Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Does Tracy Anne Oberman Really Believe She Isn’t White?

March 1, 2021

Tony Greenstein’s latest piece and reposting of an article by mixed-race Black British author discussing institutional anti-Black racism in Israel also raises a few awkward questions about one of the Israeli’s states staunchest defenders, the actor and broadcaster Tracy Anne Oberman. Oberman appears as a passionate opponent of anti-Semitism, but like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and her friend, Rachel Riley, it appears that the anti-Semitism she is most determined to root out is simply criticism of Israel and its abominable maltreatment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Hence her determined attacks on Twitter and elsewhere with supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and the socialist left in the Labour party as a whole.

Back in 2019 she got into a Twitter spat with the awesome Ash Sarkar of Novara Media, whom she also accused of anti-Semitism. Sarkar is Asian, and so responded by pointing out that she was Black woman being abused by a White woman who was a favourite of the blue tick brigade. Oberman responded by stating that she was as White as Sarkar. This is quite a claim, as Oberman at least in her photos very definitely has White skin and light brown or blonde hair. Sarkar, on the other hand, has the rich brown colouring of many people of South Asian descent. Of course, Oberman wasn’t saying she wasn’t physically White, but that she wasn’t considered as such by White supremacists like the Klan, the Nazis and the various other Fascist parties. Sarkar ably rebutted this by stating that she was very away of the racist persecution of the Jews.

But Jews weren’t always considered to be non-Whites. Ludwig Blumenbach, the 19th century German scientist responsible for modern racial classification, placed Jews among the Caucasian race. He believed they had some ‘negro’ features, and so considered them the ‘negroes’ of the White race. He was almost certainly speaking about European Jews, rather than the non-White Jewish communities of Africa, India and even China. I think most, severely normal Americans and European would consider Jews of traditional European origin to be White. The only people who don’t are Nazis and Fascists, who are wrong as well as monstrously vile. Nevertheless because of their similar histories of persecution, many Jewish Americans joined forced with Black to attack segregation and racial injustice in America.

Oberman clearly believed she had a right to claim to be non-White based on this common persecution by White supremacists. But Greenstein’s and Lewis’ articles, as well as Abbie Martin’s coverage of the issue for The Empire Files, shows that Israeli society is also marred by deep anti-Black racism.

This casts real doubt on Oberman’s ability to draw on her people’s persecution by White supremacists to claim that she is somehow not White, when the country she passionately supports and whose critics she tries to silence permits and legitimises systematic, institutional racism against Black Jews.

For further information, see: Zelo Street: Tracy Ann Oberman Crosses The Line (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Diane Abbott on Supporting the Teachers against a Premature Lifting of the Schools Lockdown

February 27, 2021

The much maligned MP Diane Abbott has written a piece for Labour Outlook discussing the effectiveness of the vaccines and the continuing death toll from Covid 19. While the vaccines are a great success, they are not going to end this disease on their own. Other measures are needed. Schools are important vector for the disease, which is why Abbott supports the teachers against the government in maintaining that the schools lockdown should not be lifted too soon.

Abbott writes

Only a safe reopening is in all our interests. Support the teachers, head teachers & school workers against the Tories – Diane Abbott MP Exclusive

“The government is currently refusing to budge.  But we know this is a government which can be forced to U-turn.”

Diane Abbott MP.

Diane Abbott MP

Life in Britain, including political life is once more dominated by the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the government’s failures to halt it. 

On February 22nd the government published a ‘roadmap’ out of the lockdown we have all had to endure.  This lockdown, our third, is actually longer than many countries’ sole lockdown.  The countries that have successfully suppressed the virus include Australia, China, New Zealand, Thailand and Viet Nam all achieved that by having a both a much stricter, shorter regime and by having an effective system of testing, tracing and properly supported isolation. The government still does not have any of those in place.

So, the roadmap is itself seriously, potentially fatally flawed.  Just as the government was outlining its plans there were two other important pieces of news.  The first was that the average of new daily cases is over 11,000 and the average for new deaths is almost 500 per day.  There is a possibility that new cases will be as high coming out of this lockdown as they were at the peak of the first wave in April, 5,000 a day or more.

The second news item was that the minutes of the most recent SAGE meeting were publicised.  SAGE emphasised that it had “previously advised that the opening and closing of schools is likely to have an impact on transmission and R, and that policymakers need to consider the balance of risks and harms. The opening of primary and secondary schools is likely to increase effective R by a factor of 1.1 to 1.5 (10% to 50%) (medium confidence)”.

There are two risks from a premature relaxation of lockdown led by reopening of the schools.  The first is that, exactly as SAGE says, transmission and infection rates will go into reverse, having fallen from late January after lockdown was imposed.  The second risk is that, in the absence of a suppression strategy, the virus will freely circulate and then mutate once more into even more deadly strains.  Again, this is a risk identified with current policy by SAGE itself. The government has clearly ignored this advice.

SAGE also emphasises the global nature of this pandemic, which is important for the whole world, including this country. “Aside from the significant human and social costs around the world, ongoing transmission in other countries would continue to pose a threat to UK health even if the epidemic were under control in this country and a high proportion of the population were vaccinated”. 

Yet the epidemic here is clearly not under control, and only a minority of the population has received even a single jab.  Public Health England (PHE) has assessed the efficacy of single jabs and the recommended double-dose. PHE found that protection from a single jab rose after a number of weeks to just under 60%.  But the protection after just a few days for a second jab was around 96%.  These are great outcomes. 

Yet contrary to government ministers, there is no suggestion in the minutes that vaccines are or can be a magic bullet.  Two-fifths of all those receiving a single jab have no protection from the virus.  But they are all encouraged to believe and to act as if they have full protection. Once again the Government is not being straight with the public and is taking another gamble with public health.  

The crunch point ahead is the government plan to reopen all the schools in a ‘big bang’ on March 8th.  This flies in the face of its own expert advice, the policy of the administrations in the rest of the country, and our own bitter experience about the spread of the virus after schools reopened last September.

I would urge everyone to read and support the joint statement from nine unions in response to the government’s plans.  They describe those plans as reckless, and argue instead for a phased return to schools, with rotas, ‘blended learning’ and a number of simple but effective safety measures. 

