original & snatched
Click the Orange RSS Button >>>
and get the feed.
Click the Orange RSS Button >>>
and get the feed.
What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children’s mental health in England reflect a global crisis.
Despite the collective efforts of schools, social workers and hospitals, children and parents speak of reduced services unable to help patients until their condition becomes critical. Here, 20 readers talk about their experiences
There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.
In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet. The education system becomes more brutally competitive by the year. Employment is a fight to the near-death with a multitude of other desperate people chasing ever fewer jobs. The modern overseers of the poor ascribe individual blame to economic circumstance. Endless competitions on television feed impossible aspirations as real opportunities contract.
Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do.
As Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has brilliantly documented, girls and young women routinely alter the photos they post to make themselves look smoother and slimmer. Some phones, using their “beauty” settings, do it for you without asking; now you can become your own thinspiration. Welcome to the post-Hobbesian dystopia: a war of everyone against themselves.
Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing
Is it any wonder, in these lonely inner worlds, in which touching has been replaced by retouching, that young women are drowning in mental distress? A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like.
If social rupture is not treated as seriously as broken limbs, it is because we cannot see it. But neuroscientists can. A series of fascinating papers suggest that social pain and physical pain are processed by the same neural circuits. This might explain why, in many languages, it is hard to describe the impact of breaking social bonds without the words we use to denote physical pain and injury. In both humans and other social mammals, social contact reduces physical pain. This is why we hug our children when they hurt themselves: affection is a powerful analgesic. Opioids relieve both physical agony and the distress of separation. Perhaps this explains the link between social isolation and drug addiction.
Experiments summarised in the journal Physiology & Behaviour last month suggest that, given a choice of physical pain or isolation, social mammals will choose the former. Capuchin monkeys starved of both food and contact for 22 hours will rejoin their companions before eating. Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement.
Lancet Commission report criticises lack of attention paid to young people’s health around the world
It is not hard to see what the evolutionary reasons for social pain might be. Survival among social mammals is greatly enhanced when they are strongly bonded with the rest of the pack. It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators, or to starve. Just as physical pain protects us from physical injury, emotional pain protects us from social injury. It drives us to reconnect. But many people find this almost impossible.
It’s unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It’s more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system.
Studies in both animals and humans suggest a reason for comfort eating: isolation reduces impulse control, leading to obesity. As those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are the most likely to suffer from loneliness, might this provide one of the explanations for the strong link between low economic status and obesity?
Anyone can see that something far more important than most of the issues we fret about has gone wrong. So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain? Should this question not burn the lips of everyone in public life?
There are some wonderful charities doing what they can to fight this tide, some of which I am going to be working with as part of my loneliness project. But for every person they reach, several others are swept past.
This does not require a policy response. It requires something much bigger: the reappraisal of an entire worldview. Of all the fantasies human beings entertain, the idea that we can go it alone is the most absurd and perhaps the most dangerous. We stand together or we fall apart.
John Hardin's blog:
In this is the season of recurring conflict, big change is in the air. As the heart of town continues its face-lift of gentrification. Despite the caging of the town square; ‘undesirable’ people in the community continue to cause repulsion to the ‘desirable’ as the former’s rights and dignity are abused by the latter- from the simply houseless and tragically mentally ill, to those damaged by drug abuse all are guilty of being seen in public. Testimony by displaced people (documented by Paul- an example of some of the service he attempts) describes a pattern of abuse and theft carried out by vigilantism, that includes the participation of a prominent second Gen landlord.
The abuse usually strategically stops short of actual physical assault, with perpetrators relying on the fact that the victims lack the resources to pursue due process for relief or justice.Winter storms will soon wash the streets clean again, and our local social ills will be forgotten for a time, by those that hunker down and endure the wet season in the privacy of their cozy shelters and those who trek to warm, exotic distraction to avoid the discomfort of winter.
Some will not have the luxury to forget.Local ‘High Hippie’ Culture, often referred to as: ‘we’, as in “When we got here....” and easily defined by 1970’s new-settlers, with middle class upbringings, college education and lifestyles subsidized by the then generous social supports of “the war on poverty,” Is safely in denial about the struggles at street level of survival in a land hostile to the “underprivileged.”The word “Hippie” is used proudly to describe the roots of those now in their sunset years who glowingly recount the glory days of struggle and growth that built the local institutions and customs we take for granted. The founders of the local institutions that won the double lottery of low land prices, and the underground weed boom that spawned the dope yuppies John describes so well. With a wink and a nod, no one can deny that the local economy is powered by money laundered through business and real estate investment.
