Posts Tagged ‘Health Service’

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.

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Vox Political: Real Wages Fall by Ten Per Cent Under Tories

July 30, 2016

Mike also published a piece last week on a report published on Wednesday by the TUC, which found that while wages had grown in real terms across the EU between 2007 and 2015, they had fallen in Britain by 10.4%. The average rise in wages across the EU was 6.7 per cent. In Poland, wages had risen by 23 per cent. In Germany wages rose by nearly 14 per cent, and in France by 10.5 per cent. The only countries across the OECD which suffered a fall in wages were Portugal, Britain and Greece.

Mike’s article has two illustrations – one is a graph showing the rise in real wages in various countries, while another is a meme showing the massive pay rises enjoyed by other, very privileged groups, in Britain. Like Bankers, whose pay has risen by 35%, directors of FTSE 100 companies, 14%, and MPs, whose pay has gone up by 11%.

Mike makes the point that New Labour must share some of the blame for this, as not only was Peter Mandelson and his chums very relaxed about people making money, they were also extremely relaxed about wages stagnating. He makes the point that the crash his the poorest the hardest, and the austerity launched by the Tories has been punishing and impoverishing the poor to bail out the bankers and the rich. He also makes the point that Owen Smith’s solutions are just cosmetic, and won’t do anything without concrete proposals for the redistribution of the extra money gained through the ‘wealth tax’ he proposes.

See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/real-wages-in-the-uk-have-fallen-by-more-than-10-per-cent-under-tories/

Mike’s right about New Labour being very relaxed about wages stagnating. In fact, wage restraint has been a major part of the neoliberal consensus ever since Maggie Thatcher took power in 1979. Keynsianism tolerated high inflation – and in the 1970s at times the inflation rate in Britain was truly eye-watering – as it was coupled to an expanding economy. Both Labour and the Tories attempted to keep pay rises within certain boundaries nevertheless. Thatcher’s Monetarism was much harder towards inflation. It saw this it as the major obstacle to economic growth, and so demanded that it be ruthlessly cut, even if this meant shedding jobs on a truly massive scale, accompanied by a fall in real wages, and the dismantlement of various welfare programmes. It also meant abandoning the Keynsian commitment, pursued over 40 years, to full employment.

Robin Ramsay in a piece on his ‘News from the Bridge’ column in Lobster, made the point that when he was studying economics at Uni in the 1970s, Monetarism as an economic theory was so poorly regarded by his lecturers that they left it to the undergrads to work out what was wrong with it. Which shows you it was known even then to be totally rubbish and useless. He argues that it was adopted by the Tory party because it gave them a rationale for doing what they wanted to do on other grounds – destroy organised labour, dismantle the welfare state, including the Health Service, and grind the working class into poverty.

Now a number of economists are pointing out that, despite the emphasis by the Tories on wage restraint and very low inflation rates, the economy is not growing. I think Han Joon Chang is one of these in his 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.

The comparison with Greece is particularly chilling. Greece has been ruthlessly punished by the Troika with very harsh austerity policies, partly because the Greeks dared to defy the Eurozone authorities and elected Syriza, a radical anti-austerity party. Counterpunch has attacked the economic despoliation of the country by mainly German banks as a form of economic warfare. Greece was one of the countries that suffered from the effective collapse of the Eurozone. The result has been grinding mass poverty for its people. One recent programme on the country’s plight showed children picking rubbish off dumps to sale, just as they do in Developing Nations. The presenter looked on, aghast, and made the point that he had never seen this before in what was supposed to be a developed, European country.

Is this what New Labour and the Tories have in store for us? One of the books I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday was about how Britain would have a ‘third world’ economy by 2014. Clearly the book was written a little while ago, and the timing’s out, but nevertheless, the appearance of third world conditions in Britain is a real possibility. There are already 3.7 million people living in ‘food poverty’, and hundreds of thousands facing off poverty only because of food banks. I also remember how this was predicted on a BBC Horizon programme, entitled, ‘Icon Earth’, twenty years ago. The programme was about how the image of the Earth in space, taken from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts, had affected global religious, political and economic perspectives. That image had stimulated people around the world to realise that everyone on Earth shared a common home. One result of this, so the programme claimed, was globalisation. It discussed the growing campaigns against migration from the developing world with an Indian anti-racism activist. She predicted that as globalisation progressed, pockets of the third world would appear in the first.

She’s right. This has happened with Greece, and it is occurring in Britain, thanks to the Tories and New Labour. But unlike Greece, we cannot blame the EU. We never joined the Eurozone, and the deterioration in wages and conditions will occur because of Brexit. The cause of this stagnation ultimately is three and half decades and more of Thatcherism.

