Archive for the ‘Medicine’ Category

Shameless Tory Press Continues to Promote the Policies That Are Killing the Health Service

July 8, 2018

This year is the 70th anniversary of the greatest achievement of Clement Atlee’s government: the creation of the NHS. This was to be a system of socialised medicine, which was to be universal and free at the point of delivery. And the Tory right has hated it ever since.

The BBC has been commemorating the NHS’s birth with a series of programmes, including A People’s History of the NHS. The series’ name recalls the book, A People’s History of the United States, which looked at the history of the US from the point of view of ordinary Americans, including women, Blacks and other minorities, who have had to struggle to gain their freedoms, rather than the elite White men who framed the Constitution. These last were rich patricians, who feared real American democracy because it would lead to attacks on their privileged social position. Needless to say, the book has not been popular with Republicans.

At the same time, the NHS is in acute crisis due to the massive funding cuts inflicted by Cameron’s and Tweezer’s Tory administrations. Tweezer has declared that she will put so many billions into the NHS by 2022, but her estimations still fall short of what is actually required. Besides, regarding the NHS, the Tories cannot be trusted on anything. Remember how David Cameron promised he was going to ringfence NHS spending so that it would not be affected by his austerity programme? The first thing he did when he got in No. 10 was wind up his campaign against Labour’s hospital closures, starting closing them himself, and cut funding to the NHS. And then resume the Thatcherite programme of dismantling it through piecemeal privatisation.

So what has been the attitude of the Tory press to the current NHS crisis? Well, the Spectator, Telegraph and various other right-wing rags have decided to go on as usual, promoting the same policies that are destroying this most precious of British institutions. They’ve declared that extra money isn’t needed, just more cuts to eliminate waste, and that rather than the Tories reforms destroying it, they’re needed more than ever.

Neither is remotely true. The cuts imposed by the Tories have manifestly not led to any improvements. The only thing they have done is lifted the tax burden for the extremely rich. At the same time, the privatisations the Tories and their predecessor, New Labour, have insisted upon have not increased efficiency either. They’ve actually led to closures of hospitals and GPs’ surgeries as the private companies running them have sought to increase their profits. Far from being more efficient, private healthcare is actually more expensive and wasteful than state healthcare, as private firms have advertising and legal departments and must show a profit for their shareholders. Private hospitals, whatever Jeremy Hunt may rave about them, are typically smaller than their NHS counterparts. About forty percent of the expenditure in private healthcare firms may be in administration, a much higher percentage than that of the nationalised NHS.

Private healthcare is wasteful and inefficient. Which is why the Tory and New Labour businessmen and politicos with links to it want to remove the NHS and give private medicine instead state support.

And those voices, demanding that the NHS be privatised through more free market reforms, are shouting in the Speccie and Torygraph. And I’ve noticed that these are the pieces that are being reprinted in the I’s opinion matrix column, which selects pieces from elsewhere in the press. To my knowledge, the column has not included any newspaper pieces demanding that the NHS be renationalised. Because that’s one of Corbyn’s dreadful Trotskyite policies, obviously.

This shows the real contempt the hacks and management at both the Spectator and the Torygraph, as well as the other Conservative rags that share their views on NHS reform, have for the people of this country. They want the NHS to be privatised, and so British people’s health to suffer catastrophically, just to create more profits for the private healthcare firms, on whose boards they serve, and give more tax cuts to the already obscenely rich, while the poor are forced further into poverty.

Get them out, and Corbyn in for a government that really cares about the NHS.

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Clive James on Nixon’s Interview with Henry Kissinger

July 7, 2018

One of the books I was reading in hospital was Clive James’ The Crystal Bucket (London: Picador 1981). As I said in a previous blog post, James was the TV critic for the Observer. He started out on the radical left, and ended up a Conservative, writing for the Torygraph. During the 1980s and 1990s, he had his own show, first on Channel 4 with Sunday Night Clive, and then on the Beeb with Monday night. In these, he zoomed up and down the information superhighway to bring you satirical comment on the news and interview stars like Peter Cook, William Shatner, and Sylvester Stallone’s weird and highly embarrassing, at least for him, mother.

James could be witty and intelligent, and in The Crystal Bucket he reviewed some of the programmes then being shown on the serious issue of the time. Like old Nazis and Fascists like Albert Speer and Oswald Mosley talking about Nazi Germany or their career as Fascists, without once admitting that they were genuinely persecutory anti-Semites, responsible or in Mosley’s case, criminally supporting a regime that murdered people in their millions for no other crime than their ethnicity or political orientation.

James also reviewed David Frost’s interview with Richard Nixon, in which America’s most notorious president until Trump tried to sound repentant for the horrors of his foreign policy, while actually not denying or repudiating them at all. This was the interview that was recently filmed as Frost/Nixon.

Frost also interviewed the man responsible for Nixon’s genocidal foreign policy, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger brought chaos, torture and death across the globe from the overthrow of Allende in Chile to the support of another Fascist thug in Pakistan. Of whom Nixon himself said that this thug was ‘a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch’. Kissinger’s massive bombing campaign was responsible for the rise in power of the Khmer Rouge, who became the leading opposition group against the Americans. And after they seized power came the genocides and massacres of Pol Pot’s Year Zero, in which 1-2 millions died.

The review’s particularly interesting for this passage. James was not a total opponent of the Vietnam War, and seems to have believe that the Americans were right to fight against the Viet Cong because of the horrors they would inflict on the rest of the country when they gained power. He criticised Frost, because he thought Frost had bought the whole anti-Vietnam War argument, and states that the Americans were justified in bombing North Vietnamese bases in Cambodia. They were just too brutal, as was Kissinger’s foreign policy generally, and his overthrow of the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was criminal.

