Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

French Scientists Help Paralysed Man to Walk with Robot Exoskeleton

October 6, 2019

Friday’s I, for 4th October 2019, also carried the astonishing news that a paralysed man had been able to walk and move his arms using an exoskeleton developed by scientists at the university of Grenoble. The article, ‘Paralysed man walks with help of exoskeleton’ by Rhiannon Williams and Tom Bawden, on page 5 of the newspaper, ran

A paralysed man has been able to move his arms and walk with the assistance of a robotic exoskeleton suit controlled by his thoughts, in a breakthrough that could revolutionise the lives of patients around the world.

The 28-yeard-old man is paralysed from the shoulders down with only partial movement in his biceps and left wrist, meaning he is classified as a tetraplegic and operates a joystick-controlled wheelchair.

Over the course of a two-year trial conducted by French researchers including the University of Grenoble, he was able to move all four of his limbs through brain signals recorded and interpreted by the robotic suit.

The team implanted a recording device between the patient’s brain and skull either side of his head, containing electrodes to collect brain signals and transmit them to a decoding algorithm. Those signals were translated into his desired movements and communicated to the exoskeleton suit to move it, after activating a brain-operated “on” switch. The suit was suspended from the ceiling to allow it to balance correctly.

The patient trained the decoding algorithm to understand his thoughts by using it to move a digital avatar in a video game before raching out for 2D and 3D objects while wearing the suit. He spent 95 days training the algorithm at home playing the game and teaching an avatar to walk onscreen, and a further 45 days operating the suit in the lab. In the first two months, he was able to activate the switch 73 per cent of the time over six sessions, while over 39 sessions he was able to walk over a total of 145m.

The study, published in The Lancet Neurology, has the potential to enhance patient autonomy and quality of life. “Our finds could move us a step closer to helping tetraplegic patients to drive computers using braini signals alone, perhaps starting with driving wheelchairs using brain activity instead of joysticks and progressing to developing an exoskeleton for increased mobility,” said Professor Stephan Chabardes, a neurosurgeon  from the CHU Grenoble-Alpes teachinig hospital. The trial is continuing with three more patients as researchers seek to remove the ceiling-mounted harness.

While the study is a “welcome and exciting advance”, its findings are a long way from reality, said Professor Tom Shakespeare from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Even if workable, cost contraints mean hi-tech options are never going to be available to most people with spinal cord injury,m” he said. “One analysis suggests only 15 per cent of the world’s disabled population have access to the wheelchairs or other assistive technologies they need.”

A related peace, ‘Success: Real-world results after months of training’ adds

Robotic exoskeletons have been touted for years as a way to increase the mobility of elderly people and those who have limited movement, with global companies such as LG, Honda, Panasonic, Audi and Hyundai among the investors.

The trial’s exoskeleton is operated by a semi-invasive brain-computer system, and is the first of its kind designed for long-term use to activate all four limbs, according to Professor Alim-Louis Benabid, from the University of Grenoble.

‘Previous brain-computer studies have used more invasive recording devices implanted beneath the outermost membrane of the brain, where they eventually stop working. They have been connected to wires, limited to creating movement in just one limb, or have focused on restoring movement to patients’ own muscles’, he said.

The exoskeleton in the trial has 14 degrees of movement, meaning it can move in 14 different ways. Over time the patient progressed from reaching towards targets on cubes using one hand to using both hands to touch targets including rotating both wrists after 16 months. On average, the patient was able to perform tasks between 10 per cent and 20 per cent more successfully with the exoskeleton than by controlling the digital avatar, suggesting he received richer feedback in the real world.

Here’s the picture that accompanied the article of the man wearing the suit.

As the article says, there have been designs for robotic exoskeletons for some time. IN the 50s – 60s American scientists had plans for one. However, only the claw was built because the motors that they were using were so powerful they would have shaken the whole suit apart. Then in the 1990s there were designs for robotic leggings very much like those in the Wallace and Gromit film, The Wrong Trousers. They were designed to help paralysed people to walk. Driven by electric motors and with a computer learning system, the trousers would have first been worn by an able-bodied person. They would have walked about to teach the machine how to do it. After the machine had taken in this information, they would have been passed on to the disabled people needing them. A similar machine appeared in the I a few weeks ago, when it reported the development of robotic shorts.

At the moment, I’m afraid Professor Shakespeare is right, and such exoskeletons are too expensive for general use by the disabled. But hopefully if this technology is improved and developed, the price will come down and something like this machine might become affordable. It would certainly improve disabled people’s quality of life. In the meantime, we could do much by giving far more disabled people throughout the world access to the devices and machines we have now, like wheelchairs, so that far more than 15 per cent of the global disabled population have them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Radio 4 Programme on Racism and the Marginalisation of the White Poor in Bristol

October 4, 2019

The edition of the Radio 4 programme, Analysis, for Sunday 6th October 2019, is on ‘Whiteness’. The blurb for the programme on page 129 of the Radio Times runs

Neil Maggs, a Bristol-based journalist, is watching the debate on white privilege and race play out across the city he has grown up in. While he accepts much of the discourse on White privilege, he worries that an over-emphasis on race could further marginalise some of the poorer, white inhabitants in Bristol. How can society find a way through this, and what can different groups of white people agree on about their whiteness? 

