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Private Eye on Johnson’s Appointment of Neocon as Anti-Extremism Chief

A few weeks ago the Labour left staged an event on Zoom in which a series of Labour MPs and activists, including the head of the Stop the War Coalition, explained why socialists needed to be anti-war. They stated that after going quiet following the debacles of the Iraq invasion, Libya and elsewhere, the Neocons were being rehabilitated. There was therefore a real danger that the ideology behind those wars was returning, and Britain and America would embark on further imperialist, colonialist wars. And now, according to this fortnight’s Private Eye, for 16th – 29th April, 2021, Boris Johnson has appointed Robin Simcox, a Neocon, as head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism. Simcox is a member of the extreme right-wing Henry Jackson Society, firmly backing the wars in the Middle East. He also supported the rendition of terrorists to countries, where they would be tortured, as well as drone strikes and detention without trial. And when he was in another right-wing American think tank, the Heritage Foundation, he objected to White supremacist organisations also being included in the American government’s efforts to counter violent extremism.

The Eye’s article about his appointment, ‘Brave Neo World’, on page 14, runs

Robin Simcox, appointed as the new head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism (CCE), has neoconservative view that will themselves seem pretty extreme to many observers. He replaces Sara Khan, the first head of the CCE, which Theresa May set up in 2017 as “a statutory body to help fight hatred and extremism”.

Simcox was researcher at the neoconservative think tank the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), before leaving for the US to become “Margaret Thatcher fellow” at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He was also a regular contributor to Tory website ConservativeHome, writing there in 2011 that David Cameron was wrong to criticise neoconservatives “what has been happening in the Middle East is proving the neocons right” (ie that invasions could build democracies.

In a 2013 study for the HJS, Simcox argued: “Rendition, drones, detention without trial, preventative arrests and deportations are the realities of the ongoing struggle against today’s form of terrorism; they are not going to disappear, because they have proved extremely effective.” Rendition meant the US and UK handing terror suspects over to nations such as Libya or Egypt so they could be tortured for information. He complained that politicians “failed to adequately explain to the public” why these methods were needed and were “failing to explain that the complexities of dealing with modern-day terrorism meant that not all roads lead to a court of law”.

Simcox spent many years looking at Islamist terrorism, but at the Heritage Foundation he argued that making “white supremacy” the subject of a “countering violent extremism policy” was mostly driven by “political correctness” and could be “overreach”, regardless of the terrorist acts by white racists in the UK, US and elsewhere.

Simcox has been appointed interim lead commissioner of the CCE, possibly because bring him in as a temp means his recruitment wasn’t subject to the same competition and inspection as a permanent appointment.

Johnson has therefore appointed as head of the commission an extreme right-winger, who supports unprovoked attacks on countries like Iraq and Libya. The argument that these invasions were intended to liberate these nations from their dictators was a lie. It was purely for western geopolitical purposes, and particularly to remove obstacles to western political hegemony and dominance of the oil industry in the region. In the case of Iraq, what followed was the wholesale looting of the country. Its oil industry was acquired by American-Saudi oil interests, American and western multinationals stole its privatised state industries. The country’s economy was wrecked by the lowering of protectionist trade tariffs and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. The country was riven with sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia, American mercenaries ran drugs and prostitution rings and shot ordinary Iraqis for kicks. The relatively secular, welfare states in Iraq and Libya, which gave their citizens free education and healthcare vanished. As did a relatively liberal social environment, in which women were to be regarded as equals and were free to pursue careers outside the home. And western intervention in the Middle East created an environment leading to the further, massive growth in Islamist extremism in al-Qaeda and then Daesh. And this has led to the return of slavery. This was Islamist sex-slavery under Daesh in the parts of Iraq under their jackboot, while Black Africans are being enslaved and sold by Islamists in slave markets that have reappeared in Libya.

Domestically, Simcox’s appointment is also ominous. He clearly doesn’t believe in human rights and the protection of the law. Just as he doesn’t believe in tackling White supremacist extremism, even though at one point there were more outrages committed by White racists than Islamists.

His appointment is part of continuing trend towards real Fascism, identified by Mike over at Vox Political, of which the Tories proposed curtailment of the freedom to demonstrate and protest in public is a major part. At the same time, it also appears to bear out the Labour left’s statement that the warmongers responsible for atrocities like Iraq and Libya are coming back. And I fear very much that they will start more wars.

The people warning against this and organising to defend real freedom of speech is the Labour left, whatever the Tories might say about ill-thought out legislation designed to outlaw ‘hate speech’. We need to support left politicos like Richard Burgon, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Diana Abbott and Apsana Begum. The last three ladies, along with former head of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, held another Zoom event as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas, Our right to resist – the Tory attacks on our civil liberties & human rights, in March. We need to support the Stop the War Coalition, because I’m afraid the Tories and the Blairite right in the Labour party will start more wars.

Blair lied, people died. And Johnson lies as easily and as often as other people breathe. If not stopped, the Neocons will start more wars and more innocents will be massacred for the profit of big business.

Original School of Pharmacy laboratory (1924), the University...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/04/2021 - 11:00am in

Original School of Pharmacy laboratory (1924), the University of Sydney. Still in use today. Camperdown.

