medicine

William Blum on Socialism vs. Capitalism

William Blum, the long-time fierce critic of American and western imperialism, has come back to writing his Anti-Empire Report after a period of illness. He’s an older man of 84, and due to kidney failure has been placed on dialysis for the rest of his life. This has left him, as it does others with the same condition, drained of energy, and he says he finds writing the report difficult. Nevertheless, his mind and his dissection of the ruthless, amoral and predatory nature of western capitalism and corporate greed is as acute as ever.

There’s a section in the Anti-Empire Report, where he discusses the advantages of socialism versus capitalism. He notes that there were two studies carried out under George Dubya to see if private corporations were better than federal agencies. And the federal agencies won by a huge margin every time. He writes

Twice in recent times the federal government in Washington has undertaken major studies of many thousands of federal jobs to determine whether they could be done more efficiently by private contractors. On one occasion the federal employees won more than 80% of the time; on the other occasion 91%. Both studies took place under the George W. Bush administration, which was hoping for different results. 1 The American people have to be reminded of what they once knew but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want BIG government, or SMALL government; they don’t want MORE government, or LESS government; they want government ON THEIR SIDE.

He also states that the juries’ still out on whether socialist countries are more successful than capitalist, as no socialist country has fallen through its own failures. Instead they’ve been subverted and overthrown by the US.

I think he’s wrong about this. The Communist bloc couldn’t provide its people with the same standard of living as the capitalist west, and the state ownership of agriculture was a real obstacle to food production. The bulk of the Soviet Union’s food was produced on private plots. Similarly, Anton Dubcek and the leaders of the Prague Spring, who wanted to reform and democratize Communism, not overthrow it, believed that Czechoslovakia’s industrial development was held back through the rigid structure of Soviet-style central planning.

However, he still has a point, in that very many left and left-leaning regimes have been overthrown by America, particularly in South America, but also across much of the rest of the world, as they were perceived to be a threat to American political and corporate interests. And for the peoples of these nations, it’s questionable how successful capitalism is. For example, in the 1950s the Americans overthrew the Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz after he dared to nationalize the banana plantations, many of which were own by the American corporation, United Fruit. Benz was a democratic socialist – not a Communist, as was claimed by the American secret state – who nationalized the plantations in order to give some dignity and a decent standard of living to the agricultural workers on them. The government that overthrew Benz was a brutal Fascist dictatorship, which imposed conditions very close to feudal serfdom on the plantation labourers.

Which leads to a more general point about the emergence of capitalism, imperialism and the exploitation of the developing world. Marxists have argued that capitalism had partly arisen due to western imperialism. It was the riches looted from their conquered overseas territories that allowed western capitalism to emerge and develop. Again this is a matter of considerable debate, as some historians have argued that the slave trade and plantation slavery only added an extra 5 per cent to the British economy during the period these existed in the British empire, from the mid-17th century to 1840. More recently, historians have argued that it was the compensation given to the slaveowners at emancipation, that allowed capitalism to develop. In the case of the large slaveholders, this compensation was the equivalent of tens of millions of pounds today. At the time the plantation system was in crisis, and many of the plantation owners were heavily in debt. The slaveholders used the money given to them by the British government – £20 million, a colossal sum then-to invest in British industry, thus boosting its development.

This system has continued today through what the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal termed ‘neocolonialism’. This is the international trading system which the former imperial masters imposed on their colonies after the end of imperialism proper following the Second World War. High tariffs and other barriers were imposed to stop these countries developing their own manufacturing industries, which could produced finished goods that would compete with those of Europe and the west. Instead, the former subject nations were forced through a series of trade agreements to limit themselves to primary industries – mining and agriculture – which would provide western and European industry with the raw materials it needed. As a global system, it’s therefore highly debatable how successful capitalism is in providing for people’s needs, when the relative success of the capitalist west has depended on the immiseration and exploitation of countless millions in the developed world.

And in the developed west itself, capitalism is failing. In the 19th century Marx pointed to the repeated crises and economic slumps that the system created, and predicted that one of these would be so severe that it would destroy capitalism completely. He was wrong. Capitalism did not collapse, and there was a long period of prosperity and growth from the late 19th century onwards.

But terrible, grinding poverty still existed in Britain and the rest of the developed world, even if conditions were slowly improving. And the long period of prosperity and growth after the Second World War was partly due to the foundation of the welfare state, Keynsian economic policies in which the government invested in the economy in order to stimulate it, and a system of state economic planning copied from the French.

Now that Thatcherite governments have rolled back the frontiers of the state, we’ve seen the re-emergence of extreme poverty in Britain. An increasing number of Brits are now homeless. 700,000 odd are forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together, as they can’t afford food. Millions more are faced with the choice between eating and paying the bills. In the school holiday just passed, three million children went hungry. And some historians are predicting that the refusal of the governments that came after the great crash of 2008 to impose controls on the financial sector means that we are heading for the final collapse of capitalism. They argue that the industrial and financial elite in Europe know it’s coming, are just trying to loot as much money as possible before it finally arrives.

The great, free trade capitalism lauded by Thatcher, Reagan and the neoliberal regimes after them has failed to benefit the majority of people in Britain and the rest of the world. But as the rich 1 per cent have benefited immensely, they are still promoting neoliberal, free trade policies and imposing low wages and exploitative working conditions on the rest of the population, all the while telling us that we’re richer and generally more prosperous than ever before.

