Fascism in the UK

The Home Office a few weeks ago: “There will be no hiding place”.


The Home Office last week: “GO HOME OR FACE ARREST”


Racist Van

Border Agency in London today: Papers please.



A tale set three years ago:


So I was sitting on the bus going through E & C, and it got stopped by transport police (they always stop it in poorer neighbourhoods)

The Police officer gets on and starts asking everyone for their tickets or oyster cards – so far, so usual

But there is a big van parked up on the pavement by the bus stop and instead of issuing fines they start asking for ID’s, for ‘Papers’

‘Papers’ is not a term normally used in that context. My Oyster was in the bottom of my bag somewhere, so as I struggled to find it….

…the officer then asked me for my ‘papers’ and then in Spanish ‘papeles’ – I already knew what was happening but this was the clincher

I’d been racially profiled as Latin American (which I am) & the phrase ‘sin papeles’ – ‘without papers/illegal’ was what he meant

Looked up from my bag (I’d just found my UK passport in there – I was born here) and said ‘What?!! You’re racially profiling me aren’t you?’

‘This is my BRITISH passport. I was born here. Here is my Oyster card too. I want your ID number, I’m going to make a complaint’…

The dude looked me in the eye, went a strange grey shade, turned his heel and got off the bus..

I was late going somewhere so I didn’t have time to chase after him but as I looked out of the bus window…

..I saw the people they’d already taken off the bus for not having their tickets/oysters being loaded into the parked van

Black & Brown faces stared back at me with expressions of hopelessness – I felt sick, but what could I do?

This didn’t happen last week, month or even year. This was nearly 3 years ago

I’ve spoken to others and they say it’s often in the early mornings when the many foreign workers who clean our offices are going to work

This ISN’T new but it does seem to me to be becoming more blatant. Today in Kensal Green they didn’t even pretend it was abt smth else

In the end I didn’t report the officer – in a neighbourhood where the police racially profile us everyday, who was going to listen?

We are not paranoid, we’re not ‘playing the race card’, we do not have a ‘chip on our shoulder(s)’ – this is real & it’s only getting worse

(Copied from tweets by @SandiaElectrica)

The Guardian, November 2011: UK Border Agency officials ‘illegally targeting’ bus passengers

I suggest you aquaint yourself with the Warning signs of fascism.

All Change: A New Diagnosis

I have been sick for at least 13 years, with some symptoms going back into my childhood. At first I was told I had Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome, then later Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. (ME.) ME is also referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, (CFS) although this is controversial as chronic fatigue is often a symptom of other illness. ME/CFS is a diagnosis of exclusion. That is, there is no  known cause or definitive test for it and when every other possibility is excluded the symptoms get labelled as ME. I have often wished that I had any other disease – something with a known cause, where it is not so easy for people to label you a fake or a lazy scrounger. This wish got even more intense when I went to see a psychiatrist after becoming suicidal with pain. His response was to ignore my depression and suicidal ideation and instead “diagnose” me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which from his point of view is a mental illness, and prescribe exercise as the cure to all my problems.

Then four years ago I became diabetic too. It wasn’t unexpected given my family history and I adapted to it pretty easily, although I resented having to change what I eat. Since I was diagnosed my diabetes has progressed rapidly and a few weeks ago I went to see a specialist because despite insulin treatment I was responding unpredictably and finding it hard to control my blood glucose. He suspected that I had a form of diabetes called MODY and had some blood samples taken for a genetic test.

On Friday I got the results of that test back and everything changed.
I don’t have MODY, I have Maternally Inherited Diabetes and Deafness. (MIDD.) It’s caused by a mutation in mitochondrial DNA (3243 tRNA), specifically 3243A>G.

I spoke to the diabetes consultant this morning and he confirmed that what I have is the mitochondrial 3243 A>G mutation. Unfortunately he is a bit clueless about the impact of that mutation outside of diabetes and he dismissed my questions about muscle pain and weakness and about issues with taking metformin. When I first saw him I had asked if my diabetes could be the cause of the muscle pain and burning pain that I have had for years, but he was adamant that it could not be, especially since I have been diagnosed with ME for much longer than I have had diabetes. He said that he had a couple of other patients with MIDD and they had no pain so that was that.

Apart from diabetes and deafness (The deafness part is only about 75% of cases) MIDD is associated with some other symptoms. From the information sheet at the Diabetes Genes website:

Myopathy (Muscle weakness): muscle problems of either weakness or cramps may be present in around 40% of cases of MIDD.  This generally involves proximal muscles (shoulders, buttocks and thighs) which are used when climbing stairs and presents as exercise induced muscle cramps or weakness.


Metformin, a commonly used treatment in diabetes is probably best avoided as Metformin is known to interfere with mitochondrial function and the risk of lactic acidosis may be increased although this has not been reported to date.

From looking at what other people with this condition have said the pain and weakness is rather understated in the above quote. The following is typical of what is actually reported.

I’ve been feeling so, so tired recently with aching legs, and I can barely get out of bed and get dressed some days, most of the time I just want to lie on the sofa and sleep. I knew MIDD could make you tired after exercise, but I didn’t realise it could make you so fatigued after not doing anything at all!

