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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.

Simon Sideways on Israel as Rogue Nuclear State

Despite styling himself ‘Reverend’, I very much doubt that Simon Sideways is a man of the cloth. He’s a right-wing youtuber, who vlogs about immigration, feminism, Islam and the coronavirus lockdown, all of which he opposes. I don’t share his views about these subjects. But in this short video below, he makes some very disturbing points about Israel. The video’s just over five minutes long, and it’s his thoughts about the assassination yesterday of the Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsin Fakhrizadeh. Sideways believes that it’s the work of the Israeli secret service, Mossad, and goes on to discuss their probably responsibility for a virus that attacked the Iranian nuclear programme a decade or so ago.

The virus was originally developed by the Americans, and was intended to disrupt the computer systems controlling the operation of the centrifuges used in nuclear research. The Israelis, however, decided that the virus wasn’t sufficiently destructive, so they took it over and altered it before unleashing it on the Iranians. It didn’t just affect Iran, however. It spread around the world causing havoc in all the computer systems it infected, including our NHS. When the Americans then confronted the Israelis with the chaos they caused, the Israelis just shrugged it off.

Sideways states very clearly that the Israelis do exactly what they want, to whom they want, with a complete disregard for the consequences because they will always defend themselves by accusing their critics of anti-Semitism. America can break one international law in a year, and there’s a global outcry. Israel, however, will break fifty, and there’s no criticism, because everyone’s afraid of being called anti-Semitic.

This cavalier disregard for the immense harm done by them also extends to the country’s nuclear policy. This is the ‘Samson Option’, named after the Old Testament hero. This policy states that in the event of a nuclear attack by another country, Israel will launch its nuclear weapons indiscriminately at the other countries around the world, including Europe. The point of the strategy is to turn Israel into a ‘mad dog’ so that no other nation dares attack it. There is an article about the strategy on Wikipedia, which provides a number of quotes from journalists, military historians and senior Israeli officers about the strategy. It was to be used in the event of a second holocaust, with nuclear missiles targeting Europe, Russia and Islam’s holy places.

See: Samson Option – Wikipedia

Here’s the video.

Mossad Murder inc at it agai. in Iran – YouTube

I remember the virus attack on Iran’s nuclear programme. If I recall correctly, it disabled an underground nuclear testing centre and killed 22 scientists. I also remember the crisis a few years ago caused by a virus infecting the NHS computers. I don’t know whether this was the same virus, but I really wouldn’t like to rule it out. He isn’t quite right about Israel escaping without criticism from the global community for its actions. The UN has issued any number of condemnations of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, which are very definitely in violation of international law. It’s just that Israel takes zero notice of them, and they aren’t enforced with sanctions. And they almost certainly won’t be, so long as Israel has the support of America, Britain and the European Community.

Sideways is right when he says that Israel responds to criticism by calling its accuser an anti-Semite. We’ve seen that in the Israel lobby’s smears against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour party, very many of whom were self-respecting Jews. Israel has been caught several times spying against friendly countries, another violation of international law. When Thatcher caught them doing so, she threatened to throw the Israeli spies out of the country. The Israelis duly issued an apology and amended their behaviour. They were caught doing the same under Blair and then under Cameron or Tweezer. I can’t remember which. Zero action was taken, and the Israelis got away with it.

They’ve also killed innocent people when they’ve tried assassinating Palestinian terrorists. And when I was growing up I remember how the rozzers in either Switzerland or Sweden nabbed a party of these clowns. The Israeli spies were trying to snatch a Palestinian terrorist, who was living in a block of flats. They decided the grab needed to be done in darkness, so turned off the block’s fuse box. Which plunged the entire block into darkness. Then Sweden’s or Switzerland’s finest turned up and grabbed them in turn.

This all shows that the Israeli security services are a bunch of out of control, murderous clowns. And the Samson Option shows that the Arabs and Muslims are right: it isn’t Iran that’s a rogue state. It’s the US and Israel. In his book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, Blum cites a Zogby poll of global, or at least Middle Eastern opinion, about whether Iran would be a threat if it had nuclear weapons. Most of those polled believed that Iran wouldn’t, and that it had a right to nuclear weapons.

The prospect of a nuclear armed Iran was worrying a few years ago, when Ahmedinejad was president. Ahmedinejad was extremely religious and belonged to a group of Twelver Shia – the country’s major branch of Islam – who believed that the return of the 12th Imam was imminent. The Shi’a believe that leadership of the Islamic community after Mohammed rightly belonged with a line of divinely inspired rulers – the Imams – beginning with Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali. There are different sects, and Twelver Shia are so-called because, unlike some others, they believe that there were 12 Imams, the last of whom vanished after he went to a well in the 9th century AD. They believe he will return in the last days, when there will be a battle between Islam and the forces of evil. Ahmedinejad’s presidency was frightening because there was a fear that he would launch some kind of war in order to fulfil this prophecy.

But the Iranian president wasn’t the only leader whose apocalyptic beliefs were a possible threat to the world. Ronald Reagan and various members of his cabinet and military advisers also believed that the End was near as right-wing fundamentalist Christians. There was thus also concern that he would launch a nuclear war against Russia, here representing the forces of the Antichrist, to bring about the end.

