Technorati href="http://www.technorProfile Thinking Nurse: March 2005

Thinking Nurse

This blog will reflect my interests in learning disabilities, nursing, nursing theory, philosophy and politics and my general interests in the arts and literature. (Nursing is an art as well as a science!) Philosophy and nursing have been intrinsically linked since the days of Socrates, his mother was a midwife, and taught him everything he knew!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

New Government Safety Campaign

The dangers of eating a whole pack of extra-strong mints...

Friday, March 18, 2005

Blair's NHS: The Effects of Foundation Hospitals and PFI

I found this extract analysing the state of the NHS, and the direction and consequences of government policies on the NHS, in a much longer socialist analysis of the state of Britain, written in Feb 2005, which you will find by clicking on this link: Socialist Party
then clicking onto "Socialist Party Statement on Britain" in the sidebar.

I am publishing it here because it is an excellent collection of facts and figures on the condition of the NHS, and gives an alternative point of view to the rosy corporate gloss that we get from most 'official' sources. Nurses and other health workers need to be strong advocates for the rights of our clients to decent healthcare, particularly as our clients are often not in a position to speak up for themselves.

"The NHS has suffered badly from the government's onslaught on the public sector in a number of ways.

Although the government has tried to promote their increased NHS funding of recent years, which is now an unprecedented 9% of GDP, the amounts being put in are nowhere near enough, coming after previous decades of underfunding including the continuation of the Tories' spending levels during New Labour's first few years in power.

The Audit Commission has said that 107 NHS organisations (hospital trusts, primary care trusts and strategic health authorities) failed to break even last financial year, about a sixth of the total, compared with 71 the previous year. Only one out of 28 English strategic health authorities is predicting a surplus for this financial year.

The latest cost-cutting scandal is that of MRSA, caught by 100,000 patients last year and causing the deaths of about 5,000 people each year. A recent study by Unison showed that the number of hospital cleaners has halved over the last ten years; there were 100,000 in 1984, yet there are now just 55,000.

Coupled with underfunding has been the ongoing privatisation drive, handing public money to private hands while worsening services at the same time. Blairand his co-'modernisers' want to turn the clock back to the pre-NHS days when the ill could only be treated if they had the money to pay for it, or if a charity stepped in to help them.

But as the NHS is so popular, won by the working class through great pressure in the post-war period, Blair has been unable initially to go for charges at the point of use(though there are charges for dental care, glasses and prescriptions), and is instead destroying the service by introducing privatisation into treatment provision.

This process of privatisation is now turning into a fiasco as great as that in the rail industry. The last round of 'reforms' in the NHS, presently being forced through, are causing immense problems in many areas for NHS workers and patients. NHS and private fast-track treatment centres are being opened, in market competition with existing NHS hospitals. The government intends that from 2008, patients will be able to choose any hospital 'that meets NHS prices and standards'. By then, all are supposed to be foundation trusts, run like businesses but without shareholders.

In the meantime, the Department of Health is insisting that 8-10% of hospitals' non-emergency work is bought from the 'independent' sector. But the independent treatment centres take the easiest and most 'profitable' treatments, leaving the mainstream NHS hospitals with the more difficult and expensive cases. The 'independent' sector is also in most cases giving more expensive treatment, for instance: "Birmingham and Black Country Strategic Health Authority is being told it has by 2008 to shift 20-30,000 cases out of its hospitals and into the independent sector on contracts that cost around 15% more per case than average NHS treatment". And the contracts stipulate that the NHS has to pay for operating slots in the private centres whether or not it uses them! All this has raised the spectre of NHS hospitals going bust.

The British Medical Association's conference of senior hospital doctors warned last June that after the next election, the government's policies would lead to "the biggest hospital closure programme ever. It will spell the end of the NHS and it must be stopped". Even the hand-picked bureaucrats at the top of the NHS, the chief executives, are feeling forced to voice opposition to the government. In a survey by the Health Service Journal, three quarters of them do not believe the government's use of private sector treatment centres is good value for money, and almost 80% say that they divert resources from the NHS.