Just as a real understanding of history and society can’t deny that poverty, hunger, drug abuse and the lack of housing are the real products of the political economy we are all part of. Though described by John as the last bastion of Hippie culture, Paul’s Bohemianism- The practice of an unconventional lifestyle, in the company of like-minded people, involving artistic, or literary pursuits, wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds, predated Hippie culture- A Jesuit training in morals, philosophy, and history drove his personal revolution that later identified him as Hippie. The deep roots of social equality, justice, peace, and non-violence have informed his life. The business of books, was never entered upon as a path to wealth, but as a path of life. True Hippie culture was defined by the work of the Diggers who took their name from the original English Diggers of 1649-50 who promulgated a vision of society free from private property, and all forms of buying and selling. The San Francisco Diggers evolved out of two Radical traditions that thrived in the SF Bay Area in the mid-1960s: the bohemian/underground art/theater scene, and the New Left/civil rights/peace movement.
The diggers fed hungry people, helped people who were sick- and increasingly they were- Media popularized the mystique of Hippie, and the summer of love, later recalled in utopian terms was the beginning of the end. The Haight-Ashbury district could not handle the amount of kids that invaded the region in 1967 looking for free love, mind expanding drugs and spiritual empowerment. Overcrowded conditions caused many to live on the streets and contributed to widespread illness. Overcrowding, and drug abuse use brought with it the problems of overdosing and crime. Speed and alcohol in particular, caused an increase in more violent crimes. Most of the kids that descended upon the Haight with hope and optimism in June returned home sick and out of money by September. By the fall of 1967, Haight-Ashbury was nearly abandoned, trashed, and laden with drugs and homeless people. The intellectual cultural creatives were always in the minority- most just came for the party. On October 8th 1967 The Diggers held a funeral march commemorating the death of the Hippie, proclaiming: "Stay where you are! Bring the revolution to where you live." even as the exodus from the chaos of the city led people “back to the land.”Hippie fashion and music, continued, but the prime directive of the movement went beyond those trappings co-opted by Madison Avenue to capitalize on the “youth-quake.” that distracted most from the reality of the escalating Vietnam war.Paul is described as the last bastion because commerce has won; education is an unaffordable commodity, idealistic social progress has become just another losing political slogan, and Business concerns trump humanity. The local institutions that were built with progressive social ideals, have become just that- Institutions, with all the issues and politics that inspired the questioning of authority to begin with. Disgruntled and angry neighbors, self righteous landlords, and intolerant locals are the forces creating the new Garberville, while the commons, privatized, have been lost.
Paul, as loyal opposition, is pushed to the fringe of the new establishment he has been instrumental in building- for the unsavory act of caring for social justice.And still people are without shelter, hungry, cold, crazed and addicted, and still are we at war.No matter the hook for eviction, or the way it is spun, for a few, the important headline will be: "Octogenarian intellectual; international peace maker, community activist, writer and publisher- an advocate for the rights of downtrodden at risk community members, serving generations- whose long time activist partners sudden death was quickly followed by the lengthy illness and demise of their youngest child, is thrown out of his long established bookstore, for his tolerance and selfless service to victims of the gentrification and arbitrary standards of a merchant class in a community at odds with economic and social reality.”
I’ve become aware, via cultural osmosis of a strange phenomenon. I’m not sure if the phenomenon is more disturbing than the fact that I know about it in such detail, or why.
I was never much of a computer game enthusiast, and always wondered why anyone over the age of 12 would be. A tech savvy friend once described these games as “very sophisticated waiting.” The amount of time and energy spent navigating comic book worlds, solely created to pull profit from a devotional fan base is puzzling. In my day, the age of coin operated arcade games like pong and tank, I preferred air hockey, or pin ball- a tangible object made for a more satisfying expenditure of a quarter. The video game style that most appealed to me were cerebral, like the moon landing simulation, the lander depicted as a tiny illuminated stick figure that was sensitive to the forces of thrust, and the mystifying gravity of the moon, The only goal was to finesse the controls in a way that enabled a smooth touch down, no shooting lasers, no monsters no killing or capturing.