Back to Blum’s Anti-Empire Report, he also has a few quotes from the American comedian Dick Gregory, who passed away this year. These include the following acute observations

“The way Americans seem to think today, about the only way to end hunger in America would be for Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird to go on national TV and say we are falling behind the Russians in feeding folks.”

“What we’re doing in Vietnam is using the black man to kill the yellow man so the white man can keep the land he took from the red man.”

For more, see https://williamblum.org/aer/read/150

Counterpunch: Bernie Sanders Outlines His Plans for ‘Medicare for All’

Today’s Counterpunch has a piece by the radical, progressive Democratic politician, Bernie Sanders, reblogged from the New York Times. In it, Sanders discusses the outrageous scandal that 28 million Americans have no medical coverage, despite the fact that their country spends more on healthcare than almost any other nation. He points out that this is because the insurance-based healthcare system is designed not to give Americans access to decent healthcare, but to enrich the companies’ executives and shareholders. He describes how many Americans cannot afford healthcare, and are forced to cut down on the drugs they need, simply because they cannot pay for them. He argues that the experience of Canada, and the Medicare programme brought fifty years ago, both show that single-payer healthcare is cheap, popular and effective.

He states that he intends to introduce a bill for Medicare for All into Congress next Wednesday, and outlines how he envisages an initial four year transition period from the current American system. He also makes it plain that there will be concerted opposition to his proposal.

His piece begins

This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Or do we maintain a system that is enormously expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic, and is designed to maximize profits for big insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and medical equipment suppliers?

We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need. This is not what the United States should be about.

All over this country, I have heard from Americans who have shared heartbreaking stories about our dysfunctional system. Doctors have told me about patients who died because they put off their medical visits until it was too late. These were people who had no insurance or could not afford out-of-pocket costs imposed by their insurance plans.

I have heard from older people who have been forced to split their pills in half because they couldn’t pay the outrageously high price of prescription drugs. Oncologists have told me about cancer patients who have been unable to acquire lifesaving treatments because they could not afford them. This should not be happening in the world’s wealthiest country.

Americans should not hesitate about going to the doctor because they do not have enough money. They should not worry that a hospital stay will bankrupt them or leave them deeply in debt. They should be able to go to the doctor they want, not just one in a particular network. They should not have to spend huge amounts of time filling out complicated forms and arguing with insurance companies as to whether or not they have the coverage they expected.

Even though 28 million Americans remain uninsured and even more are underinsured, we spend far more per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation. In 2015, the United States spent almost $10,000 per person for health care; the Canadians, Germans, French and British spent less than half of that, while guaranteeing health care to everyone. Further, these countries have higher life expectancy rates and lower infant mortality rates than we do.

Please go to the Counterpunch site and read the whole article. It’s at:
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/14/why-we-need-medicare-for-all/

The state and state-funded healthcare systems of the European countries have contributed immensely to their people’s health and wellbeing, ever since Bismarck introduced it in Germany in 1875 in an attempt to steal working class votes away from the socialist SDP.

And it’s driving the Reaganites and Thatcherites of the corporate sector up the wall, because it denies them so much of the juicy profits that comes from the insurance-driven sector. That’s why the Tories over here have been privatizing the NHS piecemeal by stealth ever since the days of Maggie Thatcher. It’s why the corporate bosses of the big healthcare firms, like the fraudster Unum, came over here at the beginning of New Labour’s tenure in office to lobby Blair to privatize the NHS.

And it’s part of the reason the Blairites, Tories and Lib Dems, and their paymasters in big business and lackeys in the media, including the Beeb, fear and hate Jeremy Corbyn, as the Republicans and the corporatist Democrats around Hillary Clinton despise Bernie Sanders in the US.

Any civilized country has to demand proper medicine for its people, regardless of the demands of the corporatists to keep it the expensive privilege of the affluent. So, go Bernie! And may Corbyn also win in his fight to renationalize the NHS.

RT Parliamentary Coverage: Nurse and Labour MP Karen Lee on NHS Crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/09/2017 - 3:25am in

In this very short clip from RT, Unison nurse and Labour MP for Lincoln, Karen Lee, describes the chronic lack of nursing in the NHS, and the threatened closure of walk-in centres in her constituency.

Hunt stands up, thanks her for her work in the NHS, and then admits that there is a shortage of nurses in the NHS, there was when he began as health secretary, and then declares he will go on to tell her how he means to solve it. This is where the clip ends.

Lee is absolutely right, just as she is right to remind him that the NHS is seriously underfunded while at the same time, the government is cutting corporation tax and has given £1 billion to the DUP. The government cannot rightly talk about austerity when this goes on.

There’s a piece in today’s I by Yasmin Alibhai-Browne, whose headline states that austerity was never about reducing the deficit. It was all about a Tory class war on the poor. Which is what Owen Jones, and very many other bloggers, including Mike over at Vox Political, have been saying for years.

As for Hunt’s plans to get more nurses into the NHS, I am extremely skeptical about this. All the evidence I’ve seen shows doctors and other medical professionals leaving the NHS. As for those nurses that remain in it, they are to be applauded as they’re increasingly treated extremely shabbily. Such as those, who are forced to use food banks, for example.

