Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Solistice Ballad

Sun disc pale and white
At the low point of the year.
Day gives way to night
and the wet branch drips    a tear _

that holds a falling world
compressing all we see
into a tiny liquid globe
hung on a silent tree.

While Roman steel is hurting
and their armies make us bow,
From Mary’s belly bursting out
a child infused with power.

We listen for a while
to universal love;
he conjures up a spell
to change the eagle   to a dove.

But   the dove   grew talons
and his song became a scream:
a Church bore down upon us
where the Roman boot had been.

So we traded Church for Market
and the donkey for a Ford
but there’s nowhere we could park it
and the children soon got bored

and the banks that gave possessions
are calling in their loans;
their smiles hide their aggression:
they want everything we own.

But the sun will rise beyond this death
And next year we shall find 
Another  way to shield the Earth
From the Roman soldiers’ mind.

© Richard Lawson 

December 2006

Monday, December 22, 2014

Detectives must investigate their own superiors to discover the Westminster paedophile rings

The news about child abuse by MPs and other VIPs is gathering pace. There is increasing  revulsion over the allegations of murder of children and witnesses. John Mann MP has handed to police a list of  22 influential people.

The investigating police are making clear that they are not going to be thrown off-course. But they have a massive job to do. There are indications that they are inundated with a vast amount of work as they search for evidence that is sound enough to convict criminals who were operating 20 or 30 years ago. One of the difficulties is that child abuse is generally a private thing, with only the perpetrator and victim present. It is the word of one against the word of another.

That is the problem detectives face as they work to find individual low-level perpetrators.

There is another aspect of the detective work, that of identifying the high-level paedophile rings who operated (operate still?) in Westminster, that is relatively simple technically, but paradoxically, is deeply challenging politically.

Detective investigators could fairly easily work their way up the chain of command in order to identify the senior policemen and politicians who set up the culture of denial and obfuscation that is detailed here and here.

All that is required is for detectives to ask these questions of a witness to delay and obfuscation, whether it be a front line worker, or one of the many detectives who experienced their inquiries being blocked or stopped as soon as they began to close in on VIPs. The line of questioning is:
"Who gave the order that this abuse story was to be set aside and ignored?"
"Who did you hand the lost file to?"
and even simply "Who was your superior officer?"

The detectives then move up the chain of command to the next level, and continues until they find the source of the order. At each step in the search, the number gets fewer. If leads from different inquiries begin to point to the same name, that person gets to be interviewed.

This process is simple and effective, and will lead to important persons who were blocking the inquiries.

The problem is not complexity; the problem is political and psychological. It means that junior officers will be closing in on their own superiors - or their own superiors' predecessors. In doing this, juniors will need courage, integrity, and support. The support will have to come from politicians and journalists who also will need courage and integrity - qualities that many cynics will immediately say will be impossible to find.

In this case, cynicism about politicians actually helps to bring about the situation that the cynic believes in. It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. There are decent MPs out there who really want to serve the people. They may not be perfect - nobody is perfect - but we must encourage them and bring them forward.

If we are to tackle the abscess of child abuse in the body politic of our nation, it is imperative that we identify and remove from office the powerful paedophiles who are able to hide behind their positions of power, and their friends. If cynics do not want to help in this process, they should at least try not to hinder those that are motivated to get it done,

The sorry tale of Butler-Sloss, Michael Havers, Fiona Woolf and Leon Brittan demonstrates perfectly the mechanism that could be called the "establishment effect". The establishment would prefer that police detectives spend their time in a Sysiphan task of sifting through an ever growing mound of data relating to historic abuse, trying to convict aging low ranking abusers, than that they should turn their attention to finding and eradicating the 20 or so powerful politicians, civil servants and establishment figures who have committed serious crimes.

We must urge Theresa May and the Home Office to get the detectives to fight their way up the chain of command and identify the high level abusers.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

NHS Privatisation: looking at the Tory/LibDem case

The Tories are mounting a very energetic counter-attack against any accusation that the NHS is being privatised. Here are their defensive arguments, in italics, followed by the prosecution case.

