Conservatives to announce spare kidney tax

David Cameron

David Cameron

Following the successful abolition of the spare room subsidy, Prime Minister David Cameron is set to announce a new debt-reduction initiative – a “spare kidney tax.”

Under the scheme, to be officially announced at the Conservative Party Spring Conference in early May, all recipients of housing benefit will be required to sign up to a “Potential Donors Register” or face immediate withdrawal of benefits.

The Register, to be jointly run by Atos and Capita, will collect, store and market bio-chemical data against a list of potential recipients from the global High-Net-Worth-Individual sector.

Details are sketchy, but a source at the Treasury, speaking on condition of anonymity said “ The projections show that there is a large market for this. Research we commissioned from Ernst & Young shows that dying plutocrats will spend well over the current market rate for a proper organ. They feel they deserve better than a dodgy ones from some freshly-executed Chinese criminal.”

Campaigners condemned the move as another example of the excesses of the Coalition. The British Medical Association has expressed grave reservations about the workability of the scheme and possible long-term implications for public health.

Responding to qualms expressed by the Liberal Democrats about the equity of the new scheme, a Department of Health spokeswoman anonymously said, “We recognise those concerns. A certain number of kidneys will of course be reserved for distribution to deserving cases on the NHS transplant waiting list. Except for anyone who has at any point ever claimed Jobseekers’ Allowance. Or Disability Living Allowance. We can’t have hard-working British kidneys being given to doley scum. It wouldn’t be right.”

Meanwhile, the Labour Party condemned the scheme categorically, but refused to confirm whether it would revoke it if elected at the 2015 General Election.

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Shock to the system – be aware of what people do after they get hit by a car…

I was doing some recreational websurfing (what used to be called “killing time” back in the day) last night.  I went to one of my old faves – “I, Anonymous”.  Someone posted about how they tried to help a pedestrian who’d been hit by a car, but he’d gotten into his own car and taken off.  Various commenters speculated about the pedestrian not wanting the police involved because of warrants, or he was carrying drugs. No-one suggested the whole Javier-Bardem-in-No-Country-for-Old-Men thing.  But then came this, which I thought was astute and worthy of sharing, in case any of the thousands and thousands of readers of Dwight Towers were in a similar siutation -

he was in shock. he had just been hit by a car. being in shock does not make a person a moron. the morons were all the people who let a person in shock and injured drive off in his car. possibly injuring someone else. there were morons in this story but it was the narrator and the bystanders. the moron was YOU, anonymous. learn some basics about an injury before pointing the moron finger, moron. you suck with your sanctimonious bullshit. your TIME was wasted? spare us the first world boo-hoo. fuck off. you are mad at yourself for not being ballsy enough to take the keys from the injured person–don’t blame others for your cowardice. YOUR inaction possibly injured other people as YOU were NOT in shock. you have no excuse, so you blame the victim. classy.

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Britain as EPI failure when it comes to worker participation. Whodathunkit?

The European Participation Index (EPI) has calculated the participation of workers in 27 EU and EEA countries by combining the aggregate scores of their plant-level participation, board-level participation, collective bargaining coverage and trade-union density. Britain scores 26th out of 27, second bottom with only Lithuania worse than us. In Denmark (for example) 65 per cent of companies with more than 500 employees have voluntarily committed to having a third of management boards made up of workers and have cooperation committees made up of half-worker, half-management and these manage day-to-day matters in the company.

And here’s the thing; all the countries in the EU with the best indicators of social and economic development come in the top half of the EPI league table and all the worst performers come from the bottom half. Studies have shown that like-for-like companies are 19 per cent more productive if they are unionised. Britain, of course, lags the average productivity of advanced economies by almost 20 per cent. At some point we will wake up to the fact that Britain is a basket-case when it comes to industrial democracy and our economic performance is poor as a result. Remember, we live in the second-lowest pay economy in the developed world.

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Three crap jokes…


“We’d like to make a pun about herbs, or fish, but this is neither the thyme nor the plaice.”

A skeleton walks into a bar and says to the bartender “I’d like a pint and a mop.”

People accuse me of being pedantic, but I think it depends what you mean by pedantic…


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Excellent #Chomsky interview on “Real Existing Capitalist Democracies”

excerpt -

JS:You have described humanity as being imperiled by the destructive trends on hand in capitalist society — or what you have termed “really existing capitalist democracies” (RECD). Particularly of late, you have emphasized the brutally anti-ecological trends being implemented by the dominant powers of settler-colonial societies, as reflected in the tar sands of Canada, Australia’s massive exploitation and export of coal resources, and, of course, the immense energy profligacy of this country. You certainly have a point, and I share your concerns, as I detail in “Imperiled Life: Revolution against Climate Catastrophe,” a book that frames the climate crisis as the outgrowth of capitalism and the domination of nature generally understood. Please explain how you see RECD as profoundly at odds with ecological balance.