The government is currently refusing to budge.  But we know this is a government which can be forced to U-turn. Unions showed that over the Chancellor’s plans to cut furlough pay to two-thirds of wages, and both Marcus Rashford and Jo Whiley can testify to it over free school meals and vaccines for the learning disabled respectively.

The key issue now is the unity of all those demanding a different course of action from the government in applying the maximum amount of pressure on this issue.  Those who work in schools care about themselves, their own loved ones and the pupils we entrust to them.  But in opposing a reckless reopening of schools now they are acting in all our interests.  They deserve our full support.

…………

I realise that Abbott is hugely controversial and much reviled. About half of the abusive messages received by women MPs are actually directed at her. And the Tories have been trying to make her out to be stupid ever since she made a mistake about budget estimates a few years ago. Senior Tories have also made similar mistakes, but this is ignored and they are lauded as if they are mighty intellectuals. As this piece shows, Abbott is anything but stupid and she is exactly right to back the teachers. Contrary to what the Tories are shouting about teachers being lazy, they are not. Our mother was a primary school teacher for very many years, and I know exactly how hard they work. Most teachers I’m sure would love to be back in class, in front of blackboard, actually teaching. But they are also vulnerable to Covid-19 themselves and aware of the role contact in schools can play in its transmission. Children may not suffer particularly from it themselves, but they are able to spread it to adults, some of whom may be extremely vulnerable.

Abbott is right to urge for a cautious, phased reopening of schools and support our front line teaching staff. It’s what Starmer should have done from the start, but didn’t because he was too intent on chasing Tory votes.

See: Only a safe reopening is in all our interests. Support the teachers, head teachers & school workers against the Tories – Diane Abbott MP Exclusive – Labour Outlook

BLM Activist Calls for Dictionary to Redefine Racism

January 13, 2021

Here’s something far more controversial after some of the posts I’ve put up recently. A few days ago, the writer and Youtuber Simon Webb put up on his channel, History Debunked, a piece about a worrying attempt by a young Black American woman, Kennedy Mitchum to change the definition of racism in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Webb states that most people would say that racism means racial prejudice, or that there are more profound differences between racial groups than their skin colour and physical appearance. The Merriam-Webster dictionary currently defines racism as

  1. A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
  2. A doctrine or political programme based on racism and designed to execute its policies.
  3. Racial prejudice or discrimination.

This wasn’t good enough for Mitchum. Three days after the death of George Floyd, with riots breaking out across America, she emailed the publisher calling for the definition to be changed in accordance with Critical Race Theory. This holds that racism is due to the imbalance of power in society, and implemented by the dominant racial group. Instead of telling Mitchum where to stick her suggestion, as Webb himself would have done, the publishers responded to her, telling her that this issue needed to be addressed sooner rather than later and that a revision would be made. Peter Sokolofsky, one of the dictionary’s editors, stated that the second definition would be expanded to be even more explicit in its next edition, and would include systemic oppression as well as sample sentence, and would be formulated in consultation with academics in Black Studies.

Webb points out that if this is done, then it would redefine racism as something that only Whites do, and absolve people of colour of any responsibility for it on their part, or indeed see them as being racist at all, because Whites are the dominant race in Britain and America. This is, he claims, the attitude of many liberals and leftists, who believe that all White people are racist. It would also mean that Blacks, who hated Jews or Indians, would not be viewed as racist. He has personally seen such racism in the Caribbean street robbers of Hackney. They hated Orthodox Jews and used to go to Stamford Bridge to prey on the Jewish community there. He ends the video by stating that such a redefinition of racism would mean that all Whites in Britain and America are defined as racist but no other ethnic groups.

Changing the dictionary definition of racism – YouTube

There certainly is an attitude amongst some anti-racist activists that only White people can be racist and are never the victims. Way back in October 2019 Sargon of Akkad, the man who broke UKIP, put up a post commenting on a report in the Guardian about complaints about an EHRC investigation into racism at Britain’s universities by a group of Black and Asian academics and students. The group, which included Heidi Mirza, the visiting professor of race, faith and culture and Goldsmiths College, University of London, Fope Olaleye, the NUS’ Black students’ officer, Gargi Bhattacharyya, professor of sociology at the University of East London, and Zubaida Haque, the deputy director of the racial equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, were outraged at the Commission because it dared to include anti-White, anti-English racism. This, they seemed to believe, detracted from the Commission’s true purpose, which was to combat White racism against Blacks and Asians.

Students of Colour Furious that Anti-White Prejudice is Considered to be Racism – YouTube

I’ve posted a number of pieces criticising the lack of attention and action against anti-White racism. At the moment the attitude that racism is something that only Whites are guilty of racism seems extremely prevalent. In fact, the situation regarding racial prejudice, abuse and violence is far more complex. About 20 years ago, before 9/11 and the subsequent massive rise in Islamophobia, Whites briefly formed the largest number of victims of racial abuse and violence. There are also tensions and conflict between different non-White minorities. In the 1980s or ’90s there was a riot in Birmingham, not between Blacks and Whites, but between Blacks and Asians. I’ve also heard that in one of the schools in Bristol in one of the very racially mixed areas, most of the playground fights were between different groups of Asians. Some people were aware that different ethnic groups also had their racial prejudices. Boy George mentioned it when he appeared on Max Headroom’s chat show on British TV in the 1980s, for which he was praised for his brave outspokenness by the world’s first computer generated video jockey.

There is, however, a real reluctance to tackle ethnic minority racism. A couple of years ago an Asian man told Diane Abbott that there should be more action on the racism members of ethnic minorities experienced at the hands of other non-Whites. Abbott told him she wasn’t going to do anything about it, because the Tories would use it to divide and rule. Like Kennedy Mitchum and the Critical Race Theorists, as well as the critics of the EHRC, she was solely focussed on tackling White racism.

That focus, in my opinion, explains why the Black comedian and anti-racist activist, Sophie Duker, felt she could get away with a joke about killing Whitey on Frankie Boyle’s podcast. Boyle had assembled a panel of mainly Black and Asian activists, to discuss the topic of how ethnic minorities were coming together to kill Whitey. Duker had made comments about racism being the product of an ideology of Whiteness, which was harming Blacks and Whites. She then said that they didn’t want to kill Whitey, before adding ‘we do really’. She was clearly joking, but her comment resulted in the corporation receiving 200 complaints. According to right-wing internet radio host and Youtuber, Alex Belfield, the Beeb is now being investigated by the Greater Manchester Police for what is described as a ‘hate incident’. His attitude is that while Duker’s comment was a joke, it should be unacceptable, just as making jokes about killing Blacks is unacceptable. See, for example, his piece ‘Reply BBC ‘Whitey’ Joker STAGGERING From Unapologetic Hate Lady Comedian’, which he put up on Youtube on the 8th January 2021. No, I’m not going to link to it. Even I have standards! I think one of the reasons she felt she could make the joke is because she and the other activists concentrate exclusively on White racism. Anti-White racism simply isn’t an issue with them. But anti-White racism, abuse and violence does occur, hence the angry complaints.

We really do need a study of anti-White racism and racism amongst ethnic minorities. Sir Alan Burns, a British colonial civil servant and former governor of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, discusses Black prejudice against Whites and other racial groups in his book, Colour Prejudice, published in 1948. Nigel Barley also discusses the blind spot Cameroonians had towards their own racism, as well as that of a Black American ethnologist in his The Innocent Anthropologist. The Black American was very racially aware. An idealist, he was inspired by notions of Black brotherhood and wished to live and be treated by the local people the same as one of them. He was shocked when they continued to regard him as they would White westerners, and failed to see how the Fulani traders rigged the local markets to exclude those from other tribes. As for the Camerounians generally, they commonly believed that only Whites were racist. Barley describes how they excused the massacre of French nuns in the Congo by the claim that the nuns were themselves racists. But they refused to recognise that their own hatred and contempt of the people he was studying, the Dowayo, was also racist.

Some Asian nations also have a reputation for racism. Back in the 1990s I found a book on Chinese xenophobia on sale in Waterstones in Bath. I’ve also read various books on Japan, which have also described how racist Japanese society is. I don’t know if it is still true, but one could only qualify as a Japanese citizen if both parents were Japanese. This meant that there was a sizable Korean community, who had lived in the country for generations, which had no civil rights under the law. In schools there was a strong suspicion of outsiders, so it has been claimed, which resulted in foreign students being segregated in separate classes. This is on the grounds that their Japanese language skills may not be good enough for inclusion with the rest of the pupils, but it is applied even to children who are fluent in the language. Outside Japan, expatriate or visiting Japanese will stick almost exclusively to themselves. Back in the 1990s there was a controversy in Australia, I believe, over the construction of a luxury resort there by the Japanese, because it was exclusively for Japanese and no-one else. I don’t mean by this to claim that all Japanese are racist. I’ve met people, who lived in Japan, who admire them and who told me that in their experience they were a very kind people. The travel writer and historian William Dalrymple also describes the anti-Black racism he encountered in India in his book, In Xanadu. Arriving at a railway station with a friend, a Black American soldier, he approached a group of Indian porters, only to see them turn away, sneering at the Black American simply for being Black. Again, I don’t wish to imply that all Indians are racist either.

Racism and racial prejudice exists amongst all peoples and ethnic groups to a greater or lesser degree, even in this country. It is about time that there were proper academic studies of it amongst non-White ethnic groups and anti-White racism in this country. At the moment there is a feeling amongst Whites that only White on Black racism is taken seriously, and that prejudice against Whites is not only acceptable, but being fostered by supposed anti-racist activists.

If the authorities are serious about tackling racism, and all forms of it, that needs to change.

Trump and the Spectre of Mussolini

January 7, 2021

The big news today has been last night’s attack on the Capitol by Trump’s supporters. They had been fired up to make the assault by Trump’s continued insistence that he is the real winner of the election, but it has been stolen from him by vote-rigging from the Democrats. As Mike himself has pointed out, Trump himself has not been averse to trying to do this himself. Earlier this week it was revealed that Trump had tried to persuade Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, to find one more vote for him in the state more than those cast for Joe Biden. And a week or so ago it was also reported that he had also been considering calling in the army in order to defend his presidency. If he had done so, it would have been a coup attempt.

Microsoft News in a piece they published today about the attack state that among the mob were members of various far right groups, such as the Proud Boys, the Nationalist Social Club and supporters of the Qanon conspiracy theory. This is the bizarre belief that Trump has been secretly fighting a war against an evil covert group determined to take over and subvert America. Last night there had been various messages posted on right-wing websites urging ‘Revolution’ and ‘Civil War’. World leaders have expressed their disgust and condemnation of the attack, though as Mike also points out, there has been no condemnation of Trump himself from Boris or Priti Patel. The attack is ominous, as it shows just how fragile American democracy is.

Indeed. Way back in the 1990s there were fears of a similar attack with the emergence of militia movement. These are right-wing paramilitary organisations founded by people, who really believe that America is in danger of being taken over by the extreme left, or the forces of globalism and the one world Satanic conspiracy or whatever. Many of them were explicitly racist with the connections to the neo-Nazi right. At one point a woman claiming to be a senior officer in the movement appeared online urging the various militias to unite and march on Washington. Her call was ignored, largely, I think, because the other militia leaders didn’t trust her and were extremely suspicious of her motives. I got the distinct impression that they suspected her of being an agent provocateur and that the march was some kind of trap by the federal government. There was no armed paramilitary march, and so America dodged a coup attempt, or whatever it was, that time.

But the attack is also reminiscent of an assault on government even further back, almost one hundred years ago. This was the infamous ‘March on Rome’ of Mussolini’s Fascists. This succeeded in getting him appointed as the new Prime Minister by the Italian king, Emmanuel II, and began the process which saw him overturning Italian democracy to forge the Fascist one-party state and his personal dictatorship. Of course, for such coups to be successful, the armed forces, capital and the civil service must be willing to collaborate with the insurgents. Mussolini had the support of Italian industry and the big landowners, as he offered to protect capitalism from the forces of revolutionary socialism. The Fascists also included a number of ex-servicemen, the squadristi, and they had considerable support within the regular Italian armed forces. However, the head of the Italian police had absolute contempt for the Fascists and offered to defend the Italian government from the Fascists. But the king turned him down, and caved in to the future Duce.

