30 Dec 2014

Growthism: "Capital in the Twenty-first Century" by Thomas Piketty

Great commentary by Rupert Read on Thomas Piketty’s "Capital in the Twenty-first Century"and its "growthism". He writes that one limitation of Piketty’s political economy "has already been fairly widely commented on: Piketty’s almost complete failure, after a promising start in chapter 1 of his book, to analyse his subject in relation to Marxian questions of class or exploitation. I will focus here, however, on the other fatal absence from Piketty’s political economy: his failure to take seriously the ecological limits to growth."

18 Oct 2014

Courgette and Feta Fritters

Riverford recipe

Mancala board game

The Mancala 'board' is made up of two rows of six holes, or pits, each. If you don't have a Mancala board handy, an empty egg carton will do.

21 Sep 2014

Naomi Klein: "Capitalism vs the Climate"

Naomi Klein on Need for New Economic Model to Address Ecological Crisis on Democracy Now! 

In the beginning was the Gift

We are born helpless infants, creatures of pure need with little resource to give, yet we are fed, we are protected, we are clothed and held and soothed, without having done anything to deserve it, without offering anything in exchange. This experience, common to everyone who has made it past childhood, informs some of our deepest spiritual intuitions. Our lives are given us; therefore, our default state is gratitude. ...

16 Sep 2014

UK GDP per capita 2013

The latest CIA World Factbook estimate of UK GDP per capita per year, which is for 2013, says it is $37,300, which is just over £23,000.

7 Sep 2014

contractionism.org - Frank Rotering's Economics of Needs and Limits

Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist. - Kenneth Boulding (18 January 1910 – 18 March 1993), economist, educator, poet, religious mystic and devoted Quaker

Face to Face with Frank Rotering and the Contractionary Revolution

6 Sep 2014

Paris Nov-Dec 2015: United Nations Climate Change Conference

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21 or CMP11 will be held at Le Bourget from 30 November to 11 December 2015. 

12 Aug 2014

Britain's five richest families own more than poorest 20% - Oxfam

In a report, a Tale of Two Britains, Oxfam said the poorest 20% in the UK had wealth totalling £28.1bn – an average of £2,230 each. The latest rich list from Forbes magazine showed that the five top UK entries – the family of the Duke of Westminster, David and Simon Reuben, the Hinduja brothers, the Cadogan family, and Sports Direct retail boss Mike Ashley – between them had property, savings and other assets worth £28.2bn.

9 Aug 2014

NVC and social change at Rainbow Mill camp

I'm looking forward to camp and I'd like to give advance notice of a request for a workshop on NVC and social change. I have initiated discussions about this at each of the past Rainbow Mill camps. I'd like to clarify what I’d like from such a discussion this year, should we find the time and space and willingness to do it again.

5 Aug 2014

3 Aug 2014

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

The TTIP is a free trade deal currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. The implications of the TTIP are as follows:  The most insidious threat is Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), under which corporations would be able to sue governments in secret international tribunals run by corporate lawyers for any measure the government had enacted causing them loss of profits.  Private providers of public services would have recourse to the tribunals. This would make it impossible for future governments to reverse the privatisation of the NHS set in motion by the Health and Social Care Act.

2 Aug 2014

Quaker pacifism

There is an old joke about Quaker pacifism in action. It seems there was once a Quaker farmer who could not get his mule to move, no matter how he cajoled, pushed, or pulled. Finally, he looked the mule straight in the eye and addressed him by name. "Josiah," he said, "Thee knows I shall never curse thee, and thee knows I shall never strike thee; but if thee doesn't start moving this very instant, I shall sell thee to a Baptist who will!" Of course, the mule began moving immediately, being an animal of great wit and sagacity.

31 Jul 2014

Robert Mugabe - worst dictator in Africa?

This is an old post from when Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe was being seen as the worst dictator in Africa in about 2008.

30 Jul 2014

Disability, Let's Talk About The Barriers

The Fabian Women's Network invited Disability Rights UK to send someone along to their event to discuss and debate “Disability, Let's Talk About The Barriers”, so I went, and I did. And wrote it up here.

