Monday, 27 June 2022



You can't have missed the excitement about union leader Mick Lynch embarrassing one journalist after another as he does the TV rounds to discuss why the RMT has been striking.

Here is one such example:

So called journalists and politicians have been putting out lie after lie about the strikes, not even getting the most basic facts right. We even saw the prime minister pushing out nonsense about train driver salaries when he knows full well, train drivers were not on strike, it was rail workers - some of who are paid just £21,000 a year and expected to take an 11% pay cut in real terms.

Again and again, we were told striking rail workers are paid £59,000 a year and demanding an 11% pay rise when in reality, their median salary is £31,000 and they are willing to accept a 3.5% pay cut.

Isn't it interesting how nob-heads like Richard Madeley and Piers Morgan vilify these people and suggest their poverty wages are necessary for the good of the nation, but they won't volunteer for a huge pay cut themselves? These rich bastards aren't demanding their employers cut their salary to £21,000, but they will demand that rail workers accept poverty wages as their employers make £500,000,000 profit in a single year.

If it's fine for suppliers to demand higher prices to keep their businesses viable (or simply fuel their greed) because it's a "free market", then why is it not equally okay for workers to increase the cost of their labour to keep their homes viable? Are workers not part of that free market? Are families less important than businesses?

I've heard people complain that they're forced to accept poverty wages so rail workers should accept poverty wages too. My response to that would be don't get mad at unionised workers fighting for slightly better wages than you, get mad at your boss who is underpaying you. Join a union, collectively organise, fight back. Remind them that if businesses can increase their prices, workers can increase their prices too.

The most foolish aspect of employer attitudes is how short-sighted they are. Henry Ford famously recognised the importance of paying his workers well because it meant they could afford to buy his cars. This approach made him the biggest employer in the US. Higher wages are good for workers, good for businesses and good for the economy because they mean people can afford to buy goods.

If nobody can afford your goods, you can raise prices all you like, but you're not going to make any money!

We now have this absurd situation where workers are accused of causing inflation by demanding pay rises to cover the cost of inflation. The people who love to tell the left we don't understand economics are building an economy with plenty of supply but no demand. 

Given the current situation, the sudden rise to stardom of Mick Lynch should've come as no surprise, but not because people are looking for a Messiah figure, rather because we have been crying out for representation. We just needed to see something to rally behind, a movement, an opportunity to fight back.

No political party has our backs right now and the current economic situation is untenable. Living standards are falling and our rights are being stripped away at an alarming rate by the aspiring fascists in government, but as Mick Lynch pointed out at a recent speech, "We refuse to be poor anymore". If the Labour Party won't fight for workers, we will bloody well fight for ourselves.

We have a Labour Party that can't even get behind organised labour, a Labour Party that punishes its own MPs for joining picket lines. The party that was literally founded to represent organised labour, now tells organised labour it is hurting the working class by going on strike to demand better for the working class!

This argument is patronising drivel, of course, literally every right won for the working class was won by collective action. If you don't like strikes, then give back your weekends and paid holidays and all the other rights that were won for you. You can bloody well return to working 12 hour shifts, seven days a week. It is, after all, a free market, and this is all your boss wants to offer you.

You don't have better conditions than this because your boss is really nice, you have them because people won those conditions for you - and they had to fight hard every step of the way. 

Without the union movement, we are left with the Victorian era and the mere mention of "Victorian era" is enough to make Jacob Rees-Mogg go gooey-eyed. Oh, how they would like to take us back to that time!

This really is what we are dealing with, yet the message of the Labour Party is ask your bosses nicely and hopefully they will show you mercy, just whatever you do, do not go on strike. Do not use any leverage you might have against your employer. This attitude is completely at odds with reality though. If a person was interested in showing you mercy, you wouldn't need to ask them for mercy in the first place.

It's called the class struggle for a reason. Labour was founded on the explicit understanding that working class people will never get a fair deal without standing together and driving a hard bargain. 

But this Labour Party is different. This Labour Party would've lectured its founder Keir Hardie on pragmatism and then expelled him first excuse they got. This Labour PLP would have walked out on Clement Attlee en masse to stop him implementing his transformative manifesto that gave us the NHS. 

This Labour Party is an obedient servant of the establishment. And you can't be on the side of the establishment and on the side of workers because their interests are diametrically opposed. The establishment wants to endlessly strip you of whatever little wealth and power you have and give you the bare minimum needed to keep you alive and keep their machinery running. You are part of their machinery and your sole purpose is to make them money. A Labour Party that offers you crumbs while condemning your attempts to gain leverage is not on your side.

If the Labour Party can't get behind organised labour, I can't get behind the Labour Party. It is that simple.

It's not just low wages we're fighting here, it's the relentless attacks on our rights and the constant divide and rule tactics - and this problem is hardly isolated to the UK. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, we've seen Roe vs Wade overturned - an attack on a woman's right to abortion, to bodily autonomy - and potentially an attack on other rights, such as gay marriage, trans rights, and even interracial marriage. One Republican politician even came out and said this was a "victory for white life" - they're not even trying to hide their fascism anymore.

One thing it's important to understand about the establishment, wherever you are in the world, is it can come for your rights, even if you are part of a privileged group, anytime the establishment feels it's necessary to do so. This is why it's a huge mistake for ordinary people to punch down instead of punching up.

One minute, the establishment is attacking the rights of the working class and forcing them into bad work environments and poverty wages, but perhaps you are not working class so you do not see this as your fight.

The next minute, they're characterising Muslims as terrorists and using this as justification for mass surveillance, but again, this is not your fight so you stay out of it. Suddenly, they're scaring you about refugees and using immigration as an excuse to traffic people to Rwanda. 

Before you know it, you're living in a mass surveillance state with concentration camps, getting paid poverty wages with no work rights or healthcare, and they've stolen your right to abortion so you can supply an endless train of slave labour to keep their dystopian nightmare growing, all while the planet is dying and they're doing nothing about that.

It sounds so preposterously far-fetched when you write it down like that, even crazier when you say it aloud, and yet this is literally what's happening, and what's worse is you've let them play the divide and rule game so long, you've forgotten where to lay the blame. 

Perhaps you're still joining in, still blaming foreigners or poor people, perhaps you're going to blame the single mother who wasn't allowed to have an abortion, who then racked up huge hospital bills just giving birth and is now at risk of destitution. Just know that when you attack such groups or individuals, you're not attacking the perpetrators, you're attacking the victims of the people in charge.

Victim blaming is central to how almost all political systems are maintained - I could be talking about the US, UK, or so many countries around the world - and I am certainly talking about the main political parties in any country.

One of the problems is that people have been duped into playing team sports, oblivious that team red and team blue are just different factions within the same establishment whose goals are near-identical. 

In the US, for example, the Democrats could've enshrined Roe vs Wade into law decades ago, but they chose not to. It was always better to use abortion rights as a weapon against their own base. A way of stopping them talking about class issues, poverty pay and the Democrats' inaction on pretty much anything that matters while seeking "bipartisanship" with their sworn enemies and best friends - the Republicans.

The Democrat establishment is thrilled - yes, thrilled - that Roe vs Wade was overturned because not only can they keep people distracted with their theatrics, they can also turn it into another fundraising drive. Nancy Pelosi has already sent out the emails begging people for money and telling them they must vote Democrat in the mid-terms to save abortion rights. 

The thing is they could save abortion rights now - they won control of both houses. They could codify Roe vs Wade into law, they could increase the number of judges on the Supreme Court, they could open impeachment proceedings against the two Supreme Court judges who were credibly accused of sexual harassment and rape.

Yes, two Supreme Court judges - Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas - have been credibly accused of grotesque sexual misconduct. Not only should they never have been allowed to become Supreme Court judges, but surely, if they had a shred of dignity, they would've recused themselves from proceedings on the Roe vs Wade case. 

To have two potential rapists decide what pregnant women can do with their bodies in a country where rapists have parental rights and rape victims can now, thanks to their ruling, be prosecuted for aborting the rapist's foetus is truly chilling.

And why is all of this happening? Because the public fail to understand that this, like every attack on our human rights, is ultimately a class issue, and you only overcome class issues by standing together in solidarity.

If you're a middle class person, elevated to that slight level of privilege above the working class, perhaps you've never understood this was a class issue before, but in the eyes of the establishment, you are just one of their workers and you can have your rights stripped away on a whim. Like I said earlier in the article, they will come for any and all of us when it's convenient for them.

This is why it's important for men to stand with women on abortion rights, but it's also why it's important to stand with striking workers demanding better pay and conditions. I've heard talk from the US about a general strike until abortion rights are guaranteed. Last year, there was talk about a general strike until people had healthcare and fair pay and this was roundly mocked by privileged people. 

The problem is general strikes will struggle to take off because we never see a fight as our fight until we are directly affected. 

But if we stand together and demand a new social contract where everyone's rights are guaranteed, rather than just the ones that are relevant to us, and we make it clear we will not participate in their system until we get a fair deal, we really do have the power to drive change. 

If you appreciate the work of Council Estate Media, even the most modest of donations can help massively, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so.

Friday, 17 June 2022

Priti Patel has finally signed the extradition order for Julian Assange, meaning that unless an appeal is successful in the next 14 days, he will be extradited to the US for the crime of telling the truth, for exposing the crimes of those who want to throw him behind bars.

UK judges had previously ruled the extradition should not go ahead, due to concerns for Assange's well-being and mental health, agreeing there was a genuine risk to Assange's safety in US prisons. They were right, of course, but none of that seems to matter now because the establishment clearly wants him gone. 

If Assange's appeal is unsuccessful, he has a final roll of the die by petitioning the European Court of Human Rights which recently stopped the Rwanda flight from going ahead. We can only hope the ECtHR sees sense.

To recap, Julian  Assange was accused of rape in Sweden in 2010, apparently thanks to meddling from US officials. He refused to comply with Swedish prosecutors because it seemed obvious the case was a ruse to send him to the US, even though they were not publicly requesting his extradition at this point.

Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 while on bail in the UK, but he agreed to be questioned by Swedish police in London in 2015. The rape charge against Assange was dropped in 2019, but the UK arrested him for skipping bail when he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, even though his asylum claim was upheld by the UN. 

To emphasise, Assange was jailed for skipping bail for a crime he was falsely accused of committing because he was fearful the country which wanted to assassinate him was secretly plotting to extradite him. His fears were absolutely founded.

In 2016, the UN ruled that Assange was being detained arbitrarily and should be free to leave the Ecuadorian embassy, but the UK still wanted to arrest him for skipping bail, presumably at the request of the US. Ecuador revoked Assange's asylum status in 2019 and he was then arrested by the Metropolitan Police. He was sentenced to 50 months in prison for the crime of seeking refuge, and lo and behold, the US decided they wanted Assange's extradition after all, meaning he was correct to seek refuge.

It's worth mentioning that Obama was wary of requesting Assange's extradition because it was obvious he had committed no crime, but during the Trump presidency, it was decided Assange had broken a rarely used law - The Espionage Act 1917. As many have pointed out, this move was a direct attack on rights guaranteed under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Julian Assange, who is not a US citizen, stands accused of breaking US law while he was in a country where the US has no jurisdiction. It does not get more absurd than that, but the real reason Assange is being extradited is because he did real journalism, because he told uncomfortable truths.