James wrote

Indeed Frost’s questioning, though admirably implacable, was often wide of the mark. Frost had obviously bought the entire ant-war package on Cambodia, up to and including the idea that the North Vietnamese had scarcely even been present within its borders. They were there all right. There was considerable military justification for US intervention in Cambodia, as even some of the most severe critics of Nixon and Kissinger are prepared to admit. ‘Now jusd a minude,’ fumed Kissinger, ‘with all due respecd, I think your whole line of quesdioning is maging a moggery of whad wend on in Indo-China. ‘

Well, not quite. Nixon and Kissinger might have had short-term military reasons for their policy in Cambodia, but the ruinous long-term consequences were easily predictable. Nor, despite Kissinger’s plausible appeal to international law, was there anything legal about the way he and his President tried to keep the bombing secret. In fact, they conspired to undermine the United States Constitution. Kissinger’s personal tragedy is that his undoubted hatred of totalitarianism leads him to behave as if democracy is not strong enough to oppose it.

Unfortunately his personal tragedy, when he was in power, transformed itself into the tragedy of whole countries. The most revealing part of the interview was not about South East Asia, but about Chile. It transpires that a 36 per cent share of the popular vote was not enough to satisfy Kissinger that Allende had been democratically elected. Doubtless remembering Hitler, who had got in on a comparable share of the total vote, Kissinger blandly ascribed Allende’s electoral victory to a ‘peculiaridy of the consdidution’. But Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister of Great Britain by the same kind of peculiarity, and presumably Kissinger, if he were still ruling the roost, would have no plans to topple her. By what right did he topple Allende?

Kissinger couldn’t even conceive of this as a question, ‘Manipulading the domesdig affairs of another goundry’, he explained, ‘is always gombligaded.’It is not just complicated, it is often criminal. The Nixon-Kissinger policy in Chile was an unalloyed disaster, which delivered the population of that country into the hands of torturers and gave Kissingers’ totalitarian enemy their biggest propaganda boost of recent times. You didn’t have to be Jane Fonda to hate the foreign policy of Nixon and Kissinger. all you had to be was afraid of Communism.
(‘Maging a Moggery’, pp.226-228, 4th November 1979).

This shows up two things. Firstly, the sheer murderousness behind Hillary Clinton. Posing as the ‘woman’s candidate’ in the Democratic presidential election contest, and then again in the elections proper against Trump, she showed none of the deep feminine, and feminist concerns for peace and humanity, which have seen women across the world lead marches and protests groups against war and Fascism. Like the women in Chile who formed a group campaigning for the release of information on the victims of Pinochet’s coup who ‘disappeared’. I remember Sinead O’Connor singing ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ back in the 1990s as part of a programme celebrating them and protesters like them. Hillary, instead, has shown herself every bit as much a military hawk and anti-democrat as the generals she surrounded herself with. I’ve no doubt that if she had won the election, we would now be at war with China and Russia. She’s also the woman, who glowingly boasted how she went on holiday with Kissinger, something that did not impress Bernie Sanders in the presidential debates.

It also shows up the Times. A few weeks ago, I posted up a bit I found in a book on the right-wing bias of the British media. This was an extract from the Times, in which one of their lead writers declared that Pinochet’s coup was entirely justified, because Allende only had 36 per cent of the vote and he couldn’t control the country.

Well, Thatcher had the same proportion of the vote, and there was widespread, determined opposition to her in the form of strikes and riots. But instead, rather than calling for her overthrow, the Times celebrated her election victory as a return to proper order, economic orthodoxy and the rest of the right-wing claptrap.

It shows just how thuggish and hypocritical Murdoch’s Times is, and just how much Hillary certainly didn’t deserve the support of America and its women. She’s been whining about how she’s been the victim of left-wing ‘misogyny’ ever since. But if you want to see what she really represents, think of Nixon, Chile’s disappeared, it’s campaigning women and Sinead O’Connor’s performance. O’Connor herself, in my opinion, is no saint. But she’s the better women than Hillary.

Going Into Hospital Tomorrow for Myeloma Treatment

June 18, 2018

This is to let you know that tomorrow I will be going into hospital for about 3 weeks for intensive treatment for myeloma. This is a kind of blood cancer, in which the bone marrow produces toxins called paraproteins. These can cause anaemia, and damage the bones and the kidney, as well as leading to loss of calcium. I was diagnosed with it September-October last year after a routine blood test by the doctor revealed I was slightly anaemic. She referred me to the haematology department of Bristol’s BRI, who commenced treating me.

This is usually done for 6-8 months using a variety of drugs, which are different from those regularly used to treat cancer, and which don’t have some of their side effects, like hair loss. This meant going to the hospital once a week for an injection of the anti-cancer drug, and taking a variety of drugs, including an antiviral, to control the side effects. Most of these were pills, though one of the drugs was an anti-coagulant, which had to be taken twice a day by injection.

After this drug treatment has reduced the paraproteins as far as possible, they then take you into hospital for intensive treatment using the conventional cancer drug. This damages the immune system. In order to get it back up and running, they take stem cells from your own blood, store them, and then give them back to you. This consolidates the effect of the previous cancer treatment, and adds more time to the period of remission before the myeloma returns. I’ve already had my stem cells collected, which took a whole day connected to something similar to a dialysis machine. I’m due to be given the drug, and then the stem cells this week. I’m then due to spend the next several weeks in isolation at the BRI to protect me from disease while my immune system is still weak, and so that they can monitor me and make sure that the stem cells are properly taking hold.

I’ve received excellent care from the staff at Bristol’s various hospitals, not only the BRI, but also the hospitals in Southmead and Whitchurch. You are allowed to bring books and DVDs into hospital, as well as use laptops. I shall be taking a laptop into hospital with me, and hope to continue blogging while I’m there, if I can. If I can’t, for some reason, this is why.