Unlike me, my best buddy was a genius computer nerd, and there- by trustworthy enough to have keys to a community timeshare mainframe. We could get stoned on a late night bike ride and hang out at ‘The Peoples Computer Center’- A small store front operation that had some desks, chairs and couches in the front, a couple of banks of teletype terminals, and in the back an air conditioned windowed room that held the whirring refrigerator sized electronic brain.
The game that interest me was the game called ‘Life.’ You would establish various parameters, and then enable your organism. The teletype would then begin the process of depicting with lines and symbols the geometric progression of your life form according to the program you established. Geometric patterns of growth emerged as the terminal clicked away...OK we were stoned, and waiting, waiting to grow up, waiting for more real life.
So Pokemon Go is in the news, I know about it because people have been falling off cliffs, walking into traffic, being mugged and other strange viral behavior, apparently everywhere, very quickly. Of course I had to read about it, who wouldn’t.
I guess I can understand the compulsion, the technolgy is intriguing- Enhanced reality, oh my. But lets get serious. Walking around with your nose on a slab of technology is a pretty low way to spend your time- Zero creativity, hardly an original thought is really required, and the goal- I’m not really even sure, as I’m not interested enough to care, but it seems like this stuff is being taken really seriously.
My mind goes to the outlandish, and if anyone uses this, send me some royalties!
What if this games GPS driven enhanced reality expands into. say point-of-view shooter games, or even POV malicious refrigerated trucks? Would there be people virtually machine gunning cartoon terrorists in public places, while not watching where they’re going, not interacting with fellow players, or maybe worse teaming up and creating virtual lynch mobs to root out the virtual guilty. The moral compass of this kind of gaming gets a little dicey.
My proposed game is a Zombie hunt, where all those playing Pokemon Go have zombie attributes superimposed onto them by enhanced reality, and the goal is a brain shot, to put down the hapless fools that insist on playing this ridiculous game. Oh, but that creates another ridiculous game, that spawns another crowd of the hapless. Virus like, this thing has legs.
Just wait till the drones get involved...
Okay, I admit that I am a movement spy.
As thepeopleswhistle I fancy myself the Scarlet Pimpernel of class war. In the name of solidarity and equality, I work to solve problems caused by our governments and our businesses. This proud American Fascism, corporate and militarist to the core, plows through masses of at risk people who are sold and in the way – as consciously terrorist as that big French Truck plowing through the crowd of Bastille Day celebrants.
It is fascism now with Hilary-types running the show – not a future fascism with Trump. The armed security forces are everywhere and they are heavily armed - double zeros licensed to kill. They don’t fear prosecution, just bad publicity. Why, you might ask, should we accept a situation where the person who stops me for a traffic violation has the option at their fingertips of killing me? Why should we agree that the person who patrols my camping activities in a state park is given the discretion of riddling me with bullets right there by my campfire?
Recall the textbook definition of state power – it needs a monopoly on violence. Which monopoly has made “police forces” virtual armies of occupation in towns like Baton Rouge, Los Angeles and Eureka. Disarming these forces is crucial. Replacing them with civil, not military, interveners is necessary. And I am confident that the first wave of such civil interveners would be yesterday’s armed cops.
It is the gun that draws the nuts. Any job whose description includes “can kill people when you want to” attracts a number of questionable candidates. The failure of police review, not to mention war crimes tribunals, shows the futility of policing the armed forces. Armed people functioning as units serve each other’s survival First and last. Us “citizens” are all Iraqi faces in a hostile crowd to those armed paranoids, increasing numbers of whom are Endless War graduates.
These domestic occupation armies shoot black people at will. But if you lack black people the money elite are satisfied if enough time is spent terrorizing the homeless. American towns are Spanish Pamplonas where the blue-suited, silver-badged bulls are always running and the street people better be running too.
The great urban parasite is always experimenting with tightening the noose of terror among the disposed. “Aggressive Panhandling” is the latest game in town One of the towns in my HumBayBeltWay tried it and failed in court. The local politicians know that this effort is doomed as well since it fundamentally defines “aggressive” as panhandling anywhere there are likely to be people. But the point behind such pointlessness isn’t success – the politicians merely want their wealthy patrons that they are giving it the old class war try.