There are similarities to last night’s events. Many right-wing Americans do seem to fear that Communism and anarchy are somehow about to overrun America with the violence of some of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in America and the supposed ‘cultural Marxists’ that have allegedly taken over the American educational system. And the fears that there really is a secret conspiracy to overthrow American democracy and enslave its citizens has been around for decades. Bizarre conspiracy theories appeared in the 1970s about the Bilderberg group and the Trilateral Commission, claiming that these groups really ran the world. Then in the 1990s George Bush senior’s statement that he was going to create a ‘new world order’ prompted comparisons with the Nazis, as Hitler had also said the same about his regime. It was also linked to older conspiracy theories about the Freemasons because the Latin version of the phrase, ‘Novo Ordo Seculorum’, supposedly appears on American dollar bills along with various Masonic symbols. These theories claimed that America was being secretly run by a group of Masonic Satanists, who were planning turn America into a totalitarian, Communist state and send Christians to concentration camps. Even the collapse of Communism did not allay these fears. Many of those, who bought into these bizarre theories, thought that the collapse of the Soviet Union was all some kind of ruse. One variety of these myths claimed that the Russians had established secret military bases in Canada and Mexico, and at a given signal Soviet tanks would roll over the border into America. The 1990s were arguably the peak of such beliefs, as shown in the popularity of similar stories of covert government pacts with aliens from Zeta Reticuli and TV’s The X-Files. But such fears have certainly not gone away. There was a resurgence during Obama’s presidency, when America’s first Black president was accused by the bonkers elements on the American right of being a secret Muslim. or atheist. Or Communist. Or Nazi. Whatever, Obama was filled with rage against White Christians. One pair of pastors told the listeners of their church radio station that Obama was going to establish a dictatorship and would massacre even more people than Chairman Mao. Alex Jones was repeating and amplifying similar myths over on his internet radio and TV station. He claimed that Obama was going to invoke emergency legislation under the pretext of impending environmental disaster to force ordinary Americans into refugee camps. Militant feminists and gays were part of this conspiracy, in which humanity was to be transformed into a race of genderless cyborgs. Jones lost a considerable part of his audience when he was banned from various social media platforms thanks to his claims that a Boston pizza parlour was really a front for supplying children to be abused by members of the Democratic party and that several high school shootings had really been faked to provoke popular support for gun control laws. This caused real distress to the bereaved parents, who were accused of being ‘crisis actors’. Jones has nearly vanished from the public stage, though he still appears here and there. Even when he had an audience, many people still regarded him as a joke. But it looks like the conspiracy theories Jones promoted, and the underlying distrust of the government, still have a powerful hold on many Americans.

Fortunately, yesterday was different from 1920s Italy. America’s military has so far shown no interest in coming to Trump’s aid and overthrowing democracy. Black Lives Matter is extremely unpopular in certain areas, but the police, security forces and private industry aren’t backing armed paramilitary units to defend capitalism. American democracy is being shaken and tested, but so far it hasn’t cracked. The problem is, it’s not clear how long this will last. By calling for people to storm the capitol, Trump has struck a blow against democracy. He’s been unsuccessful, but this might inspire a future president with the same inclinations to try again. And they might be more successful.

And we’re not safe from such assaults over here. Mike in his article has warned that the Tories appear to be taking notes from Trump, while Zelo Street points out that the same people, who backed Trump also back the Tories and Brexit over here. He concludes with a warning of who the Brexiteers will blame when it all finally goes bad:

Many Brexiteers believe it’ll be someone else’s fault – Remainers, ethnic minorities, foreign nationals, multinational corporations, those of insufficiently patriotic intent – when it all goes bad. It won’t be Bozo, Ms Patel, Gove, or Nigel “Thirsty” Farage they will be going after.

There is a real danger of America becoming, if not a dictatorship, then a very authoritarian, Fascistic state. And Britain following.

See also: Four dead after Trump provokes US Capitol riot – and the UK Tories are taking notes | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Trump Insurrection – Next Stop UK (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Radio 4 on the Lunar Eclipse at Christ’s Crucifixion

January 1, 2021

Radio 4 yesterday morning had a piece about eclipses, with the host, who sounded like Melvin Bragg, talking to a group of astronomers, one of whom was a lady solar astronomer. They talked about how exciting eclipses were, how they were inspired in childhood to study them, and how important eclipses were in astronomy. They mostly talked about solar eclipses and how they were originally believed to be a supernatural being eating the Sun. The earliest records of solar eclipses were kept by the ancient Chinese, who believed they were omens from the gods. The Babylonians, however, began to realise that they occurred regularly, and passed this knowledge on to the Greeks. Aristotle realised that the Earth must be circular from watching the Earth’s shadow fall across the Moon during lunar eclipses. The Earth’s shadow was circular, therefore, he reasooned, the Earth itself must also be circular. The astronomers also made the extremely important point that you should never look directly at the Sun. If you were looking at it, you should use special lenses to protect your eyes. Alternatively, you could poke holes through a piece of card to act as a pinhole camera, which would project the Sun’s image.

But what I found really interesting was what they said about eclipses possibly being responsible for the darkness that fell at noon when Christ was crucified. One of the astronomers said that it has been suggested that this darkness was caused by a solar eclipse. However, solar eclipses occur regularly, and there would have been no such eclipse at the time Christ is believed to have been crucified. However, there was an eclipse of the Moon on Friday, 6th April, 33 AD. Which sounds very much like the date of Our Lord’s passion. The astronomers and the host described this as ‘spooky’. It is. If you’re a Christian, it does make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It seems to corroborate somewhat the description of the events of Christ’s death in the Gospels, but it must be said that an eclipse of the Moon wouldn’t cause the darkness earlier in the day. Nevertheless, it does suggest a connection.

Will Johnson Quit or Be Forced Out, Once He Has Wrecked the Country For Brexit?