  1. It is not being privatised. Privatisation means the sale of a business that was previously owned by the government. The NHS is not being sold as a totality, there is no share issue, therefore it is not being privatised.
    This is like coming home and finding a man filling his bag with your cutlery. You say, "Stop burgling my house". He says, "I'm not burgling your house, I'm just helping myself to a few bits of cutlery that are in this drawer in your house".
    Do you settle down to discuss semantics with the burglar, or do you call the police?
  2. We are not privatising the NHS, we are franchising out some services.
    Franchise is an authorization granted by one enterprise to another agent to act on behalf of the original enterprise in one area of its operations. In that the original enterprise is a public body, and the franchisees in question are private bodies, this confirms that privatisation is taking place.

    Arguments 1 and 2 are based on semantics.

    The private sector has won 41% of contracts awarded via competitive tender against just 30% for NHS providers, because CCGs are obliged to give to the lowest bidder. Privateers can offer a "loss leader", cut workers and reduce their wages, and once installed can put up their prices.
  3. Labour started it. They privatised Hinchingbrooke Hospital. 
    So much the worse for Labour.
  4. The HCSA puts doctors in charge of commissioning.
    In theory and at first. Many GPs are quitting CCG places because of the burden of managerialisationism, and frustration at having to listen to professional managers telling them what they must do. Financial "Consultants" are creaming £640million a year off  the NHS.
  5. The Health and Social Care Act is a wonderful success. It has got rid of 19,000 managers, saving money for clinical work.*In fact, the 19,000 were mainly clinicians with some management responsibility.
    *There are now 440 bodies managing the service instead of the 163 there were in 2010.(Much of this is because of the huge managerial and clinical time wasted on drawing up tenders and running tendering processes.)
    *Overall the Lansley reforms cost the NHS £3billion, and have meant that pay rises have been held back, resulting in recent strikes.
    Under the Tories:
    *waiting times have gone up
    *outcomes have got worse
    *GPs and A&E departments are overwhelmed
    *bed-blocking has increased.
    *Senior Tories have now admitted that the HSCA was a mistake. They did not understand what Lansley was up to.
  6. It is the GP led Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs)  who will decide whether to engage an NHS organisation or a private company to take on contracts.CCGs are obliged to take the cheapest offer. Private corporations can make cheap offers as a loss-leader, and put up their prices later.
  7. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) "could have no impact on the UK's sovereign right to make changes to the NHS" according to the EU's chief negotiator.Read the line carefully. The accusation is that TTIP means that the NHS will by law be open to bids by private companies. The statement above does not in any way deny that will happen.
Note: this is a vast subject, and this post will be expanded to take on further debate. I will copy any useful comments added below.

Pfizer has no interest in helping to contain Ebola

Regular readers of the Mabinogogiblog (who will be rewarded in the next life if not in this) will remember that I am pressing for trials of several established medicines that might increase recovery rates in Ebola.

Simvastatin, commonly used to reduce cholesterol, is one such medicine. It was originally developed by Pfizer, but is now out of patent.

On 8/11/14  wrote politely to Pfizer asking for them to consider my proposal for a trial of their version of this drug, called Zocor.

Today I have had this reply:

Thank you for submitting your proposal to Pfizer. We appreciate your time but Pfizer will not be in contact for further discussion.
Pfizer Business Development

I don't know what you think, but I think this is rude, bone-headed and wrong.

This is Big Pharma saying, "We do not care that thousands are dying of Ebola, that thousands more may die. We are not interested in helping. We are not interested in expanding scientific knowledge. Just f*ck off".

I hope that Pfizer will come to revise this position.

Follow no-one, not even Russell Brand. #UseYourVote

"Don't vote - it only encourages them".
"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal".
Russell Brand is speaking for a lot of people, especially younger people, when he says the system is so broken it is not worth trying to use it.
Greens fully understand your frustration with the political system.
In fact, since we have spent 36 years engaged on a daily basis with the stupidities of the UK political system, we can claim to understand it better than most. But we persevere in trying both to use and radically change the system.
Because, although the UK democratic system is weak, antiquated and set up for the convenience of the rich corporations, it is, despite everything, a democracy in that we do have an element of free speech, a (diminishing) freedom to demonstrate on the streets, and the power to kick out a government every 5 years.
And this is truly better than living in a dictatorship.
Yes, you can argue that it is an elective dictatorship, that it works for the rich against the poor etc etc, but nevertheless we do have more freedom than they do in, say, North Korea or Zimbabwe. And if you say no we don't, go live there for a while.
People died for the right to vote. Don't take it for granted.
You may not want to join the Green Party, or work for the Green Party, but surely at least you can take 5 minutes of your time to register to vote at your local government website and another 5 minutes to pop into a polling station to put an X against the Green Party. It is a small thing, your green candidate is unlikely to win, except in Brighton Pavilion and one or two other places, but your Green vote is another act of defiance against the lying, self serving political elite personified in the LibLabConUkip parties.

