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Showing posts from June, 2018

Brexit won't save the planet

Brexit isn't an ideal. It might break the cosy economic and political illusion that all growth and trade is good. But there is little thinking behind it. It won't lead to better trade. It won't save our planet.



No plan for Brexit The UK is  now just months away from leaving the European Union, yet still the government has no plan for Brexit. Sector after sector of British society are registering their concerns about the consequences of a 'no deal' Brexit.  The country is in the dark about what the future might hold.  Key issues remain unresolved, yet it is as if it doesn't matter.   Brexit, remember, means Brexit!  
Whether we are for or against Brexit we should be concerned that the government can't agree on what kind of deal they want with our biggest trading partner - the European Union.  
There is no idealism behind Brexit, and no vision for the future.  Instead, there is a blind hope that it will be 'alright on the night'.  That somehow a…

NHS Hospital Bed Crisis

As the government scurries around to find the pledged extra funding for the NHS, sober news today demonstrates the devastating consequences of systematic underfunding over the past eight years.

Over 6000 beds lost in last four years New figures published today by the British Medical Association (BMA) shows that the NHS has lost more than 6000 beds across the country over the last four years, and the British Medical Association (the doctor's union) are warning that under-resourcing in hospitals is hampering patient care. These warning are not new. They have been given before as previous Thin End posts have shown.

But the figures presented today are a stark reminder of an NHS in crisis and struggling valiantly to meet demands.

New BMA analysis reveals that:

Beds have reduced by an average of 140 per Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) footprint since 2014/15 – a fall of over 6000 at a national level;

Bed numbers have decreased in 29 of 44 STP footprints…

Learning from the wood mouse

So what do we know about intelligence?  In the 1960s behaviourists studied animal behaviour in what they then regarded as 'controlled' laboratory conditions.  Rats were placed in boxes or mazes and their behaviour was measured in terms of 'conditioned responses'.  Rats would be 'conditioned' to press a lever for a food reward.  It made an assumption that learning was either reward or aversion based.
physical and social environment This approach appeared more 'scientific' because it was 'controlled'.  It is odd that in one sense it looked at an organism as being conditioned by its environment, and yet ignored its interaction with the environment. You take a rat and put it into a laboratory under controlled conditions.  Other variables could be excluded, or held constant, in large part because the animals had been taken out of their rich physical and social environment.  It assumed that this rich environment played little part in the development …

Bad trade kills the planet.

One problem with the financial crisis of 2008/9 is that it focused attention on the banking system as if it could be separated from global economics.  It fostered the notion that all that was needed was to reform the banks and all would be well.  The underlying assumption was and is that global economics didn't and doesn't need fixing.  Everything works well but for the financial system.  Let's all keep calm and carry on.

Yet, the focus on a bad banking system hides an underlying economic malaise,  The economy depended on banks lending, and growth was predicated on debt, debt and more debt.  This was not simply a problem of the banking system.  It was, and remains a problem arising from the mythology of economic growth.

Politicians have long fostered the mythology of growth.  Growth became a  mantra.  Growth is good.  Good is growth.  Let's grow! Growth as and is presented as a miraculous cure.

Let's call this the first neoliberal myth.  The second neoliberal myth…

End the righteous indignation on Brexit.

Given the country is equally divided, and parliament is supposed to be a representative body, then it is no surprise that parliament also is divided on Brexit.

We are told that this is an issue that is above party. Indeed it is, and that is why each of the major political parties is also divided on the issues. 
Yet, party leaders are denounced for not being 'decisive'.

What kind of Brexit? The country is still in the dark about the effects Brexit will have on the economy, and voters appear deaf to the pleas from those sectors most affected.   It is as if it doesn't matter.
The decision to leave has been taken with little or no heed of the consequences.   The people have spoken, and it is expected that those with concerns should 'shut up' and accept the 'democratic will' of the people.  This has stifled discussion, and it has created confusion and frustration, and has led to the current shambles in parliament. 
We are told it would be wrong to question the …

Trump is right to break the cosy arrangements on trade.

President Trump is right. There is something wrong with global trade, and with the deals that make them possible. What we need, however, are the right kind of solutions. Solutions that help the producers, the farmer and farm workers, as much as the consumers. Solutions that help the planet heal itself from pollution and loss of habitats. Solutions that lift people out of poverty. Solutions that prevent the 'need' to grow crops destined to destroy lives through narcotics abuse.

a new deal on trade We need a new global deal that produces sustainable economies with social and environmental objectives. The G7 scurry around trying to repair a broken system. They are rightly angry that Trump has given up on that system, but neither Trump nor the G7 have the right solutions. So they fight over the entrails of a broken system.

The neoliberal view of 'free markets' meeting needs is a myth.  Markets are neither 'free'  nor good at meeting social and  environmental needs.…

Education linked to higher risk of short-sightedness

I recall being told when I was young that by having my head buried in a book for too long would make me shortsighted. Indeed, I am shortsighted. But could my reading have been one of the reasons? A new study suggests at least some kind of connection. 
The study published in The BMJ today finds that spending more years in full time education is associated with a greater risk of developing short-sightedness (myopia).

The researchers say their study provides “strong evidence” that more time spent in education is a risk factor for myopia, and that the findings “have important implications for educational practices.”

Myopia, or short-sightedness, is a leading cause of visual impairment worldwide. Currently, 30-50% of adults in the United States and Europe are myopic, with levels of 80-90% reported in school leavers in some East Asian countries.

Based on existing trends, the number of people affected by myopia worldwide is expected to increase from 1.4 billion to 5 billion by 2050, affecti…

Rebuilding Afghanistan requires funding for education not just troops.

According to UNICEF 3.7 million children in Afghanistan are without education. Sixty per cent of these are girls. These are the worst figures since the fall of the Taliban in 2002. Political and economic insecurity are said to be amongst the reasons. Instead of simply putting more troops in, perhaps we should be investing in education to help rebuild the country?


The NHS Saved My Life.

In the latest Thin End podcast, Ray Noble tells how the NHS saved his life and considers the benefits of the British National Health Serivice. He argues why markets alone are insufficient to meet needs. What the NHS needs is funding. The NHS is already being adversely affected by Brexit with worsening staff shortages leading to delays and longer waiting lists. The NHS has been starved of adequate finding, and public service provision has been blighted by an eroneous faith in markets as a miraculous solution to meeting needs.