Posts Tagged ‘Statistics’

Cartoon of Iain Duncan Smith as ‘Leatherface’ Serial Killer

June 22, 2017

This week I’ve been putting up cartoons I drew a few years ago, expressing my absolute hatred of the Tory party, the right-wing press and their vile policies. This one is of Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the Tory party before David Cameron, and subsequently the head of the DWP under the Coalition between the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers, headed by Nick Clegg.

It was Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP that massively expanded the sanctions system already brought in by Tony Blair, for the benefit of New Labour’s corporate donors, such as the American private health insurance company and insurance fraudster, Unum. The result has been tens of thousands of people thrown off benefit for the most trivial of reasons, many of whom have died in misery and despair as a result.

Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Vox Political, DPAC and many other bloggers have carried articles and lists of the victims, putting the names and brief biographies of these tragic souls. They have also formed the basis for pieces by socially engaged – and outraged – artists. A few years ago Johnny Void showed one of these on his blog, an image made out the faces of some of those, who have been killed in this way.

So far the list of disabled people, as compiled by the above bloggers and organisations, is somewhere upwards of 500-600 +.

And the true figure is worse. Much worse. Mike and several other disability rights bloggers, and the Independent newspaper, tried to get the numbers of people, who have died after being thrown off their benefits, from IDS’ Department of Work and Pensions. The department did everything it could not to answer Mike’s and the others’ request. They were turned down on the specious grounds that the request was ‘vexatious’. When the Information Commissioner finally upheld their request, the DWP withheld the information until the very last day it could, and then launched an appeal. Eventually Mike and his colleagues won. But the DWP deliberately misinterpreted the request, so that they released a slightly different set of figures than Mike was asking for.

But those figures were still shocking. With in the period for the figures Mike requested, 13,000-14,000 people had died, if I remember correctly.

And researchers at Oxford University have reported that in 2015, austerity killed 30,000 people.

Mike and other bloggers are calling this what it is: murder. It is, as Jeffrey Davies and others describe it, the genocide of the disabled, although it also includes just the ordinary unemployed poor.

So I drew the following cartoon.

It’s of Iain Duncan Smith as a serial killer, wearing a mask made of the skin of one of his victims, like the villain ‘Leatherface’ in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Behind him is a skull, representing death. Behind him on the left is my attempt to copy the mummified remains of one of the bog bodies found in Denmark as another symbol of death.

I am not saying that Iain Duncan Smith is personally a murderer. I’m sure that he hasn’t personally killed anyone. But his department and the party he headed and serves, has. So as far as I’m concerned, he deserves to be portrayed as such.

IDS left office a few years ago, moaning about how people were blaming him for policies which Labour started. Well, New Labour did, but that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility, as he didn’t have to continue them. And neither does Theresa May now. But the sanctions, and the deaths, are continuing. Only yesterday Mike put up a piece about a single mother of nine, Jodie Whiting, who committed suicide after being sanctioned for missing an appointment.

The time is long past when all this was stopped.
No more sanctions. No more deaths. And benefits and wages paid at a level people can actually live on.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to end this vicious sanctions system in the DWP. We need new elections, to vote May out, and him in.

Government Trying to Cover Up the True Number of Victims of Grenfell Tower

June 17, 2017

Mike has also reported in one of his posts on the terrible Grenfell Tower fire that the government is trying to cover up the real number of the people, who have and probably will die. The death toll will only include those, who actually died in the fire itself. It will not count the victims who have or will die of their injuries in hospital.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/16/powderkeg-britain-people-died-in-grenfell-tower-because-they-are-poor-and-the-media-are-trying-to-hide-it-strong-language/

And there are also rumours that the government is seeking to put a D Notice on the figures to prevent them being known.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/16/vox-political-was-wrong-britain-didnt-need-an-ignorant-toffs-comment-to-rise-against-the-tories-over-grenfelltower/

This is another example of Tory mendacity and compulsive secrecy at its worst. I wouldn’t be surprised at any of this. The DWP under Ian Duncan Smith did everything it could not to reveal the true figures for the tens of thousands of people, who died after they were declared fit for work by Atos. Mike and the other disabled rights activists and bloggers had their requests for the information repeatedly denied. They were derided as ‘vexatious’. When the Information Commissioner upheld Mike’s request, IDS and his squalid band refused to release the figures, and then appealed against the decision at the very last minute. And when the Appeals Tribunal finally forced them to comply, they interpreted Mike’s request to send a slightly different set of figures from those he requested.