Well, Ahmedinijad and Reagan have been and gone. I don’t believe that the Iranians have a nuclear weapons programme, as I explained in a post I put up about the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist yesterday. I also think that the Iranians were genuine when they said they were willing to negotiate and reach a deal with America. The refusal to cooperate, in my opinion, comes from the Americans, who really want regime change.

Not that the Iranians are angels in their turn. The regime is a brutal, repressive theocracy and they have been responsible for terrorist attacks against opposition groups. There’s a report on one such attack by the Iranian security services on an Iranian opposition group in Europe in today’s I. It’s just that it now looks to me that Iran isn’t, and has never been, a nuclear threat.

It looks to me like the real nuclear threat and rogue state is Israel. And the Iranians have more to fear from an invasion from America and Israel, than America and Israel have from Iran.

RT America’s Lee Camp Raises Questions about Starmer’s Connection to British Deep State

Mike’s put up a number of pieces discussing and criticising Starmer’s demand that Labour MPs abstain on the wretched ‘Spycops’ bill. If passed, this would allow members of the police and security services to commit serious offences while undercover. Twenty Labour MPs initially defied him and voted against it, with several resigning in protest from the shadow cabinet. The Labour whips’ office has also broken party protocol to issue written reprimands to the rebels. If they defy party discipline, they will face a reprimand period of six months, which will be extended to twelve if they continue to break the whip. These letters have also been shared with the parliamentary committee, a group of backbench MPs elected by the parliamentary Labour party and currently dominated by the right. This committee will decide whether or not to inform the rebel MPs’ constituency parties and the NEC. The information could then be considered if an MP seeks reselection in preparation for a general election. As one MP has said, it’s intimidation, pure and simple. And a number of those MPs, who received the letters, are talking to union officials.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/10/17/starmers-tory-supporting-crackdown-on-his-own-party-makes-him-a-danger-to-people-with-disabilities/

Starmer’s conduct shouldn’t really be a surprise. He’s a Blairite, and Blair’s tenure of the Labour leadership was marked by control freakery as he centralised power around himself and his faction away from the party’s ordinary members and grassroots. But Starmer is also very much an establishment figure. He was, after all, the director of public prosecutions. In this video below, comedian and presenter Lee Camp raises important and very provocative questions about Starmer’s connections to the British establishment and the deep state. Camp’s the presenter of a number of shows on RT America, which are deeply critical of the corporate establishment, and American militarism and imperialism. The video’s from their programme, Moment of Clarity. The questions asked about Starmer are those posed by Mac Kennard in an article in The Gray Zone. RT is owned by the Russian state, as it points out on the blurbs for its videos on YouTube. Putin is an authoritarian thug and kleptocrat, who has opposition journalists, politicos, activists and businessmen beaten and killed. But that doesn’t mean that RT’s programmes exposing and criticising western capitalism and imperialism and the corrupt activities and policies of our governments aren’t accurate and justified.

Camp begins the video by explaining how there was a comparable battle in the Labour party over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as there was in the American Democrat party over Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for the presidency. Just as Sanders was opposed by the Democrats’ corporate leadership and smeared as a Communist in a neo-McCarthyite witch hunt, so Jeremy Corbyn – a real progressive – was opposed by the corporatists in the Labour party. He was subjected to the same smears, as well as accusations of anti-Semitism because he supported Palestine. Camp states that there are leaked texts showing that leading figures in the Labour party were actively working to undermine him. Jeremy Corbyn has now gone and been replaced by Keir Starmer, about whom Kennard asks the following questions:

1. why did he meet the head of MI5 for drinks a year after his decision not to prosecute the intelligence agency for its role in torture?

Camp uses the term ‘deep state’ for the secret services, and realises that some of his viewers may be uncomfortable with the term because of its use by Trump. He tries to reassure them that the deep state, and the term itself, existed long before Trump. It’s just something the Orange Generalissimo has latched onto. Camp’s not wrong – the term was used for the network of covert intelligence and state law enforcement and security services long before Trump was elected. Lobster has been using the term for years in its articles exposing their grubby activities. More controversially, Camp believes that the deep state was responsible for the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK. JFK was supposedly assassinated because he was about to divulge publicly the deep state’s nefarious activities. This is obviously controversial because the JFK assassination is one of the classic conspiracy theories, and one that many critics of the British and American secret states don’t believe in. It may actually be that JFK really was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, a lone gunman. But Camp’s belief in this conspiracy theory doesn’t on its own disqualify his other allegations and criticisms about the secret state.

2. When and why did Starmer join the Trilateral Commission?

The Trilateral Commission was set up in 1973 by elite banker David Rockefeller as a discussion group to foster greater cooperation between Japan, the US and western Europe. According to Camp, it was really founded to roll back the advances of the hippy era as the corporate elite were horrified that ordinary people were being heard by governments instead of big businessmen. They looked back to the days when President Truman could listen to a couple of businessmen and no-one else. The Commission published a paper, ‘The Crisis of Democracy’, which claimed that democracy was in crisis because too many people were being heard. Ordinary people were making demands and getting them acted upon. This, the Commission decided, was anti-business. They made a series of recommendations themselves, which have since been implemented. These included the demand that the media should be aligned with business interests. Camp states that this doesn’t mean that there is uniformity of opinion amongst the mainstream media. The various media outlets do disagree with each other over policies and politicians. But it does mean that if the media decides that a story doesn’t fit with business interests, it doesn’t get published. The Commission also wanted the universities purged of left-wing progressives. The Commission’s members including such shining examples of humanity and decency as Henry Kissinger and the former director general of US National Intelligence, John Negroponte.

