Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The East Riding of Yorkshire Cover-up?

Pam Allen, the head of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council's children and young people's support and safeguarding children services since 2009, was the director of child safeguarding at Rotherham Council. She faces a probe by South Yorkshire Police regarding her role in the organised cover-up of the failure to prevent mass child sexual exploitation in the town; as are two of her former Rotherham colleagues who are also now employed by the ERYC.

Although the ERYC claimed that it would "review" Ms Allen's position, it is evident that they retain confidence in her as she remains on their safeguarding children board, whose November 2014 newsletter (http://www.erscb.org.uk/news/newsletter/) notes her participation in a seminar on the history of social work:

"Pam Allen provided a whistle stop history of Social Work practice. It was a helpful reflection on how the profession has developed from the first Social Workers called hospital almoners right through to the recent publication of the Jay Report."

It is the same Jay Report in which Ms Allen is implicated in being involved in Rotherham Council's systematic cover-up of the mass rape, trafficking, sexual enslavement, and torture of hundreds of young people by paedophile grooming gangs; including children under the care of the institutions that she presided over. At least one was murdered. Perhaps the "whistle stop" referred to could be interpreted as techniques relayed to ERYC staff by Ms Allen with which to repressively bully and intimidate whistleblowers, as occurred in Rotherham Council?

Her department failed to act, despite multiple governmental and police reports detailing the extent of the abuse; the council staff who tried to speak out have reported being harassed and ignored by their superiors, and one researcher had her office broken into and her research papers detailing the council's failures stolen and presumably destroyed in an effort to pervert the course of justice.

How can the public possibly have any trust in the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to safeguard children when those employed to do so by the ERYC display such brazen shamelessness and hypocrisy, even when they are under investigation for negligence and corruption of[potentially criminal proportions? It certainly incites concern for the welfare of children in East Yorkshire if these are the standards of ethics and accountability the ERYC is comfortable with.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Tear down this wall

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's falling, a group of Palestinians  activists punctured a symbolic hole in one of the separation barriers that segregates their country's borders from that of Israel's. The Israeli-Palestinian division is relatively similar to the divided Germany, but international recognition of the Palestinian state is limited in comparison to that granted to East Germany. The consensus of the "international community" (usually a euphemism for the United States government that obstructs any attempt to hold the Israeli government accountable for its violations of international law) advocates a two-state "solution" that would only slightly modify the borders defined by Israel militarism and annexation of Palestinian territory, while doing nothing to address the human rights violations the Palestinians are subjected to, which is in many ways identical to South African apartheid both practically and geopolitically. A bill proposed by Israeli MPs in the Knesset proposes an Israeli state officially defined as a "Jewish" one, that would abolish the cultural, linguistic and religious recognition of Arabs in the country. This one-dimensional racism is presumably motivated by a mentality in which "Arab" is interchangeable with "Muslim", when the country is in actuality also populated by minorities such as Christians and Druze from Jewish, Arab and other ethnic backgrounds. The moral mediocrity of the two-state solution will do nothing to counteract the militarism and racism of the Zionist far-right, which chants "Death to Arabs!" in the streets and is supported by an intelligentsia including MPs, rabbis and journalists who are openly enthused by the prospect of a Palestinian genocide.

In a geographical and logistic sense, the segregation between the Israeli and Palestinian states is equatable to the quasi-enclaves in apartheid South Africa that were the designated territories of the abused and suppressed blacks.

