What do you suppose happens in a Tory's life to leave them with such miserable opinions? Maybe we need to intervene, and start offering free cuddles on the NHS as a preventative measure against Conservatism. A kindly old lady will come to your house after dinner, stroke your hair, and tell you that everything's going to be okay. According to some calculations I did in my mind while touching myself this morning, this one single intervention will see Tory, UKIP and EDL membership decrease by an impressive 82% within 12 months. It really does make you think, doesn't it.

There's one particular joyless sentiment that is increasing coming from the Tory party: British workers are not efficient. We are overpaid, and don't work enough hours. This makes us unproductive, and this needs to change. It's spilling out into general discourse, too:



They claim that the problem with our extravagantly high wages is that it doesn't make us competitive in a world market place. The solution is to take a pay cut, and to work for longer. Which makes sense, because of course, if everyone's at work all the time then it won't matter if we're being paid less, because when would we have the time to spend it?

In fact, the perfect system would be one where we worked infinity hours, and paid for the privilege. This would allow business to maintain that competitive edge, and would also encourage workers to take a second job to pay for the first one, thus making us even more competitive and attractive to business. It's basically maths, really.

Of course I'm being facetious, because the evidence is actually strongly in their favour: our European neighbours are FAR more competitive. For example, did you know that Amazon Luxembourg employs a measly 134 people, but generated a turnover of £6.5bn? By contrast, Amazon UK employed a whopping 2,265 people - and yet, even with all those extra workers, they reported a turnover of just £147m! Some argue this is because Amazon are dodging tax, but I think it's far more likely that British workers are lazy, and people from Luxembourg are just REALLY good at putting DVDs into envelopes.

I've noticed that the Tories always have a specific country they want us to stay competitive with: China. China... the Communist dictatorship.

They're a brutal repressive dictatorship, poor wages, no workers rights, state executions, where people are treated basically like battery-farmed slaves. Compassionate people look at China as an example of how not to run a country. Tories, on the other hand, look at them and go "They're a bloody inspiration! Role models, they are. Well, they might be doing something right. After all, you never hear anyone complain! Well, you never hear them complain more than once, anyway..."

And the Tories are right: in terms of pure productivity, China is better. But one of the wonderful things about freedom and democracy is that, in the West, we have other benchmarks by which to judge success. For example: toilet breaks. Three meals a day. Holidays. Human happiness. And I know what you're thinking: "Aah, but in an age of austerity, are toilet breaks a luxury we can't afford?" It's a good point. We do need to stay competitive. I suppose that the ultimate Tory policy is for every office chair to be replaced with a business-grade commode, eliminating those wasteful minutes it takes to walk between the loo and back.

For me, the weirdest thing about this whole argument is that whenever the left suggests socialism, "We'd end up like China" has always been the right-wing rebuttal. "Oh you want socialism do you? What you want us to be like China?" NO! Of course not! But apparently you do!

========================

When Tories say we need to work more hours for less money, they obviously mean other people. Poor people. Working class people. Because you very rarely hear Tory MPs take to the microphone and say "Do you know what? I rather think I have too much money."

"I woke up today in my charming five-bedroom country cottage, and thought to myself "It's no wonder I'm so corrupt, when I'm paid so much money. What the House of Commons needs is the free market. Put it out to tender. After all, there are Chinese people who would be willing to do my job for a third of the wage. Right, first thing tomorrow I'm going to march right up to the Prime Minister and demand he cut my salary. It's the patriotic thing to do.

Actually, MPs did do something similar to this recently. And when I say similar, I mean "the opposite". A few months back MPs were demanding a pay rise, to bring them in line with the civil service. You'd think for logical consistency, they'd actually be arguing that the civil service take a pay cut. But for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, working more hours for less money doesn't seem to apply to rich people. Pay cuts, misery and exploitation are something that poor people, and only poor people, need to suffer if the UK is to stay competitive. It's almost as if rich people have a hidden agenda to get even richer.

More than anything, I think this quite nicely shows the difference between left and right. Left-wing people join campaigns to improve the rights of workers worldwide, and to build a world based on love and fun. Right wing people try to bring everyone's conditions down, and turn the UK into one huge sweatshop. The only things that matter are growth, productivity, and even more wealth for the wealthy. Can you imagine having a life philosophy where happiness, spare time and joy don't even get a mention?

Grandma-cuddles on the NHS. I'm telling you: it's the only hope we've got left.
If I went into the supermarket, bought every pint of milk, and publicly poured it down the drain so that everyone was fully aware that there was no milk left for anyone else, what would people think of me? Some might think it was a situationist satire on Thatcher, but mostly people would just think I was a dickhead. But if I then said "Oh, don't worry, what I'm doing is perfectly legal, and besides, by buying all the milk I've helped support the economy", do you suppose people would forgive me and accept my justification? Of course not. It's irrelevant. People can see I'm doing a selfish thing, and would rightly hate me for it.

In 2011, Google made £395 million in the UK, but paid only £6m in corporation tax. This is another very selfish thing to do - but when it isn't happening right in front of you, it can be a lot easier to be fooled by unrelated excuses.

For example, Google chairman Eric Schmidt justifies his company's tax avoidance by saying "Of course, that omits the fact that we also hire more than 2,000 employees and are investing heavily in Britain."

Well, yes, that does omit it - because it's completely irrelevant. That's like saying to your partner "Sure, I had an affair. I cheated on you after five years of marriage. But that omits the fact that I've done the washing up every day for a year!"

Just because you've done good things, like creating jobs, doesn't mean you've earned yourself a license to do bad things. Especially when those good deeds are just a consequence of business. Google didn't employ those 2,000 people out of charity; they employed them so they could make more money. Don't use your job creation as a way to justify your tax dodging, as if you've built up a store of brownie points for good behaviour that you can cash in when you want to be a prick. "Well, we created 2,000 jobs, we've given businesses the tools they need to be more productive, and we've invested heavily in infrastructure. Quite frankly, I think we've earned the right to cover the sun up with a big sheet of metal, and charge people for sunlight on a pay-as-you-go basis."

Good deeds don't buy you the right to do bad deeds. If it did, we'd have a system where you could apply to commit crimes if you were willing to do the time in advance. People would book an appointment with the local judge, to ask "I want to rob the Apple store of all their iPads, so can I do, like, four years in jail please?". (The advantage of that system would be that because you'll get the iPads AFTER the jail time, you get to enjoy the iPads while they're still technologically relevant. If you steal them first and THEN do the jail time, they'll be obsolete by the time you're out, which is clearly a waste of everyone's time. Under this new system, we could finally make crime pay again. Like in the olden days when Great Britain was truly Great.)

Besides which: sure, you employed 2,000 people. That's definitely a good thing. But do you know how those 2,000 people got their education? Do you know how they were kept alive when they fell ill? How they were kept safe? You can thank schools, hospitals, the police and fire-fighters for that. We pay for those through tax - the very same tax that Google avoids paying. We all pay tax so that the next generation can benefit in the same way we did. If you're not willing to pay your share to make the world run nicely, like everyone else, you shouldn't be allowed to make profit here in the first place.

Schmidt used another excuse. "We empower literally billions of pounds of start-ups through our advertising network and so forth. And we're a key part of the electronic commerce expansion of Britain which is driving a lot of economic growth for the country." That's true. But again, Google didn't do this because it is a charitable organisation. It did it because it was able to make vast profits - profits it then sends to Bermuda. "The amount moved to Bermuda is equivalent to about 80 percent of Google’s total pre-tax profit in 2011. " It's about a trillion times worse than pouring all the milk down the drain - but when it happens behind closed doors, it's not as immediately obvious to see just how utterly selfish it is.

There is one other unrelated excuse that tax avoiders trot out, which is that tax avoidance is perfectly legal. Schmidt said the arrangements "fully comply with the law". Actually, you can debate that. The whole point of tax loopholes is that you're getting around the law by being creative in some legal grey areas. The system wasn't designed with the loophole in mind. You're exploiting flaws in the system for personal gain. But even putting that aside: forget about legality. Stop justifying your filthy tax avoidance by saying it's legal. No-one, at any point, is claiming that what you're doing is illegal. We're saying that what you're doing makes you look like a twat. And when you look at the schools, hospitals and libraries that are losing funding because the government doesn't have enough money, I think Eric Schmidt would have a far more difficult time arguing his way out of that one.

Picture by GiselaGiardino on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.
Considering how utterly absent their insider intelligence appears to be, I honestly believe that activists don't need to be scared of the police. For example, I've talked before about a friend who, at a UK Uncut protest, was asked by a policeman "So, er, where are you all planning on going next, then?"

Wow. That's some super-subtle intelligence gathering, right there. "Where are we off to? Oh, probably just to commit some crimes. You know: about the place. Nowhere specific. Just wherever there's an opportunity for illegal hijinks."

Today the police are asking anyone who plans to protest against Margaret Thatcher to "make themselves known" so that "their right to protest can be upheld", which is awfully kind of them. Always putting protesters first, before their own considerations.

Some of those protests will involve parties. Now, you will have your own opinions about whether a party is appropriate. As it happens, I think a party would be rather tasteless, but thank Christ that it isn't a crime to lack taste. If it was, my iTunes collection would have got me 40-to-life many years ago.

(I could have also said that throwing a party was rather classless, but I refuse to let Thatcher win that easily.)

Tony Blair also thinks that a party to celebrate Thatcher's death would be tasteless. Personally, I think it's tasteless to murder a hundred thousand innocent people in Iraq, but I suppose we all have our own moral compass.

But I digress: I wish no human any harm, and I hope her passing away was peaceful and painless. I also believe that that her acquaintance with dictators led to the deaths of thousands of people, her ideology led to the destruction of countless communities, and her policies helped turn us from a nation of sharing and compassion into a nation of spite. The people whose lives she ruined view her as a tyrant, and if those people want to celebrate the fact that there is one less awful person in the world, I have no problem with that. Personally, I'll celebrate not when one person passes away, but when we overthrow neoliberalism. (For those curious, I've pencilled that into my diary for mid-October, because I'm busy writing my Edinburgh show right now.)

Though if you do have a party, remember to eat lots of ice cream. She may have helped invent Mr Whippy, after all, so it's what she would have wanted.

But isn't it curious how the police ask us to let them know when we're protesting so they can "facilitate" it, yet they never ask us to let them know when we're doing other things that are perfectly legal. I want to see the police asking protesters to let them know when we're popping to Sainsbury's, so they can facilitate our right to buy Kinder Eggs, or to inform them when we're thinking of visiting our grandparents, so they can facilitate any conversations that might prompt our Nan to say something racist.

Because if protest is legal, why is it necessary to tell the police? It's true that some protests can turn violent, but then again, anything that we ever do could potentially turn violent. By that logic the police should have been stationed outside cinemas when the first new Star Wars film was released. Where were the riot vans on standby when people saw Jar Jar Binks for the first time? That shit can make you go from 0 to Violent in a second.

A good protest would be for us to choose a day in which we all constantly tell the police everything we're about to do, so that they can safely facilitate it. "Hello, Metropolitan Police? I'm just about to do some DIY. There's a chance I might accidentally put a nail through my finger, so I was hoping you could come and facilitate me building this cupboard. Actually, I need to go to Ikea to buy it, and that bloody shop feels like it could turn into a riot at any minute. Just thought I should let you know, so that you can facilitate my purchase."

"Oh, and I haven't put in my contact lenses yet, but there's a danger I might poke myself in the eye. Who knows whether a slip of the finger will escalate into all-out war. I trust you'll be able to facilitate me in the bathroom?"

"Hello, Metropolitan Police? I'm going to make love to my husband later tonight. Now, I'm sure you know how he loves to be whipped and spanked, cos you'll have seen it in our internet history that you've been listening in on, but you must know how BDSM can go wrong. At the very least there's a danger of cramp. Any chance you could send round a few police constables? Yes, in uniform."

I also like how the police claim to have police spies and informants deep within a whole load of protest groups, and yet they don't even know which protesters are planning to have a party at the weekend. They know so little that they have to ask the protest groups they're supposed to be spying on! Their spies must be the least popular people in the group they've infiltrated. From now on I guess we can all spot the police spy, because they'll be the ones no-one invites to parties.

The police say they're worried that protesters will ruin the funeral. Ruin, improve, we can debate over terminology all day, but surely we can all agree that a good way to tell whether a leader was popular with the working classes is to see how many people feel the need to celebrate her passing away. Actually, maybe a better way to tell how popular a leader was is to see how many armed guards need to look after her casket.

But anyway, "Downing Street said it would only confirm how much the funeral will cost the public once it has taken place." You know: like all good democracies.

Thatcher was, of course, very pro-private finance, and abhorred state spending. Who knows whether she would have felt comfortable with the lavish funeral being put on at taxpayer's expense, the state funeral in everything but name.

But in a way, it is exactly what she would have wanted. The funeral has zero democratic accountability. The police will be stopping people from expressing themselves. The theme is a celebration of war. Or a celebration of murder, depending on your world-view. Maybe she would have preferred the funeral be funded privately. But in terms of the respect the procession will have for democracy and freedom of protest, I think it's exactly what she would have wanted.

Picture by Danny Birchall, used under a Creative Commons license.

Lolitics Podcast - Episode 5!

Great news for anyone who likes fun: there's a new episode of my podcast!

This is a recording from Lolitics, my political comedy club in Camden, on 19th Feb 2013, with stand-up from me, Tiernan Douieb, Robin Ince, Mark Stephenson, Josie Long and Kate Smurthwaite. Imagine getting that for free. WELL IMAGINE NO LONGER!

Download Episode 5 directly here!

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes here!

Subscribe to the podcast in non-iTunes here!

