mental illness

Corbyn Criticizes the Tory Budget

The main news story today is Philip Hammond’s budget. Details of it were released a few days, and it’s been discussed ever since. In it, Hammond, dubbed by some ‘Phil the Bleak’, is trying to convince the voting public that austerity is coming to an end, and more money is going to be pumped into welfare services like mental health and the NHS, and town centre shopping in the high street will be revitalized as business rates for the shops in those areas will be dropped.

It’s strange how all these promises were suddenly made just when the Tory party is seriously challenged by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, and is being widely attacked for its colossal ineptitude and massive divisions over Brexit, and the immense hardship it is causing with Universal Credit. I don’t doubt that the Tory press will hail – or in the case of the Daily Mail, heil, the budget as a genuine boost to the economy, which should be enthusiastically embraced by all right-thinking Brits. Just like I can remember the Sun’s headline screaming the benefits of Norman Lamont’s budget back in the late ’80s or first years of the ’90s: ‘The Lager of Lamont’. Which pretty much shows the level the Scum is aimed at – drunken yobs. And for ordinary people, you have to be drunk to think there’s any substance or real benefit in the budget.

Mike’s extensively critiqued it on his blog over the past few days. Yesterday he put up a piece showing that it was all a tissue of lies. Despite his claim that austerity is over, public sector pay is not going to rise, nor are benefits, the bedroom tax ain’t going to be repealed and there aren’t going to be 20,000 more police on our streets.

Furthermore, the tax cuts he’s promising will only really benefit the rich. As Mike points out, this is another swindle to decrease the amount the state takes in tax, which is then redistributed as benefits to the poor, or spent on public services.

But the Tories are still going to introduce 7 billion pounds’ worth of cuts. Hammond also said that

Brexit would not affect spending plans because he had assumed an “average-type free trade deal” between the UK and EU after Brexit, and had £4.2 billion in reserve in the case of a no-deal scenario.

Mike ends his piece by stating that this is also a piece of deception, saying

But you can bet that this will not be enough to deal with the consequences of a Tory Brexit. They want harmful effects because they will then be able to justify harsh cuts to your rights and living standards.

About the only welcome announcement in the whole sorry mess was the decision to stop using hugely-wasteful Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes.

One of Mike’s many excellent commenters, Barry Davies, points out that the PF1 and PF2 deals would simply become PPP, so there’s really no change there.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/10/29/its-phil-the-bleaks-fantasy-budget-would-you-buy-anything-hes-offering-before-brexit/

Actually, I think all Hammond’s promises are worthless for the same reason Mike does: their provisional. They only have force until Brexit occurs in March, when I full expect Hammond to announce that the terrible deal forced upon Britain by the European Union will mean that they’ll have to reverse their policies and start cutting benefits, public services and again reverse their spending on the NHS.

It’s all lies, from a government of liars, who lie and lie again without qualm of conscience.

Jeremy Corbyn has already responded. This little video from RT UK, posted yesterday shows him denouncing it as ‘a broken budget’. He says

The Prime Minister says austerity is over. This, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is a broken promise budget. What we’ve heard today are half measures and quick fixes while austerity grinds on and far from people’s hard work and sacrifices having paid off as the Chancellor claims, this government has frittered it away in ideological tax cuts to the richest in our society. This budget won’t undo the damage done by 8 years of austerity and doesn’t begin to measure up to the scale of the job that needs to be done to rebuild Britain. The government claims austerity has worked, so now they can end it, but that is absolutely the opposite of the truth, austerity needs to end because it has failed.

Corbyn’s right: austerity has failed. It’s failed working people, the poor, the disabled, the long-term sick, and the unemployed. But it’s done wonders for the rich, who’ve benefited massively from the Tories’ tax cuts, and privatization of public services, including the NHS. And, of course, the provision of cheap labour through the welfare to work industry, pay freezes and the removal of workers’ rights. Reforms all intended to make workers easy to hire and discard, and create a cowed workforce in constant fear of the sack and starvation, which will accept any work, no matter how precarious or poorly paid.

And as you can see from the video, when Corbyn laid into the budget, he was greeted with the usual Tory sneers and laughter, especially from Hammond and the Maybot, who jerked and spasmed as if she was suffering a short-circuit. Well, the Tories always find working class poverty a great laugh. You just have to remember how Cameron and IDS had a right good guffaw in parliament when one woman’s suffering due to the benefit cuts was read out.

Well, let’s cut their cackling short, and vote them out at the earliest opportunity.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Who’s to Blame for Political Violence? The Terror Starts at the Top, Trickles Down

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/10/2018 - 7:40am in

Image result for macho president

There are no eye sockets big enough for the eye-rolling I want to do when I hear American politicians express shock at political violence like the last week’s domestic terror trifecta: a racist white man murdered two blacks at a Kentucky grocery store, a white right-winger stands accused of mailing more than a dozen pipe bombs to Democratic politicians and celebrities, and a white anti-Semite allegedly gunned down 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

There’s plenty of blame to go around.