December 15, 2020

Also in Lobster 80 for Winter 2020 is a very interesting piece by Simon Matthews, whose observations about Johnson’s real motives for running for PM and supporting Brexit I discussed in my previous blog post. Matthews has a piece, ‘Time for the Pavilion (or: there are 365 Conservative MPs)’ pondering whether Johnson will either retire as PM or be forced out by angry members of his own party, once he has successfully ruined the country with a hard Brexit.

And Matthews makes some very interesting observations. Johnson’s majority looks impressive, but is actually very fragile. 50 Tory MPs, for example, voted against the imposition of the second national lockdown at the beginning of November. And many of the 80 new MPs forming the Tories’ parliamentary majority actually have very small majorities in their own constituencies. He writes

Secondly, and less remarked upon, Johnson’s majority of 80 is actually quite fragile. No fewer than 78 Conservative MPs have a majority of 5,000 or less, and of these 34 have a majority of 2,000 or less. Indeed,
all the fabled ‘red wall’ seats that Johnson gained are in this category. Any MP in this situation would be aware that it really wouldn’t take much of an electoral swing to oust them.

Also, although the background of the typical Tory MP is privately educated, with a background in the financial sector, think tanks and policy groups, and is strongly anti-EU, there are still 102 Tory MPs who support the European Union.

Finally, and a puzzling anomaly, there are still 102 Conservative MP’s who were pro-EU in 2016. Admittedly, some of these may have been so at that time because it was party policy (i.e. now party policy has changed,
their views will have changed, too); and there will be others who were ‘pro-EU’ on the basis of Cameron’s re-negotiation of 2015-2016. But, nevertheless, amongst those 102 there must be some (40? 50?) who would much rather the UK stayed as close to the EU as possible, including membership of the Single Market, Customs Union and the EEA rather than exit everything, in its entirety.

BoJob’s position is very precarious. If things get very desperate, and the Tory party does decide it wants to form a ‘government of national unity’ in a coalition with Labour and the Lib Dems, it would only take 45 Tory MPs to oust him.

The article then goes to discuss the problems Johnson faces from Brexit, and particularly the challenge it poses to the integrity of the UK, and opposition from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the EU and the Americans, and members of both chambers of parliament. He’s also got severe problems with the Covid crisis, and the havoc this and the consequent lockdown has played with the economy. The sacking of Dominic Cummings could be seen as a warning shot to Johnson from Brady and the party’s donors out in the tax havens, who feel they are being ignored by the PM. But he notes that the donors and corporate backers really don’t seem to have an idea of the massive damage that Brexit will inflict on the UK economy. It will destroy 60-65 per cent of UK manufacturing, and although stockpiling of food and other goods has been going on since 2017, these supplies can only last for so long. So that Britain will return to the food queues of the ’60s and ’70s at the borders.

He makes the point here that the majority of British ports are foreign owned. In footnote 7 he writes

The owners of the UK’s main trading ports are Associated British Ports (owned in Canada, Singapore and Kuwait), Forth Ports (Canada), Hutchison Port Holdings (Singapore), Peel Group (the Isle of Man and Saudi Arabia), PD Ports (Canada) and Peninsular and Oriental Group (complex, but seemingly Dubai, China and Hong Kong). The latter group include P&O Dover Holdings Ltd, which operates most of the ferry services out of Dover, and is owned by the Peoples Republic of China. (The other ferry services at Dover, DFDS, are owned in Denmark). The intention post-Brexit of declaring many UK ports ‘free ports’, when so many can be connected back to tax havens anyway, is striking, and one wonders to what extent the owners of these ports have lobbied for that outcome.

Matthews concludes that Boris is on such shaky grounds that he may well decide to jump before he’s pushed.

The truth is that Johnson can now be ambushed by so many different groupings for so many different reasons, that the chances of him remaining PM after he has delivered the hard Brexit his backers require
must be doubtful. And why would he anyway? He looks bored most of the time and wants money. Leaving Downing Street – and the cleaning up – to others, gives him time to spend with his many different families, time to write his memoirs for a hefty advance, the chance of a US TV show and time to kick on, as all ex-UK PMs do, with earning serious money on the US after-dinner speaking circuit. The possibility that some formula will be devised to facilitate his exit, possibly a supposed medical retirement, looks likely.

After all, he’s been sacked from every job he’s ever had. Why would he wait until he is sacked from this one?

See: Time For the Pavilion (Winter 2020) (lobster-magazine.co.uk)

I found this interesting in that it showed that there is grounds for optimism amongst the gloom. The Tories have a huge majority, but it’s fragile. Very fragile. If Starmer actually got his act together and started behaving like a leader of real opposition party, he could start cutting it down significantly. But he doesn’t, perhaps because, as a Blairite, the only policy he has is stealing the Tories’ and winning the support of their voters, and backers in big business and the Tory media. Hence his silence and his determination to persecute the socialists in the Labour party.

It also shows just how much damage the ‘No Deal’ Brexit Johnson seems determined to deliver will do to Britain. It’s going to wipe out nearly 2/3 of our manufacturing industry. This won’t matter for the Tories or Blairite Labour. Blair took the view that British manufacturing was in decline, and that it could be successfully replaced by the financial sector. This hasn’t happened. Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very clearly that the British and other economies still depend very much on the manufacturing sector. The fact that it appears comparatively small to other sectors of the economy merely means that it hasn’t grown as much as they have. It does not mean that it is irrelevant.

And it also shows once again how this chaos and poverty is being driven by a desire to protect the Tories’ backers in the financial sector, and the foreign companies owning our utilities, as well as the British rich squirreling their money away in tax havens. Shaw pointed this all out in once of his books written nearly a century ago, condemning the way the idle rich preferred to spend their money on their vapid pleasures on the continent, while the city preferred to invest in the colonies exploiting Black Africans instead of on domestic industry. He stated that while the Tories always postured as the party of British patriotism, the opposite was the truth: it was the Labour party that was genuinely patriotic, supporting British industry and the people that actually worked in it.

Shaw was right then, and he’s right now, no matter how the Tories seek to appeal to popular nationalistic sentiment through images of the Second World War and jingoistic xenophobia about asylum seekers. The Tories haven’t backed British industry since Thatcher and Major sold it all off. The only way to build Britain back up is to get rid of her legacy.

Which means getting rid of Johnson, the Tories and Starmer.

