Mexico’s 19th Century Anti-Racist Constitution

June 8, 2023

One of the books I’ve been particularly enjoying at the moment is Linda Colley’s The Gun, The Ship and the Pen. Subtitled Warfare, Constitutions and the Making of the Modern World, the book argues that the increased costs of warfare due to the distances involved and that it now involved fighting on both land and sea forced governments around the world to issue constitutions conceding some rights to their citizens in return for their continued support for these military ventures. Some of these constitutions were by people, hailed as heroes of superhuman genius in their time but now forgotten, whose proposed governmental systems were far more radically democratic than those of the American Revolutionaries.

The book begins with the Corsican nationalist, Pasquale Paoli. a junior officer who had served in the armies of various Italian states while at the same time seeking to educate himself at Naples University, in the 1750s Paoli led a revolt against the Genoese, then Corsica’s overlords. His proposed constitution, written on his used letters due to an acute paper shortage on this poor and backward island, set up a tricameral parliament, with one chamber devoted to running the economy. He was made head of state and the country’s armed forces for life. In return for these powers, his constitution granted the vote to every adult male. Sadly, this experiment in democracy did not last. The Genoese, I think, invaded and re-established their rule, followed by a later invasion by the French that annexed the island.

One of the most strikingly progressive of the proposed constitutions was that of the Mexican warlord, Colonel Agustin de Iturbide. Iturbide hoped to established an autonomous, but possibly still royalist, Mexico. In his constitution of February 1821, the 12th clause established that Europeans, Africans and Indians were to have equal political and social rights, regardless of persons. Copies of this constitution were printed and sent all over the world. One reached Ireland, where the liberal Roman Catholic Connaught Journal, drew a parallel between the oppressed conditions of Blacks and Amerindians across the Atlantic, and the disenfranchised and depressed condition of most of the Roman Catholic Irish peasantry. Its editor therefore enthused about it, declaring that a similar clause and constitution was needed for the Emerald Isle.

Also in the early 19th century, the celebrated Indian reformer, Raja Rammohan Roy, who married a Bristol girl and is now buried in a splendid sepulchre in the city’s Arnos Vale Cemetery, believed that the early Indian states also possessed written constitutions granting their peoples civil rights. He was so influential that contemporary editions of Blackstone’s History of the Laws of England state that the Indians had their own counterparts to the Anglo-Saxon witangemot. The witan was the council of nobles and churchmen which advised the king, the Anglo-Saxon counterpart of the feudal grand conseil in France. But 19th century liberals saw it as a form of parliament.

This is a fascinating book revealing constitutional experiments across the world. Some of the most interesting are by people most of us have never heard of, and I hope to give it a full review later.

Interesting Engineering Reports British Start Up Company Building New Robot Butler

June 7, 2023

The science and technology vlog, Interesting Engineering, posted this piece yesterday, 6 June 2023, about

‘London-based Prosper Robotics, a startup founded by former OpenAI employee Shariq Hashme, is engineering a robot butler that may soon be able to tackle all your household chores. This is according to an article by Sifted published this week. The new machine will run on wheels and be equipped with two arms that can be raised up and down to tackle different jobs. “You’ll go to work and they’ll do everything in your home. You’ll have a little time lapse on your app on your phone, showing you what they did,” said Hasme.’

More information was available at: 🚀

Accompanying the article was this image of how the robot will presumably look:

Writers and artists have been speculating about a future filled with robot butlers and other servants since the 19th century. Here’s one depicted in a cartoon from the New York Graphic in 1877. It shows it, with suitably snooty and disdainful expression, waiting on the ‘Orator of the Future’ using the new telephone technology to broadcast his opinions. With the multiplicity of subjects these machines offer their users to view and listen to, it also seems to me to predict the internet and the explosion of information available through social media to a certain extent.

But for many of us, the only robot butler we’d want around is this guy from Red Dwarf.

If he isn’t going to do the dishes and be prepared to tell you in forthright language what a ****head your pompous, irritating fellow space crewman is, I’m not sure I’d want him.

India Cutting Evolution and Other important Scientific and Political Subjects from the Curriculum

June 6, 2023

‘The prestigious science journal, Nature, reported on 31st May 2023, that the Indian education authority is dropping several key scientific and political subjects from the education curriculum for pupils under 16. the magazine reported:

In India, children under 16 returning to school this month at the start of the school year will no longer be taught about evolution, the periodic table of elements or sources of energy.

