historic link between oil and gas prices is broken.

The CCC says it has modelled a future with gas at 40p per therm which still shows gas confers no advantage over nuclear power. That is because the government’s controversial carbon floor price will increase from £30 per CO2 tonne in 2020 to £70 in 2030, forcing up the cost of generating with fossil fuels. Shale gas is a fossil fuel which emits CO2, though it would be hard to know it through its hard sell as a “clean” fuel. Nuclear is also being plugged as a clean option, in the sense that it emits no CO2, but the residue of radioactive waste with a lifetime of thousands of years is just polluting the earth for distant generations.

Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF UK, said:

For the fourth year running, the Committee on Climate Change has made clear that a dramatic step change in ambition is needed. Too many key policies—such as the Green Deal, the Green Investment Bank and now the Energy Bill—are hobbled by lack of ambition and poor implementation.

He added that the government risked letting the Climate Change Act wither by neglect.

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