medicine

Hooray! Murdoch Papers Too Ashamed to Publish Pathetic Circulation Figures

Ho ho! Zelo Street yesterday published a very interesting and amusing article about the continuing decline of the lamestream press. Jim Waterson, a hack at the Guardian, posted a series of tweets about the latest circulation figures for British newspapers. And they aren’t encouraging. Zelo Street has said for the past couple of months that the press has been badly hit by the lockdown. People simply aren’t buying papers. It’s why the Murdoch rags, inter alia, have been pushing for the lockdown to be lifted and actually took to implore their readers and internet followers to #buyapaper. They’re not remotely interested in the welfare of the great British public. But they are worried about falling sales and what Murdoch and the other chief inmates of News International will do about them – like start laying people off.

Waterson tweeted that, although the newspaper sales figures were supposed to be out that day, the industry had insisted that they should no longer be published. The monthly ABC sales charts have also been permanently stopped because they give a ‘stimulus to write a negative narrative of circulation decline.’ Which in English, rather than the garbled version spouted Newslink’s yuppie manager in the comedy series Drop the Dead Donkey, means that it encourages people to write about how the press is in trouble. Nevertheless, most of the papers did publish their figures. The exceptions were the Times, Sunday Times, Torygraph and the Scum. And the paper with the highest circulation was the Daily Heil, with 944,981 copies sold.

Well, as the character, Gus, once said, I’ll just throw that into your intellectual wok and see if it stir fries.

Zelo Street points out that this is the first time no newspaper has sold less than a million a copies. It also suggests that this has happened to the Sun, which is why the super, soaraway Current Bun is not publishing its figures. It’s possibly been supplanted by the Heil for the first time in 40+ yearsThe Street also argues quite reasonably that both the Heil’s and Scum’s Sunday editions will have worse sales than the dailies. This means that the press is in terminal decline and we’re entering the endgame.

Novara Media’s excellent Aaron Bastiani put an additional boot into the Murdoch title’s shame. If newspapers won’t publish their sales figures, then the Beeb shouldn’t review their front pages every morning. Unless we know these papers’ reach, it’s just giving them free advertising.

Good point.

Zelo Street also states that the press is probably going to lose even more readers when they work out that the papers they support wanted the lockdown lifted for the sake of their own profits, not out of concern for the public’s wellbeing. A number of may well die from Coronavirus infections picked up when the papers told them that the disease was nothing to worry about. And their survivors will put two and two together and decide not to continue supporting them. Or even bringing a class lawsuit against them.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/press-heading-for-early-oblivion.html

My guess is that the reason the Torygraph and the Murdoch rags aren’t publishing their sales figures is partly economic. Apart from being embarrassed at how pathetically their mighty organs are doing, they’re also afraid of repercussions from advertisers. If they find out how low the newspapers are selling, they may well want the advertising rates reduced. This will mean a further drop in these newspaper’s income. Which means greater losses, and the threat of even more redundancies.

To many people it will come as absolutely no surprise that the Times and the Torygraph are in such a mess. Private Eye have covered many times their problems and falling circulation in its ‘Street of Shame’ column. In the case of the Torygraph, it’s problems are due to bad corporate management, including a devotion to internet gimmicks rather than solid news reporting and deliberately altering news content in their interests of the advertisers. This last policy so infuriated Peter Oborne that he left the paper and went instead to the Heil, making his own criticisms of it very public. There have already been redundancies and cutbacks, but these have failed to halt the paper’s continuing decline. The Eye has also said that the Times’ sales are now so low, that if it were any other paper it would either have been folded or put up for sale by its management years ago. But it’s the British paper of record, and so allows Murdoch to grab a place at the government table because of its prestige. Which means that if its circulation is so low that there’s no reason the Beeb, or anyone else, should take any notice of it, Murdoch’s ability to influence government decisions, even to act as kingmaker in his decision which party to support, is severely damaged.

Ditto with the Scum. It certainly didn’t have the Times‘ prestige or even its journalistic standards – indeed, it’s a matter of debate whether the scabrous rag had any standards at all. But it was Britain’s leading newspaper with a huge circulation, and more visibly influenced British politics through its shrill trumpeting of everything Thatcher and the Tories ever did, until Murdoch decided to flirt with New Labour. Now that’s also been seriously damaged.

Zelo Street is right in that these newspapers still have an influence beyond their print sales through their online presence, but there are problems here as well. Many of their articles are behind paywalls, which means that many casual readers won’t read them because they won’t want to pay or subscribe to the wretched rags. And if they are free, then it comes from money made from print sales. Which mean that when those go down, the paper’s ability to put up their articles free on the net also declines. The situation does not look good.

I’ve no sympathy for any of these foul rags. I suppose it’ll be a shame if the Times folds, after lasting for nearly 300 or so years. But as it, its Sunday counterpart and the Scum are just rightwing, Tory propaganda rags that lies, smear and libel decent people with absolutely no compunction, as far as I’m concerned it deserves to go under. Britain will be better off without them.

And while we’re on the subject, what about the sales figures for Private Eye? I know it’s a magazine rather than a newspaper, but much of it is news. My guess is that it’s circulation is also falling in line with the rest of the press. It’s hostility and snide remarks about left-wing news sites and internet organisations like The Canary and The Skwawkbox also seem to suggest that it’s afraid of their competition. Private Eye does publish some very good stuff, but it has also promoted the Blairites and the anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn’s Labour party, as well as other material which is utterly wrong. So I have very mixed feelings about it.

As for the rest of the press, their mostly right-wing propaganda rags, and so absolutely nothing worthwhile will be lost if they go under as well.