3. What did Starmer discuss with US attorney general Eric Holder when he met him on November 9th, 2011 in Washington D.C.?

Starmer was the director of public prosecutions at the time, and met not just Holder, but also five others from the Department of Justice. This was at the same time the Swedes were trying to extradite Julian Assange of Wikileaks infamy. Except that further leaked documents have shown that the Swedes were prepared to drop the case. But Britain wanted him extradited and tried, and successfully put pressure on the Swedes to do just that.

4. Why did Starmer develop such a close relationship with the Times newspaper?

Starmer held social gatherings with the Times’ staff, which is remarkable, as Camp points out, because it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch like Fox News in America.

Camp goes on to conclude that, at the very least, this all shows that Starmer is very much a member of the corporate establishment, and that the deep state has been working to assure that same corporate elite that he’s safe, just as they worked to reassure Wall Street about Obama. At the time Obama had only been senator for a couple of years, but nevertheless he succeeded in getting a meeting with a former treasury secretary. But now the corporate establishment in the Democrats and the Labour party has won. Jeremy Corbyn has been ousted and replaced with Starmer, while Sanders can’t even get a platform with the Democrats. This is because the Democrats have surrendered the platform to the Republicans because Trump contradicts himself so much they just can’t follow him.

While these are just questions and speculation, they do strongly indicate that Starmer is very much part of the establishment and has their interests at heart, not those of the traditional Labour party. His closeness to the Times shows just why he was willing to write articles for the Tory press behind paywalls. His role in the British state’s attempt to extradite Julian Assange and meetings with Holder also show why Starmer’s so determined not to oppose the ‘spycops’ bill. He is very much part of the British state establishment, and sees it has his role and duty to protect it and its secrets, and not the British public from the secret state.

As for the Trilateral Commission, they’re at the heart of any number of dodgy conspiracy theories, including those claiming that the American government has made covert pacts with evil aliens from Zeta Reticuli. However, as Camp says, his membership of the Commission does indeed show that he is very much a member of the global corporate elite. An elite that wanted to reduce democracy in order to promote the interests of big business.

As a corporate, establishment figure, Starmer very definitely should not be the head of a party founded to represent and defend ordinary people against exploitation and deprivation by business and the state. Dissatisfaction with his leadership inside the Labour party is growing. Hopefully it won’t be too long before he’s ousted in his turn, and the leadership taken by someone who genuinely represents the party, its history and its real mission to work for Britain’s working people.

Another Lesson from France: How to Maintain a Diverse, Pluralist Press

There’s a very interesting passage in Denis MacShane’s 1986 Fabian Society pamphlet, French Lessons for Labour, where he describes how the French have been able to create a diverse and pluralistic press. Apparently it’s the most diverse in Europe with the exception of Sweden. This has been achieved partly through legislation drafted at the country’s liberation during World War II, but which was never enforced, which would have removed newspapers from the ownership of Nazi supporters and collaborators, the nationalisation of the distributors and state subsidization.

In fact, France, partly by design, partly by chance, has the most pluralist press in Europe outside Sweden. The design lies in the laws passed at the liberation in 1944/45 which dispossessed the owners of the right-wing papers which had supported Hitler before 1939 and the Vichy regime after 1940. A right of reply law and, more important, one that nationalised the press distribution agency were also passed. The latter means that left-wing newspapers and magazines are on sale in the most remote parts of France and the distribution censorship which is exercised in Britain by the two main wholesale/retail companies does not exist in France. In addition, the Government subsidises the press with cheap postal tariffs, zero VAT rating and, on occasion, direct subsidy.

The chance lies in the willingness of businessmen or corporations to put up money on left-of-centre newspapers and to support them during periods of low or zero profits. Le Matin, Liberation and the left-wing weekly Le Nouvel Observateur (circulation 400,000) all provide a width of reporting and comments In addition, Le Monde, whose independence is assured by the right of journalists to elect its editor, maintains an objectivity and authority, and an influence because of those two values, which are not automatically hostile to a socialist government. (P. 17).

However, attempts to pass similar legislation to the 1944/5 laws in order to stop the Vichy collaborator Robert Hersant from owning 19 national and provincial papers in 1984 and 1986 was a failure, partly due to a press freedom campaign from the right.

This issue of media ownership and bias is acutely relevant on this side of the Channel as well. Since the 1980s, the press and media in Britain has been owned by a decreasing number of powerful individuals, who may also have other business interests. These individuals, like Rupert Murdoch, have been able to exert oligarchical control of the media, maintaining a strong Tory bias. Media and press bias against Labour was particularly acute during Thatcher’s administration and was certainly a factor in the 1987 general election. It has also been very much in evidence over the past five years, when even supposedly left-wing newspapers like the Mirror, the Guardian and the Observer, ran stories attacking Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as well as the radio and television networks.