26 Jul 2014

Short story for Ewan McIan

Once upon a time in the far away land of Qari, there ruled an evil tyrant called Hussain Saddam. The Just Warriors made war on him and destroyed him and the land of Qari. After the war the Rebok-prize-winning novelist, Ewan McIan, wrote: “I had great ambivalences about the Qari war. The left-winger in me made it difficult to protest against the removal of a fascist dictator.” (Guardian interview Saturday 18 August 2007)

Matt Ridley - Northern Rock - collapse of neoliberal capitalism

This is on the death of the theory and the practice of neoliberal capitalism, and is by George Monbiot in The Guardian on Thursday 24 July 2014 on the Nature Capital Agenda gobbledygook, which is also on YouTube if you like to listen rather than read.

25 Jul 2014

Children and Families Act 2014

The Act makes changes for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) in England. Local councils will have to draw up an education, health and care (EHC) plan instead of a statement of SEN, publish a 'local offer' of services and can offer a personal budget covering SEN provision for children with an EHC Plan.

23 Jul 2014

PIP 20 metre rule case

High Court challenge to PIP mobility 20 metre rule fails. Judge finds gov consultation was not unfair or unlawful bit.ly/WCnUEL

The court case at Birmingham High Court on Wed 16 July was unsuccessful. But there were some interesting exerts from government documents released in the judgement. That includes the submission made to Ministers by civil servants to summarize the responses to the mobility criteria consultation. 

Having noted the impact of the loss of benefit on disabled claimants, it said (at paragraph 64): “… [T]his was recognised from the outset. In developing the PIP assessment we were aware that the vast majority of recipients of DLA were individuals with genuine health conditions and disabilities and genuine need, and that removing or reducing that benefit may affect their daily lives. However, we believe that these impacts can be justified as being a logical result of distributing limited resources in a different and more sustainable way…” [emphasis added]

18 Jul 2014

The tendency of the rate of profit to fall

Example in Socialist Review goes something like this. I've adapted it to help me understand it and have got utterly confused: see Notes below.

15 Jul 2014

Conservative Government hails “huge benefits” of trade unions

Trade unions have given  “huge benefits” to the British economy, said Conservative Government Business, Innovation and Skills Spokesperson Lord Popat in Parliament on Monday 7 July 2014. Here is my letter published on 25 July in the Essex County Standard. It was in a big red box (for emphasis, not socialism or for being wrong!).

8 Jul 2014

Mentally ill people hounded by DWP

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, Tuesday 8 July 2014: Ministers promise 'parity of esteem' for mental and physical health services. Instead the reality is scandalous cruelty ... “Neglect of the mentally ill is bad enough, but now consider how the Department for Work and Pensions deliberately torments them … Letters are sent to the vulnerable who don't legally have to come in, but in such ambiguous wording that they look like an order to attend. Tricks are played: those ending their contributory entitlement to a year on ESA need to fill in a form for income-based ESA. But jobcentres are forbidden to stock those forms. These ill people's benefits are suddenly stopped without explanation: if they call, they're told to collect a form from the jobcentre, which doesn't stock them either. If someone calls to query an appointment they are told they will be sanctioned if they don't turn up. 

6 Jul 2014

World War One - the warring cousins

In 1914 the rulers of the world's three greatest nations were all first cousins: they were all grandchildren of Queen Victoria.
  • King George V of Great Britain
  • Tsar Nicholas II of Russia
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany

As the BBC History page says, Queen Victoria was sometimes called the Grandmamma of Europe, and there was hardly a Continental court that did not boast at least one of her relations. During World War One there were no less than seven of the old Queen's direct descendants, and two more of her Coburg relations, on European thrones.

World War One was like a feud among a band of warring brothers: imperialists rather than the capitalists that Marx was referring to when he coined the phrase.

