Category Archives: Poverty

The deaths at Tuam: a voiceless testimony

Tuam Babies unmarked graveThere is an unmarked mass grave in Galway which has become briefly famous by the work of historian Catherine Corless, who spent years tracing the death records of each child whose remains may have been buried there. (You can hear her being interviewed about her work on the mass grave here.)

Timothy Stanley, a Telegraph blogger who converted to Catholicism from the Anglican church, argues that the mass grave is “a human tragedy, not a Catholic one”. At more length, Caroline Farrow, a spokesperson for Catholic Voice, explains that first of all, this wasn’t really so bad, and anyway, everyone except the Catholic Church is probably lying. (I note for the record: the sheer quantity of misinformation and distortion provided by both Stanley and Farrow is quite astonishing.)
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Filed under Children, Human Rights, Poverty, Women

ConDem bad arguments for #indyref

The Tories have produced a buzzfeed-style page for the indyref.

Cake WorldThey take their assertion that Scots are better off by £1200 per year each in the UK than we would be if independent (their figures don’t make sense, but frankly the SNP’s arguments that we’d be better off by x amount per year each don’t make sense either) and they’ve done a series of images of the things that £1200 could buy.

Both sides have tried this argument, and both sides made a hash of it, because it is a frankly silly argument. The wealth of the UK is not a cake to be sliced up and everyone given a bit. Even if Scotland were to become actually independent in March 2016, or enter a devomax arrangement set up between the Tories and the SNP as planned in the White Paper, or remains part of the UK as at present, Scotland will still have a very few very rich people, a proportion of wealthy people, and a lot of people who are horrifyingly poor.
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Filed under Cake, Poverty, Scottish Politics, Tax Avoidance

Looking ahead to May 2015

Everyone in Scotland is so focussed on the referendum that they’re forgetting the European elections on 22nd May. (And that’s worrying, because low turnout is how parties like UKIP get in.)

Charlie Bloom on BBC Question Time challenging Nigel Farage

Illustrating this forgetfulness about the European elections, last night on Have I Got News For You an English comedian made a joke about “Methadone elections” and Susan Calman took audible offence because she’d forgotten about the EuroElections and thought he meant the independence referendum was methadone: but the English comedian had forgotten about the Scottish referendum – he was making a joke about the methadone of the European Parliament elections compared to the heroin smack of a General Election.
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Filed under Elections, Politics, Poverty, Scottish Politics

Food, waste, and hunger

On a blog I frequent, the regulars have come up with a new method of reacting to a racist troll. [New? Though I had not seen it before, I was told it originated on Usenet.] When he posts his crap, they respond with recipes. Or sometimes detailed descriptions of food they’ve eaten, or occasionally cute-dog stories. But mostly, recipes. It can seem disconcerting to go from a vile comment which argues that George Zimmerman was in the right to murder Trayvon Martin, to a lengthy explanation of how to make a vegetarian chilli, but the odd thing is, it seems to be working: the troll isn’t getting the angry, outraged response he lives for, and the regulars can turn what might be a distressing thread about American racism and injustice into a pleasant discussion of smoked chipotles and beans. The troll tries again, and gets another recipe.

Today I saw two posts about food.

Cheeseburger stuffed crust pizza - promoshotFirst, the Observer article by Jay Rayner on what the existence of a thing like the cheeseburger stuffed crust pizza says about our food industry:

Most of the diners here today are going for the £6.99 all-you-can-eat buffet deal. Not me. I am ordering a large double pepperoni pizza with cheeseburger crust. I am consigning myself to my very own grease-stained, cheese-slicked gastronomic hell. I am doing this to shine a light on the way a deformed model of nutrition has come, in the past year, to play a key part in the debate around global food security.

Quickly it arrives. It’s certainly not misnamed. The middle is standard Pizza Hut: a soft doughy base as sodden and limp as a baby’s nappy after it’s been worn for 10 hours. There is a scab of waxy cheese and flaps of pink salami the colour, worryingly, of a three-year-old girl’s party dress. What matters is the crust. Each of the 10 slices has a loop of crisped dough and in the circular fold made by that loop there is a tiny puck of burger, four or so centimetres across and smeared with more cheese. It looks like a fairground carousel realised in food.

In a way, a pizza like this is Pizza Hut being a troll. It exists not because anyone thought a mini-burger at the crusty end of a pizza slice was a yummy idea, but so that food reviewers will write about it. As Linda Moyo noted in Manchester Confidential last October, Pizza Hut is a great place to take kids for a reasonably cheap, reasonably filling, and only moderately unhealthy meal out. (And when I was a broke – and vegetarian – teenager, Pizza Hut was just about the only sit-down restaurant that sold cheap hot meals I could actually eat.) But it’s not that thrilling for two adults:

The all-you-can-eat buffet can be handy I guess, but overall there’s never a time when Pizza Hut is top of the list. A bottomless trip to the Ice Cream Factory doesn’t entice me not being seven and all, and on the whole I find their pizzas utterly average.