They even did the same thing to the Independent, when that newspaper made the same request.

This is a government that lies without qualm or compunction, and has absolutely no shame in falsifying the stats for the numbers of people its policies have killed, simply to secure another term in parliament, and to grind more people into poverty for the benefit of the rich.

If the rumours about the D Notice are true, then it shows that the government is terribly afraid that the disclosure of the true mortality figures from the fire will somehow be a threat to the security of the realm. What utter, disgraceful tosh! Perhaps they really do believe their own vile propaganda that the crowds of peaceful protesters, who forced their way into Kensington Council offices this morning, really are some kind of revolutionary mob, determined to overthrow the government. Instead of what they are, angry, bewildered people grieving for the people dear to them, who have been robbed of their homes and property.

The Tories’ determination to cover up the truth using such instruments shows not only their mendacity, but how they really do see themselves and the rich as the British state, which has to be preserved at all costs, even when this involves lying and denying justice and information to the victims of terrible tragedies, tragedies brought on by nearly forty years of Thatcherism in one form or another.

I also have no faith in the promise of a public inquiry. I can remember hearing something cynical about them on Yes, Minister, where Sir Humphrey or somebody remarks that calling one is the best way to cover up government incompetence, as they’ll spend years collecting information and by the time they publish their reports, the public will have lost interest. Perhaps this is what the government hopes will happen to the investigation into this tragedy. Mike has already reported how one Tory minister, Gavin Barwell, now May’s chief of staff, who was supposed to have published a report into the Lakanal House fire four years ago, has not done so. This report would have concluded that tower blocks such as Grenfell Tower were unsafe.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/16/powderkeg-britain-people-died-in-grenfell-tower-because-they-are-poor-and-the-media-are-trying-to-hide-it-strong-language/

I couldn’t find the clip I wanted of that piece of cynical official wisdom about public inquiries. But I did find this clip from the BBC comedy, in which Sir Humphrey and his boss, Arnold, tell Bernard why open government is wrong and how the British public doesn’t want the truth, and needs and indeed wants to remain stupid and ignorant.

From the actions of the Tory government in trying to suppress the numbers of the people who have and are going to die from this horrific blaze, it seems that May and her minions really do believe this.

They cannot be allowed to get away with this assault on the truth. Not only are they showing that they are an active threat to ordinary people’s lives, they are also a threat to open government and democracy. It is another step on the road to dictatorship that has been set with their establishment of secret courts in which you may be tried in secret, with the evidence against you withheld from yourself and your lawyers and the identity of the accuser also withheld, if the government decides that it is all in the national security.

Now it seems that they regard the figures for people, who have died in tragedies like this a similar threat to ‘national security’.

Ken Surin’s List of Theresa ‘Goody-Two Shoes’ May’s Lies and Attacks on the Poor and the Welfare State

May 9, 2017

More from a contributor to Counterpunch, though this time it isn’t about the lies, smears and bullying of the Israel lobby.

Ken Surin is a British academic, who now lives and teaches in America. He’s written a list of articles attacking Theresa May for her lies, U-turns and her attacks on the poor, working people and the welfare state. And her plans to sell off whatever remains of the NHS to private American healthcare companies as part of a Brexit deal.

He calls her ‘Goody-Two Shoes’, because that’s how May described herself: she says she was a ‘goody-two shoes’ in school.

Her first U-turn affected him personally. He lost his right to vote in 2002 when Blair decided that Brits who had been away for more than 15 years shouldn’t have the right to vote in British elections. May then declared that if she got in, she’d repeal it. Now that she’s in power, she hasn’t. She’s a liar. But then, what do you expect from the Tories?

He also states that he’s not surprised the Tories have got a 17 point lead over Labour. They’ve been undermined by the antics of the Blairites, the Zionist lobby’s maligning him as a anti-Semite, because he’s a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the loss of northern working class voters to UKIP, and, most significantly, the massive right-wing bias of the media.