Assange exposed war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the US and its allies, yet the people who committed those war crimes and human rights abuses are not behind bars. Julian Assange is the one behind bars.

As most of you will be well aware, Wikileaks released footage of US Apache helicopter pilots deliberately killing 12 civilians, including an injured Reuters employee and his rescuers, as well as injuring two children. 

WARNING: UPSETTING CONTENT

Wikileaks published documents showing US soldiers have killed hundreds of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan in unreported incidents. It also showed the US government was illegally mass surveying its own citizens and exposed many other crimes, making Assange arguably the most important journalist of our time. He has certainly won plenty of journalism awards.

Among the awards Assange has won are:

  • The Sam Adams Award
  • The Economist New Media Award
  • The Time Person of the Year, reader's choice
  • The Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal
  • The Walkley Award
  • The Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts
  • The Brazilian Press Association Human Rights Award
  • The Gavin McFadyen Award
  • The Martha Gellhorn Prize
  • The Catalan Dignity Prize
  • The Stuttgart Peace Prize
  • The European United Left-Nordic Green Left Award for Journalists, Whistleblowers and Defenders of the Right to Information
  • The Gary Webb Freedom of the Press Award
  • The Günter Wallraff Prize

Despite the above awards, the US refuses to consider Julian Assange a real journalist, presumably to make it easier to prosecute him. Assange was accused of endangering the lives of US troops and intelligence agents, even though Wikileaks insist they carefully redacted documents to ensure this was not the case. Assange's lawyers have asked for evidence in court to show he endangered lives, yet no evidence has been presented so far.

If you agree with the extradition of Assange, it means you agree that a man should be thrown behind bars for telling you that your own government was violating your human rights. But it's even worse than that.

Imagine you are presented with proof that your government is committing war crimes and you make this proof public. You could spend the rest of your life behind bars for blowing the whistle. This is the madness you are consenting to. Neither you nor anyone else is allowed to report war crimes or human rights abuses which have been committed by your state. You are saying you do not believe in freedom of speech, you actually believe in authoritarianism.

If another country, like say Russia, was behaving this way, our media would slaughter them, but this is the US we're talking about so most journalists don't dare - they are fearful of what would happen to them if they did. Julian Assange is a warning - the US is making an example of him to ensure newspapers like The Guardian dare not step out of line again.

Let's not forget, the US was considering assassinating Julian Assange. Hillary Clinton came right out and asked if she could drone bomb him and later, Donald Trump was planning to kidnap or kill him. The US even admitted to illegally spying on Assange's lawyers, denying him the right to a fair trial, yet Priti Patel has declared his extradition can go ahead because he would be treated "appropriately". It truly is chilling.

Of course, we should not be surprised by Patel's attitude - the prison conditions Assange has endured in the UK are shocking. He is being kept in a top security unit in Belmarsh - known as Britain's Guantanamo Bay - where suicides and murder are reportedly commonplace. Since his bail sentence elapsed, Assange has been held on remand, convicted of no crime, and prison staff have ignored his self-harming and frail condition.

If Assange is not safe, no journalist or citizen is safe because the US is essentially claiming jurisdiction over the entire world. Even if you're not a US citizen and have never set foot in the US, they can potentially have you extradited. Their laws apply to you, no matter where you are, even though you have no say over those laws because you are not a citizen and therefore do not get a vote.

You could live in a country where most people profoundly disagree with what the US is doing and believe you are in the right, but the US could bully your government and there is a good chance they would comply. After all, we know what happens to governments who tell the US empire no - they get couped.

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Thursday, 16 June 2022

Obviously, you're aware by now the Rwanda people trafficking flight was grounded. I mean how could you have missed it? That loud noise which was heard all across the land was the sound of Priti Patel's head exploding.

The Rwanda flight was grounded at the very last minute because when the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) went through the individual cases, one by one, it seemed quite clear the UK government was not bothering to observe human rights. The initial plan was to send 30 refugees to Rwanda, but as each case was reviewed, another person had their flight cancelled until there were none left.

This ill-conceived plan was necessary to deter the people traffickers, insisted Priti Patel, who is herself becoming a people trafficker, and as Gary Lineker recently pointed out on Twitter, at least those people traffickers are sending people where they want to go. Our would-be people traffickers are worse and we call them our government!

Planning to send people to a country they've never visited and which they don't consent to living in, a country which is at war with the neighbouring Congo, a country which is guilty of human rights violations against the Muslim and LGBT communities, a country which does not even allow its citizens to have freedom of speech, a country with a leader in Paul Kagame who reportedly massacred Hutu refugees in ex-Zaire, is monstrous, and if this isn't explicitly against international law, it really should be.

There have even been reports that Priti Patel is looking to overturn the Modern Slavery Act so it doesn't get in the way of her plans, and no, I am not joking. I suspect they are going to update international law sometime in the near future, just in response to the evil of our home secretary. 

And if all this wasn't horrifying enough, the refugees have explained how they were put in cells, restrained by harnesses and punched and kicked as they were forced onto the plane which thankfully never took off.  This is not how civilised countries behave, it's how fascist states behave.

Thankfully, the ECtHR put a stop to this madness. The Tory response? Look for any excuse to remove us from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This convention is nothing to do with the EU before you start and it was actually drafted by that woke leftie Winston Churchill. If we were to leave the ECHR, we would be joining Russia as the only other European country to do so, and they left so they could bomb Ukraine. We'd be in great company there, wouldn't we?

