Democrats, apologists and neoliberals

Read this comment below, on a YouTube video about two girls with Treacher-Collins syndrome (which means that they have healthy bodies and brains, but have no hearing and some facial bones are lacking):

That baffled me. I also hear the phrase “neoliberals” from time these days within this context. I wasn’t familiar with it, but it seems to be associated with a lack of tolerance for human diversity and a lack of inclusive solidarity (while I associate the latter with conservatives, libertarians and republicans). When I looked into it, I found that “neoliberal” may be more or less the same as “conservatives” or  “neoconservatives”, in practice.

So, does all of this make me a republican in other people’s views, then?

It is time to stop labelling people. Sigh. So easy for me to say. I do it too, I am sure.

Turns out that I am a “guilt-ridden apologist”, apparently, as that is what I was called a few days ago after I pointed out that cave bears actually went extinct a long time ago. It went with “you crack me up”, so I am happy that the person was happy, for whatever reason. I have no idea what on earth a guilt-ridden apologist is, so I have no idea whether I am one or not. It makes no difference to me.

“Should have been euthanized.” Did that come from a democrat then, or from a neoliberal?

It is a screenshot from part of a USA Today story, about how their environment responded after a daughter with Treacher-Collins syndrome was born to the parents in this story, Thom and Tami Wetmore. They later adopted a girl with the same syndrome from Ukraine where she was in an orphanage.

She is very artistic, it turns out. Her name is Danica.

Both girls use sign language. And Juliana has a hearing aid, which apparently allows her to “hear perfectly”. I don’t know whether Danica has a hearing aid.

The family is from Texas and living in Florida – or the other way around – and Christian. So what does that make them?

Human!

In addition to Danica, they adopted three more children.

You can see how hard the topic of having a non-mainstream child is for people and how great the need to talk about this in this thread: http://www.actuarialoutpost.com/actuarial_discussion_forum/archive/index.php/t-251806.html

Living with autism

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… playing with autism

What it means to be human

Do you agree with this? Don’t other species also have to respond to the circumstances around them, including being chased by humans, having been born in a zoo or as part of the pet trade or to droughts and food shortages, as well as the fact that humans take up more and more of their natural habitat and force them to live in our built environment?

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Beyond Disadvantage: Disability, Law, and Bioethics

The above is the title of the 2018 Petrie-Flom Center Annual Conference, which took place in June. I had registered for the event because the topic interests me greatly and I have so much to learn in this area. Unfortunately, I turned out to be away and unable to attend after all.

I am delighted that the Petrie-Flom Center not only decided to make some of the lecture materials available beforehand, but recorded the lectures and has made the videos shareable.

Prominent point of discussion at he conference was the question whether a disability is merely a difference, or a bad difference. Putting the question like this is an oversimplification but it is a good starting point. I will discuss this matter and these lectures in greater detail in coming posts.

For now, here are the opening remarks, and first talks.

“Beyond Disadvantage: Disability, Law, and Bioethics” Opening Remarks and Panel 1: Theory and Definitions of Disability from Petrie-Flom Center on Vimeo.

 

 

 

#eugenics #designerbabies We really do need to talk about that

In my book “We need to talk about this” I am not trying to convince you of anything (other than that “we need to talk about this”).

I simply believe that it is important to move toward a global consensus on matters like the new eugenics, on how we see future generations and societies.

To reach a global consensus, we’ll all need to adapt. Some of us will have to take a step back while others have to move forward. A few of us can stay right where we are.

It means that you have to examine your own opinion, to see where exactly it comes from, and where necessary, adjust it. This will help you see where other people’s opinions are coming from, also if they’re not at all like your own.

Then you may suddenly discover that their views aren’t actually as different as you initially thought.

 

When your life depends on the government…

“A cross-party group of MPs has criticised the Department for Work and Pensions’ “culture of indifference” after it took six years to correct a major error which left chronically-ill and disabled benefit claimants thousands of pounds out of pocket.

An estimated 70,000 claimants were underpaid by between £5,000 and £20,000 between 2011 and 2016 because the DWP failed to ensure they received the correct amounts when moving them from incapacity benefit on to the employment and support allowance (ESA).”