Media bias has also partly been responsible for the right-ward movement of the Labour party itself under Tony Blair. Blair was backed by the Murdoch press, and former ministers have said that Murdoch was an invisible presence at every cabinet meeting as Blair worried how his policies would be viewed by the press magnate. He was also able to gain the support of other papers with the exception of the Heil, but continued to hope that he would eventually win over that rag. I think it’s likely that press ownership will become even more restricted if some papers go under due to the Coronavirus lockdown. Even before the lockdown, the Express changed owners as its former proprietor, the pornography Richard Desmond, sold it to the Mirror group.

The willingness of businessmen to support left-wing newspapers is a crucial factor. When the Daily Herald went bust in the 1960s, to be bought by Murdoch and relauched as the Scum, it actually had a higher circulation that many of the other papers. What brought it down was the fact that it was unable to attract advertising. And I’ve encountered censorship by the distributors myself. Way back in the 1980s during the period of glasnost and perestroika introduced by Gorbachev, an English edition of Pravda was briefly available in some British newsagents. This was an exciting time as Gorbachev signed arms limitation treaties with Reagan ending the Cold War, and introduced reforms in the Soviet Union intended to turn the country into a multi-party democracy. I tried ordering it from my local newsagent in Bristol, but was told it was impossible. It was only being carried by one of the two national distributors. The one that served my area simply wouldn’t carry it.

And the newsagent chains can also exercise their own censorship. When it started out, Private Eye was seen as very subversive and viewed with distaste by many people. Many newsagents wouldn’t stock it. And at least one of the newsagents in the ‘ 90s refused to put its edition satirising the public attitude at Princess Di’s funeral on their shelves. When I asked what had happened to it when it wasn’t on sale in my local newsagents, I was told that it hadn’t come in yet. Well, there seemed to be many other newsagents, who hadn’t had it delivered either. After it returned to the shelves a fortnight later, the Eye published a series of pieces, including letters from readers, who’d had similar problems finding a copy, revealing what had actually gone on. One of the newsagents, John Menzies, had objected to the issue and its cover, and so refused to sell it.

Britain would definitely benefit considerably from similar policies towards the press as that of our friends across Le Manche. But I think getting such legislation through would be almost impossible. There were demands for workers’ control of the press in the 1980s, partly as a reaction by journalists on papers bought by Murdoch as he expanded his noxious empire. They were also concerned about editorial control and bias as the press passed into the hands of fewer and fewer owners. Those demands were obviously unsuccessful. Any attempt to pass legislation providing for state subsidisation of left-wing papers would be howled down by the Tory press as interference in press freedom and the state bailing out failing companies in contravention of the Thatcherite doctrine that market forces should be allowed full reign and failing companies and industries should be allowed to go under.

And I can’t imagine any law to deprive former collaborators or supporters of Hitler of ownership of their papers going down at all well with the Daily Mail, which is notorious for its support of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists and articles praising Hitler before the outbreak of the War. John Major in the last days of his administration wanted to pass legislation breaking up Murdoch’s empire, but by that time it was too late – Murdoch had already switched to Tony Blair and the Labour party and Major’s government was in no position to do anything about Murdoch’s pernicious control of the press.

This problem is likely to become more acute if some newspapers fold due to lack of sales during the lockdown and the impact of the internet. Media ownership is restricted enough as it is, without Murdoch trying to destroy the Beeb so that Sky and the other cable/satellite stations can take its place. It may not be too long before Murdoch’s hold on the media becomes a true monopoly. In that event, government action to break it up will become a necessity. But given the uniform opposition it would face from the press, it’s questionable if it would be successful.

Or as governments increasingly ingratiate themselves with the Murdoch press in return for its support, even be considered as an option.

‘I’ Report on Macron’s Vow to Fight Islamist Separatism in France

Here’s another piece from the I about extremism, from last Saturday’s edition for 3rd October 2020. Written by their columnist Michael Rose, it discusses the announcement by French president Macron that he intends to fight against the separatism and extremist Islam in Muslim communities on the other side of la Manche. The article runs

President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, which he said was threatening to take control in some Muslim communities around France.

France has struggled with Islamist militancy for years but the government is increasingly worried by broader radicalisation within Muslim communities. Officials cite the refusal of some Muslim men to shake women’s hands, swimming pools that impose alternate time slots for men and women, girls as young as four being told to wear full-face veils, and proliferation of Islamic schools.

More than 250 people have been killed on French soil over the past five years in attacks by Islamist militants or individuals inspired by Jihadist groups. “What we need to fight is Islamist separatism,” Mr Macron said during a visit to the impoverished Paris suburb of Les Mureaux. “The problem is an ideology which claims its own laws should be superior to those of the Republic.”

France follows a strict form of secularism which is designed to separate religion and public life. The principle was enshrined in law in 1906.

Many French Muslims have long complained of discrimination and marginalisation that have contributed to poverty and social alienation.

Foreign imams will no longer be able to train clerics in France and there will be tighter controls on the financing of mosques.

“There is a crisis of Islam everywhere, which is being corrupted by radical forms,” Mr Macron said. But he added France had a responsibility . “We have created our own separatism,” he said, citing the ghettoization of minority neighbourhoods.” (p.30).

We were taught a little about the French suburbs, the banlieus, or at least those in Paris, in Geography ‘A’ Level when I was at school nearly 40 years ago. I don’t know about now, but they were then hit by poverty and marginalisation. They were built simply to house people and so consist of nothing, or at least precious little, except tower blocks. It was assumed that the residents would go into the centre of Paris for their shopping and amusement, and so there are no, or very few, shops or local amenities. As for poverty and marginalisation, Ali A. Allawi describes the deprivation, poverty and underprivileged conditions of European Muslims in his book, The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation.