Fearing hospitals collapsing before the general election, the Department of Health has decided to throw more money at private consultants to set up a "failure regime" aimed at "identifying the warning signs of failure". This has been triggered by the experience of hospitals like the Bradford Royal Infirmary, one of the first hospitals to be declared a 'foundation trust' - chosen because it was considered to be a leading hospital in relatively good financial health. However, a report in the Observer revealed that the hospital has gone into dire crisis since its new status was awarded, suffering a dramatic decline in its finances in just a few months. The Financial Times subsequently reported that "The Bradford Teaching Hospitals went from a projected £1m surplus into a possible £11m-plus deficit within four months of starting operation". Now emergency cuts are affecting all aspects of the hospital, including clean linen and basic equipment like tubing.

Foundation hospitals were a project spearheaded by Blair's favoured successor Alan Milburn, now promoted to be New Labour's election organiser.

Money for provision of new health service buildings continues to be poured into private hands through the Private Finance Initiative. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants recently confirmed that the government has paid up to 30% more to construct PFI hospitals and concluded that "PFI is likely to lead to redistribution of income from the public at large to the corporate sector" and that "the chief beneficiaries are the providers of finance, leading to a redistribution not from the rich to the poor but from the mass of the population to the financial elite".

Health workers not only face constant stress as a result of all the above turmoil, but are also suffering attacks on their pensions and changes to their working arrangements and pay as a result of the Agenda for Change agreement.
This latter deal brings in a small increase in the NHS minimum wage, to £5.69 an hour (£5.88 from April), from £4.85, but increases flexibility in the interest of management and means that around 80,000 workers have to have 'protection' to stop their wages from falling, will face several years with no pay increases and could have their pay cut after 2011."

Anyone have any comments on the issues raised in this assessment of the NHS? I would be interested to hear of any experiences of PFI, foundation hospitals and 'Agenda For Change' from the 'sharp end'.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Abortion Clinic Days - Blog Review

A few days ago, I posted about how some people use blogging as a form of therapy. Another vital and interesting use of blogs is to give a window into areas of the world where society tends to prefer not to look.

The blog 'abortion clinic days' is just such a window. It is an honest and realistic account of experiences of a person who works in an abortion clinic, and of some of the people she has helped.

It goes into true-life stories, explaining the real circumstances of real people - the best way to answer the rabid howls of the anti-abortion zealots who spend a large amount of time and energy posting comments, of varying degrees of coherence, on her blog.

These comments are very revealing of the mindset of the anti-abortionists. In one discussion on a woman who needed to have an abortion because she had serious medical problems, and going full term might have jeapordised her life and future health. The anti abortionists were still insisting that she should take the risk anyway.

This is an illustration of the reversed thinking of the anti-abortionists. The foetus is portrayed as a fully-fledged person with rights, but the mother is simply a vessel within which that foetus exists, with no rights whatsoever - a piece of tissue for whom motherhood is a fate rather than a choice.

I would recommend 'Abortion Clinic Days' as something to read through, and to think about each case carefully, as the author herself clearly has done. Writing a blog like this, in these days where family planning workers are harassed, threatened and even murdered by 'pro-life' fanatics, is an act of courage to be respected.

I would have more respect for the right-wing politicians, who spout the 'pro-life' mantra, if they had any concern for the foetus after it was born. When these people start taking action to abolish slum housing, tackle child poverty, provide decent state nursery and childcare provision, and child benefits that actually match the cost of raising a child, I will listen to them more seriously.

If more people could be lifted out of poverty, and could feel confident that they and their families could live a decent life, perhaps many fewer women would be faced with the stark choice of an abortion in the first place.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Values and Capacity - Online Conference - Papers Open

What follows is a press release I received over the invaluable 'Janet Cobb Network'.
I have already written a little about the Mental Capacity Bill, and the Rights of Vulnerable People and I hope to make a few little contributions 'from the floor' at this conference, essays and access to the internet permitting:

Papers are now open at the Values and Mental Capacity conference.

This free, online conference takes place at the Connects Conference Centre from 1 PM on Wednesday 23 March.

. The Connects Conference Centre can be found at
. The easy-read version of the conference can be found at

About the conference

This conference will address a wide range of issues concerning values and mental capacity as they affect people of all ages with mental health problems and people with learning disabilities.

This is an area of fundamental importance in relation to policy, practice, and personal perspectives. It is critical that individuals, organisations and services recognise the centrality of values in defining people's identities and their capacity to make decisions. The conference builds on the Values in Mental Health Conference, held at the Connects Conference Centre in March 2003. It also takes account of recent and proposed legislation on mental capacity within the United Kingdom.

