Doctor and activist


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Category: International

Management of COVID-19 in the UK

12 April 2020

Prof John Ashton CBE, Ex-President of UK Faculty of Public Health is extremely critical of the Johnson government’s management of the corona virus epidemic.  He says that the idea of herd immunity was an absurd one and amounted to an unlikely theory being preferred to information that had come from overseas, including China, which had initially covered up but once the WHO had come in were forthcoming of their experience in managing the epidemic. 

The current problems include lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), ventilators and even oxygen are because of the lack of recognising the seriousness of the problem and failure to order equipment and to prepare.

He urges more attention to cleaners and porters who are as important as doctors in nurses in the spread of virus in a hospital environment, but the class system, which lessens their importance, has meant that they have not had enough attention to their PPE and this will lead to spread. 

The other aspect is Private Public Partnerships, which have seen the creeping privatisation of health in Britain.  He makes the point that there are no longer Community Nurses to trace contacts of the corona virus in the community as private corporations only do what is in their contracts, and are only of peripheral use in a pandemic.  He wants a fundamental re-think of the privatisation of health, and a real investigation of who made what decisions when, not merely the outcome of awards to people who were high in the hierarchy, however incompetent their decisions.

Many countries have had health systems inappropriately evolved to deal with an infectious disease pandemic. How well countries have done is measure of the flexibility and responsiveness of their political systems as well as their health systems.  His view is the UK has not done well.

We all need to look at our governments in the light of how well they responded to this challenge.  The danger is that initial dilatoriness will then be replaced by authoritarianism, imposed on people while they are frightened.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBm7LCeOzHU&feature=emb_rel_end

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How the US does Spying

29 March 2020

Some years ago, I had lunch with an acquaintance of mine who was a reasonably successful manager, with a slightly less successful relationship history with men.  She was keen that I meet her latest beau, so we had a small group lunch.

The man in question was a fit-looking American in his early 50s who was keen to talk about himself, so we let him.  He was an ex-US Navy Seal. He would not quite admit that he was down on his luck, but he had a lot of training that the US needed to use, but they would not hire him in the Navy, though he could get ‘contract work’.  He would not be quite specific about this, and he assured us that if the missions went well, no one noticed anything.  That was the ideal outcome.  His life was at risk and he was well paid for each mission, but there was no ongoing commitment or pension if he was injured or had other misadventure.   As the dinner went on he said that he had recently been on a mission in Asia where he had done something and been caught at it.  He was chased by an angry mob up to the first storey of a building.  He was trapped and jumped out a window onto the canvas roof of a fruit truck. He had gone straight through the roof of the truck and landed amongst the fruit, spraining his ankle, but nothing further.  He was very lucky because just as he landed the truck drove away from the angry crowd while he lay low in the fruit.  When he got to the destination not far away, a number of people lined up and formed a human chain to unload the truck and he, being disguised and made up joined the line passing the fruit boxes and got a few coins for his efforts when the unloading finished, before slipping away into the crowd.  All very James Bond stuff.

Asked how he knew who the goodies and baddies were in all this and he said that this was defined in his brief.  In short, he was an agent acting for the US government but they were in a position to disown him if he got into trouble.  He was a pleasant enough fellow, and more interesting than many dinner companions, but I have not seen him again.

So I was interested to read the article below about how ‘an ex-FBI agent had died in Iranian custody’, having ‘disappeared in murky circumstances in March 2007’, ‘during an unauthorised trip for the CIA to gather intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program’.  Iran had ‘kidnapped a foreign citizen and denied him any basic human rights’.   He was ‘a gentleman’ and ‘outstanding’ said President Trump.  Perhaps.  And I like to think of myself as a champion of human rights.  But people do not go on spying missions for personal curiosity and this is a deadly game, ruthlessly played.  The story in the SMH is sourced from Reuters and the Washington Post but does not quite make this clear.

www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/former-fbi-agent-s-family-believes-he-died-in-iran-custody-20200326-p54e4o.html

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A Coup in Bolivia- How it was Reported in Oz

21 November 2019

There was a coup in Bolivia which has had minimal coverage in Oz, but I have 3 worries:

  1. Australian media coverage is very distorted in the interests of US foreign policy
  2. Facebook bans sites that do not suit US interests and
  3. The pattern of the US waging economic war on South American countries that do not allow their multinationals to plunder the resources, and arranging coups seems almost standard.

The SMH coverage was from Bloomberg and seemed unable to figure out why there were two governments in Bolivia:

For all reasonable observers Morals won the election with 47% of the vote and with more than 10% lead over his nearest rival, should not have needed a run-off election.  Irregularities were alleged, (but then again they always are when foreign interests are threatened).  Morales offered a re-run, but was not allowed to stand by the guy who came second and the Army!!  So Morales fled, which is very odd thing for a President to do if it were not a coup.

But the SMH article is written as if the Bolivian coup is very hard to understand.

www.smh.com.au/world/south-america/bolivian-crisis-there-are-two-groups-of-people-claiming-to-be-the-government-20191115-p53b01.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_feed

Consider the following:
The article has two journalists, Matthew Bristow and John Quigley but is attributed to Bloomberg, a US media company. Bloomberg  owned by Michael Bloomberg, who is publicly contemplating standing as a Democrat presidential candidate, but is considered too right wing.
It talks about the ‘interim ‘President’ Jeanine Anez, who was an ‘Opposition Senator’. How did she get to be ‘interim President’ when the government has a majority in both houses? How is she ‘appointing her Cabinet’- with what legitimacy?
Why is the information sourced from the ‘Andean Information Network’, a ‘Think tank’? Who pays for ‘think tanks’? Are there no journalists in Bolivia?
Why were their riots just after the election, when the economy was doing quite well?
Why are the leaders of the government in power all resigning?
Why is Morales not allowed to stand for the run-off election?
Why is the army not supporting the existing elected government? Who trained them?
Why did the President Evo Morales, who just won the presidential election by more than 10% ahead of his nearest rival flee to Mexico? For no reason? He was standing for a 4th term. which had been challenged in the High Court but he had won there. Presumably the Army was against him and in favour of the opposition.

President Evo Morales had nationalised a big oil company, and wanted his people to get a larger share of the country’s big lithium deposits. He claimed that this was why he was deposed.

https://external.fsyd3-1.fna.fbcdn.net/safe_image.php?d=AQDRtvCEvRlzzso7&w=540&h=282&url=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FxMXmkbTRNw4%2Fhqdefault.jpg&cfs=1&upscale=1&fallback=news_d_placeholder_publisher&_nc_hash=AQDaylo2tk_5eS_X

A Venezualan perspective is given at

https://orinocotribune.com/the-coup-in-bolivia-five-lessons

I tried to post this on my Facebook page and it was denied as offending ‘Community Standards’!  I just put the name of the paper, Orinoco Tribune, not the url and it was still denied with the same- ‘Community Standards’.

So what with the major media giving very one-sided coverage and Facebook censoring material, presumably for being anti-US, how do the Australian public ever get to know what is going on. 

I will attach what I attempted to post separately..

I did manage to post some material critical of the SMH article and the RT article and they have remained there.

(A more radical view is at:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/52534.htm)

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Reflections on Einstein.

9 September 2018 At a recent visit to Berne to look at Swiss democracy, I visited two Einstein museums.  I do not propose to give his biography, but merely to point out a couple of points that struck me as his life was proudly displayed.  He had been a pacifist all his life and in […]

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Political Change or Economic Change? Which comes first?