A study by the LSE showed that on average, only 11 per cent of newspaper articles accurately reflected Labour policies. And in the case of the Daily Heil and Express, that ratio falls to zero.

He states that May is simply an opportunist, as shown by the way she voted Remain in the Brexit referendum, but to stay in power has turned her party into ‘UKIP-lite’.

And then he gives the following list of some her lies and U-turns.

The Tories were fined £70,000 last month by the Electoral Commission for failing to declare more than £275,000 in election-spending in the 2015 election. A dozen police forces have passed files relating to these expenses to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The CPS had intended to decide by the end of May if there were to be prosecutions for these violations, but an election in 2017 would probably take the wind out of attempts to prosecute 20 Tory MPs (or thereabouts) for their fraudulent activity in the 2015 election– “that’s history now”, many are likely to say.

If May called an early election for this reason, it would only demonstrate the flexibility of her principles.

May’s most recent budget dissolved into chaos when an increase in national insurance for the self-employed broke a 2015 election manifesto pledge. The ensuing public outcry panicked May and her colleagues into a U-turn, and the proposed increase was rescinded.

Since 2010 the Tories have promised to increase spending on the National Health Service every year, and that funding for schools would increase per student. In its report card after the most recent budget, The Independent said:

The public sector has been another loser. The NHS, which was in the black in 2010, faced a £1.85 billion deficit in 2016, the largest deficit in its history. As a result, waiting times are up, and the NHS is facing, what the British Red Cross have described as a ‘humanitarian crisis.’ Conditions in the NHS have led to an exodus of doctors. A third of Accident and Emergency doctors left the UK to work abroad between 2010 and 2015. There is a similar pattern in education, where 10,000 teachers left the profession in Cameron’s first term. In both sectors, real terms cuts in spending has increased workloads to a point where many professionals are no longer willing to continue.

Running down public services has hit some groups much harder than others. Austerity has hit women’s incomes twice as hard as men’s. Cuts to lone parent benefits since 2010, for example, have fallen disproportionality on women, for the simple reason that women make up 90 per cent of lone parents. At the same time, as women tend to be low earners they have benefited far less from tax cuts than men.

This is followed by a list of motions she has voted for, in which she has consistently supported the rich, and attacked the poor.

As home secretary, May introduced laws forcing internet service providers to help the UK’s spy agencies hack into computers.

Despite moving her party to the right so it can campaign as UKIP lite, May’s record on immigration when she was home secretary prior to becoming prime minister would certainly not please UKIP voters. May vowed to cut net immigration down to the “tens of thousands”, only to have it increase to a record high of 330,000.

May voted for the notorious “bedroom tax”, which reduced housing benefit for social-housing tenants deemed to have unoccupied bedrooms.

She voted against raising welfare benefits so they remained in line with inflation.

She voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work because of illness or disability.

She voted for making local councils reduce the amount spent on helping those in financial need pay their council taxes.

She voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.

She voted against smoking bans and the hunting ban.

She voted for increasing the rate of the highly regressive Value Added Tax (VAT)

She voted against increasing the tax rate applied to income over £150,000.

She voted against a banker’s bonus tax.

While she voted for the bedroom tax to be imposed on people in social housing, May voted against the mansion tax, i.e. the annual tax on the value of expensive homes.

She voted for more restrictions on trade union activity.

May voted against restricting the provision of services to private patients by the NHS.

She voted for raising England’s undergraduate tuition fees to £9,000 per year.

She has always voted for academy (i.e. private) schools.

While all the above has been transpiring, a massive upwards transfer of wealth from lower-tiered income earners to the top has been occurring. According to the Social Market Foundation, in the UK:

… the average wealth of the best-off one-fifth of families rose by 64 per cent between 2005 and 2012-13.

However, the SMF found the poorest 20 per cent are less financially secure than they were in 2005, with their net wealth falling by 57 per cent and levels of debt and use of overdrafts increasing. Homeowners have raced ahead of people in rented accommodation….

