Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

Change.Org Petition to Have Boris Johnson Step Down as Foreign Secretary

November 7, 2017

There is now a petition on Change.Org for Boris Johnson to step down as Foreign Secretary because of his colossal, glaring ineptitude. The most recent example saw a women of dual British-Iranian nationality visiting friends for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year holiday, being arrested and threatened with imprisonment.

The explanation for the petition runs as follows

Boris Johnson has hit the headlines again for yet another gaffe.

Only this time in his muddle he said that British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran to train journalists last year when she was imprisoned at Evin Prison. Her family and workplace say this is wrong, that she is not a journalist, but was visiting family on holiday.

Because of Boris’ mistake, Nazanin’s time in prison could be doubled by Iranian officials. She is there for allegedly plotting to topple the government in Tehran, although official charges were never made public. Nazanin suffers depression from being separated from her husband and three year old daughter. I’ve heard first-hand of the physical and psychological torture as one of my own family members served a term there. Evin is Iran’s main holding place for political prisoners.

Our government should be working day and night get Nazanin back home to her family.

As a British citizen, I want to make sure we have a Foreign Secretary that supports us. Instead we have someone who is unfit for the job. Because he lobs grenades at sensitive situations. He lacks attention to detail. And in doing so, is a threat to British people and damaging overseas relations. That’s why I’m calling for Boris to step down from his role as Foreign Secretary.

This is not the only mistake Boris has made. Just last month he made jokes about clearing away dead bodies in Libya to turn Sirte into the next Dubai. And in the past, he ran a magazine which accused Liverpool fans of ‘wallowing in it’ after the Hillsborough disaster.

Boris must apologise, Boris must repair the damage he has done to Nazanin and her case but most importantly Boris must go.

I’ve signed it, as I’m heartily sick of his incompetence embarrassing us as a nation. And I’m sick and angry that an innocent woman, who has already suffered five years in Evin prison, has been interrogated and threatened with further imprisonment by the Iranian authorities, thanks to Boris shooting his mouth off.

Iran is a fascinating country with a rich, ancient culture. But it is a repressive theocracy with an intense suspicion of Britain and the West dating from the days of British imperialism, our ownership of its oil industry, and support for the Shah’s brutal autocracy. In the 1990s there was a thaw in diplomatic relations between our two countries, and there have been significant cultural exchanges since. For example, the YBAs a few years ago hosted a show in Iran, and the British Museum leant the Iranians the Cyrus Cylinder, which dates from the period of the Persian Empire and records the conquests of the emperor Cyrus the Great. One of these was the conquest of Babylonia and the Holy Land.

Yet relations are still very delicate. Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe isn’t the only one, whose safety could be placed in jeopardy by this buffoon saying the wrong thing. The Iranians have in the past arrested other British travellers in Iran on suspicion of spying, and our diplomatic people have had to work hard getting them out.

And it’s not just Iran. There are many other similar societies, where British imperialism and its memory are very sensitive subjects. It’s all too easy to imagine something similar happening elsewhere due to Boris talking uninformed nonsense.

Johnson has refused to apologise for this dangerous mistake, preferring to place the blame on the Iranian authorities. I completely agree that they should not have acted as they did. But considering the nature of the Iranian regime, which is pretty well notorious, it is very incumbent on Boris to make sure that he avoids giving unnecessary offence, or a pretext for the Iranian authorities to act in this fashion.

I’m also heartily sick of Johnson trying to present himself as some kind of loveable buffoon, who means well despite everything he says and does. He isn’t. He’s a scheming intriguer, who’s fiercely ambitious. He obviously feels that as an Old Etonian he is entitled to a seat, if not the highest seat, in British government. And I’m fed up with his attitude that he can go one and do whatever he likes, regardless of the consequence for this nation, and the ordinary people, he puts in danger.

If you want to sign it yourself, it’s at

https://www.change.org/p/boris-step-down-as-foreign-secretary?j=178294&sfmc_sub=269081008&l=32_HTML&u=33184044&mid=7259809&jb=3072&utm_medium=email&utm_source=aa_sign&utm_campaign=178294&sfmc_tk=qsSqDg4%2f%2bpD798KvauUzwd3ZfiuUegHU43mVbCYO0kKXOxvG9SYpXypwHbII5UEv&j=178294&sfmc_sub=269081008&l=32_HTML&u=33184044&mid=7259809&jb=3072

Advertisements

RT Report: 90 People a Month Dying After Being Found Fit for Work

August 14, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political blogged about this issue last week. In this piece from RT, the presenter interviews journalist Steve Topple over the official figures that 90 people a month are dying after being found fit for work under the Work Capability Test. In one instance, a man, Lawrence Bond, collapsed and died of a heart attack right outside the jobcentre. He had been found fit for work, despite having an underlying heart problem. Topple also goes further, and cites other, highly disturbing figures that show the immense harm the tests are doing to disabled people. Oxford University found that 590 people had taken their own lives due to them. The tests are also linked to 270,000 cases of mental illness, and the prescription of 800,000 drugs for people suffering from the stress of these tests.

Topple and the present also discuss how the tests were introduced by New Labour back in 2008 as a way of redefining disability. Topple states that we do need to cut the welfare bill, but the tests are a blunt instrument that harms the disabled.

