Posts Tagged ‘Employment’

American Scientists Plan March against Trump

January 28, 2017

After the massive numbers of people involved in the women’s marches against Trump held around the world last weekend, American scientists are also planning to organise their own demonstration against the Orange Caudillo in protest at his disastrous environmental and health policies.

In this video, TYT Nation’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a report in Forbes’ discussing the formation of the new group of scientists planning this march. The group has it’s own internet page, and in five days its members grew from 200 to 200,000 +. The group says it will include non-scientists as well as scientists, and is intended to advocate the greater involvement of science in government. It’s purpose is to defend climate science, evolution, and alternative energy. Waldorf states that he too believes strongly that science should be more involved in government. He also quibbles with the phrasing in the Forbes’ article, taking issue with the magazine’s description of the scientists as ‘believing’ in the environmental damage caused by the fossil fuel industries. Waldorf argues that scientists’ in these areas don’t believe, because they have proof that oil pipelines, such as DAPL, can rupture, creating massive oil spills and environmental destruction.

Waldorf also argues that, although he understands why people in America’s coal country wish to retain the industry for as long as possible for the sake of their jobs, renewables are now becoming cheaper than oil for the first time. It’s time to move from the horse and buggy to the automobile, is the metaphor he uses. He also notes that 75 per cent of Trumps’ own supporters are also in favour of solar and wind power, and natural gas. Waldorf himself is not in favour of natural gas, as it’s still a fossil fuel, with the environmental problems that poses. At the moment, the movement is still in the planning stage, but hopes to issue a mission statement soon. In the meantime, they state that a government that sacrifices science to ideology is a threat not just to America, but also the world.

I wish the scientists the best of luck in their campaigns against Trump’s attack on climate change and green energy. I think, however, Waldorf has a rather too optimistic view of science. There’s quite a debate in the philosophy of science over what constitutes ‘proof’. In one view, articulated by the great philosopher of science, Karl Popper, science advances through falsification. You can’t prove a particular theory. What you do instead is show that other explanations are false. In many areas of science, the observable effects of experiments, may be tiny and ambiguous. This is why scientists have developed very sophisticated statistical methods for sorting through their observations in search of factual evidence that will support or disprove their theories. Thus, at the risk of nit-picking, it might be fairer to say that climate change and environmental damage by the fossil fuel industry is far better supported by the available evidence, than the minority view that no such change or damage is occurring.

I also think you have to be careful about relying too much on science to solve social problems. The British philosopher, Mary Midgeley, in one of her books pointed out that in some areas, what is needed is a social and industrial solution to a particularly issue, rather than scientific innovation. For example, it could be argued that in the struggle against world hunger, what is needed is not new, genetically engineered crops which produce vast yields, but better transportation methods and infrastructure to supply people with the food that has already been grown.

Despite these very minor quibbles, it is true that orthodox, respectable science in the above areas has been under attack for a long time to serve powerful interests in the fossil fuel industries. Trump this week imposed gagging orders preventing scientists and government workers in the Environmental Protection Agency from revealing their findings. Climate change is happening, and is a real danger to America and the globe. But this awareness frightens the Koch brothers and their wealth in the petrochemical industry. So they, and millionaires like them, are spending vast sums to keep the facts from ordinary peeps. America’s scientists are right to challenge this. Let’s hope their march in support of proper science goes ahead and is well-attended.

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Trump Imposes Gag Order on Government Environmental Scientists

January 28, 2017

The Republican party since the 1980s, if not before, has a bitter hatred of environmentalism and loathes just about any and all laws, movements or protests to protect Earth’s precious natural resources, and the creatures with whom we share our beautiful world. Now Trump’s taken it to its latest development.

In this video, The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s imposition of a legal ban gagging members of the Environmental Protection Agency from releasing details of their work to the general public. Trump has also frozen official funding, so that the Agency may only publish its results and findings if these meet the official, ideological approval of his administration.

Uygur and Kasparian point out that this is intended to keep people ignorant, powerless and deprived of decent science education before Trump’s government. They also point out that this action by the Orange Dictator shows without question that the Republicans are anti-science. It doesn’t matter whether individual Republican voters support Trump’s policy, or they merely have to go along with it because they agree with his others reforms. The Republicans are anti-science, and they should now own it.

