Archive for December, 2015

Bernie Sanders’ Speech Attacking US Coups of Foreign Governments

December 29, 2015

This is a superb speech from Bernie Sanders, the Democrat’s presidential candidate. In it he states that his goal is to strengthen America at home and not concentrate on its goals abroad. He does not want to send the country’s young men and young women out to fight wars without end. He also attacks America’s history of organising coups to topple foreign regimes they do not like. He specifically mentions Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Mossadeq in Iran, the 1964 coup against a liberal government in Brazil, the overthrow of Benitez in Guatemala, and Allende in Chile in the 1970s. Such actions are wrong; they have unforeseen consequences and ‘they do not work’.

Everything Senator Sanders said in this clip is absolutely correct. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq has just destabilised the country, and facilitated the rise of ISIS and other groups hostile to America and the other regimes in the region. The CIA’s overthrow of premier Mossadeq in Iran led to the assumption of absolute power by the Shah. His regime was so brutal it was ultimately overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution. And it need not be stressed how anti-American that regime is. And Britain can’t be smug about this sordid piece of US foreign policy. Britain was also complicit in the overthrow, as Mossadeq had just nationalised British petroleum. This was the raison d’etre for the CIA’s coup.

This does not mean that Sanders is complacent about ISIS or the rise of other extremist groups and regimes. He states that his foreign policy will be to create an international situation that will prevent their emergence. Well, Bush’s War on Terror was supposed to stop that. It didn’t. But with Sanders, we might stand more of a chance.

Sanders describes himself as a ‘democratic Socialist’, which no doubt has the Repugs spitting teeth and raving about Communism. But it looks, at least from this side of the Pond, that he’s the man to restore America as a genuine moral and industrial force in the world. American industry and the country’s middle class have been devastated by three decades of Reaganomics, just as three decades of Thatcherism have done so much to wreck our fair nation over here. And in both America and Britain the poor have got poorer. Welfare programmes are being cut, and the unemployed, the sick, the homeless and disabled demonised or simply erased from public consciousness. If the world does need American leadership, then it needs American leaders like Sanders.

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More on the Coeloptere, the Piasecki Airgeep and the Avrocar

December 29, 2015

Last week I posted up a few pieces on three very unusual aircraft, the French VTOL Coeloptere, the Piasecki airgeep – a type of hovercraft designed in the late 1950s, and the flying saucer-like Avrocar. Here are a few more pictures of them I found in The World’s Strangest Aircraft: A Collection of Weird and Wonderful Flying Machines, by Michael Taylor (New York: Barnes & Noble 2000).

The Avrocar

AVrocar 2

Here’s a video of the Avrocar in flight.

The Avrocar wasn’t the first plane that had a circular design. Almost right at the very beginning of aircraft development in the 20th century inventors were experimenting with circular wing designs. In 1911 Cedric Lee and G. Tilghman Richards in Britain brought out a biplane with annular (ring-shaped) wings. This was unsuccessful, but they continued experimenting, and produced a successful glider. This was another biplane, which shared elements of the earlier plane. The upper wing was semi-circular, while the lower wing was ring-shaped. This flew in 1912. Tests in wind tunnels showed that the aircraft with annular wings were more stable, and needed a shorter wingspan than more conventional designs.

The two then produced a monoplane, whose wings were a 22 ft ring. This seated two people, and was driven by a 80 horsepower Gnome engine. This first flew in 1913. Unfortunately, it proved tail heavy, and stalled during flight. Fortunately, the plane and its pilots were saved from death by being caught on nearby telegraph poles. The plane was salvaged, repaired and suitably modified, and returned to the air. It proved very airworthy, and made a series of flights up to the outbreak of the First World War. The two began work building further annular monoplanes, in 1914, but the design was unpopular didn’t catch on.

Lee and Richards’ Annular Wing Monoplane

Annular Wing Monoplane

The Piasecki Airgeep

Piasecki Airgeep 2

The Coeloptere

This is a cutaway diagram of the structure of the French Coeloptere, another annular wing design which unfortunately proved to be unviable.