Topple also makes the point that the tests themselves are uneconomical. They’re more expensive to administer than whatever savings are produced from them. Mike and the other disability bloggers and activists have pointed out that this isn’t about saving money. It’s about penalizing and harassing the poor and disabled, simply for being poor and disabled. It is part of the principle of less eligibility, the ideology behind the workhouse, which Maggie Thatcher so enthusiastically embraced as one of her vile ‘Victorian values’.

They also make short work of another scandal – the DWP’s refusal to hand over the precise figures on the pretext that this would damage ‘commercial confidentiality’. The document being requested is Maximus’ – the company that has been administering the tests since 2015 – own internal report into the results of their tests across regions. Topple states that in refusing to publish the report, the DWP is acting directly against the orders of the Information Commissioner, who has demanded that the figures be published.

The claim of commercial confidentiality is a nonsense anyway. If a company is performing the work of a government department, then it should be open to public scrutiny in the same way a government department is. If you want to argue philology here, the Latin phrase for ‘state’ was ‘res publica’, the ‘public thing’, which became our word, ‘republic’. By implication, if a company is therefore working as part of the res publica, it should be open to inspection by the public, as free citizens.

Of course, this is all deeply abhorrent to the DWP and its heads, Iain Duncan Smith and now Damian Green. These two and their underlings and fellow ministers have been determined to cull as many of the disabled as possible in what Mike has called ‘chequebook euthanasia’, while hiding the figures from the general public. Mike has said many times on his book about the immense struggle he has had getting the true figures from the DWP, who refused, stonewalled, and challenged his requests for them. Just as they did to other disability bloggers and activists.

To see the names and biographies of some of the people, who have been killed by this vile policy, go to Mike’s blog, as well Stilloaks, Johnny Void and Another Angry Voice, and see DPAC’s website for their criticisms and campaigns against the DWP.

As for the Department itself, I fully concur with Mike: it should be broken up, and the worst offenders in it, those determined to make the lives of claimants as miserable as possible, should be sacked with no chance of a golden handshake. Frankly, if there was an real justice, Smith, Green and the Wicked Witch of the Wirral, Esther McVie, should be behind bars on a charge of corporate manslaughter.

The Tory, Privatise Enterprise Cure for Stressed Teachers: Electrostimulate their Brains!

July 3, 2017

Everything about this says Bad Science, as in the book by Ben Goldacre. And ‘bad’ in every definition of the word. Not only wrong scientifically, but also morally. But it’s what you get all too often with the Tories in charge.

Mike over at Vox Political has today posted up a piece commenting on a story in today’s Torygraph, hyping the use of an electronic device, the Alpha-Stim, which Leigh Academies Trust are offering to their staff at seven secondary schools, seven primary schools and a special educational needs school in Kent to treat the symptoms of stress amongst their staff. The Torygraph says that the device is the size of a mobile phone, and works by sending micro-pulses of electricity to the brain to stimulate the production of alpha waves. This supposedly helps relieve anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. The Trust is offering it along with other therapies. The extract Mike includes in his piece quotes one Peter Caunt of Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust, who says ‘We know this type of therapy works’ before going on to say that the question is whether it is cost-effective.

Mike compares it to the shock treatment used on very disturbed people, which works by burning out part of their frontal lobes. He states that he personally knows people, who’ve had it done, and they have not been the same afterwards.
He asks why the schools management company isn’t trying to solve the problem by making teachers’ lives less stressful.

He wonders if the real reason is that the company’s bosses want to turn their staff into compliant little teaching zombies, who won’t complain, because they’ve had their conscience burned out of them along with the stress.

He also makes the point that the Trust used to be headed by Frank Green, who was appointed to a two-year stint as schools commissioner by Michael Gove. This shows the strong connection between the company and the Tory party.

The device should, apparently, be used for 20 minutes each, but some teaching staff are using it twice or three times. So Mike asks the obvious question of what kind of teachers they’re like afterwards.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/03/the-tory-cure-for-stressed-teachers-is-electrocute-their-brains/

Everything about this is highly dubious. It looks very much like something straight out of the accounts of bad, if not pathological science, from the pages of Ben Goldacre, Martin Gardner and others. Ben Goldacre, you may remember, wrote a book, Bad Science, about this kind of nonsense a few years ago. the Sceptic, Martin Gardner also attacked bad and pernicious science a few decades ago in his Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. This looks like a prime example of it, to go with other, earlier pseudo-sciences like eugenics, lobotomies, Lysenkoism, Nazi ‘race science’ and monkey glands.

As for electro-convulsive therapy, it was devised by a German Jewish doctor, who fled Nazi Germany to Fascist Italy. Deciding that it could be an effective method of treating the mentally ill, he started by testing it on tramps he and the authorities rounded up off the street. Adam Parfrey published an essay on it, ‘Gimme Shock Treatment’, in one of his books on the extremes of belief in 1990s America, Apocalypse Culture or Cult Rapture. That essay made it very clear just how nasty it was.

It’s still used, but proper medical professionals only resort to it in the case of severely disturbed people, where there really isn’t much choice.

And everything known about the brain should say that tinkering with it, unless you know exactly what you’re doing, is an appallingly bad idea. The brain is the most complex structure in the known universe. Modern neuroscience has succeeded in identifying which parts of the brain produces which mental function, but even so, there is a vast amount we don’t know. Raymond Tallis, who is a Humanist and former neurologist and neurosurgeon, wrote a book, Aping Mankind, with the aim to show that much human thought and mind couldn’t be reduced to neurological functions. He stated clearly that he wanted to show that thinking was ‘as mysterious as walking on water’. Given the vast complexity of the brain, and its vulnerability, it really is stupid and dangerous to mess around with it in this manner.