Register to vote here. You need your NI number. Do it before the deadline - 21st April 2015.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Supporting the Austrian Pledge on Nuclear Weapons abolition

Daniela Varano of the International Campaign toAbolish Nuclear Weapons writes:

"We have some great news from Vienna. After 44 states called for a prohibition on nuclear weapons at the Third Conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, Austria delivered an "Austrian Pledge" at the closing of the meeting.

Austria called on all states to "fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons" and pledged to "cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal".

This is an extremely exciting development for our campaign, and now it's time for all states committed to nuclear disarmament to join the Austrian pledge to work towards filling that legal gap by negotiating a treaty banning nuclear weapons. We want Austria to know we appreciate their courage and will push other governments to do the same".

They ask for letters of encouragement. Here is mine, sent today:

Dear Foreign Minister Kurz,

I am writing to say how much I welcome your country’s leadership in hosting the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear  Weapons.

The discussions in Vienna give us great hope for the essential next step - starting work on negotiations to ban them all.  Austria’s firm pledge to support this is courageous and inspiring.  It would start with all those states ready to take part. But even this will put tremendous political pressure on those few states who are holding the rest of us hostage with their insistence that nuclear weapons actually defend them.  Austria is now in an excellent position to give the lead we need.

The matter will of course be highly contentious. Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) have a huge investment in the status quo, including financial, emotional and political motivations. They will defend their position tenaciously, and I would like to anticipate the arguments that you will meet. I apologise that this letter is rather long.

The Insurance Policy Argument
First, they will argue that posession of Nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction (NWMD) constitutes an insurance policy.This is a powerful argument at the emotional level; after all, who would like to go into an uncertain future without insurance of some kind? Insurance is good and sensible.

But does the insurance metaphor stand up to scrutiny?

With insurance, we pay a certain amount of money regularly into a common fund. The fund increases, and if in time something untoward happens to one of those paying into the fund, that person receives an amount of money from the fund which enables them to make good the loss that they have sustained.

It is impossible to see how this analogy obtains with NWMD. The NWS does make payments for their weapons, but it is not a common fund in the sense that any number of other nations pay into it. It is only a fund for the NWS itself. If a nuclear attack is made on an NWS, the state does not get an amount of money to make good the damage done. Instead, all they get is the dubious satisfaction that the person or persons who launched the nuclear attack will suffer just as much death, injury, burns, destruction, disruption, disease, misery and cancer as the first state have suffered. So NWMD posession is in no way analogous to an insurance policy, and in describing it as such, heads of NWS are trying to delude themselves and their audience.

The logic of infinite destruction and greater than zero probability
We should bring clear and simple logic to a debate that is prone to become confused and emotional.

Let us start with a simple general proposition that is unassailable:

If the consequences of the failure of a system would be infinitely destructive to civilisation, it is reasonable to use that system if, and only if, the probability of its failure are zero.

Applying that statement to the NWMD case, the argument is that there is a greater than zero chance of nuclear deterrence leading to nuclear war, and if that war would be infinitely destructive of human civilisation,  then the world needs to scrap nuclear weapons absolutely and completely.

The possession of nuclear weapons by a number of states in the international community does constitute a system, that is, a group of interrelated parts forming a whole.

Can the system fail? Nuclear deterrence is a complex arrangement of electronic sensors embedded in a command and control network composed of humans working to hard protocols that are interwoven with pattern judgments and valuations which are affected by the emotional state of the individuals and groups that make the judgments. The groups themselves, particularly the supreme decision making groups, are isolated from the common body of humanity, and are known to be susceptible to a condition known as group think – defined as A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.[i] Moreover, the interplay of decision makers is now far more complex than in the days of the cold war, with players coming on to the field who might not view the destruction of the prevailing world civilisation as a thing to be avoided at all costs, and other players already on the scene who believe that nuclear weapons could be used tactically without risking a strategic exchange.

