AUOB? Kick Out The Fascists

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ball to the Wall

Tommy Ball

AUOB? Kick Out The Fascists

Why YES doesn’t need fascists marching under our banner

 

The Yes campaign/movement is one of the most remarkable organic movements in history. Opposed by the British government, the Crown, and all but one daily and Sunday newspaper (and increasingly, seemingly, by its own major political party), it seems to have lost little, if any, support in the four years since the first independence referendum. It retains its civic characteristic, having steadfastly refused to be racist or isolationist; violent or bigoted. This has disappointed a great many people on the British government side of the constitutional debate.

 

Yet we have a dirty little secret, and that secret needs to be outed, aired, and smashed.

 

We all have differing opinions on the value of marches and parades, and the participants therein (my own view of the latter coincides remarkably with my opinion on what sort of potatoes ought to be consumed on a Sunday). Let us concede that the independence march this month in Glasgow, at least, did no harm.

 

I was cheered to see a banner on the march bearing the legend TORY SCUM OUT. This annoyed precisely the right people. Staunch, florid-faced, tweed-wearing chaps who have spent their political careers defending rape clauses and poll taxes miraculously transformed into a bizarre cross between Maude Flanders and Kenneth Williams upon seeing it. Demands were made of Nicola Sturgeon – a First Minister who could never be accused of taking too close an interest in the wider Yes movement – to apologise for/immolate herself in a baby box in protest at/condemn the banner. Questions will be asked in Holyrood in the shrillest of fashions. Stephen Daisley was said to have collapsed in shock and was only induced back into consciousness by the wafting of a pie in front of several of his chins.

 

But here’s the thing. They were right.

 

Not about the content of the banner, nor that it was or is wrong to hate Tories. These people are worthy of our hatred and contempt. They force rape victims to undergo interrogations to prove they are worthy of state support. They pack black British citizens into aeroplanes and deport them to Jamaica. They drag disabled children into assessment centres to satisfy themselves that they’re “disabled enough” to deserve support. They are scum. And they do need ousted.

 

But what they don’t need to be ousted by is Siol nan Gaidheal, the makers of said banner. This is an ethnic nationalist grouping. A bona-fide blut und erde gang of fascists. They see our English neighbours not as partners in rebuilding our country, but as a fifth column; an enemy within.

 

It shames us to have such people marching in our demonstrations. And it needs to stop now. We pride ourselves on inclusiveness, but that inclusiveness can never and must never extend to those who would be exclusive. “Our” fascists are still fascists. And fascism must always be opposed.

 

What SnG is doing to us is exactly what Britain First is doing to Centrist Das. TORY SCUM OUT is our equivalent of “WANT TO STOP THIS PUPPY BEING TORTURED? LIKE THIS BRITAIN FIRST PAGE”. It’s not good enough. These people ought to be persona non grata-d from our campaign.

 

The problem with Unionism is that too many good people stood back and watched the far-Right take over on the ground. They normalised the far Right within Unionism. We don’t need that.

 

We need to exclude if we want to be inclusive. A nationalism which panders to fascism is not one of which I want any part.

 

The next time SnG turn up to a Yes march, imagine what you’d think of them if they carried a Union Jack instead of a Saltire.

 

The only thing a fascist needs is a boot to the face. He doesn’t need embraced by a campaign like ours.

 

I’d rather a break bread with a thousand Tories than a single Scottish fascist. Let’s nip it in the bud and nip it now.

 

 

Tommy Ball contributes to the Ungagged Podcast. You can find more of his Ungagged Writing here.

Weaponising Fragility

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Victoria Pearson

Weaponising Fragility

How Ruth Davidson betrayed women, yet again

On May 25th, in the late evening, Ruth Davidson tweeted that at lunchtime she had been followed through the streets by a man shouting Indy slogans while filming her as his dogs barked.

As someone who has experienced my fair share of street harassment (I speak about it on this podcast, skip to 1hr 10mins in if you want to listen), my heart went out to Ruth. I’ve got four children myself and I well understand how vulnerable pregnancy makes you feel. Ruth’s account of events reads as an incredibly scary experience – being chased by someone yelling slogans at you while dogs bark at you must be terrifying . My mental image of a pregnant woman running away from someone shouting at her while dogs terrified her further was powerful, as I’m sure a skilled orator like Davidson was well aware.

And then the footage of the incident emerged. I’ll link it here so you can come to your own conclusions,

But what I see in that video is very far from the events described by Ruth in her tweet. I see a constituent break into a slight jog in order to catch up with their elected representative and ask them a valid question in a respectful tone. At no point was the questioner rude, abusive or even loud. At no point did they cross into Ruth’s personal space – they were never in arms reach of each other.

Granted, some people are afraid of dogs, but the dogs in question were small, and well under control -at no point do they approach Ms Davidson – and cannot be heard barking on the video at all. Also, Ruth Davidson doesn’t appear to have a debilitating dog phobia:

And she doesn’t appear to feel at all threatened by the questioner. She turns her back on him, and walks away at a relaxed pace, surrounded by her colleagues. He wasnt intruding on her leisure time, or following her into a medical appointment, or bothering her on a bus – she is very obviously out at work, doing her job as an MSP.