They also make the point that in any jobs that may actually be brought back to America through these bans, Americans will be fighting for scraps. The jobs in the petrochemical sectors drilling for oil, which the attacks on the EPA are designed to protect, will not be such to give Americans the standard of living they want. It would make far greater sense for the government to begin investigating in renewables – a whole new industry. At the moment, even the Chinese are beating America in investment and research into renewable energy, because, says Uygur, ‘the Chinese are smart’. But there’s no reasons why America shouldn’t be no. 1 in renewable energy. They’ve got enough sun in Arizona and wind in Chicago, the notorious ‘windy city’.

The Young Turks here are right. This is all about protecting the Republican party’s corporate backers in the petrochemical industry, like the Koch brothers. These two have financed a slew of fake astroturf ‘Green’ organisations and campaigned against genuine climate science produced by independent university laboratories. Koch money has been poured into Unis and state coffers instead to produce very politicised labs that have been set up to deny that climate change is occurring, and that drilling for oil is having a harmful effect on the local landscape of the US. This is despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, such as vast stretches of Louisiana wetland now made little more than one vast oil bog. Or the fact that there were over 300 spills from the oil pipelines crisscrossing America last year. The Kochs and their dollars try to keep facts like these well-hidden from the voters and the folks that have to live with the results of their environmental pillage.

And whatever the Republicans do, the Tories are nearly always bound to follow. The Republicans have heavily embraced fracking, and so have the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers. So you can bet that at this moment, Theresa May, members of her cabinet, or perhaps the members of some Tory think tank somewhere, is looking at these gagging laws, and wondering how something similar can be introduced over here.

Book Review: The Great City Academy Fraud – Part 2

July 13, 2016

Academy Fraud Pic

Francis Beckett (London: Continuum 2007)

Poor Staff Conditions

Both New Labour and the Tories have regurgitated endless amounts of Thatcherite verbiage about ‘choice’, when hyping their schemes to take education out of the control of local authorities. In fact, parents and teacher frequently have little choice over how academies are run. The funding agreement gives the power to make decisions regarding school management to the sponsor. These agreements get rid of all but a token representative from the parents and school staff on the school governors’ board. The staff governor may not even be a member of the teaching staff. They are free to set their own pay, terms and conditions, and are outside the regulations governing the conduct of teachers. New Labour was early faced with public opposition when they announced that teacher employed in academies would not have to belong to the compulsory professional body that makes sure teachers are actually fit to teach children. Blair and his team boasted that this was all part of the freedom academies enjoyed from the regulations binding conventional schools. Somebody pointed out that if this regulation was unnecessary, then surely it should also be repealed for ordinary schools. And if it wasn’t, then the regulation should be enforced in academies. At that point, New Labour decided that the regulation did apply, and backed down.
Several of the academy chains, including one run by 3Es, won’t recognise trade unions. These have massive staff turnover, including headmasters. Some of these are hired for truly eye-watering sums. One head, who formerly ran the King Solomon Jewish school, was taken on by an academy for £120,000. This chap eventually left as his experience running a faith school did not prepare him for the problems of coping with a mainstream school, whose children were taken from a variety of ethnic and faith backgrounds.

Refusal to Take Difficult Pupils

Conditions for pupils may not improve either, especially for children with behaviour problems. Academies have tried to keep up their appearance of improving standards frequently by excluding some of the most difficult children, who may find their school career, and their entire lives, wrecked as a result. One school managed to excluded 246 or so of its student population of 700-odd. Beckett provides a couple of cases showing what happened to some of the unlucky children, who were expelled. Except that, technically they may not be. They can exclude someone in a particular manner, so that it’s not technically an exclusion. And if it’s not technically an exclusion, then the Local Education Authority does have the statutory responsibility to find another school for them. This happened to a lad, ‘Jack’ – not his real name – who was excluded, and effectively confined to home for five months. The lad suffered from depression anyway, which was made worse. His mother reported that he then spent all his time in his room, not coming out even for his meals. Another boy, who was excluded, also found that no-one else was prepared to take him on. He ended up not doing his GCSEs. He did manage to get a vocational qualification at a local college, but as this is not an academic qualification, he will suffer at finding a job, and be unable to get into university.