The threatened closure of the walk-in centre also shows the massive dangers of the Blairite/Tory NHS privatization. The walk-in centres, otherwise known as polyclinics, were part of New Labour’s big idea for NHS restructuring, which including dismantling the NHS and opening it up further to private investment. Again, not a new idea. Like most of Blair’s economic thinking, it was taken over and developed from the Tories, like the Private Finance Initiative generally. These polyclinics were intended to be privately run, hence the interest in them from the usual private healthcare firms, including ‘Beardie’ Branson’s Virgin Health.

Since private companies have taken over hospitals and GPs’ surgeries, we’ve seen one hospital after another go into the red, while Private Eye reported in their ‘In The Back’ column how several surgeries in London were closed down, and their patients thrown out without medical care, by the private firm running them. Private enterprise in the health service doesn’t work, and leads to gross inequalities in healthcare provision and massive profiteering by the companies.

But Hunt, for all his weasel words about getting more nurses into the NHS, doesn’t care about any of that. Indeed, he actually advocates the NHS’ privatization, though he is very loud in denying it in public. As is his mistress, Theresa May. And it’s been the same all the way back to Margaret Thatcher, who really wanted to privatize the NHS under there was a massive cabinet revolt, as well as evidence from her personal private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, who came back from a fact-finding mission to America and informed her how wretched American private healthcare was.

Don’t be taken in by Hunt’s lies. Believe Karen Lee, and kick out the Tories.

Medical doctor: Basic income is a health issue

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/09/2017 - 10:47pm in

Basic income has the potential to improve health outcomes, as income and health are closely linked.

The post Medical doctor: Basic income is a health issue appeared first on BIEN.

Abby Martin on White Supremacism and Anti-Black Racism in Israel

This is another video from RT’s The Empire Files, presented by Abby Martin, showing the grim reality of Israeli racism and White supremacy. It’s about Israel’s persecution of Black immigrants. These include Black asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, and Ethiopian Jewish immigrants. She begins by stating that the Palestinians aren’t the only persecuted group in Israel, and the vicious racial hatred, discrimination and violence towards the Black minority is ironic, coming from a people, who have themselves been bitterly persecuted, whose monuments swear ‘Never Again’ to the horrors of genocide.

The Sudanese and Eritreans comprise only half a per cent of Israel’s population. They came to the country by crossing the Sinai from Egypt, having fled their own homelands due to persecution. The Eritreans seek asylum from conscription into the army, where they are forced to live and work in slave-like conditions. Israel has been forced to take more of them in after Europe has begun to close its borders to them. Yet despite their small numbers, they have been blamed and vilified for spreading crime and disease. Mary Regev, an Israeli politician, has described them as ‘a cancer in our body’. Another Likudnik claimed that they were responsible for a spate of rapes, but that the victims did not report them because their violators had given them AIDS. He also declared that ‘Israel belongs to the White man.’

The result of this has been a series of attacks on Black immigrants. One man was beaten to death by a youth, while a Black baby was left with brain damage after another man stabbed it in the head.

The claims of criminality are all wrong, like so much of the same bullsh*t that is retailed by the extreme Right here in the West about coloured immigrants. In fact, something like one per cent of all crime is committed by Black immigrants from these countries, and the areas inhabited by them have less crime than those of mainstream Israeli society.

In the film, Martin talks to some of these migrants, and hears their stories about fleeing from persecution and genocide in their countries of origin. These people cannot go back. If they do, they will be killed. But nevertheless the Israelis are building massive detention complexes in which to imprison them. Those so incarcerated include genuine asylum seekers, but they are nevertheless also libeled as economic migrants. After they have served their term, they are released and told that they have to go back to their home countries, even though this will mean death for many of them. She also cites the statistics showing that Israel has a far lower rate of granting asylum to migrants seeking sanctuary there.

The asylum seekers also describe how a market, which they set up so that they could buy their own food, was destroyed by the Israeli police.

Ethiopian Jews are also subject to vicious discrimination and persecution. They were allowed to settle into the country after a chief rabbi decided that they were proper Jews, and so could be allowed in under the law of return. Many of them immigrated in a series of airlifts by the Israeli military in the 1970s. I think the Canadian-Israeli film maker, Simcha Jacobovici, made a documentary about these entitle Exodus. Ethiopian Jews constitute only 2 per cent of the population, but are subject to discrimination and resentment. It has been revealed that the Israeli state had a eugenics policy designed to keep their birthrate extremely low by administering contraceptive or sterilizing drugs to Ethiopian women. They were told that they would not be allowed into the country unless they agreed to have these drugs. Martin interviews one Ethiopian young woman, who is part of a civil rights movement, who tells her how the Israeli medical services will not take blood donated by them, but will throw it away.

She also talks to Israelis attending an anti-immigration rally. One of them states that he is a member of Israeli Labour Party, and so considers himself left wing. But he opposes Black immigration, citing their supposed criminality. Not all Israelis accept the reality of this persecution in their society. Martin’s interview with the Ethiopian girl is interrupted by an angry Israeli man, who tells her that she’s wrong, and an argument begins.

I’ve posted up a series of pieces describing the Fascistic nature of the Israeli state. It has a system of apartheid directed against the Palestinians, in which the indigenous people are subject to arbitrary arrest and beatings, whose drinking water can be fouled at will, and whose homes may be occupied by gangs of Israeli settlers.

