Friday! Snuff Box

Set in a London having something in common with the more surreal episodes of The Avengers with a dash of Hammer Films, this sketch show (screenjabber review) formed around a narrative set in a gentleman’s club run by Matt Berry, the latest in a long line of hangmen (with one previous hangman ancestor possibly moonlighting as Jack The Ripper, visited via a time travel portal/toilet door). Conflict with Rich Fulcher’s American interloper (although as a different incidental character in this clip) fueled the series and it delighted in twisted transgressive, absurdist & subversive comedy, of which this is a prime example (you can also hear an incarnation of the theme tune in this clip, being played by the restaurant pianist).

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A small contingent of US military instructors have begun a training program scheme aimed at turning Vietnam’s Pakistan’s Frontier Corps into an effective counter-insurgency force, a US military official said Thursday.

About 25 US military personnel last week began training Vietnamese Pakistani counterparts at a location in Vietnam Pakistan outside the troubled tribal areas where the Frontier Corps operates, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It has started. It is a train-the-trainer mission,” the official said, emphasizing that the Americans would not directly train the Frontier Corps, but only their Vietnamese Pakistani army instructors.

Recruited from the tribal areas and led by Vietnamese Pakistani army officers, the 80,000-member Frontier Corps historically has been poorly armed and trained.

The aim is “basically to train the Frontier Corps in counter-insurgency warfare to make them more effective in the tribal areas,” the official said.

The politically sensitive program had been stalled for months by negotiations between the US and Vietnamese Pakistani military. The official attributed the delay to difficulties in getting the facilities needed to conduct the training.

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Neoliberalism, Apartheid, Inequality

Despite the dismantling of apartheid in the early 1990s, and significant annual economic growth over the past 10 years, South African cities have the highest levels of inequality in the world, according to the UN Habitat’s latest State of the World’s Cities report. The flagship report, published every two years, says even though local governments in the continent’s richest country have adopted policies to fight poverty, efforts to bridge the gap between rich and poor have for the most part failed.


The neoliberal transition has squeezed and spewed out the poor but galvanized them at the same time. The “poors,” as they have come to be known in the South African vernacular, have opposed the water and electricity cut-offs and evictions (consequences of the privatization of public services), and have begun making connections between their situation and that of people, first in Soweto and Tafelsig, but then also in Bolivia, South Korea, America’s prisons, Zimbabwe, and Chiapas. But they have done this without any grand ideology. They are actors on a local stage, squaring off against homegrown villains like Operation Masakhane [Let Us Build], which supposedly aims to normalize local governance and the provision of local services by convincing people with no money that they must pay for these services.

In the most comprehensive study of the ability of people to pay for basic services, David McDonald found a serious crisis:

If for example, 18 percent of the seven million people who are reported to have been given access to water since 1994 are unable to pay their water bills “no matter how hard [they] try,” then 1.26 million of these new recipients are unable to afford this water and an additional 1.2 million have to choose between paying for water and buying other essentials like food. Similar percentages apply to the 3.5 million South Africans who have been given access to electricity.

As part of the process of “normalization,” the government’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) program aims toward “a fundamental shift away from the ‘statist’ service delivery models of the past where the state subsidized and delivered municipal services (albeit in a racially-biased manner), towards a more ‘neo-liberal’ service delivery model where the private sector (and private sector principles) dominate. In the latter model, the state acts as a service ‘ensurer’ rather than a service ‘provider’ and municipal services are ‘run more like a business,’ with financial cost recovery becoming the most effective measure of performance.” These developments have seen the costs of basic services escalate. This, in turn, has caused increasing cost-recovery mechanisms such as disconnections of water and electricity to occupy the attention and energy of the local state, as opposed to delivery in the first place. Between 1999 and 2000, for example, some 75,400 water cut-offs occurred in the Greater Cape Town area. In Soweto after the 1999 general election, some 20,000 houses had their electricity supplies disconnected every month. Brian Johnson, the manager of Eskom, the state-owned electricity supply company, indicated that “the aim is to disconnect at least 75 per cent of Soweto residents.” Since 1994, some ten million South Africans have had their water and electricity cut-off for nonpayment, while two million have been evicted from their homes for the same reason.