Key themes,

The conference will explore a number of themes, including

. What is mental capacity and why are values important to mental capacity?
. Whose values are we talking about?
. What's been going on with values since the last conference?
. How can mental capacity be assessed in ways that take into account people's often different values?
. What's currently happening in UK policy and legislation about mental capacity and values?

Conference aims

The purpose of this conference is to provide an opportunity to discuss
these crucial issues and themes.

Who should attend?

The conference will be of interest to a wide range of people, both in the UK and other countries, including

. people of all ages with disabilities, including people with mental health problems or learning disabilities
. carers, including family and relatives of people with disabilities
. service providers, including health care professionals
. policy makers, within the UK and other countries
. academics and researchers


You can register for the conference at

You do not need to register to view the papers at the easyread version of the conference. However, you will only be able to see key points from the papers, not the full papers.

Registration at the conference is free and should take no more than 2 minutes.
To participate in the conference you will need access to the World Wide Web. You will also need an email address if you wish to contribute to the discussions.


Thursday, 13 January 2005

Foyer and Exhibition open

You will be able to talk to other delegates before the conference begins.
You will also have a chance to view the conference exhibition

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

Papers open

You will be able to view the papers for the conference from Wednesday, 16 March 2005 - one week before the conference opens.

Contributors will include

. Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Constitutional Affairs (responsible for Mental Capacity Legislation)
. Professor Anthony Sheehan, Director of Care Services, Department of Health

Wednesday, 23 March 2005 13.00 - Conference Opens

You will be able to view and participate in any/all of the following discussions:

. What is mental capacity and why are values important to mental capacity?
. Whose values are we talking about?
. What's been going on with values since the last conference?
. How can mental capacity be assessed in ways that take into account
people's often different values?
. What's currently happening in UK policy and legislation about mental
capacity and values?

17.00 - Conference Closes

At the time of going to press this programme was deemed correct. We reserve the right to alter or cancel any part of the programme due to unforeseen circumstances.

More information

You can find more information about the conference, including the full programme, at

If you wish to exhibit at the conference, please contact us at the address below.

The Connects Conference Centre

The Connects Conference Centre is the leading online venue for mental health and learning disability conferences. It is a place where you can meet hundreds of other people to talk about key issues affecting people with mental health problems
and/or learning disabilities.

It is part of Connects: the mental health and learning disabilities portal. It is owned and run by the Mental Health Foundation and the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, 9th Floor, Sea Containers House, London SE1 9QB. Tel 020 7803
Email Company Limited by Guarantee No 2350846 Registered Charity No 801130

Monday, March 14, 2005

'Blog Therapy' - An Evaluation of an Online Self-Help Phenomenon

'Blog Therapy' - A Way of Coping With Stress and Illness, A Way of Promoting Health?

A Definition of Blog Therapy : In this article I will be writing about 'blog therapy', although this is a term in common use among bloggers, it is a practice that has yet to be recognised outside the blogosphere. In this article, I will use the term 'blog therapy' to mean the practice of writing about personal problems, emotions and traumas, then publishing these writings on the internet, where others can read them. This normally takes place in the form of an online journal or 'blog', though some people also post to message boards and chat rooms.

The key difference between 'blog therapy' and therapies such as writing a personal journal, is that these personal writings are made available for many other people to read online.

Blogger's Own Views of 'Blog Therapy'

Although I do not write much about my deepest personal traumas or worries, I personally find blogging therapeutic. It is giving me something else to think about outside work and and daily life, a way of expressing myself, letting off steam at the things that make me angry and pointing out things that need changing in the world.

The use of blogs as 'therapy' is a new, spontaneous internet phenomenon. Without advice from counsellors, psychotherapists or other health professionals, hundreds of people have begun to use the blog as a method of self help. Blogging in this way has a particular set of benefits, and also a particular set of risks.

A technorati search revealed 161 bloggers who had already coined the term 'blog therapy' (it is likely that many more are using blog therapy as a practice, without naming it in this way) - Scheherezade at Stay
of Execution
writes: "There is a complex, and sometimes therapeutic, relationship between my own sense of self and this blog"

She has a very instructive description of the battle between her instinct for honesty and her instinct for self-censorship, rightly knowing that everything she writes is permanently indexable by google (which is indeed how I found her blog!)

This blogger at 'Netsmarts' thinks blog therapy is 'an idea whose time has come'.and that blog therapy is a 'democratic' way for people to express their thoughts and worries. Blogging is certainly cheaper than paying a psychoanalyst, from one of the many and varied schools of psychoanalysis.