The Equality Trust, citing 2014 data from the Office for National Statistics, said the majority of the UK population (66%) hold no positive financial assets at all, while the remaining 34% hold £9trillion in such assets.

He also cites a report that May wishes to sell off the NHS by the Independent.

The Independent has just reported that May, who is desperate for trade deals to replace those made under the auspices of the EU, which will of course no longer exist after Brexit, is willing, as part of a deal with Trump, to sell-off the NHS to those most villainous of business enterprises, the American “healthcare” corporations.

Surin states that ‘this is class war by another name’, a sentiment expressed by Owen Jones in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class.

Surin says about May herself

Going solely by the immense distance between what she professes in public and how she votes, Theresa May is an absolutely bare-faced phony. Her voting record, displayed above, confirms her fundamental and vital support for Tory austerity policy.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/08/with-theresa-goody-two-shoes-may-what-you-see-on-tv-wont-be-what-you-get/

Don’t be deceived by the media and the Tories. May will kill off the welfare state and the NHS, just as Margaret Thatcher wanted and the Tories and Blairites have been conspiring to do over the past forty years.

Vote Labour, and vote for Corbyn.

Five Reasons Why the Tories Should Never See Power Ever Again

May 2, 2017

This excellent video was posted on YouTube by Scot TV. I’ve no doubt he’s a Scots Nationalist, but it also holds true for the rest of Britain. He states in his explanation that an extra zero could be added to the five, but for the sake of brevity he’s leaving it to the lower number. Those five reasons are:

1. Tory election overspending. He notes that the charges have now been dropped, but about 20 or so Tory MPs are still being investigated.

2. The NHS. This is being starved of cash, so that patients are suffering appalling delays and a consequent disastrous decline in the quality of care. The NHS is at breaking point. Meanwhile, the Tories are privatising it by the back door. This part of the video shows headlines from various papers about the government selling off and handing over NHS hospitals and services to the usual private healthcare companies and outsourcing giants, like Circle Health and SERCO. There is also another funny segment from Jeremy Pie in which the comic reporter rants about how it isn’t outsourcing, it is straightforward privatisation. Pie makes the point that if the NHS needs money, then why can’t it simply be given it.

3. Benefit Cuts. This part of the video documents the terrible effect benefit cuts and sanctions are having on disabled people. It gives the facts and figures on the effects it has had on them. One of the clips is of an MP asking questions in the House about why disabled people are required to go through the Work Capability Tests, when so many – he gives the appropriate figures – die before, during and after the tests. He also shows the complete contempt the Tories have for those forced into misery by the tests, when Ian Duncan Smith didn’t have time to respond to questions about them, but very much did have the time to have his portrait painted. The video also correctly says that the attacks on the poor and disabled were so severe, that the UN was forced to intervene. He also give the sneering response from the Tories, where one snotty MP remarked that the UN rapporteur should mind her own business, just like he didn’t know about poverty in Costa Rica or wherever she came from. The video praises Dennis Skinner’s pointed remarks in parliament, where he called Cameron ‘Dodgy Dave’, and took him to task for having his mortgage paid for by the state while denying state help to others. The video calls this ‘a welcome poke in the eye’ for the Tories.

4. The Panama Papers. This was the scandal that erupted a few years ago when documents came to light showing how the Conservatives had moved their business dealings into offshore accounts in the Caribbean in order to avoid paying tax in the UK. As usual, this was mixed with contempt and sneering towards ordinary people. The clip shows the Tory MP, Alan Duncan, standing up on his hind legs in the House to attack their critics. They are, he claimed, moved solely by hatred of anybody who’s wealthy, and if people like them had their way, the House of Commons would be stuffed full of incompetents and mediocrities, who had never run a business.

5. Tory behaviour during the referendums. Here the video includes clips of the Tories, including David Cameron, once again scaremongering, with ‘Project Fear’ directed at the Scottish Nationalists in the referendum over Scottish independence, and then more of the same in the referendum over whether to leave the EU, with the Tories trying to scare people into voting Remain.

While I am a Unionist, who voted to Remain in Europe, I wholeheartedly agree with the rest of Scot TV’s reasons for kicking out the Tories and keeping them out. They did break the rules on electoral spending. They are deliberately running down the NHS so that they can privatise it by the back door. They are killing the disabled and the poor through benefit cuts. They do add insult to injury by sneering at those concerned with the poverty and suffering they inflict, at ordinary working people. And Ian Duncan Smith was vain. He was also cruel and cowardly, surrounding himself with armed guards when required to give his testimony to the parliamentary committee investigating his conduct. That was when he finally deigned to appear before them. And as Mike showed on his blog, Smith did his level best to stop the mortality figures ever getting out.

They are corrupt, with one set of standards for themselves and another for the poor. They see themselves as a favoured elite, who should be allowed to dodge as much tax as they can, while shifting the tax burden onto those who can least afford it. Half of all millionaires have actually done nothing to deserve their money, as it’s inherited. But they still see a system, that so massively rewards them while penalising the poor simply for being poor as just, and themselves as uniquely deserving their position and power. Hence Alan Duncan’s sneer about their critics being just jealous of the rich, and wanting to have parliament stuffed with mediocrities. It was the sneer of the Tory right in the 19th and 20th centuries, when they wanted to stop the working class getting the vote at all costs.

And even though I wish Scotland to stay in the Union, Scot TV is correct about the Tories running a dirty campaign of fearmongering during the independence referendum. They also ran a Project Fear campaign to get us out of Europe. The impetus for Brexit comes from the Tory right and UKIP, whose leadership are right-wing Tories. They want us to leave because they hate, loathe and detest the minimal rights granted to workers under the Social Charter.

The Tories are vile. They should be voted out and kept out. I urge people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party to preserve what remains of the British welfare state, and renationalise the NHS.

A Treasury of Ancient Mathematical Texts

February 4, 2017

Henrietta Midonick, The Treasure of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1968)

ancient-mathematics-cover

I realise that the history of mathematics is an arcane subject, that few people will have much interest in, having struggled enough with the subject at school. But with Black History Month, there is immense interest amongst scholars of Black and Asian history about restoring Black and Asian scientists and mathematicians to their rightful place in history.

I picked up this book in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham about a year or so ago. It’s a collection of ancient and medieval mathematical texts from Ancient Egypt, Babylon, China, India, Islam, the Jews and, of course, the ancient Greeks. The blurb for it runs

Mathematics is the only true international language. men can communicate more directly, precisely and logically in pure mathematics than in any other tongue. Moreover we have much to learn from the achievements of past civilizations in this field: even modern computers have not fathomed all the intricacies of Stonehenge. In this fascinating collection of original sources (many of them published in a popular edition for the first time) Henrietta Midonick shows individual mathematicians grappling with varied problems – some practical, such as architecture, money valuation, mechanics, astronomy and calendar calculation; others verging on philosophy, such as the existence of zero and the concept of infinity. Her arrangement also demonstrates the growth of key ideas in geometry, arithmetic, logic and calculus.

Volume 1 documents the growth of mathematical science in the civilizations of Babylon, Ancient Egypt, the Mayas, India and China, and assesses the revolutionary discoveries of Plato, Archimedes and Euclid in classical antiquity.

Among the various extracts are pieces on Babylonian mathematics; four geometrical problems from the Moscow Papyrus, which dates from Ancient Egypt, c. 1850 BC; the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, again from Egypt, c. 1650 BC; the Bakhshali Manuscript, from 4th century AD India; the Mayas – discussing their system of numbers, the calendar, arithmetic and chronology, and the Quipu, the method of keeping statistical records using knots, used by the ancient Incas in South America.

Chinese mathematicians include Wan Wang, from the 12th century BC, Chou Kung, c. 1100 BC; Chang Tsang, died 152; Liu Hui, 3rd century AD; Sun-Tsu, from the same century; Hsia-Hou Yang, 6th century AD; Wang Hs’iao-T’ung, 7th century AD, Li Yeh, c. AD 1178-1265; Ch’in Chiu-Shao, c. AD 1250; Yang Hui, c. AD 1275; Chu Chi-Chieh, c. AD 1300.

The Indian scholars collected include Aryabhata the Elder, c. AD. 476; Brahmagupta, AD 598; and Bhascara Acharya, AD 1114-c. 1185.