Critics of Israel have also pointed out that the Zionist settlers were Ashkenazi Jews from eastern Europe, who looked down upon the Arabs, including Arab Jews, as racially and culturally inferior. They were White supremacists, hence the pronounced racism against Blacks in Israel.

As for the forced sterilization of Ethiopian Jewish women, this is in direct contravention of the UN Convention on genocide. Israel isn’t alone in this policy, however. The Nazis did it. The Americans also did it to the indigenous peoples, apart from the mentally defective. The Swedes also sterilized those they considered ‘dysgenic’ until the 1970s. And the Czechs have also done it for decades to the Roma, the Gypsies, in their country.

So while they’re hardly unique, they’ve still committed a crime against humanity, defined as genocide under international law.

Yet despite this, the Zionist lobby is determined to smear anyone who dares to criticize Israel for its racism, genocide and ethnic cleansing an anti-Semite, include proud opponents of all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. Those smeared include both gentiles and self-respecting secular and Torah-observant Jews. In the Labour party, the Zionist lobby in the form of the Jewish Labour Movement has tried to censor all discussion of Israeli racism. And the woefully misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has done the same, demanding the expulsion and suspension of people, whose only crime is that they embarrassed the Zionists by revealing what they really don’t want people to know.

The Jewish Labour Movement is the companion organization to the Israeli Labour Party, which was responsible for a series of massacres of the Palestinian population under Ben Gurion and Golda Meir, and whose leader has described his deep hatred of the Palestinians and his desire to have the 61 Arab MKs deprived of their seats in the Knesset.

Instead of decent people like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein being subjected to trumped up charges of anti-Semitism, the leaders of the Zionist lobby, including Andrew Pollard of the Campaign Against Zionism, should have to answer for their support of a brutal, Nazi regime.

Conservatives, Racism and Anti-Chav Class Prejudice

Mike reported yesterday that Activate, the Tory ‘grassroots’ campaign, that isn’t connected at all to the Tory party, except for what it says about working to get Tories elected and defining itself in its constitution as a Conservative organization, found itself mired in controversy over its members’ conversation on WhatsApp, in which they expressed some very unpleasant comments about ‘chavs’. It was, as one of those involved dimly began to realise, Nazi stuff. They were talking about sterilizing them, gassing them, and turning the Isle of Wight into a giant prison for them. As well as using them for medical experimentation.

Activate splutteringly denied that they were responsible for all this Nazi hate speech, claiming instead that they were hacked. It’s a convenient excuse which doesn’t ring true, as someone else had appeared on their page after the conversation telling them that they should be careful what they say.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/09/01/backtractivate-tory-youth-organisation-dissolves-into-chaos/

It’s now been revealed that all the ‘Nazi chat’ really did come from members of Activate, as their membership director, Fizarn Adris, had a Twitter feed which showed a very unpleasant attitude to the poor and vulnerable. This has now conveniently been taken down.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/09/01/gas-chavs-whatsapp-chat-was-by-activate-members-allegedly/

I am not remotely surprised that members of a Tory support group have such a deep hatred and contempt for the poor and marginalized. And I admit that I’ve made some of the same comments myself about the criminal members of the underclass. A friend of mine used to work in a very rough area in Cheltenham. Don’t be surprised – they do exist. She and her colleagues had been threatened several times at work, and gangs had also tried to break in and rob the place by people, who could fairly be described as ‘chavs’.

The Activate members’ gloating descriptions about what they’d like done to the desperately poor, however, is just pure Tory class prejudice. It comes across as the stupid sneering of upper class public schoolboys and girls, smugly convinced of their own superiority as members of the privileged class, with a bullying attitude to those beneath them. Oh, isn’t it great fun to give the lower orders a good bashing, even if it’s only in the form of tasteless jokes. It comes from the same mindset that produced the Assassin’s Club in the 1980s. That was a group of public schoolboys at Oxford, who used to pay restauranteurs so they could come in and wreck the place.

And I’m not remotely surprised that the jokes being made involved the same treatment that the Nazis inflicted upon Jews and other persecuted groups, including the disabled. There’s a section of the Tory right which has always overlapped and sympathized with the Fascist fringe, despite their denials and the attempts by Thatcher and her successors to quash all mention of it. Some of us can remember the antics of the various Tory youth movements in the 1980s, like the Union of Conservative Students. This bunch of upper class charmless nurks, to use Norman Stanley Fletcher’s descriptive epithet, used to run around singing such inoffensive ditties as ‘We Don’t Want No Blacks or Asians’, to the tune of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall. As well as ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’. I also remember how the leader of one of these Tory youth outfits in Northern Ireland was also something of a racist, although he sort of denied it. Very sort of. In fact, if I recall correctly, he issued a statement which said, ‘We are not Fascists. We are Thatcherite achievers. But if Mrs. Thatcher won’t have us, then we will go to the Far Right’. Which, like Trump’s condemnation of the Nazis who goosestepped in Charlottesville two weeks ago, really isn’t a denial at all. As for the Union of Conservative Students, from what I recall, it was just so riddled with overt, unapologetic racism, that Tory Central Office closed it down and merged it, along with the Young Conservatives, into a new organization, Conservative Future.