In conclusion, it is entirely reasonable to judge that the probability of failure of the nuclear deterrence system is greater than zero. [ii]

Now to the second question: Would the breakdown of nuclear deterrence be infinitely destructive of human civilisation?
This is a point that must be settled by a value judgment.

First, would it be possible to get away with a limited exchange, or would one nuclear detonation inevitably escalate into an all out global nuclear war?

It is impossible to give a definitive answer to that question, but the safest assumption to make is that if one weapon is detonated, they will all be fired. The reason for this lies in the doctrine of first strike, which aims to destroy the opponent’s weapons before they can be fired. Once it is known that an opponent has detonated a nuclear weapon, the pressure will be on for supreme commanders to fire all their nuclear weapons before they lose them to a first strike. In view of this, although we cannot say that any exchange would inevitably lead to a first strike, it would be the height of folly for anyone to assume that they could use weapons in a limited tactical strike and believe that matters would then be allowed to rest by the opposition.

Unfortunately this limited tactical strike idea is the prevailing nuclear doctrine of the United States of America. They consider that nuclear weapons could be used tactically, as an extension of a conventional military campaign. In doing so, they may trigger an all-out nuclear war.

Now, would an all-out strategic nuclear exchange be infinitely destructive? There are estimated to be at least 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world held by at least eight countries, 96 percent of them in the possession of the United States and Russia. [iii]

The effects of all-out nuclear war were well studied in the 1980s. Physically, the most interesting possible effect is the so-called Nuclear Winter, where atmospheric soot cuts off sunlight for a period of weeks or months.[iv] When the sunlight returns, the effects of city and forest fires will have been to increase the atmospheric CO2 load, thus exacerbating global warming. Species loss will increase, secondary to habitat loss. Of these, the loss of bees will be most important, since cessation of their pollination services will lead to failure of such crops as survivors may try to plant. Ironically, rats and cockroaches are resistant to radiation, and so will flourish, given the plentiful quantities of human and animal carrion available.

To say the least, economic growth after a nuclear war would be unlikely. In fact a global economic depression is almost inevitable. The surviving peoples will depend on a survival economy based around obtaining water, food, warmth and shelter for local groups as best they can. Life will be short, and cancers plentiful, but health services would be rudimentary, and analgesics in short supply. Gangsterism, like the rats, will flourish, and self interest is likely to become the ethical norm.

Self esteem, as members of a species that has made such a catastrophic error, will generally be very low. Post traumatic stress disorder and depression are most likely to be the psychological norm.

In summary, it is entirely reasonable to expect that an all out nuclear exchange would lead to the end of western civilisation.

In terms of the model set out at the beginning, the consequences of the failure of a nuclear deterrence system would indeed be infinitely destructive to our civilisation, the probability of its failure is greater than zero, and therefore it is illogical for our civilisation to use that system.

Since the syllogism contains a value judgment, and since there is such commitment to NWMD, as noted above, there will inevitably be those who take a different view. However, they are compelled to argue either that the deterrence system is perfectly safe, which is manifestly not the case, or that a tactical weapon would not lead to an all-out nuclear war, which is clearly not provable, or that an all-out nuclear war would not destroy civilisation, which is clearly unreasonable.

In the circumstances, however, because of the uncertainties involved, it is safer to take a precautionary view. The great majority of humanity view the possibility of all out nuclear war with a great deal of distaste. They should be helped to understand that the nuclear deterrence system is not infallible, and that these weapons are quite capable of being used in anger. This should then motivate them to exercise their democratic right and duty to remove from political office anyone who believes that it is reasonable for any state to possess nuclear weapons.

Once more, Foreign Minister, I thank you most sincerely for your initiative, and I hope that the above will be of some small help to your endeavour.

Sincerely yours

Dr Richard Lawson

[i] Janis, Irving L. Victims of Groupthink. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972, page 9.
[ii] Lachlan Forrow and others, "Accidental Nuclear War --A Post Cold War Assessment," NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE Vol. 338, No. 18 (April 30, 1998), pgs. 1326-1331
[iii] (4 June 2007)
[iv] Nuclear winter: Physics and physical mechanisms," R. P. Turco, O. B. Toon, T. P. Ackerman, J. B. Pollack and C. Sagan, Ann. Rev. Earth and Planet. Sci., 19, 383-422 (1991).