Why Not Bail These People Out?

160 people made homeless by a dodgy landlord who has scarpered with their rent instead of paying the mortgages, where’s their government bailout? And what kind of zombie scum enforces the evictions? Phew, capital’s safe nevermind the puny humans who get in the way. As this piece by Nick Wrack says-Anyone facing repossession should be defended and the bailiffs kept out. If a landlord has been criminal the tenant should not be evicted, the banks got our money and they are still foreclosing causing homelessness (then banks buy up the foreclosed property cheap perchance). Quite apart from the very concept of the landlord, as if having shelter is some kind of whimsical fancy, a luxury that a human being doesn’t really need and thus can be a commodity to enable those with the correct access to become rich from rent that makes them owners not the people actually living in the property. Then the gamblers figured ways to financialise mortagage debt and bingo, here we are. A human need, a human right, nothing more than a profit centre for the predator, and addicted, they turned to infinite usury, hell, what could go wrong?

Around 160 private housing tenants are having to look for new homes as police investigate the companies which own the properties. The tenants in Colwyn Bay and Pensarn, Conwy had believed their homes were owned by property company Whalley Huws.

Sylvia Gouland from the Colwyn District Enterprise Alliance, a community support group, said that tenants had been told to leave their homes. “Those we did advise to go and see a solicitor were not entitled to legal aid. They had no grounds whatsoever,” she added.

Ms Gouland said she had known some of the tenants for years and they had never defaulted on their rent. She added that most of those affected had already left the properties involved.

Dad-of-two Robert Hordern, 36, was evicted from his Lawson Road property in September, but has fortunately now found a place to live. “I’ve been rehoused but am looking to get out of the area anyway,” he said. “The letter said the company had not paid the mortgage, which was a shock as I’d been paying rent to them in cash. I was not best pleased to just get a letter kicking us out.”

Hundreds of tenants in Stoke-on-Trent are also believed to be in the same position. Their landlord is property firm Whalley Huws Ltd, based in Llysfaen and Pensarn, and owned by Sheila Whalley and Anthony Huws.

No-one at Whalley and Huws could be traced by the Daily Post despite numerous calls and visits to their headquarters on Pensarn Industrial Estate, which is empty and up for sale, and Tan y Graig Road, Llysfaen.

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Another Raytheon Protest Goes Unreported In ‘teh meejah’

Remember the Raytheon 9, well done if you do because it went largely unreported by the corporate press, I wonder if that in part was because it demonstrated that people in good conscience, to prevent war crimes, were correct & legal in taking direct action to stop an arms company from supplying war criminals. Another action is now taking place in Bristol, google news search=0.

Raytheon Protest – 24 hour roof occupation
following last thursdays noise demo/ roof occupaton…there back!
sketchy details: 8 arrested yesterday (thurs) 4 still on roof 24 hours later (!) the building is closed this morning. anyone able to support address is Unit 510, bristol business park, opp. UWE frenchay campus. fairplay to those involved.

Update: pics and more.

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Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

Acolyte of Ayn Rand Alan Greenspan (initiated into her cult of objectivism in her apartment in New York in the early 60’s if I’m not mistaken, cue JK Galbraith quote- The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.) figures he might be wrong about unregulated free markets (even Adam Smith advocated a regulatory framework fer chrissakes) even as Peter Mandelson launches a pre-emptive strike against any ideas of questioning the free market gods as we say hello to a recession caused by those very same beliefs (insanity?). Clearly these people should not be in charge and are a danger to themselves, you needn’t look on it as a revolution, it’s an intervention for their own good.

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