The assault weapons ban expired in 2004 and Congress failed to renew it; eight million AR-15 semiautomatic rifles and related models are now in American homes. Mass shootings aren’t occurring more frequently but when they do, body counts are higher.

In 1975 the Supreme Court ruled that a state could no longer forcibly commit the mentally ill to institutions unless they were dangerous. It was a good decision; I remember with horror my Ohio neighbor who had his wife dragged away so he could move in with his girlfriend. Unfortunately it set the stage for the Reagan Administration’s systemic deinstitutionalization policy. During the first half of the 1980s mental hospitals were closed and patients were dumped on the streets. The homeless population exploded. Under the old regime, obviously deranged people like James Holmes (the carrot-haired mass shooter at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado), Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut) and Cesar Sayoc (the homeless man arrested for last week’s mail bombs) would probably have been locked up before they could hurt anyone.

This time, the post-mayhem political classes blame Donald Trump. He’s bigoted and loudly legitimizes far-right extremism. Did his noxious rhetoric inspire these three right-wing bigots? I think it’s more complicated: Trump can convince a reasonable person to turn racist. But it’s a bigger jump to turn a racist into a killer. That has more to do with insanity.

Tone, morale, what’s acceptable vs. what’s unacceptable: social norms come from the top and trickle down to us peasants. Trump’s rhetoric is toxic.

But the message that violence is effective and acceptable didn’t begin with Trump. And it’s hardly unique to his presidency.

To paraphrase the old Palmolive commercial: Violence? You’re soaking in it! And no one is guiltier of our culture of violence than the countless politicians who say stuff like this:

“Threats or acts of political violence have no place in the United States of America.” —Trump, 10/24/18. Untrue. Five days earlier, Trump praised (“he’s my kind of — he’s my guy”) a psychotic Montana congressman who assaulted a reporter, breaking his glasses.

“There’s no room for violence [in politics].” —Barack Obama, 6/3/16. Yet every week as president Obama worked down a “kill list” of victims targeted for drone assassination because they opposed the dictatorial governments of corrupt U.S. allies. And he bragged about the political assassination of Osama bin Laden rather than putting him on trial, as the law requires.

Textbooks teach us, without irony or criticism, about Manifest Destiny—the assumption that Americans have been entitled from Day One to whatever land they wanted to steal and to kill anyone who tried to stop them. Historians write approvingly of the Monroe Doctrine, the insane-if-you-think-about-it claim that every country in the Western hemisphere enjoys only as much sovereignty as we feel like granting them. Implicit throughout America’s foreign adventurism is that the U.S. invading and occupying and raiding other nations is normal and free of consequence, whereas the rare occasions when other nations attack the U.S. (War of 1812, Pearl Harbor, 9/11) are outrageous and intolerable and call for ferocious retribution.

After childhood the job of brainwashing otherwise sane adults into the systemic normalization of state violence falls to our political leaders and their mouthpieces in the media.

Even the best politicians do it. It’s a system. When you live in a system, you soak in it.

“In this country we battle with words and ideas, not fists and bombs,” Bernie Sanders tweeted in response to the mail bombs. What a lie.

The Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security used policemen’s fists and flash grenades and pepper bombs to rout dozens of Occupy Wall Street movement encampments in 2011.

The mayor of Philadelphia ordered that police drop a bomb on a row house in a quiet neighborhood in 1985. The botched effort to execute arrest warrants on an anarcho-primitivist group called MOVE killed 11 people and burned down three city blocks, destroying 65 buildings. Police shot at those trying to escape. Naturally, no city official was ever charged with wrongdoing.

Cops kill a thousand Americans every year.

Every president deploys violence on a vast scale. They’re cavalier about it. They revel in their crimes because they think bragging about committing mass murder makes them look “tough.”

How on earth can they act surprised when ordinary citizens follow their example?

After watching Islamist rebels torture deposed Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi and sodomize him with a bayonet, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chuckled gleefully about America’s role in his gruesome death (a U.S. drone blew up the dictator’s convoy): “We came, we saw, he died.”

How macho.

At the 2010 White House Correspondents Dinner Obama joked about his policy of assassinating brown-skinned Middle Easterners willy-nilly: “The Jonas Brothers are here; they’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But boys, don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you: Predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking.”

Imagine the president of France or Germany or Canada or Russia saying something that insensitive, tasteless and crass. You can’t. They wouldn’t.

“It’s already hard enough to convince Muslims that the U.S. isn’t indifferent to civilian casualties without having the president joke about it,” commented Adam Serwer of the American Prospect. Assuming Muslims are dumb enough to be convinced.

When political leaders in other countries discuss their decisions to commit violence, there’s often a “more in sorrow than in anger” tone to their statements. Don’t want to, can’t help it, regrettable—just don’t have a choice.

