Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

‘I’ Article About Research into Artificial Wombs and their Morality

January 8, 2020

This is another science story from yesterday’s I for 7th January 2020. It’s about current research into developing artificial wombs. At the moment, these would be for very premature babies, but they could in theory go much further, which raises some serious ethical issues.

The article by Alla Katsnelson, ‘Baby in a bag: could humans be grown in an artificial womb?’ runs

Critically preterm babies face an uncertain future. Although a foetus is considered viable at 24 weeks of gestation, only about 60 per cent of babies born so young will survive, and many will experience life-long complications.

For those born a couple of weeks earlier, the statistics are even more dire: just 10 per cent of babies born at 22 weeks are likely to survive.

building a so-called artificial womb could potentially save these babies. In October, researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands announced that they had received a grant for E2.9m (£2.5m) to develop a prototype of such a device. But the project isn’t the only artificial womb on the horizon. In 2017, researchers in Philadelphia transferred foetal lambs, aged between 105 and 115 days of gestation (equivalent to about 28 to 30 weeks human gestation), into a so-called biobag filled with artificial amniotic fluid. After several weeks in the bag, the lambs developed normally. And in March 2019, an Australian and Japanese research team kept younger lambs, about 95 days’ gestational age, alive in a different system.

Dr Matthew Kemp, who led the latter work, admits that researchers don’t fully understand foetal growth in the womb, which makes replicating it a challenge. The Dutch group noted plans to roll out a clinic-ready prototype in five years, but Dr Kemp says it will probably take much longer. And because the technology is so costly, it’s unlikely to be widely available any time soon.

So far, what researchers call artificial wombs are essentially souped-up incubators. They provide a fluid-filled space in which a foetus can receive nutrients and oxygen through a ‘placenta’. From there to full-on ectogenesis – incubating foetuses outside a human for the full duration of a pregnancy – is an enormous leap.

But many bioethicists note that technology moves quickly, and proactively thinking through the possibilities is important.

In this more futuristic vision, artificial wombs can do a lot for society, says Dr Elizabeth Yuko, a bioethicist at Fordham University in New York. It could allow people who can’t carry a pregnancy for whatever reason – illness, infertility, age, or gender – to do so. It might also shift some of the childbearing responsibilities carried by women. But it also raises concerns. For example, ex-utero gestation would probably turn reproductive rights on their head, says Elizabeth Chloe Romanis, a lawyer and bioethicist at the University of Manchester. If a foetus can gestate outside a woman’s body, the choice fo whether or not to have the baby might be deemed out of her hands.

Another issue is that our legal rights are predicated on having been born alive. “I don’t think that a gestating subject in an artificial womb necessarily meets that requirement,” says Romanis. “That raises some questions about human entities ex-utero that have never existed before.

There have been newspaper articles about the development of artificial wombs since the 1980s, at least. The Absurder published one c. 1985, and I think the Independent also published one in the 1990s. And the whole area of artificial reproduction has been a live issue since the first ‘test tube’ baby created through in vitro fertilisation in the 1970s. But it also raises the spectacle of the kind of dystopian society Aldous Huxley portrayed in Brave New World, where humans are bred in hatcheries, engineered and conditioned for their future role in society. The Auronar, the telepathic race to which Cally, one of the heroes of the Beeb’s SF series, Blake’s 7, also reproduced through artificial gestation.And one of the predictions in Brian Stableford’s and David Langford’s future history, The Third Millennium, is that during this millennium this will be the preferred method of human reproduction, at least in some extraterrestrial colonies. And over a decade Radio 4 broadcast a series in which various intellectuals created fictional museums. One was ‘the museum of the biological body’, set in a post-human future in which people were neuter cyborgs born from hatcheries. This is obviously very far off, and I doubt anywhere near the majority of humans would ever want to reject gender and sexuality completely, whatever certain sections of the trans community might believe.

As with cloning and Dolly the Sheep, it raises very profound and disturbing questions about humanity’s future and how far technology should expand into the area of reproduction.

The Beeb’s Reward for the Election: Tory Poll Pushes Its Privatisation

January 5, 2020

Mike put this story up yesterday, and it shows how the Conservatives view their allies at the Beeb. The Corporation played a vital role in their re-election. It’s coverage of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour has, for the last four years or so, been unrelentingly hostile. The Beeb’s reporters did everything they could to promote the Blairite faction and their plots and rebellions, including the resignation of one of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet live on the Andrew Marr show. And they, like the rest of the media, denounced Corbyn and his supporters, who were the most anti-racist of politicians, as inveterate anti-Semites, who were a real threat to Jewish Brits. And no argument was allowed to the contrary. This hate campaign kicked into overdrive at the election, with outright lies – that Labour’s manifesto promises were as deceitful as the Tories, when all the lies noted came from the Conservatives – and with Kuenssberg’s flagrant breach of electoral law. This forbids anybody divulging the progress of the postal votes before the results as a whole are declared. Nevertheless, Kuenssberg blithely announced that she’d heard the results from the postal votes as they were coming in, and it didn’t look good for Labour. This should have got her sacked, but the Beeb has just waved it off as ‘a mistake’. The trouble, is there are far too many of such ‘mistakes’ for that to be anywhere near convincing.

Boris Johnson has declared that he wants non-payment of the BBC license fee to be decriminalised. And yesterday the Daily Mail Online reported that a YouGov poll found that 50 per cent of people would like the Beeb privatised.  YouGov was set up by Nadhim Zahawi and a fellow leading Tory, and as Mike says, its polling always seems to follow the results demanded by the its proprietors. Polls don’t report how people intend to vote, as how the polling organisations want them to vote. And the Tories are obviously softening the public up for its eventual privatisation.

Of course, the Tories have hated the BBC for years. Way back when I was at school forty years ago I can remember Thatcher’s government suggesting that the license fee should be scrapped and the Beeb funded through advertising. Or privatised altogether. Most people at that time were very firmly against it, so that disappeared. Only to reappear a few years later under John Major, when the Tories were accusing the Beeb once again of being biased against them (What?) Instead of outright privatisation, they simply passed legislation demanding that the corporation have a certain amount of its programmes produced by private production companies. Which is why, if you watch some of these programmes, you’ll find the logo of a private company like Mentorn at the end of their credits.