It also includes the Algebra of Mohammed ben Musa al-Khowarismi, who founded much of modern algebra, including giving it its modern name.

The two Jewish mathematicians collected include the Mishnat ha-Middot of Rabbi Nehemiah, from c. AD 150; and the Method of Division of Immanuel Ben Jacob Bonfils, c. AD 1350.

The ancient Greeks include Hippocrates of Chios, 5th century BC; an extract from Plato’s Dialogues; the Elements of Euclid of Alexandria, c. 300 BC; Apollonius of Perga’s Conic Sections, from the same period; Archimedes’ On Spirals, Mechanical Problems, and Quadrature of the Parabola, Pappus, c. AD 300, and Proclus, AD 410-485.

babylonian-multipilication-table

Ancient Babylonian Multiplication Table for X 10.

For the non-mathematician like myself these texts aren’t easy reading. There are diagrams to help, but many of them, as the pioneering works of their time, are trying to express difficult mathematical ideas without the modern language of Maths, and so it can be difficult understanding what they are trying to describe. Nevertheless, this is an important collection of some of the classic texts of ancient mathematics on which the structure of modern maths has been built.

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.

JImmy Dore: CNN Journalist Admits to Bad Journalism at CNN

August 15, 2016

This is a fascinating admission of sheer bad journalism from CNN’s Brian Stetler. In this video, the American comedian and occasional guest on The Young Turks, Jimmy Dore, comments on an interview CNN journalist Brian Stetler with Don Lemon. Stetler was horrified at Trump’s attack on the American elections, saying that they were rigged against him. He found that a dangerous attack on democracy. However, for reasons of supposed journalistic balance, the network would not let him criticise Trump for this. He goes on to attack this false impression of balanced news, where the network requires that journalists state that both parties are equally culpable if one or the other of them says or does something outrageous, rather than actually challenging them on the factual basis of their statement. Dore makes the point that this goes far beyond just CNN to all the Networks, with the exception of Fox News, which is Republican through-and-through, despite spouting that it’s ‘fair and balanced’. Stetler states that it’s difficult sometimes to find equivalent examples of the other side committing wrongdoing, as required by the networks. This is so courageous an admission that Lemon reaches over and shakes his hand. Dore makes much of this, as The Young Turks and Kyle Kulinski over at Secular Talk have argued frequently that this is one of the ways that the networks give a false legitimacy to the Republicans. They don’t challenge any of the rubbish they spout, but merely turn to someone else for an opposing viewpoint, and then say that it’s undecided or something equally noncommittal. But this is wrong, as more often than not, the Republicans are far more wrong than the Democrats.

Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZt_lgk9qmE

I’m reblogging this, as I hope this might lead to a similar admission of bias and rubbish journalism in British broadcasting. Here the problem is different. In the case of the BBC, it’s Conservative bias that it is presented as objective journalism. The media analysts at Glasgow university showed that the Beeb was far more likely to talk to Conservative politicians and industry figures, than Labour or trade unionists. And Cardiff Journalism School recently published a report showing that the Corporation got 73 per cent – nearly three quarters – of its stats straight from the Tories. There is massive Tory bias on the Beeb.

But you will never get an admission of guilt. When pressed on this point, the Beeb’s spokesmen bluster something about all government’s accusing the Beeb of being against them. This is probably true. Certainly in the 1990s the Tories were constantly accusing the BBC of left-wing bias during John Major’s tenure of Downing Street. And they haven’t lost their strident attacks on the Beeb for being too left-wing. But it doesn’t mean that political bias on the BBC doesn’t exist. It does, and it’s getting worse, and the blatant pro-Tory bias of Laura Kuenssberg shows.

Vox Political: BBC Takes Three Quarters of its Statistics from the Tories

August 13, 2016

Mike also put up a very interesting piece last week, reporting and commenting on an article in the Guardian on a report on the Corporation’s use of statistics by the BBC Trust. The report, Making Sense of Statistics, used the Cardiff School of Journalism to analyse not just its use of stats generally, but also in particularly issues, such as health, the junior doctors’ strike and migration. It found that 73 per cent of the statistics it took from politicians came from the Tories. As a rule, the Beeb does not place these figures in their context, nor does it challenge them.