I was in hospital being given a phosphate infusion as part of the anti-myeloma treatment the Sunday last year, when the CAA, the Sunday Times and the other right-wing papers libelled Mike as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, which infuriated me at a time when I could well have done without it.

I also understand that a number of other people have also been diagnosed with myeloma after random, routine blood tests. I’d therefore advise people to make sure that they have these done, even though they can appear to be an inconvenience. It could save them from more serious health problems later on.

Ellen Clifford of DPAC Attacks DWP and the Renewed Contracts to Atos and Capita

June 17, 2018

This is another short video from RT. It’s just over five minutes long, and is an interview with Ellen Clifford of Disabled People Against Cuts on the renewal of the contracts given to Atos and Capita to continue assessing disabled people’s benefit claims.

The interviewer states that the two outsourcing companies have been criticised for failing to meet targets and disabled people themselves through incorrectly assessing them as fit for work. 100,000 people have so far had the decisions against them overturned on appeal. The Labour and Liberal parties have called on the work to be taken back in house by the state.

The government, however, has released a statement, which runs as follows

The quality of assessment has risen year on year since 2015, but one person’s poor experience is one too many. We’re committed to continuously improving assessments, and have announced we’re piloting the video recording of PIP assessments with a view to rolling out this widely.

Clifford states that Capita and Atos have had their contracts extended only for two years, but that’s two years too long. They want this profiteering by the outsourcing companies to end. She also makes the point that one of the major complaints they hear about the assessments is dishonesty – or lies – by the company, and this is at such a rate that it cannot be coincidence. The current rate for decisions being overturned on appeal is 69 per cent. The interviewer asks if there is a chance that the process could be improved in the next two years. Clifford replies that over the past few years the government has announced that they’re changing and improving the scheme, but this is just tinkering around the edges. What is needed is a fundamental overhaul of the system, which is based on a model of disability that DPAC would not advocate. She hopes that the videoing of assessments will lead to more transparency, and DPAC will be watching this very carefully.

The interviewer also states that the majority of people are satisfied with the assessment process, and looking at the number of appeals against the positive cases, wonders if the issue isn’t being politicised. Clifford states that while the percentage of bad decisions may be small, they still affect millions of people, and so are statistically high. She says that anyone who works in the welfare sector or disability is inundated with cases from people, who have been turned down when they genuinely need that money. The interviewer asks her if she sees a glimmer of hope. She states that they see a government under pressure, experiencing market failure in this area. She states that DPAC also wants the assessments to be taken back in-house. They need to keep the pressure up. The assessments need to be taken back in-house and the whole system given a radical overhaul.

Everything Ellen Clifford says in this interview is exactly true. I’ve personally experienced Atos lying about my assessment and health, when they assessed me for incapacity benefit several years. And this was overturned on appeal. And when blogging about this issue, Mike and I, and many other left-wing bloggers, have received posts from commenters telling us how they were also wrongly assessed by the outsourcing companies to prevent them claiming benefits. Whistleblowers from inside the companies and DWP have come forward, stating that the government has set targets for the number of people, whose claims are to be rejected. I’ve reblogged a number of pieces, including videos about this. The fault lies with the DWP. And Kitty S. Jones has also described extensively on her blog how the DWP’s model of disability was produced by an American researcher working for Unum, one of the private medical insurance companies. They won the ear first of Peter Lilley, and then Blair and New Labour. The model assumes that people are malingering, and has been scientifically discredited. Nevertheless, this model is still used by the DWP.

The current system is a disgrace. It is, as Clifford states, all about throwing people off benefit. And despite its promises, all the so-called improvements introduced by the Tories are nothing but tinkering at the edges. When the Tories haven’t promised something more ominous. When they talked about cutting the rate of appeals, what they intended to do was not make the assessment process more honest, so that disabled people could claim benefit more easily, but actually making the conditions for being assessed as disabled more difficult, so that fewer people would be assessed as disabled, but could not successfully appeal against the decision because it followed the new, harsher conditions.

The whole process needs to be taken back in-house, and a radical overhaul done, with a view not to throwing disabled people off benefit, so that greedy multi-millionaires can enjoy another tax cut, but to make sure they genuinely have the welfare support and money they deserve and need.

Private Eye Attacks Facebook Group for People Suspended from Labour

June 15, 2018

Private Eye has published much excellent material, and over the past few days I’ve blogged about some of the material revealed in this fortnight’s issue. But the magazine does have a very pronounced anti-Corbyn bias, and does seem to have swallowed, and regurgitated all the bilge smearing Corbyn and his supporters in the other parts of the lamestream media. It does seem to take as fact that the smears that Momentum is full of abusive misogynists and anti-Semites, and that the Labour leader and his supporters are ‘hard Left’ and Trotskyites. They aren’t. Corbyn and Momentum really are just traditional Labour, standing for the old Social Democratic policy of a mixed economy, and strong and healthy NHS and welfare state. All of which is anathema to the Thatcherite right – the Blairites – who have tried to position themselves as moderates when in fact the truth is, they’re the extremists. They’re extreme right. And outside the Labour party this is also unwelcome to the Tories and the mainstream media and its bosses pushing for more privatisation and further policies to destroy the welfare state and push the working class further into poverty. Because they see it as good for business having a cowed workforce on poverty wages.

In this fortnight’s Eye, for 15th-28th June 2018 on page 10, the pseudonymous ‘Ratbiter’ has published an article attacking a Facebook group for those suspended from the Labour party, and the attempts of its members to make contact with officials close to Corbyn to obtain justice or redress. It accepts absolutely uncritically the charges against them. And the end of the article once again repeats the claim that those suspended for anti-Semitism are automatically guilty, with an example of an anti-Semitic post from one of those in the group.