The Tories are the company of private industry, so they hate state industries as a matter of course. But there’s also the selfish interest of their corporate masters. The Murdoch papers – the Scum and the Times – have been attacking the Beeb for decades because Murdoch loathes it as a rival to his own Sky network. And the Americans have been buying up British broadcasters for several years now. The Tory ideal is to have it funded either through subscriptions or advertising. The result would be something like the American PBS, which shares the Corporation’s ethos of public service broadcasting, but is hardly a major broadcaster. The Beeb does make some excellent programmes, but it only does this because of the license fee. The commercial broadcasters have found it difficult to make quality, expensive programmes because there isn’t enough revenue from advertising.

And as loathsome as the Beeb’s newsroom is, privatisation would make the situation worse. Fox News has a right-wing bias so blatant and overt it can be seen from space. And it peddles so much fake news that one monitoring organisation found that you would be less informed after watching it than if you took no news at all. Which is an achievement, of sorts. It’s a network that’s exerting a positive drag effect on American collective intelligence. For some reason, my YouTube page came up with videos from Australian Sky TV. And that seemed to be as bad or worse.

I can’t say I’m totally happy with the Beeb. Looking through the Radio Times I get irritated, as I feel quite often that I’m being condescended to. But I think that comes from the British media class generally, and the way it sees itself as the gatekeepers and opinon makers of British culture. I don’t want the Beeb privatised. But I do want the newsroom reformed and purged of its bias.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Not when so many of the Beeb’s journos come from the Tory papers, like Andrew Neil, or from the Conservative party itself, like Nick Robinson, or show their real political allegiances by departing to join their propaganda unit.

I dare say that if the Beeb is privatised, the likes of Robinson, Kuenssberg, Pinaar and the rest will get a very cosy reward on one of the private broadcasters.

But we would lose out, as the Beeb’s public service mission to inform, educate and entertain would be scrapped in favour of highly commercialised, partisan rubbish.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/01/04/job-done-bbc-got-the-tories-re-elected-and-now-tory-pollster-is-softening-us-up-for-privatisation/

NHS Privatisation Means More Expensive Bureaucracy

December 16, 2019

The Tory election victory on Thursday prompted me to buy a book, Health Reform: Public Success – Private Failure, edited by Daniel Drache and Terry Sullivan, which I had seen in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. The book was published in 1999, and examines the inclusion of the private sector in the healthcare systems of America, the UK, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. It isn’t necessarily against this inclusion, but does treat it critically. And one of the points it makes is that private healthcare companies are as wastefully bureaucratic as the state planning system of the former Soviet Union. And because they’re run for a profit, they’re keen to inflate prices, not keep them down. the book states

But private insurance, as the American experience shows, brings in a whole new group of very powerful income claimants – a major expansion in the Z term. Large-scale private coverage is a horrendously expensive way to pay for healthcare. A huge private bureaucracy must be established to assess risks, set premiums, design complex benefit schedules, and review and pay (or refuse) claims. A corresponding financial apparatus is then required in hospitals, nursing homes, and private practices to deal with this system, in a form of ‘administrative arms race’.

Far from trying to minimize the cost of administrative overload, and match premiums as closely as possible to benefit payments, private insurers refer to the rate of benefit payment as the ‘loss ratio’ and try to maximize the difference between premium revenue and payout. That difference is the income of the insurance sector.

Yet, as we know from the experience of the single-payer system in Canada, all this financial paper-pushing turns out to be as unnecessary and wasteful as the old Soviet planning apparatus. These are not functions that anyone needs to perform once a decision has been made to cover the whole population. In the United States, bureaucratic waste by and in response to the private insurance industry now adds more than a hundred billion dollars per year, over 10 per cent, to total health care costs.

(pp.38-9).

Yet the Tories push privatisation, including that of the NHS, as a way of reducing costs and increasing efficiency, while the opposite is true. And I know true-blue Tories, who are shocked to hear that it does. They simply accept the neoliberal doctrine that private industry is someone how more efficient and cost-effect than state provision, even when it manifestly isn’t.

This point is made by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in their polemic against NHS privatisation, NHS – SOS, but despite the newspaper headlines about the crisis in the NHS, I don’t think it’s properly appreciated. And the Tories are determined to privatise the NHS, which is why I bought the book, so I could put up more information about the effects of the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS on this blog.

NHS privatisation and the inclusion of private healthcare means greater costs and worse healthcare for those who can’t afford it. Which means the poor, the disabled, and the old. This is what Tory health policy means. 

 

Mysterious Vanishing Tories – An Import from Australia

December 8, 2019

Okay, this is just hearsay, but it suggests what and who’s responsible for the Tory strategy of running away from interviews. And that person is their election strategist, Linton Crosby.

Thursday evening I put up a little piece commenting on the very low profile adopted by Jacob Rees-Mogg. The Tories had been keeping him well away from the cameras and the microphones after he had massively put his foot in his mouth about the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire on LBC radio. Mogg was due to appear at a hustings in Midsomer Norton, but considering his record of not appearing in public, there was speculation that he wouldn’t.

Of course, Mogg isn’t alone in his reluctance to talk to the media. Trev, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted a couple of remarks about other Tory candidates also running away. Like the one for Colne Valley, who apparently declared that he avoids meetings with a left-wing bias. The site reporting this is

https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/jason-mccartney-explains-hasnt-attended-17364450.

But be warned! It’s behind a paywall.

And the Sidmouth Herald also reported that a Tory down there had also pulled out of a hustings.

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/conservative-candidate-pulls-out-of-hustings-1-6406694

And last Wednesday Mike also reported how the Tory candidate for Peterborough, Paul Bristow, ran away from Channel 4. They wanted to ask him about a possible threat from Brexit, but this was obviously too much for the Tory’s delicate constitution.