 

 

Boris Isn’t Churchill, He’s Neville Chamberlain

Okay, it’s finally happened. I think people have been expecting this, but were hoping that somehow it wouldn’t come true. But it has. Mike today has put up a piece reporting that the death toll from the Coronavirus has hit 62,000. 51,000 people are known to have died, according to some of the people, whose tweets about this tragedy Mike has reproduced in his article. That’s more than those killed during the Blitz.

How do I feel about this? Absolutely furious and bitterly ashamed. Britain is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, but we now have the second worst death rate from this foul disease in the world. And it can all be put down to our leaders’ incompetence, their doctrinaire pursuit of neoliberalism and private industry at the expense of the res publica, the commonweal, the public good. And their willingness to sacrifice the health, safety and lives of the great British people for the sake of their corporate profits and the narrow interests of their own class.

Mike, Zelo Street and a host of other left-wing bloggers and activists have published article after article minute describing the Tories’ culpable negligence. They were warned in advance by scientists and medical experts that a fresh pandemic was coming sometime. As you know, I despise New Labour, but Blair, Brown and the rest nevertheless took the threat seriously. They prepared for it, setting up appropriate government and NHS departments. What did the Tories do? Shelve all these plans, because they were committed to austerity and they didn’t think the money spent on these precautions were worth it. 2016 the government wargamed a flu pandemic, and this pointed out all the problems we’ve subsequently experienced with the Coronavirus. And what happened after that? Zilch. For the same reasons the plans were shelved and weren’t updated and the specialist departments closed down.

And the Tories’ commitment to austerity also meant they prevented the NHS from being adequately prepared for the outbreak. It had too few intensive care beds, the supplies of PPE were too small, and underlying it is the plain fact that the NHS has been criminally starved of proper funding for years. Because, for all that they’re praising it now, the Tories are desperate to sell it off and have a private healthcare system like the one that works in America. You know, the one country that now has a worse death toll than ours.

Austerity has also exacerbated the impact of the disease in another way. It hits the poor the hardest. Which is unsurprising – the poor often suffer worse from disease, because they don’t have such good diets, jobs, housing and living conditions as the rich. In this case, poorer people do jobs that bring them more into contact with others, which leaves them more exposed to infection. I really am not surprised, therefore, that Blacks and Asians are therefore far more likely than Whites to contract Covid-19. There are other factors involved, of course – ethnic minorities as a rule tend to live far more in multigenerational households than Whites, which increases the risk of infection. But Blacks and some ethnic groups also tend to do the worse, most poorly paid jobs and that’s also going to leave them vulnerable.

And Boris is personally responsible for this debacle. He was warned in November that the Coronavirus was a threat and January and February of this years the scientists were telling him to put the country into lockdown. But he didn’t. He was too preoccupied with ‘getting Brexit done’. He also didn’t want to put this country into lockdown, because it would harm the economy, which meant that the big businesses that donate to him and his scummy party would take a hit. And he and Dominic Cummings and certain others also subscribe to the Social Darwinist view that the disease should be allowed to take its toll on the weakest, because they were useless eaters holding back all the biologically superior rich businessmen the party idolizes. It was a simply just culling the herd, nothing to worry about. And apart from that, Boris was just personally too damn idle. He doesn’t like to read his briefs, he didn’t turn up to the first five meetings of Cobra, and rather than working shot off back home at the weekends. And he was also far too interested in pursuing his relationship with his latest partner.

Johnson fancies himself as Winston Churchill. A few years ago he published a book about the great War Leader, that was so execrable it was torn to shreds by John Newsinger over at Lobster. In this, the Blonde Buffoon resembles Jim Hacker from the Beeb’s comedy series, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Whenever Hacker had some grand idea that would raise him or his administration above mediocrity, he’d start posing and speaking like Churchill. Boris hasn’t quite done that, or at least, not in public. But he certainly shares Hacker’s vanity in this respect.

But he isn’t Churchill. He’s Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain. Churchill hated Nazi Germany and was determined to destroy it. Chamberlain, on the other hand, wanted to avoid war. Hence he came back from Munich waving a worthless piece of paper, which he proclaimed as ‘peace in our time’. He was thus absolutely unprepared for Hitler’s invasion of Poland. But the Tories got rid of him, and replaced him with Churchill.

Johnson was unprepared for the Coronavirus. He should have been removed long ago and replaced with someone, who could do something about it. But that would mean replacing the entire Tory party, as none of the Prime Ministers since Brown have been serious about preparing for this threat.

And thanks to them, more people have now died than in the Blitz.

What an under, damnable disgrace!

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/20/uk-coronavirus-deaths-hit-62000-no-wonder-johnson-only-appears-for-pmqs/

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Four

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Conclusion

While this a great book I immensely enjoyed, it also very much the product of its time. Shaw is unrealistic and more than a little sectarian himself in his advocacy of the equalization of incomes. He regards it as the real, fundamental goal of socialism and that unless they too believe in it, others advocating nationalisation aren’t real socialists. But the Soviets and various other socialist groups have tried the equalisation of incomes, and it didn’t work. But nevertheless, even if wages shouldn’t be exactly the same, the differences in wealth should very definitely be far less than they are now.

Similarly, I don’t entirely agree with his views on the unions. Now other socialists also struggled with the problems they posed for working class power. Trade unions by themselves aren’t socialist organisations. Their role is to fight for better wages and conditions for the workers, not to replace capitalism, and Lenin himself pondered how workers could go from ‘trade union consciousness’ to socialism. In the 1980s it was found that trade unionists often voted Tory, because of the improved quality of life they enjoyed. But the unions are nevertheless vital working class organisations and are rightly at the heart of the Labour party, and have provided countless working class leaders and politicians.

Shaw was right about the coal mines, and his description of the results of the great differences in viability between them and the comparative poverty or wealth of the mining companies was one of the reasons they were nationalised by Labour under Clement Attlee.  He’s also right about nationalising the banks. They don’t provide proper loans for the small businessman, and their financial shenanigans have resulted, as Shaw noted in his own day, in colossal crashes like that of 2008. He is also right about the rich sending their money abroad rather than contributing to the British economy. In his time it was due to imperialism, and there is still a hangover from this in that the London financial sector is still geared to overseas rather than domestic investment. It’s why Neil Kinnock advocated the establishment of a British investment bank in 1987. Now, in the early 21st century, they’re also saving their money in offshore tax havens, and British manufacturers have been undercut and ruined through free trade carried out in the name of globalisation.

His arguments about not nationalising industries before everything has been properly prepared, and the failures of general strikes and revolutions are good and commonsense. So is his recommendation that capitalism can drive innovation. On the other hand, it frequently doesn’t and expects the state to bail it out or support it before it does. I also agreed with Shaw when he said that companies asking for government subsidies shouldn’t get them unless the gave the government a part share in them. That would solve a lot of problems, especially with the outsourcing companies. They should be either nationalised or abolished.

I can’t recommend the book without qualifications because of his anti-religious views. Shaw also shows himself something of a crank when it comes to vaccination. As well as being a vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist, which aren’t now anywhere near as remarkable as they once were, he’s against vaccination. There are parts of the book which are just anti-vaxxer rants, where he attacks the medical profession as some kind of pseudo-scientific priesthood with sneers at the religion of Jenner. He clearly believes that vaccination is the cause of disease, instead of its prevention. I don’t know if some of the primitive vaccinations used in his time caused disease and death, but it is clear that their absence now certainly can. Children and adults should be vaccinated because the dangers of disease are far, far worse.

Shaw also has an unsentimental view of the poor. He doesn’t idealise them, as poor, ill-used people can be terrible themselves, which is why poverty itself needs to be eradicated. In his peroration he says he looks forward to the poor being exterminated along with the rich, although he has a little more sympathy for them. He then denies he is a misanthrope, and goes on to explain how he likes people, and really wants to see people growing up in a new, better, classless socialist future.

While I have strong reservations about the book, it is still well-worth reading, not least because of Shaw’s witty turns of phrase and ability to lampoon of capitalism’s flagrant absurdities. While I strongly reject his anti-religious views, his socialist ideas, with a few qualifications, still hold force. I wish there were more classic books on socialism like this in print, and widely available so that everyone can read them.

Because today’s capitalism is very much like the predatory capitalism of Shaw’s age, and becoming more so all the time.

 

 

 

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part One

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Introduction

This is a great book. It’s the kind of book on socialism I was very much looking for in the 1980s when the papers were all praising Margaret Thatcher and alleged superiority of capitalism to the heavens. What I wanted then was a classic defence of socialism, which clearly showed the destructive nature and defects of capitalism, and how these would be removed for the better under a proper socialist government with a clear idea of what needed to be done and how it could be achieved.

This is a rather long review, so I’ve split up into four parts.

The book was written between 1924 and 1928, when it was first published. George Bernard Shaw is one of the great figures in British socialism. An Irishman, he was one of the founders of the Fabian Society along with Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and editor of its anthology of socialist writings, Fabian Essays. He’s best known for his play Pygamalion, about a linguist, Henry Higgins, who takes Eliza, a rough working class girl, and tries to mould her so she can pass as a lady of the genteel classes. It was filmed as the musical My Fair Lady, starring Rex Harrison.

Shaw wrote it between 1924 and 1928, when it was published, at the request of his sister-in-law, Lady Cholmondley. She had asked him to write a letter explaining socialism for women. Shaw looked into it, and discovered that amongst the masses of literature about socialism, there weren’t any books that realised that there were such creatures. And, he adds in his ‘Instead of a Bibliography’, very few that recognised the existence of men either. The book’s addressed to a female audience. The reader is a ‘she’ and the examples given are taken from women’s lives, jobs and experience. Shaw recognises that most women are occupied as wives and mothers, or shop girls and workers in the great weaving mills, the common female roles at the time. But he also recognises and fully supports the fact that more professions were being opened up to women in science, law, medicine and so on. If done badly, this approach by a male writer can seem patronising, but Shaw, as a great writer, manages to avoid it. And even though it’s aimed at women, I greatly enjoyed it, and would recommend it to other blokes.

Capital, Equality of Incomes and Imperialism

Shaw tries to present complex ideas about capitalism by simplifying them down to the level of ordinary people’s housekeeping or domestic economy. He defines capital as left over money. It’s the money you have left after spending your income on rent, food and so on. This is the money that the idle rich, the landlords, invest in industry. And money’s only real value is for the food and clothing that it will purchase. You cannot eat money, and the food it will buy must be eaten or else it will be spoilt. Which means that money must be invested and used, rather than stored up.