2 Jul 2014

Ram Dass on judgement

When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees.  And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever.  And you look at the tree and you allow it.  You appreciate it.  You see why it is the way it is.  You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way.  And you don’t get all emotional about it.  You just allow it.  You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that.  And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.”  That judging mind comes in.  And so I practice turning people into trees.  Which means appreciating them just the way they are. 

1 Jul 2014

Public sector good, private sector bad, admits Tory Gov!

The DWP press release for the launch on 30 June 2014 of the new Child Maintenance Service, which is under the direct control of the government, includes the following:

Chaos at the DWP

  • after £612 million being spent, including £131 million written off or written down, the introduction of Universal Credit is now years behind schedule 
  • the Minister of State for Disabled People admitted to the Work and Pensions Committee on 11 June 2014 that over 700,000 people are still waiting for a Work Capability Assessment
  • the Office for Budget Responsibility in March 2014 found that projected spending on Employment and Support Allowance has risen by £800 million since December
  • the Committee of Public Accounts in its First Report, HC 280, found that Personal Independence Payment delays have created uncertainty, stress and financial costs for disabled people and additional budgetary pressures for Government
  • the Work Programme has failed to meet its targets
  • the unfair bedroom tax risks costing more than it saves

26 Jun 2014

We will all benefit - StingRadio - My radio interview

My radio interview on Tuesday 24 June is at http://www.mixcloud.com/StingRadio/stingradio-show-24062014/
It starts at 36.45 minutes and ends at 45.35 and is followed by one with David Bryceland of Oxfordshire MIND (who I know and have worked with) which lasts till 48.40.
Part of the We will all benefit Campaign (not to be confused with Who Benefits).

money wasted building "bigger, better" roads

Think of all the money our councils have wasted over the years by building "bigger, better" roads — and they're still not cured of the "disease". We've spent 50 years trying to emulate the US (and now nearly everyone in Britain drives to shop "out of town"), only for the Americans to show us it's been a huge waste of time and cash.

15 Jun 2014

The World is My Country

“The World is My Country” is Peace News' poster exhibition and speaking tour to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War. It highlights the history and stories of the people and organisations that opposed the conflict: police raids, feminist peace initiatives, clandestine printing presses, striking German munitions workers and communities of resistance from Huddersfield to Hackney.

27 May 2014

The slippery slope fallacy and charging for NHS prescriptions

The slippery slope fallacy is a way of ridiculing an argument that says, “If we allow A to happen then Z will eventually happen too, therefore A should not happen.” The typical example is, “If we allow same-sex couples to marry, then eventually we'll be allowing people to marry their parents or their pets.”

Kathryn’s curry

Serves 6.

28 Apr 2014

Chris Diskin, Economic Justice, Cambridge Quakers

Chris Diskin Talk and Supper, Economic Justice, Hartington Grove Meeting House, Cambridge , Sat 3 May 6pm
Chris Diskin, Economic Justice Programme Assistant at the Quaker Council for European Affairs in Brussels, is discussing his work on economic inequality and how international trade impacts on citizens’ well-being, and also on the role of Quakers at the EU during election time.
Contact Helen Bradford, helenb@quaker.org.uk, 020 7663 1071
Chris Diskin Talk (PDF, 104KB)

Mandatory Community Work Placements

UK charities were urged not to take part in the government’s new ‘workfare’ programme launched on Monday 28 April. Community Work Placements require that jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) claimants do six months work placement or risk losing their benefits. Unite calls the scheme “nothing more than forced unpaid labour”. 

18 Apr 2014

Free Webinar Tools

Gotomeeting – by citrixonline.com

WebEx web conferencing (recommended by Howard) - Cisco WebEx Online Meetings - Free 14 Day Trial

InstantTeleseminar - free 21 day trial, then from $47 a month - as used by Chris Johnstone on Active HopeBook Group webinar Thurs 20 Feb 2014.