Mike drily comments that this will surprise no-one, but…

See his article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/10/bbc-impartiality-in-tatters-as-report-reveals-corporation-relies-on-tories-for-statistics/

This is another damning piece of evidence showing the immense, pro-Tory bias at the Corporation. A few years ago, media analysts at Glasgow university showed that Conservative politicians were far more likely to be interviewed and quoted than Labour or the other parties. And Mike and very many other bloggers have also pointed out particularly cases of very obvious bias at the Beeb. One of the most flagrant was when the Beeb edited a question to Alex Salmond by Nick Robinson during the Scots referendum debate. Salmond replied, but this was clearly too much for the BBC, who edited out his answer and then claimed that Salmond had failed to answer. It was a piece of falsification that would have made Goebbels proud. In another example, the BBC decided it was not going to report, at least on air, on a campaign against its bias despite the fact that this had attracted tens of thousands of supporters and was occurring right outside the BBB’s own front door.

The Corporation proudly shows statistics which claim that it overwhelmingly has the support of Britain’s industrialists and governing classes. Of course it has, as it just presents their own views, and regurgitates their own bias towards privatisation, welfare cuts and attacks on the working class and trade unions back at them.

Owen Smith: Coward and Bully

July 25, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political posted an excellent demolition a few days ago of Owen Smith’s claim that there is a culture of bullying in the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. Mike points out that many of the accounts of bullying that Smiff claims occurred, are actually false – like the accusations of anti-Semitism and racism. Among those smeared were, ludicrously, Jewish and Black Labour activists with a very proud history of activism against racism and anti-Semitism. And then there’s Angela Eagle’s lie that a brick had been thrown through her office window, when in fact it was a completely different window in the building she shares with several other offices. It’s in an area that has suffered frequent vandalism to nearby buildings and structures. The only difference this time was that Eagle thought she could make political capital out of it.

Mike points out that Smiffy is in no position to make accusations of bullying against anyone, as he himself tried to bully Mike and one of his great commenters, Liza Van Zyl. Van Zyl attended a meeting in Pontypridd in March last year at which Smudger was a guest speaker. She’s a Labour activist, and asked Smiffy why he was promising to repeal the bedroom tax, but not the Work Capability Assessment, which had actually killed many more people. Smiff replied that it was because he didn’t want the Labour party to be accused of being soft on welfare scroungers by the right-wing press.

Van Zyl posted this on Facebook, and it was taken up by a journalist – Mike. At which point Smiff decided he was going to bully her and Mike for making him look bad. He threatened Liza with legal action, and tried the same with Mike. Liza was forced to give in, as she had no money to defend herself in court, and her Labour colleagues had sided with the Pontypridd Pratt in order to maintain good relations with him.

Mike didn’t fold, because he told Smiffy that not only did he have Liza’s testimony, he also had very thorough knowledge of the WCA, as he’d forced the government to publish the figures on the deaths it had caused.

At which point, Smiffy did what most bullies do when you stand up to them: he went away.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/22/heres-why-owen-smith-really-shouldnt-kick-up-a-fuss-about-bullying/

This tells you everything you need to know about Owen Smith. He’s a coward. He’s keen to bully grassroots Labour members, who don’t follow his every whim, but is desperate to appear presentable to the rich and powerful, the very people that are killing those the Labour party was founded to represent: the poor and working class. It also shows the culture of mendacity that exists in New Labour. When the truth is awkward, lie. Just like Tony Blair and his vile court lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction, in order to take us to war in Iraq.

Far from Jeremy Corbyn being responsible for bullying, it’s the Blairites, led by Smith and Eagle, who have presided over a culture of bullying and intimidation. They should stop. If they cannot, I suggest that they leave and find their true home in the Tories.

Basu and Stuckler on the Rise in Suicide in Britain due to Austerity

July 20, 2016

Body Economic Pic

A few days ago, I blogged about the book The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, by the medical researchers David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu. This book examines how recessions and austerity programmes affect people’s health. Where governments invest in social security safety nets and a welfare state, public health can even improve during a recession. Where they don’t, and actually cut services, public health can decline disastrously.