The programme’s on at 9.30 pm.

It’s a good question. There has certainly been more than a degree of resentment about the amount of funding that has gone into St. Paul’s and the other racially-mixed areas in Bristol’s inner city, while the outlying, mostly White working class suburbs to the south of Bristol have largely been ignored. And one of the reasons suggested for the rise of UKIP, now eclipsed by the equally noxious Brexit party, has been that working class White voters felt ignored and left-behind by the Labour party. They were certainly ignored by Blair and New Labour, who were far more keen on picking up votes from more affluent voters in swing constituencies, and appealing to the middle classes by adopting the Tory policies of privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state. And some of the resurgence of racism and anti-feminism in parts of the British working class may well be a reaction to this. Because while Blair and co. courted the middle class, they were also very loud about being anti-racist and feminist. It was an attitude that may well have created over here a constituency of angry White men that in America votes for Trump and the Republicans. Hopefully that is changing now that Corbyn is standing up for the working class as a whole. David Rosenberg has stated several times, and particularly against Margaret Hodge and her policy of doing nothing, that the way to tackle Fascism is to stress working class solidarity and class issues. These are tactics Hodge definitely didn’t follow in Islington, to the point where the BNP actually sent her a bouquet of flowers when they got seven councillors elected in Dagenham and Barking. That’s something the Tory press forgot when they worked themselves up into a lather yesterday when her constituency parties voted to trigger her for re-selection as the local MP.

The BBC programme offers a provocative new perspective on race relations and White identity in Bristol. It might be interesting to hear what it has to say. Providing it doesn’t portray poor or working class White Bristolians as uniformly racist. 

Video of Jeremy Corbyn Pledging to End Universal Credit

October 2, 2019

This was put up on the official Jeremy Corbyn Channel on YouTube three days ago, on the 29th of September, 2019. In it, Corbyn states that Labour will end Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship policy of Universal Credit. Corbyn says

Our social security system should support people back into work, not punish them and their families. The Tories’ flagship policy, Universal Credit, has caused an explosion of people going to food banks, pushed children into poverty, and even resulted in people dying at the hands of this cruel system. In government Labour will scrap Universal Credit. We’ll end the inhumane sanctions regime. We’ll do away with the ridiculous five-week wait for payments. And never again will any woman have to fill in a form to prove her child was born as a result of rape. Universal Credit is a heartless and cruel policy based on a lie. It wasn’t the sick, the disabled or the vulnerable who caused the financial crash of 2008. It was the bankers. But the architect of Universal Credit, Iain Duncan Smith and the Tory party, chose to give tax cuts to bankers as they dismantle our social security system. Things will change under Labour. We’ll build a society which is compassionate, where support is there for all of us when we need it. And where people come before privilege.

The video shows Corbyn filling boxes in a food bank, as well as the exterior of a jobcentre, snaps of the City of London, and, unfortunately, shots of Iain Duncan Smith in parliament. Viewer discretion is advised.

It’s the same message Corbyn gave at his speech this weekend in Chingford, IDS’ constituency, that provoked the vile little liar, whose policies have killed tens of thousands of disabled and other people, into a ranting reply on YouTube. He claimed that Corbyn’s policy of restoring Social Security would be unjust to taxpayers – this was his first priority – and that it ignored the fact that work is still the best way out of poverty. This is, simply, a lie. It’s based on discredited, bogus research produced by Unum’s pet scientist at their funded centre at Cardiff University. There is a mountain of proper scientific evidence very loudly refuting it. I’ve published some this on my blog, from material put up by Mike over at Vox Political and Kitty S. Jones and other great disability activists. IDS himself has no understanding of poverty whatsoever. He’s an Eton-educated Toff with a country mansion and acres of land in Scotland. Well, actually, it might be his wife’s, but it’s still his.

Despite the press claiming that the Labour party is behind the Tories in the polls, Corbyn’s policies evidently have the Tories rattled. Boris Johnson has started lying again about building 40 more hospitals – in fact only six, and at least one of those isn’t a hospital. Sajid Javid is claiming that he’s going to build up Britain’s infrastructure. All lies, or at least what Mike Yarwood famously called in one of his impressions ‘election promises’.

Don’t be taken in by Tory lies, and the murderous deceit of the right-wing press and Beeb. Universal Credit is a colossal failure and the cause of more grinding poverty. It is there not because it works, but because it keeps the poor down and so cements the wealthy elite, from whose ranks BoJob and IDS come, in their wealth, power and position. Get them out, and Corbyn in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two-Part Series Beginning Tomorrow on BBC 4 on History of Eugenics

October 2, 2019

According to this week’s Radio Times, BBC 4 begins a two-part series tomorrow, Thursday 3rd October 2019, at 9.00 pm, on the history of eugenics, Eugenics: Science’s Greatest Scandal. The blurb for the programme on page 103 of the magazine reads

The controversial theory of eugenics was a driving force behind the Nazi death camps. Adherents believed it was possible to improve the genetic quality of the human race by discouraging reproduction by people with “undesirable” traits. Journalist Angela Saini and disability rights activist Adam Pearson reveal how these shocking beliefs permeated the British establishment in the first half of the 20th century, gaining influential supporters such as Winston Churchill and Marie Stopes.

The additional snippet about the programme by Patrick Mulkern on page 100 says

A thorny subject, eugenics (or “genetic determinism”), the notion that of breeding what some might consider a “better human”, is covered in two parts by science journalist Angela Saini and disability campaigner Adam Pearson.

Tonight, they look at its roots in this country in the liberal sphere of London’s Bloomsbury in the late 19th century – some decades before it was seized upon and put into horrible practice by the Nazis. There’s a concern, even fear, that eugenics is alive and well and making a comeback in academia, science and social policy. Gene editing may mean medical benefits, but who knows where it will lead? 

The blurb for the second and final part of the programme in next week’s Radio Times on page 105, which is on next Thursday, 10th October, at the same time, 9.00 pm, runs

Science journalist Angela Saini and disability rights activist Adam Pearson continue to uncover the disturbing story of eugenics. The controversial idea that the human race could be improved by selective breeding took hold in certain scientific communities before the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust exposed the terrifying possibilities the theory offered. They also look at how eugenic practices such as the sterilisation of the poor continued long after the Second World War and ask whether current medical breakthroughs such as gene editing could be misused.

There’s another little piece about it by Patrick Mulkern on page 102. This states

“It would have been better by far if they had never been born” – chilling words from the past but part of an ideology that has threaded its way through to today.

Eugenics didn’t die with the Nazis. Programmes of selective breeding to weed out disability and mass sterilisation of the poor have continued in parts of the world. 

Science journalist Angela Saini and Adam Pearson (a disability campaaigner who’s been abused in the street because of his looks) front the concluding part of this incisive doc. it suggests that medical breakthroughs, market forces and prejudice are leading us into a new era of eugenics.

As Jeffrey Davies, one of the long-term commenters on this site reminds people, the Nazis began their campaign of mass extermination which culminated in the Holocaust of the Jews and the genocide – porajmos – of the Gypsies – with the mass murder of the disabled, Aktion T4. Dubbed ‘lebensunwertigen Leben‘ – ‘life unworthy of life’ – the congenitally disabled were taken by special SS ambulance units to clinics and insane asylums, where they were murdered with poison gas.

The Nazis had already enacted a considerable edifice of legislation providing for the sterilisation of the disabled, based on that passed by 24 states in the US. They boasted that they had not done anything novel themselves. After the War, some states still carried on sterilising those they considered genetically undesirable. The mentally handicapped continued to be castrated in American mental hospitals. In Sweden, the authorities were afraid that if the disabled and mentally incompetent were allowed to breed, they would put the country’s nationalised health service in crisis, and so they passed eugenics legislation in that country. Those targeted for sterilisation included the Tartare – a traveller people. The Romany and other ethnic groups were exempt from the legislation, but the Tartare were not as they were regarded as ethnically Swedish. This judgement was overturned a few years ago when the Tartare victims sued for compensation. The legislation also targeted those seen as not conforming to proper social or sexual morality. Promiscuous women were also sterilised, for example. The programme only came to an end in 1975.

It will also be interesting to see what the programme has to say about eugenic’s survival among certain parts of the Tory party. Maggie’s mentor, Sir Keith Joseph, caused outrage in the mid-70s when he declared that unmarried mothers were a threat to our stock. The Tories’ current campaign of throwing the severely disabled off benefits using rigged fitness to work tests looks to Mike and very many other disability rights campaigners like another eugenic campaign of mass killing. And Iain Duncan Smith, one of its chief architects, even had the gall to begin an article praising his government’s welfare to work policy with the statement that the infamous slogan on the entrance to the concentration camps, Arbeit Macht Frei – ‘Work Makes You Free’ – was actually a good policy, wrongly tarnished through association with the Nazis. That odious little paragraph disappeared from the article shortly after, but not before it had been noticed and commented on by the left-wing and disabled people’s press and blogs.

And one of the most notorious of today’s eugenics supporters is the malign Toby Young, who was exposed a little while ago attending a eugenics conference at University College London. Which was, unsurprisingly, full of people who could rightly be described as Nazis. This is a good reason not to read anything by the vile scumbag, or take his views remotely seriously.

Eugenics doesn’t solely affect the disabled. It’s used against working people as a whole and Blacks and other ethnic minorities. The argument is that the poor are poor, and will always be poor, because their genetically inferior. Passing legislation to improve their conditions and opportunities is wasteful and harmful, because it will encourage them to outbreed their genetic superiors in the middle and upper classes. There are a slew of organisations in the American Libertarian right which pursue or have pursued that line, which are connected to the Republican Party. It will be very interesting to see what this programme has to say about them.

Desperate Tories Start Lying about Building the Health Service

October 1, 2019

Boris Johnson and his odious chums must be feeling the pressure from Corbyn and Labour, as they’ve reverted to doing what they always do in a tight squeeze: start lying about how they’re really good for the NHS. Right at the start of the Tory conference, one of the candidate claimed that they founded it. Oh no, they didn’t! Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece demolishing this porkie. He pointed out that when Labour put the bill founding the NHS to parliament, they claimed to welcome it, but then sought to deny it a third reading. The reason?

It “discourages voluntary effort and association; mutilates the structure of local governent; dangerously increases Ministerial power and patronage; appropriates trust funds and benefactions in contempt of the wishes of donors and subscribers; and undermines the freedom and independence of the medical profession to the detriment of the nation”.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/29/tory-nhs-claims-are-a-poor-attempt-to-patch-up-the-dirty-open-wound-that-is-their-record/

Mike comments

Even that was a lie. Healthcare before the NHS was a nightmare for working people. Read the books of Harry Leslie Smith for information on the way a private health system fails to work. That was a hindrance to the nation.

I’ve put up many posts myself on this blog pointing out how poor healthcare was for ordinary working people before the introduction of the NHS. There were hospitals run by local authorities, but these varied enormously in the quality of care. There were also charity hospitals as well as the fully private. However, the charity hospitals relied heavily on donations and so spent much of their time trying to raise cash, and care in them was also frequently poor. Doctors were outside the system of minimal state provision, and so charged fees. After the Liberals came to power there was a system of state insurance available to pay the medical bills of some, but not all types of worker. The result was that there were millions, who were not covered by any type of insurance. Many people simply could not afford medical treatment.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Tories try to claim to they invented the NHS, or supported it. They tried it again under Jeremy Hunt a few years ago. And that was also a lie. The NHS was first proposed by Lord Beveridge, a Liberal peer, and put into action and ardently supported by Labour under Clement Atlee and the awesome Nye Bevan. It’s ultimate ancestry goes back to Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s minority report on healthcare provision in Britain right at the start of the 20th century, which recommended a comprehensive system of state healthcare. In the 1930s the Socialist Medical Society, the Fabian Society, now sadly riddled with Blairites, and the Labour party all demanded the establishment of a system of state medical care.

I have had Tories turn up on this blog arguing that Churchill and the Tories were as in favour of the NHS as anyone else, but that they voted against it because it wasn’t costed properly for some reason. Just as Clement Atlee didn’t initially vote for it. Now it’s true that some Labour figures didn’t vote for the NHS initially, as you can see in the lists of those who did given in a book attacking the Tories for blocking the NHS, published by the Left Book Club. But the above statement by the Tories attacking the embryonic NHS and defending a system of largely private healthcare that left millions in grinding poverty with no chance of any proper medical provision refutes this nonsense. And in case there’s any doubt of the Tories’ attitude towards the NHS, a few years after its foundation, in the early 1950s the Tory right tried to have it abolished on the grounds that it was too expensive.

And where have we heard that one before? Oh yes, from Maggie Thatcher, Dave Cameron, Tweezer and the rest of them, all arguing that the introduction of private medicine into the NHS will make it cheaper and more efficient. Only it doesn’t. It makes it more expensive. Hospitals under the Private Finance Initiative are more expensive and have fewer beds than hospitals build using direct state funds. PFI is a fraud, and merely a way-station on the road to the complete privatisation of the NHS. As Mike blogged a few days ago, it’s now saddled the NHS with a debt £50bn, which will probably be closer to £80bn when the debts come to an end in the 2030s. Yes, Labour massively increased the use PFI contracts as part of Blair’s ‘Third Way’. But it was introduced by Peter Lilley under John Major as a deliberate way of opening up the NHS to private industry.

Yes, the NHS has PFI debts – but put the blame where it’s due… on the TORIES

The Tories, or at least some of them, have always wanted to privatise the NHS, because they hate the idea of working people receiving free healthcare at the point of need and service.

And then a few days ago, Boris announced that he was going to be build 40 spanking new hospitals. Except that he won’t. According to the Sage of Crewe on Zelo Street, the greatest number of hospitals that will get built are six. When questioned about the number by Andrew Marr on his show, Bozo blustered that he had a long-term infrastructure plan, and there was seed funding for these hospitals. Zelo Street pointed out that his ‘long-term infrastructure plan is just a rip-off of Cameron’s ‘long term economic plan’. And the seed funding means that while the government pays of securing the land, legal work and ensuring access. someone else will actually have to build them. Yes, it the PFI once again.

‘That sounds like either the PFI that began under John Major, was carried on by Tone and Pa Broon, and even though Cameron and Osborne slagged it off, they did it too – or it means someone else will own and run the hospitals – not necessarily the NHS.

Bozo just confirmed what we already knew – you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/tories-40-new-hospitals-arent.html

And the Skwawkbox also reminded people of the last time the Tories started lying about the NHS when an election was looming.

This was in the run-up to the elections that allowed the Tory-Lib Dem coalition to seize power, c. 2008 or so. Cameron was claiming to defend the NHS from Blair’s cuts. He and IDS very ostentatiously set about a campaign against hospital closures. When the Gruesome Twosome of Cameron and Clegg got in, of course, that campaign suddenly vanished. And it was back to cuts and hospital closures as normal.

For a reminder, see the Skwawkbox article at: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/09/29/166-reasons-closures-not-to-trust-a-word-boris-johnson-says-about-the-nhs/

This also reveals that the Tories have closed down 166 mostly maternity and A&E units, and closed down another 100 NHS walk-in centres.

These closures are presented as local decisions, but the Skwawkbox shows that it is the result of sham consultations and a central plan to cut costs. As for the six hospitals BoJo claims will be built, they aren’t new either. And some of them aren’t even fully fledged hospitals. One will actually take patients and beds from another hospital, resulting in even less care for local people.