On parliament.uk, it states that an MP (so presumably also an MSP who is leader of the Scottish branch of her party) “generally try to meet as many people as possible” so that they can gain “further insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to Westminster”

It seems only fair then, to assume that answering politely worded queries from probable constituents is a key component of an elected representatives job.

Some may say that demanding time and attention from women on the street is harassment. In the vast majority of cases I would wholeheartedly agree. Indeed I make that same argument on my podcast about street harassment. But Ruth Davidson was not a lone woman on the street being harassed and intimidated for attention. She was a woman at work, and being asked questions is her job.

So surprise surprise, Ruth’s telling porky pies. Why am I moved to write about it? It’s not exactly new behaviour.

Well, quite apart from the fact that if that man hadn’t been filming the encounter, he could’ve got into serious trouble – either through legal means or the knock on social effects of having people erroneously believe you are an abusive man who chases terrified pregnant women through the streets with your furiously barking dogs; a woman with power was prepared to sacrifice the quality of life of a stranger in order to present a narrative, and that’s both cruel and breathtakingly manipulative.

The actions of women like Ruth Davidson who exaggerate and fabricate encounters like this are harmful to women and girls everywhere, and perpetuate rape culture by giving weight to the idea that women aren’t to be believed when we talk about very real instances of street harassment and abuse that we face every single day.

Every single time we talk about harassment and abuse, women are shouted down by people who talk about false allegations that ruin lives. For a woman in the public eye to make a false allegation of harassment is unforgivable. To make one that is so easily disproven shows, at best, political naivety that makes her unfit for her post, at worst a malicious streak wide enough to throw a probable constituent under the bus while simultaneously trashing every woman who has been brave enough to talk about their experiences of #everydaysexism , street harassment and abuse. Frankly put, how dare she trivialize our experiences in this way?

In the UK we have a woefully low conviction rate for rape and sexual assault, we have a culture of blame surrounding the victims of street harassment, any displays of solidarity or supportive dialogues women try to set up online are swamped by MRAs and “egalitarians” sliding in to derail conversations with cries of “well, actually…” And “but what about..?”, gaslighting survivors of abuse and suggesting the majority of accusations of abuse and harrassment are false, and Ruth Davidson has just handed them yet another weapon to attack us with. So much for sisterhood.

As a survivor of abuse, an endurer of street harassment, the mother of a daughter, a feminist -I will always instinctively #BelieveHer. Which is why I’ve nothing but contempt for those in the public eye that muddy the waters by weaponising an image of vulnerability in the way Ruth Davidson did in that encounter and the subsequent, clearly well thought out tweet that followed some hours later.

Shame on any woman that would throw us all under the bus by polluting dialogue about our very real experiences of street abuse with spurious accusations like this. I can only conclude with what those before me have said – Ruth Davidson, You Ain’t No Feminist, Sis.

 

 

 

Victoria is a regular contributor to the Ungagged Podcast, and you can read more of her Ungagged writing here

Too Poor for Prosperity?

Reading Time: 7 minutes
Nick Durie

The Scottish Government’s Growth Commission has raised more questions than it has answered, it has worried and angered many independence supporters, and far from starting a debate about the positive vision of the growing economy of an independent Scotland is has set independence supporters against one another on the basis of those who will support any policy proposal if it supports independence, and those who want out of the UK because of the model of society it represents.

During the independence referendum of 2014 many critics of the prospectus put before them by the Scottish Government was that in their view it was overly optimistic, that its claims were insufficiently supported by hard data, and that in places it was guilty of boosterism or magical thinking. The Growth Commission was created in response to these criticisms. It was tasked with showing how and independent Scotland could grow its economy and create the fairer society the YES campaign had argued for in a hard numbers driven analysis. Andrew Wilson, an ex-RBS economist was chosen to head the commission.

It took a number of years to publish its report and the commission took evidence from a range of contributors. There is much working in the report, which is lengthy and serious, but which nevertheless diverges very far from the 2014 vision of independence to such an extent that it too is guilty of magical thinking.

Andrew Wilson has talked about “inclusion”; the Scotland we seek to build needs to be more equal than the one we are leaving behind. However nowhere in the report’s 354 pages does it mention full employment, family wages, the beneficial effects of trade unions, or the multiplier effect of government spending. Apart from what is not in the report, there are other examples of magical thinking. The report commits to Sterlingisation. Politically this is not possible. It may be economically worth considering, but voters will be incredulous that this is the plan. Moreover buried on page 92 of the report are a series of monetarist principles which effectively advocate a straitjacket on public spending which, apart from being simply wrongheaded, will prove intensely electorally unpopular.

As Ben Wray, the Editor of Commonspace summarised this section today;

“The growth comm’s analysis is that they will inherit a deficit of 5.5% from rUK, and that this will need to be reduced within the transition period to no more than 3%, with no assumptions about growth and using the Pound Sterling this means it will have to be done through tax rises or spending cuts. They argue that on current growth and inflation rates this would mean a “cash terms increase” in public spending, i.e. a real terms fall. The rule they have for the transition period is that the deficit will always be lower than the growth rate – i.e. take more out of the Scottish economy through revenue than you put in through expenditure. The report does contain the proviso that if growth is very lower there may need to be a spending stimulus in the early years, but the general idea is fiscal consolidation.”

The SNP has fought one referendum and a number of elections arguing very precisely against this kind of politics. Austerity is electorally toxic. Moreover the traditional Unionist argument against independence is that it will lead to deepening austerity, as the Unionists believe, or claim to believe, that Scotland is economically poorer than the rest of the UK, and is subsidised by the Union. Unionist commentators, such as Kevin Hague, have observed with glee that the report apparently shares their analysis.

As well as the questions the report raises (such as why are we being asked to embrace monetarism and below growth public spending, and re-introduce Gordon Brown’s public sector borrowing requirement), the report has also been framed as a discussion document. However that has not stopped many in the movement seeing the report as an effective policy statement. This is dangerous for several reasons.

For prominent SNP blogger Peter A Bell, responding to this writer’s framing of the commitments to strong fiscal consolidation contained on page 92, as Sado-Monetarism, this was an unacceptably trenchant criticism,

“How I despise the pseudo-intellectualism of terms such as “sado-monetarism”. It positively reeks of those posturing, self-righteous, self-regarding, elitist Byres Road cappuccino Commies.”

Echoing very similar sentiments, polling blogger and independence supporter James Kelly reckoned,

“Whisper it gently, but the fact that the radical left are unhappy with today’s events may be no bad thing. Byres Road and the road to victory are not necessarily one and the same. #ScotRef”

Strong stuff, but these are indeed sentiments that suggest ‘discussion’ may not be so broad rangning as to enable the questioning of the particular type of economics that Mr Wilson has advocated. It also pays little heed to the fact that Wilson is advocating a major strategic shift to the right. In 2014 the Salmond administration advocated Keynesian economics, social democracy, reindustrialisation, full employment and a cradle to grave welfare state. As one social media commentator put it,

“I know this isn’t a policy declaration, but it is an alarming sign to people who are rightly sceptical of Westminster and the politics that have polluted the country for the past 30 years. It’s a worrying signal.”

The location of such concerns as elitest, and those of the middle class intelligentsia do not chime with my own experience of advocating those Salmond era policies, as an anecdote I recently retold illustrates.

“During the referendum I remember standing at a stall on the edge of the scheme being approached by a skagged out one legged man in early middle age, clearly slowly dying of leg abscesses from arterial injections. Anecdotally many heroin addicts die this way. This man adopted a socratic tone with me, speirin questions of the benefits of a YES vote. As I outlined the mission with our core messages (secure reindustrialisation, win full employment, restore family wages, and end benefit sanctions) he started to hirple away on his crutches. “Guid!” He said. “That’s how A votit that wey in the post. Just wantit tae check.” Alex Salmond’s SNP government and the YES campaign had engaged *this* man, a man slowly dying from his own miseries for the generalised want of those four things. It’s a far cry from banning pizzas to tackle “social exclusion.””

My own experience of making the argument for independence thousands of times on doorsteps has been that the promise of full employment is in fact the single most passionate and moving thing I can say about the prospect. Abandoning this policy in order to pursue monetarism and fiscal consolidation is unlikely to be anywhere near as popular.

This takes us to the social history of the independence debate and the YES movement’s composition itself. Independence actually has to be voted for, and the support for it is very demographically biased towards younger people, and working class people, who together form a majority of the population.

That is not to say that everyone in those demographics is convinced of independence but they are certainly more likely to endorse it than other cohorts of people. For the majority of those people their support is conditional, and stems from the history of our campaigns for this objective, and their relationship to our campaign messages, or as I prefer to look at it, our war aims.

Scotland is a very unequal society and the majority of people are not doing well out of the British system. As many who have spoken in defence of Mr Wilson’s proposed change of tack have claimed, there are sections of society which believe that a more equal society where everyone has a job and a decent home is unrealistic to achieve. Those people would be attacted towards a more conservative assessment of the benefits of having a new country, they claim. The trouble with this thinking is that there is no guarantee that shifting towards a radical right wing prospectus will go unnoticed by those who currently support independence because they believe it will be something hopeful in their lives and future chances. Those who espouse firm commitments to Thatcherite/monetarist principles in Scotland – while numerous in middle class encloves, ironically, like the foresaid Byres Road (I know this because I have canvassed that street many times with a Keynesian full employment message) – are far far less numerous than those without a ha’penny to rub together.

In light of this tension there is always the rejoinder – much in evidence this week – that after independence the people can choose whichever government they like. That’s true of course, but the problem with this assumption is that many people, perhaps a majority of voters, will not be voting on the idea that they can choose the government of an independent Scotland many years down the line, but on the prospectus put to them before the vote, for how an independent Scotland will look like. Pursuing policies in such a prospectus (which is essentially what Andrew Wilson has created: a policy document) which then go on to be unpopular, or unpopular with a number of previously supportive groups of people, could prove very destructive towards our chances of building an independence electoral majority.

To conclude then, in my view the basic analysis of the 79 group – that Scotland’s middle class will never embrace radical constitutional change as a bloc, and drive that change, and that they are a conservative demographic minority, and that the only way to overcome their check on social progress is by engaging the working class majority of Scotland – is both essentially true, obvious, and that therefore our task is to communicate the advantage to the working class of independence, to achieve sufficient working class and wider progressive turnout, to swamp the votes of conservative Scotland.

What Andrew Wilson proposes is a stark change of message for our movement, towards a more mainstream British vision of a monetarist, fiscally conservative Scotland. He devotes 354 pages to spelling out how this would work, but for all that he has talked of inclusion, he has ignored previous highly successful messages of support for full employment and reindustrialisation, which electrified working class Scotland in 2014, but which our campaign had insufficient discipline to get to turn out and defeat the organised phalanx of conservative Scotland, which already has the right wing Scotland it wants.

It is unclear what possible benefit there may be behind turning the independence movement against itself on whether to embrace the right wing changes he advocates or not, but it seems fairly clear it plays into the hands of those who say that Scotland is too poor to achieve prosperity for all. Simply surrendering to this miserable doctrine in lengthy technicolour seems both very unlikely to convince them to embrace change but very certain to upset a lot of good people, while creating an atmosphere of hostility within the movement between those horrified at the economic volt face, and those more horrified at what they perceive as a breach of discipline.

Plastic Pleurisy Part Poo 💩

Reading Time: 4 minutes
The war on plastic is real, it’s escalating. Humans are devising new ways to tackle the ever growing problem that is plastic. We are recycling more, we have discovered plastic eating insects,
We’ve deployed barriers across rivers to catch plastic, we have sophisticated tractor dragged rakes to pick up the plastic on our beaches. However, we really should be cutting down on the production of plastic, and the only real way to impact that is to stop using it.
Hence the logic behind banning some plastic convenience items, such as straws that was featured in my last article on the subject, Plastic Pleurisy.
Now the newest great idea is to ban wet wipes. There has been a bit of an uproar from parents on the issue, there’s many articles that share parents concerns. But do I even need to mention the needs of the disabled? Yes, it seems I do.
Now, you’ve a wee baby and how gross to imagine carrying about a wet rag you’ve just used to clean up a really dirty nappy. Now imagine that baby is a grown adult. Are you still carrying about that cloth? No, no you are not, it’s probably binned. Adding to the every growing number tonnes of rubbish in our dumps.
Double incontinence is a concern for many disabled people who want to go out in public, wet wipes are a necessity. Not a convenience. Yes wet wipes shouldn’t be flushed, and they are causing huge fatbergs in sewer systems around the country.
What is a fatberg? It is a huge build up of mass in a sewer that is caused by things that aren’t meant to be flushed down the loo. There was a whole program about it, where they dissected one, if you want to physically balk when you watch tv then its not hard to find the link online. But here in Scotland we have adverts on tv telling us how our water systems work and regularly advertise what and what not to put down the loo. I think education is a better alternative than flat out bans.
The needs of disabled folk are quickly becoming afterthought in Tory tokenistic environmental policy, and it’s the afterthought that irks me so much. But that’s to be expected from a party who’s welfare reform can be called nothing else than a bureaucratic attack on the sick and disabled citizens of their own country. What’s surprising and depressing tho is the ableist responses from the general public;
Apart from the clearly ableist commentary, the backlash is growing against parents who know what disabled/changing room facilities are like. (Let’s be honest, they are usually one and the same.) There is no bidet and they almost always already smell of poo. There is the cries of “what did you do before wet wipes existed?” and that is true, I asked my 77 year old mum what she used to use, she told me a natural sponge, however there wasn’t many public changing facilities. And of course, babies were in natural terry towelling nappies. As for disabled folk, well my mother recalls seeing the first public disabled toilet in the 70’s, before then disabled folk were rarely seen out. Most likely ostracised from their communities and societies for reeking of pish.
Sometimes disabled folk are stuck in bed, and besides the uncomfortableness of a bed bath, it’s quite humiliating to have someone else clean your private parts. There’s a dignity some folk don’t even have the privilege of having. I’m not going to go down the line of telling you all about catheters, digital stimulation of bowels, adult diapers and other toilet stuff, I’m gonna guess you also go to the loo, you know sometimes you get a dodgy tummy, I’m sure I don’t need to go into the details of why a packet of wet wipes is an essential item in a bug out bag for any disabled person.
What I am gonna do however is talk about actual non essential plastics. Things that no-one needs whatsoever and is a waste of plastic.
No 1. Balloons, now my mum says I’m a party pooper for this one, but really what is a balloon for? Those plastic foil, usually filled with helium (which by the way is in short supply and essential for running MRI machines) and attached to a plastic string. We blow them up and give them for celebrations where they are put in a corner to slowly deflate and wilt away, only to be flung in the bin or they float away still filled with precious gases and end up in the ocean anyway.
No 2. Plastic wrap on things made of plastic. If plastic is so durable it can stay in our environment for centuries, and won’t break down naturally then how come we need to wrap up plastic garden chairs in plastic cling film? That seems a real waste of plastic.
No 3. Plastic coffee stirrers. Apart from the fact you can stir your coffee with practically anything else, why do we have little strips of plastic in the billions, available next to plastic pots of milk and sugar at many a coffee shop and canteen?
So there are three other plastic things, totally unessential to anybody. Total frivolous waste of plastic, plastic that will probably end up in our oceans. I want to tackle plastic pollution as much as any other tree hugging environmentalist. I want to save our planet, it’s the only one we have. Mother Nature is my deity and I don’t want to offend her, but I am so sick of bearing the brunt of powerful people’s decisions. Please think before you ban plastic products that of are real use in making disabled people’s lives easier. We don’t want a return to hiding in institutions, hospitalised indefinitely and made to feel ashamed to go out in public. I obviously don’t speak for all disabled folk, but I speak as a human who was once fully abled bodied. I never expected to suddenly soil myself in Ikea, I didn’t know some student nurse would give me a bed bath when I had my periods in hospital.
And that is the other thing, this ban of wet wipes is also classist. Imagine being homeless or having no access to hot water. How could you stay clean? What if it happened to you? We are all human beings, we all have to take responsibility, that is true. But can we just think of each other before we start banning stuff?

Cuppa Minute Interview with Jamie Szymkowiak

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Jamie Szymkowiak

What is your name?

Jamie Szymkowiak

 

Where do you come from?

Born in Glasgow; grew up in Mississippi, Iceland, California and Sicily (military brat) before returning to Dunoon, in Argyll, when I was 13.

 

What do you do?

Disability rights activist, children’s book writer and international recruiter.

 

What is your favourite colour?

Green

 

Who is your favourite politician ever?

Tough question – I don’t think I have a ‘favourite politician ever’ as such but if we were to look at activists, I think I will go with Rosa Parks. As a disabled rights activist, I take inspiration from other movements and Rosa demonstrated incredible courage and determination in a hostile environment. Plus, it goes to show that non-violent acts of civil disobedience are sometimes necessary when fighting for your rights.

 

What is your favourite political moment?

The Berlin Wall coming down. I remember my teacher at the time returning from Germany a few weeks later and he brought a piece of the Wall to class with him. He spoke of the significance with such passion that it always stands out as an important moment in political history.

 

What was the worse political moment?

Brexit. I hate everything about it.

 

What is your favourite meal?

It’s hard to beat a good spaghetti bolognaise.

 

What song gets you up and going?

My recent Spotify would tell you Dua Lipa or The Weeknd but it’s definitely just about anything by Michael Jackson.

 

If you were a superhero what would your powers be?

Oh, that’s easy. Flying. 100%.

Meeting on the other side of town and the bus is late? Doesn’t matter – I can fly.

Traffic on the M8 a nightmare? No worries – I can fly.

Can’t reach the jar of pickles on the top shelf? Not all flights are long haul…

The Future of the American City

Reading Time: 4 minutes
George Collins

As I vacuum the dark green carpet while listening to an interview with author and Democracy Now! Co-host Juan Gonzalez, I’m struck by a particular statistic: 70% of the world’s population will reside in cities in the next two years. The implications of this, says Gonzalez, are gigantic for progressivism, as these cities will become the main venues of social change and civil disobedience as ideas and movements gain steam. Resting the vacuum in its upright position, thoughts of the current evolution of American cities come with feelings of hope and dismay at the current state of the country’s major urban centers and what the could develop into when they reach their full potential.

Cities have played a central role in the shaping of American culture and history since before the country’s birth. Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore served as meeting hubs in the colonial United States where the figureheads of the American Counter-Revolution could spread ideas and draw on support from large clusters of disgruntled colonists. New York City and Los Angeles emerged as culture centers in the 19th century and helped craft a unique American identity at a time when the nation struggled to distinguish its culture from that of Europe. Later in that same century, the rise of mass production and heavy industry stimulated population clustering as Americans sought to participate in the explosive development of American economic dominance in the world. The places were packed, smelled like puke and piss, and you probably stepped over a few rotting horses on the way to work for your 21-hour shift. Improved sanitation guidelines and refinement of industries into well-oiled production powerhouses branded urban centers like Detroit as gold standards of wealth accumulation in the 1950s and birthed the standards of the mythic American Dream we become conditioned to achieve.

Sixty years later, Detroit became the first major American city to declare bankruptcy in 2013. Its infrastructure and crime statistics sank to levels comparable to lower-income nations and affluent whites who could afford to fled the city in droves to leave the crumbling core to the impoverished black and Arab communities. We were left wondering how the wealthiest city in America fall so far and if this was the future of the American city. As author and journalist Charlie LeDuff warns, we can go ahead and laugh at Detroit until we realize it’s also Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle, and so many more that could suffer the same brutal evisceration in the darkness of the corporate police state’s shadow.

Such a fate on a broad spectrum is possible, but certain strides in municipal government grant me some hope.

Income inequality and wealth disparity became primary political and social dilemmas in the U.S. after the Occupy movement broke open the floodgates on discussions about class in 2011. These economic trends afflict the nation as a whole, but the major urban centers serve as microcosms of these regressions and offer a glimpse into the potential consequences of maniac sprawl. My own neck of the woods has become a spotlight for these trends. Seattle’s median housing costs hit a record high of $777,000 in March of this year with the city’s Eastside wing reaching a median of $950,000. The central city sees a growing homelessness population that now borders on becoming a full-blown crisis, and the unaffordable rents combined with stagnant wages shove hundreds of people to the suburban towns to spend an increasing portion of their lives travelling in a heavy metal box on I-5. None of the police officers in the Seattle police department live in the city they swear to protect. The same is true of firefighters and many civil servants. The same trend can be found in San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Washington D.C. and many more.

Does a prosperous city like Seattle or Silicon Valley become the Detroit of tomorrow as the purchasing power of the middle and working classes is swallowed by debt service and unaffordable living costs? Such an outcome seems to be the ticket if the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen like the American waistline.

But city councils across the nation are recognizing the dangers associated with uninhibited sprawl and growing wealth disparity. Seattle’s city council approved a controversial “head tax” last week that taxes the city’s large businesses based on employee head count. While the motion has yet to be signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan, it’s a bold pivot into wealth redistribution territory for the council. Socialist Alternative councilmember Kshama Sawant has been advocating for rent control for years, and her efforts to raise the minimum wage contributed to the successful passage of the increase to $15/hour in Seattle.

Promising developments appeared in Baltimore city hall last month as proposals to reverse the city’s government-sponsored economic segregation appeared. One proposed measure seeks to create an equity assessment committee to investigate the city’s agencies and capital projects and root out discriminatory practices. Other proposals address the lack of accessible public housing in the city itself and hopes to reroute capital investment into affordable housing programs. Similar calls for increased spending in the public housing sector echo in other major cities across the U.S.
Cities served as the birthplace for the ideas of the original Counter-Revolution of 1776, and it seems they are once again playing David against the Goliath of the federal government’s authoritarianism. The passage of legislation at the municipal level to redistribute wealth and create new opportunities for working and middle-class families to live a secure existence has steamrolled into larger movements nationwide. Sawant’s Fight for 15, Mayor Rob Davis of Davis, California’s original Sanctuary City, and the prospective public housing developments in Baltimore now enjoy national momentum as they push forward with more punches every day.

The American city of old may be at the end of its industrial career, but a return to its roots as a hub of change and civil disobedience is on the horizon. In fact, it may already be here.

Dealing With Twitter Trolls

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Mhairi Hunter

Ungagged asked me to expand a bit on a recent twitter thread on social media abuse and I’m happy to do so. I emphasise these are just my personal views but I hope they are helpful. I have made all the mistakes over the years so you don’t have to.

I have been on twitter since 2010. I’ve seen it get bigger and uglier and been through various stages of trying to handle abuse from challenging it, to RTing it, to blocking it and finally muting it. For me, muting it is the best solution. I’ll tell you why.

Challenging it is pointless. Someone abusing you on twitter knows they’re being horrible so there’s no point in telling them that, they want to upset you and make you angry. If you challenge them they will only get worse. The same goes for RTing abuse. I know people sometimes do this to highlight it, but this simply invites other users to join in and participate in a nasty squalid fight that will just leave you drained and depressed.

Blocking people can also make them worse, I’ve had people set up new accounts so they can continue to have a go at me because I blocked them. I do block people in some circumstances but I find muting people is much better at just getting rid of them from my timeline and mentions.

I’ve muted many hundreds of people and twitter is much better for that. I have muted people on the No side and I have muted people on the Yes side. In my opinion a lot of nonsense is talked about the relationship between political positioning and social media abuse. The fact is you get toxic people across the board. Twitter gives you the option to mute them, so use that option. Mute them, forget about them. If they really cross the line, block and report them. And remember – on your twitter you decide what the line is.

If someone threatens you or another person don’t hesitate to go to the police. It may not result in action being taken there and then but you are still providing intelligence which may enable action to be taken at a future point if the perpetrator is following a pattern of behaviour.

I have also thought about my own use of twitter. Quote-tweeting is something I do less and less now due to the way it can instigate pile-ons if you have an above-average number of followers. I realised I was guilty of that after I quote-tweeted what I thought was a particularly silly comment from a political journalist, poking fun at him. My tweet wasn’t malicious or intended to be. I was just taking the piss. But a lot of the replies to my tweet copied in the journalist, were quite abusive and it just went on and on and on.

Coincidentally there was a recent discussion on twitter about why a well-known unionist blogger had been blocked by a large number of SNP MPs. I had blocked this chap myself after he RTd me, leading to a stream of nasties in my mentions. (If you want to stop someone being able to RT you directly, you need to block them).

Probably the blogger didn’t intend to set the flying monkeys on me – any more than I had intended to set them on the journalist – but just didn’t really think about it before quote-tweeting something he saw as silly. We all need to learn that lesson. If you instigate pile-ons, either wittingly or unwittingly, people are entitled to block you. And, for the avoidance of doubt, MPs are people.

I also have to mention twitter clyping in this context – this describes the situation where someone tweets a comment about another person and a different user replies @ing that person in. If the original tweeter wanted to @ the person into their tweet they would have done so. Don’t do it for them because it can result in a confrontation they don’t want.

Inevitably we come to the vexed subject of misogyny. There has been a great deal written about the level of sexual abuse and threats sent to women so I won’t add too much to it. It’s ugly stuff. And the more high-profile a woman is, the worse it gets.

Some may think that high-profile twitter targets never actually have to read the abuse directed at them but they (or people around them) do have to, because they need to assess if they contain any credible threats. The recent Westminster Hall debate which allowed women MPs to talk about the horrific abuse they received was, I hope, an eye opener for some. And, as in life, it’s worse if you are a black woman, a lesbian, a Jew, because misogynists are so often bigots too.

Plus, for all women, twitter tends to have the same double standards as you get in real life – men are assertive, women are aggressive, men are confident, women are arrogant, men are witty, women are silly and childish. And be careful about telling jokes – some men really don’t like it!

So why do I stay on this hellsite? Well, for one thing I rather enjoy being silly and childish on twitter. Twitter at its best is joyous, I have had so many good laughs over the years. For another, I have genuinely made some good pals who I would miss if I left – and that applies to people on both sides of the constitutional divide. So I’m sticking around with my mute button at the ready. Otherwise I’d have to go back to facebook and that would be a fate worse than death.

Privilege is…

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Chuck Hamilton

In his 1999 show Bigger and Blacker, Chris Rock explained white privilege this way: “There ain’t a white man in this room that would change places with me. None of you. None of you would change places with me, and I’m rich! That’s how good it is to be white.”

There’s a line from the Bruce Hornsby song The Way It Is that describes perfectly the interplay, internal if not verbal, between the privileged and the un- and underprivileged. “Man in the silk suit hurries by; as he catches the poor old lady’s eyes, just for fun he says, ‘Get a job’.”

Privilege is Israeli Jews sitting on a hillside in lounge chairs and couches to spectate over the bombing of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Ghetto and cheering each explosion.

Privilege is serving the greed of the few to the detriment of the needs of the many.

Privilege is the white liberal who, in the words of Dr. King, “…is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers the absence of tension to the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season’”.

Privilege is white liberals and older Afro-Americans who say the same things to the Movement for Black Lives and their allies about their civil disobedience in the response to massive and growing police brutality and murders by police.

Privilege is Madelaine Albright telling us that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other in reference to Hillary Clinton in 2016 when she herself supported Edmund Muskie in the 1972 Democratic primaries, the same in which Shirley Chisholm and Patsy Mink were also running. Of course, those two contenders were Afro-American and Japanese-American, respectively, so perhaps for Albright they don’t count.

Privilege is Gloria Steinem and others like her campaigning to shame sex workers in order to cover up the fact that their brand of feminism is mostly for affluent white women.

Privilege is Noam Chomsky condemning the antifascist movement known as antifa in language that validates their equation with Nazi thugs by Trump, aka Agent Orange.

Privilege is when someone uses phrases like “look at the big picture”, ‘be a team player”, and “accept things the way they are” to bully, manipulate, and shame you into belaying or putting aside your own needs in deference to their desires.

Privilege is when lesser mortals clear the streets of Windsor and Maidenhead of their homeless to make everything pretty for a royal wedding.

Privilege is waxing eloquent about global overpopulation and how people need to have fewer children shortly after the birth of your third child in a country where the poor on benefits are penalized for the same thing.

Privilege is when an all-male panel pontificates on women’s issues, whether they happen to be U.S. Congressmen or Scottish champagne socialists.

Privilege is the often patronizing and paternalistic manner with which the middle class treats the working and pauper classes.

In truth, what we today call the middle class is nothing other than an upper working class that is desperate to distinguish itself from the lower working class and to maintain that distinction by any means necessary. Oblivious to the fact that being a house slave makes them no more free and no less exploited than the others in the fields, they carry out almost by instinct the will of their masters of the 1% and their overseers of the 10%.

Privilege is when Yanks, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks, and other white westerners travel to or live in foreign countries belonging to brown people and treat their hosts as lesser beings, committing social incest in their golden ghettoes. Of course, this same principle operates in their own countries between classes and even in those afore-mentioned non-white majority countries.

When I with the Navy at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, there was this lower enlisted guy in our unit who often had to do escort duty with local, uncleared contractors, meeting them at the gate to the compound and then sitting watching them work all day. Often he would spend the time reading, pretty sure none of the workers were equivalent to the Vietcong.

After about a week, the Air Force security police at the gate began wanding the work crew for weapons. At first, they began to refuse, until our enlisted guy told the guards to do him first, to show it was okay. In fact, he did so for the next few days until the guards got tired of or too embarrassed about subjecting one of their own to the same treatment inflicted on the locals.

In many ways, the middle class, the upper working class rather, is the biggest obstacle to the general welfare of the working, or lower working, and pauper classes. Mostly because those in it go along to get along. Its members don’t even think of being afraid of rocking the boat because doing anything that might alter their fortunes is beyond conception. So they assuage their consciences with thoughts of the rewards for their complacency and their complicity. And continue to do so even when that course will bite themselves in their own arse.

Something antagonist Lindsey McDonald said to protagonist Angel in the episode “Underneath” paints a good picture of this: “Every day you sit in your big chair behind your big desk, and you sign your big checks, and you learn a little more how to accept the world for the way it is. Well, here’s the rub: good people don’t do that. Good people don’t accept the world the way it is. They fight it.”

So stand up. Fight. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Live as if the world is as it should be to show it how it can be, and remember that the smallest act of kindness can be the greatest gift in the world.

Fight in ways against which there is no defense but which do no harm. Be the darkness that illuminate. Be the silence that resonates. Be the stillness that agitates.

I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth. The whole world is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins, regardless of synthetic or organic origin. Like our distant cousins on other planets across space and throughout time, we are all children of the universe

Alive, due to lack of death

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Fuad Alkbarov

The UN must recognise Palestine’s right to exist, says leading Human Rights Campaigner

Today 136 out of 193 UN member states have formally recognised Palestine. The UK needs to show some leadership and be amongst the first Western European countries to recognise Palestine and its right to self-determination.
British Government already recognises the principle that the Palestinian people have an inalienable right to self-determination but has not granted this officially because it wants to reserve the right to do so at a moment of its choosing to best help bring about peace.
That moment is now. Recognition is a good starting-point for negotiations and would help guarantee that the focus of talks is about how Palestine becomes a viable and secure sovereign state – not whether it becomes one. Denying recognition as the current British government is doing is entirely at odds with the principle of self-determination.
Of course, neither Israel nor Palestine’s right to exist should be subject to veto or any kind of conditions and we must actively challenge any refusal by either side to deny the other’s right to exist. It can be difficult to understand the scale of the human tragedy that is occurring on this narrow strip of land, day in day out. Not just when the camera crews and journalists are there, but every single day.
It’s vital that human rights violations and violence on all sides cease and that the international community take strong action to hold the perpetrators to account.
One of those core causes is the eternal question mark that hangs over Palestine’s right to exist. Recognition would help the process of removing that question mark and allow Israelis and Palestinians to look forward to a future defined by equality, justice, freedom and peace.
In Gaza, entire families sit in the darkness of their living rooms, with candles creating the only light. Thousands of families have lost loved ones in house fires. Gaza’s residents face so much struggle and pain, just to secure one of life’s basic necessities.
Today, if you ask Palestinians in Gaza how they are doing, they might respond: “Alive, due to lack of death.” This commonly used expression captures the misery of everyday life in Gaza.
Every second in Gaza under Israel’s blockade – where water and medical care are luxuries – is tainted by tragedy. Every time a family can’t afford to put food on the table, every time a house fire claims yet another victim, every time a cancer patient can’t acquire life-saving treatment or another desperate human ends their life, the dreadfulness of the blockade comes into full view.
The UN has declared Gaza “unliveable”, and the blockade creates a passive, collective death. What will it take to convince the international community that the people of Palestine, like all humans on this Earth, deserve to live in dignity?
So long as Israel maintains great control over Palestinian lives but denies them their basic rights and freedoms, it cannot call itself a democracy.

Leading Scottish BDS Activist Reacts To Gaza Massacre

Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Jim Bollan

The premeditated murder by the Israeli Zionist state of another 58 innocent Palestinians is further evidence that Israel the Apartheid state is being protected by the US and the West in its policy of ethnic cleansing.

These brutal murders along with thousands of innocent Palestinian protesters injured are being portrayed by the BBC as “clashes”.  Not one Israeli has been injured in these so-called “clashes”. It is obscene and racist the way the BBC and other mainstream media report on these barbaric acts by the Zionists.

The Labour Party also need to take to task “Labours friends of Israel” organisation who are absolving the Zionists of any blame for the murderous carnage and acting as apologists for the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces).

The UN, EU and the West stand by and watch this genocide unfold and do nothing. They are all complicit with Israel and the US who allow and condone these atrocities.

Palestine is under occupation by the Zionists who have one of the biggest militaries in the World. The IOF used marksmen to shoot and kill innocent unarmed Palestinians including women and children. Tear gas from drones was also used to incapacitate the peaceful Palestinian protests before carrying out their cold-blooded murders of innocent people. Many of these weapons used to kill Palestinians will have been made in the UK. We need to continue to expose these companies and the Government for allowing these weapons to be sold to Apartheid Israel. Yet the Western powers turn the other cheek and pay homage to the American dollar.

We all need to do what we can in anyway we can to support the Palestinian resistance to the illegal and immoral occupation, a resistance that will never die or be defeated by elite Zionists in occupied Palestine.

Trump and his fascists in the White House are dancing to Netanyahu’s tune and are determined to invade Syria and Iran to create the greater Israel the Zionists desire and also to plunder the rich resources these countries hold.

The Palestinians are brave beyond words. Their land has been occupied for 70 years by the Zionists with the total support of the West. Unemployment in Gaza is at 60% because the Apartheid state decides who can and cannot work. Power and water are controlled by the Zionists. There is no freedom of movement on their own land with hundreds of checkpoints set up as part of the control mechanism used by the Zionist IOF.

We all have a responsibility to do what we can, however small an act, to support the Palestinians in their struggle for Justice, Peace and Equality.

NO PEACE FOR ISRAEL, WITHOUT JUSTICE FOR THE PALESTINIANS.