“As well as losing out on thousands of pounds through underpayments, the DWP’s failure to check claimants’ entitlements meant some were also denied their rights to help with dentistry costs, as well as free school meals and free medical prescriptions.”

“After years of “inertia” it (the Department for Work and Pensions – AS) began to put in place a repayment plan in 2017, and then only after receiving advice that it had a legal responsibility to act.”

Source: Patrick Butler in The Guardian at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/18/disability-claimants-owed-340m-after-dwp-blunder-say-mps

See also this other article by Patrick Butler: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/18/government-will-pay-arrears-thousands-benefit-claimants-backdated-2011

It’s common in Britain to have to take the government to court to get it to do what it is supposed to do. See this post: https://angelinasouren.com/2018/01/31/the-illegality-of-british-government-actions/

Diversity. Inclusivity. Non-discrimination. Easy to talk about. Hard to put into practice.

A few years ago, I was contacted by an organization that provides diversity training. Part of its mission was the following:

We seek to be an open, transparent, inclusive non-profit organisation, promoting diversity and equality.
We also firmly believe that individuals should be treated equally regardless of disability, gender, ethnic origin, religion and sexual orientation.

I met with its Chairperson, who asked me to take a look at the organization’s Articles.

I did that and found that they were (a slightly adapted version of) older standard Articles, even though the organization was set up more than half a year after the change in the standard Articles (28 April 2013).

Different in the newer version was that it no longer discriminated against mental health versus physical health. The Mental Health Discrimination Act 2013 had something to do with that.

This is the offending sub-clause in the articles up to 28 April 2013:

18. A person ceases to be a director as soon as—

(e) by reason of that person’s mental health, a court makes an order which wholly or partly prevents that person from personally exercising any powers or rights which that person would otherwise have;

Compare it with sub-clause 18d, which is not discriminatory toward mental health relative to physical health:

18. A person ceases to be a director as soon as—

(d) a registered medical practitioner who is treating that person gives a written opinion to the company stating that that person has become physically or mentally incapable of acting as a director and may remain so for more than three months;

The newer version reads:

18. A person ceases to be a director as soon as—

(e) [paragraph omitted pursuant to The Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013]

Even though the fact that the sub-clause in question (18e) was rendered invalid by the Mental Health Act because of its discriminatory nature, I felt that the organization should update its Articles.

  • It would reflect the organization’s stated values and objectives.
  • Unless the person was familiar with company law, whoever read that sub-clause might not know that it was invalid.

The organization’s Chair didn’t see the need.

 

How hackers wiped out a restaurant, and a lot more

That particular restaurant got wiped out in a month after having been in business for about two decades. Just for fun. Because hackers didn’t like the restaurant owner. Maybe because the name of the restaurant.

In this video, it’s a hacker who says this. He says that hackers wiped out this business because they didn’t like the owner.

(He also says that there is something really fishy going on with Google’s business listings.)

It probably happens much more often than most people are aware of.

What does it mean to be illegal in Britain?

It means nothing.

There are no illegal humans, for starters. How can it be illegal to be a human being?

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The phrase “who don’t have the correct documents” is often used in all sort of documentation, such as this PDF by Global Justice Now, but there is no such thing as “having the correct documents” for foreigners and their descendants in Britain.

Also, in the past few years, the British government has changed the definition of “who are here legally” for EU citizens so many times, often retroactively, that I’ve lost count.

Most of the time in recent years, I didn’t know whether I was still here legally or had become an illegal. I have one letter that states that I am here legally but it contains various typos. Would that be accepted? The Home Office’s most recent announcements appear to indicate that I am currently seen again as being here legally and will also be allowed to stay after Brexit.

Thousands of people who had official “leave to remain” – that and the British nationality, I think, are the only “official documents” that in theory mean that you are not an illegal immigrant – have also been detained, deported, threatened with deportation or stopped from entering Britain, as have even a few people with British passports. Way too many EU citizens have too.

Every time I travel back to Britain, I don’t know whether I will be allowed into the country.

(Dutch people living in Holland who tell me that I will be allowed back into Britain – as after all, I am an EU citizen – in doing so only reveal their unfamiliarity with what is going on in Britain.)

The last time I travelled back, the French wanted me to open my suitcase because when they scanned it, they had seen that it contained a hard disk and they wanted to know what it was, make sure that all it was was a hard disk. Fine. No problem. They were, although in something of an urgent hurry, pleasant enough about it. Nothing wrong with it whatsoever.

