Archive for December, 2013

Soon you will have to prove your nationality before receiving NHS treatment

December 31, 2013

Mike and several other bloggers have been pointing out the severe injustice and immense damage that will be caused by the government’s plans to exclude immigrants from receiving NHS treatment. Quite apart from the fact that it is morally wrong to refuse needed medical help to people on the grounds of their nationality, it also poses a wider danger to public health. For example, if an immigrant contracts a dangerous, infectious disease, such as tuberculosis, for example, but dares not seek help because they will be refused and imprisoned and deported, then not only is there a possibility that the person themselves will suffer and possibly die in pain and neglect, but that they will continue to infect others through lack of treatment. In treating immigrants, even if they are illegal, we are also protecting ourselves.

I also strongly feel that there is a wider programme at work here. The NHS is rapidly being privatised piecemeal by the Coalition, many of whose members make no secret that they are hostile to it. The restriction of free medical care to British citizens seems like part of a scheme to introduce gradually a completely fee-paying, commercial medical service, such as America’s. It begins by demanding the immigrants pay for their own medical treatment, so that British citizens will become slowly used to the idea of certain people having to pay for medical treatment. The requirement to pay for medical treatment is then gradually extended to other groups, until the central principle on which the NHS was founded, that medical care should be free and available to everyone, has been more or less completely discarded. The demands for immigrants to pay for their medical treatment is only the beginning. If the Tories pass this, then there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever they will gradually extend it to you.

Vox Political

Suppose Michael Schumacher had moved to Britain and had his accident here after new government plans for the NHS were put in place – would he have been refused treatment?

Admittedly, that is a bad example to use. Mr Schumacher is undoubtedly wealthy enough to buy any healthcare he needs, and we should not wish poor treatment on him in any case.

It does show up the poverty of the Conservative-led government’s moral attitude, though. The fact that he is German adds another dimension, in that his people may have a particular aversion to any situation in which their papers are demanded by officials before they are allowed to do anything.

The proposals demonstrate the depths to which the UK is falling under the current despotic, unelected right-wing administration and the petty would-be tyrant at its head. We are drifting ever-closer to totalitarianism and comparisons with 1930s and 40s Germany…

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Efficiency savings won’t stop tax rises or spending cuts

December 31, 2013

Flip Chart Fairy Tales

When I posted my 2015 Dilemma diagram just before Christmas, a few people responded by asking, ‘what about efficiency savings’? If we can simply make the public sector more efficient, we can maintain services, keep taxes low-ish and still reduce the deficit, or so the story goes.

The 2015 spending/taxation/borrowing dilemma

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 07.42.16

There is little argument about the need for greater efficiency in the public sector. It was to emphasise this point that I started banging on about the UK’s tough spending choices in the first place. For at least the next ten years, even as the economy recovers, the public sector will be under pressure to reduce its costs. Real-terms budget cuts and the drive for greater efficiency will be the defining feature of many public servants’ careers. There are some in the public sector who think the current squeeze is temporary. You still hear people say ‘when this is…

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Are the Tories planning to bury us in debt when interest rates rise?

December 31, 2013

This is a truly alarming post because of Mike’s predictions that household debt is going to rise, and that Osborne plans to put the long term unemployed permanently on workfare, thus taking them out of the official unemployment figures. The immediate result of this will be a depressed, frightened workforce of people, who literally cannot afford to be out of work in case they lose their property and the roof over their heads. The other result of this is the creation of a permanent pool of practically unfree labour, composed of people forced to work for a pittance, that can easily and arbitrarily be removed by benefit sanctions. The ultimate result, if this continues, will be slavery.