Terrified Tories are running from media scrutiny

The Russians say that a fish rots from the head down, and that’s certainly true of the Tories. They only seem to be following the lead of their chief, our unfunny comedy prime minister, Boorish Boris Johnson. Johnson runs away from interviews at a rate of knots. he has signally failed to turn up to be mauled by Andrew Neil and ducked out of Channel 4’s climate debate. And to think that the Tories had the gall to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of being chicken.

I was talking to a friend about this, and he remarked that it’s how the parties campaign in Australia. They don’t give interviews, just keep their heads down and smear each other. I don’t know if it’s correct, but if it is, it’s something that the Tories have decided to import over here. And the person most likely to be responsible for it is Linton Crosby. Before he become the Tories’ electoral strategist under Tweezer, he was one of the major electoral strategists for their equivalent Down Under. Now it seems that after destroying proper democratic debate there, he’s importing the same policy of silence and smear here.

But what does it say about the Tories’ style of government, that they just lie and smear their opponents from running away from real scrutiny and honest debate themselves? Would you trust such dishonest cowards in government?

Desperate Tories Now Using Smear Manuals against Labour and Lib Dems

December 4, 2019

I love the smell of Tory fear in the morning! You can tell how desperate the party of Thatcher and Johnson are when they’re reduced to lies and smears. Not that they were above them anyway, but now they seem to be rapidly abandoning any attempt at fair play. Mike reports that an article in today’s Groaniad reveals that the Tory party is equipping its doorstep campaigners with special dossiers they are to use against their opponents. There’s a 17 page one for Labour, and a 19 page one for the Liberal Democrats. These manuals contain such fictional statements that Labour’s immigration policy would open the door to 840,000 migrants a year, and that the Lib Dems are trying to push sex work as an appropriate career for schoolchildren and policies that are pro-pimp.

Mike comments that people seem to believe some of this nonsense, but that it isn’t putting them off voting Labour. Someone had tweeted him personally that in spite of Labour’s ‘open door policy on immigration’, they were still going to vote for the party. As this person was doing the right thing, Mike didn’t correct them.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/03/not-sporting-not-working-tories-are-using-manuals-to-smear-rivals-but-they-arent-changing-minds/

Okay, the accusation that Labour is in favour of open door immigration and this country being swamped with non-White immigrants has been a staple of the right and the far right since forever and a day. It’s one of the constant lines – or lies – repeated by newspapers like the Heil, for example. The other stereotypical smear against Labour, and one which Private Eye has parodied mercilessly in the past, is that a Labour government will bring mortgage prices down. I haven’t seen jokes about that line recently in the magazine, perhaps because if the Heil actually did run, the exorbitant house prices at the moment would mean that Labour’s vote would actually go up.

But the accusation that the Lib Dems are promoting pimping and prostitution is a new one. I think it comes from a conference the Lib Dems held a year or so ago, which was about improve conditions for sex workers. One of the talks was about taking the stigma out of it. But the Lib Dems don’t seem to pushing pro-pimp policies or encouraging schoolgirls to get jobs as prostitutes.

But it does seem more than a tad hypocritical on the part of the Tories as they are and have been.

Way back in the 1980s, when Maggie Thatcher that was unchaining the power of private industry, one industry that a certain section of her minions definitely wanted unchained from state prohibition was prostitution. There was a certain section within the Tory party, as I recall, that wanted it legalised. I think they used the same arguments for it that have been around ever since the late 17th century-early 18th century economist Bernard Mandeville put them forward. Mandeville was an early advocate of free trade against the prevailing mercantilism, in which the state rigidly regulated trade between nations and colonies. Mandeville wanted publicly funded brothels. These, he argued, would allow the men, who used prostitutes to satisfy their lusts legally, while protecting decent women from their attentions. I think the Lib Dems, who set up the conference also had a feminist angle. They seem to have felt that if prostitution was legalised, it could be properly regulated to keep the prostitutes themselves safe. I think the models for such legislation are the continent and Australia. I’m sceptical that these arguments actually work in practice. But the main point here is that the Lib Dems haven’t necessarily promoted anything that the Tories weren’t debating nearly forty years ago.

But the Tories are forcing people into prostitution.

It is by and large the last refuge of the poor and desperate, women and men who can’t make ends meet any other way. Under Thatcher there was a series of scandals in which Tory politicos were caught using rent boys. So much so that there was a sketch on Spitting Image in which a Tory politician, explaining what his government has done to the nation, declares that it has opened lots of work for young men to a lad. When the lad asks what work it is, the Tory replies that it is as a rent boy, and he’ll see him later.

More recently, there were reports a few years ago about female students turning to prostitution in order to pay the tuition fees that New Labour introduced, but the Tories and Lib Dems increased.

And let’s not forget another incident, in which a Jobcentre had to apologise for suggesting that work in sex shops was a suitable occupation for women wishing to get off the dole.

I don’t know, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if there had been an increase in prostitution in general as women were forced to turn to it simply to keep body and soul together through the poverty Tory welfare cuts, wage freezes and zero hours contracts have caused.

The Lib Dems may not have been actively promoting prostitution with their conference, but the Tories have also openly advocated it and their policies are pushing vulnerable women into it through the poverty they’re creating.

Corbyn Calls for Reductions in Membership of the Royal Family

December 3, 2019

I found this in yesterday’s I, underneath an article reporting that Buckingham Palace has denied allegations that Prince Andrew exploited his position as trade envoy. It’s a short piece reporting that Jeremy Corbyn has called for ‘cuts to the Crown’, as the title has it. The article reads

The number of Royal Family members should be reduced, Jeremy Corbyn has suggested.

The Labour leader said he believed that the public would agree with him following the furore surrounding Prince Andrew’s relationship with the convicted American sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Mr Corbyn has previously insisted that he does not want to abolish the monarchy. Interviewed on Sky News’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday, Mr Corbyn said ‘I think the behaviour of individuals within the Royal Family is being looked at, shall we say.’

The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said ‘We need to be respecting the institution of the monarchy. If Jeremy Corbyn is saying he wants to cut the numbers he should come out and say he wants to cut.’

It’s a bit rich for the Tories to complain about attacks on the monarchy, as they used to do it all the time whenever Prince Charles criticised their awful policies in the 1980s and ’90s. I also know Tories who despise Murdoch and his papers, which they see as exploiting and denigrating the Crown. And I think they have a point. For all that the Scum plays up and celebrates the monarchy, it’s also ruthlessly exploited and publicised royal scandals. Some of this might simply be to sell more newspapers, but I’m also highly suspicious that there are more personal political reasons behind it. Like in the last referendum on whether Australia should abolish the monarchy and become a republican, Murdoch came out very strongly urging his former compatriots to do so. This may well have done the republican cause Down Under more harm than good, as Murdoch became an American citizen for commercial reasons. As a foreign national, he wouldn’t have been able to own, or at least not own quite so much, of the American press and broadcasting. Nobody likes being told what to do, not least by people who have flown their own country, and the Australians voted to retain the Queen as head of state.

Although there’s a sizable minority that would like Britain to become a republic – the I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has made it clear several time she’d like the monarchy to be abolished – as a whole it’s not a sentiment shared by the majority of the population. But just listening to the people around me, it’s clear that people are fed up with the state having to support various members of the royal family, who are not in line for the throne and don’t perform any clear role. Like Princess Eugenie, who wanted the taxpayer to spend several million on her wedding as they did for Princess Beatrice. Or was it the other way around? Either, ordinary people were not impressed with this display of royal entitlement. At the moment, I don’t think it’s a particularly big issue, not with more pressing concerns like Brexit, the Tories’ determination to sell off the NHS and utterly destroy the welfare state and the lives that depend on it. But it’s certainly an issue that will return, and at some point they might have to cut the numbers down in order to restore the Crown’s popularity. Especially if there’s another scandal like that of the present.

Leave.UK and Boris Now Using Racism to Push Brexit and Get Votes

October 9, 2019

I suppose it was inevitable. I realise not everyone, who voted for the Leave campaign is racist by any means. A lot of working class and left-wing peeps voted to leave the EU no doubt because of the very real problems with it. Private Eye has been describing for years its corruption, its lack of democracy and accountability of its senior officials, and the high-handed way it deals with member states that don’t toe the line. Years ago it described how the-then president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, was aghast at the terms it presented him and his country for membership. He complained that his country hadn’t been treated like that for over thirty years. Which meant that he was comparing it to the way it had been pushed around when it had been a Soviet satellite. This drew an outraged reaction from two of the MEPs in the EU delegation, both of whom, I think, were left-wing. One of them was Daniel Cohn-Bendit, French politician, who had been a radical leader during the ’68 revolution. They screamed at Klaus that the EU was definitely democratic, and the architect and keep of peace after the Second World War.  Robin Ramsay, the editor of the conspiracy website Lobster, is an old-fashioned left-wing Eurosceptic. He objects to the EU because economic Conservatism and neoliberalism is built into it. He regards a strong nation state with nationalised industries as the best political and economic system and protector of the rights of working people. Tony Benn was the same, noting in one of his books the real harm membership of the EU actually did to our economy and industry.

But Benn was also realistic, and recognised that we were now also economically dependent on the EU, and that leaving it would also cause severe disruption and damage. 

All of which is not considered by the right-wing supporters of Brexit. They’re not interested in protected our nationalised industries, like what remains of the NHS, because they want to sell it off to the highest bidder. And that means, at the moment, Donald Trump. Thus for all their posturing, they were quite happy to see our railways owned by the Bundesbahn, the German state railway network, and our water by the French, and then the Indonesians. And our nuclear power stations built and owned by the French and Chinese. They’ve got no objections with other states and nations owning our infrastructure, as long the British state doesn’t.

And there is and has always been a nasty undercurrent of racism in the Right’s attitude to the EU. Now with the latest poster from Leave.UK it’s all out in the open. As Mike’s shown in his article, they’ve now put up a poster showing Chancellor Angela Merkel, with her arm raised in a quasi-Nazi salute, or what could be interpreted as one. And there’s a slogan ‘We didn’t Win Two World Wars to be Pushed Around by a Kraut’.

This is just pure racism, expressed in racist language. And the imagery is offensive and wrong. As Tony Greenstein showed in his article, the CDU had its share of former Nazis amongst its members. And incidentally, so was the Freie Demokraten, the German equivalent of the Liberal party. Back in the 1980s there was a massive scandal when it was revealed that neo-Nazis had all been infiltrating them. Even the odd member of the SPD has been outed as a former member of the Nazi party. But that doesn’t mean that the CDU, or any of the other German democratic parties are really Nazi, simply because they’re German. I think Merkel herself is genuinely anti-racist, and tried to demonstrate how far her country had moved from the stereotype left over from the Third Reich when she invited the million or so Syrian and North African refugees to settle in the Bundesrepublik. It backfired badly on her, as people, not just in Germany, were afraid their countries were going to be swamped by further Islamic migrants and the wave of 200 or so rapes by a minority of them provoked an vile islamophobic reaction. But Merkel herself, and her people, aren’t Nazis and aren’t engaged in some diabolical plot to dominate Europe by stealth. As I’ve blogged about endlessly, ad nauseam.

Mike’s article cites the comments from three continental papers, who I believe have rightly assessed the situation and BoJob’s shenanigans with the EU. They differ in that some of them think the Blonde Beast is aiming for a no-deal Brexit, or that, denied that, he wants a Brexit extension. But whatever the outcome, he wants most of all to blame it on the EU. Those nasty foreigners are responsible! He and the Tory press are trying to present it as though Boris and the Tories have done everything they can to secure a deal, and it’s all due to those horrible, intransigent foreigners, and particularly the Germans, that they haven’t. Thus they’re seeking to work up nationalist sentiments so that they’re voted back in with a massive majority, having seen their lead in the polls.

I can well believe it. It’s what they’ve always done.

I remember how the Tories became the Patriotic Party under Thatcher in the 1980s. Thatcher stood for Britain, and anyone, who opposed her and the Tories more widely was definitely not One Of Us. They were some kind of traitor. The Labour party was full of Commies and IRA sympathisers, as well as evil gays determined to corrupt our youth in schools. Thatcher represented Britain’s warrior heritage and island independence. She constantly and consciously harked back to Winston Churchill. Their wretched 1987 general election video showed Spitfires zooming about the skies in what Alan Coren drily called ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’. Over the top of this an excited male voice declaimed ‘We were born free. It’s our fundamental right’. Actually, the quote comes from Rousseau’s Social Contract, and is ‘Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains’. Which is a far better description of the free trade, low tax world Thatcher wanted to introduce and her destruction of workers’ rights and the welfare state. Thatcher was our bulwark against domestic terrorism and the IRA at home – even though she was secretly negotiating with them – and the Communists and Eurofederalists of the EU abroad.

The Tories continually used the imagery and memories of the Second World War and the Empire to drum up support.

It’s a crude, nationalistic view of British imperial history. The idea that somehow we stood alone against Hitler during the Second World War is a myth, but one that all too many of us buy into. We survived and were victorious because we had the support of our empire. We were fed, and our armies staffed, by the colonies, including those in the Caribbean, Africa and India. If it hadn’t been for them and the Americans, we would have fallen as well.

And the history of the British empire and its legacy is mixed. Very mixed. I don’t deny that many of the soldiers and administrators that founded and extended it were idealists, who genuinely believed they were creating a better order and were improving the lives of their imperial subjects. But there was also much evil. Like the history of the Caribbean and the slave colonies in North America, or the treatment of the Amerindians and other indigenous peoples, like the Maoris or Aboriginal Australians. They weren’t noble savages, as portrayed in the stereotypes that have grown up around them. But they didn’t deserve the massacre, displacement and dispossession they suffered. The Irish patriot, Roger Casement, was a British imperial official, and was radicalised by the enslavement of South American Amerindians by the British rubber industry in the Putomayo scandal. This turned him against British imperialism, and made him an ardent fighter for his own people’s independence. To get a different view of the empire, all you have to do is read histories of it from the perspective of the colonised peoples, like the Indians or the slaves in the Caribbean. Or, for that matter, the horrific treatment of Afrikaner civilians in the concentration camps during the Anglo-South African ‘Boer’ War. In too many cases it was a history of persecution, dispossession and oppression, fueled by greed and nationalism.

Ah, but the British Empire stood for democracy!

It was largely founded before the emergence of democracy, which everywhere had to be fought for. And parts of the British imperial establishment remained anti-democratic after the Liberals extended the vote to the entire working class and women at the beginning of the 20th century. Martin Pugh in his history of British Fascism between the two world wars states that sections of it were not happy with the extension of the franchise in the 1920s, especially the diplomats and administrators in the Indian office, like Lord Curzon. It’s highly dubious how much of a patriot Churchill was. In the years before the outbreak of the Second World War, Orwell remarked in one of his press articles how strange the times were, with Churchill ‘running around pretending to be a democrat’. And there was a very interesting article years ago in the weekend edition of the Financial Times that argued that it was only because Britain needed allies during the Second World War, that the English Speaking Union appeared as one of the leading organisations in the spread of democracy.

But still we’ve had it drummed into us that the Empire was an unalloyed, brilliant institution, our country is uniquely democratic, and the Tories represent both and our national pride and heritage against the depredations of Johnny Foreigner.

Salman Rushdie and the rest are right. We need proper, balanced teaching about the Empire to correct some of these myths.

Supporters of the Labour Party and Remain campaign in response to the latest eruption of bilious racism and xenophobia have released their own posters. One shows Boris Johnson and has the slogan ‘We Didn’t Win Two World Wars to Be Pushed Around by a Fascist’. Another shows Nigel Farage with the slogan ‘We Didn’t Win Two World Wars to Be Pushed Around by a Fraud’. At the bottom is another legend, reading ‘Let’s Not Leave EU’.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/10/09/leave-campaigns-response-to-angela-merkel-is-racism/

They’re right. And the Tories and the Leave campaign are whipping up racism simply for their own benefit. If they get a no-deal Brexit, or win a general election, they will privatise the NHS, destroy what’s left of the welfare state. Our industries will be massively harmed, and whatever’s left of them will be sold to the Americans. 

It will mean nothing but poverty and exploitation for working people. That’s how the Tories use racism and xenophobia.

Don’t be taken in by their lies. Stand up for democracy and peace and harmony between peoples and nations. Get rid of Boris, Farage and Aaron Banks. And support Corbyn and Labour.

 

More Lies and Disinformation about Roswell: Crash Hoaxed with Victims of Nazi and Japanese Human Experiments

September 15, 2019

There’s some very nasty lies – at least, I sincerely hope they’re lies – being put about by someone about the notorious Roswell UFO crash. This was the incident in 1947 when a UFO supposedly crashed on Mac Brazell’s ranch in Roswell, New Mexico. The US army came to investigate and collect the debris. The USAF then released a statement by Major Quantanilla that they had recovered a ‘flying disc’. This story was then changed the next day, or a few days later, to a tale that they had in fact recovered a weather balloon, with Quantanilla shown holding up its foil remains. That, more or less, is what is known for sure. However, local people continued to believe very strongly that an alien space vehicle had crashed near their town. In 1980 Charles Berlitz and another researcher published a book claiming that this was the true. This was followed by even more books claiming that not only had a UFO crashed, but alien bodies had been recovered and removed to Wright-Patterson AFB for analysis and dissection. There was also one alien survivor, who was also taken by the Air Force. This in turn spawned the infamous Alien autopsy hoax video created by pop producer Ray Santilli and shown around the world. Which in turn inspired the British SF comedy, Alien Autopsy, starring those lovable funsters Ant and Dec, now appearing on Britain’s Got Talent.

Since then there have been a number of theories and highly dubious claims about what really happened at Roswell. And one of these stories is extremely nasty, and, in my view, grossly offensive. It’s that the crash was a deliberate fake, using children or handicapped adults, who had been experimented upon by Nazi, Japanese, Russian and American scientists, as part of a Cold War plot.

Annie Jacobsen and the Joe Rogan Experience

A few days ago I discovered this video from the Joe Rogan Experience, put up on YouTube on 18th May 2019. In it, Rogan, the host, talks to the journo Annie Jacobsen, about the claims in her new book that American scientists working for the military surgically altered children to look like aliens as part of a Cold War campaign of disinformation against the Soviets. The Russians had supposedly tried to fake a UFO encounter using children mutilated by the Nazis, and the Americans were experimenting to see how the Russians did it.

Rogan’s sceptical about the whole tale. He states that he knows people in the armed forces, and they will spin stories to get people going. And I share Rogan’s scepticism. This seems to be simply the latest version of a series of claims that the crash was faked using children operated upon by the Nazis, Japanese and Russians.

Redfern’s Account of the Russian Hoax Landing

A few days ago the Magonia website published my review of Nick Redfern’s Flying Saucers from the Kremlin: UFOs, Russian Meddling, Soviet Spies & Cold War Secrets. In it, Redfern discusses similar claims made by Jacobsen in an earlier book, published in 2011, Area 51. Based on information supplied by an anonymous informant, she claims that the Roswell Crash was a failed attempt to fake a UFO landing by the-then dictator of the USSR, Joe Stalin. The flying saucer was based on the tailless aircraft designed by the Nazi aeroengineers, the Horten brothers. The aliens were really children surgically altered by the Nazi doctor and war criminal, Josef Mengele. The mysterious hieroglyphs seen on some of the saucer remains was really Cyrillic, the Russian alphabet. Jacobsen doesn’t name her source, but another investigator, Tony Bragaglia, claims that he was Alfred O’Donnell, an elite engineer from EG&G, the leading designer and contractor of federal classified facilities in the US. Redfern then states that he was told practically the same story from a former employee of Area 51, which he published in his 2010 book, The NASA Conspiracies. This source claimed that physically altered people had been flown from Russia to the US aboard a bizarre-looking aircraft in order to convince Americans that their country was being invaded by aliens.

Redfern and Japanese Human Experiments at Roswell

In an earlier version of this tale, also published by Redfern five years earlier, the object that crashed at Roswell was a massive balloon based on Japanese technology, which carried a manned glider. This contained a pilot, and a group of handicapped Japanese. Suffering from diseases such as dwarfism and progeria – rapid aging – they had been brought to the US from the Japanese Unit 731, the infamous Japanese military unit responsible for experiments on humans. These experiments were every bit as sick and horrific as Mengele’s and the Nazis’. A little while ago one of the Horror blogs reviewed a film someone had made about the Unit’s atrocities in Japanese-occupied China and Mongolia during the Second World War. The film claimed to be recreations of real experiments. From reading the review, I decided it was definitely one to miss. Apparently the victims of the Roswell and similar crashes were being used as guinea pigs to assess the effects of exposure to high altitude and radiation.

Redfern’s book, Body Snatchers in the Desert: the Horrible Truth at the Heart of the Roswell Story (Paraview Pocket Books 2005), was reviewed by Magonia in issue 89, August 2005. Their review concluded that it wasn’t a story that should be accepted or rejected out of hand, but was worth the attention of properly qualified reporters and investigators, and would gain in stature if someone, particularly outside Ufology, would come forward to corroborate it. Or if a whistleblower also came forward, and they brought with them evidence and documentation.

The Magonia article notes that there were unethical experiments conducted by the American state, like the MKUltra drug experiments and the infamous Tuskeegee syphilis experiments on Black sharecroppers. They also mention here the scandal of the British state sending ‘orphaned’ children to be used as slave labour in Canada and Australia. However these conspiracies are backed up by genuine evidence and documentation. But there’s none here. Only people walking up to Redfern at UFO conferences. Magonia says of this

Assuming that these people exist and are who they say they are, then the fact the people on two continents approach Redfern with more or less similar stories suggests either that rumours along these lines have been around for some time and are being ussed as the basis of stories, that the stories are to some degree at least true, or that Redfern is being set up by someone or other. 

My guess is that they’re either just rumours, which people are turning into stories, or that Redfern and Jacobsen have been set up.

The Problem of Age and Memory

In the above interview, Rogan does ask Jacobsen if the people telling her these tales weren’t lying. She replies that her informant was a 95 year-old man, who broke down crying in front of his wife of 65 years, because he was so ridden with guilt at his complicity in the atrocity. She asks him in turn how this could happen if the story wasn’t true.

The problem with this is the same that Magonia also pointed out affected the testimony of other witnesses to the supposed Roswell crash, people who believed they’d seen alien bodies. They were very elderly, sometimes quite frail, and the family of one man said that his mind and memory were prone to deceive him. It’s quite possible that this has happened here and that the whole story is a confabulation by a man, who is clearly upset and disturbed about something in his career, but whose mind has constructed a false story about why. On the other hand, it could also very well be that this entire story is simply malign twaddle dreamed up by someone. It could be the government trying to hide a genuine mystery, or it could simply be private citizens laughing at the gullibility of the public, who have somehow pulled this bloke into their fantasies.

The Weekly World News and the Nazi Saucer Myth

These tales also seem to resemble and draw on a version of the Nazi saucer myth published in the Weekly World News on 27th January 1981. The Weekly World News was an American supermarket tabloid newspaper, and gave us such brilliant investigative reports such as ‘Mom was bigfoot, says beastie man’. This reported the claim of Olav Meyer, a German geologist living in Seville, Spain, that the UFOs were developed by the Nazis, but not actually used because Hitler preferred the V2. The article claimed that this had been corroborated by another journalist and investigator, Christof Friedrich, of Toronto. According to Friedrich, the Germans were working on flying saucers, but were unable to develop them because of a shortage of raw materials. Friedrich also said that he had learned from Major Donald Keyhoe that the Americans had seen troops into Germany to recover the saucer scientists, but that they had escaped to Russia instead. Both Meyer and Friedrich cited a book, published in the 1950s by Rudolph Lazar, which supposedly showed the Nazis were developing flying saucers.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=1O8DAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Lazar’s book is notorious. Although the WWN article claims that Lazar was a scientist, he was really a former German army officer. His book was about supposed German super weapons developed during the War, which included flying saucers. It’s one of the major sources for the Nazi saucer myth, which returned once again to haunt Ufology back in the 1990s. Apart from ordinary people, who have been taken by this rubbish, the myth seems to be pushed by Nazis trying to create some kind of spurious glamour about the Third Reich. As it developed, the Nazi saucer squadron was supposed to have escaped the allies, establishing a secret base out in the Canadian arctic. They then moved down to Antarctica, which is why the Americans also have a base down there. The video UFO Secrets of the Third Reich, produced by Royal Atlantis Films in the 1990s, also claimed that they were built following instructions channelled through a medium from an alien civilisation around the star Aldebaran. The Nazi saucer myth also formed the basis for the SF comedy, The Iron Sky, in which a female American president, who resembles Sarah Palin, starts a war with a Nazi colony on the Moon. Magonia published a series of articles attacking the Nazi saucer myth. Kevin McClure, a long-time investigator of the paranormal, also published a very well researched piece very effectively demolishing it.

I find the Nazi saucer myth vile and distasteful, if not dangerous for the way it seeks to promote and glamorize the Nazis. And the stories of maimed and disfigured people used to impersonate aliens seems to me to be a kind of blasphemy against the real victims of Nazi and Japanese experimentation.

I have no idea whether these stories are some kind of government/ state disinformation campaign, or simply private hoaxers. But I don’t doubt for a single minute that they’re lies that should be discarded. Until someone involved comes forward bringing real evidence and supporting documents, at least.

Backlash against the Queen for Allowing Johnson Dictatorship

August 29, 2019

Mike’s also put up today a piece about the rising resentment towards the Queen for agreeing to Johnson’s demand to prorogue parliament. The Queen, as our hereditary monarch, is unelected. Boris Johnson is unelected: he was installed by a clique, that happened to form a majority in the Tory party at the time. The Tories are a minuscule part of the British people, and aren’t even the largest political party anymore. They’ve been massively eclipsed by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. The only people in this sordid affair, who did have a democratic mandate were our MPs. They have been elected by us, and it is to prevent them continuing to represent the will of their constituents and block Johnson’s no deal Brexit, that the Blonde Beast sought the Queen’s permission to rule without parliament for a set period. He has thus demonstrated his contempt for parliament. And arguably, so has the Queen.

Mike states that the monarchy is now desperately trying to backpeddle from this mess. Nicholas Witchell, the Beeb’s royal correspondent, has said that she has never refused to accept the advice of her ministers, and always follows precedent. Mike also quotes the oleaginous hominid stick insect, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who asked the Queen to do this on BoJob’s behalf, as saying that the Queen now feels ‘Boxed in’. Rees-Mogg said

“She and her advisors, I have little doubt, will be frankly resentful of the way this has been done and will be concerned at the headlines which say ‘Queen suspends Parliament.”

Mike comments

Rightly so – because, as current slang has it, the optics are terrible.

People are saying democracy has been denied by an unelected monarch acting on the wish of an unelected prime minister.

And they know she could have stopped him.

He then follows this with a selection of comments from twitter. These are by the QC Chris Daw, the comedian Nish Kumar, the Labour and Co-op MP for Edmonton, Kate Osamor, and ordinary people like Isobel and Lin#CorbynOutrider.

Chris Daw in his tweet states that the first thing they teach at law school is that it is the Queen in parliament, who is sovereign.

Not the Government, not the Prime Minister, and no, not the public via a referendum.

What has happened today rips up centuries of stable government.

It’s an outrage.

This relationship between crown and parliament has been at the heart of the British constitution since at least the days of Queen Elizabeth. It was set down in the 17th century in the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, although this codifies the constitutional view of earlier generations. It is this relationship which has prevented Britain from becoming an absolute, autocratic monarchy, as happened in France.

Isobel’s tweets express the anger and bewilderment of no doubt all too many other Brits, who wonder why the Queen has allowed this to happen. They now see her as rich, remote and isolated from the poverty the Tories have inflicted, content to see the country reduced to a mess. She tweeted

If she is resentful why did she allow it to happen? she knew it would cause a constitutional crisis whilst she carries on with her holiday in Balmoral the country is falling apart because SHE said YES.. she has lost any credibility she hAD she is happy to see UK in a mess.

perhaps the Queen+her family would like to go and live in a Tory Container for the Homeless, shall we demand the Royal Gravy train is cut off – when Boris gives Buck house to Trump.. he will do anything for the fool will she be happy in a Container like the homeless have to be?

I’ll give the Queen the benefit of the doubt here. I really don’t think that she thought that she did have a choice, as Johnson is the leader of the government. But she could have withheld her consent. This reminds me of the time the Australian Tories petitioned he in the ’70s to get rid of the-then Aussie Prime Minister, Gough ‘Wocker’ Whitlam. Because Whitlam was a Labour MP, and was doing too much to empower the working men and women, who have built that great Pacific nation. One of the priests at my local church is rather left-wing, and spent several years out in Oz, working with the poor, homeless and marginalised, including the indigenous people. He said to me one day that he wondered how long it would be, if Corbyn got in, before the Tories petitioned her to do to him what they did to Whitlam. By this example, not long. Not long at all.

Lin#CorbynOutrider tweeted that the Queen didn’t care less until she saw #abolishthe monarchy trending.

Mike concludes

That’s the nub of the matter, isn’t it?

And when this crisis is all over, with Dictator Johnson and his cronies banished to the waste-bin of history, it seems likely the people will want to seek assurances that this can never happen again.

We will need checks and balances to ensure that no unelected head of state can ever again deny us our right to representation.

It seems that, with a few penstrokes, the Queen may have put an end to the British Royalty.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/29/abolishthemonarchy-backlash-against-queen-for-meekly-rubber-stamping-johnsons-parliamentary-shutdown/

Mike’s article was based on a piece in the garden. But the I also published a similar piece about how there was now a backlash against the monarchy. Not just from this, but also from Andrew’s relationship with convicted paedophile Epstein.

The Tories under Cameron and Johnson are wrecking this country. They are actively causing the break up of the UK and riding roughshod over the British unwritten constitution, for their own selfish, personal and party interest. And they and their Yellow enablers in the Lib Dems dare to claim that Corbyn is a threat!

Fascism’s Advocacy of Privatisation and Financial Retrenchment

August 15, 2019

I’ve posted a number of blogs about the way some Conservative propagandists have tried to discredit socialism by claiming that Fascism was a form of it. The argument here is that Fascism advocated the state planning and management of the economy like state socialism, and so therefore must similarly be a form of socialism. For the Libertarians, any state intervention in the economy or industry is automatically attacked as socialism. They demand instead complete free trade and the reduction of the state to an absolute minimum, based on their ideas of 19th century laissez-faire economics. For them, any economic system that is not based on complete free trade and unregulated private industry is socialism, not capitalism. Left-wing commenters, on the other hand, have argued very clearly that this is a very unrealistic idea of capitalism, which has never existed in reality. Mussolini did indeed begin his career as a radical socialist, and Fascism itself emerged from Italian anarcho-syndicalism after the First World War.  However, Mussolini broke with the socialists and forces of the Italian left, to embrace capitalism and the parties and organisations of the right. The Fascists were supported by the rich landowners and the industrialists in their attacks on socialism, trade unions, and the peasant organisations. They were invited into the Italian parliament to join a coalition of right-wing Liberals and eventually merged with the Italian Nationalists. They also rejected, at least initially, state intervention in industry. In government, Mussolini stated that Fascism stood for the economics of the Manchester School, that is, absolute free enterprise.

The Fascists’ Conservative economic stance is clearly seen in their 1921 Party programme. This demanded a system of cuts to uneconomic businesses and public works projects that is very similar to the policy taken towards them by right-wing governments, including New Labour, ever since Margaret Thatcher. And it also declared its support for private industry against state control. In the section ‘Cornerstones of Fiscal Policy and Policies for National Economic Reconstruction’ are the following clauses

  1. Balancing state and local budgets (when necessary) by means of rigorous cutbacks to all parasitic or redundant entities and via reductions in expenditures neither crucial to the well-being of the beneficiaries nor justified by more general objectives.
  2. Decentralisation of the public administration so as to simplify the delibery of services and to streamline our bureaucracy, without falling into the trap of regionalism (which we firmly oppose).
  3. Shielding the taxpayers’ money from misuse by means of the abolition of all state or local government concessions and subventions to consortia, cooperatives, factories, special clienteles, and other entities similarly incapable of surviving on their own and not indispensable to the nation.

….

6. Cessation of policies favoring public works projects that are botched, undertaken for electoral reasons, or supposedly to insure law and order, projects that are unprofitable because of the irregular and fragmentary way in which they are distributed.

….

8. Return to private sector of industries that the state has managed poorly, in particular the telephone system and the railroads. Regarding the latter, competition needs to be enhanced between the major lines, which need, in turn, to be managed differentially with respect to regional and local lines.

9. Abolition of the state monopoly on postal and telegraphic communications so that private enterprise may supplement and eventually replace the state-run service.

The subsequent section, ‘Cornerstones of Social Policy’, begins with a statement of the importance of private property and industry as the fundamental basis of Fascist economic and social policy. This runs

Fascism recognises the social function of private property. At once a right and a duty, private property is the form of management that society has traditionally granted individuals so that they may increase the overall patrimony.

In its opposition to socialist projects for reconstruction that rely upon a dogmatically collectivist model of economics, the National Fascist Party has its feet firmly planted in the soil of our historical and national reality. This reality does not allow for a single type of agricultural or industrial economy. The party, accordingly, supports any and every solution, be it individualistic or any other kind, that will guarantee the maximum level of production and well-being.

The National Fascist Party advocates a regime that would strive to increase our national wealth by unleashing individual enterprises and energies – the most powerful and industrious factor in economic production – and by abolishing, once and for all, the rusty, costly, and unproductive machinery of state-, society -, and municipality-based control. The party thus supports all efforts to enhance Italy’s productivity and to eliminate forms of individual and group parasitism. 

see Jeffrey T. Schnapp, ed., A Primer of Italian Fascism (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press 2000), 14-15.

Now the Fascist programme did contain elements of Socialism, such as the demands for an eight hour working day, and later in Mussolini’s regime the state ended up owning a sizable part of the Italian economy as it was forced to buy up failing corporations. But even if the regime was forced to go back on its stated policy of allowing failing companies to go to the wall, it still strongly supported private enterprise although subject to considerable state intervention.

It’s very clear from this that, at least at that stage, Fascist economic policy was very similar to the free enterprise economics of Thatcher and Reagan. There’s also a further similarity, in that contemporary politics in both America and Britain is also corporatist. The Italian Fascist economy was supposed to be run by a ‘Chamber of Corporations and Fasces’ in which both representatives of management and the trade unions sat together. In practice the trade unions were strictly controlled by the Fascist state, with the management and proprietors enjoying a far greater degree of freedom. Contemporary Britain and America has a form of corporativism, in that very members of Congress in the US and parliament in Britain are proprietors or senior management of private firms. The parties also receive substantial funding from private corporations, with the result that government policy is framed to benefit private corporate interests, rather than working people.

Unlike Mussolini’s later regime, however, the current right-wing governments haven’t worked out that free trade and an economy based on untrammeled, absolute private industry doesn’t work either. They’re what the Australian economist John Quiggin has described as ‘zombie economics’, because the ideas are dead and should have been discarded long ago, but are still haunting us.

Conservative propagandists are therefore completely wrong. Fascism was pro-capitalist, and supported private enterprise, despite the movement’s left-wing origins and Mussolini’s attempt to return to socialism during the brief period of the Nazi-supported Salo Republic. It is very similar to today’s Conservativism rather than socialism, although the Republicans and Tories haven’t outlawed rival political parties nor tried to replace parliament or congress with a personal dictatorship and corporativist chamber. But Boris Johnson over here and Donald Trump across the pond are sounding more Fascist day by day, as BoJob’s splenetic attack on British MPs ‘collaborating’ with the EU shows.