2000s >> 2009 >> no-1261-september-2009

Pathfinders: Euthanasia? Line on the left, one needle each…

Euthanasia? Line on the left, one needle each…

It’s not often that nature obligingly weighs right into a political row to decide the matter within a month or so, but in the wake of the recent anti-NHS row across the Pond it might do just that. As you will recall, the usual internecine sniping between workers, managers and policy-makers within the British NHS was suspended as the country went into a collective fit of the conniptions over the defamation being perpetrated in the American press. According to the rabid opponents of Obama’s modest health-care reform bill, we in Britain have enforced euthanasia and face ‘death panels’ of officials who decide which of us get to live. You wouldn’t think even redneck republicans would buy this, but their own political bosses obviously think otherwise, and they’re the ones with their fingers on the arrested pulse of American political consciousness.

It’s not cricket, is it? We can slag off the Health Service all we like, after all it’s the national sport. But do it on American TV, as self-promoting neocon-licking uberturd Daniel Hannan MEP did, and out comes the Dunkirk spirit and a flurry of statistics to show why a), the NHS kicks America’s butt over every Key Performance Indicator, b), 47 million Americans with no health insurance would rather live over here and c), Daniel Hannan should present himself before the next available death panel.

Everybody, calm down. Just wait and see. Swine flu is back this month, so it won’t be long before we’ll have hard evidence about which health system copes best, or least worst. The word on the wards is not optimistic, though, judging from a recent poll of health experts of whom over half ‘seriously doubted that their health authorities would be able to cope’ if the virus became more virulent, as is widely expected (New Scientist editorial, 15 August). Half, too, had ‘stashed away their own antivirals’, even though Tamiflu and Relenza are not likely to do much good for adults and none at all in children under the age of twelve (New Scientist, p 4).

Not to be accused of pessimism, Pathfinders would like to offer its own handy list of flu-busting tips for worried readers everywhere. First, lay in a stock of food and don’t go out for five months. Alternatively, remove yourself to the Seychelles for the winter. Keep large reserves of water, wood, coal and gold for barter in case society breaks down altogether. Always have a large well-armed staff at your disposal to run errands and catch diseases on your behalf. And of course, have your own doctor, preferably married into the family, with access to the best private hospital your banker’s bonuses can buy.

Well, that’s the owning class taken care of, which is the main thing. For the rest of us, well, let’s keep things in perspective. A big die-off will create a labour shortage and that will raise wages and foster strength and unity among what’s left of the unions. No more worries about unemployment and recession – or euthanasia.

Meanwhile Daniel Hannan has been ‘rebuked’ by David Cameron, and many are expecting the disloyal swine to be flushed down the Tory Party’s private Swine Flue for being so off-message. Of course, Hannan was only saying what many in the Gentlemen’s Gestapo privately believe, which is that the Health Service is a giant drain on corporate profits at a time when workers are ten a penny. The American ruling class also know this, which is why they’re keen to tell the American proles that the British euthanise all their old people by leaving them out for the vultures, and pack their sick babies into Soylent Green factories.

Bang goes the science media

Ben Goldacre at the Guardian must be wondering if his Bad Science column is turning into Bad Business, when science journos are being laid off from papers all round the globe as part of a ‘dumb down and ditch it’ campaign to cut staff costs and gloss up the lowest common denominator sections that require the least thinking. Newspapers are in terminal decline due to the internet, and in the Balloon game that editors are playing, the boffin-hacks are getting tipped over the side first. Of course, they all go online and start blogs, but then they’re in competition with a million other blogs touting all brands of ‘science’ from creationism to alien telepathy – and losing. In the ‘Best Science Blog’ section of the 2008 Weblog Awards, Pharyngula, an anti-religion sceptic’s site,  lost first place to a climate-change denial blog (‘Unpopular science’, The Nation, 29 July).

Is science really so unpopular? The BBC seems to think so. Its new science programme, Bang Goes the Theory, tries ever-so-hard to be cool, with three young presenters prowling a loud CBeebies-like studio set and conducting experiments carefully selected for their ‘wow’ factor. The breathless pace effectively rules out any real depth, and the hook appears to be not the science itself, as in Horizon or dear old long-lamented Tomorrow’s World, but whether the presenter is going to get seriously injured. If you’re in your teens you’ll feel too old for this show.

Meanwhile in recognition of the fact that many scientific breakthroughs have initially been knocked back, a new open-source academic journal called Rejecta Mathematica has gone online, consisting of papers rejected by peer-review (‘Huddled Maths’, Economist, 29 July). Let us be the first to recommend to the BBC their next piece of prime-time fluff: Science – The Out-Takes.

Competition for the Twittering Classes

The latest fad for micro-blogging is coming under fire, with a study showing that 40 percent of ‘tweets’ are ‘pointless babble’ and only 8.7 percent pass along ‘news of interest’(BBC Online, 17 August). Considering the gargantua of garbage which is the printed book output, this is not a bad batting average. However, keen as ever to raise the bar of public discourse, Pathfinders proposes a competition for the best expression of the Party Case in 140 characters or less. Brief reflection offers: ‘World for the Workers, not the Rich W**kers’ however you are sure to do better than that. Emails or letters to our Clapham office. Closing date 10 November, for our December issue, and best ideas will be printed. First Prize will be, of course, comradely adulation, as we socialists are trying to move away from material remuneration systems.

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