Coleoptere Drawing

These are only just four of the many weird aircraft that have been designed over the years. They show the immense inventiveness of the aircraft engineers and pioneering inventors, even if some of them proved unworkable in practice.

Vox Political Welcomes The Independent to Club Vexatious

December 29, 2015

The number of people and organisations, who have had their requests for information turned down as ‘vexatious’ continues to grow. The Independent has now suffered the same treatment by the authorities after they issued a request to see Theresa May’s official web browsing history for the week beginning Monday, 26th October. The government turned it down on the above grounds, and declared that it would take too much effort to find the information to make it worthwhile.

This is, frankly, balderdash. Mike here gives the Independent’s own description of the request and the government’s reply, and his own advice to the Independent. He cites the law to show that their refusal to accede to the request is illegal, and advises the Indie to issue a formal complaint.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/26/vox-political-welcomes-the-independent-to-club-vexatious-due-to-foi-request-on-theresa-mays-internet-history/

It is, of course, no surprise that the government should turn down the Indie’s request as ‘vexatious’. This is what they’ve done to Mike and the other disabled people and their campaigners, who have been pressing for the official figures of the number of people, that have died after being declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos and Maximus. Johnny Void has also described how requests for information on the companies participating the government’s odious workfare schemes have also been refused. In all of this, the government’s real reason for turning down the requests hasn’t been because they’re ‘vexatious’, or too difficult to manage, but because they’ll show how inefficient and vindictive their policies are, or open them to criticism.

Mr Void reported years ago that the authorities openly admitted that they didn’t want to release the information on firms taking people on workfare, as that would leave them open to criticism and the scheme would fail. One of the chief civil servants for the cabinet office a few weeks ago actually stated that the Freedom of Information Act was bad, because it had a ‘chilling effect’ on government.

And the government itself has said that the information released under the Freedom of Information Act should not be used by newspapers to ‘generate issues’, or to criticise the government, but to find out how government decisions are made.

The message here is that of the authoritarian state: Tug your forelock, and don’t question your elders and betters. We’re back to the Mussolini’s slogan of ‘Believe. Obey. Fight.’

As to what Theresa May was looking at, if this was anyone else working in an office I’d probably say that they’d been caught doing the usual: looking at porn and cute pictures of cats. And, indeed, the government a year or so ago did try convincing us that MPs were all looking at pornography on their computers. Private Eye later alleged that the story was a classic piece of misdirection. The story was either fake or a distortion, intended to hide the fact that the Commons’ computer system was massively over budget and didn’t work.

This is a massively authoritarian government, which does not seem to believe in the rule of law when it comes to its own interests. And as repeated government demands for more information on its citizens, more surveillance and further encroachments on our civil liberties, all in the name of protecting us from terrorism, of course, I doubt that May was looking at anything as harmless as cute cats, or just sordid pornography. The suspicion here must be that she was illegally going through the private internet chatter, spying on citizens or groups. But of course, we can’t know that, because such requests to see how intrusive our political masters are into the lives of their subjects, is vexatious.

Islamist terrorism isn’t the only threat here. There’s also a very real threat from May, Cameron and the rest of this wretched government, who want to take away our right to privacy and create an authoritarian surveillance state. And the reasons for this aren’t just about protecting us from terrorism, but protecting themselves from the people they exploit, degrade and marginalise.

Prof Paul Rogers on ISIS’ Blowback War

December 29, 2015

This month’s (December 2015) issue of Justpeace, the newsletter of the Roman Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, carries an article ‘The Paris Atrocity, and After’, by prof Paul Rogers. Rogers is professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. In his article he analyses the Paris attacks, and their intended consequences. He makes the point that the massacres had three purposes, and were ultimately intended to provoke the West into retaliating so the Islamists could gain further recruits in Syria and Iraq as the true defenders of Muslims. Identifying the three aims of the attack, he writes

The first is to demonstrate that in the wake of the destruction of Russia’s Metrojet over Sinai and the bombing in Beirut on November 12, ISIS has now gone truly international. Thus its modus operandi has reached the level of the loose al-Qaida affiliates in the post-9/11 years: Islamabad, Bali, Madrid, London, Jakarta, Istanbul, Mombasa, Amman, Sinai, Casablanca, Djerba in Tunisia – and many more. This is potentially a very major change since ISIS has so far concentrated primarily on its territorial base, in contrast to the old al-Qaida movement.