NC: RECD — not accidentally, pronounced “wrecked” — is really existing capitalist democracy, really a kind of state capitalism, with a powerful state component in the economy, but with some reliance on market forces. The market forces that exist are shaped and distorted in the interests of the powerful — by state power, which is heavily under the control of concentrations of private power — so there’s close interaction. Well, if you take a look at markets, they are a recipe for suicide. Period. In market systems, you don’t take account of what economists call externalities. So say you sell me a car. In a market system, we’re supposed to look after our own interests, so I make the best deal I can for me; you make the best deal you can for you. We do not take into account the effect on him. That’s not part of a market transaction. Well, there is an effect on him: there’s another car on the road; there’s a greater possibility of accidents; there’s more pollution; there’s more traffic jams. For him individually, it might be a slight increase, but this is extended over the whole population. Now, when you get to other kinds of transactions, the externalities get much larger. So take the financial crisis. One of the reasons for it is that — there are several, but one is — say if Goldman Sachs makes a risky transaction, they — if they’re paying attention — cover their own potential losses. They do not take into account what’s called systemic risk, that is, the possibility that the whole system will crash if one of their risky transactions goes bad. That just about happened with AIG, the huge insurance company. They were involved in risky transactions which they couldn’t cover. The whole system was really going to collapse, but of course state power intervened to rescue them. The task of the state is to rescue the rich and the powerful and to protect them, and if that violates market principles, okay, we don’t care about market principles. The market principles are essentially for the poor. But systemic risk is an externality that’s not considered, which would take down the system repeatedly, if you didn’t have state power intervening. Well there’s another one, that’s even bigger — that’s destruction of the environment. Destruction of the environment is an externality: in market interactions, you don’t pay attention to it. So take tar sands. If you’re a major energy corporation and you can make profit out of exploiting tar sands, you simply do not take into account the fact that your grandchildren may not have a possibility of survival — that’s an externality. And in the moral calculus of capitalism, greater profits in the next quarter outweigh the fate of your grandchildren — and of course it’s not your grandchildren, but everyone’s.

and excerpt 2 -

“Back in 1977, US Steel, a major corporation, decided to close its operations in Youngstown, Ohio, which was a steel town that had been built by steelworkers, by the union; it was a major steel town. That was going to destroy everyone’s occupation, the community, the society, everything — and it’s a decision made by bankers somewhere, who weren’t making enough profit. The steelworkers union offered to buy the plants and have them run by the workforce. This was an effort that the corporation didn’t want. Actually it’s kind of interesting — it would have been more profitable for them, but I think a class interest militated against it. This happens frequently. A multinational frequently will refuse an offer by the workers to buy out something they want to close and prefer to take the loss of just destroying it to having the precedent of worker-owned enterprises. That’s what it looks like to me; I can’t prove it. Corporations are totalitarian institutions — we don’t get access to their internal decisions — but that’s what it looks like.”

FWIW, I share Chomsky’s suspicions, and am also not able to prove it…

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Government, State and climate foot-dragging

This popped up on facebook, when someone had asked if the elite politicians “get” climate change threats, how come there is so little action.  It’s only a partial answer, I think…

I think the key thing is that “the government” and “the state” are not the same thing. The state is much broader – made up of functionaries, bureaucrats and, yes, scientists. They have their own blinkers and ideologies too, but they are not (so much) in the pockets of the rich. The government is simply the politicians of the party that managed to get power (either by absolute majority of seats won in parliament, or coalition as now, or occasionally a minority government). As politicians they are a) usually power-obsessed/narcissistic/greedy (NOT always!!) and b) worried about what they will do when they are out of government or out of parliament (five year election cycles etc etc). And c) monumentally scientifically illiterate. Very very few of them have anything other than a law degree or PPE at Oxford or Cambridge. And they are easy pickings (both Labour or Tory) for lobbyists from powerful/rich companies. And they love the idea of technological progress – most of the people in charge today grew up in the 60s and 70s, before all the shine had been taken off our sense of power…

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Doooomed I tell you, all dooooooooooooomed

In response to something about needing to cut emissions by 40 to 70 per cent by 2050…

Whoever wrote that doesn’t know their facts.  The probable level for  emissions reductions to have even a rough chance of avoiding 2 degrees has been – even the most conservative reading – 60 to 80% cuts by 2050, with 40% by 2020, since the problem is cumulative (a bit like compound interest on a loan, the longer you leave it without making payments, the more trouble you have. The analogy is not perfect).  Look, basically, barring some amazing technological solution out of nowhere, we are toast.  And if we DID get the technological miracle for climate, we still face a dozen other gnarly problems.  The species has never really sorted out the problems in its wiring that made it pretty well adapted (via its cultures) for savannahs.  Our opposable thumbs and thin sliver of prefrontal cortex (a 2mm film of neurons) and our related ability to communicate and co-ordinate have meant that we have swept all before us for millennia, in a relentless search for protein.  Every niche we exhausted meant we innovated to exploit new niches.  Our current – unprecedented – problem is not just of niche exhaustion for exploitation (fossil water in California etc), but of waste disposal.  Just because we’ve ducked and weaved and killed through all the others, doesn’t mean any of us should expect success this time round.  It’s an order of magnitude (at least) more wicked.

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