Doctor and activist


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Category: Europe

Dutch Cabinet Resigns over Welfare Debt Scandal. Australian Cabinet Does Not! 16/1/21

The entire Dutch Cabinet resigned over a scandal where welfare recipients were unjustly accused of welfare fraud.

At about the same time, the Australian Federal government had the Robodebt scandal where welfare recipients were assessed by a computer algorithm, accused of fraud and made to pay back monies that they should not have had to and could not afford. Money was deducted from their already inadequate welfare payments and quite a lot committed suicide. The Australian government ‘toughed it out’, i.e arrogantly refused to be held accountable. They settled a class action, which did not even cover what they had taken.

They have pork-barreled to win elections at both a State and Federal level, but have no intention of resigning.

The key lesson here is that there is no mechanism for dealing with the malfeasance of those in power. Trump may be impeached, but that would be an exceptional ‘one off’. In general there is no power that makes governments obey the laws the rest of us have to obey, or to follow the dictates of moral behaviour.


The only solution that I can see is to have the power returned to the people and the country run by regular referenda, once every 3 months at local, State and Federal level where anyone can put up a proposition and if it gets enough signatures it is balloted. If it wins, it becomes law. Federal government laws can be overturned and policies, such as not going into wars, are binding. This is the Swiss system, and their politician are part-time, only allowed two terms and their superannuation system is that their job has to remain open for them. This ensures that the politicians interests cannot differ from the people’s interests.

We have probably never had real power over politicians apart from the ballot box, and now they no longer resign, there is no sanction. They are not willing to take on the powerful, so we have 2 standards of justice, one for the rich and one for the poor. Things are worsening. Barry O’Farrell resigned as Premier of NSW because he forgot he had been given a bottle of wine. That simply does not happen now.

People are talking about changing the constitution for many reasons. It is 120 years old. It was not the absolute wisdom for all time; it was a minimalist document to get the 6 colonies to become States and form a nation under the Queen. We need to go boldly and get a new document. Incidentally the Swiss change their constitution also, just needing a bigger majority in the referendum.

It is about trusting the people, who in general are more principled than the politicians, and after all, have the right to decide.


www.smh.com.au/world/europe/the-buck-stops-here-dutch-pm-cabinet-resign-over-welfare-debt-scandal-20210116-p56ula.html

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The International Criminal Court has Declined to Prosecute Britain for War Crimes in Iraq. 1/1/21

Some have said that the ICC is where the big countries prosecute small dictators. The ICC has, in a 184 page document declined to prosecute British soldiers for war crimes in Iraq. They have also declined to say that the 2nd Iraq war was illegal. To do this they have quoted British rationale about the need to find Weapons of Mass Destruction, WMDs and ignored that fact that the weapons inspectors said that they have not found any, the Iraqis were cooperating better and that they wanted more time.

They use British names for Iraqi places, refer to the Iraqis as ‘insurgents’ in their own country and took refuge in the fact that the ICC does not have to investigate war crimes if the country that committed them is itself investigating. They then look at how the British investigations have gone, which is actually nowhere.

The author of this piece says he was a great fan of the ICC, but now concludes that it has no credibility. It is not a short piece, but this can be excused as it summarises the 184 pages of the ICC’s decision not to prosecute.

It is sad, but unsurprising that there is no credible enforcement of international law at an individual level, or in statements as to the actions of countries.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/56113.htm

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Energy Storage is a large problem- the German Experience 13/12/20

Energy storage is a worse problem in Germany because they have longer cold periods with less sun than Australia. It seems that pumped hydro storage is our best option, but this article is correct that it requires a lot of energy alternatives for when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine.


Demand management is also important, which means shifting things like off peak hot water to when the sun shines, but also paying people to switch off. If there is only a peak demand for a few hours a year, it is cheaper to pay people to turn off than to have a power source that is only used a few hours a year.

But articles about the problems in the German grid have been around for a long time and lessons need to be learned.

Those of us who want to move to renewable energy need to be aware of the problems and to address them, or we just look like naive ideologues.

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COVID19 Second Wave is Happening in Europe 9/10/20

Europe is trying to get out of lockdown, but did not have the COVID19 epidemic under control, so the numbers are rising quite steeply, and look likely to be more than the first wave.  I tried to put some graphs together, but it has proved beyond my computer management competence, so I can only refer readers to the Worldometers COVID home page and ask you to click on the individual countries and scroll down to the ‘New Infections’ graph if you want to check what I am saying.

The UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Czechia, Austria, Denmark are all rising.  Spain was following the same pattern, but has just started a new lockdown.  Germany is ticking up, somewhat more modified, as is Norway.  Sweden continues to have cases, but there is some doubt now about how they collect their figures.

The lesson for Australia is clear.  We have to be conservative and go for elimination.  Suppression will not work.  There is danger that NSW has people no longer getting tested, presumably because admitting that an infection is possible means you have to self-quarantine for 2 weeks and have a nasty thing stuck up your nose, when you might just have a cold. 

Daniel Andrews has taken the flak, but implemented a policy that has probably saved Australia.  No thanks to Morrison, whose advice has been frankly mischievous.

Stephen Duckett, one of the architects of Medicare, tells it like it is.

www.smh.com.au/national/go-for-zero-what-victoria-can-teach-nsw-about-covid-19-20200908-p55tp2.html

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Happenings in Turkey, no sillier than NSW mining policy 11/7/20

A friend has sent me this to illustrate how life is in Turkey these days under President Erdogan, who fancies himself the new Kemal Attaturk.  Ataturk however was the victorious general at Gallipoli and the founder of the modern Turkish state on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after WW1.  He wanted a modern, democratic, secular state an instituted a new western-style alphabet. 

Erdogan has undermined democracy and concentrated power in his own hands.  He claims to be Muslim and been a very divisive figure, playing to the less educated eastern side of the country against the more educated secular western side.  He had fantasies of leading the Muslim world while building the country with borrowed money, principally in real estate investment.  The quality of these high-rise buildings in earthquake -prone Istanbul will no doubt be tested in time.  The economy is not doing well, particularly in the COVID19 crisis.  This little story about digging up a glacial lake is a micro illustration of his capricious rule, which has involved things like emptying the prisons and locking up journalists and academics who oppose him.

Such stupidity does not only occur in Turkey.  If it is foolish to undermine a little lake and dig a hole that cannot be filled underneath it, how much sillier is it to allow long wall mining under the catchment of a large, growing capital city that is prone to drought.  Cracks will go from the surface to the mine depth and then the water will run out to sea.  We should ask ourselves why we tolerate the NSW government, and Peabody, a US owned mine.

www.quora.com/What-happens-only-in-Turkey/answer/Simge-Topaloğlu?ch=1&share=02eab1a8&srid=zByA

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COVID-19: The Swedish Response. Is it OK? 27/5/20

Sweden likes to present itself as a highly sophisticated welfare society where a caring State looks after all its citizens. But conservative governments have been quietly undermining its welfare system for some time, and this opening up of the country and talk of ‘herd immunity’ may be both hypocritical and very poor public policy.

The assumption that healthy people will not die, and the rest do not matter is a very callous moral judgement. The assumption that without normal commerce the economy will not function and thus it is the economy versus a few oldies welfare is a morally appalling position, which is creeping in by default.

When I was a NZ sheep and beef farmer standard practice was that the breeding females had a performance criterion. If they did not get pregnant before winter, they went to the abattoirs as they were too expensive to feed over winter.

Managers love performance criteria, and as Management now dictates political actions people now have to perform also. Not strong enough to survive a COVID19 infection? Funeral for you! It is assumed that the rest will be infected once and then be immune. And when most people have been infected so that the virus cannot propagate in the society, we (hopefully) have ‘herd immunity’.

Politics being what it is, things have to dressed up a bit. Less tests, fewer masks, omit certain types of hospitals, change the death certification. Do not state the policy bluntly, and give no mandatory orders from the top, but make it vague enough with scope for non-implementation of best practice and plausible deniability. Make concerned statements of good intent, select some good figures to quote, and praise the people for their fortitude. If the odd whistleblower says something and manages to get publicity, be surprised, deny, promise to investigate and call it a ‘one off’ case or situation.

Brave New World is here. The only surprise is that it has started in Sweden.

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Refugees on Lesbos: an observation. 9/9/18

I visited Lesbos, a Greek Island  recently as a tourist.  I stayed in a villa, did some snorkeling, strolled and ate and drank at restaurants on the beach. The villa owner was from a fishing family and told me about the refugees on the island.  There had been a big influx in 2015, both from […]

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Albanian Life under the Communists- a story 23/9/18

I met a 54 year old Albanian man who was keen to tell me his story.  He is now a builder in England where he works with 3 of his brothers. He was born in a family of 11 boys and they lived with his uncle’s family, so there were 16 boys and no girls […]

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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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