Radio 4 Comedian Next Sunday Discusses Working Class Male Culture

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/03/2021 - 5:00am in

It seems that Radio 4 and the Beeb might be discovering working class men. On Sunday, 21st March 2021 at 7.15, the channel’s broadcasting Jacob Hawley: Class Act. The Radio Times blurb runs

Stand-up comedian Jacob Hawley, who grew up near Stevenage, dissects his journey from working-class banter boy to oat milk latte-sipping, inner-London feminist.

The additional piece about it on the facing page by Tom Goulding states

Having deftly touched the thorny issues of sex and drugs, Jacob Hawley returns ot the BBC with this politically charged comedy special. Class Act deals with another taboo subject: working-class male culture. Hawley charts his journey from banter boy to inner-London feminist and asks whether working class men have been dismissed as hopeless cases: excluded from the UK’s cultural discourse on topics as diverse as women’s rights and mental health. Hawley won plaudits for his On Drugs podcast, in which he interviewed friends and experts on the UK’s attitude towards recreational drug use. Here, he again proves capable of bringing a light touch to heavyweight subjects.

A few years ago the BBC broadcast a series of films on race, one of which asked the question of whether the White working class was being overlooked. It’s been reported that the most underprivileged group in the UK is actually White working class boys. UKIP’s core vote were White working class people who felt overlooked and ignored by the mainstream parties. This campaign by right-wing populists to capitalize and exploit White working class discontent continues. The right-wing New Cultural Forum has a video up on The Demonisation of the White Working Class. On the left, Owen Jones wrote a very good book on the subject a few years ago and the left-wing of the Labour party is consciously trying to appeal to White working class voters with policies that will benefit all of the working class as well as criticising the way the Tories are trying to divide them from Blacks. One of the serious points the Private Eye strip ‘It’s Grim Up North London’ made through its humour was the alienation of its north London heroes from the White working class. Aesthetes with a taste for the latest international fads, to them ordinary White working class Brits were an exotic species they didn’t understand and wondered at. In one cartoon the pair are seen in a cafe or pub listening with wonder at the exotic conversation of the two on the next table. In fact, they’re a pair of Geordies wondering what the two are doing staring at them. Following the series Tom Mayhew Is Benefit Scum, it looks like Radio 4 is rediscovering the British working class and its issues.

Boris Says There’s No Money to Pay Nurses, But Has Millions to Spend on Atomic Weapons

Mike’s put up an excellent and disturbing article today, which shows very clearly where Boris Johnson’s priority’s really are. He’s planning to reverse the proposed reduction of Britain’s nuclear arsenal to 180 warheads and increase it instead to 260. As the peeps on Twitter have pointed out, this is a 45 per cent increase. It’s supposed to be in preparation for a possible terrorist attack using chemical or nuclear weapons by 2030. ‘Russ’, one of the critics of this insane proposal, has asked what Boris intends to do in the event of an attack like 9/11, when the terrorists came from four different countries. Would he launch those missiles at four different capitals? He states ‘Not a chance. Idiotic, dangerous, flashy bullshit.’

The question about 9/11 is a very good one. The vast majority of the plotters came from Saudi Arabia, and there is very, very strong evidence that responsibility for the attack goes all the way to the very top, to country’s present king or his head of intelligence. But George Dubya and Blair didn’t order reprisals against Saudi Arabia. Instead, we invaded Afghanistan. The country was indeed hosting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the organisation responsible for it. But I’ve also heard that the Afghans denied all knowledge of the plot and offered to surrender bin Laden to the Americans, but were ignored. The American military were planning the possibility of invading Afghanistan several years before in order to control a planned oil pipeline passing through it.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was also accused of complicity with 9/11, and Blair was scaremongering about Hussein having weapons of mass destruction that could be launched within three quarters of an hour. This was also a lie. The real reason for the invasion was, once again, oil. The American and Saudi oil companies wanted Iraq’s reserves and its oil industry, while American multinationals also wanted to get their grubby mitts on the country’s state industries. The actual cost to the Iraqi people has been horrendous. The country’s tariff barriers were lowered as part of a plan to create the low tax, free market state the Neo-Cons dreamed about, with a result that every nation dumped their excess goods there, undermining its domestic businesses. The result was soaring bankruptcy and unemployment. The country’s welfare state was destroyed, as was the ability of women to pursue a career in safety outside the home. The country was riven by sectarian violence, and the mercenaries used as part of the invasion force ran amok, running drugs and prostitution rings. They also shot ordinary Iraqis for sport. The Allied forces also used depleted uranium and other highly toxic materials in their armaments, with the result that the country also has a horrendously high rate of birth defects.

And now Boris wants more nukes. Does he intend to use them on further victims of western imperialism, countries deliberately and wrongfully blamed for terrorist attacks just to further western geopolitical and commercial goals? Mike also suggests that it seems to him that Boris is planning to start some kind of war with a country on or near the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would like to set off a few nukes to show how tough he is.