Turning to The NHS Rare Mitochondrial Disease Service for more information I found this under General Information > Exercise

Because in mitochondrial disease the cells cannot make ATP in sufficient quantity, anything that requires a lot of ATP such as exercising a muscle will mean that the body will not be able to keep up with demand. This has two main effects; firstly the muscle will become tired sooner than normal and secondly the muscle makes other compounds such as lactic acid in an attempt to keep up with energy demand. This can lead to pain and cramp in the muscles and patients often feel “like they have run a marathon” even after only moderate exercise. The temptation is to avoid all exercise so that you never get to this stage, but this is not recommended for two reasons. Firstly, it is important for general fitness to exercise and as well as exercising the muscles it is important to keep the heart and circulation healthy. Secondly, there is good evidence that if you become very unfit this will adversely affect your muscles. In many patients’ muscles there is a mixture of good and bad mitochondria and the hope is that exercise can increase the good mitochondria, boosting the level of ATP back to normal and so avoiding symptoms. At this stage this remains just a theory and there are large trials looking in to this idea. At the present time our advice is to exercise regularly at a level that feels comfortable, but without pushing yourself to the point that your muscles become painful.

But that’s not all. The Rare Mitochondrial Disease Service has another perspective on the 3243A>G mutation. It is responsible for a condition called Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy, Lactic Acidosis and Stroke-like episodes (MELAS). And it’s scaring the shit out of me.

The clinical features associated with this mutation can, as stated above, be very variable. We have a number of individuals who clearly carry the mutation who are completely asymptomatic. Other patients have very, very mild symptoms perhaps with a tendency to have diabetes or very mild deafness requiring no treatment. These patients might not be aware that they had the mutation apart from the fact that they were family members of somebody who had more serious disease. Some people with the 3243A>G mutation, also develop diabetes and deafness ultimately requiring the use of a hearing aid or requiring insulin to control their diabetes. Other patients have more severe involvement with muscle weakness sometimes affecting the peripheral muscles and sometimes affecting the muscles around the eyes. Finally there is a group of patients who do develop the MELAS syndrome, which is associated with episodes of encephalopathy . Encephalopathy is really the medical term for an episode that disturbs brain function. These disturbances can take the form of stroke- like episodes and/or seizures. This is a much more troublesome and difficult group of symptoms to control and clearly have a significant effect on people’s lifestyle.

My next step is to see my GP to talk about what all of this means for me and I will ask for a referral to the mitochondrial disease service. Unfortunately my GP is away this week so I will have to wait before I can sort anything out.
I thought finding proof of what is wrong with me would be a relief, but it’s not. Acceptance of my old diagnosis has given way to panic about my new one. All I have is questions swirling round and round in my head. The thought that keeps hitting me is that I wasn’t making this up. I wasn’t imagining it. People have been throwing out accusations and belittling my illness for so long that I had almost convinced myself I was a lazy fake, questioning if symptoms were real or just my brain tricking me. And now I know I’m not imagining it. There’s proof, right there on paper, but I almost don’t believe it. I want to feel relief but all I feel is grief.


The horrific abuse I see aimed at women on twitter makes me ashamed to be a man. Seeing these vile messages as well as reports from friends about what is said to them in the streets everyday has opened my eyes to what happens to women elsewhere. There is a huge problem in society with sexist abuse and rape threats which is made particularly obvious on twitter. The problem is amplified because twitter is a massive global platform such that one person can be attacked through thousands of tweets for hours on end. Even so, I think twitter just makes the already-present abuse visible for all to see.

Abuse can be reported to twitter by email but it’s useless in the face of an onslaught of thousands of rape threats. I’m not convinced that a report abuse button is any more practical than attempting to reply to the abuse is though. People already misuse the report spam button to attack people who they disagree with or who call them out and make them angry. Accounts representing oppressed minorities get suspended all the time because people click report spam when they don’t like the message.

I’ve seen friends get suspended for annoying people by being women, or black, or trans, or gay, or disabled, and I’ve seen friends drown in threats of rape and violence and demands that they kill themselves – going on for days at a time after just one unfavourable mention by a celebrity.

So what is the solution? I don’t know. It’s complicated. The answer is not “just block them” as so many clueless people advocate. When the abuse is relentless and from hundreds of people there is no escape by that route. The answer is probably not a report abuse button. Twitter do provide information on reporting abuse in the Twitter Help Center but it is fairly tedious and is not practical to report everyone involved when under attack from many people. A button could speed things up but would face the same abuse as the report spam button and even then might not be practical for handling a lot of people at once. If such a scheme were to be implemented then twitter must make sure that it would not itself be used to attack people.

The answer certainly isn’t to charge for twitter, as suggested by some journalists. Charging would exclude millions of people who live in poverty both in rich and in poor countries. It would exclude a great many sick and disabled people who rely on twitter to keep them in touch with friends. Asking twitter to charge comes from a position of pure privilege.

Society needs to change. Men need to understand that it is unacceptable to throw sexual demands at women in the street or to tell them on twitter that they are going to rape them. It is not acceptable to stand by and let this happen either. Us men who do understand this need to speak out and tell those others that this behaviour must stop.


Twitter Help Center: Reporting Abusive Behavior

The Everyday Sexism Project – Many examples of unacceptable abuse.

Some examples of tweets aimed at Caroline Criado-Perez following her campaign to keep women on banknotes: