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Geejay "Geejay" (Moray)

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London Calling: How the BBC Stole the Referendum
London Calling: How the BBC Stole the Referendum
Price: £1.99

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devastating Critique of the BBC, 7 Jun. 2015
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This is possibly the most important book to come out of the Scottish Independence Referendum. When I was growing up the BBC was a hallowed institution, respected throughout the world, with some superb journalists. BBC Scotland, on the other hand, has become much reviled amongst Independence supporters over their handling of the referendum. The book documents in forensic detail what amounts to institutional bias against the SNP, Independence, Alec Salmond in particular and a bias towards a pro-unionist stance. Ponsonby provides ample evidence for his claims in the form of screenshots from the BBC website and quotations from broadcasts and singles out several presenters and journalists for criticism, some of whom are not fit to be on the airwaves and should be sacked for their lack of balanced reporting. He also illustrates how the BBC refused to report "good news" which would have lent support to the Yes campaign, and even on the odd occasions that they deigned to report it they twisted it to suit the No agenda.

However, the main failure is a failure of management, who not only seem to have close ties to Scottish Labour but seem incapable or unwilling to admit that they may have got things wrong and to take steps to correct their mistakes. Their attack on the integrity of Prof. Robertson who dared to analyse their output and produce a well-researched and argued study was simply outrageous and unprofessional.

Anyone reading this book will understand how it is that the BBC in Scotland has lost its credibility as an impartial reporter of news and has become an organisation with its own agenda, which is to promote Unionism and attack Scottish Independence. Unfortunately, the BBC is unlikely to change as long as the present management and journalists are in post.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 14, 2016 5:18 PM GMT


Fear and Smear: THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE
Fear and Smear: THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE
Price: £1.99

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be read by everyone who voted No (and also those south of the border), 18 May 2015
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Unless you lived in Scotland during the campaign you will have no concept of the vile dirty tricks got up to by Better Together and their cronies in Westminster, the UK Civil Service, (yes, that's you McPherson), the media, including and especially, the BBC, big business and a motley collection of millionaires and celebrities. Lies, half-truths, smears, personal insults, the vilification of Alex Salmond and the demonisation of the SNP were the stock-in-trade of the No campaign. Some of the headlines and stories in the gutter press were simply unbelievable, the sort of thing you would expect to read in despotic state, and, sadly, repeated during the 2015 General Election.

Anderson covers all these points and more, including the possible involvement of MI5. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to accept that MI5 dirty tricks were probably involved - when the top civil servant at the Treasury justifies his hubris by saying the future of the State was at stake then it's likely the secret services were involved in some way.

One omission, however, is the effect the No campaign's deceit had on democracy. When you've got major politicians claiming that there will be border posts, that pensions won't be safe, that taxes will go up, benefits will be cut and so on and papers claiming that Salmond will be a dictator then democracy is the loser. Not only is democracy the loser but it demonstrates the utter contempt these pigmy politicians and gutter press have for the democratic process - neatly demontrated, as Anderson describes, by the farce of "The Vow".

Despite all this misinformation and intimidation (rarely reported when suffered by the Yes side) the Independence movement nearly got there and she it seem they might, precipitated the resurrection of Gordon Brown and the 3 wise monkeys and their egregious and undemocratic last-minute intervention, which Anderson thinks may have swung it towards No.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 18, 2015 7:49 AM BST


How Corrupt is Britain?
How Corrupt is Britain?
Price: £12.65

32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "How Corrupt is Britain?" Very, 12 April 2015
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Most people in Britain probably think corruption is something which happens elsewhere, usually in what's called the 3rd World. It probably involves bribes, brown paper envelopes or suitcases stuffed with wads of cash, or kleptomaniac dictators enriching themselves by stealing from the State's coffers and hiding the proceeds in countries with opaque secrecy laws or laundering it by sending it to the City of London.

Whyte argues that this is a very limited view of corruption and that in the UK (and other Western countries) the embrace of neo-liberal economics has institutionalised corruption in support of an establishment elite of the rich and powerful, politicians and others in the privately schooled, Oxbridge educated upper classes in order to keep them in power and continue to enjoy the accumulation of their wealth and privileges, while at the same time keeping the lower classes firmly in their place. (this is obvious in the way the "authorities" reacted to the London riots where trivial misdemeanors were savagely punished in contrast to the way bankers have evaded punishment for fixing interest rates etc)

The neo-liberal economic settlement, ushered in by Thatcher/Reagan, is above all a project to transfer wealth and therefore, power, from the 99% to the elite 1% and especially the obscenely wealthy billionaire class. While British politics has always been greased by corruption it is only in the past few decades that it has become thoroughly institutionalised. The essays in this book examine various ways in which corruption, in its different forms, is flourishing in the UK, from the Police to the revolving doors of politics, business and civil service, to PFI's, tax havens and the scores of lawyers and accountants devising ever more elaborate schemes to enable the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share, to the capture of politicians and even government by big business, often by being invited in, but also by funding the main political parties.

These and other corrupt practices are exposed in this book. Ultimately, though, corruption is indicative of political failure - we see our politicians with noses in the trough, fraudulent expenses claims, cash for questions, flipping their main residence for gain at taxpayers' expense; we see them routinely lie, obfuscate, smear; and then when they leave office walk into lucrative employment often with the very businesses they were supposed to be regulating - so it is little wonder that they have failed to change things. If you thought that corruption was something which happened elsewhere then read this book


Back to the future of Socialism
Back to the future of Socialism
Price: £9.48

2 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Revisionist, 9 April 2015
Haven't read it, but it always astonishes me how easily the revolutionaries become the establishment once in power and how, having left power, they then advocate policies they themselves never put into practice when they had the opportunity. Brown is another exponent of this art. No wonder the electorate are cynical.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 17, 2016 4:06 PM GMT


Breadline Britain: The Rise of Mass Poverty
Breadline Britain: The Rise of Mass Poverty
Price: £9.48

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lays bare poverty in Britain today., 9 April 2015
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There is now a significant corpus of work from academics, journalists and other writers setting out in great detail how the neo-liberal consensus, which has reached its apotheosis with Osborne's deliberate trashing of the poor with his austerity programme, has created mass poverty at the bottom of the income/wealth distribution while at the same time enriching those at the top. "Breadline Britain" lays bare the full horror of how successive governments from Thatcher on have swallowed the neo-liberal poison and have introduced policies which have made things so much harder for those struggling to make ends meet. Even when they try to make things better, such as by using Tax Credits, all that happens is that they end up subsidising mean-minded employers who won't pay a decent wage.

The book is sprinkled with quotes from those in "poverty" which really brings home the cruelty of governments, comprised as they are by assorted millionaires and wealthy professionals who have never themselves (by and large) had to budget on the appallingly low benefits system - made even worse when they are "sanctioned" (a.k.a. "punished") for trivial "offences".

These are the consequences of the political choices governments have made (and voted for by the electorate), but as the authors make clear it doesn't have to be this way. There are other choices which could be made, such as raising taxes on the rich, as other writers have argued (but a taboo worse than incest it would seem), making sure corporates pay their fair share and closing down avoidance/evasion loopholes. Like many, they argue for a fairer more equal society - an obvious principle, one would have thought, but one which has been opposed for the past 40 years or so as unfairness and inequality has been championed by both Labour and Tory administrations.


Economics of the 1%: How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy (Anthem Other Canon Economics)
Economics of the 1%: How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy (Anthem Other Canon Economics)
Price: £10.91

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sanity in a mad profession, 9 Feb. 2015
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Weeks demolishes the current economic orthodoxy with persuasive argument and exemplification and demonstrates with an acerbic wit, that had me almost laughing out loud, the absurdities of neo-liberal economics. Unfortunately, the dominance of neo-liberalism is no laughing matter as it has led over the past few decades to stagnating real wages, huge inequality in the US and UK, the enrichment of the 1% to the detriment of the 99% and the adoption of the appalling austerity policies which have heaped the cost of the financial crisis onto the taxpayer while allowing those who caused the crisis to continue creaming off their millions from the rest of us.

Weeks quotes both Marx and Keynes as well as Smith as he develops his argument (does anyone in an economics department remember Marx?), while excoriating Friedman and his acolytes for what he calls "Fakeconomics", yet despite an impressive list of reviewers agreeing with him, including an EC Commissioner, I don't think anyone is really listening, certainly not the ECB, Merkel or Osborne. Fakeconomics is too deeply entrenched, there are too many vested interests, both in economics departments as well as governments, big business and finance who have too much to lose from a return to sanity and greater equality.


The Prostitute State - How Britain's Democracy Has Been Bought
The Prostitute State - How Britain's Democracy Has Been Bought
Price: £8.03

5.0 out of 5 stars A Brave Book - few in power escape his sharp tongue, 9 Feb. 2015
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If anyone still labours under the delusion that we live in a true democracy in the UK then this book will disabuse you. McCarthy uses his experience at the heart of the LibDems to excoriate most of the major, and some minor, political figures of recent decades. In essence, he argues that UK politics is in the pockets of big business, media barons, assorted billionaires and their gophers, the lobbyists. To put it crudely, political parties and many politicians are paid by the rich and powerful, both as individuals and as companies, to do their bidding. And once their time is done they, along with many of the civil servants who supposedly served them and the country, move into direct employment by corporates or set up their own lobbying/advisory/facilitatory companies to make full use of their contacts and knowledge and reap the rewards of a life in "public service".

If any politician still wonders why they are held in such great contempt by many of the voting public then this book will show them why. Quite simply, politics and politicians in this country are corrupt, with only a few exceptions. As McCarthy demonstrates they are on the one hand self-serving and on the other in the service of corporate interests, particularly the financial sector and the 1%. We see this most clearly in the neo-liberal austerity programme in which a bunch of millionaires in the most right-wing cabinet in many decades forces sacrifice onto the 99%, who must be made poorer, so that the 1% and particularly the elite 0.1% can be made richer. This isn't polemics, it's fact.

McCarthy list many possible solutions, such as ending large donations to parties and introducing state funding, the abolition of tax havens, a state auditing scheme for business, stricter regulation of lobbying and so on. However, I fear there are so many snouts in the trough we would be more likely to get turkeys to vote for an early Christmas.


Good times, bad times
Good times, bad times
Price: £8.63

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Newspaper reviews often say something like: "should be on every politician's bedside table", 12 Jan. 2015
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Newspaper reviews often say something like: "should be on every politician's bedside table", when reviewing a book which has something radically important to say about politics/society/environment etc. This is one of these. Unfortunately, politicians don't read, but worse, they actually despise carefully researched evidence and prefer their own prejudices to account for the state of the world.

Professor Hills presents a wealth of data to explain how the "welfare state" benefits everyone, rich and poor, and how it is the poor who are bearing the brunt of the coalition government's ill-conceived austerity programme and attacks on benefits claimants. His research shows clearly how the rich benefit from a multitude of tax breaks and incentives, while the "army of scroungers" is a complete myth and fabrication designed to continue the neo-liberal agenda of transferring wealth to the already wealthy. He points out how the majority of the welfare budget goes to pensioners and that the Tories "scroungers" - the unemployed, the sick etc - actually receive a very small proportion of the total budget. And claimants are often taxpayers at some time of their lives.

I would like to have seen more analysis of the "benefits" available only to the rich - a sort of means test in reverse, as they are available only to those with money. The fiscal regime is replete with "breaks" for the wealthy - from no capital gains payable on a main residence to trusts for the benefit of heirs, to offshore accounts and "tax efficient" investments. Also, tax and benefits are really two sides of the same coin. Among other things, taxes enable society to protect the vulnerable, the disabled and the unfortunate through transfers via "benefits", but tax breaks are "benefits" for the wealthy as they too are transfers from society in the form of taxes foregone, often for no good reason. It's time for writers to amalgamate the two rather than ape the establishment's preferred diametrically opposed dichotomy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 14, 2016 5:13 PM GMT


Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else
Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else
Price: £8.54

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars doesn't wear his anger on his sleeve like Jones. His anger is much more understated, 18 Oct. 2014
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When I was a small boy in the 1950's I saw a newsreel of a "youngish" man running across a street. He was described as "an angry young man". "What's an 'angry young man'?" I asked my mother. "It's John Osborne", she replied. Well, I'm an angry "old" man now and I've been reading a lot of books by angry people. James Meek's "Private Island.." is the latest, an ideal companion to Owen Jones' "The Establishment..". Meek, a novelist among other things, doesn't wear his anger on his sleeve like Jones. His anger is much more understated, almost lyrical, but all the more effective in the way his "stories" of privatisation drive towards their inevitable conclusion: that the sale of state assets has done untold damage to the economy, British society and individual lives.

The election of Thatcher in the UK and Reagan in the USA ushered in the era of neo-liberal consensus: big government bad, free-market enterprise good; low taxes on the rich good, high benefits for the unemployed, disabled, the poor bad; state intervention bad, let the market decide good, and so on. The jewel in Thatcher's crown was privatisation: the selling off of state assets (i.e. things belonging to you and me) and her master-stroke was the "right to buy" where council house tenants were given the opportunity to buy their rented homes at vast discounts.

In a series of chapters Meek tells the story of a number of these fire-sales of the "crown jewels" pieced together by interviews with a several of the key figures involved in the industries or with ordinary members of the public affected by the sell-offs. His conclusions are devastating. None of the much-trumpeted rewards of privatisation were achieved: the creation of an army of small shareholders - most of them sold out long ago; a better deal for consumers - the utility "taxes" have moved inexorably upwards, enriching the owners to the detriment of the ordinary citizen who cannot exist without water or power, for example; greater efficiency - yes, in creaming off the profits to fatten the pay-packets of CEO's and senior managers, while the companies have failed to invest in infrastructure. Railtrack was the prime example of failure and had to be re-privatised, meanwhile the nuclear industry is again state owned, except that state is France.

Perhaps the most egregious example was the sale of council housing combined with a deliberate policy to prevent the building of new council housing stock. The result is, as Meek argues, not a reduction in the cost to taxpayers of supporting social tenants, but an increase, as housing benefit has been diverted to private landlords charging higher rents. Meanwhile the existing stock deteriorates or is cannibalised by "improvers" inserting more housing into the open spaces of planned estates.

Nor are state-run enterprises intrinsically less efficient - only bad management and poor political oversight or interference makes them so - and neither need their borrowing appear on the government's books if structured appropriately.

Meanwhile, the neo-liberals, Tory or Labour, refuse to learn anything from history and continue to plan their next privatisation: the NHS.

This is an excellent contribution the fight-back against the prevailing orthodoxy by tackling head-on their flag-ship policy and demolishing it. Unfortunately, politicians are unlikely to read books like this.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 6, 2015 1:25 PM BST


The Establishment: And how they get away with it
The Establishment: And how they get away with it
Price: £5.49

136 of 160 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good on Exposition, Lacking in Solutions, 28 Sept. 2014
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There is much to praise about this book and much to make you angry, but most of all, much to make you feel helpless. Other reviews have explained how well Jones marshals his arguments and exposes the Establishment's grip on all aspects of UK society. As I write I've just heard Osborne, (UK Chancellor), announce proposals to reduce the total amount a household can claim on benefits and other social security cuts, neatly confirming Jones's view that a major strategy of the Establishment is to deflect public scrutiny and disapproval from those at the top earning obscene amounts (because they're worth it) to those at the bottom,(because they are scrounging off the rest of us).

It's weakness, however, like many similar books, is in solutions. He calls for a democratic, peaceful revolution and outlines many of the things which must change, but offers no clear strategy as to how that would be achieved. He mentions social media, alternative internet-based media outlets and think tanks to counter the Establishment hegemony but no "road map" to show how we could go about achieving it.

You might expect a political party would offer the means of changing society, but where is such a party? The Tories are the servants of the Establishment; Labour have entered a Faustian pact with the Establishment and have ditched any remnants of Socialism; the Liberals have also sold their soul to enter power and are now totally discredited; UKIP are nutters; that leaves the Green Party which is on the fringe of the fringe and it would take a seismic event to bring them to power.

Where are the anti-Establishment politicians and thinkers? Where is an Attlee, a Beveridge, a Keynes, a Grimond, even a Butler or a Benn?

That's why I feel helpless, especially after the Scottish Referendum result, which was a vote to remain subservient to the Establishment, who in the last few days of the contest, brought all their powers to bear on the "undecideds" with a blitz of negativity.
Comment Comments (28) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 9, 2016 6:20 PM GMT


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