Tag Archives: mark mcgowan

IDS and too many other ministers are having their way by playing ‘fast and loose’ with the facts

Hoban lies: And this is just a taste of the many ways the Conservative-led government has been trying to hoodwink you and me since 2010.

Hoban lies: And this is just a taste of the many ways the Conservative-led government has been trying to hoodwink you and me since 2010.

It seems the Conservative Party is doing exactly as many of us feared, and using the attack in Woolwich on Wednesday to revive its proposals for laws to snoop on the emails and social media communications of law-abiding citizens.

Make no mistake – these powers would not be used for the good of the country, but for repression. And bear in mind that, for a Tory, the law is something that they set, and the poor obey. They think it doesn’t apply to them.

Let’s all remember that these new calls have been prompted by the actions of two men who were already known to – and monitored by – the security services. Monitoring your internet communications would not have made any difference to what happened in such a situation.

You cannot trust the Tories with the facts – all we have to do to prove that is look at Iain Duncan Smith.

Here is a man who will say anything to get his own way – which is to impoverish people who are already poor, pushing them beyond breaking-point with ridiculous ‘directions’ and unreasonable decisions in the hope, one presumes, that they will sign off benefits. The reality is that many of them go on to die from aggravation of their illnesses (if they are sick or disabled) or commit suicide.

He will be dragged before the Work and Pensions Committee within the next few weeks to answer for some of these transgressions, including his claim that 8,000 people who would have been affected by the benefit cap had moved into jobs instead, which the UK Statistics Authority rubbished by pointing out that the report from which he drew the figures “explicitly states that the figures are ‘not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact'”.

Worse than that was the claim, taken up by fellow Tory truth-fiddler Grant Shapps (if that’s his name today), that 878,300 people people decided not to pursue their claims for Employment and Support Allowance because a change in the benefits system meant that they’d have to be assessed for their level of disability – and that this showed how necessary this government’s attack on disabled people is. In fact, the figures represented nothing more than ‘churn’ – a turnover of claims withdrawn because of perfectly normal things like people getting better, or finding a job they can do even if they’re ill. After the government intensified its scrutiny of disabled people, the number in receipt of the benefit increased.

Iain Duncan Smith isn’t the only one making mockery of the facts. Look at George Osborne, who made unsupportable claims about the value of another DWP effort – Workfare – a few weeks ago.

Osborne also talks tough on tax avoidance, but he himself is known to have taken part in a legal tax avoidance scheme; he advocated one to a caller on a TV politics show; he re-wrote the law to make it easier for firms in the UK to stash their cash in offshore subsidiaries, putting their profits into tax havens rather than the British tax system; and he allowed tax lawyers from the so-called ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms into his department, where they re-wrote tax laws to make it easier for their clients to dodge high tax bills.

David Cameron said the amount of money available to the NHS was rising, when in fact it had fallen.

Cameron also claimed – on a party political broadcast! – that the national debt was falling under his Conservative Party. In fact, it has risen massively during the course of this Parliament, due primarily to the poor decisions made by the comedy Prime Minister and his allies.

It seems Cameron is a serial exaggerator of the truth. On April 15 he tweeted that the benefit cap is equal to the average wage. His claim was, therefore, that this is £26,000. Average family income, when benefits are taken into account: £31,500.

The government also lied that disability benefits were not affected by the benefit cap. Employment and Support Allowance is a disability benefit and is counted when considering whether a claimant’s income is to be capped.

On March 19 this year, Tory employment minister Mark Hoban lied to Parliament that there were no league tables in place showing which Job Centres had applied the most sanctions on jobseekers. Just one week later, those league tables were leaked to the press. Like his boss, Iain Duncan Smith, Hoban should have been expelled from Parliament under Parliamentary convention. Both are still in office. Why?

Fellow DWP minister Esther McVey has also misled Parliament and the public, this time with regard to Disability Living Allowance.

And, if you want proof that Tories like to play ‘fast and loose’ with the law:

Smith’s department has been forcing people to take rubbish ‘psychometric’ tests that have been rigged to produce set results, as part of an illegal experiment by Downing Street’s so-called ‘nudge unit’ (such experiments require the willing consent of the participants and none has ever been given).

The test itself was stolen by the ‘nudge unit’ from an organisation in the USA, and the UK government has been facing legal action from those people as a result.

The DWP lost a judicial review earlier this week, when a tribunal found that the ‘work capability assessment’, a so-called medical test (in reality nothing of the sort) designed to make it easy to push people off of the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance, discriminates against the mentally ill.