But wait, one of culture heroes was homeless. No, not Jesus, I mean George Orwell. Too many years in the Imperial Police in Burma and elsewhere eventually produced the radically socialist Orwell. (He wrote a novel “Burmese Days” and an essay “Shooting an Elephant” which give us a taste of his deep disillusionment with his role) Orwell purged himself of that experience by going homeless. Read his “Down and Out in Paris and London.”
In fact, don’t wait. Here is an appropriate taste from George himself:
“There is no ESSENTIAL difference between a beggar's livelihood and that of numberless respectable people. Beggars do not work, it is said; but, then, what is WORK? A navvy works by swinging a pick. An accountant works by adding up figures. A beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose veins, chronic bronchitis, etc. It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course--but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless.
“And as a social type a beggar compares well with scores of others. He is honest compared with the sellers of most patent medicines, high-minded compared with a Sunday newspaper proprietor, amiable compared with a hire-purchase tout--in short, a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite. He seldom extracts more than a bare living from the community, and, what should justify him according to our ethical ideas, he pays for it over and over in suffering. I do not think there is anything about a beggar that sets him in a different class from other people, or gives most modern men the right to despise him.
“Then the question arises, Why are beggars despised?--for they are despised, universally. I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a decent living. In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modem talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except 'Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it'? Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised. If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately. A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a businessman, getting his living, like other businessmen, in the way that comes to hand. He has not, more than most modem people, sold his honour; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.”
Another tweet from: thepeopleswhistle
People sometimes criticize me for my over-the-top opinions and no-holds-barred writing style. They think I should moderate my views and be more sensitive to people’s feelings. Fuck that! In reality, these people just wish I would shut the fuck up and leave them alone with their illusions, but they want to say it in a way that sounds like constructive criticism.
If Carl Hiaasen offered a few words of advice about my writing, I’d be all ears, but when I get writing advice here in SoHum, it usually comes from people who can barely read. I don’t listen to them any more than I would take target shooting advice from an unarmed blind man. If you can’t see the target, and you’ve never handled a gun, you won’t be much help, so relax. I know what I’m doing, and I shoot straight.
You’re lucky to have me, frankly. Thirty years of silence, secrecy and sycophantic schemers has given this community a very distorted image of itself. The injustice of marijuana prohibition turned community values on their head. What began as a new green awakening, degenerated into the same old greed and dishonesty. We celebrate marijuana, but our addiction to the War on Drugs shapes us, and it shows.
Greed is uglier than alcoholism. It’s even uglier than meth addiction, and that heartless, senseless, relentless thirst for more takes a toll. Like alcohol and meth, greed hardens people while it kills them from the inside. I see what that disease does to people. I see what that disease has done to this community.
While cannabis may have healing qualities that make the user more sensitive to subtle emotional cues, the War on Drugs produces hard, rotten people. Every community has a few, quite a few, I’m sorry to say, just like every community has it’s share of alcoholics, tweakers and greed-heads. Unfortunately, the opportunities created here by the War on Drugs tend to attract them, so we have more than our fair share. We also have more than our fair share of money, which, like gravity, inexorably draws greedy scum towards it.
The War on Drugs made bad people rich while it drove honest people out of town, just like it does in any drug ghetto, and just like in any drug ghetto, we have enormous social problems as a result. We try to put a nice face on it. We try to look like a normal, prosperous, small town, but the truth shows. It angers the rich ugly, hard, rotten people around here, that they can’t just sweep the poor, ugly, hard, rotten people out of sight, but that’s who we are, and that’s what the War on Drugs has done to us. So long as the War on Drugs continues, we shall remain, as a community, unnaturally rich, unnaturally poor, and rotten to the core.
Greedy bankers and real-estate blood-suckers measure the marijuana industry in dollars, because that’s all greedy people see, but the more money the marijuana industry brings to Humboldt County, the more poverty it produces. The black market marijuana industry produces poverty all over this country, but here in SoHum, it produces some of the most expensive poverty money can buy.
Greedy people, like drug addicts, become so focused on their addiction that they often fail to notice how poor they really are. The people who drive those spotlessly clean late-model trucks, often live in total squalor, expensive squalor, but squalor nonetheless. Lots of children grow up in dysfunctional homes, without books, living on junk food, and we have some of the highest suicide and drug addiction rates in the state. For all the money that the War on Drugs brings in, we sure don’t seem to live very well as a result.