At the heart of Shaw’s view of socialism is the equalization of incomes. He believed that everyone should earn exactly the same amount. Capitalism had created vast inequalities of wealth. On the one hand there was a small minority of the idle rich, who had to invent pastimes and diversions in order to use up their wealth. On the other was the vast mass of the poor, living at or near starvation level. He begins by asking the reader how they would divide up the nation’s wealth, challenging the reader to think for herself rather than let him do her thinking for her. He then proceeds to argue that it is impossible to decide that one person should be paid more or less than another because of their personal morality or ability. He sharply criticises the quasi-feudal economy of his day, when 90 per cent of the country worked to support the gentry, who only comprised ten per cent of the country’s population. They do nothing for it, don’t benefit from it, as they can’t personally eat or drink more than anyone else. And instead of investing it, they simply take it out of the country to invest it or spend it abroad. He also attacks British imperialism for this same thing. It hasn’t benefited the peoples we have conquered nor British tradespeople, businessmen and workers. It has led to the exploitation of Blacks abroad, who can paid far less than their British counterparts. Thus Britain is flooded with cheap imports, and British companies are going bust and their workers laid off.

The Progress of Capitalism and Decline of the Businessman Owner

Shaw then describes how the middle class have their origins as the younger sons of the aristocracy, with a few acute remarks on the absurd gradations of class which meant that a wholesaler was socially superior to a retailer. His father was a businessman, who had been a member of the gentry. As such he looked down on the elite Dublin shopkeepers, even though they were richer and entertained the local Irish aristocracy, which he very definitely couldn’t. But business was changing. The age of the small businessman in personal possession of his business, was giving way to joint-stock companies owned by their shareholders and managed by professional, salaried staff. Under pressure from the unions, they were combining to  form monopolistic trusts. This made them ready for nationalisation.

Nationalisation and the Coal Industry

He presents the coal industry as particularly needing nationalisation. At the time he wrote, there were a number of different mining companies. Some worked poor mines and were close to bankruptcy, others very rich. However, miners wages were set at the level the poor mines could afford, which was near starvation. Coal prices were set for the rich mines, and so prices were high. The miners were thus being starved and the consumer overcharged. The mines should thus be nationalised so that the workers were paid a fair wage, and the consumer a fair price. Shaw advocated nationalisation so that costs and prices could be brought down and goods sold at cost price.

Banks and the Stock Market

He also discusses and explains finance capitalism, stocks and shares, debentures, futures and the stock market. He warns the reader against get-rich-quick scams, like the bucket shops which will charge his prices for very risky shares. If people want to invest, they should do so with the government or municipality. Their shares won’t provide a great yield, but they will be safe. He recommends that banks should be nationalised because of the problems the small businessman had acquiring capital. The big businesses rely on financiers, who certainly won’t lend the small businessman wanting a modest loan anything. Neither will the banks. He pointed to Birmingham as an example for the future, as it had established a municipal bank to serve the customers the big banks wouldn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Rayner Urges People to Join A Union

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/05/2020 - 11:35pm in

This morning I, along with countless thousands of other Labour party members, got an email from Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner. I have to say that I didn’t vote for her in the leadership elections – I voted for Richard Burgon instead as a left-wing, genuinely Labour candidate. But Rayner’s message is one that I can totally get behind. She was urging me, and others like me, to join a union. She wrote

(L)ast night I sat shocked on my sofa as Boris Johnson spoke to our country.

Workers who can’t work from home were encouraged to go back to work – but given no guidance on how to stay safe.

Millions of jobs are impossible to do while 2 metres apart. Millions of us have been given no protective equipment. But David, we don’t have to sit on our sofas and take this.

When I was a care worker on a zero hour contract and poverty pay, I joined a trade union. With my union, alongside my work mates, I won better working conditions. Labour MPs will always fight for workers’ interests, and you can do the same by joining a union. Are you a trade union member?

This crisis has proved the strength of workers when we unite – whether you’re a construction worker or a care giver. It’s proved the power of having a trade union membership card in your pocket.

Trade unions fought for and won the furlough scheme. It’s trade unions who are making sure thousands of workers don’t get laid off during this crisis. In retail, healthcare, catering, building and beyond, union representatives are sorting safety measures like protective equipment, hand washing facilities and enough space to social distance. ​But we can’t rest until every worker does their job in safe and fair conditions.

The Labour Party was founded when working people came together to win. As one movement, we won a 5 day week, equal pay for women and a minimum wage. Together, we will win again.

Angela Rayner

Deputy Leader and Chair of The Labour Party

The question ‘Are you a trade union member?’ was followed by two answers,  ‘No, tell me how’ and ‘Yes – give me advice’. These were linked to the relevant TUC pages. The ‘No’ answer takes you to the TUC page on joining at union at

https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-union?source=20200511_UnionLab&subsource=bsd_email&utm_campaign=UnionLab&utm_medium=email&utm_source=bsd

This doesn’t apply to me, as I’m still off work because of the cancer treatment. But it very much applies to everyone fortunate to be employed. Whatever side of the Labour party you’re on, whether you’re left, right, centre or undecided, if you’re a working person you need to join a union. The unions have been there since the late 18th century, when they first appeared in the industrial north, to defend working people’s rights at work and fight for higher wages and better conditions.  The wage freezes and declining working conditions that have produced poverty, job insecurity and starvation in this country are a result of over four decades of right-wing governments doing their best to destroy the unions. And the situation for all too many millions is desperate.

We need to give working people back prosperity, job security and dignity, and that means strong unions. And they can only be made strong by people joining them.

So I urge everyone who can to join a union, because working people need their protection.

We Need a Centralized Medical System Too

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 11/05/2020 - 4:10am in

Is there a central database for medical records in the U.S.? - Quora

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare two fundamental flaws in the American healthcare system.