Dick Coughlan on the Six Greatest UKIP Excuses

April 30, 2016

This is another funny and informative video, courtesy of the internet. In it, Dick Coughlan takes apart UKIP’s six greatest excuses for their blunders and generally foul behaviour. He starts with a general point about the implausibility of Nigel Farrage’s statement about the party’s decline from its supposed massive rise last year being due to establishment opposition. This is clearly disproven by the fact that Farrage was given every opportunity to speak all over the television news, and was given columns in the Independent and Express. Coughlan states that the real reason must have been because Farrage was permanently drunk, as whenever he appeared, he had a pint in his hand.

And then Coughlan moves on to the other excuses UKIP have had to make. These include trying to explain away Kilroy-Silk’s racist rant against Arabs in the Express. His secretary tried telling everyone she had sent it by mistake. It was an earlier, unedited version of an already-published column. Kilroy hadn’t sent it, because he doesn’t know how to operate emails and electronic messaging.

Then there was the case of the Kipper, who took a photograph of himself in blackface with a funny clown nose, and the tried to explain it as a face mask for acne. Nigel Farrage, again, tried excuse himself arriving late for a meeting in Faversham in Kent by complaining that it was all due to immigrants clogging up the roads. Another Kipper, who was photographed making the Nazi salute, and tried to explain that away by telling the world that he was reaching for his phone, which was held by his girlfriend. He wanted to take it off her, ’cause he didn’t want to look like a pot plant. Right. Another Scots Kipper issued a long rant against gays and immigrants tried to explain his comments away as due to the effects of the medical drugs he was taking. A neuropharmacologist explained that was untrue, because sedative drugs merely make the patient more likely to tell the truth by removing inhibitions. It takes more effort to lie than to tell the truth, and so their real feelings are more likely to come out if people start taking sedative tablets. Coughlan draws the obvious conclusion from this is that Trump must be taking thousands of such drugs to come out with his racist bilge.

And finally, there’s the case of the Kipper, who had the horrendous statement that the three year old boy and his brother, whose bodies were washed up in Turkey after falling out of a migrant boat, were the victims of their families’ greed in trying to get to Europe from Turkey in search of a better life. In fairness to the Kipper, he does unfortunately have a point. The migrants had taken refuge in Turkey for safety, but had then the tried to move on to Europe. The Turks, unfortunately, do have their problems with Islamic radicalism. There have been terrorist attacks there, just like those in Paris, London and Brussels, and Erdogan has been giving covert aid to the jihadis. But it’s much safer than Syria. Nevertheless, the children’s death is horrific, and the Kipper’s use of them to make a general point about economic migration appears cynical and tasteless.

I don’t agree with Coughlan’s atheism, but I’ve decided to reblog this as according to Hope Not Hate, there are over 1,500 extreme Right wing candidates standing at the election on Thursday. Most of them are for UKIP. Hope Not Hate makes the point that they’re not as bad as the hard Right, like the NF, BNP, National Action and the other Nazis. Nevertheless, they are promoting racism. This last point has been reinforced by Farrage appearing in the news yesterday whining that the Brexit campaign didn’t include enough about the threat of immigration. I also oppose them as Farrage and the leading lights of the party are Neo-Libs, who want to get rid of the welfare state and privatise the NHS. That alone should be enough to make people want to keep them out of government.

The Coalition’s biggest hits, Volume 1.

July 27, 2013

I thought I’d reblog this piece from Kittysjones’ site, as it gives a very full list of the Coalition’s savage cuts to welfare and the NHS, penalising the poor, the sick and disabled, and the unemployed.

Politics and Insights

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1. Introduced unpaid, unlimited workfare for those deemed too sick or disabled to work by their doctor.
2. Scrapped crisis loans and community care grants for the most vulnerable.
3. Severely reduced Legal Aid so that equal, fair access to justice is no longer preserved.
4. Increased VAT ensuring the poorest pay proportionately more in tax. Cut top tax rate to 45% giving millionaires a £40000 pa tax windfall.
5. Legalised state surveillance of all personal internet traffic.
6. Planning to curtail human rights, guaranteed by membership of the EU. That is written in their Program for Government, and has been planned from the very start.
7. Introduced charges for Child Support Agency, so that vulnerable single parents have to pay to get maintanance from absent fathers, for their children.
8. Introduced the Council Tax Bill, with the same unfair principles as the Poll tax Bill, sneaked in via the…

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Brian Dove on the Crisis of the French Health Service

July 19, 2013

Brian Dove, one of the commenters on this blog, posted this fascinating observation on the French health service in the comments to my post, How Committed Have the Lib-Dems ever been to the NHS:

The health system in France is in crisis. It is vastly expensive (3 times more expensive than the NHS) waiting lists are becoming longer and longer and staffing levels at the hospitals (which are all privately owned) are appallingly low. All my French friends are (were?) envious of the British NHS.

