The clanging chimes of Brexit doom

The Tory cabinet has agreed a draft withdrawal from the EU, so basically the shit that’s been coming since June 2016 is about to hit big time. Assuming Theresa May survives the week, this deal won’t make it through the UK Parliament as Brexiters on the right will vote it down and Lexiters on the left will vote it down as they want a no deal scenario, while everyone else will be put in the position of voting for a deal which is wank. As we’re running out of time (Article 50’s clock is ticking) there’s only a handful of possibilities left, with the two most likely being…

1/ Theresa May clings onto power til the spring when we leave the EU with no deal and merry hell breaks out.

2/ A General Election is called. Labour get the most seats but not a majority which they would have if they dealt with the SNP/Greens/Plaid but the Bain Principle is too strong, so they’ll say they’ll extend negotiations but they can’t. So as Corbyn wants to leave, merry hell will break out with another election likely shortly after this.

There’s one glimmer of hope. The Scottish Parliament launched legal action to see if Article 50 can be reversed unilaterally. That decision rests in the hands of the ECJ and we’ll find out on the 27 November. In short; we’re fucked unless the ECJ rules we have a chance to reverse this lunacy. If we can even then that requires leading figures in the Tories and Labour to reverse their lifelong opposition to the EU.

So, there’s a glimmer but really, we’re fucked. Of course those political leaders on the right and left won’t be but hey, who thought they actually cared in the first place?

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Today is America’s chance to help save the world

Today are the midterm elections in America. A more detailed picture can be found here, but to boil it down to basics, it’s a chance for people to resit Donald Trump and what he’s bringing with him. Because Trump’s just the start of this new era where far right hardmen dominate politics across Western politics try to take control not in a neoliberal, or Thatcherite way, but full-on fascism. These people are also intent to turn the clock back so all the hard fought civil rights and liberalism won in the 1960’s onwards is turned back.

America isn’t the only nation on the brink. Over here in the UK thanks to what Brexit has unleashed we too stand on the verge of something awful coming but the opposition is weak and patchy, whereas in America it seems people have (on the whole) dropped worries about ‘centrists’ or the sort of political purity only the few can preach about in order to actually do something in resisting Trump and all he brings.

So you’ve got plenty of time left to vote over there. From over here made sure it’s as blue a sweep as possible and send a message to Trump and his bootboys that you’re not going to let him win. Early signs are positive but every vote counts, so good luck and hopefully this is a turning point.

Have comic sales declined?

One of the big arguments of the Comicsgate lot is that sales of comics have declined because women or black people are writing them, so obviously that’s meant a serious decline.

In the real world, there’s a variety of reasons why sales have declined (the fact sales of superhero comics from Marvel and DC aren’t in dispute, the reasons however are) from video games, the internet, and pretty much everything you can think of. There are no simple answers.

Yet we actually live in a new Golden Age for comics. I can walk into any bookshop, see a comics/graphic novels section and see a variety of comics in a mix of genres from a vast swathe of creators of all sexes and races, and as for sales figures it turns out things are a lot more complex than we all firstly assumed with the theory that sales figures have been flat for 20 years with that argument going into its own complex grounds.

Sales of superhero comics through the Diamond catalogue are probably in terms of numbers, around the same but now so split and fractured among different companies that the Big Two (Marvel and DC) don’t get the market share they did. Then there’s digital and there’s also the elephant in the room that is piracy. Plus there’s the real evidence that for the Big Two, sales have declined with a top seller barely scraping 100k per month at a time when superheroes dominate the cultural landscape.

The question that has to be asked isn’t ‘why sales have dropped’ but ‘why have Marvel and DC failed so pitifully when the potential market is so huge?’. That’s a question that has an answer and it involves the failure of the direct market mixed with the lack of talent/imagination of the companies themselves. That’s also a question answered in the next blog…

Glasgow’s striking women and the Labour Party

Today has seen the first of a two-day strike by women employed by Glasgow City council (GCC) in regards a very long dispute going back to 2006. Back then, the Labour run council implemented the Workforce Pay and Benefit Review (WPBR), though it quickly became apparent women (and in the vast majority of cases it was women, men in similar roles had no issues) were being paid up to £3 p/h less than their male counterparts. What then follows is a story of low-paid workers, mainly female, being advised horribly by unions and attacked by the then Labour run GCC. Fairly recently it became clear just how badly the women suffered and just how the Labour run GCC spent over £2.5 million fighting the women’s case.