The fact is we have no reason to leave the ECHR because not only is it protecting our human rights, it's also causing us no problems. If refugees really are the reason this country is on its arse, then how come all other member states of the ECHR are doing just fine, despite most of them taking more refugees than we do? Some of them much more.

Refugees were never the problem and taking away our human rights will never be the solution. The Tories simply want to blame refugees for their failures and take away your human rights in the process. They knew the ECtHR was likely to strike down the Rwanda plan and they knew this would give them the perfect chance to portray the ECtHR as your enemy, rather than a mechanism to protect your human rights. Sadly, the Tories find it rather easy to dupe idiots into acting against their own interests.

I made a Twitter post about the Rwanda plan yesterday and it attracted the ire of every gammon on the internet that I had not already blocked. It also attracted every predictable, idiotic argument against refugees. Obviously, I had zero interest in engaging with these racists - my block finger was far too busy for that - but I would like to summarise their bullshit and debunk it.

First of all, this is what I tweeted:

Is this a simplification? Yes, it's obviously a simplification. It's a tweet! But it's a simplification with a very obvious truth - the Rwanda plan is not cost effective, it's racist. Now, personally I do not consider the cost to be a huge concern. I was simply pointing out the plan fails on its own terms of cost effectiveness, let alone on legality and morality.

I posted the tweet around the time the Rwanda flight was about to take off, and about 15 minutes later, we received confirmation the flight had been cancelled. At the time I posted the tweet, just three people were scheduled to be on that flight. Several newspapers had broken down the cost of the flight and estimated it to be around £400,000 to £500,000 - an eye-watering sum, but one which seems credible. 

You can see the breakdown here.

We actually spent around £500,000 deporting nobody and now we're giving those refugees £40.85 a week to live off. The response I received from trolls was that the figures in my tweet just weren't credible, yet not a single one of them bothered to double check. A quick Google search would've shown them the UK refugee allowance is just £40.85 a month (when I said £40 a month, I should have clarified this was per person). 

The gov.uk website explains the refugee allowance is loaded onto a payment card so refugees do not even get cash, and the allowance must be used to pay for food, clothing and toiletries.

A common argument against my post was there is no way we are expecting refugees to live off so little because it's simply impossible to do this in the UK! Yet these are the exact same people who insist the working class can live off 30p a day meals and afford a mortgage if they cancel their Netflix subscription. Apparently, the UK is a very cheap place to live when lecturing our own poor and a very expensive place to live when helping refugees.

The reality is that it's almost impossible to live any meaningful existence on £40 a week in this country. I mean you can technically keep yourself alive, but your life is going to be devoid of the most basic of pleasures. How do I know this? Because I've lived of £40 a week! And let me tell you, the boredom can kill you faster than the malnutrition. 

I remember keeping the same newspaper for a week and reading it over and over just so I had something to do between applying for every vacancy in the job section and never hearing anything back - but we don't even allow refugees the right to apply for work. If we did, the ones who managed to find jobs could reduce the costs of our asylum system and contribute to the economy, but we don't want to do that because someone somewhere is making huge sums of money from our asylum system. 

When the government blames everything on refugees, it's not because they care about stopping refugees coming here, it's because they think you're an idiot who can be easily distracted. They want you blaming the refugees for their failures of leadership of the past 12 years. Shout out to every idiot who falls for this. 

The problem with the asylum argument is that conservatives are not acting in good faith so it's an argument you can never win. They are always shifting the goal posts so if you debunk one argument, they will immediately shift to another.

If conservatives argue "they're all illegal economic migrants", it's so easy to point out that 61% of channel crossers have their asylum claims accepted, but conservatives will then move on to argue that we're "full" and if you point out we have a low population density - and a low refugee population, relative to our neighbours - they will move on to another argument, and they will do this endlessly. 

It does not matter how many arguments you debunk because it is not about cost, nor is it about space, nor is it about protecting jobs, nor is it about public safety. It is about racism, plain and simple. The people who obsessively whine about refugees are all racist, every single one of them.

But let's just debunk their nonsense anyways.

As you can imagine, I had about a million people insisting refugees are all placed into four star hotels and treated like royalty, but at the same time, they go straight to the top of the housing list and get council houses. If you believe this, congratulations, you just failed the IQ test!

The reality is most are put into homeless hostels upon arrival and those hostels are so grim, many people simply choose to sleep rough. How do I know this? I've stayed in a homeless hostel. I was sharing a bedroom with about ten other people and let's just say that place was a tiny bit rough - I could easily imagine the UK has nicer prisons.

Technically, the cost of refugees is about more than just the £40.85 a week refugee allowance, but I was not talking about the cost of running the entire asylum system. I was talking about the cost of keeping those three particular refugees in the UK.

The point is putting those three human beings into an already existing hostel would have cost us virtually nothing extra. The running costs of that hostel would have been there, regardless of whether those refugees were deported, and even if we deported all refugees, that does not mean the hostels would disappear. That won't happen until we also eliminate homelessness. And the people yelling that we can't help refugees until we've helped our own homeless, always oppose policies that help the homeless too!

But if you want to play the extra costs game, we have paid Rwanda £120 million up front with more money to come, depending on how many refugees they receive, and as part of the deal, we have to take some of their refugees in return. And we have to take the refugees with the greatest needs, i.e., the ones who will cost us more! On top of that, we are only likely to send a small number of our refugees to Rwanda (if any), meaning we have done effectively nothing to reduce costs, and have instead made a system that's much more expensive and crueler.

But here's where the racists shift the goal posts. 