The second is to further damage intercommunal relations, not just in Paris but across western Europe and further afield. An accelerating Islamophobia suits ISIS in its quest to attract more recruits from recent diasporas and more established migrant communities, many members of whom now feel thoroughly insecure and greatly worried and even fearful of the hardening of attitudes towards them.

The third is to provoke and incite France and other states to intensify the war against ISIS – in Syria, Iraq, and anywhere else that it, or its affiliates, make progress.

ISIS wants war. It presents itself as the true guardian of Islam under attack from the ‘Crusader west’. This message, though pernicious and dangerous, is currently being encouraged by the progressive withdrawal of all Middle Eastern states from active involvement in the airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

The air war in Syria was in early 2015 led by the United States with the participation of France, Australia, Canada, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan. In recent months, however, the four Arab states have ceased bombing. In addition, Justin Trudeau’s new government in Canada is withdrawing all CF-18 strike-aircraft from Syria and Iraq, and Australia is reported to have paused its operations in Syria since the Russians started separate air attacks (almost all against non-ISIS anti-Assad rebels). That leaves just the US and France. So in Syria at least, ISIS can easily claim that a ‘crusader onslaught’ is taking place.

Furthermore, the sustained air assault of the last 15 months, with close to 10,000 targets hit, has not pushed ISIS into retreat. In the first 11 months of the air war, to July 2015, the US-led coalition killed 15,000 ISIS supporters. By October, that had risen to 20,000, yet a Pentagon source said that the total number of ISIS fighters was unchanged at 20,000-30,000. (USA Today, 12 October 2015).

In an extraordinary admission, US intelligence sources say there has been a surge in recruits to ISIS in spite of the air war and the losses. In September 2014, 15,000 recruits were reported to have joined from 80 countries; a year later the figure had risen to 30,000 from 100 countries.

In blunt terms, ISIS is actually being strengthened by the air war, and it can be assumed that it wants more. The movement vigorously and insistently peddles the message of ‘Islam under attack’; and though it is disliked and hated by the great majority of Muslims worldwide, the message strikes enough of a chord with a small minority to serve ISIS’s aim of creating this purist if brutal caliphate.

Prof Rogers writes a weekly article on security at the Open Democracy website. The full article originally appeared there on 14 November. The website’s address is http://www.opendemocracy.net.

TomoNews: ISIS Bombers Fall Out, Blow Each Other Up

December 29, 2015

More brutality and stupidity from ISIS, as reported by TomoNews. A couple of would-be suicide bombers accidentally blew themselves up in Sargodha, Pakistan. The two were reported to have been sitting in the street, talking, when they started arguing. The argument turned violent, and in the ensuing scrap, one of them triggered the other’s suicide belt, blowing them both to Jahinnam (hell). The pair were identified, and Pakistan’s finest went round to their homes to arrest further suspects.

Fortunately, the only people these prats killed were each other. And they got exactly what they deserved.

Blum on the Secret History of the Berlin Wall

December 28, 2015

This is another fascinating piece from Blum that needs to be read, because it’s almost 180 degrees against the official version that’s been fed to us in the West. Blum here argues that the Wall was originally built not to stop East Germans from leaving, but to stop genuine spies and saboteurs from the West getting into East Berlin to disrupt and wreck East German industries and services. It’s from no. 133 of the Anti-Empire Report, from the article ‘The Berlin Wall – Another Cold War Myth’

November 9 will mark the 25th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The extravagant hoopla began months ago in Berlin. In the United States we can expect all the Cold War clichés about The Free World vs. Communist Tyranny to be trotted out and the simple tale of how the wall came to be will be repeated: In 1961, the East Berlin communists built a wall to keep their oppressed citizens from escaping to West Berlin and freedom. Why? Because commies don’t like people to be free, to learn the “truth”. What other reason could there have been?