If you like the podcast, there's some things you can do to support it:

- Come to the gig in real life! It's on the 3rd Tuesday of every month.
- Give us a lovely iTunes review.
- If you really enjoyed it, go to chriscoltrane.com, click the PayPal button, and donate some currency. Anything you can spare goes on paying my hosting bill, and stops this from being a loss-making operation!
- And most importantly please share the podcast with as many people as you can! Tweet this link, Facebook it, email it to people you think might like it. I'd be so, so, so grateful if you did.
- Oh, and follow me on Twitter! I'm @chris_coltrane. If you liked it, send me a tweet to say hi, it's always nice to know who's listening!
Last Friday I took part in the protest outside the offices of Atos, the company who won the contract to decide whether disabled people are disabled enough to receive benefits.

In the UK, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced with the controversial Personal Independent Payment (PIP). DLA fraud stands at a paltry 0.5%. Nevertheless, the government wants to bring fraud to an end. To do this, the government has commissioned Atos to remove the new PIP from 20% of disability claimants. Which is a bit like punishing one child from skipping football by setting fire to the gym.

Of course, a far higher percentage than 0.5% of MPs were found to be cheating their expenses. But it would be wrong to punish MPs, because, you know. Because. Wait, what was my point again?

The consequences of Atos's decisions are sickening. My friend Polly has a severe form of Crohn's disease. She's been given countless different medications, and operations to remove parts of her small intestine. In fact, her Crohn's is so resistant to the strongest medications and surgery available that she was referred to an experimental chemotherapy and stem cell transplant medical trial. If Crohn's were a video game, she is playing it on hardest difficulty, with no cheat codes and a broken controller.

Atos sent a doctor to assess whether she could re-qualify for benefits. On arrival, he told her that he'd never heard of Crohn's Disease. Forgive me for being pedantic, but a doctor who hasn't heard of Crohn's Disease isn't a doctor. That's like a dentist who hasn't heard of gums, or a plumber that's never heard of pipes. Imagine police officers coming to your house after your telly has been stolen, only to find that they'd never heard of "burglary". They then suggest that you shouldn't complain because you've got enough possessions to be getting on with, after which they hand you a bill for wasting police time, and make you work in Poundland for free to pay it off.

I had heard rumours that Atos doctors mark people down if their illness isn't visible. Which seemed ludicrous even for Atos. As if the only three kind of illnesses are eczema, nosebleeds and an unfortunate haircut. Cancer? Look mate, unless you've got cancer of the face, we're not interested. Get back to work!

Sadly, Polly has confirmed the rumour. One of the very few notes the Atos doctor wrote was "No obvious external signs of generalised systemic disease found". Because for most people, their intestines are an external organ. Fashionistas like to stylishly wrap them around their hips, like a kind of pulsating belt. I hear the trend in Milan this season is to wear your intestines as a scarf, to keep your neck warm.

I reckon the doctor was there on a workfare scheme. Perhaps even the people who set the criteria for what constitutes as an illness are unqualified workfare temps. That might explain why we suddenly seem to have forgotten the past 150 years of medical and social progress, and are instead guessing whether someone is ill based on whether they can raise their arms, and walk five metres. (Those are genuinely the only two physical tests Polly's Atos doctor used to see if she was disabled.)

Atos must have just told the doctor to learn medicine on the job. It's obvious if they're ill: just look for open wounds. If you can't see directly into their heart, they're good for work. Accept nothing less than four missing limbs. And if you get stuck, just remember this handy mnemonic: If The Patient Isn't Bleeding, They're Probably Misleading™.

If the aim of this exercise truly was to rid the system of the 0.5% of fraudulent claims, the government wouldn't need to give everyone such shockingly inhumane treatment. They certainly wouldn't need to take the benefit away from 19.5% of genuinely disabled people. They wouldn't need to send doctors who are woefully under-qualified. And Atos definitely wouldn't need to get their doctors to sign the Official Secrets Act to stop them from whistle-blowing.

But, like all their policies, their real motivation is not the one they claim in public. Their motivation is simply to reduce government spending, to reduce their own personal tax bill, and to sell public services to the companies they themselves own, to become even richer still. And if disabled people have to suffer, and die, to make it happen: well, who cares?

Not the Tories, that's for sure.
I'm truly amazed at how many people were outraged at UK Uncut's protest yesterday. Here are my thoughts in support of the action, in response to some of the criticisms I saw.

A politician's job isn't a harmless 9 to 5 admin job with no consequences. A politician's daily decisions have a direct impact on people's lives.

We are over two years into a government that is implementing some of the most vicious and brutal cuts in living memory. The decisions of Clegg etc can make people poorer or homeless, they can shorten their lives, they can increase their misery, and they can even kill. A poor policy can ruin the planet. It can destroy communities. It can foster sexism and racism, and it can destroy and displace families.