But many of those suspended from the Labour party for anti-Semitism and other offences are anything but, as shown in the cases of people like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and very many others. As I’ve blogged about ad nauseam, ad infinitum. The article therefore needs to be carefully critiqued. It runs

Suspended Animation
Facebook has a secret and carefully vetted political group called Labour Party Compliance: Suspensions, Expulsions, Rejections Co-op. As the ungainly title suggests, it is a online hangout where Corbyn supporters facing disciplinary action for abuse, anti-Semitism and other loveable quirks can nurse their grievances in private. Or so they think.

Screenshots of the site obtained by the Eye show that the outcasts are not so far out in the cold they don’t have access to the highest levels of Corbyn’s Labour.

Take 17-year-old Zac Arnold, who has been suspended from the Forest of Dean Labour Party. He revealed he had “been given the email of someone called Thomas Gardiner by James Schneider at JC’s office, who said he would be a useful contact over my suspension”. He asked his fellow pariahs “what your thoughts are and if you know him”.

They certainly knew Schneider. “I have chatted with James,” said Caroline Tipler, the founder of the “Jeremy Corbyn Leads Us to Victory” Facebook group. “I def think it would be useful to make contact”. The best way to get back into the party would be to start by “making a tentative enquiry and gauge from the response whether to progress it from there”.

The “someone called Thomas Gardiner” to whom young Zac referred is a Labour councillor from Camden. When Corbyn assumed total control of the Labour machine in March by installing Jennie Formby, Len McCluskey’s former mistress, as Labour’s general secretary, Formby’s first act was to call in Gardiner.She sent John Stoliday, the head of Labour’s compliance unit, on gardening leave and put Gardiner in charge of overseeing complaints against members. So he is certainly a “useful” man to know for as any Corbyn supporter facing troublesome allegations – as indeed is Schneider, who works in the leader’s office alongside fellow Old Wykehamist Seumas Milne as Corbyn’s director of strategic communications.

Suspended members appear to think that, so long as they discuss their prejudices in private, they will be fine. Their Facebook group is splattered with posts painting Labour activists as victims of a Jewish conspiracy. “They will try to silence you,” reads one. “They will try to discredit you. Because you are not allowed to criticise Jewish politics.” But their own group suggests
that you are, as long as you aren’t caught and have friends in high places.

So what’s going on here? Well, first of all, the fact that Ratbiter claims to have had screenshots passed to him of the Facebook page shows that it’s not based on his research. It’s from an outside organisation. From the way this is about smearing Corbyn supporters as anti-Semites, it looks like it’s the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism or the Jewish Labour Movement up to their vile tricks again. The CAA’s modus operandi is simply to go back over people’s internet conversations in search of something vaguely anti-Semitic they can use, and then grossly distort it so that they can smear them. They did it to Mike, taking his comments out of context and grossly misreporting what he actually said. They did it to Jackie Walker and her conversation with two others on Facebook about the Jewish participation in the slave trade. Again, a serious issue, which reputable historians are discussing. Walker never said that Jews were responsible for the slave trade, or that they were exclusively in charge of it. She said that the ultimate responsibility lay with the Christian monarchs and states which employed them. There are, however, real anti-Semites, who claim that the Jews were responsible for the slave trade, and so the CAA smeared her, a practicing Jew with a Jewish partner, as an anti-Semite. Just like they’ve smeared Ken Livingstone, because he dared to talk about an embarrassing truth: that the Nazis did reach an agreement with the Zionists to send Jews to Israel, before they decided on the Final Solution. And then there was that entirely artificial controversy a month or so ago, where they smeared Corbyn himself as an anti-Semite, because of a post he made admiring a piece of street art showing bankers around a table resting on the bodies of black men. Only two of the bankers were Jewish, but nevertheless, the CAA and the Board of Deputies of British Jews frothed that it was ‘anti-Semitic’, trying to link it to all the vile theories about the Jewish banking conspiracy.

Unable to unseat Corbyn at the leadership elections, the Blairites and the Israel lobby have been trying to oust him gradually by suspending and smearing his supporters. As happened to Mike. The CAA’s vile article smearing him was passed on to the Labour party, who suspended him just as he was about to fight a council election as the Labour candidate in his part of mid-Wales. As Mike has blogged, he has appealed against his suspension, but was tried once again by another kangaroo court, very much like the one that decided that the veteran anti-racist campaigner, Marc Wadsworth, was an anti-Semite. The Labour party’s compliance unit is so determined to refuse justice to expelled or suspended members on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism, that there is now an organisation set up to fight them on this issue: Labour Against the Witch Hunt, one of whose organisers is the redoubtable Tony Greenstein. I think another is Walker herself. As for Wadsworth, he has gone on a triumphant tour defending himself up and down the country. His campaign was launched in London with Alexei Sayle. Sayle’s parents are Romanian Jews, who were card-carrying Communists, and Sayle himself was one of the leaders of the new, politically correct Alternative Comedy in the 1980s. He was very anti-racist, anti-sexist and pro-gay rights, as were the others that emerged at the same time. So he is very definitely not anti-Semitic.

Clearly, the movement to discredit the smear campaign against decent people unfairly libelled as anti-Semites is gaining ground, otherwise Ratbiter wouldn’t bother writing the article, and attacking and revealing the officials close to Corbyn, who may be prepared to give assistance to them.