Remember a few years ago, when many doctors started to worry about possible brain damage caused by putting mobile phones next to your ear? They were afraid of the health risks posed by putting what is a microwave source next to your brain when talking on the phone.

It also reminds me of the ‘feedback cult’ of the ’70s. This also noted the connection between alpha waves and mood. It therefore encouraged people to hook themselves up to special monitors, which registered their alpha waves, and then learn how to control them and so altered their mood, all for supposedly beneficial purposes. That was also debunked some time ago.

The alpha-stim also sounds to be me like something that escaped from the Human Potential labs in the ’60s and ’70s. The Human Potential movement was one of those weird movements based on psychology that emerged in the 1960s, promising to bring people fulfilment and happiness through their programme of therapies. It still survives in various forms, and developed strong links with corporate capitalism, to the point where its detractors have called it a corporate mind control cult.

Adam Curtis devoted a programme to it in his documentary about the legacy of Freudianism, The Century of the Self, over a decade ago now. And what the programme revealed about it was truly chilling. The movement and its doctors managed to convince the medical profession to let them try to treat a selection of patients suffering from schizophrenia. The treatment consisted of dosing these poor souls up to the gills with LSD, and then attaching electrodes to electrify their brains. And all the while they were taught to repeat to themselves, ‘I am comfortable in myself’.

They interviewed one poor young woman, who’d been a victim of this nonsense. The treatment was a horrible, ghastly failure. It was perhaps a mercy that the woman said that she couldn’t remember much about it now, except that sometimes she had it done several times a day. It was this kind of appalling medical experimentation that the producers of Classic Star Trek took solid aim at in the episode ‘Dagger of the Mind’.

As for this latest rubbish, it also reminds me of an episode in Star Trek: Deep Space 9, when Doctor Bashir is called on treat Garak, the station’s Kardassian tailor and spy. Garak, like many other Kardassian secret agents, had a device implanted in his brain to stimulate his pleasure centres, so he could get through being tortured. Garak, however, has become so miserable that he started using it recreationally, and so has become addicted. Bashir has no choice but to find out what he can about the device, and try to remove it from his friend.

Which all sounds dangerously close to what’s going on here, with the exception that it’s teachers being treated with it, not alien spies.

I am really not at all surprised that it’s the Tories, or a company that’s associated with them, that’s peddling this nonsense. The Tories just love pseudoscience. I’ve reblogged stuff from Kitty S. Jones and other disability bloggers about the model of sickness devised by Unum and their pet psychiatrists at Cardiff University to have people thrown off benefit and declared fit for work, has been roundly debunked by other medical professionals.

And a little while ago, Private Eye in its ‘Rotten Boroughs’ column took a pot shot at a Tory-controlled council in Kent or that part of the world, where the local authority had cut council services, but was funnelling tens of thousands of pounds to a company headed by one of its female members, which specialised in using Neuro-Linguistic Programming or some other kind of dodgy therapy to offer spurious treatment to council staff.

Which, again, sounds very much like what’s going on here.

And then there was the case of the Leaderene herself, Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher was into Ayur Veda, a system of alternative therapies brought to the world by one of the dodgy Indian gurus, who rocked up here in the 1960s. Thatcher treated herself to baths, where along with the water there was a weak electric current. Obviously, she thought it would do her some good. I’m quite sure there were many others, who wish the voltage had been somewhat stronger.

This looks to me very much like a potentially harmful pseudoscience. As for Caunt’s statement that ‘we know it works’, that’s what Tory spokespeople have said about work improving people’s mental health, and other mental professionals, not to mention normal, ordinary people without a financial or ideological stake in it, pointing out that it’s rubbish. And I’ve no doubt it’s the same here.

This is just bad science, which is being hyped by company that obviously finds it cheaper to have their staff trying to make themselves less miserable by running electricity through their brains, than actually trying to do something more positive and concrete to improve conditions for them.

Pretty much like British society as a whole, where instead of offering real guidance and support to the unemployed, their harangued and demeaned by Jobcentre Staff through stupid, nonsensical models of unemployment and disability supported as government policy.

Guardian Documentary on Disability Rights Caravan in Bolivia

May 6, 2017

This video by the Guardian was recommended by one of the many great commenters on this blog. It’s a 30-minute long film about a caravan of disabled people and their carers in Bolivia. The protesters were marching to claim the £70 a month pension disabled people have been promised by Evo Morales government. The blurb for the video runs

People with disabilities are among the most discriminated against in Bolivia. Fed up with being ignored, a group of them march across the Andes to the seat of the government in La Paz, asking to speak to President Evo Morales. They are met with riot police, barricades, teargas and water cannon

Headed by determined leaders, including Rose Mery, Marcelo, Feliza and Miguel, the protesters camp on the streets a block away from the main plaza near the government palace. For the first time in Bolivia’s history, police erect 3m-high barricades, station tanks and hundreds of riot officers to stop the protesters in wheelchairs from entering the plaza.

Violent confrontations flare up between police and the protesters, with officers using pepper spray and water cannon. The government refuses to discuss their request for a pension of $70 a month and the protesters suspend themselves from the city’s bridges in their wheelchairs.