In short, a politician's decisions have profound consequences. When you take public office, you must accept that you wield a power that can utterly transform people's lives, for the better or for the worse.

A street party outside someone's house might be an extreme tactic if you disagreed with the way that your colleague Dave in admin filed things by date rather than by name. Dave's job is of no consequence to the world. But when your policies ruin people's lives, and when your policies have ruined people's lives and communities to this extent, and when so many other tactics have failed, I think it is reasonable for those people to make their voices heard outside that politician's house.

"The protest targeted Nick Clegg's house" screamed the headlines, as if people were smashing his windows and burning his sofa while his kids cowered in fear in the corner. IT WAS A FUCKING STREET PARTY. There was bunting and cake. There was a play section for children. There were Tory trolls on Twitter calling this an act of terrorism. With these people, a sensible dialogue is impossible.

Chances are that you are more sane, and that you just thought it was inappropriate to take a protest outside of the realm of work, to someone's house. To that argument, I say this:

Think of the horror you feel at the idea of a hundred people having a street party on Nick Clegg's street. Actually stop reading, and take ten seconds to think about what emotion that concept makes you feel.

Now think of the horror you feel at disabled people being forced to work for free if they want to keep their benefits. Think of the horror you feel at the idea of the NHS being privatised, of your healthcare being taken away from you because it isn't profitable. Think of the horror you feel at the thought of your police being privatised, of your schools being cut and your libraries closed, of your children having to go into £27,000 of debt just to get a degree – and all to pay for a financial crisis caused by banks and rich speculators, who are still dodging tens of billions of pounds in tax every year.

Again, stop reading for a second, and think about those concepts. How do they make you feel? Are you more or less outraged by those things than by the street party?

If you honestly feel that having tea-and-cake outside the house of one of the architects of the Coalition's cuts is an extremist response to all of these things, then you and I will simply never agree. Our notions of morality are too far apart for a compromise to be reached. But don't sit at your computer or phone and sneer at the activists, without doing something different yourself. Remember those emotions you felt when you thought about the cuts, the privatisation, and the tax dodgers. They're not just news stories; they're things that are actually happening in the world. If you disagree with them, do something about it.

I've been on marches, I've signed petitions, I've non-violently occupied, I've debated. I've gone to Tory HQ to give them an award for enabling tax dodging. I've tried shaming them through stand-up and street theatre, I've given out leaflets. I've visited the chief tax guy at HMRC while he was at work. And my friends and I have had small victories here and there. A cut reversed, a tax dodger boycotted.

But The Cuts are still in place. All the usual tactics have failed, and that's why the protests are escalating. If you disagree with the street party, if you genuinely think that eating cake outside Nick Clegg's house is a Step Too Far, then fine. But don't just sit there and tell other people what they should be doing instead; go and do it yourself. Step away from the internet, and go and actually physically do it.

Protests happen because people make them happen. If you think there are less extreme tactics that can still be explored, then do it. Tell us you're doing it, and we'll be there. But for Christ's sake, do it soon. We are running out of time.

And if you can't think of anything? Then I'll see you in Chipping Norton.

Photo taken by MissEllieMae on Twitter.

My Application To Write For UniLad.

You know UniLad. The website that was shut down after they posted a "joke" suggesting that men should rape women if they can't pull them, because rape conviction rates are so low that they'll probably get away with it.

UniLad took some time off to think about their actions (or more accurately, in the hope that the controversy would somehow magic itself away). And now, they're back - and hiring! According to their Twitter page:

"We're looking for banterous new writers to join our team. Give us a shout on contact@unilad.com. Cheers. #LAD"

So I've decided to apply. Do you think I'll be in with a chance? If I do hear back, I'll let you know.

=============

Oi oi lads!

Saw your tweet looking for some "banterous new writers". Let me tell you, I am WELL interested! Nothing I like more than a bit of banter between lads!! Like the other day, I was down the boozer with my boys after the game, out on the lash. My mate Barry dropped his bag on the floor, and a BOOK fell out, so we called him gay and pushed him into a bin! HA! It was well jokes, he was crying and bleeding and shit because the bin had glass in it or something. What a dickhead! We called him a "glass bastard" for the rest of the night, and then we went for a kebab and got our dicks out and did fighting. Fuckin' smashed it bruv!!

Anyway, long time fan, first time mailer. I love UniLad! I totally get your sense of humour: it's like you're making all these points about the world, like how men are better than women, and how we should do everything we can to pull them, even if it's illegal; but you don't really mean any of it. But also, you TOTALLY mean all of it! It's genius, it's exactly what I'm like. It's like this t-shirt I've got, it says "Federal Boob Inspector"! It's like FBI, yeah? But it doesn't mean FBI, it means "Federal Boob Inspector"! And I'm not really an official boob inspector, but also, I totally AM a boob inspector! I'm always looking at tits! Hey, imagine if that job actually existed!! You'd have to be all like "Here love, have you got a license for those"? HA!! Mate, it'd be mental.

See, that's the kind of banter you'd get from me! Top bants, yeah? Sick bants! Here's another one: "Here, you know girls that like dubstep? I tell you what, I'd well put a wob on them!" Haha! I meant like a wob is my penis!

I love jokes about women, and gingers and the French. I've got all the Frankie Boyle DVDs and books, and I've even got all the old classic Bernard Manning live shows on VHS. He knew how to banter, didn't he? I loved how he took foreigners down a peg or two! I bet they'd be fuckin' running the place if he weren't for him. He'd talk all about how they were stupid and how they stank. But he didn't really mean it! But also, he definitely meant it. But it was okay, because it was a joke! Hang on, I've forgotten what my point was… Wait, you shouldn't analyse it too much, because then the joke stops being funny, and also because you might learn truths that you don't want to learn about yourself, and then the tears start coming again, and lads don't cry, which means thinking about jokes is for queers.

I definitely think I should write for you. Like yourselves, I have an irrational fear and hatred of women. The way I see it is, feminism has gone too far the other way, you know? Like, how's it fair that women want equal pay (thank god they are still so far from it! A 22% pay gap is nowhere near enough! I want a pay gap so big I can shove my dick in it AND my friend's dick in it! But not in a gay way), but they STILL want men to hold the door open for them? It's stupid! Either you take lower pay, or you let me slam the door in your face. You agree, right? I know you do, I can tell, cos you and me, we're both lads, right? Just having a joke about slamming a door in a woman's face! That's just what I'm like, I'll make a joke out of it because it doesn't even matter because I don't even care! You've got to smash 'em to keep 'em keen, am I right? You know I'm right, don't you? Please tell me I'm right.

I tell you what gets me, is when women have their own sexual autonomy. OH THAT MAKES ME SO MAD. I saw an advert the other day where a woman looked all sexy and the man looked like an idiot. I was like, hang on, how's that fair? If it was a bloke in the advert making a woman look stupid, everyone would say it was unfair! I said to my bird, I said "Right, I'm not buying that Cif kitchen cleaner ever again." But then she started squealing something about how capitalism and marketing exploit both the sexes, so do you know what I did? I just shoved my cock in her mouth!

NOT REALLY! What actually happened was, I just ignored her, and felt uncomfortable and confused, and I got all these sudden dull pains in my tummy that I didn't know what they meant. But if I wrote for UniLad then I'd totally say I just put my cock in the bitch's mouth to shut her up. Yeah, I'd call her a bitch! I mean, I love her and all, but it's just a joke! Cos I'm a banterous lad! It doesn't hurt anyone, does it? Because everyone's smart enough to know it's just a joke!

Well, that's what I told my bird. She said something I didn't understand about "propagating rape as acceptable" and then she walked out on me, and now I'm alone, so I really need this job. I don't even mind doing it for free. I just need to vent the anger out. You're a lad, you know how it is. We can't let 'em win, can we? We're better than them. Come on, let me write for you, and then we'll properly put women in their place. You are gonna let me write for you, yeah? Seriously. I need this.

Cheers,
Chris.

A Letter I Never Sent to Vodafone.

I was recently very lucky to be a part of a wonderful radio show called Letters You Never Sent, where people pen a pretend letter to someone based on a theme. The most recent episode was letters to corporations, and I had a couple of things I wanted to say to my old friends Vodafone.

The show is online here, and I'm on at 49m11s. And if you like karaoke, why not read along to my words, as I say them? I hope you enjoy it!


"Dear Vodafone,

This is a letter to a corporation. Of course, a corporation won't read this letter, because a corporation isn't a human being.

And yet, as a corporation, you are, in the eyes of the law, a legal person. You can buy and sell land, you can sue and be sued, you can own buildings and sign contracts and employ people, and you have many other rights and privileges that you would have, if you were flesh and blood.

Dear Vodafone, I wonder whether any of your board of directors have ever watched Joel Bakan's enlightening film, The Corporation, in which Bakan explains how it came to be that corporations became legal persons in the eyes of the law, through transferrable shares and limited liability, and then poses the question: if a corporation is a legal person, what kind of person is it? If we performed a psychological analysis of a corporation, what would we discover?