A Message for Keir Starmer from a Master of Persian Literature

December 2, 2020

I’ve just started reading Barbara Leonie Picard’s Tales of Ancient Persia (Oxford: OUP 1973). It’s a children’s book, one of a series of books on world folktales and legends. It’s really a retelling of the great Iranian national epic, the Shahname, or ‘Book of Kings’, composed by the poet Firdausi in the 12th century AD. By this time Iran was very definitely a Muslim country, but the book is about the great heroes of Zoroastrian myth and legend, fighting for the good god, Ormuzd or Ahura Mazda, against the evil god Ahriman, his demons and tyrants.

One of these tyrants is Zohak, an Arab prince who has been corrupted by Eblis, the Islamic Satan sent by Ahriman. After arranging for him to seize the thrown and introducing meat-eating, Eblis asked to kiss Zohak’s shoulders as a reward. Zohak allows him, and this results in a pair of monstrous serpents sprouting from his shoulders. Monstrous reptiles that grow back as soon as they are cut off, and can only be satisfied through eating human brains. So every day, two people have to be brought to the royal palace to be killed so that their grey matter can be fed to them.

But Zohak has been warned in a prophecy that a hero, Feridun, will arise and slay him. Forewarned, Feridun runs off to the mountains, where he gathers a small army of loyal followers against attack.

The Persian people put up with Zohak’s oppression until one day a blacksmith, Kava, arrives at the palace. He wants justice. He has had eighteen sons. 17 have been killed, and only one of them remains. But he has been taken and he wants him back, to comfort him in his old age. Zohak agrees to restore the son, and asks him who has done all this. Kava replies that it is him. He has had 17 of his sons killed to feed the serpents. Zohak, however, keeps his promise, and gives his son back to him. Kava seems satisfied at this, and so Zohak believes he will be loyal to him. He therefore asks Kava to swear an oath he has made everyone else in Persia swear, that Zohak is a good and just king and they love him. Kava, a man of integrity, is utterly outraged and not only refuses to swear the oath, but smashes the tablet on which it’s written and storms out. He puts his blacksmith’s apron on a spear turning it into a banner and seeks out Feridun. The two then raise an army. As they march through Persia they are greeted as liberators and people flock to their cause. Finally they storm the palace, Feridun kills Zohak and seizes the throne.

All very stirring stuff, I hear you say, but what’s it got to do with Starmer and the Labour Party? Well, I believe there’s a message here for Starmer. He isn’t a demonic creature like Zohak, and I’m pretty sure supernatural snakes aren’t coming out of his shoulders to munch on people’s brains. Except in a symbolic way, of course. His leadership is so partisan and inept it does seems to be result of mind-destroying stupidity. But in his partisanships and petty vindictiveness he is pushing people into rebellion. He’s done this through his purge of Corbyn’s supporters and the left of the party, and increased this in his suspension of the former Labour leader himself. He’s been forced to reverse this, but has refused Corbyn the whip. But what has added insult to injury is that he and his chairman, David Evans, have issued diktats forbidding ordinary Labour members and constituency parties from discussing any of this, or rejecting the E.H.R.C.’s report on anti-Semitism in the party.

As a result of this and other massive failures by the leadership, ordinary members are leaving the party in droves. People are defying him, taking to social media to discuss all this while a string of local constituency parties, Labour affiliates and trade unions have passed motions of solidarity with Corbyn. Some have also passed votes of no confidence in Starmer and Evans.

A rebellion is going on. And it’s been provoked not only by bad, overbearing and partisan leadership, but by an attempt by the same leadership to stifle debate and discontent. Just like Zohak tried to cover up his tyranny by making the people of ancient Persia swear an oath that he represented good government.

I wonder if there wasn’t a piece of political commentary in this. It’s a great story, and in a freer Iran you could turn it into a fantasy epic, like the Chinese have with Monkey. But apart from its entertainment value, I think Firdausi was also including an important political lesson. He was writing for the shah, Mahmud of Ghazni, and while monarchy everywhere in the Middle Ages was absolute or near absolute, there were rebellions against it. Hence, in medieval Europe at least, there was the literary genre of ‘mirrors for princes’, advising them on good, popular government.

The message here is simple and eternal. A leader can only push people so far before they will rebel. And they will do so even if, or especially because, of edicts trying to silence them and enforce absolute loyalty.

It’s a timeless message for rulers and leaders. And what makes great literature is that it can speak across time and place to make comments on politics and the human condition.

Including to Starmer. But he’s not listening to anyone except the other Blairites.

Why America Really Fears a Nuclear Iran: They Might Be Sane and Responsible

November 30, 2020

That’s the impression given by some very revealing quotations William Blum includes in his chapter on Iran in his book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. One is from the Israeli military historian, Martin van Creveld, who states very clearly that the world can live with a nuclear Iran, but it would be awkward for Israel to admit that. The reason? They use the threat of a nuclear Iran to get weapons from the rest of the world.

Van Creveld said this in an interview he gave to Playboy:

The U.S. has lived with a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear China, so why not a nuclear Iran? I’ve researched how the U.S. opposed nuclear proliferation in the past, and each time a country was about to proliferate, the U.S. expressed its opposition in terms of why this other country was very dangerous and didn’t deserve to have nuclear weapons. Americas believe they’re the only people who deserve to have nuclear weapons, because they are good and democratic and they like Mother and apple pie and the flag. But Americans are the only ones who have used them…. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us. We cannot say so too openly, however, because we have a history of using any threat in order to get weapons …. thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany. (pp. 97-8).

And Danielle Pletka, the vice-president for foreign and defence policy of the neo-Conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, said

The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and using it, it’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, ‘See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately’…. And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem. (p. 99).

This suggests, I think, that Pletka and the other Neo-Cons are afraid that even if Iran doesn’t use nuclear weapons immediately, it may do so in the future. But that’s the danger with all the countries with nuclear arms, including and especially Israel. According to the Samson Option, if Israel is attacked and the majority of the country destroyed, they would launch their missiles not just at their attacker, but also at the rest of the world – Europe, Russia and Islam’s holy places. This would be partly in reprisal for the other nations not intervening on their behalf. Israel seems to be quite prepared to destroy the rest of the world purely for its own security.