The Skwawkbox comments on the Tory lies:

Boris Johnson’s lips will be moving today. Don’t believe a word that comes out of them.

There is only one party with safe hands for the NHS: Labour.

Absolutely.

Video of Corbyn’s Speech Describing Labour’s Proposed Reforms to the DWP

September 29, 2019

Mike put up a piece yesterday about a speech Corbyn had made in Iain Duncan Smith’s constituency of Chingford in which he outlined the Labour party’s reforms of the welfare state. Top of the list was to change the DWP back into the DSS and scrap the welfare to work tests. This was pretty much a provocation to Smith, who presided over the DWP under the Tories under relatively recently, and was directly responsible for the immense harm and the mass deaths of the poor, the sick and the disabled that came from the Tories’ welfare reforms. The Guardian has put up a video of the speech, or at least this part of it, on YouTube. It’s two minutes 20 seconds long. In it the Labour leader states that

They will change the DWP’s name back to Social Security to bring back real Social Security for people. But changing it’s name doesn’t mean anything on its own, so there are a number of things Labour will leading up to the scrapping of Universal Credit in its entirety.

Firstly, they will end the work capability tests that are so brutal to people in their lives.

They will end the bedroom tax because it is unfair, unjust and wrong.

They will raise ESA by £30 a week so that people have something reasonable to survive on.

They will raise carer’s allowance to the same level as Jobseekers’ Allowance in recognition that carers do an amazing job for the people they love, and shouldn’t be impoverished in doing so.

They will end the two child policy in benefit distribution.

They will pay Housing Benefit direct to landlords so that claimants don’t get in problems with housing debt or arrears.

They will end the sanctions system as a whole and replace it with 5,000 benefits advisors coming into the DWP.

He also outlined some great policies on education.

Labour would have a properly funded education system, so that head teachers won’t have to raise funds for their schools to make sure they are properly funded.

Family education will be brought back under the control of Local Education Authorities by a National Education Service.

He also calls for unity, saying that the Labour party has so much to do and so much to achieve, but they can only do it if they are united, and that they have to go out there to engage in that debate and that conversation with people in order to ask them to lend Labour their support so that they can deliver all those things.

All I can say about this is what we used to say in the playground as schoolchildren back in the ’70s and ’80s: Brill! This really is exactly what the country needs. And it’s really going to annoy and upset the Tories, the Lib Dems and the Blairites because it’s another outright attack on Thatcherism. It dares to say that the sanctions system and the welfare to work tests, so beloved of Chingford Petty Dictator, Iain Duncan Smith, are keeping people in poverty.

And it also dares to say that the privatisation of the British school and education system too is an abject failure. They’re really going to hate that, as if Labour brings schools back under national ownership or at least local authority control, how are all these wretched academy chains going to find their money, the money they give to the Tories? And before the Tories and right-wing press start raving about Communism here, Corbyn is only voicing a policy that Thatcher herself had to back to. She also wanted to take schools out of local authority control, and so set up what were ‘academies’ in all but name under Norman Fowler. There was only thing wrong with it, as Blackadder famously said. It was rubbish. The new academies didn’t work, and the scheme was quietly wound up. Until Blair took the idea out of the dustbin and relaunched it, and his wretched reforms were then carried on and expanded by Cameron and the Tories and Lib Dems in turn.

Academies don’t work, and it’s long past time this was recognised and the recognition given practical expression in the renationalisation of British education.

So how did Iain Duncan Smith react when Corbyn opened a frontal assault on his welfare reforms right on the nasty little creep’s doorstep? He appears to have commented on the Express’ ‘Comment Is Free’ site attacking it because it would be unfair to taxpayers!

He declared that

Corbyn’s plot to axe universal credit is cynical and would be devastating to the taxpayer. The fearmongering Labour have whipped up over Universal Credit is counterproductive. They refuse to accept the objective truth work is the best route out of poverty.

To which Corbyn replied

No, “cynical” and “devastating” is making sick and disabled people pay for the financial crash. Your policy pushed hundreds of thousands of people into poverty, made families lose their homes and denied benefits to the terminally ill. That’s your legacy. That’s what Labour will end. 

Mike comments on the Labour leader’s reply

I have been waiting years for a political leader to pin the deaths of the innocent on the former Work and Pensions Secretary. It was exhilarating to read this.

But he also points out it doesn’t go far enough. The Tories haven’t just killed disabled people, but also individuals, who could have led fit and productive lives if they hadn’t been thrown off benefits. Mike concludes

We need an undertaking from Labour to investigate the fate of everyone who suffered as a result of that man’s decision to pervert the benefit system into a punishment for being poor.

And then we need to see prosecutions. In the words of Kipling, nothing is ever settled until it is settled right.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/29/weve-waited-years-for-someone-to-say-this-but-will-iain-duncan-smith-face-justice/

Absolutely right. Iain Duncan Smith and the Tories are directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, no matter how they blusher, obfuscate and lie about it. And it’s interesting to see that the first point the Gentleman Ranker tries to make in his wretched attempt at a refutation is that replacing the welfare reforms would be harmful to the taxpayer. Once again, we see the Tories worried about their rich donors actually having to pay a bit more tax, rather than tens of thousands die in misery and poverty.