The British customs officer, on the other hand, for a second pretended that he wanted to confiscate my passport. This would normally be simply a form of British humour, but he was not smiling and it came across as having been intended in a different way. But then again, British humour can be far from hilarious. So, what should I make of it, this odd gesture from this customs officer? I have no idea. “Nothing” is the most practical response.

Once Brexit has been in existence for three years or so, we may finally be able to prove that we really are here legally. Until then, it is going to remain a hit or miss thing. Whether you are here legally or illegally seems to depend on which person in power you run into, on whether that person hates you or likes you, or likes the current government or not.

But that is immaterial.

There are no legal or illegal humans. Period.

Other than that, I have no solutions.

But here is someone who does: Cleo Wade

How Theresa May’s hostile climate policy divides us

It does not only pitch Brits against foreigners and indigenous Brits against ethnic Brits, the English against the Welsh (who are also occasionally told to go home now when they speak Welsh around English people) and the Scots, it also divides us as migrants and descendants of migrants.

A few days ago, I heard a Caribbean-African British woman dismiss everyone who is brown or black but has no Caribbean-African heritage – which applies to many people in Britain in view of its history – and not realize it at all. It wasn’t her intention at all. She was merely trying to build a strong wall around herself and stand up for herself and the people in her life.

(Nobody protested against it either because we weren’t there to dismiss each other’s feelings and opinions as valueless. We wanted to acknowledge and respect them, honour them, accept them instead of dismiss them.)

The way many people in Britain are being targeted and made to feel vulnerable by the British government makes us want to build high walls around ourselves to protect us. Because that is what you do when your own government milks you and plunges you into poverty, the way it does with millions and millions of indigenous Brits.

It can also be what you do after you have seen friends and relatives being ripped away from their PhDs, their families, their jobs and their businesses and being sent to a country they may never have even been to before, after first having been detained in a concentration facility.

Unlike what many people think, in itself, British intolerance is nothing new, though. It was certainly already in full swing when I arrived in Britain in 2004. Back then, it was still neither condoned nor imposed by the British government.

But vicious targeting of foreigners was already occasionally condoned and encouraged by British police, for instance in the case of, off the top of my head, an Iranian man who was vilified by police as a crazy nut case and later found not to have been a crazy nut case at all and the case of a French translator in Devon.

The mere fact that foreigners have different habits, customs and histories (or have a higher education because education is much more accessible in some other countries) does not make foreigners “crazy”, just like it does not make all Americans “daft” either and just like being British does not make all Brits wear bowler hats and Burberry coats, while swinging umbrellas or walking sticks.

In recent years, the British government has increasingly made intolerance mandatory and has now cranked it up so many notches that many people are scared and angry and emotional and no longer certain of anything in life.

Theresa May created this explosive mixture because the Tories needed something to help them beat, particularly, UKIP in elections. There is no other explanation for it, is there?

If you are British and would like to combat government-imposed hatred – or learn more about it – then here are a few links for you:

  • docsnotcops.co.uk (Health professionals and patients fighting to protect the NHS, its patients and health in Britain in general from the government and its attempts to push foreigners – including the UK’s 3.5 million or so EU citizens – away from healthcare)
  • This video by Bare Life Films:
  • Haringey Welcome, the London Haringey Borough initiative that quickly evolved from openly welcoming Syrian refugees and among other things managed to get its council to abolish the expensive (40,000 a year, I think) Home Office migration employee who was there to make the lives of foreigners as difficult as possible.
  • The hostile environment for immigrants. How Theresa May has created an underclass in the UK. (PDF, Feb 2018, by “Global Justice Now”)
  • As every British voter voted for an MP, not a border guard who rats out foreigners to the Home Office to achieve their detention and deportation, most of you will want your MP to pledge “MPs not border guards” (by “migrants organise” and “Global Justice Now”)
  • And here is some background on that, in an article in The Independent
  • You can also sign this petition: Sajid Javid create a fair and compassionate uk immigration policy
  • The border controls dividing our communities (by Liberty, May 2018)

Thank you.