If the Iranians have been developing nuclear weapons, I honestly can’t say I blame them. The country has been the victim of first British and then American imperialism, and it seems to me very clear that Washington wants regime change and that this is constant, regardless of whoever’s in the White House.

And American foreign policy actually encourages countries to have nuclear weapons by showing how vulnerable they are without them. Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass distraction. He made repeated attempts to show the Americans and their allies he didn’t have them, and the international atomic weapons inspectors knew he didn’t. And so the Americans and their allies invaded, causing massive carnage and plundering Iraq of its oil and state industries. The lesson this gives the rest of the world is the precise opposite America wants to teach: you will only be safe from western invasion if you have nuclear arms.

But this will stop the West invading and butchering for the profits of their multinationals and the Israelis getting arms from their panicked and fearful allies. So they have to go on scaring the world with the bogeyman of a nuclear Iran.

‘I’ Report of Successful Test of Virgin Hyperloop Maglev Train

November 13, 2020

Here’s an interesting piece of science/technology news. Tuesday’s I, for 10th November 2020, carried a piece by Rhiannon Williams, ‘New tube: Hyperloop carries first passengers in 100 mph test run’, which reported that Virgin Hyperloop had successfully tested their proposed maglev transport system. This is a type of magnetically levitated train running in a sealed tunnel from which the air has been removed so that there is no atmospheric resistance. The article ran

Two passengers have become the first to use Hyperloop, a technology which claims to be the future of ultra-fast ground transport.

The demonstration took place on a 500-metre test track in the Nevada desert outside Las Vegas on Sunday.

Josh Giegel, Virgin Hyperloop’s chief technology officer and co-founder, and Sara Luchlan, the company’s head of passenger experience, climbed into a Virgin Hyperloop pod before it entered an airlock inside an enclosed vacuum tube.

Footage showed the pod taking about 15 seconds to complete the journey as the air inside the tube was removed, accelerating the pod to 100 mph before it slowed to a halt.

The futuristic system is intended eventually to allow journeys of up to 670 mph using electric propulsion, and magnetic levitation in a tube, which is in near-vacuum conditions.

The Shanghai Maglev, the fastest commercial bullet train, which also uses magnetic levitation, is capable of top speeds of 3000 mph, meaning it could end up being considered slow by the Hyperloop’s theoretical future standards. The fastest speed achieved by a maglev train was 375 mph on a test run in Japan.

Virgin Hyperloop was founded in 2014 and builds on a proposal by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

The technology could allow passengers to travel between Heathrow and Gatwick airports, which are 45 miles apart, in just four minutes, the company’s previous chief executive, Rob Lloyd, told the BBC in 2018.

Ms Luchlan described the experience as “exhilarating”. It had, she added, been smooth, and “not at all like a rollercoaster”.

The business hopes to seat up to 23 passengers in a pod and make its technology “a reality in years, not decades”. Jay Walder, the current chief executive, said: “I can’t tell you how often I get asked, ‘is hyperloop safe?’ With today’s passenger testing, we have successfully answered this question, demonstrating that not only can Virgin Hyperloop safely put a person in a pod in a vacuum environment but that the company has a thoughtful approach to safety.”

The article was accompanied by this handy explanatory diagram.

The text’s blurry, but should read:

How it works

Hyperloop is a new mode of long-distance transportation that uses electromagnetic levitation and propulsion to glide a vehicle at airline speeds through a low-pressure tube.

Electromagnetic coils along the tube are supplied with an alternating current, causing them to rapidly switch polarity. Permanent magnets beneath the pod are attracted then repelled, creating forward motion and magnetic levitation.

It then shows a diagram of various other high speed vehicles with the proposed Hyperloop system for comparison. These are

Virgin Hyperloop …. 670 mph.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner …. 593 mph.

Maglev (Japan) …. 375 mph.

Javelin (UK) … 140 mph.

Well, colour me sceptical about all this. The ‘Virgin’ part of the company’s name makes me wonder if it’s part of Beardie Branson’s empire of tat. In which case, we’re justified in wondering if it this will ever, ever actually be put into operation. After all, Branson has been telling the good peeps, who’ve bought tickets for his Virgin Galactic journeys into space that everything’s nearly complete, and they’ll be going into space next year, for the past 25 years or so. I don’t believe that his proposed Spaceship 1 or whatever it’s called will ever fly, and that the whole business is being run as a loss so he can avoid paying tax legally. I don’t know how much it would cost to set up a full scale Hyperloop line running between two real towns between several stops within a single city like a subway, but I’d imagine it’d cost tens, if not hundreds of millions. I think it’s too expensive for any government, whether national or local authority, to afford, at least in the present economic situation.

And on a more humorous level, it also reminds me of the rapid transit system in the 2000 AD ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip. This was set in a far future in which humanity cowered underground, ruled over by the Terminators. They were a kind of futuristic medieval crusading order, dedicated to the extermination of all intelligent alien life, led by their ruthless leader, Torquemada. Earth was now called Termight, and humanity lived in vast underground cities linked by rapid transit tunnels. A system similar to the Hyperloop, the Overground, ran across Termight’s devastated surface. Termight’s surface had been devastated, not by aliens, but by strange creatures from Earth’s future, which had appeared during the construction of a system of artificial Black and White Holes linking Earth to the rest of the galaxy. These creatures included the Gooney Bird, a giant predatory bird that looked like it had evolved from the Concorde plane, which swept down from its nest in an abandoned city to attack the Overground trains and feed them to its young.

From: Nemesis the Warlock: Volume One, by Pat Mills, Kevin O’Neill and Jesus Redondo (Hachette Partworks Ltd: 2017)

The Hyperloop’s too close to the fictional Overground system for comfort. Will the company’s insurance cover attacks by giant rampaging carnivorous mechanical birds? The comparison’s particularly close as Termight’s surface is a desert waste, and the system was tested out in the Nevada desert.

I realise that ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ is Science Fiction, and that even with its successful test run on Tuesday, it’ll be years before the hyperloop system ever becomes a reality, but I think it might be wise to avoid it if it ever does. After all, you wouldn’t want to be on it when the metal claws and beak start tearing through the tunnel.