There’s also been much prejudice against Arabs and Muslims in France. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown described the very cold reception her mixed race family got there when they went for a holiday a few years ago in the Independent. I thought things had improved somewhat, as a few years later she wrote another piece about a recent holiday there in which she and her family were welcomed and treated with courtesy. There was also a series of anti-racist protests a few years ago, the name of which translates as ‘Don’t Touch My Mate’. This consisted of White young people showing their solidarity by standing up to racism and discrimination against their Black and Muslim friends.

But there has also been trouble with Muslim extremism and Islamist violence. Over a decade ago there were protests across France when the government ruled that under the doctrine of laicism, the official policy of French secularism, Muslim girls were banned from wearing the hijab in schools. This broke out despite leading French imams declaring that the ban didn’t contradict Islam and could be observed by pious Muslims. The insistence that girls as young as four should wear full-face veils is definitely extreme and not required by Islamic law. From what I remember from when I studied Islam at college as part of the Religious Studies course, girls up to seven years old can wear whatever they like. The dress requirements gradually come after they reach that age, and I think that they are only required to wear the full veil at puberty.

There have been fears about Islamic separatism in other European countries. In the 1990s there was controversy in the main Germany trade union organisation. This claimed that while the affiliated Muslim organisations or its Muslim members claimed to support integration, in reality they had a separatist attitude towards their non-Muslim brothers and sisters.

I also wonder if the accusation of separatism may not be literally true, in that some Muslims extremists may be pursuing a conscious policy of apartheid. I’ve written in previous posts how, when I was studying Islam, I came across passages in books published by British Muslim presses that demanded autonomous Muslim communities. And way back in January 2000, right at the dawning of the new millennium, the Financial Times included a brief piece featuring Anjem Chaudhry, who never met an Islamist terrorist he didn’t like. Chaudhry was then running an outfit called Sharia4Belgium, which wanted Belgian Muslims to have their own autonomous enclave with Arabic as it official language, governed by sharia law. Chaudhry’s now in jail for his support for al-Qaeda and ISIS. I don’t know if such demands are still being made by sections of British and European Islam following the 9/11 attacks and the government’s attempts to curb Muslim radicalism and promote integration. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was, somewhere, though the vicious Muslim firebrands like Kalim Siddiqui, who declared that British society was a monstrous killing machine and that killing Muslims comes very easily to non-Muslim Brits, seem to have gone quiet. The imam, who received Salmon Rushdie back into the faith, also recommended that Britain should train its own imams. When he was writing their was a shortage of Muslim clergy in Britain, and he was afraid that religious extremists from places like Pakistan were being allowed in thanks to this.

Macron’s comments also came at the same time that the Spectator published a piece claiming that the Swedish authorities had announced that immigrant communities in some of their cities were dominated by criminal gangs and had turned whole areas into a no-go zones. There was a war going on between a number of immigrant criminal gangs, in which firearms and even rocket launchers had been used. The Swedish chief of police had supposedly appeared on television to state very clearly that the immigrants responsible for the violence were not proper asylum seekers, but had come to the country simply to make money through selling drugs. This was apparently confirmed by the Swedish prime minister, Lofven, who said that his country would not be taking any of the former residents of the destroyed immigrant camp in France. Or so it has been claimed by right-wing, ant-immigration websites.

A few years ago the Islamophobic, ‘counterjihad’ websites Gates of Vienna and Vlad Tepes wrote pieces praising a book by the former mayor of one of the German towns. He claimed that his town had effectively been overrun by Muslims, who maltreated and forced out ethnic Germans. The book was widely attacked and criticised. They also claimed that Malmo in Sweden, or at least parts of it, had been taken over by Muslim immigrants and become violent, crime-ridden no-go zones for non-Muslims. I don’t know how true these reports are as they come from the racist right, websites which did have connections to the EDL. Certainly Fox News’ claim that British cities like Birmingham had been taken over by Muslims and were now no-go zones for White and non-Muslim Brits provoked widespread criticism and hilarity when they made it a few years ago.

It seems to me that nevertheless, even if these claims are exaggerated, there is nevertheless a real fear of Islamic separatism throughout Europe and that Macron is reacting to it in France.

One contributory factor, I have no doubt, is neoliberalism and the destruction of the welfare state. The French scholar, Alfred Kepel, advances this argument in his book on the resurgence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish fundamentalism, The Revenge of God. When Thatcher started her attacks on the welfare state in the 1980s, she hoped that it would lead to a resurgence of charity. This didn’t happen. But Muslims are obliged to support the poor through the zakat, the alms-tax paid to the local mosque. I think this concern to give to the local poor amongst Muslims isn’t confined just to their own community in Britain. There were Muslim restaurants giving free meals to the homeless at Christmas, and my parents bumped into a young Muslim woman, who was also buying stuff she could give to the food bank, in our local supermarket. But the support provided by the mosques in the absence of state aid does mean that communities may become more isolated and inward-looking.