American presidents are different. They swagger like John Wayne.

The crazies who shoot up schools and synagogues sound a lot like them.

“Screw your optics, I’m going in,” accused Pittsburgh temple shooter Robert Bowers posted to social media hours before the incident.

“Hey mom. Gotta go,” Dylan Klebold said on video the day before he and Eric Harris killed 20 people at Columbine High School.

“Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well,” wrote Andrew Stack before he flew his plane into an IRS office in Austin in 2010.

There is, of course, a difference between killer elites and killer proles. The elites kill more people.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.

Private Eye on ‘Big Brother’ Surveillance Software

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/10/2018 - 9:34pm in

Private Eye has also published a couple of articles on the use of surveillance software to scan the internet compiling information for use by private corporations, medical authorities and the government. These present a serious threat to privacy, democracy and human freedom.

In their edition for 5th – 18th October 2018, the magazine carried the following story about how the Canadian government was using such software to collect information on cannabis users and those sympathetic to dope use. It ran

Someone, somewhere is always listening to you online. In Canada, that someone is set to be the government.

A recently published tender is seeking a technology partner to “examine Canadian social media sentiment toward Canabis legalization, with emphasis on public safety issues, such as driving after using cannabis”. In practice, this means that technology such as software and machine learning will beused to analyse social media posts to determine who thinks what about weed,, “the frequency with which the identified attitudes and behaviours are reported and the co-occurrence of different attitudes and behaviours.” And, “where able, the contractor must also explore the demographic (and other available) correlates of the attitudes and behaviours identified in the analyses.”

The Canadian government won’t say whether the data collected, and the social media profiles of those tracked, will be shared with law enforcers, but it’s fair to assume this is exactly what will happen in the future. (p. 16).

And in their issue for the previous fortnight, 21st September to 4th October 2018, they carried this story about how MIT had developed surveillance software to help medical professionals discover who, online, may suffer depression.

Researcher at MIT have been working on software that can be used to predict the likelihood that a person has, or is likely to suffer from, depression, based on machine analysis of answers to a battery of questions. The software was said to be 77 percent accurate in its predictions.

This has obvious practical applications in healthcare. As the paper notes, “To treat depressed individuals, they must first be diagnosed. To obtain a diagnosis, depressed individuals must actively reach out to mental health professionals. In reality, it can be difficult for the depressed to attain professional attention due to constraints of mobility, cost, and motivation. Passive automated monitoring of human communication may address these constraints and provide better screening for depression.”

As the tech website thenextweb.com observed, “passive automated monitoring of human communication” means, er, eavesdropping – meaning that a likely outcome of this software is a machine listening to your phone calls or reading your emails and using that data to decide whether or not you’re likely to be depressed, without you knowing it’s happening or possibly even knowing why, say, your insurance premiums have gone up or you didn’t get that promotion.

I’ve no problems with developing techniques to better diagnose depression and its treatment. But as the article says, this allows insurance companies and employers to snoop on people without their awareness or consent, and which may have serious harmful consequences for themselves or their careers.

It’s the stuff that Privacy International have been warning about since the mid-90s. And they also warn of the dangers of function creep. Once one part of the government starts using such techniques, others join in and the scope of the surveillance expands.

RT Interview with Paul Peter of DPAC on Tories Ramping Up Distress for Disabled People

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/10/2018 - 5:36am in

This is another excellent video from RT, in which the presenter of their ‘Going Underground’, Afshin Rattansi, talks to Paula Peters from the disability organization, DPAC. Peters makes it very clear that, despite the lies of the Tories and particular Esther McVey, their cuts to benefits are causing immense mental distress to the disabled and constitute a human catastrophe, that was called such by the UN, who criticized the Tories for it.

The video begins with Peters stating that ‘She (Esther McVey) is ramping up mental distress for disabled people through the heinous policies that she and the Conservative party are implementing today.’

Rattansi goes on to state that The Department for Work and Pensions Secretary gave quite a barnstorming speech at the conference, raised quite a few eyes across the sector and that he is sure she would deny what Peters is saying. He asks her if there is any hope that the United Nations investigation into what she’s doing at the DWP for these alleged atrocities that people like DPAC are alleging, any hope that the UN can do something?

Peters replies that first of all they refute Wholeheartedly what Esther McVey said last week. The cuts to PIP payments, ESA, JSA, are real news, and they have eight years of evidence to back this up.

Rattansi asks, ‘She called if fake news?’

Peters replies, ‘Yeah, well, it’s not fake news, they are real stories and millions of people affected by these policies can say that, you know, are being plunged further into poverty and destitution as a result of their heinous policies and regarding the UN’s investigation there’s been years of written and oral evidence to back up millions of claimants who have been plunged further into mental distress, further into isolation as a result of DWP policy and it should be noted the government were the first state in the world to be formally investigated under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities and found guilty of grave and systemic human rights violations. Then in 2017 the Committee ruled that the cuts that disabled people and people in mental distress were experiencing were a human catastrophe on our lives, and the UN rapporteur for poverty is about to visit the UK here in November and there coming here because there’s overwhelming evidence to show that disabled people and people in mental distress are plunged further into poverty by the cuts this government are making. This is not fake news, it’s real news and we need to continue the fight to get the truth out of what this government are doing.’