In this time the GMB were advising the women, well, badly, but one heard not a peep from other unions or the Labour Party, both pre and post Jeremy Corbyn til May 2017. Two things happened; one is that Labour lost control of GCC for the first time in half a century and secondly before the women won their long fought court case and the incoming SNP run administration promised to settle the case. Negotiations started but earlier this year the GMB promised to strike so we’re here today.

The more astute of you may think ”hang on, why didn’t the GMB go on strike in the 11 years when Labour ran Glasgow?” and that is indeed a reasonable question and can be explained by the symbiotic relationship of both. In fact current Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard was a GMB official during part of this time, and the self-appointed leader of the strike, Rhea Wolfson, is a Labour candidate in the next election. Once you ask that question and discover other councils in Scotland have similar issues, but as they’re Labour run, there’s no threat of striking, then one has to conclude this is a political act that doesn’t have the women’s concerns at the heart of it.

Here for example is a Tweet from Carol Fox, who has been a lawyer representing the women.

Here’s an example of the ‘staggering hypocrisy’ in full gaslighting flow.

Now it is true the SNP led council need to up their game. Their handling of the aftermath of the Mack fire has been, on the whole, fucking dreadful (I live not far from the area affected and can testify as to how bad an aftermath it has been first hand) and their general level of communication is terrible but as this nicely balanced Scotsman article by Dani Garavelli makes clear that for all the faults of the current GCC administration, we can’t forget that a male dominated GMB and the Labour Party got us into this mess in the first place so some humility, and even an apology is forthcoming.

Today has seen Labour indulge in a campaign of stunning political hypocrisy mixed with opportunism as figures who stood against the women now Tweet furiously in favour, and some MP’s wade into the debate in the most cack-handed, tone deaf way.

You read the above Tweet right but in the midst of all this gaslighting there comes honesty from at least one person in Labour.

Realistically, this is probably what will happen as the estimated bill to settle is between £500 million and a billion. GCC can’t afford this without bankrupting Glasgow, and the Scottish Government would have to step in to mitigate this which means because the SG works on a restricted budget, other services in Scotland would be cut which means Labour run with the ‘SNP austerity line’ they’ve decided is their only real contribution to Scottish politics in the age of Brexit.

In effect, what could have been a day where the women’s 12 year old fight (and remember, some of the original women have passed on now) could have finally hit a point where all sides worked together for resolution. The current council could have been more open, and Labour rather than gaslight, lie and bullshit could have been contrite, even apologising and offering sensible solutions. Union leaders on 6-figure salaries who ensured men were paid more because that’s how it always has been could have apologised and we could try to come to a sensible outcome where the women get their backpay (the current council have binned the old pay scheme and employees are all now equally paid) but no, we’ve seen an extraordinary day where the divide has been ripped open.

What can we draw from the day? We should show solidarity with the women. There’s no doubt with that after the contempt these working class women were shown by the then Labour run council.. We should however question the GMB as to what exactly their motives are now after over a decade of, at the very least, not advising the women correctly, and for Labour they need to answer why they fought the women so hard for 11 years and also, what happened to people’s council tax because we’ve got buildings declared unsafe in what seems now like a policy to let some of Glasgow’s buildings fall into ruin.

I’d personally like an inquiry into just exactly went on in the City Chambers for decades and why women are forced to take less than their male counterparts and large parts of the city are left to rot and now we’re having to clean up this mess. That however would uncover some dirty little secrets that some of those gloating today would not like aired in public but realistically this isn’t going to be over til those responsible are contrite and that includes the Labour Party as a whole.

A word about the People’s Vote March

As I write this the People’s Vote march is snaking its very crowded way round London’s streets.

On the whole I support the march and with massive bloody caveats, support the aim of a second vote but here in Scotland I feel we’re being ignored, or at least patronised by a big chunk of the People’s Vote. This is something I’ve said before, and nothing has changed my mind that for a chunk on the ‘progressive’ left in England, Scotland is only useful for votes because deep down they know that realistically England will vote to leave the EU again in a second vote.

