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.
First, 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…
Iain Duncan Smith says:
This government has embarked on one of the most aggressive programmes of welfare reform Britain has ever seen, and we already have a proud record of achievement. There is no doubt that changes to the welfare state are desperately needed. Our reforms will put an end to people being left on sickness benefits year after year; they will eradicate the trap that has left so many better off on benefits than in work; and they will ensure the benefits bill is sustainable over the longer term.
For example, someone like Steve, permanently disabled since an accident thirteen years ago:
I suffer from fibromyalgia, depression, severe pain in the lower back and neck and constantly have to have pain relief. My left leg is useless as a leg, and will if I don’t watch it get caught under my own wheelchair wheels as I’m not always aware of where it is. My right leg is better but standing upright, for even a few seconds’ causes a massive increase in pain then, I collapse and have even passed out.
Today, people who are sick or disabled become eligible for mandatory workfare placements.
Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, says that forcing people to work for no pay is “a very good way to increase someone’s confidence” and claimed that
“People on sickness benefits who do all they can to improve their chances of moving back into a job have nothing to worry about.
“They will get their benefits and we will do all we can to help. But in the small number of cases where people refuse to stick to their part of the bargain, it’s only right there are consequences.”
The consequences are an open-ended sanction – benefits-cut – for someone who, from the perspective of the Work Programme, has been declared fit for work but refuses to do a “work placement”. The open-ended period during which a “fit for work” client must do without benefits will end when “the claimant meets the requirements” – agrees to go work for their benefits, but the open-ended sanction is followed by “a short fixed period of 1, 2 or 4 weeks”.
So for the first week (or first four weeks) of the unpaid and indefinite work placement, the client will still have their benefits cut. After they’ve worked for a week or more for no money, they can get their benefits back – assuming they’re still alive.
Last night on Question Time, Owen Jones got Iain Duncan Smith to lose his temper.
Professional politicians don’t usually lose their temper in public except as a calculated electoral shtick. I think IDS just got genuinely angry.
Avedon Carol writes about co-optation to try to fight for the “more liberal” of two not-really-opposing bad policy proposals, which usually come in the same package:
Like, say, maybe some sort of choice between a big “tweak” and a very slightly smaller “tweak” that only kills 9/10 as many people as the larger “tweak” will. Or maybe creating a fight over raising the age of retirement even further, so that you’re fighting over 69 or 70. Are any of those proposals acceptable? No, of course not. But if they are suddenly on the table, we will see people allowing such a fight to become the fight, as if lowering the retirement age back down to where it used to be (or even lower) wasn’t even conceivable. It is conceivable, dammit, and for every nasty proposal, there should be a counter-proposal that goes farther in the other direction than politicians have been willing to talk about. They want to raise the retirement age? We want it lowered to 55. They want to change the calculation for the costs of living? We want to change it so that the amount is higher rather than lower. They want cuts? We want the cap eliminated. Don’t even argue about this crap – just go in the other direction. Continue reading
Which member of the Privy Council is best qualified to be Chancellor of the Exchequer? It is not, obviously, George Osborne, who famously doesn’t even have O-grade maths and who is driving the UK into double-dip recession because he has no notion about economics beyond “tax cuts for the rich=GOOD”.
Oddly enough in a Tory Cabinet, it’s actually a comprehensive-school kid from Wales.
Maria Lewis went to Brynteg Comprehensive School/Ysgol Gyfun Brynteg in Bridgend and took a BSc in Economics at the LSE. (When she married Iain Miller in 1990 she took his surname and has stood for election as Maria Miller ever since.) She isn’t a crony of Cameron from the Bullingdon Club (they don’t let girls in), she didn’t go to Oxbridge, she wasn’t privately educated, and she didn’t marry into the web of privilege: she will never be one of the Secret Seven. I imagine as a member of the Conservative Party since she was 19 she’s got used to that kind of thing.
Maria Miller has been MP for Basingstoke since 2005. As she was born in 1964 she’ll be aware that to David Cameron (born 1966), she has a useful life only to 2018, even if the Tories scrape a win in 2015: Caroline Spelman was sacked in the reshuffle for being too old at 54.
Yesterday, two members of Abort67 won the right to continue to harass and intimdate women entering in a clinic in Wales. In the US this is called “sidewalk picketing” – harass enough women going into the clinic, the thinking of the prolifers is, and maybe one of the women will be scared or shocked or horrified out of deciding to have an abortion. Most women will of course just find these prolifers making a bad day even worse, but if you’re virulently prolife, that’s a win too.
If this catches on in Edinburgh, we may need clinic escorts.
Today, a group of people have written a letter to the Telegraph demanding that the legacy of the Paralympics should be – guess?
More funding for organisations that help disabled children to enjoy sport?
The UK government plans to cut £1bn from the Disability Living Allowance: described over and over again as a lifeline.
(In January last year, quietly, George Osborne cut funding for the mobility component of DLA from disabled people in residential care homes, since obviously there’s no particular need in David Cameron’s eyes for a severely disabled adult ever to leave the building in which they live. The Torch Relay is to pass within “easy reach” of 95% of the UK population, but I doubt if “easy reach” was estimated with disabilities in mind.)
ATOS assess disabled people to see if they’re “fit for work”.
[Update, 11 hours later: One of the people who read this and reacted to it was Kristina Veasey, who in 2008 at the Beijing Games was Paralympic Ambassador for Amnesty International.
We talked on Twitter and I wrote an update: see end of blog.]
The new welfare system takes for granted that all claimants are scroungers and cheats who need to be penalised. Political Scrapbook:
The £1.1 billion cost of fraud (a modest 0.7% of the total benefits spend) averages out to £59 across 18.5 million claimants. In contrast, MPs were ordered to pay back £1.2 million in the wake of Thomas Legg’s inquiry into expenses, an average of £1,858 for the 646 members of the Commons.
Especially if the claimant supposedly has a “disability” and yet doesn’t fill in their ESA50 (Limited capability for work questionnaire). The claimant’s wife contacts ATOS and offers as an excuse that the claimant is in a coma, and presents a letter from the hospital where the claimant is staying which confirms that the claimant is in a coma, but really: if you don’t fill in your ESA50 yourself, or at least check and sign it, you are obviously a scrounger and a fraud.
Employment and Support Allowance focuses on the patient’s abilities – on what they can do rather than what they cannot. The overarching principle of Employment and Support Allowance is that everyone should have the opportunity to work and that people with an illness or disability should get the help and support necessary for them to engage in appropriate work, if they are able. It builds on the successful “Pathways to Work” programme, which is now available nationally. We are investing in every region to ensure that a range of services is available for your patients, including condition management programmes specifically designed to help your patients manage their conditions in preparation for a return to work.
Obviously a patient in a coma who is capable of defrauding DWP should have the opportunity to engage in appropriate work. Minister for Employment, maybe?
Filed under Housing, Poverty