In one chapter, they discuss schemes piloted in Sweden in actively getting people back to work, concluding that these have had a real, positive effect in maintaining that country’s health when it suffered the recession. They contrast the experience of the Scandinavia countries, with Britain, where MPs were uninterested in implementing similar reforms over here, and made matters worse by cutting the welfare state and support for industry. They write

With all of this evidence accumulating I favor of ALMPs (Swedish-style ‘back to work’ programmes), we were eager to translate these data into practice. After we published our research in 2009 about the benefits of ALMPs, we were invited to the British House of Commons and the Swedish Parliament to present our date and recommendations.

The responses were remarkable – that is, remarkably dissimilar-in the two countries. When presented with the data that unemployment led to a rise in suicides, and that ALMPs could help mitigate the risks, the Swedish members of Parliament were unsurprised. One member asked: “Why are telling us what we already know?” But when we presented the same data in the UK, in July 2009, to the House of Commons, the reaction was that the government was “already doing all it could to reduce unemployment.”

When the Conservative government came into power in 2010, the UK response became even worse. In 2012, the British Medical Journal published our paper showing that UK suicides had risen by more than 1,000 between 2007 and 2010 above pre-existing trends, corresponding to the continued rise in unemployment. Reporters soon contacted the UK Department of Health for a response. it’s spokesman told the Independent newspaper: “Losing a loved one [tpo suicide] can be devastating and we want to make sure that we are doing all we can to prevent suicide by giving people the right support when they need it most. We will shortly be publishing our new suicide prevention strategy, which brings together expertise across healthcare, criminal justice and transport to maintain or even decrease the current rates of suicide.” This sounded encouraging. But then the Health Department spokesman continued: “However, suicide rates in England have been at a historical low and remain unchanged since 2005. The department uses three-year rolling averages for monitoring purposes, in order to avoid focusing unnecessarily on fluctuations instead of the underlying trend.”

By now, this tactic should sound familiar: averaging-out deaths is the same the technique The Economist used to cover up death rates in Russia. When using rolling averages, any large jump in death rates can seem like a smooth bump in the road instead of a shocking spike (indeed, the Department appeared to have chosen the three-year period specifically for this end, instead of some other date range like five years). The Department’s comments were criticised by several university professors and statisticians, after which the statement quickly disappeared from their Internet webpage.

If it wanted to help its people, the British government could learn much from Sweden’s experience. The UK would of course need to invest more in ALMPs and stop job losses from happening. but the Conservative government was doing precisely the opposite: austerity was creating an active labour-destroying programme. The data revealed that the austerity programme cut public-sector jobs in the most deprived regions of the country. Moreover, it was implementing policies that made it easier for the private sector to lay off people during the recession. As one unusually blunt 2010 report commissioned by the government explained, “some people will be dismissed simply because their employer doesn’t like them,” but argued that this is a “price worth paying” to boost the economy, though the logic of how mass unemployment would drive economic growth was left unexplained.

The consequences of the UK’s real-world experiment with austerity soon became tragically apparent in its suicide data. As in the US, the Great Recession in the UK featured an initial spike in unemployment and job losses in 2007. As employment began to recover in 2009, suicides began to fall. But the following year, when the Conservative government came to power, the UK began a massive austerity programme, which in 2012 alone cut 270,000 public-sector jobs. The UK then experienced a second wave of “austerity suicides” in 2012. (pp. 119-121).

This is a savage indictment of the stupidity, callousness and sheer, culpable cruelty behind the Tories austerity programme. And numerous bloggers, from Stilloaks, Tom Pride, Mike over at Vox Political, Another Angry Voice, DPAC, Johnny Void and so many, many others have blogged about the people behind the deaths, many of whom took their lives because of the government’s daft regime of benefit sanctions.

It’s time to end this grotesque charade of murderous neoliberal policies, justified with lies, and get rid of the Tories and their counterparts in the parliamentary Labour party. That’s if we want a happier, healthier and more prosperous Britain, not a country of burdened wage-slaves, deceived and exploited for the benefit of the corporate elite.