The video also include three pieces of explanatory text at the bottom of the screen. One states that a spokesperson for the Samaritans had said that McVey had stepped down from their advisory board due to her commitments as secretary of state for work and pensions. She had been invited to become a member of the board in early 2017 when she was chair of the British Transport Police Authority, which was one of the partners the organization works with to reduce suicides on the railways. The organization now states they no longer have an advisory board.

The second piece of text says that they contacted McVey and the DWP about DPAC’s allegations that the cuts were pushing people into poverty, but didn’t get an answer.

And the third quotes the DWP as saying on the subject of the UN that

‘The UK has a close working relationship with UN bodies and is committed to upholding the rule of law and [a] rules-based international system … The UK has a standing invitation to all Special Rapporteurs and it is UK government policy to accept and facilitate such visits, and to encourage other UN member states to do the same.’

Peters is absolutely right. DPAC, other disabled rights organisations, poverty campaigners and left wing bloggers, vloggers and activists have amassed abundant information that fully confirms that the Tory cuts are pushing people into poverty. And no, the government does not like giving the information to people. Mike had to fight very hard getting the statistics from the DWP under the Freedom of Information Act about how many people had died after they had been found ‘fit for work’ by ATOS under the Department’s rules. And even then, the information they sent him wasn’t exactly the information he requested.

I also remember Mike blogging about the UN’s condemnation of Cameron’s government for their maltreatment of the disabled, and the angry denials this due from the Tories.

As for McVile’s speech going down a storm with the Tories at their conference, well, to paraphrase Christine Keeler, it would, wouldn’t it. The Tory party is composed of the entitled, the rich, and the bigoted, who have a vicious hatred of anyone they think is a drain on their money. And that means the poor, the disabled, the less privileged, the working class, the unemployed and Blacks and ethnic minorities. You could see that from Peter Lilly’s prancing about the stage at one conference way back in the ’90s, when he decided to put on his version of a piece from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. Like the Nazi U-boat commander in Dad’s Army, he had a little list. It was full of the people the government had decided were welfare spongers and malingerers, like unmarried mothers. As I’ve blogged about many times, the Tories have no sympathy with the poor and disadvantaged, and their policies seem designed to push them into suicide or death by starvation in what Mike has described as ‘Chequebook euthanasia’. Or the Nazis’ Aktion T4 by any other name.

My cartoon of McVey and other Tory lowlifes.

The Tories are positive threat to the health, lives and wellbeing of the people of this country. Get them out!

Capitalism Kills Mentally Ill Americans

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/10/2018 - 4:36pm in

Why don’t more victims of depression call for help? Some people who do wind up not with help but a giant medical bill.

Capitalism and the social source of mental distress

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 15/07/2018 - 3:29pm in

Iain Ferguson’s new book is a useful examination of the current worldwide mental health crisis, and a detailed history of the understanding of mental distress from Freud, to the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s and 1970s, to the psychiatrists’ handbook the DSM-5.

Ferguson writes, “simply stated, the central thesis of this book is that the economic and political system under which we live—capitalism—which is responsible for the enormously high levels of mental health problems we see in the world today. The corollary of this argument is that in a different kind of society, a society not based on exploitation of oppression, but on equality and democratic control—a socialist society—levels of mental distress would be far lower”.

Ferguson argues more specifically that neo-liberalism has dramatically increased levels of mental distress. This is the product of opening up all aspects of society to the market, from never ending tests for school children, to privatised aged care, creating a more atomized and individualized society.

He writes, “anxiety, which was barely recognized as a mental health condition 50 years ago, is perhaps the condition par excellence of neo-liberal capitalism”.

He argues for a historical approach to understanding mental distress, both in terms of how different societies recognise what constitutes mental distress, and for understanding why particular individuals become unwell.

Rejecting the idea that forms of mental distress are biologically programed or inevitable, he argues that they are a product of experiences and social interactions. These do not occur in a vacuum, he points out, but, “are structured by the dominant oppressions within society”.

Anxiety disorders, for example, occur more frequently amongst women than men, and poverty increases the risk of many mental health problems.

Mainstream psychiatry

Ferguson is rightly critical of the biomedical model of mental distress which has become dominant among medical psychiatrists today.

He asks, “Why then given this weak evidence for the biological causes of mental health issues and the effectiveness of drug treatments on the one hand and strong evidence for social factors on the other do drug interventions continue to be the main way in which society responds to mental distress?”

A large part of the answer is that it is driven by the profits of the pharmaceutical companies, who have an interest in promoting the sales of drug treatments.

But as he also stresses elsewhere, another part of the answer is the individualisation and depoliticisation of what are social problems. If psychiatry as a whole were to accept that mental distress had social causes, it would be driven to do something about it. Instead it accepts and ends up reinforcing neo-liberal capitalist ideology, and an individualist view of the roots of mental distress.

Ferguson is also rightly critical of the new field of “Mad studies” that often argues that difficulties experienced by mental health users lie primarily in psychiatry, rather than neo-liberal capitalism.

Ferguson argues that a majority of people experiencing mental distress never encounter a psychiatrist, so it is difficult to argue that their problems stem from “psychiatric oppression”. It is true that most mental distress has its roots in the material circumstances of neo-liberal capitalism (and the clash of these with what the system tells us to think). However psychiatry can play a role reinforcing the atomisation of neo-liberal capitalism.

What people with mental health problems do encounter are the ideas that mental distress is an individual problem—whether they see a psychiatrist or not—since these ideas dominate our society.

These ideas are reinforced by much of the psychiatric profession, and particularly captured in “the psychiatrists’ bible” the DSM-5. And the lack of services, or shame that prevents people from seeing a psychiatrist, are reinforced by the idea that mental distress is an individual problem.

Another feature of the neo-liberal era has been the weakening of trade unionism and collective resistance. Early in the book Ferguson quotes journalist Tim Adam’s comments on a conference on workplace stress:

“It was tempting to think that the frontline of labor disputes had shifted from picket lines to worry lines and that collective grievances had become individual psychological battles; in the 1980s an average of 7,213,000 working days were lost to strikes, that number fell to between 647,000 between 2010 and 2015. Meanwhile the days lost to stress-related illness went exponentially in the other direction”.

Ferguson argues to fight to defend the services we currently have, while simultaneously demanding the less medicalised services, and greater acknowledgment of the social causes of mental distress, which users have been demanding for decades.

Ultimately he argues for struggle for a different sort of society, and that the struggle itself shifting back from “worry lines to picket lines” can play a role in making us well.

By Chris Breen

Politics of the mind: Marxism and mental distress
By Iain Ferguson, Bookmarks, $20

The post Capitalism and the social source of mental distress appeared first on Solidarity Online.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Suicide? No. Society Is Murdering Us. But There Is a Way Out.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 3:50am in

Image result for golden gate bridge jumper

They say that 10 million Americans seriously consider committing suicide every year. In 1984, when I was 20, I was one of them.

Most people who kill themselves feel hopeless. They are miserable and distraught and can’t imagine how or if their lives will ever improve. That’s how I felt. Within a few months I got expelled from college, dumped by a girlfriend I foolishly believed I would marry, fired from my job and evicted from my apartment. I was homeless, bereft, broke. I didn’t have enough money for more than a day of cheap food. And I had no prospects.

I tried in vain to summon up the guts to jump off the roof of my dorm. I went down to the subway but couldn’t make myself jump in front of a train. I wanted to. But I couldn’t.

Obviously things got better. I’m writing this.

Things got better because my luck changed. But — why did it have to? Isn’t there something wrong with a society in which life or death turns on luck?

I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self that suicide isn’t necessary, that there is another way, that there will be plenty of time to be dead in the end. I’ve seen those other ways when I’ve traveled overseas.

In Thailand and Central Asia and the Caribbean and all over the world you will find Americans whose American lives ran hard against the shoals of bankruptcy, lost love, addiction or social shame. Rather than off themselves, they gathered their last dollars and headed to the airport and went somewhere else to start over. They showed up at some dusty ex-pat bar in the middle of nowhere with few skills other than speaking English and asked if they could crash in the back room in between washing dishes. Eventually they scraped together enough money to conduct tours for Western tourists, maybe working as a divemaster or taking rich vacationers deep-sea fishing. They weren’t rich themselves; they were OK and that was more than enough.

You really can start over. But maybe not in this uptight, stuck-up, class-stratified country.

I remembered that in 2015 when I suffered another setback. Unbeknownst to me, the Los Angeles Times — where I had worked as a cartoonist since 2009 – had gotten itself into a corrupt business deal with the LAPD, which I routinely criticized in my cartoons. A piece-of-work police chief leveraged his department’s financial influence on the newspaper by demanding that the idiot ingénue publisher, his political ally, fire me as a favor. But mere firing wasn’t enough for these two goons. They published not one, but two articles, lying about me in an outrageous attempt to destroy my journalistic credibility. I’m suing but the court system is slower than molasses in the pre-climate change Arctic.

Suicide crossed my mind many times during those dark weeks and months. Although I had done nothing wrong the Times’ smears made me feel ashamed. I was angry: at the Times editors who should have quit rather than carry out such shameful orders, at the media outlets who refused to cover my story, at the friends and colleagues who didn’t support me. Though many people stood by me, I felt alone. I couldn’t imagine salvaging my reputation — as a journalist, your reputation for truthtelling and integrity are your most valuable asset and essential to do your job and to get new ones.

As my LA Times nightmare unfolded, however, I remembered the Texas-born bartender who had reinvented himself in Belize after his wife left him and a family court judge ordered him to pay 90% of his salary in alimony. I thought about the divemaster in Cozumel running away from legal trouble back in the States that he refused to describe. If my career were to crumble away, I could split.

You can opt out of BS without having to opt out of life.

Up 30% since 1999, suicide has become an accelerating national epidemic — 1.4 million Americans tried to kill themselves in a single year, 2015 — but the only times the media focuses on suicide is when it claims the lives of celebrities like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. While the media has made inroads by trying to cover high-profile suicides discreetly so as to minimize suicidal ideation and inspiring others to follow their example, it’s frustrating that no one seems to want to identify societal and political factors so that this trend might be reversed.

Experts believe that roughly half of men who commit suicide suffer from undiagnosed mental illness such as a severe personality disorder or clinical depression. Men commit suicide in substantially higher numbers than women. The healthcare insurance business isn’t much help. One in five Americans is mentally ill but 60% get no treatment at all.

Then there’s stress. Journalistic outlets and politicians don’t target the issue of stress in any meaningful way other than to foolishly, insipidly advise people to avoid it. If you subject millions of people to inordinate stress, some of them, the fragile ones, will take their own lives. We should be working to create a society that minimizes rather than increases stress.

It doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting to come up with major sources of stress in American society. People are working longer hours but earning lower pay. Even people with jobs are terrified of getting laid off without a second’s notice. The American healthcare system, designed to fatten for-profit healthcare corporations, is a sick joke. When you lose your job or get sick, that shouldn’t be your problem alone. We’re social creatures. We must help each other personally, locally and through strong safety-net social programs.

Loneliness and isolation are likely leading causes of suicide; technology is alienating us from one another even from those who live in our own homes. This is a national emergency. We have to discuss it, then act.

Life in the United States has become vicious and brutal, too much to take even for this nation founded upon the individualistic principles of rugged libertarian pioneers. Children are pressured to exhibit fake joy and success on social media. Young adults are burdened with gigantic student loans they strongly suspect they will never be able to repay. The middle-aged are divorced, outsourced, downsized and repeatedly told they are no longer relevant. And the elderly are thrown away or warehoused, discarded and forgotten by the children they raised.

We don’t have to live this way. It’s a choice. Like the American ex-pats I run into overseas, American society can opt out of crazy-making capitalism without having to opt out.

In the ‘I’ Today: Columnist Deborah Orr Catches Up with Mike’s Posts about DUP and Decline of Democracy in Ulster

Mike over at Vox Political has several times commented on stories in the mainstream media, which suspiciously repeat some of the points he’s made in his articles. Now it’s the turn of the I’s columnist, Deborah Orr, to catch up with some of the points Mike’s been making about the grossly disproportionate influence the DUP now has, thanks to the Tories’ dependence on them for support in the Commons. And the way this has meant that effective devolved government won’t be coming back to Ulster any time soon.

The power sharing agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP collapsed last year, and since then Ulster’s been governed from Westminster. After Eire voted by a two-thirds majority to legalise abortion, feminists – not necessarily female – have been calling for a similar referendum in the Six Counties, where abortion is also illegal. But the DUP and Arlene Foster are very firmly against abortion, and don’t want to give the people of Ulster the choice of whether it should be legal or not. And because May needs their support, she really isn’t going to risk alienating them by giving them the referendum many are calling for. Nor is she going to risk losing them by handing power back to Stormont. And so, thanks to Foster and her far right hordes, Ulsterwomen don’t get to vote on what can be a matter of life and death – not just for unborn children, but also for the mothers – and Ulster’s people are denied their right to self-government.

Mike made these points in his posts a few days ago. See for example, this article by Mike yester, which actually comments on a story in the Mirror:
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/30/vox-political-proved-correct-as-dup-threatens-tories-over-ni-abortion-law-reform/

Orr is also one of the columnists, who’ve repeated the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party and Ken Livingstone. Last week in her column she claimed that Leninspart had said that Hitler was a Zionist, and called him ‘a fool’. In fact, the depraved Marxist newt-fancier had said no such thing. He had said that Hitler briefly supported Zionism ‘before he went mad and killed the Jews’. This is actually solid, established fact. Under the Ha’avara Agreement, the Nazis did support sending German Jews to Israel with the Zionist organisations. As Mike’s pointed out over and again, you can find this on the website of the International Holocaust Museum in Israel.