Since the 1980s, racism, or at least very open displays of it, have become much less acceptable in British society, quite apart from the legislation in place to protect ethnic minorities from prejudice, intimidation and violence. And the Tories have tried to weed out, or at least be seen to be weeding out, the Nazis in their midst. In the 1970s the Monday Club opened its membership books to the Board of Deputies of British Jews to show that they didn’t have anti-Semites amongst their membership. However, the organization still remained so extremely anti-immigrant that in the early part of this century Cameron and IDS severed the Tory party’s links with them because of their racism.

So the upper class members of Tory support organisations have found that they can’t be as racist as they were back in the 1980s. But they still have the urge to punch downwards, to mock and sneer at the underprivileged. And so instead of joking about abusing and deporting ethnic minorities, they’ve gone on to making Nazi comments about maltreating and exterminating chavs. Which is supposed to be quite acceptable, because they’re white, and so this doesn’t count as racist abuse.

Not that there’s anything much different in their attitude towards the poor here. Keith Joseph, Maggie’s mentor, caused a storm of outrage in the 1970s when he expressed a similar eugenicist, Nazi attitude in a speech in which he attacked unmarried mothers as a threat to ‘our stock’.

The jokes Activate’s members were making about killing, sterilizing and experimenting on members of the underclass are disgusting and offensive. But there’s nothing remotely new in their attitude, or in what this has revealed about part of the Tories’ constituency. It’s always included sneering members of the upper classes, with a chilling contempt for those they see as the inferiors. They only difference now is wider society finds this more offensive than it did, and they’re expressing their vile views on social media, rather than on the rostrums at party conferences.

Stephen Hawking’s Defends NHS as Hunt Lies about its Privatisation

I know the Tories will immediately complain about the title of this article, but that’s exactly what’s going on. The Tories have been privatizing the NHS piecemeal since the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher wanted to sell it off completely and replace it with an American-style insurance based system. Thatcher was prevented from doing so through a massive cabinet revolt, plus the fact that her private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, found out how appalling the American system was after he actually did some research and went there.

But the privatization is still going on. There was a mass exodus of dentists in the late ’80s-early ’90s, after Maggie – or was it Major?-refused to give them any more money. Then came Peter Lilley and his Private Finance Initiative, in which hospitals were to be built and run for the NHS by private contractors. Then New Labour expanded this massively, breaking up the NHS internal structure to model it after the American private healthcare system, Kaiser Permanente. Blair was approached by a whole slew of American private healthcare companies. His idea was that hospitals and clinics should be taken over by private healthcare companies, like Circle Health, Virgin Healthcare and so on. The community care groups of doctors, which were supposed to commission healthcare for their patients, where to obtain it from both private healthcare providers as well as the NHS. And they were also given the powers to raise money from private enterprise.

And before anyone objects that Blair was a Socialist, no, he wasn’t. He had Clause 4 removed from the party’s constitution. He was also profoundly hostile to the trade unions, who have formed part of the very core of the Labour party since it was founded in the very early 20th century.

Blair was a true, blue Thatcherite. The first thing he did when he got into power was invite Thatcher round. And she responded warmly, declaring New Labour her greatest success. Remember, this is the woman, who proudly shouted about how she was going to destroy socialism.

And the Tories have carried on her project of gradually destroying the NHS, bit by bit, while loudly proclaiming how much they’re in favour of it.

The present Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is a prime example of this. He even wrote a book in which he declared how much better everything would be if we had a private healthcare system, like America.

Yeah, like America, where the poorer parts of the country don’t have any doctors at all, because it isn’t profitable. Where once a month, in Virginia, people sleep in cars overnight in order to join the queue for the doctor’s or dentists’ surgery offering free dental care that Saturday.

Where something like 20 million Americans can’t afford their medical coverage, and 30,000 people die every year because of this.

And where the Republicans and corporate Democrats have been lying and smearing Bernie Sanders, because he dared to run on a platform of ‘Medicare for all’. You know, giving Americans state-funded healthcare, like in the other parts of the world.

This is what the Tories are doing to Britain. And last week, as Mike reported on his blog, Stephen Hawking, the great cosmologist, called them out on it. He also accused Hunt of cherry-picking the data about the supposed deaths caused by NHS staff not working Saturdays.

Hunt got terribly upset about this, and declared that Hawking didn’t understand statistics.

This is a joke from a professional moron. Statistics are a vital part of science and medicine. Much of modern science, including astronomy and cosmology, is going through the data, trying to find something that is statistically significant. It can be time-consuming, tedious work, requiring sophisticated techniques to sort out what’s importance from apparently random results.

Hawking’s a physicist, who has been working with some extremely advanced maths as part of his investigation into the origins of the cosmos and the nature of Black Holes for his entire career. I don’t believe in his ‘No Boundaries Solution’ to the problem of the origin of the universe, but it’s abundantly clear that he understands stats. And as a man stricken with Motor Neurone Disease, a terrible illness, which has left him confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak and scarcely a muscle, Prof. Hawking clearly has first-hand experience of NHS care.

In short, don’t believe Hunt. Believe Hawking.

And yesterday one of the doctors weighed in, to request that a televised debate should be held between the two. See that story on Mike’s blog.

I’ve got no doubt that this will never happen. The schedules are full already, and the last thing the Tories will want is putting their man in a position where he’ll lose against a vastly more popular, far more respected and definitely more intelligent opponent.