First of all, before the wall went up in 1961 thousands of East Germans had been commuting to the West for jobs each day and then returning to the East in the evening; many others went back and forth for shopping or other reasons. So they were clearly not being held in the East against their will. Why then was the wall built? There were two major reasons:

1) The West was bedeviling the East with a vigorous campaign of recruiting East German professionals and skilled workers, who had been educated at the expense of the Communist government. This eventually led to a serious labor and production crisis in the East. As one indication of this, the New York Times reported in 1963: “West Berlin suffered economically from the wall by the loss of about 60,000 skilled workmen who had commuted daily from their homes in East Berlin to their places of work in West Berlin.” 2

It should be noted that in 1999, USA Today reported: “When the Berlin Wall crumbled [1989], East Germans imagined a life of freedom where consumer goods were abundant and hardships would fade. Ten years later, a remarkable 51% say they were happier with communism.” 3 Earlier polls would likely have shown even more than 51% expressing such a sentiment, for in the ten years many of those who remembered life in East Germany with some fondness had passed away; although even 10 years later, in 2009, the Washington Post could report: “Westerners [in Berlin] say they are fed up with the tendency of their eastern counterparts to wax nostalgic about communist times.” 4

The article goes on to report that in 1985, 200,000 former East Germans stated that they’d rather go back to East Germany than remain in the West.

The East German authorities referred to the Wall as the ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier’. From Blum’s account, it seems that this wasn’t just mere anti-democratic verbiage.

This issue of the Report is at http://williamblum.org/aer/read/133.

William Blum on Right-Wing Coups in Greece

December 28, 2015

This is another interesting piece from William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report. Blum is a long-time critic of American imperialism. I’ve already reblogged several of his pieces. In issue 137 of his Report, he comments on the election of the new Syriza government in Greece. A number of the commenters on Mike’s blog wondered how far Syriza would be allowed to go in defying the Troika and its economic diktats before they were overthrown by the Fascist right, all in the name of fiscal responsibility, properly paying off the debt, Greece honouring its international obligations, and so forth.

They weren’t alone in fearing for Greece’s future as a democratic country in the face of pressure from the EU and the international financial and industrial nexus. Blum also wondered how long they would last, based on the historical precedents. After the War, Greece was forced into the Western, capitalist bloc following the agreement Churchill and the Americans had made with Stalin at Yalta. The result was a bloody civil war fought against the Communist partisans, who had done the most to stop the Italians and had fought hardest against the Germans. Then, in 1964, when the liberal Papandreou came to power and began to pursue an independent line, he was overthrown in a coup, backed again by the CIA and the Americans. Blum writes

American historian D.F. Fleming, writing of the post-World War II period in his eminent history of the Cold War, stated that “Greece was the first of the liberated states to be openly and forcibly compelled to accept the political system of the occupying Great Power. It was Churchill who acted first and Stalin who followed his example, in Bulgaria and then in Rumania, though with less bloodshed.”

The British intervened in Greece while World War II was still raging. His Majesty’s Army waged war against ELAS, the left-wing guerrillas who had played a major role in forcing the Nazi occupiers to flee. Shortly after the war ended, the United States joined the Brits in this great anti-communist crusade, intervening in what was now a civil war, taking the side of the neo-fascists against the Greek left. The neo-fascists won and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA created a suitably repressive internal security agency (KYP in Greek).

In 1964, the liberal George Papandreou came to power, but in April 1967 a military coup took place, just before elections which appeared certain to bring Papandreou back as prime minister. The coup had been a joint effort of the Royal Court, the Greek military, the KYP, the CIA, and the American military stationed in Greece, and was followed immediately by the traditional martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, and killings, the victims totaling some 8,000 in the first month. This was accompanied by the equally traditional declaration that this was all being done to save the nation from a “communist takeover”. Torture, inflicted in the most gruesome of ways, often with equipment supplied by the United States, became routine.

George Papandreou was not any kind of radical. He was a liberal anti-communist type. But his son Andreas, the heir-apparent, while only a little to the left of his father, had not disguised his wish to take Greece out of the Cold War, and had questioned remaining in NATO, or at least as a satellite of the United States.

