Saturday, 22 August 2009

Barking mad!

It was very sad to see Americans on TV barking at each other over health care reform. They really seem to hate each other. One young man yelled at a 50-something stranger that she was too old to survive under Obama's system. There are lunatic claims that public provision is nazism or communism - or both!

The town-hall meeting looks like anything but democracy, more like a lynch-mob. There seems to be no procedure, no formal proposing and opposing of a motion, just a roomful of people shouting at the tops of their voices. How can you have democracy when people won't even let each other speak, let alone listen to what they say.

I begin to despair of America. Perhaps the only way to save the world from its excessive weight is for the US economy to collapse. It used to seem that sooner or later there must be a run on the dollar, but no country dares to sell some of its dollars for fear of seeing the rest lose their value. And one of Saddam Hussein's 'crimes' was wanting to be paid for oil in euros.

Friday, 21 August 2009


I've just read The spirit level: why more equal societies almost always do better by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. It is a brilliant book, though I'd like to have had more information on some of their graphs. The conclusion is that great inequality such as exists in America and Britain makes most aspects of life worse for everyone and not just for the poorest.

I conclude that Obama's effort to reform health-care in America is misplaced; the prime objective should be to reduce the levels of inequality, after which the cost of health care would be much reduced. He is risking defeat on a reform that will make only a marginal difference. The same applies to the British NHS, which has become a National Sickness Service, struggling to pay for a lot of treatments that ought never to have become necessary.

Looking back I wonder where Britain took a wrong turning. Back in the 1950s and 60s we seemed to be becoming a less unequal society; many people from poor backgrounds were rising in society and there was a lot more trust. Perhaps the greatest mistake of the Attlee government in the 1940s was to leave ownership of the newspapers in the hands of millionaires; they should have facilitated trustee ownership. Also, that was the moment to take away the charitable status of public schools, which have never been for the public in general.

Mrs Thatcher knew who she owed her success to, and one of her main projects was to make newspaper ownership more profitable and to allow combined ownership of different media. The result has been a general dumbing down of the sources of information and the victory of the hollow celebrity culture. Can the internet help to find solutions? Take a look at the website of the book:

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


Sorry (if there's anyone to apologize to!) - I'd almost forgotten I had a blog. Partly because it doesn't seem to get any comments, which makes it a lonely business. I've been very busy writing the ecology book that I've promised myself to do. I've drafted 14 chapters out of 18, but some of the early ones will have to be substantially rewritten because the project evolves as it goes along.

Having stopped reading newspapers and listening to the Today programme (because we have a washing-up machine, so I don't spend time at the sink in the morning), I have had to fall back on Channel 4 for the best of a bad bunch of TV news programmes. At the moment we have 20 minutes a day on Afghanistan, where our troops were supposed to go "without a shot fired". Now they talk about us having to stay for 40 years.

When are these idiot politicians going to understand that occupation is the problem? Ever since Lloyd-George decided to take over the Ottoman lands we've had nothing but trouble. Now, instead of seeing that invasion was a mistake, they are talking about how to dig in further. And with the recession, army recruitment is booming. I am staggered by the remilitarization of British culture. Back in the 1960s we thought we were going to turn into a peaceful country like Switzerland or Norway.

Part of the trouble is that it seems to pay off. Having left Parliament to a standing ovation, Prof Blair is now combines five jobs - Peace Envoy to the Middle East(!!!), Advocate for Africa, Adviser on Climate Change, Iraq Consultant to J P Morgan (he knows such a lot about oil!) and Professor of Religious (sic) Studies at Yale. And he hopes to become President of Europe!!!! It makes you dizzy!