Now let’s deal with their quotation that ‘you are not allowed to criticise Jewish politics’. Is this anti-Semitic? Or is simply a clumsy way of expressing a truth: that any criticism of Israel, or support for the Palestinians, will result in you being smeared and suspended. I strongly believe it’s the latter. And the issue of Israel has been deliberately confused with Jews by Israel and its satellite, Zionist organisations themselves. Netanyahu a few years ago declared that all Jews, everywhere, were citizens of Israel. Of course, it’s a risible statement. Many Jews don’t want to be citizens of Israel, a land with which they have no connection, and certainly not at the expense of the country’s real, indigenous inhabitants. Netanyahu and the other maniacs in his coalition don’t want all Jews to be citizens of their country either. Liberal or genuinely left-wing Jews, or Jews, who simply ask too many questions about the Palestinians and dare to think for themselves, rather than swallow Likudnik propaganda, aren’t let in. or if they’re there already, they get thrown out. As have dissident Israelis, like one historian now at Exeter University, Ilon Pappe, who was driven out of his homeland because he dared to describe and protest his nation’s long history of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians.

The organisations behind the smear campaign are Jewish organisations, or claim to be pro-Jewish, like the CAA and the Jewish Labour Movement, which was formerly Paole Zion, ‘Workers of Zion’. Now these organisations clearly don’t represent all Jews. They only represent those, who are fanatically and intolerantly pro-Israel. They also have gentile members, so it’s highly questionable just how ‘Jewish’ these Jewish organisations are. Those smeared by them include self-respecting and Torah-observant Jews, and they have subjected them to the kind of abuse, which would automatically be considered anti-Semitic if it came from a non-Jew. Indeed, many of the Jews smeared by them feel that there is a particular hatred of Jewish critics of Israel. Just like the founders of Zionism were absolutely dismissive of diaspora Jews.

Given this, it should be no surprise if a non-Jew, who has been smeared, becomes confused and says that you can’t criticise ‘Jewish politics’, meaning Israel. Because these Jewish organisations, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, insist that you can’t. And deliberately so, in order to make it easier to claim that all critics of Israel are anti-Semites.

This is a nasty, mischievous and deceitful article. It is designed to further isolate Corbyn by smearing his supporters and attacking the official close to him, who may be able help them. And it repeats the lie that all of those smeared are anti-Semites. It’s publication is a disgrace to Private Eye.

Israel Based Journo Shows How Censorship of Steve Bell Cartoon Plays into Hands of Real Anti-Semites

June 11, 2018

Last week the editor of the Groaniad, Kath Viner, spiked a cartoon by the paper’s Steve Bell for supposed anti-Semitism. The cartoon commented on the complete indifference to the murder of 21 year old Palestinian medic, Razan al-Najjar by the IDF shown by Netanyahu and Tweezer. Bell depicted the two having a cosy chat by the fire, in which al-Najjar was burning. This was too much for Viner, who immediately did what the Israel lobby always does whenever the country is criticised for its brutal treatment of the Palestinians: she immediately accused the critic of anti-Semitism. The cartoon was anti-Semitic, apparently, because al-Najjar’s place in the fire was supposedly a reference to the Holocaust and the murder of the Jews in the Nazi gas ovens. Despite the fact that Bell denied that there was any such intention in his work, or indeed, any overt references to the Holocaust at all.

Bell was naturally outraged, and issued a strong denial. I’ve blogged about this issue, as has Mike, and Bell’s denial was also covered by that notorious pro-Putin propaganda channel, RT. And an Israel-based journalist, Jonathan Cook, has also come down solidly on Bell’s side and against censorship.

Mike posted a piece reporting and commenting on Mr Cook’s view and analysis of the case on Saturday. Cook is a former Guardian journalist, who now lives in Nazareth, the capital of Israel’s Palestinian minority. Cook praised Bell’s cartoon because of the way it held power to account, and indicted the powerful and their calculations at the expense of the powerless. He stated

In other words, it represents all that is best about political cartoons, or what might be termed graphic journalism. It holds power – and us – to account.

He then went on to describe how, by siding with Israel over the cartoon, the Guardian was siding with the powerful against the powerless; with a nuclear-armed state against its stateless minority. He then goes on to make the point that when criticism of Israel is silenced, the country benefits from a kind of reverse anti-Semitism, or philo-Semitism, which turns Israel into a special case. He writes

When a standard caricature of Netanyahu – far less crude than the caricatures of British and American leaders like Blair and Trump – is denounced as anti-Semitic, we are likely to infer that Israeli leaders expect and receive preferential treatment. When showing Netanyahu steeped in blood – as so many other world leaders have been – is savaged as a blood libel, we are likely to conclude that Israeli war crimes are uniquely sanctioned. When Netanyahu cannot be shown holding a missile, we may assume that Israel has dispensation to bombard Gaza, whatever the toll on civilians.

And when we see the furore created over a cartoon like Bell’s, we can only surmise that other, less established cartoonists will draw the appropriate conclusion: keep away from criticising Israel because it will harm your personal and professional reputation.

He then makes the point that doing so plays into the hands of real anti-Semites, and generates more:

When we fail to hold Israel to account; when we concede to Israel, a nuclear-armed garrison state, the sensitivities of a Holocaust victim; when we so mistake moral priorities that we elevate the rights of a state over the rights of the Palestinians it victimises, we not only fuel the prejudices of the anti-Semite but we make his arguments appealing to others. We do not help to stamp out anti-Semitism, we encourage it to spread. That is why Viner and the Guardian have transgressed not just against Bell, and against the art of political cartoons, and against justice for the Palestinians, but also against Jews and their long-term safety.

Mike goes on to make the point that we need to be more critical about the raving paranoiacs, who see anti-Semitism in Steve Bell’s cartoon, and also in Gerald Scarfe’s depiction of Netanyahu building his anti-Palestinian wall using the blood and bodies of the Palestinians themselves. This was attacked by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, as ‘anti-Semitic’, who claimed that it was a reference to the Blood Libel. It wasn’t, but the I apologised anyway. Mike goes on to say that there is no such thing as an unintentional anti-Semite, but authorial intentions are routinely ignored in these cases.