Worst of all was the moment in March this year when Iain Duncan Smith decided to actually change the law, because his policies had been found to be illegal. Think about that! If you or I did something illegal, we would pay a penalty ranging from a fine right up to imprisonment for an indefinite period of time; if Mr Smith does it, he changes the law so he can be whitewashed. Tories think the law doesn’t apply to them. His department had been found to have breached human rights laws with the regulations it had been using to sanction people who refused to take part in Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes. Utterly despicable – and worsened by the fact that the Labour Party colluded with the Conservatives to change the law, with no meaningful concessions to show for it.

Come to think of it, if you can remember far enough into this Parliament’s useless history, you might recall that the Department of Health, under Andrew Lansley, started implementing changes to the structure of the National Health Service – illegally – before his Health and Social Care Act was passed by a misguided and misled government.

The Information Commissioner had repeatedly ordered Lansley to publish a risk assessment which had been compiled by civil servants, and which is believed to have explicitly warned that the financial viability of the Tory NHS Bill was seriously questionable, predicting “deteriorations in the financial positions of one or more NHS organisations”. Practices could go bust or require central intervention to prop up their financial position. The Risk Report also warned of economic ‘slippage’ and ‘cost pressures’ arising. The London NHS risk report – which was made public – categorically stated that commissioning groups run by GPs may “not be able to secure [services] […] within the running cost range”.

As Mark McGowan pointed out on his blog, the entire top-down reorganisation of the NHS was done “without a mandate, having concealed their health policy”.

All of the above examples either occurred, or were referenced, within the last two months alone.

With a record like that, how could we possibly believe the ‘snoopers’ charter’ will be a blow for freedom?

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Where’s Daddy’s Pig gets onto its second leg – or is that trotter?

From the ‘Where’s Daddy’s Pig’ blog site:

“Artist Mark McGowan is to crawl on his hands and knees pushing a toy pig along the road with his nose an incredible three miles from number 10 Downing street to the Bank of England where he will hand in the pig to the guvenor Mervyn King in honour of his services to the destruction of the economy its facilitation of ideological austerity and the criminal activity of the City of London aka the City of Corruption.”

Now read on…

Is the algorithm method stopping my messages from multiplying?

facebook

What is going wrong with the social media giant Facebook?

By now, we all know that Facebook took it upon itself to target and attack bloggers – primarily with WordPress, as I understand it – who use the site to publicise their articles, last week. Vox Political was one of those sites.

The censorship took the form of an alert message that appeared on readers’ screens when they clicked through from Facebook to an article by the writers who had been targeted. This message stated: “Facebook thinks this site may be unsafe. If you’re not familiar with it, please provide feedback by marking it as spam (you’ll be brought back to Facebook).”

Anyone trying to ‘share’ a link with other Facebook users was subjected to the infamous and annoying ‘Captcha’ box – this is the time-consuming and difficult method of proving you are a human being by reading a series of letters or numbers, that have been stretched or bent on the screen in a way that we are told prevents automated ‘spam’ systems from understanding it, and then typing the sequence correctly into a box. This is off-putting as it takes time and effort, and many users may have decided not to bother.

All this took place around the time the House of Lords was voting on the regulations that will allow private firms to compete to run NHS services – the privatisation of the NHS; and it also coincided with bowel cancer sufferer Mark McGowan’s crawl from King’s College Hospital to 10 Downing Street, pushing a toy pig with his nose to highlight his view that the privatisation marked out the Conservative-led government as pigs with their snouts in the money trough.

I can’t comment on how this affected anybody else, but my own site certainly suffered as a result, and I complained to Facebook about this treatment, pointing out that the alert message clearly lowered me in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public generally, and caused me to be shunned and avoided – fulfilling not just one but two criteria necessary for an act to constitute defamation – otherwise known as libel.

The problem appeared to resolve itself just before the weekend. Facebook said that it was all a mistake, made by its automated spam-filter algorithms. It seems that WordPress sites all over the world were affected, and there was discussion of it on the WordPress user forums, ending with a post from a staff member saying that “the problem seems to have been fixed on Facebook‘s end on or around April 26th.”

And that should have been the end of it, right?

Well… were these automated systems malfunctioning again on Sunday and Monday? That would seem very strange behaviour, so soon after an initial ‘mistake’ that was so widely discovered, reported and discussed.

Still, I posted an article yesterday and, when I checked this morning, found that – according to Facebook statistics – it had reached a total of 16 people. The previous article, a link to a reblog that I also posted yesterday, had amassed more than 1,700 readers (according to the stats). The article before that – more than 2,000.

That was seriously odd, I thought. Nobody loses 2,000 readers in a day.

Still, I had another article to promote, so I posted the link to “Tory department of dirty deeds swings into pre-election action”. Half an hour later – by which time I would normally have expected to see a ‘total reach’ in the hundreds, that number had stalled on two.