American Media Silence over Racist Comments by Israeli Former Chief Rabbi

November 9, 2020

One of the points Blum makes in his book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, is that the press and the media are complicit in American imperialism and its attendant horrors and crimes through propaganda designed to promote and justify it. And it isn’t what it publishes so much as what it doesn’t report. And news coverage of Israel in America is also very biased. As an example of what American’s didn’t read, he discusses the statement by a former Chief Rabbi of Israel and leaders of the extreme right-wing Shas party, Ovadia Yusuf, that non-Jews were created by the Almighty to serve Israelis. Blum wrote

‘Goyim [non-Jews] were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the people of Israel,’ said Rabbi Ovadia Yusef in a sermon in Israel on October 16, 2010. Rabbi Yosef is the former Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel and the founder and spiritual leader of the Shas party, at that time one of the three major components of the Israeli government. ‘Why are gentiles needed?’ he continued. ‘They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi [master] and eat,’ he said to some laughter.

Pretty shocking, right? Apparently not shocking enough for the free and independent American mainstream media. Not one daily newspaper picked it up. Not one radio or television station. Neither did the two leading US news agencies, Associate Press and United Press International, which usually pick up anything at all newsworthy. And the words, or course, did not cross the kips of any American politician or State Department official Rabbi Yosef’s words were reported in English only by the Jewish Telegraph Agency, a US-based news service (October 18), and then picked up by a few relatively obscure news agencies or progressive websites. We can all imagine the news coverage if someone like Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said something like ‘Jews have no place in the world but to serve Islam.’ (p. 275).

People won’t have read it or seen it on the news over here either. Peter Oborne, in his documentary on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches in 2009, described the attempts by the lobby in this country to suppress any reporting of atrocities committed by Israel and its allies. One of the talking heads on the programme was Alan Rusbridger, the former editor of the Graon. He told how, whenever his newspaper did so, he’d receive an angry visit from the President of the Board of Deputies and his pet lawyer demanding that the story should be spiked on the grounds that it would cause Brits to hate Jews. Senior, and very respected BBC journalists like Orla Guerin were also accused of anti-Semitism by the Board because they dared to report on national news the massacre of Palestinians by Israel’s allies, the Lebanese Christian militia the Phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. A subsequent inquiry found that the report was not anti-Semitic, and only factually inaccurate in one detail.

Now I can appreciate that there are very good reasons why Yusef’s odious remark shouldn’t be reported. It is precisely the views that the Nazis and other anti-Semites and Fascists have claimed Jews have of gentiles. And claims that Jews believe they are superior to gentiles and wish to rule them are behind all the murderous conspiracy theories about them, theories that led to the murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. Such views of Jewish racial superiority, as I understand it, profoundly contradict Jewish theology. Contemporary rabbis have argued that Israel’s status as the ‘Chosen People’ does not mean that they are racially superior to anyone us, but rather that they have a special duty as a servant nation to act as moral exemplars, ‘to be a light unto the gentiles’ as the Hebrew Bible states. The prophet Isaiah also states that Jews in exile are to work and pray for the health of the city that they share with their gentile fellows. Since at least the 1920s Jews have been very careful to show that they reject the racial supremacist views that anti-Semites impute to them.

I very well appreciate why decent people would not want to report Yusef’s odious views, especially now with genuine anti-Semitism rising along with racism and Fascism generally. But I believe that these fears are somewhat exaggerated. The great mass of the American and British public, as well as the French, for that matter, aren’t anti-Semitic. Tony Greenstein has published surveys showing that the vast majority of Brits either have a positive view of Jews, or don’t have any particular views about them one way or the other. Less than 10 per cent have negative views of them. That’s clearly too large, but it shows that real Jew-haters are in a minority. Yusef’s views could easily be reported, accompanied by articles making the point that he speaks only for a Fascist Israeli fringe, accompanied by firm rebuttals and denunciations from respected Jewish organisations. There are any number of Jewish critics of Likudnik Fascism.

Besides, Yusef also has other, equally disgusting views about other Jews. A few years ago he got in the pages of Private Eye and a few other publications for what he said about the Holocaust. He declared that the European Jews, who were murdered by the Nazis, got what they deserve because of their sins in their past lives. Yusef may be a Jew, but that’s blatantly anti-Semitic. I understand that it’s also rubbish theology. Judaism doesn’t have a doctrine of reincarnation. The closest I can find to it is the Wheel of Gilgal in Karaite Judaism. If I understand it correctly, this holds that the Lord sometimes gives sinners a second chance and so they are reincarnated after their death. But the Karaites are different from mainstream Talmudic Judaism. Whether you’re Jew or gentile, Yusef’s an unrepresentative, indeed, anti-Semitic, nasty bigot talking nonsense.

But I suspect the refusal to report his remarks isn’t actually about fears that they would promote genuine anti-Semitic. It’s to protect Likud and its coalition partners. An Israeli philosopher and chemist coined the term ‘Judeonazism’ to describe such views amongst Israeli politicians. He was, like many Jews, including Israelis, bitterly critical of the Israeli state’s treatment of the Palestinians. While the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism includes comparing Jews to Nazis, in this case the comparison is entirely apt. Likud and its coalition partners include too many, who have similar views. If Yusef was simply a gutter preacher, whom no-one in Israel listened to, he could be dismissed as yet another fanatical nutter. But he was the founder and spiritual head of one Likud’s coalition partners. His comments should have been reported, not because of what they show about Jews or even Israelis, but because of what they show about Likud.

I’ve made it clear that Fascism, racism and anti-Semitism are murderous doctrines that should be fought everywhere, whether it’s Nazi Germany, Netanyahu’s Israel or present-day China. But by demanding that the western media not report comments like Yusef’s, and the atrocities against the Palestinians that views like his promote, organisations like the Board of Deputies and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism are complicit in the perpetration of this Zionist permutation of Fascism.

Remember what one liberal Jewish opponent of Zionism once said: ‘To be a Jew is always to stand with the oppressor, never the oppressor’. It’s a view that condemns the right-wing media and the Israel lobby, as well as the Likudnik regime they protect.