The real solution would be the one-state solution: constitutionally ratifying a unified, secular Israeli-Palestinian state in which basic human rights, including religious freedom, are enshrined into law rather than repressed by it.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The need for space travel

The explosion of the Antares and Virgin Galactic rockets might make us reconsider utility of space travel. Is it worth using so many resources and even endangering lives for a cause that is viewed by some as ultimately conceptually quixotic and practically superfluous? NASA has already abandoned its manned space flights and has been stripped of much of its spending while China increasingly overtakes it in terms of ambition. Since the height of the Space Race and the Apollo Program, humanity has massively regressed from the vision of the likes of Robert Goddard and Jack Parsons. But there is indeed a justification for civilian space travel and exploration in the most profound terms:

Even if we cease destroying the Earth's habitation with climate change, overpopulation or nuclear holocaust, its viability for supporting life is ultimately finite. The same thing can be said about the universe, but the planet will be destroyed by a Red Dwarfed Sun in around 7.5 billion years, whereas the entire lifespan of our known universe is estimated in the hundreds of billions. Ethical concerns about extraterrestrial life notwithstanding, with space travel humanity could be able to populate other planets, either through terraforming providing them with the correct acclimatization or that preexisting in them. Thus if our scientific knowledge and advancement keeps persisting over billions of years, then we could possibly manage to transcend the dimensions of our physical universe and find a home in alternate ones. If we really care about posterity and self-preservation, then it should be in our sights. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The capitalist malignancy

The ongoing catastrophic Ebola crisis in West Africa perfectly encapsulates the moral and practical pitfalls of our prevailing economic system. In the West, we usually react to human suffering in the alien lands we have plundered and devastated for centuries apathetically. It is probably most often referred in patronizing comparison to that which exists in our own societies, i.e. the implication that the millions living in relative poverty should be grateful for not living in absolute poverty. The asylum seekers fleeing to our shores from the social breakdown, war and environmental degradation of our making can always be condemned to death by drowning or suffocation or injury, or hatefully scapegoated if they otherwise succeed. But in the case of Ebola such selfishness is presumably, at least logically, not an option. Maybe I'm not alright, Jack? Even though our healthcare and outbreak prevention is comparatively robust, we know from much media fanfare that Ebola can effect us, and fatally. One is reminded of Joseph Stalin's remark of one death being a tragedy and a million being a statistic, a sense which is perhaps multiplied if those sparing deaths are Caucasian.

And yet (and yet!), despite all such circumstantial and existential leeway being granted to our racial and socioeconomic solipsism, we are faced with the grotesquely pitiful spectacle of international aid agencies effectively begging for charitable donations from the public to combat the ongoing outbreak and scientifically develop a vaccine to cure the disease, because the resources provided by governments and pharmaceutical conglomerates are inadequate. A fraction of the multi-billions in capital our elites hoard, or of the multi-trillions they have stashed in offshore tax havens, would suffice to meet these ends. Which addresses the central point, in this case represented by the rotting piles of Ebola-infected caresses in the room: that the disease and poverty that causes the unnecessary suffering of our species is, as Nelson Mandela stated, entirely preventable and man-made.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Misogynist terrorism

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai was shot in the face by morally and intellectually primitive thugs from the Taliban because she dared speak in favour of the cause of equality for women and girls. The gangsters from ISIL and their African allies Boko Haram employ rape, torture and sexual slavery against those who dare to stray from the ideology of women's subordination in their occupied territories.

The so-called "Gamergate" fiasco, for the most part, has only occupied my attention as a farcical and pathetic exercise in feeble-minded cultural backwardness: a backlash against diversity and political insight contradicting it daring to be present in the general hobby and industry of video gaming. But these indignant temper tantrums have mutated into a much uglier exercise in intimidation and bigotry. Women are being threatened with bombings, mass shootings, rape and murder for merely exerting their right to freedom of expression by defending the presence of persons and opinions within this one realm of society's commerce and artistry. This thus reflects a misogynist terrorist ideology beholden to a seemingly limitless extent of violence; a sickness that it revels in. It is no exaggeration to refer to it as such, given that it and its apologists engage in virulent ideological misogyny comparable to that of the worst Islamic terrorist groups.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Lord Freud and the rhetoric of disability hate