If we really want to stop Islamic separatism, as well as White racism, not only should Britain and Europe take measures promoting racial integration, but neoliberalism urgently needs to be ditched. It’s dividing communities as it pushes people into real, grinding poverty. But there’s no chance of that, at least in this country, as the very rich are making too much money at the expense of the rest of us, regardless of our colour and religion.

No Socialist Paradise: Sweden’s COVID-19 Response Is Nothing to Envy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/09/2020 - 6:53am in

From Djurgården, I walk along the water on Strandvägen – a rising fall whips in a determined wind across the water, slicing at remnants of summer and carving pathways around centuries-old buildings. Colors like Nordic interior design catalogs look like they’ve been stirred among clouds – a muted vibrance that evokes a calm and stoic resolve.

Albeit quieter than a typical early fall day, there’s a bustle. People are out and their faces are bare. Buses and trolleys roll by and not a mask can be seen inside. Scuffed and faded stickers on the street remind people to keep their distance yet they seem like relics from a time long gone when a global pandemic was something people needed to worry about. The only time I could feel the ghostly press of the pandemic was in the Old Town. Typically wall-to-cobbled-street-wall with tourists, it was surprisingly empty. A few crinkled and hand-scribbled signs in shop windows announced limited hours or closures – no opening date, just closed.

But like a fleeting eerie patch in a lucid dream, as soon as I wandered across the bridge to Söder, the Southern island of Stockholm, the bustle was back – and bigger. On Götgatan, the main thoroughfare that runs the length of the island, streets and sidewalks were thick with pedestrians. Bikes zipped to and fro, people sauntered, rushed and stopped to chat. Absolutely nothing was out of the ordinary. Restaurants were open, barbershops, clothing stores, and even pharmacies were welcoming unmasked patrons in. As I stepped tentatively into a shop I’d frequented many times – looking for a special Swedish soap – my flowery mask was greeted as if I had strapped a giant dildo to my forehead. By the register, a plexiglass shield sat uselessly as the woman ringing me up poked her head around it to speak to me. I couldn’t help but laugh. Into my mask.

Before this pandemic began, I had started writing an article about Sweden – about the shiny facade of democratic socialism that hides a decidedly capitalist reality shifting more and more towards the U.S. model on how to fuck people over more efficiently and for more profit. Still, when the pandemic hit, I was sure that Sweden would respond the way our neighbors did in Denmark and Norway. After all, for all their faults, Sweden believes in things like climate change. Sweden uplifts scientific research and surely, Sweden wouldn’t turn its back on clear cut epidemiological evidence. Right?


Ice in your belly

Enter Anders Tegnell, the controversial State Epidemiologist who has led Sweden’s COVID response – or lack thereof. As nations around the globe locked down, mandated face masks, and engaged in contact tracing and mass testing, Sweden implemented measures such as banning gatherings of more than 50 people, closing high schools and universities while keeping younger children in school (homeschooling is not allowed except in “extraordinary circumstances”). Shops stayed open as did most other businesses save big amusement parks, concert venues, and the like. As I was headed back to the states in early September, a neighbor’s high school kids were on a three-day rotation: two days in school for at most a half-day, and then one day of remote learning.

None of these moves were spontaneous or without measured consideration. Ask any Scandinavian – Swedes aren’t known for our carefree spontaneity. No, at the start of the pandemic, the plan was clear. Tegnell and friends said they’d be leaning heavily on “folkvett,” which basically translates to common sense. Of course, the problem with common sense during a pandemic is twofold. One, not everyone has it. Two, common sense doesn’t help address the failures or shortcomings of a government butt-scooting down the human decency curve on a neoliberal slip-n-slide. Still, like any neoliberal endeavor, this one comes pre-packaged with all kinds of slick excuses and explanations.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Tegnell notes that the goal from the beginning was “sustainability… to be resistant to quick fixes, to realize that this is not going to be easy… it’s not going to be fixed by one kind of measure.” The fallacy here of course is to conflate stricter measures with a quick fix and to ignore the fact that stricter measures on the front-end saves lives and allows for an easing of restrictions later on (just look at New Zealand and South Korea). But ignore this he does! Tegnell taps an old Swedish saying “is i magen” which translates literally to ice in your belly – the idea that you should remain calm and not panic in stressful situations. Here again, Tegnell falls into a false equivalency. Panic is not the same thing as a calm but quick and logical response. An EMT for instance has to act quickly, but should obviously not panic in the midst of stabilizing a patient for transport from the bloody scene of an accident.

Tegnell Sweden

Tegnell, Sweden’s COVID-19 guru, gives a daily update on the coronavirus situation in Stockholm, June 3, 2020. Anders Wiklund | TT via AP

Tegnell, however, is the EMT in the passenger seat smoking a cigarette. He trusts that things will work out fine and in Tegnell’s case, he feels that they largely have. Back in June, he conceded during an interview that “If we would encounter the same disease, with exactly what we know about it today, I think we would land midway between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world did.” Yet, come September he told the Financial Times that he’s actually not sure the response would have changed much. This comes after an incident in mid-August where he again drew international ire for saying that wearing masks could actually be “dangerous” as it gives the wearer a false sense of security. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Biden’s quip when asked if he feels bad about any of his policy choices: “I regret nothing.”

Sadly, Tegnell’s thinking is something you can hear echoing across the political spectrum in Sweden. From my more conservative friends to anarchists, people are saying that wearing masks just promotes carelessness as opposed to safety. There’s a surprising uniformity of support for the government’s COVID response. The nearly 6,000 deaths of predominantly seniors are astonishingly shrugged off by the center and right while those to the left point a singular finger at the privatization and diminished quality of elder care in the country.


A neoliberal wet dream

An article from April in the leftist media outlet The Proletarian notes that some 21 percent of Swedish elder care is privatized, compared to 10 percent in Norway. What this shakes out to in terms of quality of care is that private firms require lower levels of schooling, fewer employees overall, and a more rapidly revolving door of part-time and temp employees thanks to corporate attempts to side-step the benefits guaranteed to full-time, non-temp workers. This also means that the workers have less power in the workplace, and there have been more than a few cases of workers quietly showing up to work with symptoms simply because they want to keep their jobs and not give the boss cause to fire them. Sound familiar?

Indeed, Sweden’s elder care is a neoliberal wet dream in many ways and provided a ready petri dish for COVID. That being said, shitty elder care and a shitty COVID strategy are not mutually exclusive issues. For instance, back in April, the Guardian reported on the fact that workers in Swedish elder care facilities weren’t wearing masks or gloves. When questioned, workers said they were just following guidelines.

As of September 14, according to the Public Health Authority, 41 percent of all the COVID deaths have been among those aged 80-89 years old, and an astonishing 88 percent of all deaths have been among those aged 70 and over. That is both a failure of COVID policy and a failure of elder care policy. It’s reminiscent of the legend of the ättestup which tells that in Viking times, the elderly were supposedly thrown off of cliffs or jump of their own accord so as not to be a burden to their communities. While historians have debunked this legend, it would seem from recent events that Sweden is attempting a morbid modern-day re-enactment of this old legend.

To give some context to these numbers, with a population roughly that of North Carolina, Sweden has the fifth-highest mortality rate per capita in Europe – five times higher than Denmark, and ten times higher than Norway and Finland.


Laid-off flight attendants learn basic skills to work in nursing homes due to the coronavirus outbreak, in Stockholm. David Keyton | AP

Still, Tegnell seems undeterred. In a September interview with news outlet France24, he notes that “Of course something went wrong when 5,800 people died. That’s definitely not something we expected. Nothing we planned for, nothing we hoped for. So that’s definitely gone wrong. But that does not mean that the strategy itself has gone wrong.” One might be inclined to wonder what it would take for Tegnell to admit that a strategy is wrong.

One might even be inclined to ask what that strategy is. In that same interview, Tegnell denied ever suggesting that herd immunity was the goal of the Swedish strategy despite the fact that leaked emails from March of this year prove otherwise.

In the same email dump, Tegnell responds to his Finnish counterpart, Mika Salminen who expressed concern over Tegnell’s wish to keep schools open, pointing out that closing schools could stop the spread of COVID to vulnerable age groups by 10 percent. Tegnell’s response: “10% might be worth it?” Worth it how exactly? So you can eat at a restaurant? So third-year students can celebrate their final exams, as was suggested in another email to Tegnell? We may never know the answer to this question – or others – considering the fact that Tegnell deleted many emails that were requested by journalists in Sweden. Maybe he should get some tips from Hillary Clinton on private servers.


Cast off the cliff of capitalism

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which of the many possible reasons Tegnell chose to sidestep scientifically-proven measures during a pandemic. What matters is that almost 6,000 people were cast off the cliff of capitalism unnecessarily. Indeed, if the hope was to shelter Sweden’s capital, that didn’t work out either. In an analysis of data by the Financial Times, Sweden’s economy is doing worse than the economies of both Finland and Norway, while again leading the way in COVID deaths for Scandinavia – by a long haul. Unfortunately, the global capitalist market doesn’t really care whether or not Sweden stayed open for business.

In the midst of all this death and economic downturn, Sweden’s politicians have tip-toed around truth and riffed on classic neoliberal double-speak. They uplift the idea of common sense while failing to use any of their own. They dare to quip about sustainability at a time when Sweden is seeking to expand their oil refineries. They take credit for avoiding a current surge in European cases when the fact is that their policy has cost lives, not saved them.

If anyone can be thanked for avoiding all out disaster, it is (some of) the Swedish people themselves. A recent analysis from researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden and the University of Virginia School of Medicine show that nearly a third of Swedish residents voluntarily self-isolated. Many people, particularly those in high-risk groups, ignored Tegnell and donned masks and face shields in order to go shopping, using creative hand signals to remind people to respect the time-honored Swedish tradition of social distancing. Some families, including high-risk households, even tried to keep kids at home when schools reopened this fall, precipitating either fines or harassment from social services. Experts and academics signed on to a letter demanding a “more responsible policy” at the start of the school year, citing ongoing research that shows children do spread the virus, even if they are asymptomatic themselves.

Sweden COVID

People sit in a crowded restaurant in Stockholm. David Keyton | AP

And herein lies the crux of the whole shebang – a silver lining and indeed a silver thread that connects our struggles here in the U.S. with those in Sweden and across the globe: at best, the government does nothing, and more often than not they actively obstruct people’s ability to thrive or even survive. Sweden still enjoys many socialized institutions and is admittedly a far cry from this shitty city upon a hill – this most capitalist of all cut-throat capitalist goons that is the U.S. But they are headed this way. The siren call of neoliberalism can be heard in more places than just elder care centers. The rise of fascism there learns and adapts from the rise of fascism here.

And so we too must adapt. We must decouple our minds from the decrees of our politicians. Again, the striking support for Tegnell’s dumbshittery across the political spectrum in Sweden is very worrisome. We must indeed consider and fight for something sustainable – but that should not be (and in reality can not be) a sustainable capitalism. Indeed, what better current critique of capitalism is there than the fact that people must cheat death in order to financially survive? Or that our lowest paid workers are our most essential?

It is beyond infuriating, and unacceptable to think that (as I write this) 5,877 people have died from COVID in Sweden. But in the dark reality of government failures, we can see the light of actual common sense, of collectively using it. We can see laid bare the deeper cancers eating away at our present and our future. The French Revolutionary Maximillien Robespierre once wrote that “Louis must die so that France may live.” To repurpose that for our times: capitalism must die so that the world may live.

Feature photo | A hair stylist works inside her shop in Stockholm, Sweden. Andres Kudacki | AP file photo

Eleanor Goldfield is a creative activist and journalist. Her work has appeared on Free Speech TV where she produced and hosted the weekly radical news show, Act Out! for five years. Her print work has appeared via MintPress News, ROAR, Popular Resistance, RT, and more. She is the host of the podcast Act Out! and the co-host of the podcast Common Censored along with Lee Camp. Her first long-form, deep-dive video piece, “Hard Road of Hope,” covers past and present radicalism in the resource colony known as West Virginia. Besides touring, performing and media work, she assists in frontline action organizing and activist training. Visit her website at artkillingapathy.com

The post No Socialist Paradise: Sweden’s COVID-19 Response Is Nothing to Envy appeared first on MintPress News.

To Win in the Countryside, Labour Can Start by Defending the Small Farmers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 1:28am in

Mike put up a piece yesterday reporting the prediction that if Boris and the Tories get the no deal Brexit their paymasters, the hedge funds, want, 1/3 of Britain’s farmers will go bust in the next five years. These are going to be the small farmers, who were suckered into believing that leaving the EU would make things better for them. They were wrong, and Mike asks how much sympathy we should have for them, considering they voted for Brexit. Actually, it’s not difficult to understand how. We were taught about the EEC as it was then in geography at my old school, including the Common Agricultural Policy. I can’t remember the details, but this was geared to granting subsidies and rewarding the much-less efficient farming systems of France and Germany, and penalised our agricultural sector, which is much more mechanised and employs far fewer people. The system of subsidies, if I remember correctly, also tranferred money and funding from the advanced agriculture of northern Europe to the less developed farms of the grain belt around the Mediterranean. Given that the Common Agriculture Policy actually put our farmers at a relative disadvantage, it isn’t hard to see why our farmers, like the fishermen, wanted to leave.

However, the big farmers were advised not to vote for Brexit, didn’t, and probably won’t suffer quite as much as their smaller cousins. However, I do think this crisis offers Labour an opportunity to show Britain’s rural communities that it hasn’t forgotten them. There have already been discussions about how Labour could win in the countryside, including a Fabian pamphlet about the issue. Well, I think Labour can start by following the example of the Swedish Social Democrats in the 1920s and 1930s. I can’t remember where I read it, but I read somewhere that the Social Democrats’ 50 year stay in power began in the 1920s when it backed the small, peasant farmers against the threat of bankruptcies and land seizures. I think the party and its members not only opposed these in parliament and local councils, but actually physically turned out to stop the bailiffs seizing individual farms and evicting the peasant farmer.

There’s a crisis going on in the countryside. If you watch the Beeb’s Countryfile, you’ll have seen reports about British farmers rural communities being under threat. Apart from the continuing problems of British agriculture, many rural communities are also suffering from cuts to local services and a lack of housing that local people can afford, rather than rich outsiders. Also, if you read George Monbiot’s Captive State, you’ll also know how the corporativism of New Labour and now the Tories actually harms farmers and local small businesses. Corporativism gives government subsidies and positions to big business in return for their donations. New Labour especially favoured the big supermarket chains, like Sainsbury’s, and gave it’s chief, David Sainsbury, a position on one of regulatory bodies, because Sainsbury at the time backed the party and donated to it. However, the supermarkets offer their cheap food at the expense of the producers, who are bound into manipulative and highly exploitative contracts. One of the supermarkets boasted a few years ago about the money it was giving to charity. In fact, none of that money came from the supermarket itself – it was all taken from its producers. At the same time, supermarkets undercut small businesses, like the local butcher, greengrocer and so on. But this also creates unemployment, because small businesses like theirs employ more people. If Labour wants to improve conditions in the countryside for small businesses like Arkwright’s in the classic Beeb comedy series, Open All Hours, it has to attack corporativism and the big supermarket chains. But I can’t see that happening under a Blairite like Starmer.

I expect that most of Britain’s farmers are probably Conservatives. But this doesn’t alter the fact that, whatever they believe, the Tories have abandoned them and their policies are actively harming small farmers and businesses and rural communities. The Labour party can start winning back the countryside by actively and obviously defending those hit by Tory policies.

And that means protesting against the closures of small farms when the Tories’ no deal Brexit hits them.

Sweden Shifting to Six Hour Workday

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/10/2015 - 11:30am in


research, Sweden