This is all too possible. The American radical magazine, Counterpunch, published an article a few years ago arguing that the American military was set on a policy of ‘full spectrum dominance’. This meant that it was to remain the world’s only superpower with the ability to destroy or conquer any other country that could threaten it. And it looked very, very much that Hillary Clinton, who claimed to be terribly offended by the treatment of Meghan Markle, was preparing for a war with China. Lobster has also published a very detailed article arguing that, despite the rhetoric and posturing about the Chinese threatening western security interests in the South China Sea, the Chinese actually aren’t any danger at all. But they do threaten the global American commercial power both in practice and at an ideological level. The Americans believe in deregulation and free trade, while in China capitalism is regulated and state-directed. The global struggle between America and China is partly about which model of capitalism should be dominant.

And then there’s the issue of whether you could ever use a nuclear bomb in the event of a terrorist attack. From the 1970s to historic Good Friday peace agreement in the ’90s, Northern Ireland and Britain suffered terrorist violence and bombings. In Ulster this was by Irish Nationalist and Loyalist paramilitaries, while in Britain the bombings were carried out by the IRA. Following 9/11, one of the critics of the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq asked whether Britain would have used the same tactics of mass bombing and air strikes on Northern Ireland in response to the IRA’s terrorism. Of course we wouldn’t, although we did send troops there to suppress it. There’s a real possibility that, thanks to Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement could break down and Ulster could once again fall into violence and bloodshed. Which also raises the spectre of further terrorist bombings in Britain. Would Boris nuke Derry or Belfast in response? I doubt it. At the same time, many of the Islamist terrorists responsible for atrocities in Britain seem to be homegrown, Muslim Brits who come from ordinary, peaceful families, but who have been radicalised by Islamist propaganda on the Net or from some firebrand preacher in a British mosque. Obviously, Boris isn’t going to use it in Britain itself.

There’s also the danger that if Boris every uses them against a foreign enemy, it’ll pitch the world into a nuclear war that will end very quickly with the destruction of the planet. I can remember the late, great Irish comedian Dave Allen commenting on this in one of his shows on the Beeb during Reagan and Thatcher’s New Cold War of the 1980s. ‘Do you know,’ he said in his tobacco and whisky cured voice, ‘that there are enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world three times. Three times! Once is enough for me!’ It was a profound relief for millions around the world when Reagan and Gorbachev signed their arms limitation agreement in Iceland. That, and the collapse of Communism, promised the beginning of a better world, where we wouldn’t have to fear nuclear annihilation. Well, it was until India and Pakistan looked set to nuke each other later in the ’90s.

But now those dreams of a better, more peaceful world are fading as Boris once again wishes to send us all back to the days of Thatcher and the Cold War. Thatcher was vehemently in favour of keeping Britain’s nuclear deterrent. So much so that she falsified the results of an experiment to estimate the results of a nuclear war on Britain. The experiment showed that it would end with the country’s major cities reduced to nuclear cinders. This was too much for the leaderene, who had the parameters of the projection altered to give the results she wanted. But this still would have resulted in millions dead, and so she had the parameters altered again to show that Britain would have survived with minimal damage. By which time the whole exercise had to be scrapped as it was completely unreliable.

Michael Foot, the leader of the Labour party at the time, favoured unilateral nuclear disarmament. He was right, but the Tories and their puppet press viciously attacked him as some kind of fool or traitor, who would give in to the evil Commies. The complaint of many Tories was that he would give our nuclear weapons away. Unlike Maggie, the bargain basement Boadicea, as I think Roy Hattersley once called her.

It looks very much like Boris is playing the same game. He’s wrecking the economy, destroying the health service and welfare state, but he’ll have the right-leaning part of the British public praising him for standing up to those evil foreigners and protecting the country with nukes.

And all the while he’s claiming that there’s no money to give the nurses and other hardworking, front-line professionals anything more than what is in reality a derisory cut in wages. Which is clearly a lie. But it does remind me of what Goering once said:

‘Guns will make us powerful. Butter will make us fat.’

He’s following the Nazis in deliberately starving people while splashing the cash on arms.

For further information, see: Nuclear bomb announcement sends clear message: warmonger Johnson has cash to KILL, not heal | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Cops and Hippies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/02/2021 - 2:54am in

It sounds like the plot of some cop-buddy movie: an anarchic hippie social worker (Snoop Dogg or Owen Wilson) is forced to team up with a straight-laced conservative cop (Clint Eastwood, the Rock). Chaos and hilarity ensue. Life lessons are learned. In this case, it actually happened.

It started decades ago in Eugene, Oregon, where police responses to drug- and mental health-related calls were ending badly. So Eugene tried something different: When one of these emergency calls came in, the city dispatched social workers instead of cops. Thirty years later, the strategy has reduced conflicts between police and the public, and made Eugene a national model for harm reduction-oriented policing.

I have fond memories of Eugene. Talking Heads once rehearsed for a tour at the Hult Center there, and on our day off we went to visit the novelist Ken Kesey, who lived nearby. He served us pasta and we helped do the dishes. The city has always had a countercultural streak, and 50 years ago, this mindset inspired some hippies there to create a free clinic and a response team of medics and social workers. They called it the White Bird Clinic

bob dritzOne of the White Bird Clinic’s founders, the late Bob Dritz. Photo courtesy Cori Taggart

The White Bird Clinic originally was inspired by a free clinic founded in 1967 in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district that dealt with substance abuse, mental health issues and “rock medicine” — on-site help at concerts and events. 