To be honest, Pizza Hut would have to do something wacky like squeezing mini burgers into the crust of their pizza and calling it ‘all the fun without the bun’ to get my attention.

Oh, hang on a minute…

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Filed under About Food, Poverty

Arguing the wrong debate

The currency debate is a pure waste of time.

Keep Calm and Waste TimeThe SNP’s line if Scotland votes Yes has for several years been that Scotland will continue to use rUK’s pound. This is a good campaign strategy as far as it goes, since it means people don’t have to think about the logistics of setting up a Mint in Scotland to produce our own coins and a national supply of banknotes: it means people don’t have to think about changing currencies if they go to England/Wales post-independence: it means people don’t have to think about monetary change as a symbol of the huge changes of independence.

So, good campaign strategy, but it’s a completely rubbish way of deciding on a currency for Scotland post-independence.

To counter this SNP campaign strategy, the UK government/Better Together campaign have announced they will not “permit” Scotland to make use of the pound post-independence, and to counter that… but never mind. The whole thing gets indescribably messy, with both sides grandstanding more and more, and the whole thing is an utter waste of time.
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Filed under Economics, Poverty, Tax Avoidance

On stealing food

Iceland Foods - Kentish Town RoadWithin a mile of the Iceland on Kentish Town Road (the Trussell Trust’s find-your-nearest-foodbank map provides this information) there are two foodbanks: Chalk Farm and Camden.

A recent food banks report discovers 960 emergency food providers (food banks and soup kitchens) operating in the UK, and this may not be a complete list.

The Kentish Tower ran an article on then-new foodbank at Chalk Farm Baptist Church in April last year:

Who comes to the foodbank? In theory, people can receive a maximum of three vouchers in a row to discourage reliance, although longer term support is available at the discretion of the foodbank manager. “One thing that has surprised me is how open people are,” said Sammy, “when talking about their current situation. A lot of it is delayed benefits – or people who’ve had an injury and can’t physically work.”

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Filed under About Food, Charities, Children, Poverty

Immigrants are not the problem

Immigrant scary headlinesCheap-work conservatives don’t like human rights: for the principle of human rights, universal and indivisible, stands against the cheap-work conservative need to exploit, use, and abuse everyone less wealthy than they are or than they aspire to be.

It shouldn’t surprise us that so many cheap-work conservative MPs – of all parties – made greedy use of the MP expenses system, and regarded transparency and control of the system as a new tyranny.

Cheap-labor conservatives support every coercive and oppressive function of government, but call it “tyranny” if government does something for you – using their money, for Chrissake. Even here, cheap-labor conservatives are complete hypocrites.

We live in a country where unemployment is at 7.7% after the Department of Work and Pensions has massaged the figures to exclude unemployed people on mandatory government training schemes, and anyone sanctioned of their benefits. Foodbanks across the UK saw a surge in need during the school holidays, as families struggled to feed their children without the benefit of a free school lunch. Even by the DWP’s massaged figures, there are 2.39 millon people out of work.
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Filed under Benefits, Human Rights, Poverty, Racism

Where do you get your scary ideas?

The Centre for Social Justice is where Iain Duncan Smith gets his scary ideas about welfare reform. IDS created CSJ in 2004, after he was sacked from leading the Tory party because he paid his wife £18,000 out of Parliamentary Staffing Allowance.

Of course the big question to be asked of every think-tank is: who’s paying you to generate these reports and ideas? Often, we just don’t know. The Centre for Social Justice gets a transparency rating of “D” at Who Funds You?, the Political Innovation project for promoting open, transparent think-tanks.

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Filed under Benefits, Poverty

Osborne’s autumn stones

George Osborne has bread. Lots of it. His salary, as MP and Chancellor, is £145K annually. His inherited wealth from the family wallpaper company is estimated at about five million. He was a member of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford, for rich boys who don’t have to think about the cost of vandalism, drink, or drugs, and aside from a few stopgap jobs the first year after he graduated in 1992, he’s never worked a day outside the Conservative Party in his life.

osborne, if you want first class services, you've got to PAY for them!Osborne, in case you’d forgotten, is the kind of upper-class man who thinks that he can buy a standard class ticket and take a first class seat.

But all Osborne has for us is stones.
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Filed under About Food, Poverty

Women in black, poppies in red

On Question Time on Thursday night before this remembrance Sunday, Benjamin Zephaniah wore a white poppy, not a red one – and the BBC did their best to angle the cameras so that this would not be visible. I dropped some money in a British Legion collecting box on Friday, but refused the red poppy.

Poppies made by LHPF and displayed by Poppy Scotland
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Filed under Housing, Poverty, War