After following the protesters on the march, film-makers Violeta Ayala, Dan Fallshaw and Fernando Barbosa gain intimate access to their camp, including up-close scenes of regular violent reactions from the police. The film-makers and other journalists are also threatened. For three months the activists with disabilities attempt to speak to the president but face criticism from the state’s official news outlets.

As public pressure grows, can Rose Mery and her fellow protesters win their fight?

There’s also links to a piece, which followed up what happened afterwards, and to where people can share their experiences of being a disability campaigner.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2017/may/05/fighting-for-a-pension-disability-rights-protesters-in-bolivia-face-barricades

This is a deeply moving video. Many of the protesters are in wheelchairs. It states that they spent 30 days in Cochabamba protesting, then 35 days on the road to tackle the government in La Paz. Their sojourn in the country’s capital lasted at least another ten days.

They wanted to entire Murillo Plaza, but find when they get there that the way is blocked by riot police in full body armour, with shields and tear gas. In subsequent confrontations, the rozzers use water cannon on them. The protesters try several times to break through the security cordon. When this fails, they settled down in tents and shelters. At one stage they are so desperate that a woman in a wheelchair, Rose Mery, has herself hoisted into the air from a bridge.

A government spokesman appears on television to denounce them, claiming that they are trying to destabilise the government. One of the men protesting states very clearly that they aren’t politicians. If they were, he says, they’d be better politicians than those in power.

Eventually they managed to get a meeting with the employment minister, who flatly refuses to discuss the pension. The protesters are naturally disgusted. As a reaction to this, they cover themselves with rubbish, chanting that ‘Evo! Evo! Evo treats us as rubbish!’ Later, they strip down to their underpants. Then one night a car smashes through a group of 12 of the protesters, injuring eight and killing two. One of the victims is an eight-year old girl, whose mother is killed and the child herself put into a coma.

Two of the leaders, Marcelo and Feliz, are forced to leave the camp in fear of their lives. Another man, Miguel, is hospitalised with urinary problems.

The protesters are deeply cynical about the lies spread by the government. They are not impressed with the claim that they have access to free healthcare. One of the speakers also chillingly describes how his sister tried to find a doctor to ‘put him out of his misery’. It’s the kind of forced euthanasia that was adopted as state policy in Nazi Germany.

The group includes people of both European and indigenous heritage. Bolivia is a Roman Catholic country, and one of the protesters carries a cross.

Although conditions are clearly much harsher in Bolivia as a developing nation, many disabled people and their carers and friends will recognise similar attitudes. Our government is similarly killing disabled people through denying them the benefits they are owed through the very stringent and fraudulent attitude of the assessors and others setting the Work Capability Tests. Under these, seriously ill people, including those in comas, have been unfairly and ludicrously judged ‘fit for work’. Mike also described in his blog how one disabled person, an amputee, was asked by the DWP when she expected her limbs to grow back. This attitude also extends to people, whose health problems don’t show, like those suffering depression and anxiety. Their condition has been made much worse by the stress of these tests. And just as outrageously, people with depression, who have confessed to thoughts of suicide, have been asked why they haven’t done it.

The Bolivian protesters state they feel powerless against a government that has the media and police on its side.

The feeling is shared by many disabled people and their carers in Britain. The Beeb and the other TV stations have frequently not covered demos here against austerity. And thanks to the government’s campaign of lies, stigmatising all disabled people as fraudsters, hate crime against the disabled has risen by a monstrous 413 per cent.

And just as the Bolivian politicos hide themselves away from protesters, so have the idiots and tyrants running the DWP. Remember Ian Duncan Smith? He repeatedly refused to give evidence before the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee investigating benefit deaths. When he finally did attend, he turned up surrounded with armed police. Just in case he was going to be attacked by all the disabled people on the public balcony.

Other examples of aIDS’ military-style courage, sorry, craven cowardice includes him leaving Tory meetings early so he won’t have to meet any protesters, and hiding in hotel laundry bins.

Bolivia is a poor country, but I don’t think it will be long before the working people of this country are forced into a similar level of poverty. The Tory authors of the book, Britannia Unchained, argued that British working people should also put up with lower wages, poorer working conditions, longer hours and greater job insecurity, in order to compete with the peoples of the Developing World. Who are similarly being made poorer and more desperate by their politicos, following the same neoliberal tosh. Meanwhile, the capitalist class – the financiers and proprietors – get richer.

All over the world working people, the poor and the disabled, are being attacked, demonised and maltreated by their government. We need to stand in solidarity with them, wherever they are, for a better world for all of us.

YouTube Video on the Nazi Murder of the Disabled

March 22, 2017

This video was posted by Jeffrey Davies in his comment on my piece, ‘The Culpable Silence over the Genocide of the Disabled’. Jeffrey’s frequently commented on this blog about the parallels between the government’s policy of throwing the disabled off benefits to die in starvation and despair, and Aktion T4. This was the Nazi eugenic campaign to kill the mentally ill and educationally subnormal, as well as the physically congenitally disabled. I’ve blogged about it before. The victims were rounded up and sent to special insane asylums, where they were murdered. They were killed using poison gas, and the programme prepared the Nazis for their mass murder of the Jews.

