Privatisation of the Police Force

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie poke fun at the privatisation of the police force.

Accoding to The Guardian, West Midlands and Surrey police are offering a £1.5bn contract under which private firms may investigate crime and detain suspects:

The joint West Midlands/Surrey “transformation” programme, which has strong backing from the Home Office, looks set to completely redraw the accepted boundaries between public and private and the definition of frontline and back-office policing.

The programme has the potential to become the main vehicle for outsourcing police services in England and Wales. It has been pioneered by the West Midlands chief constable, Chris Sims, and Mark Rowley, who has just moved to the Metropolitan police from the post of Surrey chief constable. The pair lead on these matters for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The breathtaking list of policing activities up for grabs includes investigating crimes, detaining suspects, developing cases, responding to and investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods, managing intelligence, managing engagement with the public, as well as more traditional back-office functions, such as managing forensics, providing legal services, managing the vehicle fleet, finance and human resources.

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NHS reform: Private health industry lobbying

The government’s proposals to radically reform the NHS are being strongly opposed by doctors, nurses, unions and a majority of the public. Who then is behind them, pushing for these reforms? This short film by SpinWatch takes you on a tour of the offices of just some of the private healthcare companies, lobbying agencies and think tanks surrounding Parliament, all of which are circling the NHS, wanting a much bigger slice of its £100billion budget.

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The League of Gentlemen

 

A 1992 documentary by the brilliant Adam Curtis about the rise of Monetarism during Britain’s economis crisis in the 1970s. As countries accross Europe bow to the seemingly inexorable logic of austerity and the European Union attempts to lock in a neoliberal model of economic governance, it has lost none of its relevance.

In his most recent blog post, Curtis unearths yet more wonderful archival gems and documentery evidence of what Stuart Hall calls the ‘long march of the neoliberal revolution’.

British Muslim Fictions

By Claire Chambers

What does it mean to be a writer of Muslim heritage in the UK today? Is there such a thing as ‘Muslim fiction’? If so, is it cultural background or belief that makes writing (or identity) Muslim?

My book, British Muslim Fictions: Interviews with Contemporary Writers (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), is the first in a two-part book project, which seeks answers to these complex questions. It is a collection of conversations with writers who live or work in Britain and have an intimate relationship with Islam, whether they are religious, cultural, or even – paradoxically – atheist Muslims, and whether South Asian, Arab, African, or European.

Over thirteen interviews, I talked to Anglophone writers including Aamer Hussein, Fadia Faqir, Hanif Kureishi, Leila Aboulela, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and PULSE’s own Robin Yassin-Kassab. This is a group of writers who are highly diverse but, like a loosely connected and often discordant family, they have much in common, through their connections both to Islam and the United Kingdom. As well as discussing their literary techniques and the impact that their Muslim heritage has had on them, I became increasingly persuaded that this body of writing shares certain preoccupations (relating to gender, class, the war on terror, al-Andalus, the Rushdie Affair, and a cosmopolitan outlook), and is some of the most important and politically engaged fiction of recent years.

As you can tell from my name, I am not from a Muslim background myself, although I was fortunate enough to grow up in Leeds in West Yorkshire, surrounded by many South Asian Muslim friends. As clichéd as it may sound, my worldview has also been crucially shaped by my gap year, 1993-94, which I spent teaching English in Peshawar, Pakistan, at the age of eighteen. I went on to specialize in South Asian literature in English as a postgraduate student, and continue to fuel my interest by return visits to the Indian subcontinent and by working with diasporic communities.

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The wonderful world of Tony Blair

Britain’s most fearless investigative journalist Peter Oborne follows up his excellent work exposing Britain’s Israel lobby and the Murdoch empire with another devastating documentary about the myriad conflicts of interest of the execrable Tony Blair. (Also see Ali Abunimah’s piece on Blair’s myriad shady dealings).

International viewers can watch the documentary below:

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Ten years too long: What is the True Cost of the Afghanistan War?