I took the liberty of posting it up here, as very few Brits in general, myself included, have any real knowledge of the health service of our continental friends. I was always under the impression that the French health service would be better than the NHS, particularly after the French government passed legislation enabling patients to get a second opinion from another doctor. This was way back in the 1990s, when Major was in government and Clive James had his show, Monday Night Clive. His guest that week was the Right-wing Republican and political commentator, P.J. O’Rourke, who stated that in his country he could get a second opinion any time he liked. Well, he could, but it would be expensive. Very expensive. There’s also a crisis in American health care. This is funded primarily by private insurance, except for the very poorest, who have medicare. Private medical insurance has become extremely expensive. When Clinton was in power, one in ten Americans could not afford medical insurance. I read recently that number had increased to one in seven. A little while ago I took a book out from my local library on issues confronting the welfare state. This examined the National Health Service, and concluded that while it would not have been set up the same way today, it nevertheless offered excellent value for money. The NHS is more efficient and much less expensive, with better customer satisfaction, than that of many other nations, including America. Which is probably why the current batch of profiteers in the Lib-Dems, the Conservatives and New Labour want to destroy it, and why the Spectator is running pieces trying to tell everyone how wonderful the American system is. So the next time someone goes on about how terrible the Health Service is, and how much better everyone else’s is:

Be Sceptical. Be Very Sceptical.

Another Outrage: Local Health Authorities Tells Benefit Claimants Doctors too Overworked to See Them

July 19, 2013

This story comes from the Void. The Bro Taf Local Medical Committee representing doctors in the Cardiff area has written to its GPs telling them not to see claimants, who wish to have a medical examination for the Atos assessment. The Medical Committee object to these examinations, as they have not been contracted for and are not funded. They see it as an intrusion on the doctors’ proper medical workload. The article begins

The Bro Taf Local Medical Committee which represents doctors in and around Cardiff has written to GPs asking them not to help claimants who need medical evidence for benefit problems.

The LMC claim that providing this vital medical evidence for people facing the notorious ATOS work capability assessments is impacting on GP’s workloads.

Most people might have thought that a GP’s workload would include helping sick or disabled people stay alive by ensuring they are not wrongly assessed and thrown off benefits where they could then face workfare on a Groundwork or Conservation Volunteer chain gang.

However the Bro Taf LMC are unrepentant and even seem to be trying to make doctors feel guilty for supporting their patients. The letter states: “GPs need to have a consistent approach to this issue and colleagues who do this work make it more difficult for others to resist and it spreads the belief with patients and local authorities that GPs are happy to take on this non contracted and unfunded work.”

The piece shows the increasing marginalisation and disenfranchisement of Benefit claimants and the disabled targeted by Atos. We really do seem to be heading with the Tories back to the principle of ‘less eligibility’ under the Tories, in which life was deliberately made as hard as possible for the poor so to dissuade them from going on welfare.

The full piece can be read here:

http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/doctors-told-to-snub-desperate-benefit-claimants/

How Committed Have the Lib-Dems Ever Been to the NHS?

July 16, 2013

Looking at the way the Lib-Dems have given their full support to Conservative attempts to dismantle the Health Service, I wonder how committed they have ever been to it. I raise that question because I can remember the statement made about it by the Two Davids in their campaign during the 1987 elections. at the time the Conservatives were considering its privatisation. Lord North wanted the welfare state to be dismantled, and the NHS sold off. Messers Steel and Owen, marching about the country in their woolly sweaters, declared that it shouldn’t matter whether the Health Service was public or private. What should matter was that treatment was free. Looking back at it, it seems their support for the NHS in the face of demands for its privatisation by New Right was tepid.

I also wonder how far Clegg is influenced by other European health services. A Swiss friend once told me that in Switzerland, health care is partly paid for through insurance contributions. The Swiss government will pay for the health care of the very poor. The rich pay for their medical treatment through insurance, as in America. Most people pay for their treatment through a mixture of private and government insurance cover. Clegg’s wife is Spanish, and I wonder if that’s the case in Spain. It’s also the case in some high-spending American states. This might make it attractive to that part of the British establishment that wishes to import the American system, without going as far as the more extreme states that have attempted to leave it as much as possible to private insurance.