He then goes to state very clearly that as the authorial intentions of these cartoons weren’t anti-Semitic, Viner was wrong about Bell’s cartoon. Just as the Sunset Times, as Private Eye dubbed the rag, was wrong about Scarfe and Mike himself, as was the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. And so are the people, who’ve accused Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and so many others of anti-Semitism. And in the meantime, Netanyahu gets away with mass murder.

Mike concludes

But Mr Cook is right – these attitudes only fuel real anti-Semitism among those who draw the only logical conclusion about what’s going on in the media, which is that the Establishment is protecting the Israeli government against censure for its crimes.

It suggests to me that all those involved in this charade have been creating problems that will come back to harm all of us in the future.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/09/israel-based-journo-shows-how-guardian-editor-helped-anti-semites-by-censoring-steve-bell/

Now part of the problem here could be certain developments in anti-racism and postmodernist literary theory. For example, some anti-racist activists have argued that there is such a thing as unconscious racism, and have used it to accuse people and material they have seen as spreading or legitimising racism, but without any conscious intent to do so.

In postmodernist literary theory, the author’s intent is irrelevant. In the words of one French postmodernist literary theorist, ‘all that exists is the text’. And one person’s interpretation of the text is as good as another’s.

Hence, those arguing that the above cartoons are anti-Semitic, could do so citing these ideas above.

Now there clearly is something to unconscious racism. If you look back at some of the discussions and depictions of racial issues in 1970s popular culture, they are often horrendously racist by today’s standards. But they weren’t seen as such then, and I dare say many of those responsible for some of them genuinely didn’t believe they were being racist, nor intended to do so. And unconscious racism is irrelevant in this case too. The accusers have not argued that these cartoons are unconsciously racist. They’ve simply declared that they are, without any kind of qualification. Which implies that their authors must be deliberately anti-Semitic, which is a gross slur.

As for postmodernist literary theory, the accusers haven’t cited that either. And if they did, it could also easily be turned against them. If there are no privileged readings of a particular text, then the view of someone, who thought Bell’s cartoon was anti-Semitic, is no more valid than the person, who didn’t. Which cuts the ground out from such accusations. That argument doesn’t stand up either, though here again, the people making the accusations of anti-Semitism haven’t used it.

Nevertheless, their arguments about the anti-Semitic content of these cartoons and the strained parallels they find with the Holocaust, or anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, are very reminiscent of the postmodernist texts the American mathematician Sokal, and the Belgian philosopher Bricmont, used to demolish the intellectual pretensions of postmodernism in their 1990s book, Intellectual Impostures. One of the texts they cited was by a French feminist arguing that women were being prevented from taking up careers in science. It’s a fair point, albeit still controversial amongst some people on the right. However, part of her evidence for this didn’t come from studies showing that girls start off with a strong interest in science like boys, only to have it crushed out of them later in their schooling. No! This strange individual based part of her argument on the medieval coat of arms for Brussels, which shows frogs in a marsh. Which somehow represents the feminine. Or at least, it did to her. For most of us, the depiction of frogs in a marsh in the coat of arms for Brussels is a depiction of precisely that: frogs in a marsh. Because, I have no doubt, the land Brussels was founded on was marshy.

But Cook and Mike are right about these accusations, and the favouritism shown to Israel, playing into the hands of anti-Semites.

The storm troopers of the right are very fond of a quote from Voltaire: ‘If you want to know who rules over you, ask who it is you can’t criticise’. Or words to that effect. Depending on whether the person using the quote is an anti-Semite or an Islamophobe, the answer they’ll give will be ‘the Jews’ or ‘the Muslims’.

Of course, their choice of the French Enlightenment philosopher is more than somewhat hypocritical. Voltaire hated intolerance, and in the early stages before it became aggressively anti-religious, the French Revolution stood for religious toleration. A set of playing cards made to celebrate it showed on one card the Bible with the Talmud, the Jewish holy book containing extra-Biblical lore and guidance, and the Qu’ran.

But by ruling that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, the Israel lobby very much appears to show – entirely falsely – that the anti-Semites are right, and that the Jews really are in control of the rest of us. It gives an utterly false, specious confirmation of the very conspiracy theories they claim to have found in the works of the people they denounce. The same conspiracy theories they claim to oppose, and which have been responsible for the horrific suffering of millions of innocent Jews.

It’s high time this was stopped, and accusations of anti-Semitism treated with the same impartial judgement as other claims of bias or racism. And false accusations should be firmly rejected as a slur, and apologies and restitution demanded from the libellers.

Radio 4 Programme Tonight Wondering What Happened to Star Trek’s Optimistic Vision of the Future

June 9, 2018

This is one for the Trekkers. On Radio 4 tonight at 8.00 pm, 9th June 2018, Dr. Kevin Fong will be presenting a programme on the Archive hour discussing what happened to the optimistic vision of the future in Star Trek. The blurb for it on page 189 of the Radio Times runs

8.00 Archive on 4: Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future

The first episode of Star Trek aired in 1966. Space medic and broadcaster Kevin Fog asks what happened to the progressive and optimistic vision of the future that the iconic television series promised him.

Rees Mogg Senior’s Support of Pinochet’s Fascist Coup in Chile

June 4, 2018

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the rising Tory star and archaic ‘minister for the 18th century’, as he’s been dubbed, last week seemed to show very clearly the extent of his ambitions. He bought a townhouse overlooking Downing Street. Despite his denials that this showed his intention of occupying No. 10, everyone else took it as a clear sign that he very definitely does have his sights on becoming Prime Minister.