In his analysis, Bakan recalls corporate behaviour over the years. To name just a few examples, he mentions IBM's involvement in the holocaust, the use of child labour and slave labour in sweatshops; the fact that Coca Cola invented Fanta for Nazi Germany; the lies of adverts, and the psychological manipulation of children too young to understand otherwise; and exposing entire populations to dangerous chemicals like DDT or toxic waste, and then denying all responsibility.

His conclusions are shocking. Consider the corporation's personality traits:

- Reckless disregard for the safety of others
- Callous unconcern for the feelings of others
- Incapacity to maintain enduing relationships
- Repeated lying and conning others for profit
- Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours, and
- An incapacity to experience guilt

These are not Bakan's words. Nor are they mine. In fact, they are the formal descriptions that the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organisation use to diagnose a psychopath.

Of course, not all corporations have to behave this way. But, dear Vodafone, I wonder how your behaviour compares?

Perhaps we could talk about January 2011, during the pro-democracy Egyptian demonstrations, when you shut off all your voice and data services at the request of the government, disconnecting Egypt from the internet, and from the world. Does colluding with tyranny sound like the action of a person who cares for the feelings and safety of others? Of someone who conforms to social norms, or can feel guilt?

Or perhaps we could discuss the Private Eye article of October 2010, which alleges that you bought a German telcoms company called Mannesmann, but routed the acquisition through a Luxembourg subsidiary. Private Eye claims that this was done specifically to avoid paying tax in the UK. If the claims are true, then you avoided a tax bill of six billion pounds. This tax avoidance was entirely legal, but utterly immoral.

How unfortunate for you that, at the same time in 2010, the government announced that, in the name of austerity, it was to cut welfare spending by seven billion pounds a year. That means that your one tax dodge could have paid for almost every cut to welfare. Alternatively, your tax dodge could have paid for us to keep open hundreds of libraries, or schools, or hospitals. In other words, when a school or library closes, it is your fault.

If you cared for your home country, for its people and its future, the idea of tax avoidance would be anathema to you. But clearly, the feelings of others are not an issue that troubles you.

I am a member of UK Uncut. We're the protesters who come into your stores, sit down in the doorway, and shut you down. We do this nationwide, all at once, to stop you from trading. We take direct action against tax dodgers like you.

Dear Vodafone, You may think I'm writing to ask you to start acting ethically. Well, you'd be wrong. I know now that, as a corporation, you do not feel guilt or empathy. You cannot be reasoned with. Instead, I'm writing to remind you that we are here, and that we will always be here. My friends around the country will never stop fighting you. The decisions of your corporation have caused international damage. We will not forgive you. We will keep protesting. And we *will* win.

Yours sincerely,
Chris Coltrane, UK Uncut, and the direct action activists of the world."
We sometimes forget that the rights and freedoms can conflict with each other.

So for example, someone's freedom of speech to call for the murder of a certain ethnic race conflicts with the freedom from fear and persecution that those people should enjoy. In those cases, we as a society have to choose which freedom is the most important: freedom of speech, or freedom from fear. We correctly believe that a person's right to a life free of violence is more important than someone else's right to call for their death, and so laws regarding hate speech are introduced to deal with the matter. No reasonable person feels that their human right to freedom of expression has been denied, because we understand that on balance, it is reasonable. Two rights conflicted, and we chose to prioritise the one that stopped people being hurt or attacked.

This idea of conflicting freedoms is essential to understanding how to defeat the arguments of right-wing libertarians, who will often claim that government interference is stopping them from living a life of freedom and liberty. For example, Rick Santorum, Republican presidential candidate and turbo-douche, claims that global warming is a myth. "It's just an excuse for more government control of your life", he says, wrongly.

It's a common argument that climate change deniers make. Government control of carbon emissions will impose on my freedom to ride my SUV, on my freedom to consume, on my freedom to pollute. But when we remember that rights conflict, we see that there is a problem with this argument. Rick Santorum's freedom to use his SUV conflicts with my freedom to breathe clean air. Rick Santorum's freedom to consume conflicts with my right to enjoy a planet with finite resources. Rick Santorum's right to pollute conflicts with my right to a healthy life.

George Monbiot wrote in The Guardian on this issue recently. He gave the example of a "Romanian lead-smelting plant I had visited in 2000, whose freedom to pollute is shortening the lives of its neighbours. Surely the plant should be regulated in order to enhance the negative freedoms – freedom from pollution, freedom from poisoning – of its neighbours".

The key is to understand the difference between positive freedom and negative freedom. Positive freedom is the freedom to fulfill your potential. This is the freedom that Santorum claims the government is stopping him from achieving. But negative freedom is the freedom to a live a life without interference from other people. In Monbiot's example, the positive freedom the lead-smelters want to enjoy, the freedom to pollute without government interference, conflicts with the negative freedoms of the Romanian people to live their life. Whenever conflicts of freedom exist, we must choose one - and in this case, anyone with a heart will choose that the freedom of people to live a healthy life trumps the freedom of a company to pollute.

Right-wing libertarians will tell you that a government of any size imposes on their liberty. But what they really mean is "A government of any size imposes on my liberty to do what I like, regardless of the consequences". And consequences matter.

Government regulation does indeed rob corporations, rich people and selfish people of the freedom to pollute. But this same government regulation gives humans the freedom to life a full and healthy life. As a society, we must choose which of these two freedoms we wish to prioritise. If climate change is real, then the answer is clear. And if climate change isn't real? Well, as this popular cartoon shows, the answer is still clear:



Rick Santorum picture by Gage Skidmore, used under a Creative Commons license.
Today we learned that over 900 police officers in England and Wales have a criminal record.

Personally, as a fan of internet memes, I'm sad that it's not Over 9000. In fact, I think it says something rather worrying about me that I'd rather we had ten times the number of ex-criminals working in the police force, just so I could quote a meme. Perhaps I am not the crusader for justice I like to think I am.

If the papers are to be believed, this is big news. It was on the front page of a few online broadsheets, and a significant number of the people I follow on Twitter were furiously sharing the story. Having said that, my Twitter feed probably isn't very representative, as most of the people I follow protest, make a nuisance of themselves, and shoplift/murder on a regular basis. Wait, scrap that last one. Pretend you didn't read that.

I do worry that my Twitter timeline is an echo chamber of my own opinions. Every time a friend says something I agree with it reinforces the idea that my opinions are the majority's opinions, and that's hugely dangerous. But I tried following Tories for balance, and it made me so angry that I started planning a bloody and violent revolution. It's safer for everyone if I just stick to what I know.

Anyway. 900 cops have a criminal record. Now, I'm no fan of the police. I want to be a fan, I'd like to be a fan, but when they beat up my friends, murder innocent people without punishment, and let bankers and media proprietors get away with utterly ruining the country, they make it terribly difficult to like them.

But as much as it pains me to say it, I think this is a misleading figure. The BBC says that the police service in England and Wales was 143,770 strong in 2008-09, the most recent stat I can find. This means that about 0.65% of police have a criminal record. Even with the cuts, the number is probably close enough.

In the UK, 9.2 million people have a criminal record. I couldn't find a statistic just for England and Wales. I know what you're all thinking: the number of proven criminals will be too high if you're including Glasgow. This is true, and there isn't a single person in the world who would query or question that fact. But I put it to you that by also including Edinburgh, we bring the stats back down again. Not all Scots are criminals. Just literally anyone who come from Glasgow.

The population of the UK is 62,218,761. So, 14.8% of the population has a criminal record.

We should certainly expect our police force to be the highest calibre of people. Upstanding, honest, good people, with respect for society. But even so, 0.65% is a ridiculously small number, and far lower than the national average. And once again, I should be worried that this disappoints me. What I really want is for this number to be high, so I can have a go at the police. But alas, the crime figures are too small. Such a shame that more people didn't get burgled or assaulted by the police. I blame David Cameron.

"Many forces could not provide details of criminal records dating from before their staff joined the police, meaning the true figure will be significantly higher", says the article. True. But unless "significantly higher" means "thirty times higher", we can still say that the average is much lower. And that isn't even to mention that a criminal record could be something as small as shoplifting as a teenager. In fact, one of the charges mentioned "a constable convicted of burglary as a teenager". Sounds like a bad lad who came good to me!

It's a shame that the Press Association didn't mention this in their wire copy, because it meant that none of the papers which copy and pasted the PA's wire copy into their own newspapers bothered to mention it either. Check this link out, which shows that all the papers pretty much copied the PA word for word. (In fairness, at least the Guardian actually credits it to the Press Association.)

You will have your own opinion on whether the police should have even one officer with a criminal record. For me, if someone has served their time, I have no problem with them serving in the police. But in any case, don't be fooled: the numbers aren't as bad as the newspapers would have you believe. There are a great number of reasons to hate the police. The unaccountability, the protection of the privileged, the institutional corruption, the deception of undercover police, the unfairness of political policing, the blind eyes they turn to the crimes of the elite, their racism, and so much more. But, if the stats are right, their previous criminal records isn't one of them.

A far better question is the one my friend Molly asks: How many police officers should have a criminal record, but don't?

Picture by chrisjohnbeckett, from Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.
Chris lives in London, and tries his hardest to be a cool political comedian who makes you smile and laugh etc.

He'd love it if you went to chriscoltrane.com and downloaded his free stand-up shows.

Twitter: @chris_coltrane

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