This is another film, which some may find difficult to watch. It includes a former SS officer, Reinhard Spitzy, saying that he personally heard Hitler make the comment that it would be better to use the money supporting an incurably ill person on the child of a poor peasant. The film also includes the account of one of the relatives of one of the victims, Marie Rau. This lady’s mother was placed in a mental hospital suffering from anxiety and depression over her husband. She was then diagnosed incurably insane, and sent to one of the clinics, Hadomar, which was one of the institutions for their murder. They were gassed with carbon monoxide in the clinic’s cellars in groups of 60. Over 10,000 were killed at Hadomar alone. There was an outcry about this, and the policy was ostensibly abandoned. However, it continued in secret. Instead of poison gas, the Nazis now either killed them with lethal injection, or starved them to death.

I knew the Nazis used poison gas to murder the disabled, but did not know that they starved them to death. This seems to me to be a very strong parallel to the tactics the Tories are using against the disabled today. As Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, ATOS Miracles, DPAC, Benefit Tales and so many other sites are pointing out, hundreds if not thousands of disabled people have died of starvation after being found fit for work and their benefits cut off. The only difference, it seems, is that Tories haven’t rounded them up. Yet.

Because they haven’t incarcerated the disabled in death camps or murder clinics, like the unfortunates in the Third Reich, the government can now claim that it isn’t responsible for their deaths. They know, however, that this is a lie. It is clearly demonstrated in their refusal to give the numbers of people, who have died after being declared fit for work.

They are well aware their policy is killing people.

They just don’t want you to know.

Just like they want to whip up anger against the disabled and unemployed as scroungers and malingerers, in order to justify further cuts.

The Continuing Scandal of the DWP Asking the Depressed Why They Haven’t Committed Suicide

March 18, 2017

Mike this week put up a piece reporting and commenting on the admission by Maximus that they do indeed ask depressed people questions about suicide as part of the Work Capability Assessment. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/11/dwp-contractor-admits-routinely-asking-sickness-benefit-claimants-dangerous-questions-about-suicide/There are several questions. The first questions simply ask them if they have had thoughts about suicide, and the frequency and severity of these thoughts. These are, in my view, reasonable questions. Or rather, it would be if it were part of a genuine medical examination as part of a real programme to make that person well again. Depression isn’t a case of being ‘a bit down’. It is, as the British medical scientist, writer and Humanist, Lewis Wolpert described it in the title of his book, ‘A Malignant Sadness’. Clearly, if someone does have thoughts about suicide, they are extremely unwell and desperately need help.

The other questions, however, is unwarranted and frankly dangerous. The depressed person is then asked

“And what is it that stops you from acting on the thoughts that you have?

“Can you think of any reason that you’re not doing that? Is it friends or family support?”

Now it should be clear to anyone with the most meagre level of intelligence that asking people, who are already mentally fragile and have admitted they think of doing themselves injury or actually killing themselves, why they haven’t done so is extremely dangerous. My guess is that the way it is phrased in particular makes the question seriously unethical, as it seems to assume that the depressed person is not seriously troubled by these thoughts unless he or she has tried to act them out.

I don’t know, but I can imagine that if a social scientist or medical professional doing research amongst the clinically depressed asked the question, they could be hauled up before their relevant bodies overseeing professional standards for ethics violations or misconduct. As part of their training, social scientists are told not to phrase questions in the form of ‘You’re not…are you?’ And the Hippocratic Oath, a form of which doctors were required to take until recently, contained the provision ‘And I shall do no harm.’ These questions seem close enough to the first question, at least in spirit, to make them also unethical, while violating that provision of the ancient doctor’s Oath in that they could seem to some to be suggesting that they should.

The Work Capability Test itself is a scientific travesty. It is based on spurious and scientifically invalid research supposedly linking recovery to illness to mental attitude. The whole wretched test was introduced by Blair and his coteries on the recommendation of the American insurance fraudster, Unum, in a conference in the first years of this century. It is based on the attitude, shared by the Blairites and the Tories, that nearly everyone claiming invalidity or sickness benefit is a malingerer, despite the fact that such fraud only counts for 0.7 per cent of such claims.

The question also shows the immense double standards about health that persists between us and our rulers. It’s assumed that asking a severely ill person why they haven’t harmed themselves or committed suicide is acceptable. But heaven help anyone, who asked the same question of a captain of industry or leading politician why they haven’t tried to commit suicide, and you can imagine the feeding frenzy from an outraged press.

For example, the Blairite contender for the Labour leadership and flagrant liar, Angela Eagle, was asked by Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics about Tony Blair and whether the vile warmonger should face trial for leading Britain into an illegal war. Tellingly, she said no, as ‘Tony’s been through the wringer’. Thus showing that she cared more for the Dear Leader’s anguish than for the real horror he has inflicted on hundreds of thousands, of not millions of innocent people, who have been killed, tortured and forced out of their homes through the carnage he and that other malignant creature, George Dubya Bush, have created through their war. I don’t know what Neil’s response was, but can you imagine the outrage that would have resulted if Neil had said, ‘Well, he can’t be going through too much trouble, ’cause he’s still walking’.

Or if one of the other interviewers asked the same question of one of the Tories, like Theresa May, David Cameron, or the people directly responsible for the question: Ian Duncan Smith and Damian Green. There would have been fury directed at the ‘left-wing’ BBC. How dare they suggest that a minister of the realm isn’t doing his job if he hasn’t committed suicide for his failures! Or even the suggestion that they have failed in their job, which the Tories have, spectacularly.