Credit: Wally Gobetz / Flickr

Like that clinic, White Bird focused on the counterculture community that had found a home in Eugene…a community that was often misunderstood by conventional medical and law enforcement institutions. Kids having a bad trip were often given strong tranquilizers like Thorazine by conventional hospitals and clinics. As a result, some of these kids left treatment in worse shape than when they went in. Though initially viewed simply as a crash pad for these kids while they were sobering up, White Bird proved to be successful. And it was free. Anyone that walked in looking for help received it. 

Twenty years after it was founded, in 1989, Eugene was experiencing another wave of drug and mental health issues, and the medical and law enforcement establishment didn’t know what to do about it. This became an opportunity — a hail mary pass in the eyes of some — for the clinic and the police department to collaborate. Both sides were trepidatious, but they gave it a try. Non-violent emergency calls that were deemed to require a public health response were routed to the clinic, which was christened CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets).

cahootsOne of the CAHOOTS vans today. Credit: Larry Price / Flickr

When it began, CAHOOTS had one beat-up van (the police gave it to them to replace the old Ford Sunbeam bread truck they had been using) and they only responded to calls 40 hours a week. Now they have four vans, about 50 employees and they respond 24/7. CAHOOTS responded to 23,000 calls in 2018.

“Who you gonna call?” It works

It’s easy for me to imagine how differently a drug-related crisis might turn out if a couple of social workers showed up as opposed to a pair of armed police officers. In the view of law enforcement, drug use is a criminal issue, while the clinic folks would tend to see a person in need of help. Very different outcomes as a result.

Roshan Bliss, co-chair of the nonprofit Denver Justice Project, put it this way to the Eugene Register Guard: 

“When you’re holding a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Police are holding hammers, they have paramilitary and legal training. And when you have a schizophrenic young man who is disoriented neither of those hammers are actually applicable.”

CAHOOTS is not officially part of the police department — it is a separate non-profit non-governmental organization. And though CAHOOTS handles around 20 percent of the calls to Eugene’s police, its operating costs are only about two percent of the police budget. The organization saves the city money in other ways, too — for instance, folks that might end up in hospitals are treated by CAHOOTS responders on the spot, saving the city an estimated $8.5 million per year.

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This is not exactly defunding the police, but it’s a way of reappropriating a small percentage of police funding to handle a larger percentage of what used to be police work. Funneling 911 calls regarding suicide, non-violent domestic disputes, mental health emergencies, drug issues and problems unique to homeless folks can be handled by responders specifically trained to deal with such things. 

Even the police like it. Responding to these crisis calls consumes substantial police resources and forces the police to engage in situations that they are not completely trained to handle. In these types of situations, encounters with police run the risk of unnecessary escalation that can result in criminal charges or even violence. But that’s much less likely to happen with a response like CAHOOTS. A study found that responses made by a similar program in Denver resulted in no arrests. While it’s hard to know if there would have been arrests if the police had responded, zero is pretty hard to argue with.

Spreading the word

Over the past 30 years, word of CAHOOTS’s success has spread. There’s a nice piece in The Atlantic on CAHOOTS that has moving stories of successful interventions as well as examples of how tragically law enforcement interventions in these areas can end. 

Representatives from around 20 cities have visited Eugene to learn about the program. Police reform jumped to the front pages in 2020, and everyone is looking for answers. Representatives from Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Houston, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Portland, Oakland and New York City have all consulted with CAHOOTS. As a result of these visits, Portland and San Francisco have begun pilot programs and Denver has already implemented a similar program called STAR (Support Team Assisted Response). Denver is a much larger city than Eugene, so there were questions as to whether the program would work there, but the results of a recent study show proven evidence of success.

STAR operates very much like CAHOOTS, though so far it is limited in scope, focused on only one troubled area of the city where a lot of people experiencing homelessness live. The six-month study showed that no calls required the assistance of the Denver Police Department and that the on-scene responses took 10 minutes less time (24 versus 34 minutes) than traditional responses. The city felt good enough about its results to allocate $1.4 million to the program, adding four more vans and six two-person teams (a medical person and a crisis worker). They’ll soon expand to responding seven days a week, as happened in Eugene.

Even CAHOOTS recognizes that one can’t simply clone their program. Eugene is only about two percent Black. In more diverse cities, issues of policing, mental health, drug addiction and homelessness are very much connected to racial discrimination, so it’s not as simple as just staffing up and buying more vans. As with White Bird, the responders have to represent and understand the community they are engaged with.

That said, there is reason for optimism. As Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen told CBS News of STAR’s responses: “That’s 748 times fewer that the police department was called, meaning we can free up law enforcement to do what law enforcement is supposed to do, and really what law enforcement is good at: addressing violent crime, property crime and traffic safety. You have a safer community and you have better outcomes for people in crisis.”

The post Cops and Hippies appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Bristol South’s Motion Condemning Keira Bell Decision

My local constituency Labour party, Bristol South, passed another motion at the monthly meeting last Thursday, to which I am very strongly opposed. This motion was brought by the LGBTQ+ officer and another, long-standing local party officer and activist condemning the judge’s decision on a case brought by a detransitioning transperson, Keira Bell. As I understand it, Bell had been a minor when she decided that she was in the wrong body. This was supported by the medical professionals who treated her, and she was given gender reassignment treatment, transitioning from a girl to a young man. However, she now believes that this was wrong, and that as a child she was unable to make a proper decision on this immensely serious, life-changing process, and therefore sued. The judge has concurred, ruling in her favour.

This has upset the trans rights lobby and very many LGBTQ+ activists. One of the complaints of a number of gays is that the mainstream, established gay rights organisations such as Stonewall have been captured, as they see it, by the trans lobby, and a proper concern for securing the equality and dignity of ordinary gay and bisexual men and women has been ditched in favour of an inflexible, doctrinaire demand for gay rights. It is an immensely controversial issue. Gender critical feminists, who believe in the reality and primacy of biological sex over gender and the idea that someone can be a member of the opposite sex simply by identifying with it mentally, have been abused as ‘Terfs’ (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and worse. They have received threats of death, rape and sexual mutilation by enraged transgender activists. J.K. Rowling, the author of the ‘Harry Potter’ novels, has been accused of hating transpeople and wanting to kill them simply because she posted a tweet stating that ‘transwomen are not women’. Nothing she said was remotely hateful. Far from it. She actually urged transpeople to have the best life they could, dress how they want and sleep with whoever would have them. She just didn’t regard them as real women. That’s it. But because of this she has been mercilessly pilloried and vilified.

The transition of children is of particular concern. The American lawyer and writer Abigail Shrier has argued in her book that the sudden rise in young girls feeling unhappy with their sex and wishing to transition into boys does not come from an authentic confusion or dissatisfaction with their sexual identity. Many of the young people affected have previously shown no unhappiness with it, or any desire to transition. Rather this sudden desire to change sex is a psychological illness created partly by the promotion of gender and trans ideology on the internet acting on deep-seated but common anxieties about sex and their bodies that many girls go through when entering puberty. She compares it to other, pernicious and destructive psychological diseases such as anorexia and bulimia. There have also been concerns that many of the young people, who were persuaded by organisations like the Tavistock institute, that they are transgender are in fact merely autistic, and that the psychological symptoms of that condition have been misinterpreted. Gender critical gays and lesbians have also claimed that many of the children, who are put forward for gender treatment, are in fact not transgender but simply gays, who don’t conform to gender-typical norms. Again, Linehan and his friends and conversationalists in the gay community have expressed concerns that many of the parents of children treated by the Tavistock institute and elsewhere, were homophobic. They were unable to come to terms with the possibility that their child might be gay, finding it easier to believe instead that they were in the wrong body. If this is true, then these gender critical gays are absolutely correct to condemn the transitioning of such children as a form of anti-gay conversion therapy, as nasty as the other forms which enlightened governments around the world are seeking to proscribe.

At the moment children confused about their gender identity are given puberty blockers to stave off the onset of physical adulthood. This is intended to give them time to consider properly whether they really want to go through with transition. The drugs are supposed to be safe and fully reversible.

The drugs’ opponents are convinced they are not. In interview on Newsnight, the writer, comedian and broadcaster Graham Linehan stated that the drug used, Lupron, was developed to treat men with terminal prostate cancer. Its effects on teenage girls is unknown.

See: Father Ted creator Graham Linehan on trans rights – BBC Newsnight – YouTube

He and others, who share his concerns, argue that the drugs are not reversible and may have serious physical side effects, such as lower bone density leading to a greater vulnerability to osteoporosis. It is also claimed that 80 to 90 per cent of children, who identify as members of the opposite sex, actually grow out of it once they become adults. They mature into either straight or gay members of their sex. On the other hand, according to one study, the overwhelming majority of children put on puberty blockers go on to cross-sex hormones and then gender reassignment surgery. If this is also true, then the use of puberty blockers as treatment is leading to the transition of children, who don’t need it. Especially as cross section hormones seem to have very serious effects.

I tried to raise these issues with the LGBTQ+ officer in the time allowed for us to ask questions regarding the motion she had proposed. I am not a medical person, and admit that in this matter I am merely an ordinary member of the British public who is influenced by what he sees and reads on the Net. The LGTBQ+ officer’s motion was impressive. She clearly laid out her case and it was supported by footnotes. It was also clear that she was acting from a position of genuine concern with the potential harm done by the judicial decision.

She replied that the drugs are fully reversible, that the loss of bone density was not a danger and that children were not being wrongly transitioned. One of the objections to transgender therapy is that it demands that the patient’s trans identity should also be reinforced and supported. Hence medical professionals may be wrongly convincing confused people that they are transgender. The young woman responded instead that this was not the case, but it had been found that patients responded better if their trans identity was supported. But if the patients decided transitioning was not for them, that would be supported too. She was also worried that the judge’s decision would undermine Gillick, which provides for children to receive contraceptive or abortion advice and assistance without the knowledge or consent of their parents. She dismissed the objections to the use of puberty blockers as misinformation. It was bad science, like climate change denial, especially as much of it came from the religious right.

I strongly disagree. I believe instead that the bad science is that embraced by those supporting the use of puberty blocker and trans ideology. For example, according to the website, Transgender Trend, Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on June 30th 2020, reported that NHS England was no longer saying that puberty blockers were fully reversible. The NHS’ website states that GIDS, an organisation closely associated with the Tavistock Institute, advises that puberty blockers are fully reversible if stopped. But it also says that their long-term psychological effects are not known. It also states that the possible side effects of puberty blockers are hot flushes, fatigue and mood changes. The website also removes the previous claim that without such treatment, trans children are vulnerable to self-harm and suicide. I believe this was a claim made by the LGBTQ+ officer, but my memory may well be playing tricks. Instead the NHS simply states that they may suffer from depression, anxiety and distress.

The World.wng.org website also cites a report by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust of December 2nd, 2020, that all but one of a group of children put on puberty blockers then went on to cross sex hormones. This also noted changes in children’s bone density and that their normal growth flatlined. There was also no improvement in their psychological wellbeing. The website also cited Michael Laidlaw, and endocrinologist of Rocklin, California, that there was also a loss of bone density which put such children at risk of stunted height and osteoporosis.

See: Are puberty blockers reversible? The NHS no longer says so (transgendertrend.com)

Study: Effects of puberty-blockers can last a lifetime – Sexuality – WORLD (wng.org)

It may well be that these sites are aligned with the right. The WORLD site seems to be. But their articles are properly referenced with links to their sources, which includes NHS England and the Beeb’s Woman’s Hour. I therefore believe that objections to this information because of the overall political bias of the sites are false, and trust the information they provide. Which supports what Linehan and others have been saying, as well as the American endocrinology Dr. William Malone in his interview with YouTuber Benjamin Boyce.

As for the objection that the Keira Bell judgement undermines Gillick, I do not believe that the two are entirely comparable. Transgender treatment leads to profound, permanent physical changes that affect a person for the rest of their life. It also has to be said that the children coming for such treatment are too young that in law they are barred from seeing certain types of film, buying alcohol and tobacco and so on. The fact the law deems them incapable of purchasing those items in the views of the gender critical movement supports the idea that children are not capable of deciding whether or not they wish to change gender.

I say here that I certainly do not hate transpeople. I have every sympathy with those who are confused about their gender. I do not wish them, nor anyone else, to be harmed or victimised in any way. But I think the current transgender ideology, and particularly as it is applied to children, is doing immense unintended harm.

I therefore believe that while Bristol South’s motion was proposed and passed in entirely good faith and from the very best motives, it is utterly and profoundly wrong and mistaken. I therefore fully support the Keira Bell judgement.

Addiction Treatment RVs Hit the Road in Colorado

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/01/2021 - 2:19am in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Road warriors

Access to addiction treatment services has long been a struggle in rural Colorado, and as treatment centers have closed during Covid-19 it’s become even tougher. In response, the state has taken treatment on the road, converting six RVs into mobile clinics, complete with health professionals aboard, to reach people far from urban centers.

The staff of each mobile clinic consists of a nurse, a counselor and a peer specialist. Once inside, patients can attend a telehealth session with a physician, who can prescribe medicine to fight addiction, such as Vivitrol. The mobile clinic’s nurse can then give the patient the Vivitrol shot right there on the spot, while other members of the team provide counseling and distribute the anti-overdose medicine Narcan. The clinics also offer syringe disposal, though they’re not allowed to distribute clean needles. The program is funded by a $10 million federal grant. 

One couple featured in the story described spending $8,000 per month on OxyContin until the mobile clinic started showing up in their town. Now they’re treated there regularly. “We would’ve done anything to get our drugs,” she said. “Walking 30 minutes to get better, it’s worth it.”

Read more at Kaiser Health News

Customer service

While supermarket chains look to protect their employees, some states are aiming to do the same for customers by making pandemic-related consumer protections permanent.

All 50 U.S. states have enacted special consumer protections due to the virus, many of them focused on limiting fallout for people unable to pay rent, mortgages and other debt obligations. Now, as some of those protections start to expire, states are moving to enshrine them into law. One example is Maryland, where a state recovery task force is recommending new eviction protections, including an extended timeline for the process and laws guaranteeing counsel for tenants. Massachusetts has proposed a law that would limit wage garnishing. And in Texas, advocates are pushing a law that would restrict debt collectors from taking money out of debtors’ bank accounts (something that happened with the arrival of stimulus checks last summer). 

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Some creditors have complained that the new laws will make it more difficult to collect on debts, but advocates say they simply rebalance a power dynamic that allows creditors to harass debtors with impunity. “A lot of this has been driven, frankly, by consumer complaints,” said one advocate, “about abusive debt collection, about landlords who have not really abided by eviction moratoriums, about refunds for travel and vacations.”

Observers believe some of these changes will stick, in part because historically, many consumer protections have been enacted in times of crisis, like the FDIC, which has guaranteed bank deposits since the Great Depression. “I do think a lot of these new bills have legs to move next session, because what’s the alternative?” said one advocate. “Just on a straight-up policy level, I think there’s a pretty broad-based realization now that something has to shift.”

Read more at Stateline

Swedish sensibility

A new study finds that consensus about climate change is forming across continents that used to view the crisis in starkly different terms.

swedenBjörkhöjden wind farm in Sweden. Credit: Torbjörn Bergkvist / SSVAB

The study surveyed citizens of Sweden, China and the United States. Sweden has long been a leader in the climate change fight, with ambitious policies and high levels of public concern. But over the past decade more citizens of the U.S. and China have embraced Swedish-style sacrifices in the name of saving the planet. In fact, today, Chinese citizens are willing to give up a greater share of their income to fight climate change than Swedes are. And more Americans and Chinese are willing to prioritize the environment over job growth than the Swedes.

To a large extent, this convergence reflects China and the U.S. catching up to Sweden. But it also reflects a slight decline in the willingness of Swedes to make big sacrifices. The researchers speculate that Swedish citizens may feel that they’ve already done their fair share, and now expect others — particularly the world’s two largest sources of emissions — to do theirs.

Read more at Resources Magazine

The post Addiction Treatment RVs Hit the Road in Colorado appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Concept Art for the David Lynch ‘Dune’ Movie

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/01/2021 - 6:12am in

Unlike many people, I’m actually a fan of the 1980s film version of Dune directed by David Lynch. Dune is a long book and Lynch was left with the impossible task of compressing it into a 2-3 hour movie. People have therefore complained that the film has to move at such a pace, that it left out the deep, complex ideas about religion, politics and the dangers of charismatic leadership that are in the novel, and that there was no time to get to know and develop any sympathy with the characters. Lynch also took some liberties with the plot and characterisation. In the book, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is clever, subtle and cunning, while in Lynch’s movie he’s a raging moron, screaming his anger of the Atreides while the real brains behind his scheme to trap and overthrow them is his mentat, Pitar de Freese, played by Brad Dourif. Despite these faults, I really enjoy it, and do think that while it’s flawed, it’s a greater work than it critics give it credit for. It’s visually impressive – Brian Aldiss loathed it, but says in his history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree, that it should be watched with the sound off and simply enjoyed for its visuals, which are like the art on the covers of Astounding, one of the old SF magazines. ‘This aspect of the film – its glorious pictorial quality – is to be applauded despite all else’. I also think it does a good job of trying to portray melange and the other mind-expanding drug in the film, the juice of Safu used by de Freese as a kind of drug cult, similar that which had developed around LSD and other hallucinogens. I also think it succeeds in creating a convincing, far future world. And the still suits look awesome!

I found the video linked below on Omniviant’s channel on YouTube. It’s a series of photos and production art created for lynch’s movie. According to Omniviant, they were due to appear in a book on the film’s art. This, unfortunately, never came out because the film flopped at the box office. As you can see, the art matches the scenes in Lynch’s film. It’s enjoyable in itself, but also as a piece of film history. At the very least, it shows the great visual imagination of the film’s producers and artists.

DUNE: Production Art – YouTube

Alaska’s Vaccine Rollout Is an Inspiration

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/01/2021 - 12:24am in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Cold comfort

Alaska, the most undeveloped U.S. state, where many residents live in remote villages untouched by roads or hospitals, has achieved one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.

Since the beginning, Alaska has been a standout success in its response to Covid-19. Now, it has launched a massive mobilization effort to ship the vaccines to every corner of the state. Using seaplanes, boats and snowmobiles, Alaska has delivered so many vaccine doses to its far-flung outposts that vaccination rates there are higher among rural and Indigenous residents than city dwellers. The achievement is all the more impressive given Alaska’s harsh winter weather. (One frontline worker described racing to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which must be stored at sub-zero temperatures, before it became too cold.)

Credit: The National Guard

More than three percent of Alaskans have been vaccinated, the fifth-highest rate in the country. Among them was a 92-year-old woman who could recall her parents’ experiences during the 1918 Spanish Flu. “I could hardly sleep the night before we went out,” said the frontline worker about her experience as part of the mobilization. “I was so excited.”

Read more at NPR

Cultivating wellness

Farming is a tough pursuit in the best of times, and as food systems have fallen into disarray due to restaurant closures and panic buying, it’s become even more stressful. But mental health services can be few and far between for those who grow America’s food. And stigma in some small farming communities prevents people from seeking the help they need.

The Wisconsin Farm Center is one of several Midwest organizations that have set up teletherapy services targeting farmers specifically. The program includes a 24-hour hotline and free, unlimited counseling sessions with a mental health professional. Teletherapy is a particularly good fit for farmers, who are often out in the fields or — especially during the fall harvest season — hauling their crops to faraway distribution centers. The sessions can be attended from anywhere. And teletherapy allows multiple members of a farming family to attend sessions together, wherever they are.

farmCredit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Other Midwestern states — including Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota — have set up similar services. They serve as examples of how the pandemic has catalyzed solutions that were needed anyway. “I think in the past,” said one counselor at the Wisconsin Farm Center, “we haven’t been able to reach farmers for a lot of these services, even though they want them and need them, because there was no way for them to be able to leave what they were working on to come in and get services.”

Read more at the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Greener buildings

Hemp hoodies, hemp body lotion, hemp energy drinks — the versatile plant’s reputation has perhaps suffered a bit from overhype. But one use for hemp that may be under-explored is as a construction material, particularly because, unlike concrete, “hempcrete” can sequester carbon dioxide.

hempcreteA wall made of hempcrete. Credit: Jnzl’s Photos / Flickr

Concrete generates about eight percent of human-created CO2, and has been called “the most destructive material on earth.” Hempcrete, on the other hand, can sequester 19 pounds of carbon per cubic foot — roughly the annual emissions of three refrigerators. And while it’s not as strong as concrete, it meets the standards of most building applications, and can be used as an insulator or in place of plaster or drywall.