Rees-Mogg is a true-blue Tory aristo, who began his career by campaigning to keep the unreformed, and unelected House of Lords. He has consistently voted to increase spending, tax cuts and other privileges for the rich, and to cut and deny state aid, welfare benefits and spending on the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. He has a vast income provided by his investment firms. And he’s also the son of William Rees-Mogg, the former editor of the Times and later columnist for the Independent.

I found this passage quoting and commenting on a piece Rees-Mogg senior wrote at the time, welcoming the Fascist coup by General Pinochet which overthrew Salvador Allende, in Colin Sparks’ article, ‘The Media and the State’ in James Curran, Jake Ecclestone, Giles Oakley and Alan Richardson, eds., Bending Reality: The State of the Media (London: Pluto Press 1986). Allende was a democratically elected Marxist, who enraged his country’s ruling elite by wishing to expropriate land from their estates to give to the peasants. He was also a danger to the American-led global campaign against Communism, simply because his regime had taken power through popular elections. It contradicted the view that Communism could only gain power through very undemocratic means, like revolutions and coups. And so the CIA backed Pinochet’s coup against Allende, which plunged the country into a brutal Fascist dictatorship that lasted from c. 1974 to the early 1990s.

Before quoting Rees-Mogg senior, Sparks also describes how the elite will try to bring down any government genuinely trying to create a more democratic, equal society, and eliminate poverty using ideological as well as other weapons, one of which will be the establishment press. He writes

Any government which seeks to get rid of poverty and inequality will come up against the opposition of those whose life has been built upon the fruits of poverty and inequality. Any government which seeks to establish democracy as the common norm for the conduct of human affairs will come up against the opposition of those whose whole life has been built upon the exercise of irresponsible and unaccountable power. The people who run the state, the media, industry and the banks will not just let us get on with changing the world because a temporary majority in the House of Commons tells them to. They will fight us with ideas and with weapons. It was, after all, that organ of ruling class opinion, the Times, then edited by the shameless Rees Mogg, that welcomed the bloody overthrow of Salvador Allende and the Chilean government with the words:

The failure of the Presidency of Allende was also a tragedy for Chile herself, not because the coup put an end to a government which never had a majority either in the country or in congress, but because it marks the end of a long period during which Chile’s peaceful and democratic political traditions were the envy of her neighbours. To apportion blame for this is no easy matter. Many Chileans will argue that the Unidad Popular government had itself made the coup inevitable by its hopeless mismanagement of the economy leading to a breakdown in public order, and at the same time had provided justification for it by its own unconstitutional acts. On the whole this would be our judgement; there is a limit to the ruin a country can be expected to tolerate…
At this state what a foreign commentator can say is that, whether or not the armed forces were right to do what they have done, the circumstances were such that a reasonable man could in good faith have thought it his constitutional duty to intervene.

No doubt Rees Mogg had discussed just such ‘circumstances’ with ‘reasonable military men’ at Pirbright and Aldershot. (Pp. 94-5).

The last sentence presumably refers to the attempts various members of the elite, including the Times and the then editor of the Mirror, to organise a coup in Britain against Harold Wilson’s minority Labour government in 1975. If this had gone ahead, the result would have been the mass internment, not just of MPs, but also of other political activists and journalists. The proposed location for their imprisonment was either in the Shetland Isles or the Hebrides. Ken Livingstone discusses this in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, as does Francis Wheen in his book about 70’s paranoia, Strange Days. As for Pinochet’s coup, this resulted in the mass imprisonment, rape, torture and execution of 40,000-60,000 people. Parents imprisoned and murdered by the Fascists had their children taken away, to be raised instead by members of Pinochet’s Fascists, who were childless.

And Sparks is absolutely right when he states that those, whose power and social position is built on poverty and inequality will try to bring down those governments trying to end it. The Conservatives’ entire economic strategy, and that of the ruling elites they represent, is based on increasing poverty through austerity, welfare cuts, the privatisation of the NHS, and the creation of insecure, low paid work with little, if anything, in the way of workers’ rights like pensions or sick pay. And he’s also right about the way the same elite uses the press in this. We’ve seen the way the British press and media has consistently vilified Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters as everything from Trotskyites and misogynists to anti-Semites, in order to prevent a genuinely reforming Labour government coming to power.

And the quotation from Rees-Mogg senior also shows how Jacob Rees-Mogg turned out the way he is. He’s the child of privilege, whose family owed its position to inherited wealth and inequality, and whose father dutifully supported the same establishment elite with his ideas and editorship of the Times. And Rees-Mogg senior’s approving comments about Pinochet’s coup also shows how easily other parts of the Tory party supported other Fascist thugs in Latin America. Like the Libertarian group, of which one Paul Staines, now Guido Fawkes, was a member, which invited the leader of one Central American death squad to be their guest of honour at their annual dinner.

26 of Alex Jones’ Lies Debunked

June 2, 2018

Alex Jones is the head of Infowars, and has been pushing bonkers conspiracy theories about one-world government takeovers, and Satanists, aliens, the Illuminati or whoever, all secretly running things behind in the scenes in collusion with big business and the Democrat Party. In this video from AlexJonesClips on YouTube, 26 of Jones’ lies are presented, both in audio from the man himself, and written on the screen with the real truth about what he’s claiming.

The video is under 9 minutes long, and most of the lies come from 2009. There are too many of them to discuss here, but they’re about big business like Walmart, Google and other companies being connected with the NSA and FEMA camps. The government is coming to seize your children and forcibly inoculate them. The UN wants to destroy industrial society, then take people’s children away to raise them in state dormitories. The NSA uses satellites to track people going to gun shows from orbit, so they can seize their guns. Bankers at Goldman Sachs are arming themselves against the people. The cops are thugs who beat up old ladies, and want a war with the public. Time magazine is pushing euthanasia week after week, and people being electrocuted with Tasers is now ubiquitous in comedy. Oh yes, and there’s the classic piece of right-wing paranoia about the 666 separator codes inserted into barcodes, which he somehow connects with sun god worship in Ancient Egypt.