Livingstone’s comment that Hitler killed the Jews in the Holocaust only after he went mad is wrong. Historians of the Third Reich have argued that the implications of Hitler’s anti-Semitism were clear from the outset, even if he only started murdering the Jews en masse from 1942 onwards. The Nazis made absolutely no secret of their murderous hatred of the Jews. Joachim C. Fest in his biography of Hitler records how the Nazis in Berlin even sang about having ‘the Jew lies bleeding at our feet’. This is quite apart from their real attacks on Jews, and their brutal persecution in Germany and Austria before the Final Solution.

However, Leninspart hasn’t been smeared as an anti-Semite because of his belief that Hitler hadn’t planned the Jews extermination from the start. He was smeared because he raised an awkward fact of history that the Israel lobby, and its enabler in the mainstream press and the political parties, can’t tolerate: that Hitler briefly allied with the Zionists, without being a Zionist himself.

And Orr couldn’t tolerate that fact herself. Or perhaps she was just too lazy and complacent to research the historical fact behind Livingstone’s statement. Either way, she was happy to repeat the Israel lobby’s contemptible lie.

Either way, her article shows that if you really want to know what’s going on, check Mike’s blog, and those of the other great left-wing bloggers and vloggers he follows and cites.

Frightened Davidson Tells May to Concentrate on Funding NHS

A day or so ago I put up a post arguing that Corbyn’s promise to renationalise the NHS had Tweezer and the Tories rattled, as there had been a story in the I that May had held the promise of repealing some of Andrew Lansley’s vile Health and Social Care Act. This is a long, convoluted act which basically absolves the Health Minister of the requirement to provide universal healthcare free at the point of delivery to everyone in Britain. It’s one of the major landmarks on the long campaign of the Thatcherite right – both Tory and New Labour – to privatise the NHS. May was also talking about increasing taxes to mend the funding deficit in the NHS. This was, however, spoilt by May acting true to form as a Tory. She immediately declared that everyone would have to pay this tax, which could be as high as £2,000. Mike’s posted a piece on his blog about how this was worked out, and pointed out that not everyone should have to pay the same amount. We have progressive taxation in this country, which means that the rich pay higher rates of tax than the poor, who can’t afford it. The Tories, however, hate progressive taxation, because they’re solidly on the side of the rich and despise the poor. And so Thatcher, Major, Cameron and now May have done their best to shift the tax burden onto the poor, in order to lower the tax rates on their rich friends. And Thatcher came unstuck in 1990/1 when she tried to promote the poll tax.

Like May’s proposed tax increase for the NHS, this was supposed to be a uniform rate charged on rich and poor alike. It was expected to replace the rates, which were charged on the value of your property. So a rich Tory donor living in a mansion was going to be charged the same amount of money as someone on unemployment benefit living in a simple terraced house. Never mind: Thatcher and her cabinet of grotesques claimed this was ‘democratic, because we all pay the same’. The British public didn’t agree, and there were massed protests and riots against it. I also know of a number of magistrates, who resigned because of it. As Justices of the Peace, they would be required to enforce this piece of legislation, which they personally felt was terribly unjust. And rather than find people guilty in support of a law, with which they profoundly disagreed, they obeyed the calls of their consciences and resigned. And I have every respect to these people for doing so. Thatcher was then outed in a coup, Major installed as her replacement, and unfortunately the Tories carried on in power until Blair’s victory in 1997.

It struck me at the time, as I said in my previous article, that May was probably trying to scare people with the £2,000 figure, which many poorer people wouldn’t be able to afford, so she could claim that the NHS is unaffordable as it stands. Cue more privatisation. Despite the fact that we could easily afford it if we took a leaf out of the European’s book and spent more on the NHS, and increased the tax rates for the rich instead.

But the fact that May is holding out the prospect of undoing her predecessor’s legislation, and raising taxes for the NHS, shows that Corbyn’s got her rattled.

And not just May. It also seems to have worried ‘Rape Clause’ Ruth Davidson north of the Border. The I ran a story on Tuesday reporting that Davidson had warned may to concentrate on increasing funding for the NHS, and ditch plans for more tax cuts. If she didn’t, she risked relegating the Tories to history.

This shows just how far the panic is spreading in the Tory party. Quite apart from Davidson and Gove forming a think tank – surely an oxymoron in their cases – to reinvigorate the Tory party with new ideas. Because, they warn, if they don’t have them, the Tories may be out of power for a whole generation.

Well, I’d just love to see this vile party and its horrendous politicians thrust out of power, and not just for a generation. That’s too short a time.

As for the gurning, smirking leader of the Tories in Scotland, today’s I carried pieces from a couple of newspapers predicting that Davidson is too young, ambitious and talented to be content to remain head of the Tories in Scotland. According to them, she will most probably try to head down south to forge a political career in Britain and Wales. What a terrible prospect! Davidson is responsible for trying to implement the government’s wretched austerity campaign in Scotland, including its demand that women, who’ve had more than two children due to rape, should have to prove this is the case when claiming child benefit. Hence her soubriquet of ‘Rape Clause’. It’s a nasty piece of vindictive legislation which punishes already vulnerable women, who have been traumatised by their sexual assault. But this is the Tories, who have absolute contempt for the poor, the weak and the underprivileged. Davidson is supposed to be a ‘liberal’ Tory, but there’s no evidence of that except her sexuality. And despite May’s attempts to position herself as a feminist, this is a thoroughly misogynist piece of legislation. The last thing the rest of Britain needs is for her to come down south to spread even more misery down here.