In fact, its biggest drawback may be the laws that prevent its cultivation. Since 2018, farming industrial hemp has been allowed, but with strict rules that restrict its psychoactive content. Once it becomes more widely available, however, advocates expect it to become a mainstream construction material. “In a way we’re talking about starting an industry from the ground up,” said the director of the International Hemp Building Association.

Read more at Ensia

The post Alaska’s Vaccine Rollout Is an Inspiration appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Scared Alex Belfield Mockingly Rants about Diane Abbott Leading the Labour Party

Yesterday right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host Alex Belfield put up a video expressing his surprise and horror over a discussion on Twitter about the Labour party. The peeps there were saying that Keir Starmer had finally had enough of leading the party and was about to stand down. Ready to take over from him was Diane Abbott. The rest of the video was just Belfield doing a very unfunny impression of the veteran Black MP making some kind of acceptance speech for the leadership. Abbott is one of the most vilified MPs in parliament. She receives half of all the misogynistic letters received by female parliamentarians. Belfield appears to be one of the people, who has a singular dislike of her. He’s been presenting her as thick as ever since she made a stupid maths mistake talking to one of the presenters of Talk Radio about Labour party policy and how it would be funded a year or so ago. He’s also played up the fact that Abbott has been extremely critical of the police, who I think she feels are racist, but had to call them for help when she was threatened by her privately educated, drug addict son.

I can’t say that Abbott is my favourite MP, and while I can see her being many things, stupid is not one of them. Plenty of Tories have been caught out being unable to do basic Maths as well, but Belfield and the Tories are obviously determined to push the idea of Abbott being massively thick in the hope that it will colour public perception of her. This says to me that they’re afraid, desperately afraid of her. Belfield put up a video a month ago ranting against Abbott’s nomination as MP of the year. I think he may have been one of the right-wingers, who was outraged at a similar vote by a sizable number of the British public in favour of Jeremy Corbyn for the same award a year or so ago.

Last week the Groan published an article from one of the leaders of Operation Black Vote arguing that the Tories were trying to set the working class against Blacks. This is absolutely correct. Belfield constantly harps on about how White working class boys are the most disadvantaged group in the UK. He has a personal chip on his should about this, as he is also constantly talking about how he is a working class lad without a degree from a pit community, in contrast to the ‘woke’ leftie snowflakes at the BBC, who are over-promoting Black performers and drag queens. I’ve no doubt that Belfield is right that about the disadvantaged condition of working class White boys. But he is definitely using it as a weapon for party political purposes by placing them in opposition of Blacks. Part of the reason White British youths are disadvantaged is due not to affirmative action programmes for Blacks and other minorities, although these have played their part, but to Tory policies that have devastated working class White communities. This included the closure of the mines which supported villages like Belfield’s. The Tories have absolutely no interest in helping the working class, whether White, Black, Asian or whatever. They’re only interested in using their underprivileged condition to generate hatred against the Labour party and programmes designed to improve the situation of Blacks in the UK.

As for Starmer giving it all up and deciding to pack it as leader of the Labour party, oh! If only! He’s been a disaster as leader. He has no policies, no real opposition to the Tories and, I would argue, no morals. He’s a typical Blairite. His only real opposition is not to neoliberalism and the Conservatives – he seems to be following Blair’s example of adopting Tory policies while trying to present Labour as better able to carry them out – but to the real socialists in his own party. He and Rayner have been doing everything they can to carry on the witch hunt against true Labour centrists – the peeps who want a return to proper Labour policies and values – by smearing and expelling them as anti-Semites. He has done everything he seemingly can to protect the plotters and intriguers, who conspired to sabotage Labour’s chances at last year’s elections and in 2017. These individuals were also guilty of real racism towards BAME MPs and activists. But no action has been taken against them, to the disgust of the party’s Black members and supporters. His leadership is also becoming a personal autocracy, as he and the new head of the NEC impose rules silencing local parties from voicing their criticisms of his leadership. Local leaders and officials have been suspended for breaking these rules.

I and many, many other Labour members and supporters would be delighted if Starmer went. And while I have problems with Abbott – I think she does go too far in her accusations of racism – I would certainly rather have her as leader of the Labour party.

And that, I think, is what’s behind Belfield’s constant mocking and pillorying of the MP. He’s afraid. Afraid that others like me would also prefer to have her as leader of the Labour party. White peeps from working class families. The same people he and the Tories are trying to turn against Blacks.

As far as I know, Starmer isn’t planning to retire from the leadership anytime soon. But I’d be highly delighted if he did. He has done nothing for the working class. And the Tories aren’t going to do anything for them either, except make them poorer and even more desperate. Only the Labour left is going to do this, and that includes Diane Abbott. I don’t think she’d be popular with the general public, as Tory propaganda has probably gone too far.

But I think intellectually she’s more than a match for right-wing loudmouths, and has and will do more for working class peeps than he and the Tories ever will.