These are the real conspiracy theories that need to be attacked, and it’s good that someone has gone to the trouble of cataloguing and refuting some of them.

Frightened May Holds Out Possibility of Undoing Tory Reforms of NHS

May 29, 2018

For all the repeated smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party as a nest of vicious anti-Semites and Trotskyites, the Labour leader clearly has the Tories worried. Last week Tweezer made a couple of pronouncements about the NHS, which showed more than a hint of desperation in one, and a fair amount of the usual Tory deceit and double standards in the other.

According to the I, Tweezer had made a speech in which she discussed the possibility of trying to improve the NHS by going back and repealing some of the Tories’ own recent legislation. The article, which I think was published in Wednesday’s edition of the newspaper, but I could be wrong, stated that she was specifically considering repealing part of the 2012 Social Care Act. This is a nasty piece of legislation, which actually needs to be repealed. It was passed when Andrew Lansley was Dave Cameron’s Health Secretary. The verbiage within the Act is long and confused, and deliberately so. Critics of the Act, like Raymond Tallis, one of the authors of the book NHS SOS, have pointed out that the Act no longer makes the Health Secretary responsible for ensuring that everyone has access to NHS healthcare. The Act gives the responsibility for providing healthcare to the Care Commissioning Groups, but these are only required to provide healthcare for those enrolled with them, not for the people in a given area generally. It has been one of the major steps in the Tories’ ongoing programme of privatising the NHS. For more information on this, see Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, NHS SOS (OneWorld 2013).

The fact that Tweezer was prepared to hold out the possibility of repealing, even partly, her predecessors’ NHS legislation suggests to me that Corbyn’s promise to renationalise the NHS has got her and her party seriously rattled. It shows that this policy, like much else in the Labour programme, is actually extremely popular. And so Tweezer is doing what she had done elsewhere with dangerously popular Labour policies in the past. She’s going to try to make it look as if the Tories are going to do something similar. Like when Labour talks about renationalising part of the electricity grid, the Tories immediately start going on about how they’ll cap energy prices.

Actually, I doubt very much that Tweezer has any intention of revising Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, or about restoring the NHS to proper public ownership. The Tories have been trying to sell off the NHS and support private medicine since Maggie Thatcher back in the 1980s. But if Tweezer did repeal part of the 2012 Act, my guess is that it would only be to make it much worse. In the same way that Cameron announced he was going to clean up the lobbying industry and make it more transparent, and then passed legislation that actually made it far less so. This gave more power to the big lobbying firms, while making the kind of lobbying done by small groups like charities much more difficult. You can see something similar being done by the Tories with their proposed NHS legislation.

And then there was the report last week, which stated very clearly that due to the terrible underfunding of the past nine years or so, the NHS would need an extra tax of £2,000 to be paid by everyone in the UK. Or so Tweezer and the Tories claimed. Mike dealt with that projection in a post yesterday, where he noted that the Tories have been reducing the tax burden on the rich. He went on to quote Peter Stefanovic, a blogger deeply concerned with the crisis in NHS care and funding created by the Tories. Stefanovic said

“Or alternatively the Government could tax those earning over £80,000 a little more, scrap tax breaks for the very rich, stop PFI deals bleeding the NHS dry & companies like Boots accused of charging NHS over £3,000 for a £93 cancer pain-relieving mouthwash.”

Mike makes the point that with the increasing privatisation of the NHS, the call for more taxes to be spent on it is in fact a demand for more to be given to private healthcare providers, who are delivering less.

Mike concluded with the words:

These people are trying to make fools of us. They are to be challenged. Let them explain why they think the poor should be taxed more when we all have less, thanks to Tory policies.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/27/lets-kill-this-talk-about-more-tax-for-the-nhs-right-now/

I also wondered if there also wasn’t a piece of subtle, ‘Nudge Unit’ type psychology also at work in the statement that we’d all have to stump anything from £1,200 to £2,000. This is a lot of money for those on very low incomes. And the Tories see themselves very much as the party of low taxation. Hence their attacks on ‘high spending’ Labour and claims that their tax reforms allow working people to keep more of their money. Though even this is a lie. The Tories have actually moved the tax burden from the rich on to the poor, and made the poor very much poorer through removing vital parts of the welfare safety net. My guess is that they’re hoping that some people at least will see that figure, and vote against increasing spending for the NHS on the grounds that they won’t be able to afford it. It also seems to me that they’ll probably try asserting that Labour will increase everyone’s tax burden by that amount when the Labour party starts fighting on the platform of NHS reform.

And with frightened working class voters rejecting an increase in taxation to pay for the NHS, they’ll go on to claim that the NHS, as a state-funded institution, is simply unaffordable and so needs further privatisation. Or to be sold off altogether.

This is how nasty, duplicitous and deceitful the Tories are. And I can remember when the Tories under Thatcher were similarly claiming that the NHS was unaffordable in the 1980s. Just like the Tory right claimed it was unaffordable back in the 1950s.

In fact, a report published in 1979 made it very clear that the NHS could very easily continue to be funded by increased taxation. And that taxation should be levelled on the rich, not the poor. But this is exactly what the Tories don’t want. They don’t want people to have access to free healthcare, and they really don’t want the rich taxed. And so they’re going to do everything they can to run down the NHS and tell the rest of us that it’s too expensive. Even though this country’s expenditure on healthcare is lower than that of many other countries in Europe, and far lower than the American’s expenditure on their massively inefficient and grossly unjust private healthcare system.

If we want to save the NHS, we have to reject May’s lies, and vote in Corbyn and a proper Labour government.