Very many bloggers, including myself, have pointed out that workfare itself constitutes a form of slavery or forced labour. It was used in by the Third Reich to falsify the unemployment figures there, though the Nazis only limited compulsory labour service to six months or so. They had real slaves in the form of the Jews and Slavs that they could work to death, instead of the civilian unemployed. In the ancient world exploitative levels of debt were also the cause of slavery, as families saw rich merchants seize their children for loans they could not repay. Both the Hebrew prophet Amos in ancient Israel and the great Athenian lawgiver, Solon attacked and condemned this form of exploitation, and attempted to outlaw it. As for workfare, this will create a class of helots. These were the state slaves in Sparta, who performed the menial work for their masters. Osborne’s plans to increase debt and expand the workfare programme hasn’t gone as far as the reintroduction of real, chattel slavery just yet, but it’s coming increasingly closer. In this instance it’s highly ironic that Von Hayek, from whom so many Tory policies are derived, gave one of his books the title ‘Roads to Serfdom’. There is indeed a road to serfdom, and it’s through his extreme free-market economics.

Vox Political

It is surprising that they don’t seem to think we can make the connections.

Two articles have leapt from the national media to trouble us this week. The first, in the Telegraph, states that the economic recovery that has made George Osborne so proud is built on mounting consumer debt and a housing bubble.

(This is something that has been known to us for several months, in fact. Osborne’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme is the principle cause of the bubble, and it was recently revealed that there is no way to slow it down. Let’s not forget that the taxpayer is underwriting the scheme – so when the bubble bursts we will have to pay both as individuals and as a nation!)

The second article is on the BBC News website, which tells us that up to 1.4 million extra households could face “perilous” levels of debt…

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RIP Tim Salter and Denis Jones. Is This What You Wanted Iain Duncan Smith?

December 30, 2013

Johnny Void here reports the tragic deaths of two more people, who died in despair and privation after their benefits were stopped by Atos. It’s another couple of names to add to the long list of victims compiled by Stilloaks and some of the other disability bloggers. And the situation, as this post shows, is about to get worse.

Unfortunately, Johnny Void is right in that Labour, as well as the Tories, seemed to have swallowed the Right-wing nonsense about benefit sanctions being necessary to motivate the feckless benefit scroungers into helping themselves. One member of Blair’s cabinet has already written that Rupert Murdoch was a constant, invisible presence at cabinet meetings, as Blair worried how his policies would go down with the media moghul. I also seem to recall that Blair was disappointed when he couldn’t win over the Mail’s Paul Dacre. Nevertheless, I think the country would be much better off with Labour in government. However, I do agree with The Void that there needs to be constant pressure on the government and campaigning against their policies and the organisations that seek to implement and exploit them.

the void

Iain-Duncan-Smith415Ever since this Government weren’t elected the question has been raised whether Iain Duncan Smith really is a murderous tyrant, or whether he’s just a fucking idiot.

The truth is that it doesn’t really matter anymore.  The end result of his policies will be the same whichever is the case.  A result as tragic as it was predictable, as poverty not seen in generations returns to the UK.

The recent case of Tim Salter, who committed suicide after benefits were stopped due to the brutal Atos assessment regime, is far from the first death directly linked to welfare  reforms.  At the end of last month two suicides linked to Atos assessments were reported in just one week. Also reported just before Christmas was the death of Denis Jones, a disabled former soldier who died alone five weeks after his benefits were stopped.  Whilst his death was recorded as natural causes…

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Tory MP’s own website blocked by porn filter she advocated

December 29, 2013

This is highly ironic, as it appears that the MP, who campaigned for the introduction of webfilters has been almost hoisted by her own petard. I say ‘almost’ as she wasn’t blocked by something that she’d introduced herself, but by filters that already existed. Of course the irony is not lost on Mr Pride, whose own site has been the victim of internet censorship for containing ‘adult content’. This is a catch-all category that appears to lump mature political discussion with porn. It’s a neat way of smearing a political opponent, who’s saying something you don’t like. And clearly, whoever tried to censor Tom Pride really didn’t like what he was saying. I’ve no doubt t6o many Conservatives Left-wing argument and political opinion is equivalent to pornography. The Daily Mail perceives both as a dangerous threat to public order, which should be duly stamped out by the country’s moral guardians. This shows you the dangers of such internet censorship, and how even organisations dedicated to helping and protecting people can be blocked by it.