But if it is acceptable to ask a gravely disturbed person why they haven’t acted out their desires to harm themselves, then by the same standard it should be acceptable to ask the same questions of anyone, including and particularly the ministers that have formulated that question.

Now I am not suggesting that Blair, May, Cameron, aIDS or Damian Green should be asked these questions, or otherwise be told to kill themselves, for precisely the same reason I don’t think anyone should be asked these questions. I am merely trying to point out the double standards involved here.

Now I imagine that if they were asked about this question, Damian Green or his predecessor, the Gentleman Ranker (and a right ranker he truly was) would say, in their inimitably patronising manner, that they are only trying to gauge the severity of the illness. This is rubbish. The whole test is structured so that the government can find some pretext to deny paying the ill person disability benefit on the grounds that they’re still somehow fit for work.

And Mike and many other bloggers and disability activists also see something much more sinister here. Many tens of thousands of people have committed suicide, or died in poverty and misery after being thrown off benefit, although the DWP continues to deny it. See Stilloaks website and the blog, ATOS Miracles, for further coverage of this and the biographies and individual cases of some of the victims. For Mike and people like Jeff Davies, one of the long term commenters on my blog this is evidence of a covert, secret genocide of the disabled. The government wants them dead, because that way they don’t have to pay out to support them. They can continue lowering the taxes of their rich donors.

This is how it’s beginning to look to very many of us, whether we’re disabled or fit. The presenters of the Channel 4 comedy review show, The Last Leg, even said so themselves. There should be mass outrage about these questions and the test itself. That there isn’t is a major disgrace in itself.

‘I’ Newspaper: Public Spending Watchdog Criticises Benefit Sanctions

December 1, 2016

Yesterday’s I newspaper for Wednesday, 30th November, contained a little snippet on its second page reporting that the ‘public spending watchdog’ had attacked benefit sanctions as useless. The report stated

Spending Watchdog Hits Out at Sanctions

Benefit sanctions that plunge claimants into hardship, hunger and depression are being imposed with little evidence that they work, according to a report by the public spending watchdog. It said use of the penalties also varies “substantially” across the country and referral rates have changed over time.

And that was it. It says much about the paper’s bias that, although there was a reasonably long article about the deep health inequalities in Britain, there were also much longer articles praising Theresa May for being a good manager, rather than a leader, and that the Tories had increased their lead over Labour in the polls. Though I’m not actually that worried about the latter either. The victory of the ‘Leave’ campaign and Donald Trump’s election to the White House both show that polls can’t be trusted. As Mike points out, they’re run by Tory companies that have very marked methodological biases. They’re essentially propaganda campaigns, run to tell the proles that, as everyone else is voting Tory, so should you. And the more people realise this, and reject them and their false claims of objectivity, the better.

Vox Political: Owen Smith Insults Voters with Mental Health Problems

August 24, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also put up a couple of stories today on the outrage Smudger has caused with a tweet sneering at the mentally ill. Smiff tweeted that with him ‘you won’t have some lunatic in charge of the Labour party’. Mike states that as someone, who has known many people with mental health problems and has blogged about the considerable obstacles they face, he cannot find words to describe his opinion of Smudger.

Many others weren’t shy of showing their feelings towards Smiff for this insult. Mike gives a few of their comments in his article. They state that such comments about the mentally ill should be unacceptable. Several of them are by people, who suffer from mental illness, and who therefore feel personally insulted by Smith.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/23/owen-smith-has-just-banged-the-final-nail-in-his-campaigns-coffin/

Smudger has realised the offence he’s caused, and tried to explain it away. He appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme, where John Humphries asked him if that made him unsuitable for the Labour leadership. Smudger told Humphries that he was talking about himself, not Jeremy Corbyn, and that it did not make him any the less suited for the leadership of the Labour party. He was sorry for any offence, and would have to be a bit less colourful about his language in future.

Mike comments drily that it’s too late.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/24/owen-smith-says-he-was-the-lunatic-does-that-make-it-any-better/

I think it’s very clear that Smudger wasn’t talking about himself when he used the term ‘lunatic’. The tweet was ‘With me, you won’t get a lunatic as head of the Labour party’. He is stating very clearly that he isn’t a ‘lunatic’, so the epithet must refer to someone else. It could, of course, refer to no-one in particular, but considering the insults heaped about Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as ‘Trots’, ‘rabble’, ‘dogs’ and so on by the Blairites, it’s reasonable to assume he was referring to Jeremy Corbyn, or someone from the Left like him.

As for the outrage it’s generated, I’m not surprised. Depression and anxiety are on the rise, caused by austerity. The situation has become much worse for those with mental health issues through the stress of the Work Capability Test introduced by Tony Blair. The professional body representing medical health professionals – doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, have stated that the stress of taking the tests has made their condition worse for 290,000 mentally unwell people, sometimes seriously so. Mental health services are being cut as the NHS services are rationed as part of the government’s privatisation of the NHS. There are extremely long waiting times for those with depression to see a psychiatrist. Students are also at risk of developing mental health problems. It’s been estimated that about 1 in 4 of them will suffer from depression at some point. Again, I can’t say I’m surprised, given the increased pressure to get a good degree, and faced with a mountain of student debt. Again, partly caused by Blair and Mandelson, when they decided to introduce tuition fees.

Faced with a government and Blairite faction in the Labour party that is at best indifferent to the needs of the mentally ill, those with such problems and their carers are bound to be outraged by Smudger’s apparent contempt.