 

Police officers’ bullets, tasers, arms and bodies often kill people who are ill

Remember my taser reports? And the incidents in which innocent men become unable to breathe because they are being crushed to death? Here is another story that should never have happened.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/may/28/anatomy-of-a-police-shooting-the-final-hours-of-elijah-holcombe

Illness and the social self (upcoming Uehiro lectures)

The annual Uehiro lectures will take place in Oxford next week. This year, they are by Richard Holton, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Their topic interests me because I feel strongly that we need to start looking differently at various forms of illnesses. Continue reading

Public transport accessibility

Once you start thinking about how many of the impairments of physically non-mainstream people are created by society, you notice it increasingly frequently.

 

Why, for instance, isn’t it much easier to roll onto a train than it currently is in most cases?

(For blind, deaf, and deaf-blind people, more could be done as well, but that kind of research, into wearable technology that connects with the already present station networks, is underway.)

About a week ago, someone tweeted about a very positive experience with Eurostar. Others reported similar experiences. But it still involves complicated activities that simply shouldn’t be necessary.

In my home country, it’s no better. If you’re in a wheelchair, you can get the required assistance that enables you to travel by train, but I think that you actually have to book it in advance. So, while the rest of us simply hop on the train to the next town if we suddenly feel like attending a theatre performance or concert of any kind, anyone who uses a wheelchair is probably forced to jump through multiple hoops first and then realizes he or she won’t be able to get to the event in time.

(At this point, I am not aware of any transport-related research in my home country that focuses on accessibility, but I have not concluded my little investigation yet and still need to make some phone calls as well.)

Why don’t trains come with automatically extending ramps that lower onto the platform?

In the rare cases that the platform is higher than the train floor, they should not extend, of course, but that can be accomplished either sensor-based or programmed.

Someone on Twitter (Sven Slootweg: thanks!) helpfully made a drawing for me:

Well, here is one possible answer as to why no innovation is taking place, for the case of Britain:

https://www.standard.co.uk/business/business-focus-why-your-boxfresh-train-is-being-replaced-by-a-brand-new-model-a3766501.html

I also ran into some other news, though, and sent the message below to the Spanish manufacturer of those new trains. I am looking forward to hearing back from them.

Hello,

I saw that you are constructing new trains for Britain (here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-42937218).

As you probably know, 10 to 20% of any population is considered “disabled” but many physical impairments are actually caused by hindrances created by society.

By 2050, there are expected to be nearly one billion urban dwellers who are “disabled”. How are you taking them into account in your new designs? Do your trains have automatic extending hinging ramps that lower onto the platform so that anyone in a wheelchair can easily roll on and roll off and make use of public transport just as easily as anybody else?

I am neither disabled nor looking after someone who is disabled. I am merely becoming increasingly aware of how biased society is toward mainstream people.

I look forward to your reply. Thank you.

Kind regards,

Angelina Souren

There is no way that they can ignore such a large proportion of the human population, and I can imagine that increasing accessibility, also for parents with small children, would also improve punctuality.

As someone else commented or hinted at (a blog post for which I currently don’t have the link at hand), such automatic ramps would likely also be very handy for freight trains.

For more on the topic, see for instance this article in The Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/14/what-disability-accessible-city-look-like

Update for Brits abroad (within the EU)

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See this earlier post (and various newspapers in the UK and the Netherlands):
https://angelinasouren.com/2018/01/17/british-and-residing-in-the-rest-of-the-eu/

Sad

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Landlords no longer rent homes to EU citizens and EU citizens can no longer easily find work either. Many are being forced underground, into being exploited. And foreigners are no longer very welcome at foodbanks either.

And this remains, too.

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There is no way in hell I’ll visit a British hospital while this stays in place. That’s essentially the only protest available to me.

I am seriously worried about all these hostile measures. It all seems too much like those days when people became required to wear a star on their sleeves and that’s creepy.

But there is this, too – plenty of Brits do protest against what the Conservative government is doing – and like the previous time when tens of thousands of people marched in London. the German news (Tagesschau) reports on it, but the BBC does not. The previous time, they marched past the BBC’s offices… Probably today as well.

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And once again, the UK government has gone back on two promises it recently made to EU citizens in the UK. It keeps doing that, and as a result, it is impossible to know whether the UK government considers you to be here “legally” or “illegally”, and as a foreigner, anyone can get arrested and placed in detention indefinitely. Indefinitely!