As far as I can tell, all of this is correct. Misha Glenny, talking about his book on the Balkans at the Cheltenham Literature Festival back in the ’90s, stated that the division between the ‘east’ and ‘west’ bloc countries was entirely artificial, and was made according to the interests of the great powers, not the people of those countries themselves. The Communists were far stronger in Greece than in Romania, for example, but geopolitical considerations decided that Greece ended up in the West, and Romania in the Communist bloc.

The full article can be read at: http://williamblum.org/aer/read/137. The article’s entitled, Some Things Not To Forget, Which the New Greek Leaders Have Not’.

Mutants from a Post-Holocaust Future: The Hunt Lobby and the British Aristocracy

December 28, 2015

Boxing Day is traditionally the day when fox hunters up and down Britain ride out to satisfy their bloodlust. Since 2004 it’s been illegal to hunt them with hounds, but this hasn’t stopped the Countryside Alliance from continuing to campaign for the repeal of the law. Mike reported over at Vox Political that a quarter of a million fox hunters were expected to ride to hounds on that day. And David Cameron wanted to see parliament repeal the law. You shouldn’t be surprised at that. He is, after all, a blue-blooded aristo, so the hunt’s almost certainly in his primal nature. Along with snobbery and an absolute contempt for those he regards as merely human animals, like the poor, disabled and working class.

Cameron was to be disappointed. The general public don’t want the ban lifted. Mike reported the findings of a poll, which said that 83 per cent of people don’t want a return to hunting with dogs. There’s also very strong support for the ban inside Cameron’s own party, with 70 Tories MPs stating they would vote against lifting the ban.

See the following articles on his blog: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/26/opposition-to-fox-hunting-hits-all-time-high-with-even-most-tory-voters-opposed/

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/26/fox-hunting-david-camerons-desire-to-reverse-ban-doomed-in-face-of-tory-opposition/

Mike also quotes the BBC News, where Tracey Crouch stated that Parliament has far better things to do than debate fox hunting.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/26/fox-hunting-parliament-has-better-things-to-do-than-repeal-act/

So who are the proud supports of fox hunting? Well, from the experience of a group of my friends in Cheltenham, aristocratic Tory grotesques. I was up visiting them once, when they’d gone out for the day to enjoy themselves at the races. They’d had a good time watching the horses, and had even won a bit a money gambling, but came back in a foul mood.

What had spoiled their day? The fox hunting crew.

They’d been drinking in one of the beer tents, when a group of the local Tory aristocracy came in along with a squad of very loud supporters of fox hunting. These two groups were horrendously snobbish and condescending towards their social inferiors, as well as physically repulsive. One of my friends wailed in support of this observation that ‘They had no chins!’

So it’s true. The British aristocracy really are chinless wonders.

One of the women was so annoyed with the crew that she immediately sat down to play a particularly violent computer game. It was set in a post-Holocaust future, so presumably she was getting the urge to beat horribly deformed mutants to death out of her system.

It all rather reminded me of one of Robert Rankin’s fantasy novels: Armageddon – the Musical. This is an SF tale in which Elvis Presley and Barry the Time Sprout combat the forces of the Anti-Christ in a Britain devastated by a nuclear holocaust. Among the book’s villains are a sect of cannibals, the Devianti. Whereas other cannibals in SF books set in a post-Apocalyptic future tend to be an extrapolation of the poor White trash in the American Deep South, or violent urban subcultures, like the Bikers in the Mad Max films, the Devianti are true blue aristos. As an indication of their exalted social status, they wear their Barbour waxed jackets outside their anti-nuclear survival suits.

Going by what my friends said that day, I don’t think you have to travel into a future devastated by nuclear war to encounter mutants like them. They’re already here, deformed through generations of inbreeding, and with an insatiable thirst for blood and violence. This is shown in foxhunting, and in the massive bullying that goes on at the elite Public Schools. And they aren’t leaving it for a nuclear war to destroy Britain. Their policies are already doing that, as they seek to vent their hatred of Britain’s poor, sick and unemployed.

This ain’t Science Fiction any more. The mutants are here, and called Tories.