In Defence of Left-Wing Anger

August 17, 2016

I’ve been meaning to get this off my chest for a little while now. One aspect of the anti-Corbyn Labour MPs that really annoys me is the hypocrisy that comes with their constant playing at being the victims of terrible abuse by Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn. Every so often they make pleas for political discourse and exchange to be made kinder or more genteel, while showing precious little of such qualities themselves. Jess Philips, according to the Groan, is having a panic room installed at her constituency office. But Mike’s already stated that she herself is an abrasive character online. This doesn’t justify any threats against her, but it doesn’t make her quite the innocent victim she claims either.

I’ve reblogged a video several times made by a couple in Angela Eagle’s constituency pointing out that Eagle’s story about the brick being thrown by Jeremy Corbyn supporters through her constituency window is a load of hogwash. It begins with footage of Eagle giving her story to the press. She concludes by saying that ‘We need a kinder, gentler style of politics’, before turning smartly on her heel and marching off, surrounded by her aids. This little piece has infuriated me ever since I’ve seen it. Firstly, it seems more than a little imperious. It’s bit of ‘I, the Great One, am speaking. Mortals listen!’ I also object to it on the grounds that it seems to be trying to deny the fact that her critics and opponents just might have entirely justifiable reasons for their anger. She seems to want to have the kind of exchange where everything is calm and mild. Now this is the kind of exchange I prefer. I honestly don’t like abuse and trolling. But on certain issues, if people do become abusive, it can be because the issue they’re discussing has all too real implications and consequences for them.

And many of the policies enacted by the Blairites have had terrible consequences for Britain as a nation, and specifically for the poor and working class. Let’s go through them.

Firstly, Blair took Britain into an illegal war in Iraq. The country had not threatened us, and at the time we invaded, Saddam Hussein was pretty much a joke to the rest of the Middle East. He was a thug, but he was contained. And the country over which he ruled was relatively prosperous, and with an advanced welfare state and educational system, at least for the region.

This has all changed. A quarter of a million Iraqis have died, and the country degenerated into a bloodbath of competing factions. Their economy has been wrecked, and ISIS and related death squads have terrorised its population. Our squaddies have been sent to fight and die, not to keep the world safe, but to produce even greater profits for the oil companies and American multinationals wishing to get their mitts on the country’s appetising state industries. Domestically it reinforced the view of many Muslims that the country was being targeted simply because it was Islamic. So it’s increased more racial and religious friction and intolerance over here. Is the Iraq invasion a good reason for people to get angry. Yes.

Then there’s the privatisation of the NHS. Blair, Brown and the others in New Labour took over the Private Finance Initiative and massively expanded it as official labour policy. They also began to split up the NHS into different commissioning groups, with the intention of creating competition. These commissioning groups were to provide healthcare not only from the NHS, but also from private healthcare companies. Hospitals and doctors surgeries have been taken over by private hospital chains. More than half of all hospital treatment is now commissioned from private healthcare providers. The ‘walk-in’ centres, or polyclinics, that were set up were also intended to be privately run. New Labour took as their care model a private American company, Kaiser Permanente. These policies have been taken over and further extended by the Tories after they won the 2010 election. Now it’s almost set to be totally privatised. Frankly, this makes me absolutely furious.

Let’s take the Work Capability Test. This was adopted by Blair and co. because they uncritically swallowed the Tory rubbish about most disabled people, the long term sick were malingerers and scroungers. They took over a tick-box questionnaire approach to examining people’s health pioneered by Unum, an American health insurance company that was guilty of some of the biggest insurance frauds prosecuted by the American state. The questionnaire used, and its underlying assumptions, are scientific nonsense. The policy is so notorious, that Atos decided to throw in the towel early, and were released from their contract a year before it was due to expire.

But the policy goes on, and it has had terrible real world consequences. Seriously ill people have been thrown off their benefits, and in some cases, have actually starved to death through lack of an income. Those with mental health problems, like anxiety and depression, have become worse, often much worse. As an example of how farcical this is, you consider some of the worst incidents, where people terminally ill in comas have been told they should find a job. Or when an amputee was asked when they expected their limbs to grow back. People are suffering and starving because of this. This isn’t a case of abstract policy, an interesting intellectual puzzle, which has no clear consequences for people’s lives. It makes a different over whether people are actually able to put food on their tables, or have a roof over their head, or can live out their lives with dignity.

It’s the same with the issue of benefit sanctions. Thanks to them, and the flexible employment policies Blair and Brown were so keen to employ, there are about 4.7 million people living in ‘food poverty’ in this country. There are cases where mothers are starving themselves, because it’s the only way they can afford to feed their children. And I can remember an incident I read on one of the other blogs, about how people in one town came to the aid of a young man, after he broke down in tears outside the Jobcentre, because they wouldn’t help him. As with the Work Capability Test, this is an issue that all-too real consequences for millions of people. And when nearly five million are going hungry in the fourth richest country in the world, you bet people have a right to be angry.

You can expand this to include the way the treatment of jobseekers has been deliberately made as humiliating and degrading as possible, with the imposition of workfare, capitalist forced labour brought to you by Sainsbury’s and the myriad other firms using it to cut down on labour costs. This was introduced as part of Margaret Thatcher’s return to ‘Victorian values’, which in this case meant the same values on which the workhouse system was established. The DHSS and the Benefits Agency always had an element of danger with them, because claimants naturally got angry with the state bureaucracy that could deny them money. People are left angry, despairing and furious with their treatment by the Jobcentre. But they also have a right to direct this rage at the politicians, who created the system.