Buzzumi - virtual meeting platform for sales and pharma and healthcare – no free trial 

17 Apr 2014

Active Hope Online Resource

Free online resource by Chris Johnstone to support people setting up Active Hope book groups or reading Active Hope with others: https://ruzuku.com/courses/4355/about

The Great Turning Times free email newsletter 

Active Hope Book Groups Facebook Group - for people involved in, or who've taken part in, a shared journey of reading Active Hope as a group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/292679187548650/ This is a private group - apply to join by clicking link in top right corner of the page.


15 Apr 2014

Local interfaith forum or network in Colchester

A Friend who is on the Quaker Christian committee for interfaith relations (I think that's right) asked me for contact details for the interfaith forum or network in Colchester, as I took part in some of their events about five or more years ago. For the record, before I forget further, it was Richard Seebohm who was the most active within Quakers with the local interfaith network at the time. He has since moved (to Oxford, I believe).

There is an Inter Faith Network for the UK – also on Facebook: but when I looked up North East Essex Faiths Forum (previously Colchester and Tendring IF Group) in their directory the link crashed.

Probably the best bet now is to contact the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Centre at Essex Uni. Father Alexander Haig of St Helen's Chapel (the Greek Orthodox Church in Colchester) was and still is involved. The other person who may be able to help is Susan Rhodes, who was for a time the Quaker contact on the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy. 

14 Apr 2014

7 Apr 2014

JSA Sanctions not working

“The number of JSA Sanctions are at a 12 month high, and probably the highest ever on record. Yet, we don’t even know if these Sanctions are working. There have been many examples of people being sanctioned and not knowing why. If the aim of a sanction is to change peoples’ behaviour then people need to know why their benefits have been stopped otherwise it is just a punitive punishment which is trying and save money.” 
Dame Anne Begg MP, Aberdeen South MP, Fri, 4 April 2014 MPs Press Release

5 Apr 2014

tomato sauce +/- soya TVP +/- fried mushrooms

Basic quick tomato sauce: 1 carton tomato passata, 1tsp sugar, half tsp oregano, bayleaf, garlic clove finely chopped (no need to fry), 1tsp veg stock powder.

3 Apr 2014

How DWP and Tribunal must define ESA-type work-related activity - My Q&A in Updates

Regulation 35 - substantial risk to the mental or physical health if found not to have ‘limited capability for work-related activity’

1 Apr 2014

My presentation on PIP and ESA to the Thalidomide Society

The Thalidomide Society AGM Agenda announcing my presentation on PIP and ESA, which I gave to an audience of about 100 people: Thalidomiders (as they say) and their carers and families. 

27 Mar 2014

Media Bias On Crimea - medialens

Prior to the March 16 referendum, the BBC website reported: 'Crimeans will vote on whether they want their autonomous republic to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.'
The title of the news report indicated the focus: 'Is Crimea's referendum legal?'
The answer: 'Ukraine and the West have dismissed the referendum as illegal and one that will be held at gunpoint, but Russia supports it.'
Legality was not an issue in BBC coverage of the January 2005 election held in Iraq under US-UK occupation. This was accepted on the main BBC evening news as 'the first democratic election in fifty years'. (David Willis, BBC1, News at Ten, January 10, 2005)
And the Iraq election was held in the middle of a ferocious war to crush resistance to occupation. Just weeks before the vote, American and British forces had subjected Iraq's third city, Fallujah, to all-out assault leaving 70 per cent of houses and shops destroyed, and at least 800 civilians dead.

Voting At Gunpoint - The Jaw-Dropping Media Bias On Crimea by David Edwards - medialens

Green Party Autumn 2013 conference

Poster for the Food Poverty and Benefits Cuts at the Green Party Autumn 2013 conference where I was a main speaker on austerity cuts to social security, alongside Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, and A Girl Called Jack.

25 Mar 2014

Disability Rights UK webinar videos for advisers on Mandatory Reconsideration

Here is a link to my webinar which covers:
  1. the rules about mandatory reconsideration
  2. problems with mandatory reconsideration
  3. potential remedies and challenges to these problems
It is designed for support workers and advisers and anyone in the voluntary sector who is advising and assisting claimants with challenging decisions on social security benefits. The recording of the main presentation is in three parts, all on YouTube.