Although they’re both authors. Hawking’s most famous work was A Brief History of Time, published back in the 1980s. It was a national bestseller, following very much in the footsteps of Carl Sagan’s epic Cosmos, another pop-sci blockbuster from a great science communicator, as well as a concerned scientist who attacked militarism, imperialism and man-made global warming.

As for Hunt, very few have read his book, which is why he can still repeat the lie that the Tories aren’t privatizing the NHS with a straight face, despite having advocated himself.

Such a debate would be so unequal in Hawking’s failure that I’ve no doubt that the Tories in charge of BBC News, the same people, who gave Corbyn such overtly biased coverage during the general election, are blanching at the very thought of it. Such a debate will never happen, just as the BBC will never own up, and confess that they, and particularly Laura Kuenssberg, are massively biased and everyone, who has complained about this painfully obvious fact is absolutely right.

The Young Turks on the Republicans’ Hatred of College Education

‘Do I detect an air of anti-intellectualism in this country? Came in about four years ago.’

-Bill Hicks, American comic, speaking four years after the election of Ronald Reagan.

Earlier today I posted a piece commenting on clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, about Rush Limbaugh’s mindlessly stupid ridiculing of NASA’s announcement that they may have discovered flowing water on Mars. Limbaugh’s a right-wing radio host, who’s been fouling the airwaves with his views about liberals, socialists, communists, gays, feminists, anti-racism activists and so on since the 1980s. He sneered at NASA’s announcement because – wait for it – the agency was part of a ‘leftist’ plot to promote global warming!

Not only does he not understand the science, nor the reality of global warming, I don’t think he knows anything about NASA. I know quite a few people, who are fans of space exploration and research from across the political spectrum, including Conservatives. None of them have ever considered that the space agency was ‘left-wing’, although some of its leading scientists and advocates, like Carl Sagan, were. And the accusation that the agency’s data on global warming is faked for political purposes is risible.

But this shows the contempt Limbaugh has for science, and for education generally.

Florence, one of the many great commenters on this blog, has a background in microbiology and has been very interested in the question of life in space. She has posted a long comment to my piece. I recommend that you read all of it. But the end is particularly important, as she wonders how we got to this point where science is so despised.

And of course, back to NASA. I was fairly sure the alt-idiocy had already “proven” it was part of the deep state and the heart of black ops and skunk works and a branch of the CIA. These latest revelations only serve, as you say, to illustrate the total lack of education to an acceptable level in this day and age, more worryingly the lack of scientists in government in the USA and across the world. The charge against the scientific community lead by Trump and his “business men” ilk, with the violent and thuggish self styled fascist enforcers and militias coming out the woodwork in the last year, make the premise of the Handmaids Tale seem worryingly prophetic. How did this happen?

I think it’s part of a general distrust of intellectuals in American culture, which has increased massively amongst Republicans in recent years. In the piece below, The Young Turks discuss the finding that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning people distrust college education. They also note that they don’t just look down on higher education. They also hate and distrust the media and science. 58 per cent of Republicans and Republican supporters state that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, compared to 45 per cent a year ago, in 2016.

Cenk Uygur suggests that part of this is the use of propaganda by the party’s leaders. Part of the problem is that Conservatives tend to be more authoritarian than left-wingers. Thus, they’re more likely to follow the opinions of their leaders, and in the case of the Republican party, these leaders despise higher education.

Ana Kasparian, his co-host, who I believe teaches political science herself, argues that it’s because the Republicans want to keep you stupid. They’re trying to privatize education, and get children instead to attend private schools through voucher schemes, where the normal educational standards do not apply. There’s more than an element of hypocrisy in this. Those public figures trying to destroy the American educational system and minimize the benefits of higher education are themselves highly educated. Many of them have gone to Ivy League universities. Anne Coulter is one example. In her book, which Kasparian laments she has had to read, ’cause she’s got to debate her, Coulter states that the only purpose of college education is to produce ‘social justice warriors’. Yet this woman went to Cornel. Yet education is one of the great indicators of how well an individual will do in the future. And as she points out, it also protects you from scams.

Yet the Republicans themselves are also slightly divided on the issue of the benefits of higher education. 46 per cent of Republicans earning less than $30,000 a year say that college has a beneficial effect on how well you do. This declines for those earning over $30,000 all the way down to 32 per cent.

Uygur and Kasparian admit that there are caveats and qualifications to this issue. Higher education has a down side, in that students are saddled with an immense amount of debt. This needs to be reformed. But Republicans don’t see college as a negative because they feel sorry for the students burdened with this debt. No, they want to keep people stupid and misinformed, so they don’t climb the economic ladder and they can’t fill them with some of the nonsense they believe.

Uygur concludes ‘So don’t go to university, because if you go to a real university, you might not go to a Trump university, and that would be bad for Trump.’