And here New Labour have also shown themselves to be despicable. Cameron introduced workfare, but Ed Miliband ordered his cabinet not to oppose it, in case the Labour party should be seen to be soft on ‘benefit scroungers’ by the Tory press. Again, people have a very definite right to be angry.

I also think part of what makes me angry about Eagle’s behaviour, is her manner. It’s as if she seems to be completely insulated from the grim reality of the suffering New Labour have inflicted. She sounds to me like a bureaucrat or manager, completely obsessed with administering the policies that have been set, and getting irritated because somebody, somewhere, has had the temerity to object to it. I’ve remarked before that many of the Blairites seem to come from affluent, privileged, middle class backgrounds. My guess is that they genuinely don’t appreciate the harm they’re doing, because they’ve never experienced it themselves. They’ve only ever seen these policies from the vantage point of people, who’ve taken on the task of carrying them out. And they find it confusing and intensely infuriating when the masses don’t just accept what’s being done is for their good.

I am not saying that people have a right to abuse politicians or Jobcentre staff, or threaten them, let alone attack them or try to damage their property. I am very definitely against all of that. But people do have a right to be enraged at what has been done to them by the Thatcherites, both in the Tories and in New Labour.

And anger, as John Lydon sang, is an energy.

The gaol should now be to use this anger, this resentment against an unfair and deliberately cruel and exploitative system, to argue, research, expose and organise and keep the pressure on relentlessly to overturn these policies.

The Lying Farewells for David Cameron

June 25, 2016

One of the aspects of the immediate aftermath of the ‘Leave’ vote I found particularly nauseating was the praise the Tories heaped on their leader as he announced his resignation. Well, sort of. He’s going to go, but not for another couple of months. He says he’ll finally pack up and leave in November. So despite Cameron’s promises that he would depart the moment he lost the vote, in practice he’s in no hurry. There, and I can remember Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, getting very animated on Have I Got News For You about how Broon tried to hang to power by cutting a deal with Clegg and the Lib Dems. He would agree to a coalition, but only if he was allowed to remain in No. 10. Clegg disagreed, and the deal fell through.

Well actually, it didn’t, as Clegg had already made a deal with the Tories to enter the coalition with them. His negotiations with Broon were simply lies and verbiage. Nevertheless, it got Hislop very excited, who described as ‘Mr Limpet’ because of his way he was trying to hang on to power like a limpet sticks to rocks.

Now Cameron is doing exactly the same. It seems that there are a lot of limpets in British politics. Though it has to be said, No 10 is a very nice rock for such shellfish.

In his resignation speech – if you can call it that, when he hasn’t actually gone – Cameron of course declared that he had been determined to try to create a fair society, with success and opportunities for all. Well, he’s a PR spin merchant, and his entire political career has been based on telling the voting public these lies, while doing the exact opposite. And after he had finished trying to paint a positive picture of himself and his policies, it was left to his party colleagues to join in.

John Major turned up on the Six O’clock news to declare that Cameron had indeed been a ‘One Nation Conservative’, concerned to provide jobs, opportunities and prosperity for all. ‘One Nation Tories’ are how Conservatives describe themselves, who want to make you think that they’re in favour of the welfare state. It comes from Disraeli’s description of Britain as divided into two nations – the rich and poor, and how this decision needed to be healed. In all fairness, this did have some validity at certain points in the 19th century. Disraeli himself extended the franchise to the whole of middle class and the richer sections of the working class in the 1870s as an attempt to ‘dish the Whigs’. Much of the earliest 19th century legislation regulating factories and mine work came from the paternalist section of the Tory party.

But when this is applied to David Cameron, it’s pure rubbish. Cameron’s reforms have led to Britain becoming more divided than ever before. Social mobility had just about ceased under Blair, and this has continued under Cameron. If, in fact, he hasn’t actually made it worse. The majority of people forced to claim benefits are the working poor, whose wages no longer cover the cost of living. Rising house prices and a lack of affordable housing, and the sale of council houses have meant that there is now a generation that can never look forward to owning their own homes. Or indeed, in many cases, moving out of their parents’. Cameron and his cronies raised tuition fees, saddling even more students with massive debt, all the while proclaiming that they were keen to see more people enter higher education. Nick Robinson, one of Cameron’s cheerleaders in BBC News, went off enthusiastically about how you didn’t need to pay the debt back until you earned a certain amount, so that it was all ‘free money’. Well, as the SF writer Robert Heinlein used to lecture people in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, TANSTAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch. A debt is still a debt.

And it’s when you get to the really poor – the long term sick, unemployed and disabled that the Tories’ policies have become positively lethal. Cameron, Osborne and his crew took over the welfare-to-work ideas of Blair’s New Labour, including the system of sanctions and fitness-to-work tests. As a result, people who have been literally dying have been declared fit for work and have had their benefit stopped. About 500 people have starved to death. Over a quarter of a million more have had their mental health impaired, sometimes seriously. Depression and anxiety has increased massively.

But all this is swept under the carpet, as Cameron and John Major have claimed that Major is a ‘One Nation’ Tory concerned with working peoples’ welfare. He isn’t, and never was. Just like he’s in no hurry to leave his rock.