His second point is that work is the best way out of poverty. This little gem is also discredited. It comes from a piece of research written by a doctor sponsored by the American insurance fraudster, Unum. As Katie S. Jones and Disabled People Against Cuts have shown with copious documentation, this is completely false and utterly bogus scientifically. But the Tories cling to it because it justifies their attitude towards the poor. It provided the basis for Smith’s article in one of the papers which began, I believe, with a justification of that infamous phrase above the Nazi concentration camps, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – ‘Work Makes You Free’. That paragraph mysteriously disappeared after people started noticing it. Smith has been challenged on the scientific validity of the statement, and when he has, he’s retreated into saying that he knows or feels it to be correct, without citing any supporting evidence.

Which tells you everything you need to know about how spurious the real science is behind IDS’ vile, murderous policies.

He and the rest of the Tories, who continue to implement and support this horror – the sanctions system and work capabilities tests – need to be charged and put into the dock to face the consequences for their actions.

 

 

 

The Biblical Command to Support and Protect Refugees

September 26, 2019

One of the great passages in the Old Testament that speaks directly to today’s world, is the statement in Deuteronomy that God loves and demands justice for widows, orphans and foreigners. Deuteronomy 10: 18-19 runs

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

(Eyre & Spottiswoode Study Bible, Revised Standard Version).

A similar command is issued in Exodus 23: 9: ‘You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’.

The commentary on Exodus in The New Bible Commentary Revised, D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer, A. M. Stibbs and D.J. Wiseman, eds (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press 1970) states that the Hebrew word translated as ‘strangers’ is Gerim, which means ”refugees’, folk seeking political asylum.’ (p. 119). The same book’s commentary on the two verses in Deuteronomy states that ‘this demand for Israel to love the alien is without parallel in Ancient Near Eastern legislation. While the Israelites were commanded to honour and fear their parents and to listen to the prophetic message, they were commanded also to enter into a relation of affection with the sojourner as a reminder of God’s love during the Egyptian captivity.’ (pp. 217-18′.

Now imagine the horror amongst the Tories if the archbishop or some other leading member of the clergy quoted those verses in a sermon attacking Conservative attitudes to asylum seekers, using the literal translation of ‘refugee’. They’d go berserk criticising him or her for interfering in politics, just as they attacked Robert Runcie when he was Archbishop of Canterbury for daring to attack Thatcher’s policies towards poverty.

The Biblical Condemnation of Lying

Exodus Chapter 23:1-4 also contains proscriptions against lying and perverting the course of justice. These are

You shall not utter a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man, to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; nor shall you bear witness in a suit, turning aside after a multitude, so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his suit.

The people smearing decent, self-respecting, anti-racist women and men as anti-Semites, and suing them for libel when they dare defend themselves, like the odious Rachel Rily is trying to do to Mike, should not this passage and remember it.

Samuel Smiles’ Condemnation of the Evils of Laissez-Faire

September 26, 2019

Samuel Smiles was the author of Self-Help, a 19th century manual on how the working classes could escape poverty by helping themselves. He’s been seen as a cornerstone of Conservative values, to whom Maggie Thatcher harked back when she promoted her attack on the welfare state as giving people more self-help. Andrina Stiles’ discusses how Victorian philanthropy is seen by some historians as an attempt to create ‘a docile, subservient working class out of a large, ill-educated and potentially revolutionary mass of people’ and that ‘the whole basis of Victorian involvement in charitable enterprise as an exercise in social control based on Samuel Smiles’ teaching about self-help’ in her book, Religion, Society and Reform 1800-1914 (London, Hodder & Stoughton 1995). But she also states that this view has been challenged by other historians. These argue that while he moderated his views on laissez-faire in later life, he did not believe it adequate to tackle social problems. And she provides as proof a passage from Smiles in which he bitterly condemns it. She writes

But other historians now believe these views to be a travesty of Samuel Smiles’ teaching. Although his book Self-Help was not published until 1859, they point out that its contents had been delivered as a series of lecturers to working-class audiences in Leeds 14 years earlier at a time of social conflict; and that in those lectures Smiles was not preaching quiescence but radicalism. Although he later moderated his political views and came to agree with laissez-faire in economic matters, he never accepted it was the right policy in dealing with social abuses, writing passionately of the need for outside intervention where self-help by the poor was obviously an inadequate remedy:

When typhus or cholera break out they tell us Nobody is to blame. That terrible Nobody… Nobody adulterates our food. Nobody poisons us with bad drink… Nobody leaves towns undrained. Nobody makes thieves, poachers and drunkards. Nobody has a dreadful theory – laissez-faire – leave alone. When people are poisoned with plaster of Paris mixed with their flour ‘let alone’ is the remedy … Let those who can find out when they are cheated. When people live in foul dwellings, let them alone, let wretchedness do its work; do not interfere with death. (p. 98).

So much for Thatcherite ‘Victorian values’. They killed people in the 19th century, and they’re killing them now as the Blairites and the Tories make obtaining welfare benefits for the unemployed and disabled as difficult and humiliating as possible. The result is that over a quarter of a million people are only kept from starvation by food banks, tens of thousands of disabled people have died after being thrown off benefits due to being assessed as fit for work, and there is a chronic housing shortage through Maggie’s determination to sell off council housing and forbid the building of any more.