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The illegality of British government actions

A pattern is starting to emerge. The British government does not display a lot of respect for the law.

At least one judge has commented that the government is wasting the tax payers’ money as well as judicial capacity.

The pattern shows unequivocally that the British government goes after the most vulnerable in British society and seeks to protect the wealthiest in society.

Apparently, the Lord Chancellor has the task of ensuring the government’s compliance with the rule of law. As of the beginning of this year, that is David Gauke, appointed by HM the Queen on advice of the Prime Minister. So the Prime Minister recommends who gets to monitor the legality of her own government’s actions? Hmm.

His predecessors were Chris Grayling (2012-2015), Michael Gove (2015-2016), Elizabeth Truss (2016-2017) and David Lidington (2017-2018). All Conservatives.

Liberty

I just ran into the case of KW, a 52-year-old woman who suffered a brain haemorrhage during an operation at age 34. A complicated matter. Am still reading and mulling it all.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2014/45.html

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/1054.html

http://www.mentalcapacitylawandpolicy.org.uk/js-mill-strikes-back-mostyn-j-takes-on-the-supreme-court/

http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2015/10/22/when-a-judge-disagrees-with-precedent/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/high-court-judge-removed-from-second-case-this-year-over-his-passionate-view-of-the-law-a6705001.html

Filthy EU migrants contributed over 20 billion pounds to Britain in past decade

UCL study finds EU migrants to Britain contribute big time in taxes:
https://www.ft.com/content/c49043a8-6447-11e4-b219-00144feabdc0?segmentid=acee4131-99c2-09d3-a635-873e61754ec6

The idea that EU migrants would come to Britain for benefits is utterly preposterous. Sorry, I can’t make this any prettier than it already is! Yay!

I’ll leave it at that and will resume my bioethics focus in my posts (am currently tackling the matter of wrongful life cases, which needed more depth in my book, and then I’ll be largely done).

I think it is impossible anyway to convince people who firmly believe that migrants are all “filthy thieves” of the fact that we’re not. It’s not about the truth, it is about what they need to believe for themselves to keep their world whole, somehow. It probably has to do with the inequality that  the British government imposes on them.

But guess what, we contribute a lot more than mere money, too. We are all from nations with much greater equality than Britain, for example. (Yes, all other 27 nations in the EU have greater equality.) Our insights and experiences help make Britain a better place for everyone.

Human rights and Britain

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We need a global guideline for eugenics – urgently

People are currently focusing on Trump and his silly comments, but perhaps they should be focussing on Britain.

A few days ago, British newspaper The Guardian reported about a eugenics meeting that allegedly had been convened in secret, involving someone who has previously advocated child rape. This meeting is supposed to have taken place at University College London and white supremacists supposedly were present at this meeting. Continue reading

Tony Blair on social engineering

Interview with Mark Easton, BBC. Date unknown, but near the end of Tony Blair’s premiership.

Keep in mind that “hooliganism” and “anti-social behaviour” are often labels used to indicate (and reject) people from a lower socioeconomic class in Britain and that this “hooliganism” for example gets expressed in graffiti.

Of course, causing (increased) financial hardship for parents by taking any benefits away is most definitely not “in the best interest of the child”.

Tony Blair did consider graffiti “anti-social behaviour”. During a photo-op as part of his crusade, he hosed down graffiti and said that older generations of his family would have abhorred such behaviour. It then turned out that his own grandmother had been a “commie” graffiti vandal.

There probably is a work by Banksy somewhere in response to all of this.

Tony Blair also criminalized a lot of behavior that is essentially merely human behavior. That too was in nobody’s best interest and probably did nothing toward decreasing inequality in Britain.

It did not enable (more) people to flourish.

“We need to talk about this” – updated version

I am wrapping up the much improved version of “We need to talk about this“. There is now a chapter on euthanasia, for instance, with a discussion of the Groningen Protocol.

I didn’t write this book to convince you that my views are the right ones, even though I hope you will agree with many of them. I wrote this book to encourage as many people as possible to develop their own opinions in these areas, to go beyond impassioned exclamations like “this is so wrong” or “this is very good” and to make their opinions known to their governments and  academics, and to discuss these issues with their friends, relatives and colleagues. Continue reading