Michelle Thomasson on the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Martin Luther King and Gandhi

December 28, 2015

Michelle Thomasson posted a fascinating comment on the influence of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Christian peace movement that arose in response to the First World War, and its influence on Martin Luther King and the Black Baptists’ campaign against segregation, and even Gandhi on the article I put up yesterday about the Christian peace movements and Pax Christi. She wrote

Thanks for putting this list together. Wanted to add that these little lights, though small, can have an enormous effect even though there has always been war mongering support from the UK’s state church e.g. https://theconversation.com/the-church-of-englands-vote-to-effectively-back-military-action-is-a-shocking-mistake-51679

Last December, I attended a conference called ‘Movements for Peace in 1914’ at Regents College, Oxford, supported by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage; one of the talks illustrated just how far these peace movements reached. In the presentation on ‘The Relation between the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and the early Civil Rights Movement’ by Andrea Strubind (Prof of Church History and Dean of Faculty for the Institut fur Evangelische Theologie at the Universitat Oldenburg) a profound link was shown between the black Baptist movement and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). FOR had developed training and co-operation in non-violent peaceful demonstration and resistance. This training was shared in the Montgomery bus movement and many others in the Baptist church including Martin Luther King, even Gandhi learnt some of the peaceful resistance techniques from Clifford an early advocate of FOR because Gandhi had been influenced in his early years by Clifford when he had been injured and stayed with him in his home.

Today also the Quakers reach out in unexpected ways, they have peace education for schools, especially important to try and counteract the current government’s Dept. of Defence’s youth engagement strategy to build support for the armed forces (for which the poorer students are especially targeted!).
REF: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/nov/09/peace-education-schools-mililtary-ethos-children and further info from http://www.forceswatch.net/

Tomonews: ISIS Suicide Bomber Cries before Attack on Syrian Town

December 28, 2015

This is a grim little video from TomoNews, the news channel that produced such entertaining features as a computer-generated, rampaging Gordon Brown, and ISIS recruits kicking each other in the testicles in Pakistan, and ISIS and al-Qaeda scrapping and hitting each other like the Three Stooges in a competition over which one was the hardest and most brutal. This video is a grim little report showing a prospective suicide crying, and having to be comforted by his fellow murderers. He was apparently afraid his attack would fail. They tell him to have faith in Allah. So off he tries in his crawler, and blows himself up shortly after.

I’m reblogging this for several reasons. Firstly, it dispels the myth ISIS are trying to put out about themselves, that they are utterly unstoppable killers without any human feelings whatsoever. That’s what they’re saying to scare their enemies, which is now just about everybody else in the world. As this clip shows, they still feel fear, a fear that can reduce even the most determined butcher bent on his own destruction and those of others to tears.

That demonstration of a perfectly reasonable, human emotion, albeit perverted to serve ISIS’ ends – he was crying because he was afraid his mission would fail, rather than at the brutalities and horrors he and his loathsome comrades have already committed, also show something deeper: the artificiality and squalor of the terrorists’ suicide training itself.

The American anthropologist, Scott Atran, has pointed out that religious faith alone does not provide sufficient motivation for people to become suicide bombers. Instead, murderous groups like ISIS carefully cultivate and indoctrinate their prospective suicide bombers. Part of this involves separating them from the rest of the fighters, and developing a special group bond within them. It’s fair to say that they’re brainwashed into doing so.

And I’ve mentioned before the moral squalor of the authorities that carry out such brainwashing, whether in ISIS or not. I know Muslims from the Middle East, who despised Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, not least because of the way he encouraged young boys to serve as suicide bombers in the Iran/Iraq War in the 1980s. He handed out to them mass-produced, cheap keys, telling them that they were the keys to the kingdom of heaven. ISIS does pretty much something similar.

And remember what Owen Jones said in the video I reblogged yesterday about the Paris attacks. The people drawn to ISIS aren’t paragons of virtue. They’re a bunch of sad acts and losers, thieves and criminals. Many of them have also suffered from depression, which shows that ISIS also exploits the mentally vulnerable.

The more you see ISIS, the less invincible and impressive they seem. At their core, they’re just pathetic bullies, trying to scare their world with their brutalities into believing their something greater than they are.