Pride's Purge

(not satire!)

Claire Perry, the MP – who strongly campaigned for the introduction of website filters to internet websites – has had her website blocked by the same filters.

This of course neatly illustrates what some of us were saying about this stupidest of stupid ideas by David Cameron over a year ago.

Apart from the fact that anyone who wants to look at porn can easily get round the filters – and the fact that there are even free applications available now for your tablet or phone to help you do just that automatically – organisations that help to protect children such as ChildLine, the NSPCC and the Samaritans have also had their websites blocked by the filters.

For a long time I’ve been thinking the UK has become a perfect example of a Plutocracy – rule by the rich – or perhaps it might be a good…

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Bedroom Tax – The issues for 2014

December 29, 2013

UK Ministers scrap £20m scheme to keep elderly warm

December 26, 2013

Another attack by the government on the poor and vulnerable. This is particularly disgusting, as the Telegraph article from which this is reblogged notes that in the past two winters, 31,000 elderly citizens died of the cold. This will undoubtedly result in more deaths, all so Osborne can boast about saving yet more money. One of the headlines of the MSN news is that Britain is set to become the biggest economy in Europe. I have very strong doubts about that. Mike, over at Vox Political, has pretty much demolished the Tory claims of an economic recovery. It’s very largely illusory. Horrifically, this shows the immense human cost of Osborne’s cuts. Osborne’s economic recovery – for some – has been bought at the cost of the deaths of the tens of thousands, and misery, starvation and privation to many more. It’s far too high a price to pay for policies that don’t work, and only seem to benefit the incredibly rich.

Street Democracy - where it should reach - Our Streets!

‘Ministers have been accused of “shameful” behaviour after quietly scrapping a scheme to help vulnerable elderly people keep warm – just weeks before its own review found it was universally popular.

For the past two winters, councils have been allocated £20 million to provide emergency boiler repairs, hot meals to frail pensioners leaving hospital, snow-clearing and advice about pay fuel bills.

In October a Government report acclaimed the scheme – which helps up to 200,000 people a year, mostly elderly – as a “universally popular” way to provide help to those in crisis.

But by then, funding for the scheme had already been stopped, a parliamentary answer has disclosed.’

Read more: UK Ministers scrap £20m scheme to keep elderly warm

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Is the Coalition government 80,000 times worse than Herod?

December 26, 2013

Vox Political

shame

You may have noticed that yesterday was Christmas – the day when Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, whose teachings in later life form the basis of their faith.

Jesus was born into a world of politics and political machinations – the Roman world was much the same as our own in this respect – and had an effect on it, right from his birth.

According to one of the Gospels, when King Herod learned that a child had been born who had been named ‘King of the Jews’, he sent spies to find out who this possible usurper was; failing in this attempt, he gave orders for the death of all boys aged two or less in Bethlehem and nearby.

Joseph (husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother) was warned in a dream that Herod intended to kill Jesus, so the family fled to Egypt until after the…

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The Sarobe: A Living Megalithic Tradition in Basque Spain

December 26, 2013

Swinside Circle

Swinside Large Stone Circle in Cumbria

The stone circles constructed by the peoples of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages are some of the most fascinating ancient monuments in Europe. Despite considerable work by archaeologists, it is still a mystery why they were built. One of the most popular theories, proposed by Alexander Thom, is that they were built as ancient astronomical observatories, marking out the rising and setting of the sun, moon and stars on particular days of the year. They thus also acted as monumental calendars. Thom’s theories were later revised by Aubrey Burl, who demolished some of the more far-fetched theories. Burl demonstrated that not all stone circles were aligned with the stars, and that the elaborate mathematical calculations to produce the type of calendars proposes by Thom were beyond the capability of the societies that built them. He also showed that some of the stars, which were presently aligned with some stone circles, had moved since the circles were first built due to precession of the equinoxes. They were not originally aligned with the circles when the ancient peoples first put them up. Burl did, however, also confirm that many of the circles were aligned with the sun and moon, particularly at the solstices.