Narrated by Tony Benn, with music by Brian Eno. The clip ends with a call to join the Antiwar Mass Assembly in Trafalgar Square on 8 October: http://www.antiwarassembly.org

DSEi: playground of the power elite

by Brenda Heard

DSEi 2009: Guy Tinsley of the Nottingham-based branch of Heckler & Koch, a German arms manufacturer

The images have become commonplace.  Pick-up trucks laden with rocket launchers and machine guns.  Dusty men with their rifles, poised as so many Rambo’s.  Billows of smoke that linger after the bomber has flown on to its next target.  These are the images of contemporary conflict.  Differences of socio-political opinion are settled by bloody confrontation.

True, violent conflict is as old as mankind itself.  True, self-defence is a necessity, even a responsibility.  But the business of war has become the norm rather than the exception.  The significance of this development lies not merely in the multitude of violent and unnecessary deaths—but more so in our readily viewing this reality with a novel brand of bold nonchalance.

In business-speak for international arms dealing, DSEi—Defence & Security Equipment International—boasts that its biennial exhibition ‘provides a time-effective opportunity to meet the whole defence and security supply chain’.  DSEi further promises that this year’s event will exceed attendance figures from 2009: 25,170 attendees; 1280 exhibitors; 98 countries; 70 official delegations; 27 national pavilions.   Just have a look at its slick website offering ‘infinite opportunities’ to those who would jump on the weapons carousel.

The DSEi exhibit organiser, Clarion Events, offers a patronising disclaimer:

While we would all wish to see a world in which no nation has any need of equipment for defence or peacekeeping, it is not the world we live in now.

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These riots reveal some unpalatable home truths

Author Hari Kunzru writes on the British riots in an excellent piece for The Guardian‘s Comment is free:

In a society that has abandoned or devalued most forms of mutual assistance in favour of a solipsistic entrepreneurialism, it’s hardly surprising that, faced with the end of the good times, people help themselves. Fear and greed are our ruling passions. That’s true of the kids smashing shop windows to steal trainers. It’s also true of the MPs fiddling their expenses, the police officers taking backhanders, the journalists breaking into phones. Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t any of us? The example has been set by our new masters, the one per cent for whom and by whom we’re governed. The ability of powerful actors in the financial markets to socialise risk while privatising profit appears, to the financial peasantry, indistinguishable from organised crime. No reason for the rest of us to stand on ceremony.

One may object to this rhetoric (bankers = looters) on the grounds that markets have social utility, or that bankers don’t beat up shopkeepers (they don’t have to) and sometimes give to charity. One may also feel that any attempt to understand the rioters’ motivations risks shading into justification. The strongest objection to any argument based on social conditions is the oft-made one about individual responsibility: whatever the prevailing economic or social situation, not everyone chooses to behave in a particular way, whether that’s insider trading or knocking over Evans Cycles. However, it’s hard not to think we’ve made a culture in which the strong and swift are encouraged to feel they bear no responsibility towards the halt and lame. Now, as the wheels fall off the global financial system, fear and greed are free to roam unchecked, without bothering to mask their faces.

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Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq

John Pilger’s 2000 documentary on the effects of economic sanctions on Iraq remains an important testament to the pre-Iraq war history of international crimes against the Iraqi people.

Following footage of George H.W. Bush’s convincing announcement that “You, the people of Iraq, are not our enemy. We do not seek your destruction,” Pilger narrates from Iraq:

What happens when modern civilized life is taken away? Imagine all the things we take for granted are suddenly not available, or severely limited: clean water, fresh food, soap, paper, pencils, books, light bulbs, life-saving drugs. Telephone calls to the outside world are extremely difficult, computers no longer work, when you fall ill you must sell your furniture to buy medicine, when you have a tooth out there’s no anesthetic. No country will trade with yours, and your money is almost worthless. Soon your children become beggars. It’s as if the world has condemned your whole society to a slow death, and all because of a dispute between governments over which you have no control. That’s what has happened here in Iraq, where almost 10 years of extraordinary isolation, imposed by the U.N. and enforced by America and Britain, have killed more people than the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, including half a million young children.”

Pilger’s latest documentary, “The War You Don’t See”—an investigation into the media’s role in war—can be viewed online (outside of Australia) for $4.99.

There is a context to London’s riots that can’t be ignored

Police in riot gear in Enfield, north London, on Sunday night (Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)

Nina Power, senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University, writes in The Guardian:

Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.

As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as “social problems” (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.

Continue reading “There is a context to London’s riots that can’t be ignored”

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