It takes more than money to make a community function. It takes culture, and hard, rotten people produce a hard, rotten culture. It’s a hard, rotten culture that blames the poor for their poverty, and rewards drug dealers for their greed, and this hard, rotten culture belies our deepest poverty: our penurious shortage of intelligence, imagination and moral courage. I know you don’t want to hear it, folks, but that’s the truth. You won’t get that from many people around here, but you can count on me.
Far Worse than Hiroshima — The US Bombings on Japan the Govt Wants You to Forget
Matt Agorist May 27, 2016
This week, Barack Obama became the first US president in history to visit the memorial of the American atomic bombings of Japan in Hiroshima. However, in true American fashion, he offered no apology.
“We have a shared responsibility to look directly in the eye of history. We must ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again,” Obama said in a speech at the memorial on Friday.
The location of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was once the city’s busiest downtown commercial and residential district. However, the devastating atomic blast from the U.S. bomb that killed over 100,000 innocent civilians left the clearing in which the monument now sits.
While this monument was specifically built to remember the horror of America’s nuclear bombs and the murderous devastation left in their wake, Japan is quite literally covered in lesser known silent monuments from dozens of firebombings carried out on its cities by the United States military — before the atomic blasts.
One bombing campaign, in Tokyo alone, killed nearly as many innocent civilians as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
On the night of March 9, 1945, the U.S. launched one of the most murderous and horrifying bombing campaigns in the history of the world. That night marked the beginning of a several weeks-long wave of firebomb and napalm attacks across more than 60 Japanese cities. Many of these bombings were just as bad as the two atomic bomb attacks. However, when adding the sum total of innocence slain by U.S. bombs, the deaths in those five dozen cities eclipses the total deaths in both atomic bombings by several magnitudes.
While Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been deeply engraved on the consciousness of humanity and commemorated in monuments, museums, films, novels and textbooks, the firebombing and napalming of civilians of many other Japanese and Asian cities has largely disappeared from consciousness, except for the victims.
In Tokyo alone, U.S. bombers dropped 300,000 incendiary bombs, completely destroying 16 square miles of neighborhoods — killing more than 100,000 people, mostly civilians. Some survivor accounts detail flaming napalm seeping into bomb shelters and burning entire families alive.
One of the reports from the bombers stated that the firestorm was so vast and hot that it caused a B-29 bomber weighing 60 tons to be thrust upward by 600 meters as it flew over.
Tokyo was one of more than 60 cities in which hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians were burned alive as they sought cover from the death raining down from above.
During what some historians refer to as The Forgotten Holocaust, the U.S. dropped millions of incendiary bombs, napalm, and even fastened bombs to live bats that were trained to fly up underneath roofs to explode and set houses on fire.
Some historians have calculated the total dead from the U.S. bombing campaigns in Japan to upwards of one million innocent civilians. It is no wonder you’ve never heard about these attacks in your high school history class as it shows the true face of American terror.
In 2003, Errol Morris won an Academy Award for his documentary film, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. The film consisted mostly of interviews with Robert McNamara, one of which described his role in the bombings.
McNamara was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving from 1961 to 1968 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, during which time he played a major role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War.
Following that, he served as President of the World Bank from 1968 to 1981. McNamara also consolidated intelligence and logistics functions of the Pentagon into two centralized agencies: the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Supply Agency.
So, when this well-connected military industrial complex insider talks about U.S. war crimes, you should listen.
Apparently knowing that he could not be prosecuted for his previous war crimes in World War II and Vietnam, McNamara spoke candidly in the film about strategizing with General Curtis LeMay to, quite literally, set Japan on fire.
In the brief excerpt from the documentary below, McNamara explains how LeMay said that “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.”
“And I think he’s right,” says McNamara. “He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals,” McNamara continued.
“LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side has lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?” pondered the now deceased McNamara.
McNamara was unapologetic in his testimony, and it seemed as if he really believed that since the U.S. ‘won’ the war, their horrifyingly murderous track record was somehow just. By this same logic, had Hitler ‘won,’ history should revere him as a hero instead of a murderous sociopath.
Sadly, McNamara is right — had Germany been successful, they could very well be written into history by themselves as the saviors of the free world.
“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” — the political ideology of the totalitarian government of Oceania in George Orwell’s dystopian 1984.
Below is that powerful video in which McNamara compares the Japanese cities’ sizes to that of American ones to illustrate the sheer size of destruction. To put the initial bombing of Tokyo into perspective, it would have been the equivalent of burning half of New York City, and all of its inhabitants, to the ground.