Actually, reading between the line, it’s possible that Davidson may not have a choice. For all that she’s supposed to have masterminded the revival of the Tories in Scotland, she didn’t actually increase their vote. Instead, the SNP’s vote decreased and Labour’s revived, which split the opposition and allowed the Tories to emerge as the largest single party, even though most
Scots voted against them. Which is another argument in favour of proportional representation. Given the parlous situation of the Tories in Scotland, it’s possible that the Scots may vote them out. This would result in the party looking around for a new leader, and Davidson given her marching orders. In which case, if she wanted to continue her career, she’d have to go south.

I don’t want her coming to England and Wales, but I look forward to the Scots voting out the Tories and their thoroughly grotesque and objectionable leader.

RT: Report Shows Benefit Sanctions Have Negative Effects on Claimants

Mike last week put up a piece about the report compiled by a number of British universities, which showed that the sanctions regime imposed by the DWP does absolutely no good at all, and in fact has negative consequences for claimants. It does not help them to find work, and in fact pushes them further into depression and mental illness.

In this clip from RT, presenter Bill Dod talks to Steve Topple of the Canary, here credited as a political commenter. Topple states that the report, which was compiled over five years from countless individual cases, just shows what disability rights activists and organisations like DPAC, and political commenters like himself have known all along.

The programme quotes the DWP, which states that 70 per cent of claimants said that the regime helped them to find work, and that sanctions were only meted out in a small minority of cases and the DWP tailored its help to individual cases. Topple states that the Department’s response, that 70 per cent of claimants say that it helped them find work, is meaningless because they were looking for work anyway.

Dod then challenges him with the question of whether some people, who can work, do find life on benefits more attractive than getting a job. Topple despatches this myth by quoting the real figures for benefit fraud, which is something like 1.6 per cent.

Topple then goes on to attack the sanctions’ systems origins with New Labour. It was Tony Blair, who introduced it in 2007, with disastrous effects on the disabled. Instead of being given the care to which they were entitled when the NHS was set up, disabled people were now redefined as ‘fit for work’, even when they weren’t. Topple makes the point that the sanctions system now divides people into two groups. They’re either fit for work, and so supposed to be out looking for a job, or unfit and marginalised. He points out that there have been five reports already condemning Britain’s sanction system – four from the UN, one from the EU, and that what is needed is a thorough report into the DWP. Topple clearly has his facts at his fingertips, as he says very clearly after dismissing the DWP’s rebuttals point by point that he could go on for hours.

In fact, it’s possible to attack and refute all of the DWP’s statement about benefit sanctions. Sanctions are not imposed on a small minority of cases. They’ve been imposed on a large number, apparently for no reason other than that the Jobcentres have targets to meet of the number of claimants they are supposed to throw off benefits. And they have been imposed for the most trivial reasons. As for help being tailored to meet the needs of individual claimants, it’s true that sometimes there are schemes that are available for some claimants in some circumstances, but I’ve seen no evidence that the DWP does this with all, or even the majority of claimants. And the statement that it is reasonable for the Department to impose certain conditions on claimants for the receipt of their benefits is just more self-serving nonsense. It doesn’t, for example, say anything about the way some sick and disabled people have been thrown off benefits for missing interviews, when they have had extremely good reasons: like they were ill in hospital, for example.

Mike in his post about the report wondered why the government carried on with the sanctions system, when it didn’t work. The answer’s fairly obvious. The Tories, and New Labour, hate the poor and the ill. New Labour’s policy was based on the assumption that many people claiming disability benefit were simply malingerers, courtesy of a series of quack studies supported by Unum or one of the other American private health insurers. And the Tories and the Tory press hate the unemployed, the poor and the disabled because they see them as a drain on the money that the rich should be allowed to keep for themselves, rather than taken in taxes to support them. And they also know that it’s a very good tactic for them to divide the working class by getting those in work, but feeling the pinch from low wages and job insecurity, to hate those out of work by demonising them as malingerers and idle fraudsters. It distracts people from attacking the true source of the poverty and insecurity – the rich, corporate elite and their programme of low wages, zero hours contracts and increasing freedom to lay off whomever they choose, for whatever reason.

No, the sanctions system doesn’t work. But it expresses the right-wing, Thatcherite hatred of the poor and sick, and is a useful tool for maintaining a divided, cowed workforce, and generating the entirely misplaced anger from those deceived by the system, which keeps the Tories in government.

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