House of Karma sees blogging as a 'concept and environment of healing words and writing' and offers links to many sources of 'online therapy'. I am not casting aspersions at any particular source on that list, but there is a big danger on the internet of falling into the hands of charlatans and quacks who exploit human weakness and suffering, some for financial, some for other ends.

I personally tend to avoid sites that seem too 'crystal jangly' - the point of blogging is to express yourself and find your own meanings, rather than to seek advice from people who feel protected from the consequences of their advice by the anonymity and distance afforded by the internet. My advice (protected by the anonymity and distance afforded to me by the internet) is 'be careful out there!'

That of course was only a very cursory glance at a few of the blogs that have mentioned the therapeutic nature of blogging - by the very nature of blogging, it is very difficult to build up an exhaustive list of everyone who has written on a certain topic - and I have probably missed many of the best articles out - but part of the fun of blog reading is the hunting down of new articles, there could always be a fantastically well written and insightful piece of writing, by someone you have never heard of before, hiding deep down somewhere on your next list of search results.

Psychological Theory of Disclosure

I will now consider some of the theories and evidence that might back up the practice of 'blog therapy' as a self-help tool.

I found 44 articles containing the keyword 'blog' on a combined search of Ovid and CINAHL, but none on a search of PsycARTICLES. Most of the articles describe blogging as a useful tool for research and education (for example Margaret Maag), but the therapeutic potential of blogging, and the reality that hundreds of people are already using the internet as a outlet for their emotional turmoil, seems yet to be recognised by the leading academic journals.

There are however articles on the beneficial physical and psychological effects of keeping journals and diaries, and of writing about traumatic events;
For example, Yori Gidron found that parents who wrote about their experience of receiving their child's diagnosis of leukaemia experienced less distress in later months.
Pennebaker et al (1999) found open acknowledgement and disclosure of stress and emotion, particularly through journal writing was a method of 'revealing organising and reorganising the self', Willis, Stroebe and Hewstone (2003) see journal writing as a useful tool for 'insecure homesick students' suggesting that such techniques 'provide avenues for (re)structuring stressful experiences' and allow 'assimilation of events into the self-concept' as well as using cognitive resources that were 'previously used for inhibition to tackle the changed environment'

Scott found that writing about a recent traumatic event speeded up wound healing - in a rather remarkable study; participants were physically wounded (a small skin puncture). Half the sample wrote about a recent traumatic event, the other half about time management, those that had described their traumatic events had significantly smaller wounds two weeks later! Having a means to express feelings thus seems to encourage the body's internal healing mechanisms: Writing Improves Wound Healing

The researchers who seem most up-to-date with some of the therapeutic applications of communications technology are Sheese, Brown and Graziano (2004) who look at the potential for email interactions between client and therapist, arguing that "writing about trauma, particularly about feelings and emotions related to trauma, appears to have a long-term positive impact on a variety of physiological and psychological health outcomes" they point out various advantages of email, which also apply to blogging, such as the overcoming of physical and geographical boundaries, but also point out that people reliving traumatic and emotional experiences may need access to immediate care due to short term increases in emotional affect, immediately after writing, care which may not be present over an electronic connection.

Of course, the kind of writing described by these psychologists is a private journal, written by the individual, and used in confidential discussions with a trained counsellor.

It seems likely that blogging could have similar beneficial effects on both mental and physical health, due to the Pennebaker disclosure effect, and it can also be a way of bringing together people who have suffered similar emotional trauma, but, ending on a cautious note, it must be remembered that:
1. Blogs are written by individuals, without the presence of a trained health professional to mitigate any distressing effects of writing about negative experiences. If bloggers do experience such effects, they would be well advised to contact appropriate telephone helplines and see their doctor.

2. Blogging is not an alternative to spending time with friends and socialising. If blogging is taking over such a large proportion of a person's time, thought and energy that their work and social life is suffering, then blogging could be having a negative rather than a positive effect.

3. BLOGS ARE (usually) AVAILABLE FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION, and even where blogs are anonymous, there are often ways that people will find out who you are, and there are people out there who might wish to use what you write to their own advantage -
scheherezade's circumspection on certain topics is thus a sensible strategy to imitate.