The news that evolution would be cut from the curriculum for students aged 15–16 was widely reported last month, when thousands of people signed a petition in protest. But official guidance has revealed that a chapter on the periodic table will be cut, too, along with other foundational topics such as sources of energy and environmental sustainability. Younger learners will no longer be taught certain pollution- and climate-related topics, and there are cuts to biology, chemistry, geography, mathematics and physics subjects for older school students.

Overall, the changes affect some 134 million 11–18-year-olds in India’s schools. The extent of what has changed became clearer last month when the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) — the public body that develops the Indian school curriculum and textbooks — released textbooks for the new academic year that started in May.

Researchers, including those who study science education, are shocked. “Anybody who’s trying to teach biology without dealing with evolution is not teaching biology as we currently understand it,” says Jonathan Osborne, a science-education researcher at Stanford University in California. “It’s that fundamental to biology.” The periodic table explains how life’s building blocks combine to generate substances with vastly different properties, he adds, and “is one of the great intellectual achievements of chemists”.

Mythili Ramchand, a science-teacher trainer at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India, says that “everything related to water, air pollution, resource management has been removed. “I don’t see how conservation of water, and air [pollution], is not relevant for us. It’s all the more so currently,” she adds. A chapter on different sources of energy — from fossil fuels to renewables — has also been removed. “That’s a bit strange, quite honestly, given the relevance in today’s world,” says Osborne.’

Some material was cut from the curriculum last year in order to lighten it during the Covid pandemic. It was expected that it would be reinstated once the pandemic and the lockdown was over, but this hasn’t happened. Academics and educationalists appear perplexed by the decision, but it looks like it comes from the RSSS, the militant Hindu nationalist organisation linked to Modi’s BJP.

[Amitabh] Joshi says that the curriculum revision process has lacked transparency. But in the case of evolution, “more religious groups in India are beginning to take anti-evolution stances”, he says. Some members of the public also think that evolution lacks relevance outside academic institutions.

Aditya Mukherjee, a historian at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Dehli, says that changes to the curriculum are being driven by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a mass-membership volunteer organization that has close ties to India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party. The RSS feels that Hinduism is under threat from India’s other religions and cultures.

“There is a movement away from rational thinking, against the enlightenment and Western ideas” in India, adds Sucheta Mahajan, a historian at Jawaharlal Nehru University who collaborates with Mukherjee on studies of RSS influence on school texts. Evolution conflicts with creation stories, adds Mukherjee. History is the main target, but “science is one of the victims”, she adds.’


One of the other subjects cut from science teaching is a section ‘Why We Fall Ill’, which seems to me to be particularly wicked and dangerous. Everyone really needs to know about the causes of disease, regardless of their level of education or the country in which they live. This removal threatens to increase the incidence of disease in a country where many people lack access to medicine.

In an article from the previous day, 30 May, Nature reported the Indian education authority’s, NCERT’s, reasons for the changes

‘NCERT says that ‘rationalization’ is needed when content overlaps with material covered elsewhere in the curriculum, or when it considers content to be irrelevant. Moreover, India’s 2020 National Education Policy says that students need to become problem-solvers and critical thinkers, and it therefore advocates less memorization of content and more active learning.

NCERT also wants “a rootedness and pride in India, and its rich, diverse, ancient and modern culture and knowledge systems and traditions”. Some people interpret this as a motivation to remove the likes of Charles Darwin and Michael Faraday, and instead use the time to learn more about India’s precolonial history of science.’

But it comments

‘India is not the only postcolonial country grappling with the question of how to honour and recognize older or Indigenous forms of knowledge in its school curricula. New Zealand is trialling the teaching of Māori ‘ways of knowing’ — mātauranga Māori — in a selection of schools across the country. But it is not removing important scientific content to accommodate the new material, and for good reason.’