As Obama poses the for the cameras on Friday, to hang a memorial wreath in Hiroshima, the families of the victims of one of the most horrific firebombing campaigns in the world — scream into deaf ears.
Please share this article with your friends and families to let them know the real history behind America’s ‘exceptionalism.’
Non-Profit Anonymous Digital Art Revolution Art, Thoughts, Videos Info... Whatever I post, please just take it, or share it. Posts in English, German or Thai. Regards, David
There are things I never mentioned to anyone but my wife. So sharing this bit of my life is a big step in my life. I wrote this when I was in Bang Kwang Prison Bangkok, better known as the "Big Tiger" for it consumed/es so many lives.
I have seen men so hopeless, that they were nothing but an empty shell.
I have seen men trying to kill each other over a handful of rice.
I have seen men so ignorant, they thought they had had everything, …but ended up with nothing and alone.
I have seen men die with fear in their eyes, and I have seen men die with peace in their eyes.
I have seen big, muscular men, crying and sobbing like infants, and
I have seen tiny, short and skinny men showing enormous bravery. I have seen men with no regard for human dignity, and
I have seen men with little regard for human dignity, but yet I haven’t seen a man with high regard of human dignity.
I have seen men who were treated like animals for so long, that the actually became “animal like”. I have seen Women who have been imprisoned together with their children, even the unborn.
I have seen men on death-row who looked me in the eyes and said:” Better dead, than locked up for life.”
I, myself, have survived death itself, all the way through the tunnel and back, and ever since can see things happen, before they happen or things which happened already in my absence.
Sometimes I wish that I died that day in the Siamese Prison, but it wasn’t my time to die yet, and I was told why. It was because my love was still needed for I was not granted to depart.
May 12, 2016
In the fight against homelessness, Central Florida has quietly achieved a remarkable victory over the last few years.
As recently as January 2014, leaders in business and local government were wringing their hands over rising rates of homelessness in Florida's Osceola County. Now a new census of the Osceola, Orange, and Seminole County region shows homelessness there fell 23 percent since mid-2015 alone — and dropped over 60 percent since 2013.
This didn't happen through some breakthrough discovery, or even major changes in program funding. It happened because of a simple conceptual shift: For a long time, it was assumed that you had to deal with the issues faced by homeless people — trauma, drug addiction, mental illness — before giving them heavily subsidized housing, often on the condition that they stayed clean and sane. Central Florida reversed the logic: Give people permanent housing with no strings attached.
The philosophy is called, appropriately enough, "housing first." And it's not just working in Florida. A recent study in Canada showed that homeless people who received both guaranteed housing and social support held on to their homes 63-77 percent of the time, versus just 24-39 percent of people who received the standard approach. Cities like Seattle, Denver, and Washington, D.C. — plus states like Rhode Island, Illinois, and, most famously, Utah — are seeing success with it.
But the story of "housing first" actually isn't a recent idea. It began in 1992 with a psychologist named Sam Tsemberis.
Studying the issue from his perch at New York University, Tsemberis made a breakthrough that was basically taxonomic. He understood that there are two types of homeless: the temporary and the chronically homeless. The former, which make up the vast majority of the homeless population, are basically just down on their luck and can be helped by relatively straightforward government assistance. But the latter group, about 15 percent of the total population, are basically homeless because of deeper issues like substance abuse, trauma, or mental disorders.
Tsemberis realized that forcing these people to jump through the hoops of testing and paperwork and rehabilitation programs before they could get a place to live was nuts. The chronic homeless more often face jail time and trips to the emergency room than the rest of the population. And homelessness is stressful: In a shelter, you can't even shut your door; if you can find a place to stay, you're often at the mercy of corrupt employers, irresponsible landlords, and abusive partners; there's no stable network of neighbors to rely upon for help looking after children. On top of it all, you can't even rest.
"I can sleep," one beneficiary of housing first policy in D.C. told The Washington Post. "Oh my goodness, I can sleep."
So Tsemberis proposed just giving the chronically homeless a place to live unconditionally and then building on that foothold by offering other social support. He helped set up a few test runs of the policy, but no one really paid him any mind until several people working on homelessness in Utah got a key official to give his ideas a hearing. Lloyd Pendleton was the executive manager of the Mormon Church's Welfare Department and director of Utah's Task Force on Homelessness. And when he heard Tsemberis' idea, he was sold.