Suddenly it's not about cost, it's about "legality". Not only do they overlook the fact there is no such thing as an illegal refugee (the 1951 Refugee Convention states you can't hold the method of entry into your country against the refugee), but they don't care their own behaviour is illegal. 

If you cared so much about legality, why the hell would you violate international law? These people don't care about legality, they're really just saying they don't want refugees here. Not all refugees though, mainly just the black and brown ones. 

"France is a safe country!" they yell, like almost all Ukrainian refugees didn't pass through France. But we're welcoming Ukrainians into our homes. See the difference?

"Ah, but they're all women and children whereas the other migrants are all fighting age men." 

Let's just leave aside the falseness of this argument for a moment. Is there any phrase more grotesque than "fighting age men"? As though men should exist only to be cannon fodder? As though they should not be allowed to flee for their lives? As though they should should stay behind to be killed or tortured, simply because they're of "fighting age"? What kind of psycho argument is that? 

I promise you, the people who make those arguments are primarily the people who wouldn't do any fighting themselves. The're the kind who love to send working class boys onto the battlefield to get blown to pieces while they are safe in their homes. Fuck the "fighting age men" argument.

They will tell us that if "fighting age men" are coming from a country, but women and children aren't, this is somehow proof these men are "economic migrants" and not real refugees, but the entire basis of their argument is that "fighting age men" can't be refugees because there are no circumstances under which they would be willing to accept a "fighting age man" into their country. 

This is because they are bastards. Racist bastards.

Did it ever occur to these racists, the reason not many women and children are coming here is because travelling across the world is a very difficult thing for families to do? Did it ever occur that young single men are more likely to be in the position to take that risk? Did it ever occur that lots of channel crossers are not young single men? Did it ever occur that most have genuine stories and compelling reasons for coming here? Some have friends or family here. Some speak the language. Some come because they've been told the UK is a decent country that will keep them safe. (Sadly they were told a lie.)

One thing all of these asylum seekers have in common is they just want safety and security - apparently that's enough to make them monsters.

I read an article recently in which a journalist interviewed ten channel crossers. Not only were these people not all "fighting age men", but all of them had their asylum claims accepted. One of the people interviewed was an elderly woman who was taking care of her frail husband and they were desperate to come to the UK because that's where their son lived. They felt they had no choice but to take the risk because there was no safe route for them to come here.

We purposely don't offer safe routes so we can call these perfectly legitimate refugees "illegal migrants" and send boat patrols to turn them away. Our actions have led to many drownings in the English Channel, including tragically a Syrian family with children recently. We are quite happy to bomb these countries but not so keen to help those who are displaced by our actions, and that says everything about us as a nation.

If you appreciate the work of Council Estate Media, even the most modest of donations can help massively, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

By now, you're probably aware of the leaked Paul Mason documents which have been the cause of some controversy, but if you're not, here's what's going on:

The Grayzone has uncovered documents allegedly showing journalist Paul Mason plotting with a security contractor against the left. One document is particularly shocking because it names a number of individuals and organisations which Mason apparently deems pro-Putin. Concerningly, the document puts the "black community" and the "Muslim community" in that category. If these documents are genuine, and as far as I know Mason is yet to refute them, they suggest Mason has not only lost the plot but is anti-left and racist.

The documents themselves appear to be genuine and the fact there are no clear public denials would appear to support this suspicion. Several of the individuals named in the documents have publicly expressed their concerns, such as Aaron Bastani and Jess Barnard. If you want the full background, you can read The Grayzone's article here.

The article highlights how Paul Mason calls for de-platforming and criminalisation of anti-war voices and the de-platforming of The Grayzone itself, as well as a permanent operation to counter it.

Let's stop and consider this for a moment - a journalist who claims to be on the left apparently wants to work with the state to permanently silence left wing voices. If we humour Mason and suppose he is right about everything and The Grayzone is wrong, even in that situation, do you seriously think it would be correct to ban The Grayzone? To take away their voice? How can you as a member of the public be certain any narrative being fed to you by the state is correct if you're not allowed to hear dissenting voices? What happened to the marketplace of ideas?

We're supposed to challenge opinions we disagree with, not make sure no one hears them. And we should be deeply sceptical of anyone who wants to decide which opinions we are allowed to hear. Are we really comfortable with the state deciding this or that opinion is wrong think and we should be protected from it? Do we really believe we should be sheltered from another person's reasoning and evidence?

I sometimes read articles from left wing publications like The Grayzone, I sometimes read articles from centrist publications, and I even sometimes read articles from right wing publications. Often I find I don't fully agree with voices from the left and sometimes *gasp* I even partly agree with voices from the right. This helps my opinions become more nuanced and informed - indeed it is the only way to ensure opinions become nuanced and informed. 

I certainly don't want anyone denying me the right to inform myself and I consider anyone who would do so a threat to democracy. As abhorrent as I find most right wing publications, I don't want to see them banned. I simply want them to improve their journalistic standards, and if Mason has concerns about publications on the left, how about highlighting where he thinks they're going wrong and pushing them to be better?

The fact is Mason is not right about everything and The Grayzone is not wrong about everything. If you've ever read The Grayzone, you will know those guys do their homework, and even if I don't agree with their takes 100% of the time, I would be worried if I did. We should not be agreeing with anyone 100% of the time. The Grayzone evidence their claims far more clearly than anything you will read in the mainstream media on foreign policy, where the standard of evidence rarely exceeds: "Dude, trust us, okay?"

If one side's approach is to provide you with evidence and reason and the other side's approach is to stop them providing you with evidence and reason while failing to provide their own evidence and reason, and instead just yelling at you for committing wrong think if you disagree with them, which side do you think is more credible?

If you understand anything about liberal democracy, it should be this: the one area where you don't have true freedom of speech is foreign policy. It's not just that you're not allowed to do "pro-Putin propaganda" as Mason would call it whenever anyone disagrees with him (when he's not accusing them of being a Stalinist or Assadist), you're not allowed to veer from the script even a little bit. You're not allowed to show nuance, to express concerns, and you're certainly not allowed to present evidence that would incriminate the state. This is precisely why Julian Assange is rotting in a jail cell - for revealing the truth. 

You can have the most reactionary, toxic, bigoted views imaginable and become a columnist in a mainstream newspaper, and what's more, people will fight for your right to freely express your opinions. But if you say something like: "You know what, NATO has often veered from its mission statement to be a purely defensive organisation," you are a monster who must be destroyed. And the establishment will stop at nothing.

Honestly, attempts at de-platforming are the gentle approach here. Once intelligence services are involved, you can expect threats, smear campaigns and even arrest - they will make an example of you so other journalists know not to step out of line. Assange was targeted precisely to stop mainstream publications like The Guardian from publishing stories on Wikileaks and it worked.

The idea that Mason could be working with intelligence services to further their censorship efforts is disturbing, but not surprising. And not just because of Mason's veering to the right in recent years, but because leftist movements have always been betrayed by individuals among their ranks.

A leaked email suggests Mason shared a bizarre dynamic map that he apparently deems the "pro-Putin infosphere".


Obviously, there is a lot to digest here, but let's look at one name in particular: Jeremy Corbyn. 

Not only was Paul Mason once supportive of Jeremy Corbyn, but he knows as well as I do that Corbyn has been calling out the criminality of Putin since the days when Tony Blair was doing everything he could to help Putin become President of Russia. Corbyn has consistently called for an investigation into links between British politicians and the Russian state.

But that does not matter. Why? Because this is not about being pro-Putin at all, it's about silencing anyone who is remotely sceptical of NATO. And if you're not sceptical of NATO, then Libya would like a very strong word with you.

The most bizarre inclusion on this map is Jess Barnard - an innocuous and likeable member of Young Labour who rarely even involves herself in discussions of Russia from what I've seen, but has dared to criticise NATO recently.

But by far and away the most concerning inclusions on the map are the Muslim community, the black community and trade unions. If you are classifying these as a "pro-Putin infosphere", you are not just anti-left, you are clearly and unambiguously racist. We need urgent clarification from Mason about whether this really is his infographic and if so, exactly what he intends by including such groups. Failure to clarify will lead people to draw their own conclusions.

Paul Mason's apparent plans for The Grayzone and other left wing organisations are frankly authoritarian. A leaked email suggests two options: a "John Oliver-style stunt" to humiliate The Grayzone and destroy their credibility, or failing that, relentless legal attacks to crush them financially. 

This is another establishment tactic - lawfare - and one which many people on the UK left have been the victim of in recent years, particularly supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. Further afield, you could look to the treatment of Steven Donziger in the US as a perfect example of how the law can be weaponised to silence those who challenge the establishment. 

Steven Donziger was placed under house arrest for years. His crime? He successfully sued western companies abroad for horrendous practices in multiple Latin American countries.

If you think using the law to relentlessly attack voices which challenge the state is appropriate, you are not a democrat. And the fact Paul Mason is so close to the current Labour leader is deep cause for concern. It indicates there could be authoritarian attacks on our freedom of speech under a Starmer-led government. 

Cancel culture is real, but it's not the right wing who are its primary victims, it's the left. It has always been the left.

In the leaked emails, Paul Mason apparently spoke enthusiastically of the removal of Consortium News and Mint Press News from platforms such as PayPal, and suggested the same should be done to The Grayzone. 

I mean, excuse me? You're going to suggest that people who disagree with your opinions are not even allowed to make money now? People guilty of wrong think are not allowed to speak and not allowed to feed their families? Great democratic values you're defending here, Paul.

Why not target the voices who've lied us into every war? Why not fight to de-platform those if you're really on a moral crusade? Why not launch legal challenges against the Murdoch empire? Why not focus your energy on tackling their relentless bigotry and disinformation? Why not focus on the proven financial ties with Russia and the Conservative government? Why not highlight the Labour right's past relationship with Putin?

Are you really going to tell me a small, anti-imperialist outlet like The Grayzone, who most people haven't heard of, is a bigger threat to democracy than The S*n newspaper? A bigger threat to democracy than Evgeny Lebedev being in the House of Lords?

I've seen no evidence to support the claim The Grayzone is pro-Putin, but even if a publication is pro-Putin, why would this be worse than being pro-Blair or pro-Bush? All three are war criminals with huge body counts. Why is someone allowed to be pro one war criminal but not pro another? In a free society people are allowed to express different view points, even if they're incorrect and abhorrent.

Do you really think the way to protect truth and democracy is to remove dissenting opinions from the left while hate, lies and bigotry from the right are allowed to thrive? Do you really think only one set of views should be publicly expressed? Because if you think that, I'm afraid you are the threat to truth and democracy.

If you appreciate the work of Council Estate Media, even the most modest of donations can help massively, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so.

Friday, 3 June 2022

Who's celebrating the Platinum Jubilee then? I know I am. 

I've been celebrating with a broadband outage and four kids off school, yelling at me because my mobile phone tethering keeps cutting out while they're watching cartoons. It's been unbearable. So unbearable in fact, I was almost tempted to join one of those awful street parties. Almost.

I say street parties. There is actually no party in my street or anywhere in my neighbourhood. We are geordies and we are more dignified than that. The only street party I'm aware of is in my cousin's street a few miles away and honestly, I thought better of them than that. I'm 100% certain they are holding the only platinum jubilee party in the whole of the northeast of England. And yes, this has brought great shame on my family.

This is not a thing we are supposed to do around here. We are supposed to recoil at the first mention of royalty. I actually heard someone say Platty Joobs today so I threw them off the nearest cliff. The nearest cliff was three miles away so I had to tie them up and drive them there, but it was definitely worth it.

This is because I'm one of those mean, angry lefties, always whining about stupid things like why is food so unaffordable while all the nice royalists focus on inclusivity. This jubilee is not about the Queen, apparently, it's about bringing the whole nation together and celebrating the best of being British - this is why literally everyone is invited!

You know who wasn't invited to the platinum jubilee? Virginia Giuffre. So much for inclusivity.

Justin Welby has been telling us how Andrew is sorry and should be forgiven for those crimes he totally never committed. Well, now would've been a perfect time for Andrew to publicly apologise and turn himself into the authorities. We could've then asked Virginia if it was time for forgiveness or if she would prefer Andrew serve his time first, instead of just letting another man demand our forgiveness on her behalf.

But Andrew is not sorry and he is not trying to make amends. He's just mad he was caught.

The poor Prince was going to suffer the humiliation of being relegated to the same scheduling as Harry and Meghan (because visiting secret paedophile islands and paying off your accuser is roughly the same level of royal crime as interracial marriage), but thankfully Andrew found a way out. He faked a positive Covid test.

As one Twitter user put it: 

Even if we leave aside the grotesqueness of the royal family's recent shenanigans, even if we pretend Liz never married her racist cousin, even if we pretend her family never stole the crown in a petty religious conflict, this whole thing would still be spectacularly tone deaf. We are going through a cost of living crisis and we are spending a fortune on the billionaire to congratulate her for living a long time. 

Well done, Liz. People in my area are seeing their life expectancy shorten and their retirement age rise, but I'm sure you've worked really hard.

UK life expectancy down 448 days

UK retirement age up 730 days

The main jubilee celebrations are costing about £50 million of tax payer money and when you factor in celebrations up and down the country, the total cost is expected to hit £1 billion. All this in a time when people are selling their furniture to pay their heating bills. I mean we could've donated to foodbanks, but revering rich people is more patriotic, apparently.

You want sycophancy from me, Liz? How about you start by turning your palaces into homeless shelters, instead of demanding reverence because you've worn a really expensive hat for 70 years and met a few other dignitaries from time to time?

Let's not forget that many of the dignitaries the royals meet are among the worst human beings on Earth. They sell bombs to the genocidal Saudi Royal Family for fuck's sake, but yeah, let's revere them. They were born to the right parents.

Let's go gooey-eyed and refer to another human being as "her majesty" like we're brain dead subjects, instead of people with self-respect. Let's wave our flags and celebrate our declining living standards.

There is not much celebrating going on in places where living standards truly are in decline, of course. 99% of the street parties are taking place in areas that are insulated from the cost of living crisis. The kind of places that are content with shitting on towns like mine and then yelling at us for not being patriotic enough. When I was growing up, we had 95% youth unemployment around here. Clearly, the problem was that we didn't revere the Queen enough.

As Howard Beckett pointed out today, we are now expecting kids to work for £4.81 an hour:

Not only has the whole thing been spectacularly tone deaf, but the jubilee has managed to squeeze in some good old fashioned imperial racism and no, I'm not talking about a Prince Phillip highlight reel - that would keep us here all day.

No, what I'm referring to is the national embarrassment of the BBC calling Irish people "Micks" and then explaining why they think the term is not racist actually - it's affectionate. My God.

As many Irish people have pointed out on social media, "Micks" is an offensive and disparaging term used to describe Irish people that harks back to imperialism. There is no affectionate way of using a slur, but this little moment perfectly encapsulates royal attitudes. 

Racism is not racism, it's affection. Inequality is inclusivity. Reverence is patriotism. Grotesque indulgence is tradition. A life of luxury is hard work. Stolen wealth is national treasures. And Prince Andrew is definitely not a sweaty nonce.

If you appreciate the work of Council Estate Media, even the most modest of donations can help massively, but please only contribute if you can reasonably afford to do so.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean, who you've probably never heard of, has explained that if you are struggling with the cost of living crisis, you simply need to find a better job or work longer hours. Yes, she really told poor people to stop being poor!

NOTE: If you find these tips helpful, other helpful tips include not putting the heating on if you can't afford your energy bill and not buying food if you can't afford to eat. Alternatively, you could ask your children to take up weekend jobs as chimney sweeps.

Maclean told Kay Burley on Sky: 'Over the long-term we need to have a plan to grow the economy and make sure that people are able to protect themselves better, whether that is by taking on more hours or moving to a better paid job.'

In other words, the government plan is to have no plan at all and hope you sort things out yourself.

Rachel was sadly unable to explain who would work the essential front line roles if everyone suddenly quit and became a doctor or lawyer. She also couldn't explain what we would do with so many doctors and lawyers! Surely, if there was a surplus of professionals, their salaries would come down and most of them would be unable to find work.

Our economy only has room for so many professionals, and as Rachel well knows, essential front line workers are, well, essential - they kept the economy going through the pandemic. This is exactly why the government was so keen to force them back into unsafe environments while ministers were safe in their country estates. 

If only we could all claim £220k on top of an £84k salary...


Remember that time that lasted about a month when all front line workers were national heroes? Yeah, they're back to being peasants who should know their place again.

This is the thing about the Tories: every word that comes out of their mouths, whether that be praise or criticism, is never more than manipulation to ensure you know your place. There is no sincerity in anything they ever say. It is not ideological because they know their words are bullshit, but they hope you are stupid enough to believe them.