It all reminds me of the furore back in the 1990s when Christian Creationists in Kansas banned evolution from being taught in their schools. The great comedian, the late Bill Hicks joked about it, saying ‘In many parts of our troubled world, people are crying ‘Revolution! Revolution’. In Kansas they’re shouting ‘Evolution! Evolution! We want our opposable thumbs’. There have been periodic concerns ever since about the teaching of evolution and Creationism in schools. Western scientists have been particularly worried about Creationism, or Creation Science, being taught as scientific fact. There was particularly controversy nearly two decades ago with the emergence of Intelligent Design, and the Discovery Institute. Intelligent Design accepts evolution, but considers that it has carried out by a God or other intelligent force that has actively intervened at specific points. One form of Intelligent Design, proposed by the cosmologist Fred Hoyle in his 1980s book, Evolution from Space, is that the creator may have been an extradimensional computer civilisation. For years discussions of Creationism and its supposed threat to science was chiefly confined to Christianity. There was some discussion of the rise of Islamic Creationism in Turkey, but from what I recall this was mostly confined to the internet. India at that time seemed not to be experiencing any similar concerns about evolution or other doctrines which may have challenged traditional religious teaching.

This looks very much like it’s going to damage India as an emerging global economic and technological force. Yes, the country has a millennia-old tradition of scientific and medical innovation, but the country has become a scientific powerhouse as well through embracing modern, western science, just as its neighbour China has done. I’ve been particularly struck by the country’s ambitious space programme, which has made some remarkable advances and has made India a space power. If these changes to its schools curriculum continue, I can see the tradition of scientific excellence that the country has done so much to build being severely handicapped.

I also note the similarity of its stance on the environment to various right-wing political lobby groups and think tanks to ban the teaching of environmentalism and climate change, and to make us all believe that the massive pollution of the environment by business isn’t happening and won’t cause permanent damage. Trump when he was in the White House passed legislation preventing the American environmental watchdog from publishing anything about climate change of the environment. This partly came from oil industry, whose own, astroturf climate organisations has a policy of buying up independent climate analysis laboratories and using them to turn out its own, anti-climate change propaganda.

Regarding the excision of material on politics, I’ve got the impression that India is trying to establish itself as the true home of democracy, looking back to its traditional village councils or panchayats. But there seems to be a more sinister purpose to the removal of chapters on democracy and diversity; political parties; and challenges to democracy, as well as a chapter on the industrial revolution for older students. It looks here like the BJP and its storm troopers are trying to stop India’s young people from acquiring the historical and political knowledge to understand how their country could be – or actually is – being taken towards authoritarianism and Fascism.

Vicious totalitarian governments of both left and right, from Hitler’s Germany to Stalin’s Russia, have all attacked and refashioned science, history and education as part of their programmes. Now it seems India, under the BJP, is also going down this path.

38 Degrees Petition to Get Banks to Pass On To Their Savers The Rise in Interest Rates

June 6, 2023

‘Dear David,

Banks don’t have to rip us off to make a profit. But that’s exactly what they’re doing: Bank of England interest rates are rising but most banks aren’t upping the savings rates for their loyal customers, meaning their profits increase while people across the UK don’t get the benefits of higher interest rates. [1]

It sounds like a complex issue, but it boils down to this: hundreds of thousands of us could be losing out on around £300 a year. [2] That’s why MPs are demanding answers from high street banks and over 60,000 people have signed our petition telling banks to stop taking advantage of loyal customers. [3]

The pressure is building, but we need your help to keep up the momentum. Because if we’re going to get banks to take this seriously, we need to show them that we – their customers – won’t stand for being ripped off. We’re ready to kick up a fuss in public – until they do the right thing.

David, will you take 30 seconds to add your name to the petition?



Thanks for being involved,

Grace, Megan, Flo and the 38 Degrees office team

[1] Daily Express, Banks accused of ‘ripping off’ loyal savers for not passing on interest rate hikes 
[2] See note 1.
[3]Financial Times, MPs extend campaign over low savings rates 
38 Degrees, Banks: Stop taking advantage of loyal customers 

In case you missed it, here’s the earlier email;


Dear David,

In the midst of the cost of living crisis, Britain’s biggest banks are taking advantage of us, their loyal customers. How? Well banks are making a profit out of rising interest rates – but they aren’t passing it on customers with existing savings accounts. So while we’re all struggling to make ends meet, banks are just getting richer. [1]

But here’s the thing – this issue is in the news right now, and banks have been put under the spotlight. MPs recently grilled them in Westminster, and now the FCA – the body who regulates banks – have said they’ll consider intervening if the issue continues. So banks will be feeling the heat – but we need to ramp up the pressure.