20 Mar 2014

Osborne's welfare cap is a poverty-producing policy

From New Statesman blog - 
The cap locks in these cuts for perpetuity and denudes future spending decisions of any ambition. Want to improve work incentives through changes to Universal Credit? Sure – but you have to cut elsewhere. Want to ensure people with disabilities can participate fully in society? Yes – but another group will take a hit. Think it’s a good idea to end child poverty? Why not - but others will be impoverished in the process.

20 Feb 2014

The cause of poverty - from 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'

Drink is the cause of most of the poverty,” said Slyme….
“Yes,” said Crass, agreeing with Slyme, “an ’thers plenty of ‘em wot’s too lazy to work when they can get it.  Some of the b—s who go about pleading poverty ‘ave never done a fair day’s work in all their bloody lives….”
“There’s no need for us to talk about drink or laziness, “ returned Owen, impatiently, “because they have nothing to do with the matter.  The question is, what is the cause of the life-long poverty of the majority of those who are not drunkards and who do work?  Why, if all the drunkards and won’t-works and unskilled or inefficient workers could be by some miracle transformed into sober, industrious and skilled workers tomorrow, it would, under the present conditions, be so much the worse for us, because there isn’t enough work for all now and those people by increasing the competition for what work there is, would inevitably cause a reduction of wages and a greater scarcity of employment.  The theories that drunkenness, laziness or inefficiency are the causes of poverty are so many devices invented and fostered by those who are selfishly interested in maintaining the present states of affairs, for the purpose of preventing us from discovering the real causes of our present condition.”…
“It can’t never be haltered,” interrupted old Linden.  “I don’t see no sense in all this ‘ere talk.  There’s always been rich and poor in the world, and there always will be.”…
“What do you mean by poverty, then?” asked Easton.
“What I call poverty is when people are not able to secure for themselves all the benefits of civilization; the necessaries, comforts, pleasures and refinements of life, leisure, books, theatres, pictures, music, holidays, travel, good and beautiful homes, good clothes, good and pleasant food”.
Everybody laughed.  It was so ridiculous.  The idea of the likes of them wanting or having such things!  Any doubts that any of them had entertained as to Owen’s sanity disappeared.  The man was as mad as a March hare.”

Robert Tressel:  The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1909)

15 Feb 2014


wild mushroom risotto: Good Housekeeping p140

Quorn Korma

Meal planning

Popular recipes at the Roadlesstravellers Inn

Thai curry with tofu, carrot and cauliflower

Chop carrot into matchsticks and cauliflower into small florets. heat sunflower oil. fry tofu till golden. add Thai curry paste (all in jar). fry 2 mins. add all veg and coconut milk. bring to boil, simmer 10 mins. add a bit of water if not enough liquid.

Yorkshire pudding

Yorkshire pudding for toad in the hole

Sausage and apple casserole

Grill or fry sausages till brown, chunk them and set aside. Boil potatoes till cooked. Heat oil, fry onion gently till soft, add garlic, herbs and fry 2 more mins. Add carrots and apple and fry 5 more mins. Stir in tomatos, apple juice and tomato puree. Bring to boil and simmer 15 mins. Finally, add potatoes and sausages and simmer 10-15mins.

Red cabbage casserole

Rose Elliot p133

12 Jan 2014

bean stew with paprika

Fry onion and garlic 5mins. Add tin chopped tomatoes, one tin of water, veg stock cube, carrots, pepper, mushrooms, tom puree. Simmer 30mins. Add tin kidney beans, simmer 10mins. Cook pasta, just before adding kidney beans, and mix pasta and stew when done. Add grated cheese on top and serve.

Celeriac Gratin

Finely slice celeriac, carrots and potatoes in food processor and place in large, buttered Pyrex oven dish. Heat the cream and vegetable stock to almost boiling, add finely chopped garlic, and pour over the gratin. Grate a couple of handfuls of Parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the dish and bake in oven 180C for 1.5 hours.

Banana bread