That’s right – two.

“Yes,” said one of my readers in response to a (Facebook) status report asking what the devil was going on, “the government is putting pressure on Facebook to delete some posts and groups which contain political themes, and to slow the process of certain posts being sent for others to see.  Guess Cameron is feeling the heat.”

Conspiracy-theory nonsense? Or a rational response to the evidence? I thought about this for a while. Then I decided to put it to the test.

If Facebook is using spam-filtering algorithms to censor certain messages, then it must be programmed to detect particular words, or combinations of words, I reasoned. Maybe my use of “Tory” alongside “dirty deeds” was what got the article kicked into touch?

So what would happen if I posted a link to the very same article, but this time with an innocuous – if unlikely – headline such as “Peace and harmony breaks out between the British political parties”?

I’ll tell you what happened: ‘Total reach’ of 542 people within half an hour – that’s what! More than the original link – to the same article – had achieved all day. More than it has achieved as I type this, in fact.

Maybe I’m being paranoid – Johnny Void thinks so; he’s been trying to convince me that this really was an innocent glitch, and I’d like to believe him.

But I also want some solid answers. Wouldn’t you?

I’ve written to Facebook; let’s see what happens.

And, while we’re waiting, I might create a new page on Facebook: BASTARDS for CONSERVATISM! The description will read: “We may be illegitimate, but we know our own when we see them!”

That ought to confuse this dodgy algorithm!

ConDem government launches all-out attack on your freedoms (who’ll get your vote next week?)

Snouts in the trough: The Conservative-led government is so shameless it thinks it can get away with brutal cuts to our standard of living - the week before an election.

Snouts in the trough: The Conservative-led government is so shameless it thinks it can get away with brutal cuts to our standard of living – the week before an election.

It’s all been about freedom this week – or the lack of it.

A couple of days ago, Mark McGowan took an unconventional journey to Downing Street. Mr McGowan, who has bowel cancer, decided to highlight the government’s privatisation of the NHS by pushing a toy pig, with his nose, the 4.1 miles from Kings College Hospital, in Camberwell Green, to 10 Downing Street in protest against regulations being discussed that day in the House of Lords. The new rules force commissioning groups to open all services to commercial competition, unless only one provider is available, in direct contradiction of the government’s own assurances.

Speaking before the event, Mr McGowan said a few words that were particularly illuminating. “Without a mandate, having concealed their health policy, this government is giving away NHS contracts to the highest bidder,” he said.

“Under the cloak of austerity, the primary purpose of this government is to move public money into private pockets, as fast as humanly possible. They are like pigs at the trough of public money.

These people in government are liars, criminals and thieves and should be arrested for embezzlement of public funds. A staggering 206 parliamentarians have recent or present financial private healthcare connections; amazingly all of them were allowed to vote on the Health and Social Care Act.

“This is not a democracy.”

You’d have expected this expression of free speech to have received a huge amount of coverage in the free press, wouldn’t you? Well, think again because I just checked: An article in the Metro and a video on something called London24. That’s all.

Ah, but there’s always Facebook, where bloggers such as myself can freely direct readers such as yourselves to our work and highlight the subjects not covered in the so-called popular press, isn’t there?

Well, this was a story that Facebook was doing its damnedest to make sure didn’t get out.

It seems one of the earliest articles – the Scriptonite Daily blog was unilaterally declared to be spam by Facebook, with references removed from the site, after the post received more than 1,000 shares.

Facebook then seemed to get a taste for censorship: The Pride’s Purge blog by Tom Pride received similar treatment after it posted links to an openly-satirical article (It was plainly marked ‘Satire’) about the Department for Work and Pensions and Atos.

Tom claimed in a later post that a JobCentre Plus worker “openly bragged” to him that JCP had complained to Facebook about him, and this had led to the censorship of his work.

Even this blog, which only posted links to other articles about these issues, was targeted for attack. As readers who link here from Facebook will know – you alerted me to it – we had a couple of days when visits here were accompanied by this stern warning: “Facebook thinks this site may be unsafe. If you’re not familiar with it, please provide feedback by marking it as spam (you’ll be brought back to Facebook).” As site statistics show, this was enough to put many readers off.

I wasn’t having it. I have written to Facebook, pointing out that the unfounded allegation is defamatory and demanding that reparations must be made – to charity, and to the Labour Party (of which I am a member), since this site is not for profit and the attacks seemed to be centred on left-leaning bloggers. They’ve got three weeks to respond, then I start adding noughts to the amount that I suggested.

Facebook has said the mass censorship was a mistake made by its automated systems – but you’d have to be gullible in the extreme to believe that.