The problems are many. Kev McKenna goes through some of them in this article at The Herald, this paragraph being especially damning.

Yet, like their manufactured concerns for the future of Ireland I’ve rarely heard any of the metropolitan elites previously profess to be overly-vexed by the challenges faced by working-class communities in England’s north-west or north-east. Where were they when the fishing fleets on Humberside disappeared, sacrificed to enable the US to spy on Soviet submarines from the Icelandic coast? And beyond some hand-wringing and anti-Thatcher sloganising what did they actually do when the mines all shut and the car factories fell silent? Each time I see Gordon Brown wade into Brexit on his white charger I can still hear him say: “British jobs for British workers”. You also contributed to this, big man.

I rarely heard any concern for Northern Ireland prior to June 2016, and as McKenna says, while traditional working class jobs and communities were being ripped apart many of these folk sat on their hands, and yeah, Gordon Brown massively contributed to where we are today.

But the problem is that there were aspects of the English left that did raise their hands in protest, but today they’re as likely to be supportive of Brexit for vague, outdated ideology which is why there’s no Jeremy Corbyn or any of the Labour leadership near the march today. From here it looks as if the left and right have a common cause (and both rely on some level on nostalgia tinged with xenophobia about ‘foreigners’) to win the Brexit fight so they can install their rose-tinted vision of Albion.

Meanwhile in Scotland although you’ll find plenty like me who support today’s march and would appreciate some reciprocal support  for a second independence referendum, with the caveat that any second EU vote would need all countries of the UK to support it, or if the result mirrors last time  then that triggers a second Scottish referendum and a border poll in Ireland.

It is hard however not to see the march as anything but positive when it shows the weight of support against the what should be now, clearly obvious far-right coup of the UK. When you’ve got various Brexiters, right and left, talking up a ‘civil war’ and wanking on boringly about taking the fight to the streets, they should remember the tens of thousands who are out on the streets now so even though I don’t think it’ll change anything politically it does help in reminding the elites fighting tooth and nail for Brexit there’s a large number of people who will oppose it.

How a Douglas Adams quote explains modern society

Confused, puzzled and angered by things like Brexit, the ongoing nightmare of Donald Trump, the various strains of nostalgia politics and the rise of gammon-faced people from the right and left, and just generally everything?

Well, the late, great Douglas Adams has a quote from the Salmon of Doubt that explains everything!

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

So there you go, the modern world explained!

 

 

‘The Art of Coorie’ is insulting bullshit

There’s a book called The Art of Coorie by Gabriella Bennett in which the writer tells you how to ‘live life the Scottish way’, and that ‘coorie’ is some long, lost way of life we Scots keep jealously guarded to ourselves. Thanks now to this book and articles like this from the Daily Mail discussing ‘the Scottish wellness trend’ as if it’s an actual real grown-up thing as opposed to taking elements of Scottish life and trying to monertise them to wealthy middle class Southerners who don’t know better but have heavy bank accounts.

In reality there’s no meaning of coorie that has anything to do with ‘wellness’ and the shortbread tin version of Scotland that Bennett, the Mail and all those online who are falling for are actual indulging in a very modern version of colonialism.

Look at this map of Scotland.

The first thing that’s obvious is that there’s not a lot above the central belt, and to the north and east of the country. This never used to be the case til the clearances where vast swathes of Scotland were cleared of people, re-engineered socially and environmentally for the purpose of turning large chunks of these lands into playgrounds for the wealthy elites of the British state then and now in the 21st century.

Today it’s a political issue and one that deeply affects inequality in Scotland as the Green MSP Andy Wrightman makes clear on his blog and it’s Wrightman who has pushed for reform after decades of Labour playing along with the system followed by the SNP’s glacial moves in this regard. Scotland’s most remote areas have hard enough times as it is without the population essentially being priced out by the hordes of middle class sweeping up from London in droves to live a mythical lifestyle.

Indeed, things are bad enough as it is, as it is in parts of the South West in England who have suffered this 21st century version of financial and social cleansing. Bullshit like ‘Coorie’ isn’t going to help, and frankly I don’t want to see my country’s history and country infantilsed for the benefit of the few who can afford to live in once thriving communities now stripped bare.So, land reform is needed and fast before the Highlands are full of Mail and Guardian readers braying loudly at each other about ‘wellness’…