Number one: There’s a reason that other rich countries treat healthcare as a taxpayer-financed social program. Employer-based health insurance was stupid pre-COVID-19 because our economy was already steadily transitioning from traditional full-time W-2 jobs to self-employment, freelance and gig work. The virus has exposed the insanity of this arrangement. Millions of people have been fired over the last two months; now they find themselves uninsured during a global health emergency. The unemployed theoretically face fines for the crime of no longer being able to afford to buy private healthcare.

The second inherent flaw in the U.S. approach is that it’s for profit. Greed creates an inherent incentive against paying for preventative and emergency care. Even people who are desperately ill with chronic conditions see 24% of legitimate claims denied.

When your insurance company issues a denial, they don’t merely pocket that payment. They also add to future profits. Even if you’re insured, the hassle of knowing that you might get hit by a surprise bill for uncovered/out-of-network charges makes you more likely to stay home rather than to risk seeing a doctor or filling a prescription and going broke. “Visits to primary care providers made by adults under the age of 65…dropped by nearly 25% from 2008 to 2016” due to routine denials by insurers, reports NPR.

Denials also create a societal effect: news stories about patients with insurance receiving bills for thousands of dollars after being treated for COVID-19, even just to be tested, prompt people to stay away from hospitals and try to ride out the disease at home. Some of those people die.

There’s another, third structural problem exposed by the pandemic—but it’s not receiving attention from public policy experts or the media. I’m talking about America’s lack of a centralized healthcare system.

A centralized healthcare system has nothing to do with who pays the doctor. A centralized system can be fully socialized, government-subsidized or fully for-profit. In such a scheme all patient records are stored in a central online database accessible to physicians, pharmacists and other caregivers regardless of where you are when you need care. If you fall ill while you’re on a trip away from home, the admitting nurse at a walk-in clinic or hospital has instantaneous access to your complete medical history.

The current system is primitive. Data is not transferable between doctors or medical systems without a patient’s directive, which inexplicably is often required by the obsolete technology of sending a fax. That assumes the sick person is sharp enough to remember which of his previous doctors did what when. And that’s it’s not a weekend or national holiday or a Wednesday, when some doctors like to golf.

Unless a patient happens to be wearing a medical alert bracelet, there is currently no way to determine whether an unconscious victim is allergic to a drug, has a chronic illness or that there’s a treatment regimen proven to be more effective for them. Even if the patient is alert and conscious, a new doctor may ignore her request for a specific medication in favor of cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all treatment.

A few months ago I developed the classic symptoms of what we now know to be COVID-19. I live in New York. I succumbed while on business in LA. Trying in vain to fight off a relentless dry cough, difficulty breathing and day after day of brutal aches and fever, I visited a CVS walk-in clinic. I have a long history of respiratory illnesses: asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, swine flu. I requested a third- or fourth-generation antibiotic since I knew from experience that I would inevitably decline with anything less. “We do not treat viral infections with antibiotics,” the nurse, a charmless Pete Buttigieg type, pompously declaimed. I pointed out that viral lung infections usually have a bacterial component that should be treated with antibiotics.

This would not have been a issue back home in New York, where both my general practitioner and my pulmonologist know my medical history. Either doctor would have prescribed a strong antibiotic and a codeine-based cough syrup.

Because I happened to be in LA, I left CVS empty-handed.

I declined.

It got to the point that I couldn’t walk 100 feet without pausing to catch my breath.  I felt like I was going to die.

I called my doctor back in New York. She called in a prescription to the same CVS. It helped arrest my decline. But I wasn’t getting better.

I visited a different walk-in clinic, in West Hollywood. It was a better experience. They tested me for flu (negative), X-rayed me (diagnosis was early stage- pneumonia) and put me on a nebulizer. I began a slow recovery.

A centralized system would have been more efficient. The CVS nurse would have seen my history of non-response to treatment devoid of strong antibiotics. He also might have taken note of my pulmonologist’s effective use of a nebulizer to treat previous bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. I might have been prescribed the proper medication and treatment as much as a week sooner.

COVID-19 almost certainly would have been detected in the United States sooner if we had a centralized medical system. “One example of a persistent challenge in the early detection of health security threats is the lack of national, web-based databases that link suspected cases of illness with laboratory confirmation. This leaves countries vulnerable, as they cannot accurately and quickly identify the presence of pathogens to minimize the spread of disease,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Algorithms can automatically scan massive volumes of information for signs of novel infectious diseases, help identify potential problems and focus responses where they are needed most.

How many people’s lives could have been saved if lockdown procedures had begun earlier? If public health officials had seen the coronavirus coming back in December—or November—they might have been able to protect vulnerable populations and avoid a devastating economic shutdown.

There are substantial privacy considerations. No one wants a hacker to find out that they had an STD or an employer to learn about documented evidence of substance abuse. Keeping a centralized healthcare system secure would have to be a top priority. On the other hand, there is no inherent shame in any kind of illness. In a nightmare scenario in which medical records were to somehow become public, no one would have anything to hide or any reason to look down on anyone else.

We can’t pretend to be a first world country until we join the rest of the world by abolishing corporate for-profit healthcare and decouple insurance benefits from employment. But reform without centralization would be incomplete.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Private Eye on the Problems of the Government’s Medical Central Purchasing Company

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 1:22am in

Mike’s article about the government’s privatisation and centralisation of the purchasing of PPE and other essential medical equipment for combating the Coronavirus follows a report in last fortnight’s Private Eye for 21st April – 7th May 2020 about the problems besetting the state-owned company the Tories had set up to do this. Centralising the purchase of PPE was supposed to lead to massive NHS savings. However, according to the Eye it has led instead only to its chiefs awarding themselves massive salaries, and staff shortages and poor pay at the bottom. The article on page 10, ‘SKIMPING OUTFITS’ runs

The government-owned company struggling to supply masks, gloves, aprons and eye protection to hospitals and GPS was set up explicitly to reduce spending on NHS supplies.

Supply Chain Coordination LTD (SCCL) has been in charge of procuring NHS supplies and the warehouses and lorries getting PPE out to the NHS since April 2018. The government argued that one centralised buying system would “generate savings of £2.4bn over a five-year period” through “efficiency”. In fact it has led to big salaries at the top and lower pay and staff shortages at the bottom.

SCCL was set up as a government-owned company in response to the Carter review of NHS productivity. Lord (Patrick) Carter argued that too many NHS trusts buying their own kit was inefficient and the government could “rationalise the procurement landscape, reduce spend and consolidate purchasing power”. Jin Sahota was brought in as SCCL chief executive from French media firm Technicolor on £230,000 a year, after the government allowed higher salaries for “commercial staff”. I’ll be absolutely blunt”, he told Civil Service World last year, “If the salary levels were somewhat different, maybe it wouldn’t have attracted me.”

In May 2019, Rob Houghton, former Post Office chief information officer, was made SCCL’s “IT focused” director. As the last Eye’s special report on the Post Office’s Horizon IT scandal noted, in 2016 Houghton launched a review into the malfunctioning system, which was mysteriously abandoned. The courts later found that a matter of “great concern”.

SCCL manages procurement of NHS bulk supplies and contracts distribution of NHS essentials through a five-year, £730m deal signed in 2018 with UK logistics firm Unipart, which runs the NHS warehouses and lorry deliveries. In September 2018, Steve Barclay (then a health minister, now at the Treasury) said the SCCL/ Unipart deal was “streamlining” the NHS.

Meanwhile, £500m is being taken from NHS trusts to fund the new system and “incentivise” trusts to use it. However, any “savings” delivered look more like penny-pinching than efficiency: in December, HGV and 7.5 tonne drivers on the SCCL/ Unipart contract had to threaten strike action to get decent sick pay and push their rate above an industry low of £10.24 an hour.

At the start of April, union Unite said warehouse staff were exhausted and struggling to keep up with demand. In a cuts-driven system, there was no slack to deal with the extra burden of a pandemic. The government’s solution was to send in the army to help in the warehouses. This has provided some relief – but once the immediate crisis passes, will it return to its ill-conceived “savings” plan?

It looks like Boris’ decision to privatise the purchasing process is a result of this company’s embarrassing failure. But Deloitte and co. aren’t going to fare much better, if at all. What’s at fault is the whole notion of centralisation itself. This was used to destroy local DHSS and inland revenue offices in the 1980s and 1990s, all in the name of efficiency. I don’t believe it made the process any more efficient. In fact, given the delays benefit claimants experienced in the processing of their claims, even before IDS’ stupid and murderously destructive Universal Credit was rolled out, it made it much, much worse.

It also won’t solve the problem of a poorly paid, overworked and demoralised staff working flat out for a grossly overpaid senior management. This is now general throughout business and what used to be the civil service. It’s how the outsourcing companies were able to generate their profits in the first place – they laid off staff in order to give their shareholders nice fat dividends and senior management nice fat salaries and bonuses.

What is causing the problems is the Tories’ decimation of the NHS across its services. As Mike and others have reported, other countries like Germany were able to respond more effectively to the pandemic because they had spare capacity in beds. But the Tories had removed that in the NHS in the name of efficiency.

It’s time these false economies were wound up. Purchasing should be handed back to NHS trusts, and the NHS and the rest of the civil service properly funded.

And the Tories and their obsession with centralisation, rationalisation, privatisation and rewarding overpaid, greedy managers and board chairmen thrown out of government.

Outrageous! Government Uses Pandemic to Privatise Even More of the NHS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 12:32am in

So much for the real respect the Tories have for the NHS! Yesterday Mike put up a piece based on a report in the Guardian about the government pushing through the privatisation of even more NHS services through emergency powers designed to deal with the pandemic.

These powers have allowed the Tories to circumvent the usual tendering processes and award contracts to private healthcare companies and management consultants without the usual competition. The Groan reported that doctors, academics, MPs and campaign groups raised their concerns about this after it emerged on Monday that the outsourcing company, Serco, was in the lead to get the contract to supply 15,000 call handlers for the government’s track and trace operation.

And where Serco goes, the other outsourcing companies aren’t far behind. Deloitte, KPMG, Sodexo, Boots, Mitie, as well as Serco and the American data-mining group Palantir have also been given government contracts to run the Coronavirus drive-in testing centres, purchase PPE equipment and build nightingale hospitals.

They’ve also decided to centralise part of the purchasing process and hand it to yet another private company. The Groan stated that it had seen a letter from the Department of Health instructing local hospitals not to buy their own PPE and ventilators. Instead, purchasing of a list of 16 items, including were to be handled centrally. The items include PPE, but also general, high-value equipment such as CT and ultrasound scanners and mobile X-ray machines.

The Groan considered that this would hand more power to Deloitte, as not only was the accountancy and management consultants responsible for coordinating Covid-19 test centres and logistics at three new ‘lighthouse’ laboratories, they were also given a contract three weeks ago to advise the government on PPE purchases. As the provision of PPE has been absolutely deplorable, with equipment needed her exported abroad, insufficient supplies coming late from Turkey and other faults, so that doctors and nurses have been forced to use masks and gowns made by the public, and even bin-bags, Deloitte should be sacked and fined for their massive incompetence.

Mike makes the point that at the time PPE should be available to as many people as possible, the government is actually making it more expensive. He states that if Jeremy Corbyn had won the election, these items would be free. He also makes the point that it is alleged that Corbyn was prevented from doing so because of sabotage from the right-wingers in his own party. A genuinely free, publicly funded and nationalised NHS was one of the things the intriguers didn’t want. Presented with the evidence of this plotting and sabotage, one Labour MP remarked that it explained why he experienced so much resistance to his attempts to have it accepted as Labour policy that NHS services should be taken back in house. Alan Milburn, Tony Blair’s health secretary, wanted the NHS fully privatised so that it would become simply a logo for services provided by private healthcare companies for the state.

This shabby policy also shows how desperate the Tories are to give rewards to their own donors. a few weeks ago Zelo Street posted up a piece about how one company, which was set to supply ventilators for the government were told that this was off. Instead, the order went out to Dyson, who’s donated something like £10 million to the Tory coffers. This does not seem to be a coincidence.

I also came across a report somewhere that said that the big accountancy firms, Deloitte, KPMG, whatever Anderson Consulting is now, were in trouble. Most of their money comes from consultancy work, but this has dried up since the lockdown. Good! I’m still angry with these parasites for the way they trashed the inland revenue and DHSS for the Tories in the 1980s and ’90s. I don’t think any of them should be given any kind of government contract whatsoever.

It is thanks to the NHS and not a private healthcare system like America’s that the death toll from Boris’ idleness and incompetence isn’t massively higher. It’s a savage indictment of ten years of Tory privatisation and underfunding as it is. This is another example of how much the Tories ‘treasure’ the NHS. They will treasure it right up to the time they sell the last piece of it off.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/06/tories-are-accelerating-destruction-of-the-nhs-just-when-we-really-need-it/

Riley’s Mates Oberman and Barber Smear Rachael of Swindon because She’s RT’d by Lineker

More anti-Semitism smearing and scumbaggery from Rachel Riley, Tracey Ann Oberman and Frances Barber. The internet commenter ‘Rachael Swindon’, or @rachael_swindon, her Twitter monicker, is Rachael Cousins, a firm supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. Her internet handle comes from the fact that she’s from the railway town in Wiltshire. According to a Buzzfeed article last year by disgraced FT hack Mark di Stefano, she and her husband are both currently unable to work due to their disabilities. Her husband has fibromyalgia, the same debilitating disease that afflicts Mrs Mike, and which can cause severe pain and fatigue. Swindon herself suffers from osteoarthritis in her legs. As well as supporting Corbyn, she also shares the former Labour leader’s support for the Palestinians. However, this does not mean that she is anti-Semite. She isn’t. It’s perfectly possible to support the country’s indigenous people – the Arabs – without hating Jews. Indeed, the pro-Palestinian organisation to which Tony Greenstein, a self-respecting secular Jew belongs, won’t accept real anti-Semites.

Unfortunately, this fact isn’t reported by the lamestream media, and for fanatical the fanatical supporters of Israel, any sympathy for the Palestinians means that someone must be a vicious anti-Semite. This even extends to left-wing Zionists. When a group of liberal Israelis said the Jewish prayer for the dead, the Kaddish, over dying civilians shot by the IDF last year after they broke out from Gaza, they were subjected to a hail of abuse from the ultra-Zionist right. And yesterday, Rachael Swindon was subjected to the same smearing for her support for the Palestinians by Riley, Oberman and Barber.

This was sparked off by a Tweet she’d put up about another 100 year old man, who like Captain Tom Moore, was also doing laps of his garden for charity. Unlike Captain Moore, he wasn’t White, and wasn’t getting the same amount of attention. Gary Lineker noticed this and retweeted it. And Riley’s mates, Barber and Oberman erupted into frothing ire. They called her Rachel Swindler, claimed that she led a Corbynite troll army to post anti-Semitic hate and abuse against Oberman, and compared her to David Icke.

Zelo Street in his article about this sordid piece of smearing and abuse states that it’s another example of the rich trying to silence the poor. He concludes

‘Rachael Cousins is political, opinionated, insistent, and yes, persistent. But she is not a “swindler”, she doesn’t have a “troll army”, she’s not racist, and not a hate merchant. Yet there are the well off, trying to have her erased from Twitter conversations.

She knew that when she gave BuzzFeed that interview. “I am a woman who has got a voice … They are trying to take that away from me”. Free speech is for everyone, whether you agree with their politics or not. Maybe Ms Cousins’ detractors should remember that.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/the-erasing-of-rachael-cousins.html

One of the ways Rachel Riley tries to silence her critics is by suing them for libel. At the moment she is pursuing Mike and two other people through the courts after they blogged and criticised her for the abuse she has poured on her critics, including calling them anti-Semites simply because they supported Jeremy Corbyn.

This nasty bit of jealousy and smearing by Riley’s friends coincidentally occurred at the same time I was reading Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism. First published in 1928, this the great Fabian playwright’s savage indictment of capitalism. It was written at the request of his sister-in-law, and obviously aimed at a female audience. It is directly addressed at the reader – he constantly refers to her using the second person, and the examples used to illustrate his argument are, as far as possible, female. I found it in one of the second hand book companies’ catalogues, and ordered it. Although it was written nearly a century ago – he first began it in 1924 – his arguments still have bite. And one of the many all-too relevant points he makes is how the rich use the law to their advantage against the poor simply because their wealth allows them to engage expensive lawyers that are well beyond the ability of the poor to afford. Shaw writes

The civil law by which contracts are enforced, and redress given for slanders and injuries that are not dealt with by the police, requires so much legal knowledge and artistic eloquence to set it in motion that an ordinary woman with no legal knowledge or eloquence can get the benefit of it only by employing lawyers whom she has to pay very highly, which means, of course, that the rich woman can afford to go to law and the poor woman cannot. The rich woman can terrorize the poor woman by threatening to go to law with her if her demands are not complied with. She can disregard the poor woman’s rights, and tell her that if she is satisfied she can take her complaint into court, knowing very well that her victim’s poverty and ignorance will prevent her from obtaining proper legal advice and protection. (p. 61).

This, in my opinion, exactly describes the behaviour of Riley and her besties Oberman and Barber. She has, however, got a surprise with Mike, as he has been able to crowdfund a defence against her suing him for libel. Mike had simply described how she had abused a sixteen year old school girl with anxiety as an anti-Semite, who then suffered a torrent of similar bullying from her followers and supporters. Riley doesn’t dispute the facts of this case, but nevertheless has accused Mike of libel. It’s important that Mike, and the others defending themselves against her, win in order to stop her abusing the law to silence reasonable criticism of her shabby, unreasonable behaviour.

If you are therefore willing and can afford it, you may wish therefore to make a donation to Mike’s crowdfunding campaign. Details are over at this website.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/

Ho Ho! Black Guardian Embarrassed by Her Bookshelf

Sarah Vine plotting the Doctor’s downfall and intergalactic domination.

Here’s a bit of comic relief amidst the continuing grim reality of the Coronavirus crisis. Sarah Vine, Mail columnist and wife of Michael Gove, managed to give the online public a few moments of fun when she gave them a very revealing look at her and her husband’s taste in reading matter.

Vine’s proud of her husband’s membership of Boris’ cabinet, and has taken to giving herself the pretentious internet monicker of @WestminsterWAG, as she clearly regards being the other half of an MP as glamorous as being a footballer’s wife or girlfriend. And to show her and her husband’s astonishing good fortune, she took a picture of Gove taking the daily Downing Street briefing as it appeared on the TV in their home and posted it on Twitter with the caption ‘Surreal’. The TV was underneath a set of bookshelves, and it was their contents which gave such great amusement to those looking at her Tweet. Former New Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell picked out a few particularly noticeable volumes, and tweeted at her that ‘having Hitler, Rommel and Napoleon next to Maggie is not a good look.’

Now there are a number of ways Vine could have reacted to this gibe. She could have made the obvious comment that reading about notorious people doesn’t mean you want to imitate them. The amount written and published about Hitler and the Nazis is colossal, but mercifully very few people reading about them are murderous racists and anti-Semites. Ditto for Napoleon. The Napoleonic period is fascinating because it is such a critical period in European history, when French armies marched across the Continent with the intention of building an empire. But obviously that doesn’t mean that everyone reading about the Corsican general has similar megalomaniac ambitions. As it was, she simply replied “Don’t be so absurd. They are books. You should try them sometimes – you can learn a lot from them. You will note there is also a Peter Mandelson”. And that’s where she should have left it. Unfortunately, she couldn’t resist posting another Tweet, saying “As a very special treat for my trolls and [Alastair Campbell] here is another bookshelf. There are about 20 more. Enjoy!” And the peeps on Twitter did just that. And it wasn’t pretty.

Owen Jones spotted a copy of The War Path, the prequel by David Irving to his Hitler’s War. That’s the David Irving, who really is an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Mehdi Hasan and another Tweeter noticed that she also had a copy of The Bell Curve, a book arguing that intelligence is linked to race. Jones further remarked commented on her reaction to his criticism about an article in the Spectator by Rod Liddle arguing that there should be more islamophobia in the Tory party. Vine called the article ‘Clever and funny’. Dawn Foster tweeted that she’d read Gove’s ‘virulently islamophobic’ Celsius 7/7 and written about his time as education minister, and it was obvious that The Bell Curve had strongly influenced his thinking. It was, she said, ‘dangerous, racist rubbish’. That’s nearly everyone said about The Bell Curve, including a great many scientists, which is why it’s been torn to pieces by critics. Libcom Dot Org also noticed that Vine and Gove owned a copy of Alan Benoist’s Beyond Human Rights: Defending Freedom, adding the significant information that Benoist’s a central figure in the European New Right and Third Positionist movements. The latter movement is a revisionist strain of White Nationalism that doesn’t want Blacks and Asians to be deported from Britain and Europe. But they do want them to be segregated. Zelo Street in their article about Vine and Gove’s wretchedly poor choice in reading matter added that Benoist also has White Nationalist and Russian Fascist links as well.

Vine then got very huffy about all this criticism, and Tweeted  “Extraordinary how many people on here seem to be so censorious of books and the idea of knowledge. In common with the Nazis, the Spanish Inquisition, Communist Russia – and pretty much every despotic, brutal regime you can think of. Says it all, really”. But political liberalism, in the broad sense of defending and upholding free democratic societies, in which people are not persecuted because of their religion or ethnicity, also means recognising and condemning ideological threats. It’s why Mein Kampf was banned in Germany until a few years ago, and why decent bookshops won’t stock copies of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It’s also somewhat rich for Vine to compare her critics to dictatorships and other savagely repressive movements when the Daily Mail has based much of its sales tactics on stoking similar outrage and demanding anything left-wing or otherwise controversial to be banned.

It also doesn’t change the fact that while the books on Hitler, Rommel and Napoleon don’t mean that Vine and Gove are admirers of right-wing megalomaniacs and dictators, the other books do show that they have a very dangerous taste for the ideas of real racists and Fascists.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/05/sarah-vine-felled-by-falling-bookshelf.html

 

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