But the Tories and the Libertarians keep singing the old refrain. Things will be better with more self-help, less state reliance and regulation. Private enterprise and capitalism will make everything better. A few months ago Dave Rubin and Candace Owens of the American right-wing group, Turning Point, tried to convince Brits when they came over to push their vile, outmoded views on this side of the Pond. Libertarianism was devised by extreme right-wing businessmen, most notably the Koch brothers, in order to defend depriving working people of state support and trade union power, whilst enriching big business. It always was close to Nazism. In the 1970s the American Libertarian rag, Reason, even published an issue pushing Holocaust Denial. Over this side of the Atlantic, the Libertarian organisations, like the National Association For Freedom, or the Freedom Association as it became, used to support the South American dictators. This included Paul Staines, of the Guido Fawkes blog, who was a member of one of these societies. One year the guest of honour at their annual dinner was the head of one of Central American dictator Rios Montt’s death squads. When Staines wasn’t out of his head raving with the machine elves on psychoactive chemicals, of course.

Laissez-faire in its Conservative and Libertarian versions brings nothing but poverty, sickness and death to the masses. Smiles knew this and condemned it. But the Thatcherites are still pushing it, because it keeps the poor poor and very much under the control of the rich.

The Jewish Establishment’s Extension of Control over 19th Century Eastern European Jewish Immigrants

September 26, 2019

There’s a very interesting section in Andrina Stile’s Religion, Society and Reform 1800-1914 (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1995) discussing the challenge the Sephardic Jewish establishment faced in the 19th century from the influx of Ashkenazi Jews fleeing persecution in eastern Europe. The British Jewish community was assimilated, and shocked by the poverty and lack of education of the new immigrants. They therefore tried to assist them and help them to integrate into British society. However, while this assistance was well-intentioned, they were also afraid of the immigrants’ political radicalism. Many of them were Socialists, and they challenged the Jewish religious establishment by setting up independent charities and prayer groups, the chevroth, that acted as alternatives to the established synagogues and centres of Jewish culture and learning. As a result, the Chief Rabbis began a campaign to centralise their power and authority, leading to the establishment of the United Synagogue.

Stiles’ writes

This great influx of immigrants completely destabilised Anglo-Jewry for a while, socially, economically and religiously. The majority of the newcomers were poor and uneducated, used to a life of violence and prone to riot. A campaign of education and training was begun by the Jewish elite, not in an attempt to keep down a potentially dangerous proletariat and maintain the social status quo, but to turn the newcomers into respectable citizens, wean them away from socialist politics and integrate them into existing society. Schools, hospitals and charitable institutions of all kinds were established and adult education was vigorously pursued in the hope of instilling bourgeois values; but the immigrant populations in London, Leeds and Manchester remained stubbornly unwilling to co-operate. Not only was the Hebrew Socialist Union formed in 1875 with the aim of organising workers in the East End of London, but there was also a sudden and spontaneous growth of religious confraternities, chevra. These chevra provided spiritual, social and material comfort for those in need. Groups of ‘poor foreigners’ who could not afford to attend the synagogues, where they were not made welcome, would combine to form the necessary quorum of ten men for worship. In any room they could borrow or rent cheaply they held their own services. However unsalubrious, crowded and uncomfortable, a chevroth ‘supplied them not only with their religion, but with their art and letters, their politics and their public amusements. It was their home as well as the Almighty’s’. The failure of the synagogues to provide for the poor probably explains why, according to the 1851 Religious Census, only 16 per5 cent of Jews attended the official Sabbath service.

The Jewish elite disliked these independent organisations for their religious extremism, their encouragement of class divisions and their radical politics and looked for a way to counter the influence of the chevra. They found it in the development of a strong, hierarchical and centralised religious government under the leadership of the Adler family. Father and son, the Adlers filled the office of Chief Rabbi for 66 years (1844-1911), during which time they gather into their hands complete control of all religious matters. Social affairs were co-ordinate in 1858 by the formation of the Jewish Board of Guardians and the process of centralisation was completed when hitherto autonomous religious congregations were brought together by the creation of the United Synagogue in 1870. (p. 143-44).

This seems to parallel some of the conflict with British, American and western Judaism today over the support for Israel. And it strongly appears to me that right-wing Zionist Jewish establishment in Britain isn’t just frightened about falling support for Israel and its vile colonialist programme of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. They also seem to be very much afraid that the great-grandchildren of the Jewish radicals of the 19th century are rediscovering their Socialist heritage.

David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group has described on his blog how the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the 1980s accused the GLC of anti-Semitism because Ken Livingstone dared to give them a small grant. The Board were infuriated because the JSG wasn’t affiliated to them. Rosenberg himself celebrates the tradition of the Bund, the 19th century eastern European Jewish party, which wished to create a socialist order while remaining in their traditional European homelands. Their motto, in Hebrew, translated as ‘Wherever we are, that’s our homeland’. They wished to be equal, fellow citizens with the gentile peoples with whom they lived. This was completely unacceptable to the Zionists, who were a minority among the eastern European Jewish masses.