So much for freedom of speech; so much for freedom of the press; so much for freedom on the Internet.

Yesterday it emerged that a man had been held in prison for two weeks after claims were made that he made a “threat to kill” during an Atos work capability assessment.

Steve Topley, a 49-year-old Hucknall father with multiple health conditions including Reynard’s syndrome, who has a heart replacement valve and lost one of his kidneys to cancer, and is on a strict medication regime including treatment to stabilise his blood levels and maintain safe blood pressure, was whisked away after he made comments about a person who was not present at the assessment.

He was arrested, subjected to a mental health assessment which offered no reason to detain him, so was re-arrested and taken to Nottingham police station where he was charged and kept in custody. He was refused bail twice in closed courts which, his family said, they were refused permission to attend.

Today (Friday) he was taken to another secret court, where he was charged, admitted the crime, and bailed – with the likelihood of a community sentence waiting for him at his next appearance.

Johnny Void, writing about this in his blog, made some particularly apposite comments on the subject, as follows: “This incident happened in the middle of an Atos assessment which are notoriously stressful and frightening for claimants. If he hadn’t been put through that, it is unlikely he would have said whatever he said, which it seems was not a very credible threat, at least as far as the Judge was concerned.

“It can make people react irrationally or angrily and they end up doing things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.  The context these events take place in is often ignored by ‘professionals’, because to them it is all just a job and they can’t understand why people are not being reasonable. The stark terror felt by some people facing courts, benefit assessments, arrests, bailiffs, prisons or even more seemingly benign institutions such as social services, Jobcentres and community mental health teams can often cause people to destroy themselves. This can happen even if ‘professionals’ concerned do their jobs properly within the constrain of the system and no-one is really personally culpable.”

So much for personal freedom – but wait. The situation here is actually worse than even this story makes out. I am indebted to Vox Political commenter vince032013, who tells us the following, about so-called ‘reforms’ to Legal Aid (italics mine):

“Things might be about to get a lot worse. The government are now planning on reforming the criminal justice system. Highlights are 1. Suspects in the police station will not be able to choose a solicitor. They will be appointed one. 2. The number of solicitors’ firms is to be reduced by 75 per cent (that’s not a typo – 75 per cent). 3. The reduction in the number of solicitors is to be achieved by putting criminal work out to tender. 4. The bidders are not allowed to bid at over 82.5 per cent of the current cost of running a criminal case. 5. The consultation which has introduced this idea states in terms that it does not want solicitors to offer any more than an “acceptable” level of service to suspects. 6. Once charged, defendants may be represented in court by someone with no Crown Court trial experience (and will not be able to exercise a choice to change that representative). If you’re interested read the consultation here

https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-legal-aid

“and if you don’t like it sign this petition

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628

In other words, this Conservative/Liberal Democrat government is determined to rig the justice system against anybody who becomes caught up in it. The conditions described by the commenter are utterly corrupt and offer nobody in this country any chance at justice – unless they can afford it. So the really serious criminals and gangsters have nothing at all to fear.

Meanwhile…

Today we also discovered that the so-called “big four” accountancy firms – Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers – who were brought into the Treasury to help the government draw up tax laws, have been using the ‘insider’ knowledge they have gained to help wealthy clients avoid paying taxes. They have been telling multinational corporations and wealthy individuals how to exploit loopholes in the legislation they have helped to write – according to the House of Commons’ public accounts committee.

This represents a staggering betrayal of the working- and middle-class citizens of this country, who have no choice but to pay all the tax that the government demands from them or face imprisonment – and an appalling display of hypocrisy on the part of David Cameron, the British Prime Minister who, only yesterday, said he planned to use the UK’s chairmanship of the G8 nations to tackle what he himself described as “staggering” worldwide levels of tax evasion and avoidance – levels that he, himself, is helping to boost.

Now, I’m not voting in the elections next week. There isn’t a poll in my part of the country. But if you are planning to vote…

Considering the way the government has pushed through its plans to sell the NHS to the highest bidders (without a mandate, having concealed its health policy); considering the way it has been implicated in attempts to stop the public from finding out about the plans and what they mean (in conjunction with Facebook); considering how its servants take it upon themselves to subject very-ill individuals to extreme pressure and then imprison them on the basis of what they say in those circumstances; considering the plan to deny justice to the poor and make high-quality legal advice available only to the extremely rich people, including rich criminals, who can afford it; and considering the fact that it has opened the door for those who should be paying the most tax in this country to avoid doing so altogether – while claiming it is doing the exact opposite…

Taking all those issues into consideration, if you are a working-class or middle-class person planning to vote Conservative or Liberal Democrat next Thursday, then for your own safety, submit yourself for medical assessment because you must be barking mad.