14 October 2017 There is an interesting book review in the SMH today entitled ‘Endgame for the Russian Revolution’ in the print version.  The book is ‘Gorbachev: His Life and Times’ by William Taubman.  It points out that Gorbachev was a hero in the West as the man who modernised the Soviet Union, but he […]

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Poland Revisited

17 July 2017 I have recently visited Poland and wanted to record some impression while they are fresh in my mind.  I had previously visited Poland in 1989, which was only a few months before the Berlin Wall came down with the collapse of the USSR under Gorbachev. This had immense implications for Poland, and […]

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Trump’s Win- why? 9/11/16

Here is my theory.  Basically democracy in English speaking countries has been taken over by private entities.  There are only two entities who can win power in the UK, USA and Australia.  They are called political parties.  They are not in the constitution, but because they vote as a bloc, they control the parliament.  Because they are private entities they do what their donors want.  Few citizens want privatisation, but the donors to the parties do- so we get privatisation.  Few want to go to war, but for some reason the parties do, so we go to war.  We want universal health cover- Medicare, but it gets rolled back and we have to buy private health insurance, which suits that lobby.  Unemployment is rising and the government fiddles the figures and no longer takes responsibility for the problem, it just talks about ‘the market’.  What the people think or want does not actually matter.  The parties continually put their interests and power ahead of what the people want.  The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the political parties do not seem to care.  They get donations from the rich, and run campaigns to convince the poor to vote for them.

Faced with this situation and two political parties, people are accustomed to voting for the lesser of two evils, or making a protest vote, which is what they did.  Trump was anti ‘the system’, so although he was deeply flawed personally that was enough.  The Democrat Party machine had got rid of Sanders, the leftist challenger to the status quo, so it became status quo Clinton v. Non status quo Trump.  Then the polls got it totally wrong. How come?  Part of the same thing- the whole polling establishment obviously had a large segment of the population missing from their sample, but did not know it- like the government really.  So if some people did not vote for Clinton because they were disgusted and thought it would not matter, they were wrong.

But if the level of disgust in the process of government is enough to turn a US Presidential election, one must also wonder about the effect of the media.  For years, news has been replaced by infotainment.  What is important is replaced by what is titillating or exciting.  News is trivial, what is important is often not covered, particularly things like falling middle class jobs and stagnating wages.  The media is the message.  If you are not in the media, the message is that you do not matter.  But also note the rise of ignorance.   Quiz shows used to ask historic or scientific facts.  Now it is TV trivia.  And ‘shock jocks’ on commercial media are there to shock and to push products.  They do not have to be consistent or informed- just entertaining enough to rate and bring in advertising dollars.  So the non-expert, pontificating and criticising overcomes the expert discussing sensibly- how many of those are on TV?  The shock jock has become more important than the politician.  So why are we surprised when it now happens in real life?  The shock jock beat the politician.  And the pollsters got it wrong again- just like in Brexit.

What will happen with Trump in charge? He will destroy Obamacare, the relatively minor improvements made towards a universal health system, appoint Conservative Supreme Court judges and officials in public policy such as Climate Change, and boost gun ownership.  More significant changes to corporate power will take the approval of Congress and the House, now both Republican-controlled.  Obama was elected on the slogan, ’Change is possible’.  Obstruction by the Republicans ensured it was not.  Now Trump will try, but the same obstructers now have even more power and are not about to let one of their own damage their interests.  So Trump is unlikely to be a force for good unless he has unexpected foreign policy triumphs.

So what is the long-term solution to government ruling for the rich by buying political parties?  Democracy has to be taken back to the people.  The Parliament is controlled by parties and they are private entities and so can be bought by other private interests.  This has ever been the case in systems that evolved in Westminster.  It is Anglo-Saxon arrogance that makes us think that our democracy is best.  Quite simply, it isn’t. Our political power structures, like our corporate structures concentrate power at the top.  Swiss democracy involves power being moved down as low as possible with politicians merely enacting what public referenda decide, and with no opportunity for individual politicians to get long-term power structures assembled for themselves.  It is time we looked at these models and worked for constitutional change based on a real change of philosophies, priorities and power.

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Trump’s Win- Why?

9 November 2016 Here is my theory.  Basically democracy in English speaking countries has been taken over by private entities.  There are only two entities who can win power in the UK, USA and Australia.  They are called political parties.  They are not in the constitution, but because they vote as a bloc, they control […]

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