Pendleton's backing from the Mormon Church gave him the legitimacy to get Utah's famously conservative state legislature to sign off on using funds to give people homes unconditionally. And his connections to the state's network of aid programs helped cobble together the money to run the program and to coordinate with the various rehabilitation programs and social support providers that would help the tenants with their other struggles.
This is how housing first works in most places: The chronic homeless are identified, and money is put together to permanently subsidize them in an apartment or other living space. They usually have to cover 30 percent of the rent themselves, either with money from a job or another aid program. But the rest of the subsidy is permanent and unconditional. And once they have a stable place to live, they can start regular work healing mentally or kicking their addiction or whatever challenge they need to deal with.
As a result, Utah's population of chronic homeless dropped 91 percent and is almost nonexistent today. Programs in other states have reported similar victories.
Most even report that the program has saved them money on net: Providing the chronic homeless a long-term place to stay, no questions asked, intrinsically makes their lives more stable. So governments spend less on them in other forms of aid.
Expanding this approach nationwide will, of course, require more direct investment. Aid programs to help the homeless in any fashion remain horribly underfunded. In particular, sequestration and national budget cuts in recent years drastically reduced the streams of federal funding going to help these various programs at the state and local level.
But as Utah and Florida and these other places show, we don't just need money. We need a conceptual change. The notion that homeless people have somehow failed society, rather than society having failed them, is baked into our cultural thinking on the issue. It's why people think budget cuts to aid programs to "get people off the dole" are a good idea, and why it can seem like common sense that homeless people need to get their act together before they get permanent housing. Arguably the most important innovation "housing first" has provided is it flipped those moral assumptions on their head.
As Tsemberis told Mother Jones: "Going from homelessness into a home changes a person's psychological identity from outcast to member of the community." That comes first, not last.
By Stephen Wm. Smith
U.S. Magistrate Judge sitting in Houston, Texas.
Friday, May 6, 2016
Now that the cell phones in San Bernardino and Brooklyn have been unlocked (no thanks to Apple), FBI warnings about “going dark” in the face of advancing digital encryption seem less urgent than before. Perhaps there are other ways — buying exploits in the zero-day market, plea bargaining pressure — to skin the encryption cat, after all. Are privacy advocates correct that a “Golden Age of Surveillance” has arrived, and the real question is whether law enforcement has too many tools, rather than too few? Or will unchecked encryption enable criminals and terrorists to wreak havoc via the Dark Web, as Director Comey fears? Although an interested spectator, I am in no position to judge that technical debate.
I am, however, better positioned to ponder a less publicized “going dark” threat to another branch of government, the branch most indispensable to the rule of law — our court system. Over the last 40 years, secrecy in all aspects of the judicial process has risen to literally unprecedented levels. Let me describe what I have seen, and why it is troubling.
Secret courts, secret dockets
In 1978, Congress created the first secret court in our history — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Staffed by Article III judges borrowed from federal district courts, this specialized tribunal issues surveillance warrants for foreign intelligence purposes. Understandably, given its mission, FISA court proceedings are ex parte and mostly secret, although the Snowden revelations in 2013 forced a partial lifting of the veil.
While the FISA court remains the only congressionally authorized secret court in our nation’s history, secret dockets are another matter. In 1986, Congress enacted the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to regulate government access to our cell phone and Internet communications and records. This law authorized court orders compelling such access to be sealed indefinitely, “until further order of the court”; in practice, this has meant that these surveillance orders are permanently sealed. Moreover, these orders are routinely accompanied by gag orders forbidding the provider from telling customers that the government has read their emails or tracked their cell phones. (This has become a customer relations headache for providers like Microsoft, who sued last month to have ECPA’s gag provision declared a prior restraint of speech in violation of the First Amendment.)
How large is this secret ECPA docket? Extrapolating from a Federal Judicial Center study of 2006 federal case filings, I have estimated that more than 30,000 secret ECPA orders were issued that year alone. Given recent DOJ disclosures, the current annual volume is probably twice that number. And those figures do not include surveillance orders obtained by state and local authorities, who handle more than 15 times the number of felony investigations that the feds do. Based on that ratio, the annual rate of secret surveillance orders by federal and state courts combined could easily exceed half a million. Admittedly this is a guess; no one truly knows, least of all our lawmakers in Congress. That is precisely the problem.