How? Well right now the voice of the public – their customers – is missing. A huge petition, signed by tens of thousands of us, could be the first step in sending a strong message to banks that we will not stand for this unfair practice. Together, we can turn up the heat and make sure banks pass on their profits.

So, David, will you add your name to the petition and demand higher interest rates for your savings account? It only takes 30 seconds to sign.


Right now, the country is struggling as the cost of living continues to soar. [3] Bank’s customers are the ones keeping them afloat. They’ve raised our mortgage rates, but they aren’t rewarding loyal customers by sharing the profits on savings. In fact banks are only offering new customers better deals to incentivise them to switch providers. While existing customers are left with the same low interest rates they’ve had before. [4]

It might feel hard to imagine that we can get the UK’s biggest banks to take action but we’ve done it before. Last March, over 80,000 of us came together and pushed HSBC to cut ties with Russia. [5] Later that month they increased sanctions and scrutiny of Russian clients worldwide. [6] Together we can take action again, and shame banks into prioritising their customers over their own profits.

Please add your name to the petition and demand better interest rates for ALL customers. It only takes 30 seconds to sign. It will only take 30 seconds to sign.


Thanks for being involved,

Amoke, Megan, Robin & the 38 Degrees team

[1] The Guardian: Regulator warns UK banks over miserly savings rates for loyal customers
[2] UK Parliament: FCA responds to Treasury Committee on high street bank savings rates
[3] CNBC: UK inflation is just not going down as cost of living crisis offers ‘no respite’
[4] See note [1]
[5] City AM: Exclusive: HSBC customers threaten to switch banks unless it cuts Russian oil ties
[6] Reuters: Exclusive: HSBC steps up scrutiny of Russian clients worldwide as sanctions ratchet up

38 Degrees Petition to Get Amazon and the Other Billionaire Corporations to Pay Their Taxes

June 6, 2023

BREAKING: Amazon paid no corporation tax from their main UK division for the second year in a row – despite profits of £222 million. In fact, the government even gave the company £7.7m in tax credits! [1]

David, that’s cash that could go towards our NHS or helping families with the cost of living. [2] So we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. How? Chancellor Jeremy Hunt needs to scrap the tax credit for companies making these kinds of profits right now!

But we need to move fast. If thousands of us join forces today, while Amazon’s tax bill is all over the news, we’ll show the Government we simply will not stand for massive companies not paying their fair share.

So David, will you take 30 seconds to sign the petition calling on Jeremy Hunt to close tax loopholes for massive companies like Amazon?


Here’s how Amazon avoided so much tax:

  • The Government runs a special tax break scheme to encourage investment in infrastructure. [4]
  • But Amazon used it as a loophole to claim credits for investments they probably would have made anyway, to boost their profits. [5]
  • Meanwhile, they’re also downsizing in the UK and slashing jobs! [6]

It’s completely outrageous and needs to stop. So David, can you sign the petition calling on the Government to stop tech giants like Amazon ripping us off?



Thanks for everything you do,

Grace, Matt, Megan, Jade and the 38 Degrees office team

[1] The Guardian: Amazon’s main UK division pays no corporation tax for second year in a row 
[2] See Note [1]
[3] The Mirror: Amazon’s biggest UK firms pay NO corporation tax – despite making £193-a-second 
[4] Gov.UK: Super-deduction 
[5] See Note [1]
[6] The Sun: CLOSING TIME Amazon to close 10 locations as it axes another 9,000 jobs

More Info on the Recent Anti-Stalking Orders against Alex Belfield

June 6, 2023

Hat tip once again to Gillyflower for providing this new bit of information about Alex Belfield’s recent appearance before the beak once again for stalking. I posted a piece about this last week following a comment and relevant link from Gilly. Even though he was in the slammer, Belfield still managed to get out onto the internet and had stalked people there. According to the Great Yarmouth Mercury, Belfield had been stalking a couple, Greg and Karen Scott. They took him to court, where judge or magistrate Khanna handed him an anti-stalking order and a legal ruling that prevents him from publishing anything about the pair on the internet. He was also fined £403 or so.


Belfield’s in jail for stalking and harassing online various radio and broadcasting personalities and managers, including Jeremy Vine, going back 12 or more years ever since his career on one of the local radio stations ended after on year. I really wonder about him. Not only does he come across as extremely mean and vindictive, but it seems he really can’t help himself. Most people, you expect, would have the wisdom not to do it again after they’d been arrested for the same crime and given a five year sentence for it. After all, you wouldn’t want the authorities to start adding to your sentence. But even though Belfield’s physical body was behind bars, his internet presence roamed free and was causing trouble once more. With that kind of behaviour, you do wonder about his mentality stability. And if he’s still going to refuse to learn his lesson and carry on doing it to someone else.