Once again, this is an American issue that applies almost in toto to Britain. Continental visitors and emigrants to Britain have commented on how anti-intellectual British society is. And this anti-intellectualism is again part of British Conservatism as well. Way back in the 1980s Private Eye reviewed a book on Conservative by the right-wing British philosopher, Roger Scruton. Scruton declared that Conservativism wasn’t an intellectual force, but was largely unspoken, and based on the power of tradition. For which the reviewer thanked Scruton for being honest about how anti-intellectual it was. Intellectuals and science are distrusted, because many of their findings contradict or cast doubt on traditional attitudes. For example, feminism attacks traditional notions of gender roles. Black and Asian intellectuals and activist have also undermined commonly held racial assumptions about White superiority and the subordinate role of their ethnic groups. Left-wing historians and political scientists have also challenged the class basis of western, including American and British society, as well as the supposed beneficial nature of western imperialism.

Some of the Republican distrust of science comes from Biblical literalism. The findings of geology and cosmology contradict a literal reading of the creation of the world in Genesis. That said, one study found that the people, who had the greatest faith in science were actually Creationists.

The Republicans and some of their British counterparts, like Nigel Lawson, also deny the reality of global warming. Hence Trump’s decision to close down that part of the federal government that researches and publishes studies of climate change and the pollution and decline of America’s epic natural beauty. It’s why Theresa May and Dave Cameron get annoyed whenever anyone shows how terrible fracking is for local people and the environment.

Science can be particularly difficult for the layperson to understand. It can involve very careful statistical analysis of complex data. And some of the raw phenomena are extremely weird. Quantum physics is a case in point. The world of subatomic particles is contradictory and very different from the macroscopic, everyday world. Subatomic particles dart into and out of existence in the quantum foam at the very lowest layer of matter. Light can be simultaneously a wave and a particle. Particles may be in two places at once, under their position is recorded by an observer. They can also move between one place in the atom to another without physically crossing the space in between. And two entangled atoms can behave as one, even though they may be separated by light years. It’s so bizarre that the scientists studying it have said that ‘you don’t understand it. You just get used to it.’

Also, some of the pronouncements made by intellectuals themselves have given critics ample ammunition. Like the statement by one professor a few years ago that snowmen were racist and sexist. Or the £20,000 in grant one scientist received for researching the terribly important issue of why cornflakes get soggy when you pour milk on them.

There’s also the problem that scientific opinion also keeps changing on medical matters. Every so often researchers discover that certain foods are harmful for you. On the other hand, certain others are beneficial. Only for these opinions to be revised a few years later.

But the nature of science is that it is a process, not a set body of knowledge, and that it’s conclusions and statements may be revised as and when later discoveries are made. It’s why no-one now believes that an immaterial fluid – the ether – permeates the universe, with atoms only whirlpools in it, as they did over a century or so ago.

And so the right-wing press, like the Scum all the way up to the Torygraph, and particularly the Daily Heil, will publish endless numbers of articles attacking ‘left-wing’ intellectuals. Paul Johnson, the Conservative pundit, who used to write for the Daily Mail and Spectator, amongst other rags, wrote a book on them. Entitled Intellectuals, Johnson used it to explore what right intellectuals had to tell us what was right and how to order our lives. Private Eye also reviewed this as well. You will not be surprised to read that most of the intellectuals Johnson wrote about were left-wing, and many of them had shabby personal lives. Karl Marx is one example. Others were gay, or otherwise had colourful sexual tastes, like Kenneth Tynan, who apparently was into S&M.

But none of this actually refutes the value of their work, which has to be judged on other terms. Marx’s own bad behavior as a man doesn’t contradict his philosophical and economic theories any more than Alan Turing’s homosexuality refutes his work on mathematics and computers. But this doesn’t stop Johnson trying to tell you that their own bad behavior disqualifies intellectuals from having the right to explore how society may be improved. An attitude that, incidentally, is apparently shared by that other Johnson, Boris. This should rule Boris out as well as a serious politician, if true.

In the meantime, don’t let the Tories and Republicans run down public education. And stick up for proper intellectuals and intellectual discourse. As someone once said, ‘Eggheads of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your brains.’

RT’s Lee Camp on Facebook Prioritization of Corporate Media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/08/2017 - 3:17am in

Mike’s already blogged about this issue on his website, including posting this snippet from RT America’s Lee Camp, one of the satirical hosts of Redacted Tonight.

Facebook have decided that they are going to prioritize material from corporate media. Mike’s been hit by this policy, along with numerous other left-wing bloggers trying to bring you the truth that the Beeb and the mainstream media don’t want you to hear.

Camp calls this what it is: censorship. 44 per cent of Americans get their news from Facebook. And Zuckerberg, Facebook’s head, for his protests to the contrary, does look he’s thinking of running for president. He’s hired a former Clinton aide, and went the other week to a small town in Iowa, where he talked about politics. As Camp says, if he isn’t planning on running for president, then he really needs to get some friends.

This policy is also running with a campaign to cut out ‘fake news’. Camp admits that there is fake news out there, but when the corporate media talk about fake news, they mean the small, independent network of bloggers, activists and small broadcasters, like The David Pakman Show, The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Minority Report and Secular Talk, who stand outside the corporate big boys like TimeWarner, Comcast, Fox, MSNBC and so on. The algorithm designed to recognize fake news is being created with the assistance of the New York Times. The Times has published some excellent pieces, but it’s also just signed a $600 million contract with the CIA.

He then reads out Facebook’s guidelines for contributors, where they state they do not want clickbait. He also points out that they’re also not interested in showing how America’s bombing Yemen into the ground, and causing a massive famine in one of the Middle East’s poorest nations. Because that doesn’t fit corporate America’s agenda.

He also reads out a few Tweets from ordinary Americans, who are massively unimpressed with this censorship. And he also advises his audience that if they want to continue to hear genuinely independent voices, they need to support those bloggers and vloggers, use independent platforms, and occasionally throw the creators the odd dollar or five.

Absolutely. And this has come as part of a general corporate attack on independent news creators. Google are demonetizing various videos over on YouTube. These seem to be mostly those created by the independent, left-wing news programmes and shows that I mentioned above. It’s affecting David Pakman, and The Young Turks, as well as Sam Seder, amongst others.

Mike’s pointed out that Facebook stands to lose money by this policy. Well, they do, but they’re monopoly capitalists, so they’re confident about retaining overall control of the medium, or at least their massive share of it. What they don’t want is a load of progressives and Socialists coming through, telling people that another world is possible: that the poor aren’t all idle scroungers, that tax cuts for the rich aren’t going to make those at the bottom of the pile richer, that racism is a tool to exploit the White man as well as marginalize and persecute Blacks, Mexicans and Asians, and that single-payer actually makes far more sense than insurance-based health care.

As for the New York Times, Counterpunch have had the Grey Lady in their sights for a very long time for the way it acted as a media cheerleader for the Iraq War, censoring and sanitizing the horrors that American and western forces were committing in the name of ‘spreading democracy’.

These corporate policies, however, show that the mainstream media are on the back foot on this. Their monopoly is being challenged, and despite the bullsh*t and spin they’ve put out about representing quality journalism against independent ‘fake news’, their hold on the media is being challenged and weakening. Last week Mike wrote a piece tearing an article in the Groaniad to pieces when they tried this line.

And their even more terrified now that very many people have liked and republished Ismahil Blagrove’s diatribe about the way corporate television don’t understand and have no interest in representing the views and hopes of ordinary people.

So, instead of supporting corporate media, go and check out independent blogs and vlogs like Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, Kitty S. Jones, Guy Debord’s Cat, RT, the Canary, Chunky Mark, Aye Up, Let’s Talk, Tony Greenstein, Stilloaks, and many, many others. These are the people worth listening to, the people, who really talk about the harsh realities of Conservative Britain beyond the confines of corporate news.

RT Report: 90 People a Month Dying After Being Found Fit for Work

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 14/08/2017 - 8:40pm in

Mike over at Vox Political blogged about this issue last week. In this piece from RT, the presenter interviews journalist Steve Topple over the official figures that 90 people a month are dying after being found fit for work under the Work Capability Test. In one instance, a man, Lawrence Bond, collapsed and died of a heart attack right outside the jobcentre. He had been found fit for work, despite having an underlying heart problem. Topple also goes further, and cites other, highly disturbing figures that show the immense harm the tests are doing to disabled people. Oxford University found that 590 people had taken their own lives due to them. The tests are also linked to 270,000 cases of mental illness, and the prescription of 800,000 drugs for people suffering from the stress of these tests.

Topple and the present also discuss how the tests were introduced by New Labour back in 2008 as a way of redefining disability. Topple states that we do need to cut the welfare bill, but the tests are a blunt instrument that harms the disabled.

Topple also makes the point that the tests themselves are uneconomical. They’re more expensive to administer than whatever savings are produced from them. Mike and the other disability bloggers and activists have pointed out that this isn’t about saving money. It’s about penalizing and harassing the poor and disabled, simply for being poor and disabled. It is part of the principle of less eligibility, the ideology behind the workhouse, which Maggie Thatcher so enthusiastically embraced as one of her vile ‘Victorian values’.

They also make short work of another scandal – the DWP’s refusal to hand over the precise figures on the pretext that this would damage ‘commercial confidentiality’. The document being requested is Maximus’ – the company that has been administering the tests since 2015 – own internal report into the results of their tests across regions. Topple states that in refusing to publish the report, the DWP is acting directly against the orders of the Information Commissioner, who has demanded that the figures be published.

The claim of commercial confidentiality is a nonsense anyway. If a company is performing the work of a government department, then it should be open to public scrutiny in the same way a government department is. If you want to argue philology here, the Latin phrase for ‘state’ was ‘res publica’, the ‘public thing’, which became our word, ‘republic’. By implication, if a company is therefore working as part of the res publica, it should be open to inspection by the public, as free citizens.

Of course, this is all deeply abhorrent to the DWP and its heads, Iain Duncan Smith and now Damian Green. These two and their underlings and fellow ministers have been determined to cull as many of the disabled as possible in what Mike has called ‘chequebook euthanasia’, while hiding the figures from the general public. Mike has said many times on his book about the immense struggle he has had getting the true figures from the DWP, who refused, stonewalled, and challenged his requests for them. Just as they did to other disability bloggers and activists.

To see the names and biographies of some of the people, who have been killed by this vile policy, go to Mike’s blog, as well Stilloaks, Johnny Void and Another Angry Voice, and see DPAC’s website for their criticisms and campaigns against the DWP.

As for the Department itself, I fully concur with Mike: it should be broken up, and the worst offenders in it, those determined to make the lives of claimants as miserable as possible, should be sacked with no chance of a golden handshake. Frankly, if there was an real justice, Smith, Green and the Wicked Witch of the Wirral, Esther McVie, should be behind bars on a charge of corporate manslaughter.

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