Jeremy Corbyn has been bitterly denounced as an anti-Semite for his support of equality and dignity for the Palestinians by the Conservative establishment, including the Blairite ‘moderates’ in Labour itself. And they’ve also accused him and his supporters of being Communists, Trotskyites and Stalinists because they stand for a return to the post-War social democratic consensus. A strong welfare state, a nationalised National Health Service that carries out its commitment to provide universal healthcare free at the point of delivery, and workers’ rights and effective trade unions, are too much for the right-wing establishment, Jewish, gentile or whatever, to tolerate. Among those on the receiving end of this campaign of smears and vilification have been left-wing, Corbyn-supporting Jews, like Jackie Walker. Corbyn has a proud tradition of supporting the Jewish community, as bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, the Skwawkbox and very many others have shown. And he enjoys the respect and support of part of the Jewish community. This includes the ultra-Orthodox Haridi, whose campaign to preserve their burial ground he and Dianne Abbott supported when the local synagogue wanted to redevelop it. Within the Labour party Corbyn is supported by Jewish Voice for Labour, and he spent Passover with the radical Jewish group, Jewdas. Which sent the Board and the witch-hunters berserk once again. They howled ‘anti-Semitism!’, because he dared to celebrate a Jewish holiday with ‘the wrong sort of Jews’. You know, people who may have seen themselves as in the tradition of the Hebrew Socialist Union, rather than respectable business types.

The Conservative Jewish establishment seems to feel that its power is being challenged, both in terms of foreign policy – support for Israel – and domestically in that there are independent Jewish organisations following left-wing politics. And so these decent people are also smeared as ‘self-hating’, anti-Semitic and ‘the wrong kind of Jews’, just as the Israel lobby as a whole smears anybody, who decries Israeli ethnic cleansing.

Bullying, Starvation and Death in 19th Century Public and Boarding Schools

September 26, 2019

There’s a strong mood in the Labour party for the abolition of the public schools. Unlike in America, where the public schools are the state schools, the term over this side of the Atlantic mean the network of extremely expensive private schools educating the children of the aristocracy and the upper middle classes. It’s from them and their ethos that elite derive some of their power and sense of entitlement through the social solidarity and networks these schools provide. Private Eye in its review of a book on Eton in the 1980s commented acidly on a statement by one former Eton schoolboy, now an Anglican bishop, that looking at the numbers of other old Etonians now in leading positions in the government, civil service and society, he felt the whole world was Eton. Another said that if he found out a man hadn’t been to Eton, he wasn’t sure why, but for some reason he thought less of him.

But it wasn’t always like this. Before Matthew Arnold turned up at Rugby in the 1840s, the Public Schools had a very poor reputation. They were notorious for a very narrow curriculum that concentrated almost exclusively on the classics, vicious bullying and vain attempts to keep order among their charges through sadistic flogging. As well as immorality.

I found these passages, describing the abysmally low standards in them in Andrina Stiles, Religion, Society and Reform 1800 1914 (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1995).

Some of the endowed schools had begun to take boarders quite early on. Rugby for instance, which had originally been founded in the sixteenth century as a free grammar school for local boys, evolved in this way into the 19th century public school. Conditions before 1840 in public schools left much to be desired. A narrow classical curriculum, poor housing and food, harsh discipline and a low moral tone characterised life there. Violence and bullying were common. By the middle of the century the situation was improving and public school values were changing, for several reasons. One of these was the arrival of Thomas Arnold at Rugby in 1829.

(p. 74).

Nevertheless there was still disquiet about the narrow curriculum of the public schools a generation later in 1861:

No Latin or Greek may make Mast Jack a dull boy, but Latin and Greek without anything else go far towards making him a very dullard. Parents are beginning to feel this and to ask whether a skinful of classical knowledge with a little birching thrown in for nothing is worth the two hundred a year the pay for a boy at Eton.

A Royal Commission under Lord Clarendon was appointed to examine the revenues, management and curriculum in the nine chief public schools. Its report in 1864 was more favourable than might have been expected. It agreed though that there was still an undue emphasis on the classics and added that the schools ‘are in different degrees too indulgent to idleness, or struggle ineffectually with it, and consequently send out a large proportion of men of idle habits and empty uncultivated minds’. A number of reforms were suggested and some of these, mostly organisational ones, were incorporated in the Public Schools Act of 1868. The effects were limited for the schools were not made subject to government inspection and each remained virtually independent. As for broadening the curriculum, little was done.

(p. 75).

But if standards in the public schools were low, those in the middle class private schools were potentially lethal.

Many parents wishing to protect their boys from the dangers of the public school, or not able to afford the fees to send them there, turned to private boarding schools. These varied widely in competence, were often quite small, and had a more liberal curriculum than the public or grammar schools. The pupils were usually better supervised and better housed than in the public schools, though this was not always the case and some private schools were very badly run, with a high death rate among the pupils from disease, malnutrition and general neglect.

(p. 76).

With this history, it’s amazing that the private sector still has the social cachet to demand respect, and old Etonians like David Cameron and Boris Johnson hold them up for emulation from the state sector. One of those two charmers declared that they’d like every school to be like Eton. This was in a speech promising further privatisation of state education. Well, every school probably could become like Eton, if it had the amount of money spent on it Eton has from the fees it charges elite parents. But as its the state sector, they get nowhere near the funding and resources they need and deserve. If we really want to create a strong state education system that provides a good schooling for everyone, then the myth of private school excellence has to be disproven and their privileged place removed even if the schools themselves aren’t abolished.