The odious remarks of welfare reform minister Lord Freud, who implied that disabled people were "not worth" the minimum wage and should be paid below it when employed, have justifiably incited public and political outrage. But there is nothing new in terms of the sentiments of Freud's remarks. They are merely a reflection, or a consistent continuation, of the prejudiced, discriminatory hate-driven attitudes towards people with disabilities, chronic illnesses and mental health conditions that are ubiquitous and normalised within our society and political and media discourse, in which the scapegoating of disabled people in receipt of state benefits as "shrikers" and "scroungers" who are emblematic of the "something for nothing culture" is viewed as fair game. Such is the depth of the hate in this venal propaganda that comparisons to dehumanisation of disabled people in Nazi Germany cannot be cited as a superficial example of Godwin's law, but rather a legitimate historical comparison.

Labour have sought to make political capital from the backlash of Lord Freud's remarks. But it was Labour, during the Blair and Brown administrations, who brought Freud into government in the first place. Their neo-Thatcherite New Labour ideology is responsible for facilitating his influence. It was Labour, following Lord Freud's advice, who introduced private sector contracting into assessment for incapacity benefits, which led to the creation of Employment Support Allowance and a Work Capability Assessment administered by the profit-driven Atos Healthcare, which began to strip severely disabled and chronically sick people, including terminal cancer patients, of their welfare benefits, in total contempt of the medical evidence and facts about their conditions. Under Lord Freud's guidance, Labour introduced a regime of benefit sanctioning blackmailing the same incapacitated people with financial deprivation, even destitution, if they failed to pursue or partake in employment (including unpaid workfare) after being deemed "fit for work" by this non-medical and pseudoscientific assessment system.

Despite the destructive nature of this regime, which could easily be described as a grave human rights violation as defined by international law, it has been vastly expanded and accelerated under David Cameron's government since 2010, with Lord Freud staying put in the Department of Work and Pensions led by Iain Duncan Smith. As well as innumerable mental health crises, there have since been dozens of anecdotal cases of deaths directly caused by the sanctioning and stripping of severely disabled people's benefits by the system designed by Lord Freud. There are potentially hundreds if not thousands of deaths it is responsible for. The technical term for murder by government is democide.

Under the Cameron government, Lord Freud's next contribution to society has been the bedroom tax (or under-occupancy penalty), a policy that financially sanctions social housing tenants (invariably people on low incomes) for rooms that are deemed to be "spare", and which hundreds of thousands of disabled people (including disabled children) have been effected by, including for "spare" rooms meant for overnight carers or storage of mobility and medical equipment. Many also have homes with special adaptions for their impairments. Despite the chronic housing shortage that makes downsizing into a new property impossible for most, the only relief for the disabled people impacted are discretionary payments from local authorities which are themselves rationed, so frequently unavailable to them. Many have gone without food and heating to pay the bedroom tax and face the threat of being evicted into homelessness by bailiffs when unable to pay. Lord Freud, country mansion resident, is unrepentant.

As well as remorselessly and enthusiastically imposing Lord Freud's brutal sanctioning and assessment system and bedroom tax, it is the same Cameron government (Tory, but aided and abetted by the moral non-entity Liberal Democrats) that has inflicted a wholesale assault on disabled people including: below inflation freezes to benefit increases, the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments that have new claimant terms resulting in real term benefit cuts for thousands, cuts to social care and mobility support, the closure of Remploy services providing employment opportunities, cuts to council tax support creating a new poll tax additionally diminishing impoverished disabled people's incomes, as well as a general pandering to the aforementioned media propaganda which has, likely beyond a reasonable doubt, contributed to a statistical influx in disability hate crimes being reported to police forces across the country.

Thus one vacuous remark from Lord Freud regarding disabled people in paid employment incites indignation, yet the reaction to these state-sanctioned human rights abuses against disabled people seems tame in comparison. The dehumanisation of this "life unworthy of life" and the resulting injury and death is evidently viewed as morally legitimate by our political and media establishment.