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Voice From the Back

Seeing Stars

The working class are brought up to believe in leadership and encouraged to imagine that in a complicated society like capitalism it is best to leave decisions to the intellectually superior minds of politicians and statesmen. The madness of that notion was well illustrated by a recent news item. 'The sick should turn to astrology for answers, a Tory MP has declared. David Tredinnick said astrology had a proven track at helping people recover from illness and should be incorporated into standard medical treatments. The MP for Bosworth in Leicestershire also admitted he had prepared astrological charts for fellow MPs - but refused to say who’ (Daily Mail, 26 July). Tredinnick is a member of two influential Commons committees, the health and science and technology committees, but it would be interesting to know if he suffers from some ill-health in the future whether he will consult an hospital or just look up his astrology chart.

Democracy Inc.

The United States of America never tires of telling the rest of the world what a perfect example of democracy the USA is, but the influence of corporate big business exposes that claim as nonsense.  An explosion of spending on political advertising on television - set to break $2 billion in congressional races, with overall spots up nearly 70 per cent since the 2010 midterm election - is accelerating the rise of moneyed interests and wresting control from the candidates' own efforts to reach voters. 'The top three outside groups alone - Americans for Prosperity, Senate Majority PAC, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - have already spent a combined more than $80 million in congressional races. Americans for Prosperity, backed by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, has spent $44 million on House and Senate races. Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democratic Senate candidates, has spent more than $22 million on Senate races, and the Chamber of Commerce has spent up to $17 million on House and Senate races‘ (New York Times, 27 July).

Dirty Tricks

With the 100th anniversary of the day the First World War began, it is sobering to look back at the way that conflict was so badly reported. The catalogue of journalistic misdeeds is a matter of record: the willingness to publish propaganda as fact, the apparently tame acceptance of censorship and the failure to hold power to account. 'But a sweeping condemnation of the press coverage is unjust because journalists, as ever, were prevented from informing the public by three powerful forces - the government, the military and their own proprietors. It is undeniable that newspapers began by demonising the German enemy. They published fabricated stories of German barbarism, which were accepted as fact‘ (Guardian, 27 July). It has taken 100 years for British newspapers to come clean about their misreporting so how much of that still goes on today?

Meat Grinder

We have all seen politicians and religious leaders commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Great War of 1914-18. What we haven't seen is any of them apologising for the society that produced such a bloodbath. 'More than nine million troops were killed, and, depending on how you count them, as many as 10 million civilians. In Turkey, Russia, the Balkans and elsewhere, unprecedented millions of people became homeless refugees. Some 21 million soldiers were wounded. In Britain, 41,000 men had one or more limbs amputated; in France, so many had mangled faces that they formed a National Union of Disfigured Men’ (Guardian, 28 July). This is what capitalism and its drive for markets leads to  - disfigurement and death.

Les Miserables

In its unrelenting search for ways to cut welfare spending the NHS is an easy target as reports of poor mental health care show. Family doctors have warned of the deteriorating state of mental healthcare in England, after a survey revealed that one in five had seen a patient come to harm because they could not get specialist help. 'GPs reported that some patients had committed suicide or been sectioned because of a lack of available community mental health services. More than eight in 10 GPs now believe that their local mental health teams cannot cope with caseloads, and nearly half said that the situation in their area had got even worse in the past 12 months‘ (Independent, 31 July).