And it isn’t exactly fun and games for the teachers, either. They’re frequently only hired on six month contracts, just in case they start getting a bit too settled and too powerful. One woman was assaulted by a boy in her class. He was not expelled, and the woman understandable felt anxious about going back to work. So she took a little bit more time off. Only to find that, as she was on a six-month contract, she was not paid for the extra time.

No Choice for Parents and Local Authorities

And parents and local authorities have also been penalised if they refused to get in-line and ‘on message’ with the Blairite diktats. Local authorities are expected to consider building academies when trying to renovate and improve schools in their areas, and the onus is always on changing to an academy. If a local authority refuses the government’s command to turn their school into one, the government responded with a scorched earth policy. No further money would be forthcoming for that area’s schools.

And Blair was both doctrinaire and personally vindictive towards those schools that refused to bend, or stubbornly remained ‘good’ in Ofsted reports. Documents revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show that Islington Green School, which Blair was desperate to close, were actually rated good by the school inspectors, despite Chris Woodhead, the-then head of Ofsted, declaring that it was failing. There then followed a long campaign to have the school closed and transformed into an academy. Quite why is unknown, but Beckett speculates personal spite on the Warmonger’s part. The Blairs lived in its catchment area, but they sent their children over the other side of London to be educated at the London Oratory. The press seized on this, and the Dear Leader was embarrassed. So it looks like the school was failed for political reasons, to make it seem less like Blair wasn’t sending his children to it purely for reasons of personal snobbery.

In other areas, parents were subject to full set of New Labour spin and vilification if they put up protests against plans to close their schools and turn them into academies. One man, who was part of a campaign to save his local school, came under personal attack in the subsequent court case to save the school from closure. He was a member of the Socialist Party, what used to be the Militant Tendency, when it was part of the Labour party. And so New Labour seized on that, and claimed that he was only opposing the academy plan because of his political opinions. Not true, but that was how the local New Labour party spun it. Their Labour MP also sent out a very carefully worded letter to her constituents, that asked them to tick two boxes. One said that they were in favour of raising school standards involving a transfer to academy status. The other box said that they were not in favour of raising standards through academy status. Or something like that. It was carefully phrased to make it sound like the only way to improve standards was through changing to an academy. If you weren’t behind it, you weren’t in favour of improving school standards. It was the New Labour educational variety of the old leading question, ‘Do you still beat your wife?’

Roll-Call of the Poor and Disabled, Killed by the Government’s Policies

November 28, 2013

A day or so ago I reblogged the video Still Oaks had made on the people, who tragically committed suicide due to the government’s welfare policies. Many were disabled people, who had been declared ‘fit for work’ by ATOS, when they clearly were anything but. Others were simply unemployed, who found it impossible to live on the meagre income supplied by the DWP. There’s a list of the people mentioned in the video posted by Still Oaks and Annanna, who helped Still Oaks make the video, over on the web forum DWP Examinations. The forum’s subtitled ‘Free Speech for the Disabled’, and is clearly intended to allow the disabled themselves to discuss and criticise the DWP and its policies. The people included in Still Oaks’ video are:

1/ John Walker

2/ Linda Wootton

3/ Elenore Tatton

4/ Brian McArdle

5/ David Groves

6/ Stephen Hill

7/ Nicholas Peter Barker

8/ Mark and Helen Mullins

9/Richard Sanderson

10/Martin Rust

11/Craig Monk

12/Colin Traynor

13/Elaine Christian

14/Christelle pardo,Kayjah Pardo

15/Mark Scott

16/Cecilia Burns

17/Chris Cann

18/Peter Hodgson

19/ Paul Willcoxson

20/Stephanie Bottrill

21/Larry Newman

22/Child EG

23/Paul Turner

24/Christopher Charles Harness

25/Sandra Louise Moon

26/Paul Reekie

27/Leanne Chambers

28/Vicky Harrison

29/Stephen Cawthra

30/George from Chesterfield

31/Wayne Grew

32/Kevin Bennett

32/Iain Hodge

33/David Elwyn Hugh Harris

34/ Elaine Lowe

35/ Lee Robinson

36/ Ian Carress

37/ Edward Jacques

38/ Charles Barden

The list is part of a wider discussion, ‘Death by Government’. Other posts by Annanna in this thread give some details on these poor souls. It’s a depressing mixture of people from all walks of life and types of disability. Some of them were obviously extremely talented academically. Christelle Pardo, who killed herself and her baby, Kayja, was a philosophy graduate. Others were manual workers, whose talents clearly lay with their hands, such as a farm labourer. Several of them had psychological problems, such as a young man who suffered from schizophrenia, epilepsy and alcoholism. This man’s alcoholism is not necessarily an indication that he was somehow responsible for his own poverty. It looks from here like self-medication. This is the term psychiatrists and mental health experts use to describe drug and alcohol use by the mentally ill to try and alleviate their condition. In our society, one of the ways people try to cheer themselves up when their down is to go for a pint or two. So it is with those suffering from depression or anxiety. It’s not hard to see how that can lead to dependence on this socially accepted drug, which in turn will exacerbate the sufferer’s condition. The important point here is that in these cases, alcoholism can be a consequence or a symptom of the disease, not a result of moral weakness of the part of the victim. Other victims included severely disabled people, for whom there should have been no question of them being able to work, such as a triple amputee.

I’ve come across a few severely disabled people, who nevertheless possessed the talent and strength of character to hold down often extremely well-paid and responsible jobs despite their appalling physical condition. One young lad I met a few years ago had a disease that left him almost totally paralysed. Nevertheless, he was a computer whizzkid, and his expertise allowed him to earn the kind of money some of us only dream about. And he wasn’t the only one. A young woman in a wheelchair told me over twenty years ago about one of her friends, who was also paralysed from the neck down. This man, was also a computer genius, working on them with the kind of stick attachment, which you see Stephen Hawking using to work his wheelchair and speech synthesiser. It’s one of the positive advantages of information technology that it has allowed disable people like these two to have a career of their own. The problem is the DWP seems to assume that if a few, very talented people can do it, then others in a similar position should. If they can’t, then it must be their own fault, somehow.

It should be self-evident that severely disabled people need considerable support and care. When I met the lad I mentioned above, it was in a meeting of one of the clubs in Cheltenham at the time. I think they were holding their AGM. He was taken in by his nurse, who then went to the bar to sit quietly drinking coffee once the lad had been wheeled to the table to talk about rules of procedure and the financial status of the club. Or whatever. Stephen Hawking is one of the foremost examples of a man, who has made spectacular achievements despite his terrible condition. Helping him do this, however, have been a supportive family, nursing care, and the type of advanced motorised wheelchairs and voice synthesis technology that many people can only dream about. All too many other disabled people simply don’t have that level of social, medical and technological support.

There is also the question of how much support or care an employer is prepared to spend adapting their premises to the needs of their disabled employees. Now I have to say I really have little knowledge of the equalities legislation in this area. I understand that businesses, or at least public organisations, like museums and libraries, are required to make their premises wheelchair-accessible. I’m also pretty sure that they cannot legally discriminate against a disabled applicant when it comes to jobs. I am also aware that there have been some very good employers out there, who have adapted their workplaces to accommodate their workers, who suffered from particular physical ailments. One lady I used to work with had a severe back condition, and so she sat in an orthopaedic chair at work. Others may not be so fortunate to have such caring employers. And in a crowded labour market, an employer can always find some other reason not to take someone on, regardless of whether or not they’re disabled.

My point here is that there should be no question that severely disabled people like the triple-amputee are not able to work. This does not mean that they should not be given the resources they may require to work, or that their talents should not be cultivated and neglected. It also doesn’t mean that they should be discriminated against either. It just means being realistic about the immense impact severe disability has on someone’s ability to work. IDS and his wretched crew, however, have decided that as exceptionally talented people like Stephen Hawking have succeeded in having a career, so people with less support and more modest intellectual gifts should do also. There’s a parallel here to the Stakhanovite system through which Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Stakhanov was a miner, who was given state of the art tools and support. His output was then measured by the bureaucrats, who then made it the standard for other miners, regardless of their ability, and the tools and other resources available to them. Stakhanov and his team smashed production records, and the USSR industrialised extremely quickly. The human cost, however, was immense. Cameron’s and IDS’ policies towards the disabled similarly makes the exceptional the norm, and, like Stalin, punishes those, who can’t keep up.

Still Oaks and Annanna’s thread, ‘Death by Government’, is at http://dwpexamination.org/forum/the-governmants-agenda/death-by-government/. It’s grim, moving reading. Like Still Oak’s video, it puts the people forward from behind the statistics, so you can see, who IDS’ policies have killed.