These breathtaking numbers have no precedent in our legal history. Before the digital age, executed search warrants were routinely placed on the court docket available for public inspection. The presumption was that the public should be able to monitor the level of governmental intrusion into the “persons, houses, papers, and effects” of its citizens. Apparently, that presumption does not apply to government intrusion upon our digital lives.
Secret cases, secret evidence
Still, the situation might be tolerable, if criminal investigations were the only area of rising judicial secrecy. But that is not the case.
The same FJC study found that 576 civil cases filed in 2006 were completely sealed, meaning that the public was denied any information about the case, including the docket sheet. Rationales for the blackout varied from weak (“the parties wanted them sealed,” “to protect physicians reputations,” “to protect a party’s credit rating”) to non-existent (“17 pro se actions,” “30 habeas corpus and prisoner actions,” “33 forfeitures and seizures”).
Equally concerning is what was omitted from the study — cases with highly redacted docket sheets, or a substantial number of sealed filings, were not counted at all. This is understandable, because the numbers would likely have been too large to tabulate in any meaningful way. In my experience on the bench, unwarranted sealing in civil cases has become rampant. Even the most mundane employment suit will have a docket sheet littered with “Sealed event” entries. Litigants must often be reminded that there is no unalienable right to a private trial in a public forum.
Given the prevalence of the practice today, one easily forgets how new it all is. For most of our history, records of judicial proceedings were always accessible to the public, a practice inherited from English common law courts. Limited exceptions only began to appear around the turn of the 20th century, mostly in divorce, adoption, or juvenile proceedings. In 1915, the Supreme Court first encountered a judicial sealing order, which Justice Holmes denounced as “a judicial fiat” having “no judicial character” and “in excess of the jurisdiction of the lower court” before granting a writ of mandamus to revoke it.
That traditional aversion to court secrecy has been overcome in the last few decades. To take but one example, the case name In re Sealed Case first appeared in 1981; it is now the most common case name on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals docket. Another telling sign is that the government is far more aggressively (and successfully) asserting evidentiary privileges than ever before. This includes well-established privileges like state secrets, and brand new ones like the privilege for investigative techniques and procedures. Unsurprisingly, the brainchild behind this particular privilege was J. Edgar Hoover himself, the godfather of the “black bag” job and other illicit techniques. (The story behind this privilege is told here.) Hoover’s privilege is often invoked to limit court testimony about technological tools routinely used by law enforcement, such as cell site simulators (Stingrays).
Privatized justice, boiling frogs
My concern is not merely that a velvet curtain is being drawn across wide swaths of traditionally public judicial business. Over the last 30 years, with Supreme Court enabling, much of that traditional judicial business has been outsourced to private arbitrators and non-public “dispute resolution” mechanisms. Employers, Internet service providers, and consumer lenders have led a mass exodus from the court system. By the click of a mouse or tick of a box, the American public is constantly inveigled to divert the enforcement of its legal rights to venues closed off from public scrutiny. Justice is becoming privatized, like so many other formerly public goods turned over to invisible hands — electricity, water, education, prisons, highways, the military.
I realize that each of these developments has its arguable upside. Within the judiciary itself there are many who believe that, for cost and efficiency reasons, judges should spend more time managing cases off the record than adjudicating them on the record. My concern is that, like a frog in water heated gradually to a boil, these incremental changes to our judicial system will eventually produce a profoundly unpleasant transformation.
Turn out the light, and then turn out the light?
Absent good public information about what courts are doing, justice and the rule of law are left groping in the dark. Yale Professor Judith Resnik accurately summarizes the stakes:
Without public access, one cannot know whether fair treatment is accorded regardless of status. Without publicity, judges have no means of demonstrating their independence. Without oversight, one cannot ensure that judges, tasked with vindicating public rights, are loyal to those norms. Without independent judges acting in public and treating the disputants in an equal and dignified manner, outcomes lose their claim to legitimacy. And without public accounting of how legal norms are being applied, one cannot debate the need for revisions.
More elegant, perhaps, is the simple admonition added to the open court proviso of the New Jersey Provincial Charter in 1674: “Justice may not be done in a corner.” Unfortunately, this may prove to be one ancestral pearl of wisdom that our generation carelessly threw away.