Rachel knows full well that in this economy most people aren't going to find better jobs any time soon, which leaves them with her other appealing option: "work longer hours". The people who are already working so many hours and doing such long commutes they never see their families are being told to work even longer hours. 

Let's just get everyone working 14 hour shifts, 7 days a week. After all, your job should be the sole purpose of your existence. It's grind culture!

Last time I worked for someone else, I was cycling 14 miles a day just to get to and from work. I was also illegally forced to work for two weeks straight while I was unwell. I was leaving the house so early and getting home so late, I was never seeing my kids, and to make matters worse, almost all of my income was going on childcare. Needless to say I quit.

If someone like Rachel had suggested I work longer hours as a solution to that, I would not have had polite words for them. The reality is the Tories have made working life almost impossible. But Rachel's words are a classic Tory tactic: deflect blame from their failures by placing the blame onto the individual. 

If the economy is falling apart, this is nothing to do with government policy, it is simply that you personally are choosing to not work hard enough. You who are sleep deprived and exhausted and medicated for anxiety because capitalism has pushed you beyond the limit, you simply need to work harder. That is how we fix the economy. And just enough people fall for this dumb argument.

Clearly, the huge surge in food bank use under Tory rule is down to people not working hard enough.

Strangely, the government never have to work harder or perform better in order to sort things out, it's always on the working class. The plebs must work harder and budget better. 

Remember, Tory MPs think they can feed themselves on 30p a day, yet they get £25 a day food allowance when they stay outside of their constituencies overnight. They never insist they should be expected to budget better, do they? They're not demanding their food allowance be reduced to 30p a day. Well, it bloody well should be.

I posted the following on Twitter recently and I wasn't even joking:

Obviously, we would have to stop MPs working second jobs and freeze any other income they have and put a stop to their piss-taking expenses claims, but the point is, force them to endure the same cost of living crisis they are expecting us to endure. Imagine an MP suddenly being unable to claim their heating bills for their second homes on expenses. Imagine them getting a taste of living like the rest of us. They would be nationalising energy companies faster than you can say, "Individual responsibility".

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Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Tory MP Lee Anderson has claimed the media exaggerate the need for food banks and most people are only using them because they can't cook or budget properly. He also explained you can cook meals and budget on just 30p a day. Yes, he really said that!

You can watch a segment of his little outburst in the video below:

In a statement, Anderson later denied saying what we just watched him say and suggested the media were twisting his words. He then boasted of visiting a food bank where people were given food packages on the condition they attended budgeting and cooking classes!

By the way, Mr Budgeting Expert claimed £208,491.24 on expenses last year.


Even if you filter out staffing and travel costs, Anderson claimed £42,762.09. I'm pretty sure I could come up with a few budgeting tips to stop Anderson wasting £42k of our money. I could help him scrape by on minimum wage actually, and then he could see how fun reality is, but I'm guessing he wouldn't be keen on doing that. He does not seem like the type who would practice what he preaches.

When Anderson is not insulting poor people in parliament, he likes to spend his time saying things like this to his constituents on Facebook. Nice guy.


Anderson has previously attracted controversy for making sexist comments, including telling a woman councillor she should "stay out of big boy politics". He is also the plonker who boycotted England games when footballers were taking the knee for Black Lives Matter. 

Here are a few other things Anderson is reportedly guilty of:


Anderson is not exactly the kind of guy I want to be taking budgeting advice from - the man can't even scrape by on his £84,144 a year salary and his £10,000 landlord income. Yes, he is a landlord.

Fun fact: Did you know that with his £84,144 salary and £10,000 landlord income and £210,491.24 expenses claim, Lee could actually afford 1,016,350 "30p meals" a year? He could feed half of the UK's foodbank users!

Now, I've used a food bank before. It was during the pandemic when my wife was between jobs. We both know how to cook and if some smart arse demanded we attend cooking classes, otherwise they would starve our kids, I would not have had polite words for them. Especially if that person was an MP who eats from a tax-payer subsidised canteen.

Do they seriously expect broke people to get a child minder to attend these classes? Or take time off work? And before you ask, yes, people in work are using food banks too. 

1 in 7 food bank users work full time

As much as anything else, many people cannot afford to cook anymore. People have actually been declining food they would have to cook because they can't afford the gas or electricity. This is what Tory rule has done to this country, but let's pretend the poor people are all stupid and lazy.

The reality is no one is better at budgeting than a poor person. They can tell you when and where to get the best deals and they can tell you the price of everything on their shopping list because they are used to counting every penny and stretching their money as far as physically possible.

Back in my younger days, there were periods when I had to make a fiver last a fortnight and it was horrific. The Tories seem to think that as long as long as you're still alive, this is proof everything is okay. And if you are unfortunate enough to die from their brutal austerity measures, they will deny culpability and blame your mental health or something. Like they weren't the ones who destroyed your mental health as badly as they destroyed your physical health.

The Tories will not accept responsibility for poverty, but they will take credit for their half-arsed efforts at easing poverty. We've recently seen Tories posing for pictures and smiling as they cut the ribbon at the grand opening of a food bank(!) when they should be apologising for its need to exist. This is how out of touch they are.

2.1 million people in this country can't afford to eat every day and for many, central heating has become a distant memory. These people did not suddenly become bad at cooking or budgeting when the Tories took charge. It was actually the Tories' inability to budget correctly that caused the problem. And thanks to their inability to budget, the working class are depending on food banks which were initially set up to feed homeless people and refugees who did not have access to food.

The Tories are simply blaming others for their cruelty and incompetence. 

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