Not On the Internet Due to Aftereffects of Covid Vaccine

June 5, 2023

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been for the past couple of days, I’ve been recovering from the Covid booster jab I had on Saturday. I’m glad to have the vaccine, as the chemo treatment I’ve had for the myeloma has weakened my immune system. And it was a great day with the sun shining. But yesterday I felt very fluey and have been extremely weak today. Hopefully I’ll be a lot better tomorrow, when I’ll start putting some pieces up.

Best wishes to everyone else, who’s taking the jab and to all with ill health out there.

The Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe: Fortean and Paperback Writer

June 3, 2023

I can hear the Beetles’ song, ‘Paperback Writer’, going through my head as I type. One of the books I’ve been enjoying this week is Rian Hughes’ Rayguns and Rocketships: Vintage Science Fiction Book Cover Art. This reproduces the art on SF book covers from editions of Jules Verne in the 19th century, through the boy’s magazines of the 1920s and 1930s and on the paperbacks of the period up to the end of the 60s. The paperback writers were poorly paid, and tied to contracts that bound them to grind out their epics very quickly. There’s even a story about one poor soul who was more or less kept in a dungeon. He was in a small room at the end of the corridor, sleeping on a mattress covered with coats and other bits of clothing. And one of these paperback hacks was Robert Lionel Fanthorpe. Yes, I checked. This is the Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe, Church of Wales Minister, RE lecturer and the former presenter of Fortean TV in the ’90s. That Lionel Fanthorpe.

As for the quality of the good reverend’s writing, Hughes gives some grudging praise, writing

‘Some of Badger’s [Fanthorpe’s publisher] literary output is not as quite godawful as you might imagine. Though unapologetically produced at speed and without pretension, Fanthorpe often draws on literary or historical themes or digresses into page-padding philosophical discussions, and I get the impression that the Reverend could actually write well, should he choose to – which, for the most part, he didn’t. The first Badger I came across, in a local jumble sale, was Rodent Mutation. Giant beavers threaten London, so our heroes seek out the help of a certain Professor Septimus Harbottle, an expert in beaver lore. I can picture the author walking across his study , hefting the relevant volume of Encyclopedia Britannica, then proceeding to read from it verbatim, interspersing the occasional “the professor explained” or “‘I see,’ the investigator nodded” as required. This goes on for an entire chapter.’

The paperback companies had a simple formula for inspiring their writers. They’d decided on a title, commission the cover art, and then get the writers to write the story around it. Many of the paintings used on the covers were reused from other novels, sometimes from Italian and Spanish publishers, and Hughes’ provides pages of examples.

Here’s a few of the paintings that graced some of Fanthorpe’s works. You can tell he was already interested in Fortean subjects with the cover featuring a classic flying saucer.

This last looks like it was written to exploit the craze for giant ant and insect stories that appeared in SF B movies of the ’50s and ’60s.

Interestingly, one of the Fanthorpe’s novels, whose cover is collected in this book, is The Synthetic Ones. Presumably this is artificial people produced biochemically, rather than mechanical androids and robots. If that’s the case, then it prefigures the replicants of Blade Runner, who seem to be genetically engineered and artificially produced humans than straightforward machines.

Another of his is about the threat caused by bacteria that could communicate. This idea is along the same line’s as Greg Bear’s Blood Music, in which a scientist creates nano calculating machines from his own blood cells. Injecting himself with them, they develop sentience and begin changing and improving him, before breaking through the skin barrier to infect everyone else in the world, changing global human civilisation as a result. The idea of nanotechnology was decades away when Fanthorpe was writing, but the idea of intelligent bacteria is close, just as it is to stories about ‘grey goo’, when nano weapons have got loose, infecting and destroying, or at least radically changing, the organisms around them.

As for the books’ art, they vary in quality. Some are excellent, others less so. I prefer figurative art, and am not a fan of the abstract covers that came in with the sixties nor the photographic covers which were also used. Obviously the stories have dated, with the exception of the classics, but I think there’s material here to inspire future writers and artists.