In this article I have compared the practice of blogging, with the practice of writing about thoughts and feelings in a personal and private journal. In some ways, this may not be an entirely fair comparison to make - perhaps it is the fact that blogs are publicly available that gives blogging it's particular power, and provides some people with the motivation to continue blogging. It could be that blogging is a practice that appeals to a different set of people, who would not neccessarily use other forms of therapeutic writing.

It is also clear, that just as 'blog therapy' is a self-generated phenomenon, it is not likely to go away simply because its risks are pointed out. In this technologically savvy age, people are increasingly aware of the risks of public disclosure on the internet, and largely blog responsibly in a way that is informed by this awareness.

I would be interested to hear of the experiences of people who have used blogging as a way of 'talking through' their bad times and traumas with themselves (and their audience) in particular, I would like to know whether you felt it beneficial, and whether you regret having disclosed certain things.

Some handy references using The Harvard Referencing System:

Pennebaker, J. W. Keough K.A. (1999) Revealing, organizing and reorganizing the self in response to stress and emotion. In R.J. Contrada and R.D. Ashmore (Eds) Self, Social Identity and Physical Health; Interdisciplinary Explorations Oxford; Oxford University Press Pp101-121.

Sheese, B, E. Brown, E. L. Graziano, W.G. (2004) Emotional expression in cyberspace; searching for moderators of the Pennebaker disclosure effect via E-mail. Health Psychology 23(5). Pp457-464

Willis, H. Stroebe, M. Hewstone, M. (2003) Homesick blues. The Psychologist 16(10) Pp526-528.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

"Blog Therapy" - Watch This Space....

As promised, my article on blog therapy is now online; available from: Thinking Nurse's Evaluation of 'Blog Therapy'

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Psychological Differences Between Left and Right

I was very interested to read this article in the Psychological Bulletin, where exhaustive research has been conducted into the cognitive styles of people holding left and right wing opinions - the study by Jost, Glaser and Kruglanski (2003) found that there are 'significant cognitive and motivational differences between the political left and right' (p384).
They characterise right-wing conservatism as 'positively related to dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty avoidance, fear of threat, loss and death, system instability and epistemic needs to achieve order, structure and closure, as well as negatively related to openness to experience, integrative complexity and self esteem'

later they argue that 'conservative opinions acquire coherence by virtue of the fact that they minimise uncertainty and threat while pursuing continuity with the past (i.e the status quo) and rationalising inequalities in society...extreme right wing movements are typically obsessed with purity, cleanliness, hygiene, structure and order'

The authors of this paper will be speaking on it at the American Psychological Society 17th Annual convention I would love to be there to hear the debate!

Here is one example of the kind of response it will receive Psychobabble as motivated political liberalism Even the title of this riposte inadvertently confirms part of the argument it is replying to - psychologists are writing things that seem critical of the right - so all psychology is dismissed, in black and white terms as 'psychobabble', a threat to the certainties and fundamentals of 'morality' and 'tradition' in which the right is so emotionally and cognitively entangled .

Here is a link to a pdf of the article that started all the fuss: Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition

Personally I think psychology is often a way of stating the blindingly obvious - and the discovery that right wing politicians are rigid, functioning on fear and crude stereotype, demanding that all issues should be posed in black and white terms of right and wrong, rather than the shades of grey that we encounter in reality, and the fact that they are complacent about widening levels of inequality and injustice in society, is hardly news to anyone who has ever tried to engage such individuals in constructive debate.

The authors judgement of 'liberal' and 'left' thinkers should be taken on board however - we are seen as 'relatively disorganised, indecisive, overly drawn to ambiguity' - perhaps if the left sorted it's act out, we could start to challenge the rise of the neo-con fear factory...

Belated International Women's Day Post

Apologies for missing International Women's Day, a day dedicated to the half of the world's population that suffers disproportionately from poverty, violence and oppression.

Hope I can make recompense for this oversight, by dedicating todays' posts to Juana Trinidad Ramirez de Vega, an indigenous Guatamalan Ketchi activist, who campaigned to promote women's health and against violence against women. She paid for her health campaigning in 2002 by being shot and killed by an unknown assailant.

Here's a link to Women's Aid an organisation that campaigns against violence against women, and also a link to Respect an organisation that promotes best practice among providers of services to perpetrators, in helping perpetrators of violence against women to take responsibility for their violence, change, and develop alternative, positive and constructive human relationships.

Monday, March 07, 2005

3 Months, 50 Posts, 3000 Clicks.

I set this blog up, and made my first post on December 8th 2004, with a few articles calling for more social conciousness in nursing theory and putting forward a charter for human caring in nursing.

I have posted general political articles, and articles specifically relating to nursing and people with learning disabilities, such as this one on the Mental Capactiy Bill and the Rights of Disabled People, and this one on the way that people with learning disabilities face discrimination from health services.

3000 clicks is a lot less than many other blogs achieve, but I think it is good for a brand new blog, and for one with such very specific subject matter. There are not that many learning disability nurses out there - we are a very small percentage of the total number of nurses. However, from the feedback I get, I know that this blog is being read much more widely - by learning disability nurses, by nurses from mental health and general backgrounds, by other health professionals and by many people with a general interest in the politics and philosophy of health and disability.

This is a thankyou to everyone who has visited and read articles from this blog, particularly those who have left a comment, positive or negative. It is through your emails and comments that I can improve this blog, and write about things that interest you as much as they interest me!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Ideal PC Birthday Present

No need to buy your boy a military action figure.

Now you can give him 'Male Nurse Man'.

Imagine the delight on his little face when he unwraps this!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Ecstasy And Depression

Here's a link to a study that links the clubber's drug Ecstasy to depression.

I have posted previously about the mental health implications of Cannabis: A drug-induced mental health crisis.

Both ecstasy and cannabis are commonly regarded as being relatively harmless, and are used regularly by large numbers of young people in Britain. These studies are just part of a growing body of evidence that we should be using to challenge such complacent attitudes.

We also desperately need to be talking openly about the many social problems that are driving young people into heavy use of drugs and alcohol as a means of escape, problems of poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity that Tony Blair and New Labour try to pretend no longer exist.

Death of Jef Raskin

I have just heard about the tragic death of Jef Raskin, the brilliant designer of computer interfaces.

I was lucky enough to have a flurry of correspondance a few months ago, with Jef about Nursing Theory.

I had read and greatly admired his critique of Martha Rogers. 'Humbug Nursing Theory' so I sent him an email, asking a few questions about his arguments. He replied in great detail and depth, and we were soon having an interesting debate.

I discussed a few of my own ideas about nursing with him, and he was very helpful in making me clarify my thoughts and terms (In fact he was merciless in exposing their wooliness and weakness! - particularly about my use in some of my arguments of the term 'technologies' to apply to methods of thought - which did not fit with his definition of a technology - I have now stopped using that term in that way!).

I went on to write two posts about Jef Raskin, the first is here: 'Jeff Raskin Vs Martha Rogers’ where I discuss his brilliantly written biting destruction of Martha Rogers' rather supernatural nursing theories, and the second here:
'Nursing: The Humane Interface, More on Raskin and Rogers’ where I use the analogy of Raskin's humane interface between human being and computer to discuss the role of the nurse, as a 'humane interface' between the person and the highly complex healthcare machine: We nurses need to find ways to open up healthcare to all people in the same way that Raskin found ways to open up information technology.

Jef Raskin is everywhere - chances are you are at this moment using a device or a piece of software designed according to Raskin's principles. The really great thing about Raskin was that he opened up computing to everyday people, making the Computer a tool of the masses rather than just of a small technocratic code-literate elite.

Thinking Nurse sends deepest condolences to Raskin's family, and to everyone who knew him. His contribution to modern society is far greater than is yet realised.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Deptford Park - Green Space Under Threat From Housing Developers

I received this email from a friend of mine in London. Looks like politicians are planning to ride roughshod over the wishes of local people, and destroy a rare green space in a part of London where green spaces are desperately needed.

"Save Deptford Park
Put our park space before business interests.
London and Quadrant Housing Association are trying to ignore the protests of people in Deptford who are angry at the arrogance and contempt this organisation and the Labour controlled, Lewisham Council has shown to local people who want to save their park. This housing association is planning a 38 plot development on a large chunk of the only green space in south London between Southwark and Greenwich parks. Even though government and council regulations ban such developments.

Campaigner Vicki Mence sums up the feelings of local people. ‘I grew up here. I’ve seen the council let the park get run down so they can justify building on it. The park’s been here over 100 years. We understand the need for affordable housing, but this is about London and Quadrant making money because it’s easier and cheaper to build on the park. There are plenty of obvious brown sites (previously used areas) which the council have ignored.’

As Socialist Party Councillor Ian Page said ‘London and Quadrant would do well to remember that it is there to provide a service to the community, not increase it’s income through opportunistic development.’

But local people are taking on this organisation that acts like a quango, organising, petitions, t shirts, banners, press releases and protests. There are regular meetings of 40-50 people and now the campaigning activity has been linked to a possible legal challenge to consultation process. Only 70 people were consulted and were given mis-leading information about the location of the development. London and Quadrant are so dismissive of local feelings that they have even refused to meet a delegation of local councillors headed by our two Socialist Party councillors. Labour’s attitude is summed up by their Councillor Heidi Alexander, who says she’s against building on green spaces but not in this case because it’s easier than a brown field site.

This situation is a result of Labour turning to business orientated organisations instead of providing good quality council housing. Local needs get pushed aside and consultation is just a token exercise as business interests take priority. We need to provide council housing but with proper consultation and fully using all available brown field sites.

Contact Save Deptford Park Campaign at website

A private road will be built directly across this area - other beautiful spaces will be blighted by blocks of flats and a car park. Get to the website, get onto the council and the developer, and tell them to listen to the people!

Local kids add their voices to the 'consultation'...

MMR Vaccine and Autism - There Is No Connection

New research has been published which adds to the weight of evidence that. '’ there is no link between the MMR vaccine and Autism

I have worked with people with learning disabilities for over a decade now, including many with autism, and I have always been sceptical about this supposed link.

When a child has an unexplained disability, their parents are desperate for any kind of an explanation about why their child has been affected. The MMR vaccine filled this need for a while, but the rising fear of such immunisations has meant a greatly increased risk of harm to children due to the decline in ‘herd immunity’ in the general population, to what can be very serious illnesses indeed.

The antics of politicians like Tony Blair has not helped promote vaccination. He refused to publicly say whether his own children had been immunised, while preaching to everyone else that the vaccine was perfectly safe.

When the public suspects that politicians are not telling the truth, they are, more often than not, absolutely right. Sadly in this case, the politicians were telling the truth, but behaving as if they did not believe it themselves…

Faith and Force - Dangerous Idea

Faith and Force – Dangerous Idea

The ripples from my post about 'theistic and humanistic nursing’ are still spreading across the blogosphere. One blogger who took up the debate is Victor Reppert at 'Dangerous Idea’

His contribution to the debate went thus:
“Persons following the discussion of theism and rights might be interested in following a parallel discussion of similar issues between the ‘Imago Dei’ team and Thinking Nurse. Imago Dei quotes an interesting passage from Michael Shermer in The Science of Good and Evil when he says

These rights and values [human rights] are grounded not in religion, or any other transcendental state or supernatural force, but in themselves. They stand alone. Humans deserve life, liberty, and happiness, not because God said so but because we are human. Period. These rights and values exist because we say they exist, and that is good enough. They are inalienable because we say they are, and that suffices. (p. 156)

But if we have these rights because we say they exist, what happens when someone with bigger guns comes along and says they don't exist?”

Here is my reply to this post:

“Nice to see my discussion with Imago Dei is generating further discussion and debate.

As I see it, your point is that in any society not based on religious principles, the ethical system of the person or group with the greatest capacity to use force will prevail.

The implication is, that divine authority, with it's ability to save or damn our souls, is the 'biggest gun of all'.

The behaviour of many followers of religion implies that they too believe that the ethical system of the group with the greatest capacity to use force will prevail, using violence through crusade, jihad and pogrom to assert their own faiths and wipe out the faiths of others. Less obvious, but equally insidious use of force includes denying children access to science, by teaching creationism as fact.

Any system of thought based on faith rather than evidence must use force to assert itself, because rational persuasion requires the use of evidence to change people's minds. Without science and evidence, force is all that theism has left.”

Victor replies to these points:

I appreciate the comments provided by Thinking Nurse. She writes:

As I see it, your point is that in any society not based on religious principles, the ethical system of the person or group with the greatest capacity to use force will prevail.

Not simply that it will prevail, it is that I can't think of any fact that would entail that that person or group ought not to prevail. Of course religious people have misused force; that doesn't make them right.

The implication is, that divine authority, with it's ability to save or damn our souls, is the 'biggest gun of all'.

No. The idea that I have is that the right and the power are grounded, according to theism, in a perfect loving being, whose has desires for us that coincide with the fulfilment of our natures as human beings. If the power were not concentrated in a perfectly good being, the presence of supreme power would not solve the problem.

The behaviour of many followers of religion implies that they too believe that the ethical system of the group with the greatest capacity to use force will prevail, using violence through crusade, jihad and pogrom to assert their own faiths and wipe out the faiths of others. Less obvious, but equally insidious use of force includes denying children access to science, by teaching creationism as fact.

They may believe that. A great achievement of Christian thought after the 17th Century was the acceptance of the idea that Church and State can be separated; that governments should pursue the legitimate goals a human happiness and fulfillent, and leave the salvation of souls to the Church. The idea is in Thomas Aquinas, but it took awhile to sink in.

I don't know of anyone who is denying children access to science by treating creationism as a fact. If someone does teach creationism as fact, I take it is because they believe it to be the best science. They may be wrong about this, of course, but they teach what they believe to be the truth. W0uldn't you teach your children what you believe to be the truth?

Any system of thought based on faith rather than evidence must use force to assert itself, because rational persuasion requires the use of evidence to change people's minds. Without science and evidence, force is all that theism has left.

I would categorically deny that Christianity is based on faith rather than evidence. It is where, believe it or not, my understanding of the evidence has led me. My book is an attempt to defend an argument against philosophical naturalism. The argument may be unsuccessful, but I quite honestly think I have a good argument here.

C. S. Lewis wrote: " am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in." So why would I feel I had to use force, if I thought that the weight of the evidence was on my side?”

I think both sides have stated their case well in this dignified and appropriate debate. I leave it to readers to make up their own minds based on the discussion and their own experience of life.

One final point though – Victor has got my gender wrong – illustrating the dangers of making assumptions about the nature of things we have not seen, especially where we have no evidence upon which to base such assumptions!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

'To The Teeth' A Social Justice Medical Blog

I have just found this excellent blog ‘To the teeth’ at

To the Teeth describes itself as a weblog devoted to issues of health justice, medicine public and private, race in America, public health in its broadest sense, globalization, innovations, and honest discussions around strategies in advocacy.

It is firmly based in pragmatic principles of social justice, by people who are putting these ideas into practice: Andru Ziwasimon, is a family medicine doctor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a lead member in a powerful coalition to address health care access and disparities locally. He is currently building his own fair and just medical clinic from scratch.

Ziwasimon believes that Western systems of healthcare are corrupt in their values, which are founded on financial rather than human priorities.

The other author is Anjali Taneja, a 4th year medical student in New Jersey, and 2003-2004 Jack Rutledge Fellow for Universal Health Care and Eliminating Health Disparities at the American Medical Student Association. She's also a DJ/producer, and member of the mutiny dj crew of hiphop and drumnbass heads.

Their blog is an exciting mix of news about putting ideals into action, of questioning of the value base of US society, and of poetry and inspirational writing from a people's rather than a corporate perspective.

It is heartening to read about individuals trying to build a different kind of community-based, grassroots healthcare based on principles of social justice rather than the profit motive. This is one blog I will be revisiting regularly.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"A Drug-Induced Mental Health Crisis" - Cannabis and Psychosis

I posted in January about the rising awareness among mental health campaigners 'Rethink' of the link between cannabis and schizophrenia. Now another piece of research has been published, which suggests that the risk of a severe mental illness is actually doubled by the use of cannabis.

Read it here:

I know a lot of people on the left have a very relaxed 1960's attitude to cannabis, believing it to be less harmful than tobacco (an argument I have never been able to take seriously, as most cannabis users actually mix the cannabis in with tobacco, no doubt multiplying the harmful effects of both substances) and to generate less harm than alcohol, with it's multitude of harmful effects (although again, the same people tend to smoke their dope after a few drinks).

Modern cannabis is usually much more potent than what the hippies in the 1960's smoked.

Perhaps now that evidence is stacking up about it's harmful effects, perhaps those who previously had such a liberal attitude to it's use might at least start acknowledging some of the very serious risks now being shown to be associated with cannabis use.

I strongly suspect that the idea of a 'Soma' (the totally benign, mood-enhancing drug from Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World') is always going to be an illusion. Any drug that alters brain chemistry must have some adverse effects, at least with prolonged and heavy use. The drug culture that is so endemic in Western Society implies that there is 'a pill for every ill', sadly this is rarely the case.

Many people are using drugs to individually cope with socially generated problems, when perhaps society should be finding collective solutions to such problems

Cost of the War in Iraq
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