Archive for February, 2017

William Blum on the Abortive Prosecution of NATO Leaders for War Crimes in Yugoslavia

February 27, 2017

Many people would like to see Tony Blair indicted for war crimes for his part in the illegal invasion and carnage inflicted on Iraq and its people. This isn’t the first time there has been serious consideration of putting the former British premier in the dock for crimes against humanity. In one section of his book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, William Blum describes the attempt by Canadian human rights activists, along with their fellows from the UK, Greece and the American Association of Jurists in March 1999 to have 68 leaders , including Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, the Canadian PM, Jean Chretien, and the NATO officials Javier Solana, Wesley Clark and Jamie Shea, brought before the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes against the Serbs during the war in the former Yugoslavia. This collapsed, as the court’s prosecutor, Louise Arbour, was frankly biased towards NATO, and the efforts by her successor, Carla Del Ponte were successfully stymied by NATO leaders. Blum writes:

Yugoslavia – another war-crimes trial that will never be

Beginning about two weeks after the US-inspired and led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia began in March, 1999, international-law professionals from Canada, the United Kingdom, Greece, and the American Association of Jurists began to file complaints with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands, charging leaders of NATO countries and officials of NATO itself with crimes similar to those for which the Tribunal had issued indictments shortly before against Serbian leaders. Amongst the charges filed by the law professionals were: “grave violations of international humanitarian law”, including “wilful killing, wilfully causing great suffering and serious injury to body and health, employment of poisonous weapons and other weapons to cause unnecessary suffering, wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, unlawful attacks on civilian objects, devastation not necessitated by military objectives, attacks on undefended buildings and dwellings, destruction and wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences.”

The Canadian suit named 68 leaders, including William Clinton, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, Tony Blair, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and NATO officials Javier Solana, Wesley Clark, and Jamie Shea. The complaint also alleged “open violation” of the United Nations Charter, the NATO treaty itself, the Geneva Conventions, and the Principles of International Law Recognized by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

The complaint was submitted along with a considerable amount of evidence to support the charges. The evidence makes the key point that it was NATO’s bombing campaign which had given rise to the bulk of the deaths in Yugoslavia, provoked most of the Serbian atrocities, created an environmental disaster, and left a dangerous legacy of unexploded depleted uranium and cluster bombs.

In June, some of the complainants met in The Hague with the court’s chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour of Canada. Although she cordially received their brief in person, along with three thick volumes of evidence documenting the alleged war crimes, nothing of substance came of the meeting, despite repeated follow-up submissions and letters by the plaintiffs. In November, Arbour’s successor, Carla Del Ponte of Switzerland, also met with some of the complainants and received extensive evidence.

The complainants’ brief in November pointed out that the prosecution of those named by them was “not only a requirement of law, it is a requirement of justice to the victims and of deterrence to powerful countries such as those in NATO who, in their military might and in their control over the media, are lacking in any other natural restraint such as might deter less powerful countries.” Charging the war’s victors, not only its losers, it was argued, would be a watershed in international criminal law.

In one of the letters to Arbour, Michael Mandel, a professor of law in Toronto and the initiator of the Canadian suit, stated:

Unfortunately, as you know, many doubts have already been raised about the impartiality of your Tribunal. In the early days of the conflict, after a formal and, in our view, justified complaint against NATO leaders had been laid before it by members of the Faculty of Law of Belgrade University, you appeared at a press conference with one of the accused, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who made a great show of handing you a dossier of Serbian war crimes. In early May, you appeared at another press conference with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, by that time herself the subject of two formal complaints of war crimes over the targeting of civilians in Yugoslavia. Albright publicly announced at that time that the US was the major provider of funds for the Tribunal and that it had pledged even more money to it. 14

Arbour herself made little attempt to hide the pro-NATO bias she wore beneath her robe. She trusted NATO to be its own police, judge, jury, and prison guard. In a year in which General Pinochet was still under arrest, which was giving an inspiring lift to the cause of international law and justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, under Arbour’s leadership, ruled that for the Great Powers it would be business as usual, particularly the Great Power that was most vulnerable to prosecution, and which, coincidentally, paid most of her salary. Here are her own words:

I am obviously not commenting on any allegations of violations of international humanitarian law supposedly perpetrated by nationals of NATO countries. I accept the assurances given by NATO leaders that they intend to conduct their operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in full compliance with international humanitarian law. I have reminded many of them, when the occasion presented itself, of their obligation to conduct fair and open-minded investigations of any possible deviance from that policy, and of the obligation of commanders to prevent and punish, if required. 15

NATO Press Briefing, May 16, 1999:

Question: Does NATO recognize Judge Arbour’s jurisdiction over their activities?

Jamie Shea: I think we have to distinguish between the theoretical and the practical. I believe that when Justice Arbour starts her investigation [of the Serbs], she will because we will allow her to. … NATO countries are those that have provided the finance to set up the Tribunal, we are amongst the majority financiers.

The Tribunal – created in 1993, with the US as the father, the Security Council as the mother, and Madeleine Albright as the midwife – also relies on the military assets of the NATO powers to track down and arrest the suspects it tries for war crimes.

There appeared to be no more happening with the complaint under Del Ponte than under Arbour, but in late December, in an interview with The Observer of London, Del Ponte was asked if she was prepared to press charges against NATO personnel. She replied: “If I am not willing to do that, I am not in the right place. I must give up my mission.”

The Tribunal then announced that it had completed a study of possible NATO crimes, which Del Ponte was examining, and that the study was an appropriate response to public concerns about NATO’s tactics. “It is very important for this tribunal to assert its authority over any and all authorities to the armed conflict within the former Yugoslavia.”

Was this a sign from heaven that the new millennium was going to be one of more equal justice? Could this really be?

No, it couldn’t. From official quarters, military and civilian, of the United States and Canada, came disbelief, shock, anger, denials … “appalling” … “unjustified”. Del Ponte got the message. Her office quickly issued a statement: “NATO is not under investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. There is no formal inquiry into the actions of NATO during the conflict in Kosovo.” 16 And there wouldn’t be, it was unnecessary to add.

But the claim against NATO – heretofore largely ignored by the American media – was now out in the open. It was suddenly receiving a fair amount of publicity, and supporters of the bombing were put on the defensive. The most common argument made in NATO’s defense, and against war-crime charges, was that the death and devastation inflicted upon the civilian sector was “accidental”. This claim, however, must be questioned in light of certain reports. For example, the commander of NATO’s air war, Lt. Gen. Michael Short, declared at one point during the bombing:

If you wake up in the morning and you have no power to your house and no gas to your stove and the bridge you take to work is down and will be lying in the Danube for the next 20 years, I think you begin to ask, “Hey, Slobo [Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic], what’s this all about? How much more of this do we have to withstand?” 17

General Short, said the New York Times, “hopes that the distress of the Yugoslav public will undermine support for the authorities in Belgrade.” 18

At another point, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea declared: “If President Milosevic really wants all of his population to have water and electricity all he has to do is accept NATO’s five conditions and we will stop this campaign.” 19

After the April NATO bombing of a Belgrade office building – which housed political parties, TV and radio stations, 100 private companies, and more – the Washington Post reported:

Over the past few days, U.S. officials have been quoted as expressing the hope that members of Serbia’s economic elite will begin to turn against Milosevic once they understand how much they are likely to lose by continuing to resist NATO demands. 20

Before missiles were fired into this building, NATO planners spelled out the risks: “Casualty Estimate 50-100 Government/Party employees. Unintended Civ Casualty Est: 250 – Apts in expected blast radius.” 21 The planners were saying that about 250 civilians living in nearby apartment buildings might be killed in the bombing, in addition to the government and political party employees.

What do we have here? We have grown men telling each other: We’ll do A, and we think that B may well be the result. But even if B does in fact result, we’re saying beforehand – as we’ll insist afterward – that it was unintended.

This passage comes from a longer piece, ‘War Criminals – Ours and Theirs’, attacking American double standards in supporting politicians, governments and military commanders guilty of horrific crimes against humanity when it serves their interest. This can be read at:

https://williamblum.org/chapters/rogue-state/war-criminals-theirs-and-ours

I realise that this may be hugely controversial. Slobodan Milosevic and his government were responsible for terrible atrocities in the former Yugoslavia, including the organised genocide of Bosnian Muslims. Mike spent a week in Bosnia staying with a Muslim family, as part of an international project to document the terrible aftermath and consequences of the war. However, the Muslims and Croats were also guilty of committing atrocities themselves, though I was told by a former diplomat that in general, most of the massacres were committed by the Serbs.

Blum argues that the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia had little to do with the raging civil war and human rights abuses, except as a pretext. He argues in his books that Milosevic’s regime was really targeted because they resisted the mass privatisations that international capitalism was attempting to foist on them. I don’t know if this is quite the case. Private Eye reviewed Geoffrey Hurd’s book on diplomacy over a decade ago, and commented on how much Hurd left out or attempted to smooth over of his own grotty career. Like how he was the head of the commission by one of the British banks to privatise the Serbian telecommunications industry under Milosevic.

I’ve also read other books, which have made similar allegations. In one book I read on the 7/7 bombings, the author argued that the reports of some of the atrocities supposedly committed by the Serbs were fabricated in order to whip up public support for military intervention. The goal, however, wasn’t to safeguard the innocents being butchered, but to establish firm NATO military control of the oil pipelines running through the country. This control has not been relinquished since.

Again, I have no idea if this is true or not. Ordinarily, I’d suspect claims that reports of war crimes by despotic regimes have been falsified as another form of holocaust denial. You can find any amount of material arguing that the Serbs were innocent of these atrocities on the various ‘Counterjihad’ anti-Islam sites. The book’s author had a very Muslim name, and its central argument was that the 7/7 bombings were deliberately orchestrated by the secret state to create further public outrage against Muslims, and thus more support for the wars in the Middle East. This seems wrong. Incompetence is far more likely. But it’s well argued and footnoted, with the original documents its author obtained under FOIA reproduced. This is complete with blank pages or passages where they were redacted, just like the Watergate report in America.

Regardless of the ultimate responsibility for the atrocities during the war, it seems that there were very strong geo-political reasons for NATO’s entry into the conflict against the Serbs, which are not at all altruistic. And however controversial this episode and its treatment by Blum are, he has a point: if the NATO leaders were guilty of war crimes, then Clinton, Albright, Blair, Chretien et al should be in the dock. If international justice is to live up to its ideal, then it must also be equally binding on the victor. Unfortunately, you’re not going to see it under the present squalid international order.

Advertisements

Counterpunch and Private Health Insurance Companies’ War on the Working Class

February 27, 2017

There’s a very interesting article in today’s Counterpunch by Andrew Stewart, ‘Down With Obamacare, Up With Single-Payer’, which examines the various problems behind Obama’s affordable care act, and discusses the real reason the various private health insurance companies support it. And it ain’t pretty. In his article, he discusses how Ted Kennedy argued for a single-payer healthcare scheme, which would provide uninsured Americans with proper healthcare coverage while still involving the insurance companies. Stewart writes

At the end of his life, Edward Kennedy laid out in his book America Back on Track his logic and reasoning for creating a single-payer healthcare system. His argument was that Medicare could merely reduce the enrollment age to birth and almost instantaneously a federal program that is highly lauded would be able to provide healthcare for millions of uninsured Americans. As it stands right now, the insurance companies already make out fine with Medicare, they act as facilitators for payment of taxpayer funds and have booming business providing primary payer care for the elderly. Health insurance scholar and retired medical school professor Dr. John Geyman recently wrote (http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/39570-how-the-gop-can-avoid-the-trap-of-repealing-the-aca) “If the GOP pursues its claimed conservative principles, such as maximizing efficiency and choice, enhancing value, lowering costs, and reining in excess bureaucracy, another alternative is in plain sight, which supports these principles — single-payer national health insurance (NHI).”

So why don’t Conservatives and the insurance companies support single-payer? Because the private healthcare industry is a fundamental element in keeping workers in their place, subservient and dependent on their employers.

The issue is simple, healthcare is a major impediment to wider labor mobility in the job market. Under the ACA, people are restricted by large income caps. If they go over the income cap, they are slammed with huge copays and deductibles. As such, the law incentivizes living below the poverty line until one finds a full-time employer with a decent benefits package. This gives the employer the upper hand in any instance when they sit across the table from the workers. The ACA is nothing more than part and parcel of a larger system of control, created in collaboration between the private and public sectors, to restrict workers in their demands for higher wages and better quality of life. A single payer health plan would enable the type of labor mobility that would be a genuine benefit for working people nationwide. Even the desirable anti-discrimination clauses in the ACA, which quite admirably ended decades of industrial practices that targeted women and those with pre-existing conditions, are nothing but band-aids on a massive gash in the social safety net. The fact Bernie Sanders continues to support this diabolical system is nothing but wretched.

He then argues that neo-liberalism is as racist in its control of the poor as the various Nazis and White supremacists with whom Trump has stuffed his cabinet. The neoliberals’ war on the White working class has led directly to the rise of right-wing Fascism and populism under Trump. He argues strongly and persuasively that the Left needs to purge itself of the neoliberals, and concludes

The cancer of neo-fascism, neoliberalism, and accommodation is only going to be eradicated finally with a full-throated set of demands that includes single-payer healthcare. Anything less will only enable a further slide in our socio-political discourse towards reaction.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/27/down-with-obamacare-up-with-single-payer/

The Grim Implications for Britain of Chelsea Clinton and her Book on Global Health

February 27, 2017

In this short video from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Stef Zamora and Rob Placone, rip into the New York Times for publishing a bit of non-news from Chelsea Clinton. She’s the daughter of Hillary and Bill Clinton, and the NYT saw fit to publish on its pages a tweet from her, saying that the she read Fahrenheit 451 in 7th grade, and it still makes her feel uncomfortable. It’s widely considered that Chelsea Clinton is being groomed to follow her parents into politics. That’s the message that Dore, Placone and Zamora got from this tweet. They feel it’s a puff piece for her. And so did several of the NY Times’ readers. One Mr Flugennock tweeted back that the newspaper should come off it, as ‘we aren’t going to vote for her’. Accompanying this was a photo of Clinton junior with the caption, ‘Mommy, your clothes fit me now.’

Indeed they do. Both Chelsea and her vile parents seem to be highly critical of state medicine. During her election campaign last year, Killary declared that single-payer healthcare was ‘utopian’. As Dore and the other left-wing American newscaster repeatedly pointed out, it’s a utopian institution that every other country in the developed world has, except America. And Chelsea seems to think the same thing. I distinctly remember her saying something sneering and dismissive about socialised medicine or single-payer health care a few years ago.

Dore, Placone and Zamora joke about the essentially vapid content of the tweet. Zamora commented that she also read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Zeuss in the 1st Grade, and it still makes her feel uncomfortable about green eggs. Rather more seriously, Dore remarks on her comments seem to suggest that she expected to feel more comfortable with age about the book’s dark subject matter. Fahrenheit 451 is one of SF and Fantasy author Ray Bradbury’s classic novels, alongside The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. The book takes its name from the temperature at which paper burns. It’s a dystopian book, set in a future where a despotic government has banned literature and reading. In this world, firemen are people, who start firesm not put them out, consigning books and learning to the flames. Of course it’s a disturbing book. It follows the real life burning of subversive literature by oppressive regimes and movements, like Nazi Germany. It’s why Dore also makes a heavily ironic joke about not getting used to the Holocaust either.

The NY Time’s also mentions that Chelsea Clinton has also co-authored a book herself. This is Governing Global Health, an ‘unbiased’ book, which examines public-private healthcare partnerships around the world, and looks forward to them becoming increasingly important in tackling world health. Dore, Zamora and Placone miss the serious undertones for this, joking instead about its supposed connection to Clinton’s comments about Bradbury’s masterpiece. This is supposed to have disturbed her so much, she wrote a book of her own.

But Clinton fille’s authorship of this tome has serious and very ominous overtones for state healthcare elsewhere in the world, and most immediately in Britain. Public-Private Partnerships are basically the Blairite ‘Third Way’, which they in turn inherited from the Tories’ foul Peter Lilley. This capering bigot was upset that private enterprise was locked out of the NHS, and so created the Private Finance Initiative. This is where the state bales out and subsidies private firms for building and managing NHS hospitals. It’s more expensive, and so the hospitals built under it are fewer and smaller. Even worse, perfectly efficient and excellent state hospitals have had to be closed, so that Blair and the Tories could provide more lucrative work for their friends in private healthcare.

Blair took over the Clinton’s electoral strategy and their corporatist, anti-working class ideology and injected it into the Labour party. Bill Clinton’s campaign was based on rejecting the Democrats traditional base in the working class, and abandoning what little welfare provision there was, in order to win votes from Reaganite Republicans. And the policy’s continued under Obama and Shrillary. Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats, famously stated last year that he wasn’t concerned if they lost blue collar voters, as for every one they lost, they’d pick up two or three suburban Republicans. This is the same attitude that infects Blairite Labour. Blair, Mandelson, Broon and Campbell targeted affluent swing voters in marginal constituencies, sacrificing the interests of the working class in order to appeal to middle class Thatcherites. The policy didn’t work, and is creating massive poverty. But the corporatist elite love it, and so the Clintonites in America and Blairites over here are still pushing it.

And just as Blair took over the Clintonite free market ideology, the same corporate interests that infest American politics also came over her to win contracts in healthcare, the prison system and other parts of the state infrastructure. Companies like the notorious health insurance fraudster, Unum. The American private healthcare companies realised that the market in America was in serious trouble, due to rising costs. There was an excellent article in Counterpunch a month or so ago, which reported that in some areas it almost broke down before being rescued by Obama’s affordable care act. With the market in America glutted and sinking, they’ve come over here to win contracts from our NHS. And our politicos have been stupid and malignant enough to give them to them.

I think Dore and co. are right. Chelsea Clinton is being groomed to succeed her parents. And as a believer in private healthcare, she does want to push the privatisation of our NHS for the profit of her country’s private healthcare firms. She has to be stopped. If she enters politics to push her vile agenda, it’ll be bad for America and terrible for Britain and our NHS. Keep her – and them – out of politics and out of Britain.

British Spaceplane Skylon to Fly in 2020?

February 25, 2017

hotol-badge-pic

The papers also reported this week that the government was looking for somewhere to put a spaceport for a British spacecraft, which would take off from ordinary runaways. The spacecraft would be launched in 2020. One of the places suggested as a possible site for the spaceport is Newquay in Cornwall.

This sounds like Skylon, a spaceplane that has been in development by British scientists since the 1980s. The plane will use a mixture of advanced air-breathing engines and rockets to enter space. It’s sort-of the successor to an earlier spaceplane project, HOTOL, which was under development in the 1980s before it was cancelled due to problems developing its air-breathing engines.

This is really great news. There have been other spaceplanes planned by a number of other countries, quite apart from the American space shuttle, and its Russian counterpart, Buran. The Germans had the Sanger spaceplane under consideration in the 1990s, named after the German aerospace engineer and scientist, Eugen Sanger, while the French were also considering the Hermes spacecraft. This was going to be a mini-shuttle launched by their Ariane rocket, rather like the American Dyno-Soar spaceplane of the 1950s. If this does go ahead, it will mean that Britain has once again returned as an independent space power after the cancellation of the Black Knight rocket launcher in 1975.

7 Earthlike Worlds Discovered Around Star Trappist-1

February 25, 2017

More awesome space news! This week, NASA announced that their Spitzer telescope had discovered a system of seven worlds orbiting the ultra-cool red dwarf star, Trappist-1. The star takes its name from the Belgian operated observatory, which found it. Astronomers from Liege university discovered two of these worlds. Three of these rocky worlds lie in the planet’s habitable zone, which means they could have life, and all of them have temperatures which would permit liquid water to exist. Because of the star’s small size and extremely cool temperature, they are closer to their star than Mercury is to the Sun. This video from the Kepler Telescope Channel also looks forward to the development of spacecraft that will be able to reach something like lightspeed, so that humanity may at some point in the future be able to expand into space. And at just 39 light years away, Trappist-1 and its worlds are a suitable nearby target for exploration. The scientists, who made the discovery, also say that the planets are so close together, that you’d be able to see all of them from the surface of one of the planets. They would loom larger than Earth’s Moon, and it would be possible to see even clouds and geological features on their surface.

Organic Material Found on Asteroid Ceres

February 25, 2017

This is fascinating, as Star Trek’s Mr Spock would put it. Scientists at NASA have found organic molecules on the surface of the asteroid, Ceres. They can’t tell at the moment what these molecules are, but they believe they’re similar to Kerisite, and came from within the planetoid, rather than being carried to it by a comet striking its surface.

This short video from D News discusses the recent finding, pointing out that this provides further evidence to support the possibility that life exists elsewhere in the universe.

Ceres is the largest of the asteroids, or minor planets, orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Most of them are quite small, and have been rightly dubbed ‘flying mountains’. Ceres, however is about 500 miles in diameter.

There has been evidence before that the organic molecules forming the building blocks of life exist in the asteroid belt. These chemicals have been found in meteorites that have landed on Earth. However, with some of these the evidence has been extremely debatable. One of these meteors came down in Orgueoil in France. However, the organic molecules they found may have had a far more mundane origin, as the person, who’d discovered it had stored it in his fridge. I think it had got covered in butter, amongst other things.

I found another video on this discovery, which suggested that there may also be an internal ocean on Ceres, and that the organic molecules on its surface may indicate that it has life, even of only a very primitive kind, underneath in its oceans. This would be, in the words of Zaphod Beeblebrox, ‘amazingly amazing!’ if true. I suspect there isn’t such an ocean and no life there either, but we won’t know for sure until this is investigated further.

Alt-Right Goebbels Milo Yiannopolis Spectacularly Self-Destructs Defending Paedophilia

February 25, 2017

This week, Alt-Right ideologue Milo Yiannopolis’ career was spectacularly destroyed by the outrage over a year-old video of interview in which he defended paedophilia. I’ve blogged about Yiannopolis before. He’s another journo from the right-wing news organisation, Breitbart, who’s been very vocal in his support of Donald Trump. He’s also a walking mass of contradictions – a self-hating gay, who rails against homosexuality, and a racist, who’s half-Jewish and talks about his Black boyfriend. He’s also extremely anti-feminist. Guy Debord’s Cat has written a particularly good piece taking him and his bigotry apart at: https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/lets-talk-about-milo-yiannopoulos/

A year or so ago, Yiannopolis was a guest on Joe Rogan’s Drunken Peasant’s podcast in which he defended paedophilia. Yiannopolis declared that the laws regarding consent were confused and oppressive, and confessed that he’d had a gay relationship when he was 14 with his Roman Catholic priest, Father Michael. He claimed that such relationships could be positive, and that he had been the initiator in the relationship. He also went on to claim that he had also been on Hollywood boat parties, in which ‘very young boys’ were also present and abused by the older men there.

Kevin Logan made a video of this part of the podcast, naturally attacking Milo for his vile defence of child abuse. This was picked up by the American mainstream media in the furore following Yiannopolis’ appearance on the Bill Maher Show. The result has been that Yiannopolis’ has been disinvited from CPAC, the main Conservative conference in the US. His deal for a proposed book, Dangerous, has also been dropped by the publisher, and many of the universities at which he was booked to speak have also dropped him. He has also been forced to resign from Breitbart.

Yiannopolis has now made a kind of non-apology, in which he claims it was all a joke, or something like that, and stating that he does not condone nor defend paedophilia. However, he makes a distinction between this and hebephilia, which is supposed to be sexual relations with teenage boys. This just seems to be a case of hair-splitting, as Milo is still talking about the abuse of those, who are minors under the law. It’s still child abuse, and I think under American legislation would be considered statutory rape of a minor.

Here’s a video from the Jimmy Dore Show, in which the comedian rips apart Yiannopolis’ original comments and his later quasi-apology.

Dore also makes the point that Yiannopolis has also committed an additional crime under Californian law. This obliges those, who know that child abuse is being committed, to inform the police. Yiannopolis was present at these parties where ‘very young’ – barely teenage? – boys were being abused, and did not tell the cops. I think he also claimed to know three or four other men, who were also abusing underage boys.

Yiannopolis’ defence of child abuse is disgusting, but many left-wing bloggers and vloggers have also pointed out that he’s also made revolting comments about non-Whites, feminism and ‘SJWs’, or Social Justice Warriors, the Alt-Right term of abuse for anyone concerned with minority rights and social justice. He’s always been a troll, who delights in deliberately saying the offensive and unspeakable to shock and outrage those on the Left. Dore, and David Pakman, who has also commented about this on his show, also make the point that Yiannopolis in himself isn’t really very interesting. His views ain’t original. All that makes him noteworthy at all is that he’s a gay man, saying vile things about other gays. It’s another example of the Republican strategy of taking one member of a particularly minority to criticise and attack the others. Quite often its Black Conservatives attacking Blacks. They’ve also pointed out that it also shows the great intellectual cachet Americans accord anyone with an upper class British accent. Yiannopolis’ views on race and feminism are bog-standard, unremarkable bigotry. But because he articulates them in a BBC, public-school accent, they are somehow taken to be more insightful and intellectually respectable than they are.

For the moment, Yiannopolis’ career has imploded. But one of the commenters on one of the news threads about this predicted that he’d probably be back in time. Unfortunately, I can see this being true. As for the universities that have cancelled him, I think they’re entirely right to do so. Beyond matters of principle, unis and other places of education have a duty of care to their students. Many students and staff will have children, and will obviously be very uncomfortable about the university allowing someone to speak, who believes that statutory child abuse in certain circumstances is acceptable. Yiannopolis’ views are also in strong opposition to the ethics of school teaching. These have very strong rules designed to protect students from abuse, and teachers from false accusations, which also occur from time to time. Universities aren’t schools, but at least in Britain they do run teacher training courses. The education professionals running these courses are highly unlikely to want to see invited onto campus a speaker, whose stated personal views attack the moral and legal principles they wish to impress on the teachers of the future.

In the meantime, Yiannopolis’ fall has shown that there is a line even which the trolls of the Alt-Right cross at their peril. But as the other left-wing bloggers and vloggers have pointed out, it’s a pity that this didn’t happen to Yiannopolis earlier when he making his vile comments on race and feminism.

Trump and the Republicans’ Attack on Transgender Rights

February 25, 2017

On Thursday Mike also posted a short piece about another minority that is now under by Donald Trump – transgender people. After trying to ban people from seven majority Muslim countries, Trump has decided to revoke Barack Obama’s legislation about the use of toilets by transgender students. Obama ruled that students should be allowed to use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity, rather than biological sex. This has been too much for Trump and the Republicans. In his article commenting on Trump’s repeal of the ruling, he makes the point that transgender people don’t pose any threat to the people of the US, as far as he could see. But Trump’s discrimination against them does make him a threat to the transgender community.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/23/transgender-students-are-targeted-for-hate-by-trump/

Milo Yiannopolis, one of the Alt-Right Breitbart squadristi, turned up on the Bill Maher Show on American TV. Yiannopolis is a strange, contradictory figure – a half-Jewish, self-hating gay with a Black boyfriend, who is bitterly anti-feminist and also very racist. Yiannopolis tried to claim that the ruling was quite correct, because there was a dangerous of transvestites entering female toilets to abuse women and girls. He claimed that there was a far greater rate of sex offences amongst transgendered people than amongst ordinary, straight individuals.

Where did he get this statistics? Where do you think! He made it up. And while Maher apparently did little but fawn over Yiannopolis, according to some viewers, one of the guests, Larry Wilmore, solidly refuted Yinnopolis comments again and again. See this video below.

For some reason, the Republicans have had a bee in their collective bonnets about transgender people for some time now. In fairness, not all of this concern is fear-mongering based on prejudice. Right-wing critics of the current medical attitudes towards those, who have problems with their gender identity, have pointed to a paper by a doctor, which has questioned whether many of those undergoing gender realignment surgery really want to be women. According to the paper, those undergoing the transition have a higher rate of suicide than those who remain in their biological gender. Now, there have been instances where people, who have made the transition, have regretted it and taken their own lives. There was a case in the British papers a few years ago about a transwoman, who drowned herself in a river. She left a note stating that she now wished she could return to being a man.

Such cases are tragic, and should be a cause of legitimate concern. But I don’t think this is really what’s driving the issue.

This is really all about cultural decline and the politics of masculinity. The Right has a very traditional attitude towards gender roles. I’ve blogged before about the various right-wing politicians in America, like the highly obnoxious Anne Coulter, who don’t even believe women should vote. The idea that gender roles, and gender identity itself, can be fluid and subject to change is bitterly rejected. Hence this attack on the toilet rights of transgender students.

One of those, who has weighed into this debate is the anti-feminist philosopher, Camille Paglia. Paglia had been a feminist, I gather, before she did a complete reversal some time in the 1990s, and decided that feminism was damaging men and having a generally destructive effect on society as a whole. I think she still considers herself some kind of feminist, but, as Mel Smith’s blokeish character on his and Griff Rhys Jones’ spoof of the BBC talk show, After Dark, she seems to be ‘the kind of feminist, who is not a feminist at all’.

There’s a video on YouTube of her arguing in an interview that transgenderism is responsible for the fall of all civilisations, from ancient Rome to the European empires of the 19th century. This can be seen in the way Greek art moved from depicting muscular hunks to a more androgynous style of masculine figure.

I don’t know enough of Greek art to refute this, but I know enough history to say that it’s twaddle. Despite the comments by Roman moralists, like Tacitus, about the decadence of late Roman society, what actually brought the Empire down were a mixture of severe economic, political and military problems that have precious little to do with gender identity. If at all. The late Roman empire was beset by galloping inflation, massively disproportionate taxation falling on the poor as the senatorial elite sought to evade the tax burden, depopulation caused by plague as well as economic decline, and, of course, the barbarian invasions.

In the east, the late Roman and Persian Empires were overrun by the Muslim Arabs basically because they had fought each other to exhaustion, and simply no longer possessed the military power to fight off the invading Arabs. In the case of Egypt and some of the other eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs offered religious tolerance to Christian denominations persecuted by the official Greek church. The politics of gender identity simply weren’t involved.

As for the European empires, these fell, retreated or transformed themselves due to the rise of nationalist movements in their colonies and the decline of the metropolitan centres. Much of this was hastened by the Second World War. Britain and France emerged exhausted from the conflict, and global power passed to America and the Soviet Union. Again, gender politics weren’t involved.

Paglia, however, draws on the literature of late Victorian writers, including the French Decadents, for her views. These did see the decline of gender identity and roles as a sign of cultural and racial decline. The French Decadents, who saw madness and genius as inextricably linked, celebrated androgyny, while at the same time holding very strong misogynist views. They felt that, like ancient Rome, the fall of the new French empire was also inevitable, and were going to enjoy being Decadent as much as possible during it.

Paglia’s fears about the social damage created by the decline in traditional notions of gender and sexuality are also really a symptom of more general fears of American social and imperial decline. Martin Pugh in his book on the rise of British Fascism between the First and Second World Wars, comments on the role played in its rise by the moral panic created by Pemberton Billing about homosexuality. Billing was a right-wing Tory MP, who believed that the British war effort during World War I was being undermined by gays working for the Germans. He claimed to have a black book with the names of 50,000 ‘devotees of Sodom and Lesbia’. He was sued for libel by at least one of the people he smeared, but the trail collapsed when he accused the judge of being gay.

Pugh also points out that this period also saw the rise in fears about lesbianism for the first time. He states very clearly that the reason why the British government had not legislated against female homosexuality in the 19th century was because they simply didn’t see it as a threat. It was not because that they, or Queen Victoria, depending on the version of the myth you’ve heard, didn’t think it exist, or because Victoria herself didn’t think it was physically possible for two women to have sex. She and they knew it happened, but weren’t bothered about it. It wasn’t considered to be a threat to society like male homosexuality.

This all changed after the First World War. Pugh makes the point that it was widely believed that the War had killed the flower of British manhood – all the really intelligent, brave and capable men. The guys, who were left, were the second raters. As a result, British society was in crisis, a crisis which only aggressively masculine parties like the NSDAP in Germany and the Fascists in Italy could hope to correct.

And something similar has also occurred in America. It’s been argued that the rapid expansion of Communism after the War was a profound shock to America, not just to the self-confidence of capitalism, but also to notions of American masculinity. This can be seen in depictions of Jesus. For a period after WW2 the traditional depictions of Christ with rather soft features disappeared in favour of more ruggedly masculine representations of the Saviour.

America is a very masculine society, and the link between capitalism and masculinity is very strong in the parties and ideologies of the Right, the Republicans and Libertarians. The Left, and its egalitarianism, is seen as anti-masculine and unpatriotic. It is not accident that Richard Spencer in one of his wretched speeches tried to appeal to American women by saying that his movement offered them ‘pregnancy and strong government’. With the involvement of the gun lobby, we are very much back in the realm of Mussolini’s Fascist slogan ‘Fighting is to man what motherhood is to woman.’ The American Right also strongly opposes women entering the workplace, feeling that they should stay at home instead to raise children to counteract White demographic decline.

This is the real ideological background to Trump and the Republicans’ attack on transgender people. The actual number of transgender people, as a percentage of the population, is probably very small. They’re not really a threat to anyone. Instead, this all about the politics of gender as part of the wider issue of racial decay and American imperial decline.

Counterpunch on the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair

February 25, 2017

Tony Blair emerged from under whatever plush, money-stuffed rock he’s been hiding under since he left power last week to deliver a speech to encourage Brits to remain in the EU. This, however, wasn’t the real point of his reappearance back into British politics. Mike in his piece about the speech stated that Blair’s real intention is simply to undermine Corbyn. Corbyn is trying to heal the rifts created by the Brexit vote. Blair, however, wishes to keep them open. He wants to undermine Corbyn, because the Labour leader represents a return to genuine, traditional Labour politics, while Blair simply wants it to carry on being a pale blue version of the Tories.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/17/blairs-dog-whistle-rallying-call-for-remain-is-another-bid-to-split-labour/

Mike’s right, of course. Blair’s entire electoral strategy was based on embracing Thatcherism and Neoliberalism, imposing even more strict limits on the unions and their ability to defend their members, and privatising the post office, the education system and massively expanding the Tory privatisation of the NHS. This was all done to appease the City, the right-wing press and gaining votes from swing voters in marginal constituencies.

Blair’s old ally, Peter Mandelson, also came out of the woodwork to support his former boss. On the Andrew Marr show on Sunday Mandelson announced that Labour needed unity and ‘sureness of touch’ to win elections. Mike pointed out that the division in the Labour party, which was succeeding in turning some people away from it, as he knew from his own experiences interviewing people on their doorsteps, had been created by Mandelson and the other Blairites. They’re not interested in Labour winning elections. They just want Corbyn out, and so are prepared to do anything to achieve this, including scuppering Labour’s chances of winning elections. Mike concluded that Mandelson was therefore ‘an enemy of the people’. It’s a strong phrase, but it accurately describes the New Labour attitude of tolerating and encouraging even more privatisation and welfare cuts, with the horrific suffering and death they’re causing to the poor, in order to make themselves electable to the rich.

See:http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/19/mandelsons-mixed-message-on-brexit-is-designed-to-confuse-not-help/ and http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/21/enemy-of-the-people-peter-mandelson/

Mike also noted that Labour MPs seemed to be less than enthusiastic about Blair’s return, with some making very lukewarm comments about it. The shadow Brexit minister, Jenny Chapman, made the point that it would be a mistake to argue in favour of remaining in Europe, as this would cut no ice with voters outside London.

Mike in his comments about Blair’s reception states that Labour MPs are aware that Blair is trying to keep the party divided and is a menace to the party’s chances of winning an election. Hence the frost reception the former PM got when he made his speech.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/17/labour-mps-turn-on-tony-blair-shock-horror/

The American radical magazine, Counterpunch, was also highly critical about Blair’s return. Their columnist, John Wight, points out very clearly that much of the current political climate, which has encouraged and facilitated the rise of the extreme right, is a direct result of the corrupt policies pursued by Blair in Britain and Clinton in America. Blair’s support for the Iraq invasion has been one of the causes of the massive carnage and destabilisation, not just of that nation, but of the entire Middle East. And the rise of the far right at home has been fuelled by their destruction of traditional working class politics in the Democrats and the Labour party in order to bolster the power of the business elites. He writes

Just when you thought it was safe to venture out, Frankenstein returns – at least its political equivalent in the shape of Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister and poster child for the venality, corruption, and opportunism of Western liberalism in our time.

Blair’s decision to intervene in the ongoing political crisis that has engulfed the UK over Brexit can only be described as offensive. His call to arms, urging the British people to “rise up against Brexit”, which he issued from that renowned fortress of people power, Bloomberg headquarters in the City of London, will only harden support for it given the fact that Blair’s time in office only helped pave the way for it.

The man is a deluded fool if he really thinks that he has the credibility or clout to make any such intervention in frontline politics anything other than a car crash. With the anniversary of the start of the 2003 war in Iraq upon us next month, bringing with it the memory of the role that Blair played in the deaths of up to one million people, along with the destabilization of the region and an explosion of terrorism that has wrought so much carnage in the years since, the only place that Blair should be giving any speech nowadays is from the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where his presence is long overdue.

Tony Blair, along with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, exemplifies everything rotten and depraved about liberal democracy. Whether it be their attachment to the interests of Wall Street and City of London, the abandonment of the poor and working class in the interests of the politics of identity, the worshipping at the altar of the free market and neoliberalism, not forgetting the slavish devotion to Western imperialism under the rubric of democracy and human rights – these people have turned the world upside down and enriched themselves and their cronies beyond measure in the process.

And concludes

Not until the political establishments in both the UK and US finally accept their responsibility for the rejection of everything they represent will there be an end to the political and social polarization that is the new normal in both countries. In this respect they remain stuck in the past, holding onto a belief in the verities of the free market, in NATO and Western exceptionalism. In this regard they are akin to those Japanese soldiers who failed to emerge from the jungles and foxholes in which they served during World War II until over a decade after the war ended.

Returning to Tony Blair, this is a man who not satisfied with helping to set the world on fire thereafter swanned off into a sunset of unparalleled riches and wealth, the wages of sin he’s received in return for services rendered to the some of the most corrupt and unsavoury governments, corporations, and causes in existence. His every public appearance and utterance is an insult to the millions of men, women, and children in Iraq who were slaughtered as a result of the brutal and illegal imperialist war he unleashed in conjunction with Washington in 2003.

It reminds us that their cry for justice from the grave is one that is yet to be heard.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/21/firestarter-the-unwelcome-return-of-tony-blair/

David Pakman on Anti-Semitic and Racist Republican Candidate Escorted Offstage at Kentucky University

February 23, 2017

In my last post, I discussed the rise in racism in this country and America, as reported in Mike’s recent post about the fall in immigration and rise in hate crime following Brexit, and the anti-Semitic desecration of a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis. This incident has had a more positive sequel, in that a Muslim organisation has so far raised $71,000 to be spent on repairing the cemetery and other Jewish communities, that have suffered similar attacks.

Discussing the American attacks, Ben Mankiewicz and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks made the point that they were part of the wave of hate that has been unleashed by Trump’s bigoted rhetoric and campaigning. While Trump has a Jewish son-in-law, whom his daughter converted to Judaism to marry, and denies that he is anti-Semitic, his supporters include Steve Bannon of Breitbart, an anti-Semite and White supremacist, and Richard Spencer, the leader of the Alt-Right, which comprises anti-Semites, White Supremacists and other far-right bigots.

Unfortunately, there has been a racist strain in the Republican party for a very long time. Ever since, in fact, Richard Nixon devised the ‘Southern Strategy’ to keep hold of the South by playing on the racist fears of White voters after desegregation. One of the leading Republican politicos is David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. And I can remember how Joe Queenan on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Postcard from Gotham, greeted the electoral victory of Pat Buchanan in New Hampshire with the statement that the only thing you could now in that state were cries of ‘Duce! Duce!’ after Mussolini.

In this piece from 2014, David Pakman reports on a speech at Kentucky University’s ‘Constitution Day’, which resulted in the speaker being escorted off stage by university staff. This was Robert Edward Rensdell, a rising Republican candidate for the senate with appalling anti-Semitic and White separatist views. Rensdell had previously put placards up with his slogan ‘With Jews we lose’ all over Cincinnati. He has also called Blacks ‘savages’ and looked back to the racist past as a time when ‘Blacks knew better’ than to pick on White people, particularly women and children.

Instead of the speech on the American Constitution they were no doubt expecting, the university’s students got a racist rant.

Pakman himself also warns about treating Rensdell and his antics too lightly, as if he represented no more of a threat than a few tasteless comments. He talks about how he had on his programme Frasier Glen Miller another racist Republican senator ten years before. Miller was openly anti-Semitic on his show, insulting Pakman personally with remarks about his Jewish heritage. Miller has since been convicted of the murder of two Jewish people at different Jewish community centres. Pakman points out that the racism expressed and promoted by people like Rensdell and Miller has terrible real world consequences, and can very quickly turn to violence.