Other research on stone circles and other, associated monuments and structures, has investigated them as sacred, ritual landscapes used for the great ceremonies performed by these ancient societies. They have been compared to cathedrals in Christian society. Mike Parker-Pearson, for example, has recently suggested that Stonehenge was constructed as part of a wider funerary landscape that included Durrington Walls, deliberately laid out as a series of ceremonial paths to mark the journey of the dead to their last resting peace and their transition from the living to the world of the ancestors.

The archaeologists investigating the astronomical functions of the stone circles looked for similar practices in other cultures around the world, particularly with the Maya of Mesoamerica. This has also been discredited due to the immense cultural differences between the historic Maya and the peoples of Neolithic Europe. Nevertheless, in the 1990s archaeologists found a possibly much closer parallel to these ancient monuments and their builders in the Basque sarobes. These are stone circles consisting of eight stones, used by nomadic shepherds in the far south of the Basque country. Clive Ruggles, in his chapter on ‘Astronomy in Ancient Europe’ in the book Astronomy Before the Telescope, describes them thus:

‘However, an analogy of great potential interest has emerged recently, from far south in the Basque country. Here there are many examples of what appear to be eight-stone rings. These sarobe were constructed by transhumant shepherding people in historic times, and in some cases they were still in use at the beginning of the twentieth century. This means that we have both first-hand accounts and extensive documentary evidence relating to their purpose and function. this evidence shows that the sarobe were actually perceived by the builders as stone octagons rather than stone rings. Legal records specify their design, construction and celestial orientation. Each site was laid out using standard units of length and aligned with the cardinal and inter-cardinal directions. Linked to the theme of cosmic order, it acted both a seat of government and a centre for religious rites. The sarobe functioned within a cosmological network of social practices and beliefs rather than merely at an instrumental level.

‘The sarobe are the material remnants of a system of the social organisation of space dating back to at least the early Middle Ages, and possibly much earlier. This system is also reflected in constructs and concepts in the Basque language. This language is pre-Indo-European, which provides evidence that Basque culture was not ruptured by the arrival of Indo-European speakers, so that a cultural continuity may be postulated right back to prehistoric times. In addition, it is interesting to note that the Basque standard unti of measurement relates to ancient units used to lay out traditional land holdings in France and possibly in many parts of the British Isles. These observations do not, of course, prove that cultural practice in the Basque Country in historic and modern times was in any way related to that in the Neolithic and Bronze Age British Isles; they do, however, provide a strong motivation for studying the Basque Country further as useful analogy for ancient cultural practice elsewhere in Europe, and such investigations are well underway’. (p. 25).

The Basque sarobe’s also show that the stone circles probably had both an astronomical and religious functions. They thus give an insight into the type of religious and social ideas behind their construction, though without being exactly like those of the peoples, a kind of cultural ‘living fossil’, who built the megaliths in Britain and the rest of Europe.

Sources

Alex Gibson, ‘Introduction’, in Alex Gibson and Derek Simpson, eds., Prehistoric Ritual and Religion (Thrupp: Sutton Publishing 1998).

Clive Ruggles, ‘Archaeoastronomy in Europe’, in Christopher Walker, ed., Astronomy Before the Telescope (London: British Museum Press 1996).

A Happy Cthulhu Christmas!

December 26, 2013

I’m a fan of the work of the horror/SF pulp writer, H.P. Lovecraft. I found this picture of Providence’s most famous son and his gruesome creations celebrating Christmas, or Yule, over at Steve Nile’s tumblr site, Arcane Images. Nile’s site is devoted to pictures and photos from Horror and Comics. And so for everyone, who’s read old Howard Philips’ chill prose about the Elder Gods and unhallowed tomes of occult lore, and wondered if their library had a copy of the Necronomicon, even if only the Olaus Wormius’ edition, here it is:

Cthulhu Christmas

Aya Shub-Niggurath! In his house in R’lyeh dead Cthulhu lies sleeping!

Or as the great Nigel Molesworth once said, ‘Dream on, dear child, and do not get the blood all over the bed.’