Archive for the ‘Czech Republic’ Category

Abby Martin on White Supremacism and Anti-Black Racism in Israel

September 2, 2017

This is another video from RT’s The Empire Files, presented by Abby Martin, showing the grim reality of Israeli racism and White supremacy. It’s about Israel’s persecution of Black immigrants. These include Black asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, and Ethiopian Jewish immigrants. She begins by stating that the Palestinians aren’t the only persecuted group in Israel, and the vicious racial hatred, discrimination and violence towards the Black minority is ironic, coming from a people, who have themselves been bitterly persecuted, whose monuments swear ‘Never Again’ to the horrors of genocide.

The Sudanese and Eritreans comprise only half a per cent of Israel’s population. They came to the country by crossing the Sinai from Egypt, having fled their own homelands due to persecution. The Eritreans seek asylum from conscription into the army, where they are forced to live and work in slave-like conditions. Israel has been forced to take more of them in after Europe has begun to close its borders to them. Yet despite their small numbers, they have been blamed and vilified for spreading crime and disease. Mary Regev, an Israeli politician, has described them as ‘a cancer in our body’. Another Likudnik claimed that they were responsible for a spate of rapes, but that the victims did not report them because their violators had given them AIDS. He also declared that ‘Israel belongs to the White man.’

The result of this has been a series of attacks on Black immigrants. One man was beaten to death by a youth, while a Black baby was left with brain damage after another man stabbed it in the head.

The claims of criminality are all wrong, like so much of the same bullsh*t that is retailed by the extreme Right here in the West about coloured immigrants. In fact, something like one per cent of all crime is committed by Black immigrants from these countries, and the areas inhabited by them have less crime than those of mainstream Israeli society.

In the film, Martin talks to some of these migrants, and hears their stories about fleeing from persecution and genocide in their countries of origin. These people cannot go back. If they do, they will be killed. But nevertheless the Israelis are building massive detention complexes in which to imprison them. Those so incarcerated include genuine asylum seekers, but they are nevertheless also libeled as economic migrants. After they have served their term, they are released and told that they have to go back to their home countries, even though this will mean death for many of them. She also cites the statistics showing that Israel has a far lower rate of granting asylum to migrants seeking sanctuary there.

The asylum seekers also describe how a market, which they set up so that they could buy their own food, was destroyed by the Israeli police.

Ethiopian Jews are also subject to vicious discrimination and persecution. They were allowed to settle into the country after a chief rabbi decided that they were proper Jews, and so could be allowed in under the law of return. Many of them immigrated in a series of airlifts by the Israeli military in the 1970s. I think the Canadian-Israeli film maker, Simcha Jacobovici, made a documentary about these entitle Exodus. Ethiopian Jews constitute only 2 per cent of the population, but are subject to discrimination and resentment. It has been revealed that the Israeli state had a eugenics policy designed to keep their birthrate extremely low by administering contraceptive or sterilizing drugs to Ethiopian women. They were told that they would not be allowed into the country unless they agreed to have these drugs. Martin interviews one Ethiopian young woman, who is part of a civil rights movement, who tells her how the Israeli medical services will not take blood donated by them, but will throw it away.

She also talks to Israelis attending an anti-immigration rally. One of them states that he is a member of Israeli Labour Party, and so considers himself left wing. But he opposes Black immigration, citing their supposed criminality. Not all Israelis accept the reality of this persecution in their society. Martin’s interview with the Ethiopian girl is interrupted by an angry Israeli man, who tells her that she’s wrong, and an argument begins.

I’ve posted up a series of pieces describing the Fascistic nature of the Israeli state. It has a system of apartheid directed against the Palestinians, in which the indigenous people are subject to arbitrary arrest and beatings, whose drinking water can be fouled at will, and whose homes may be occupied by gangs of Israeli settlers.

Critics of Israel have also pointed out that the Zionist settlers were Ashkenazi Jews from eastern Europe, who looked down upon the Arabs, including Arab Jews, as racially and culturally inferior. They were White supremacists, hence the pronounced racism against Blacks in Israel.

As for the forced sterilization of Ethiopian Jewish women, this is in direct contravention of the UN Convention on genocide. Israel isn’t alone in this policy, however. The Nazis did it. The Americans also did it to the indigenous peoples, apart from the mentally defective. The Swedes also sterilized those they considered ‘dysgenic’ until the 1970s. And the Czechs have also done it for decades to the Roma, the Gypsies, in their country.

So while they’re hardly unique, they’ve still committed a crime against humanity, defined as genocide under international law.

Yet despite this, the Zionist lobby is determined to smear anyone who dares to criticize Israel for its racism, genocide and ethnic cleansing an anti-Semite, include proud opponents of all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. Those smeared include both gentiles and self-respecting secular and Torah-observant Jews. In the Labour party, the Zionist lobby in the form of the Jewish Labour Movement has tried to censor all discussion of Israeli racism. And the woefully misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has done the same, demanding the expulsion and suspension of people, whose only crime is that they embarrassed the Zionists by revealing what they really don’t want people to know.

The Jewish Labour Movement is the companion organization to the Israeli Labour Party, which was responsible for a series of massacres of the Palestinian population under Ben Gurion and Golda Meir, and whose leader has described his deep hatred of the Palestinians and his desire to have the 61 Arab MKs deprived of their seats in the Knesset.

Instead of decent people like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein being subjected to trumped up charges of anti-Semitism, the leaders of the Zionist lobby, including Andrew Pollard of the Campaign Against Zionism, should have to answer for their support of a brutal, Nazi regime.

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Forthcoming Programme on the Destructive Consequence of IT

August 1, 2017

Next Sunday, the 6th August, BBC 2 is showing a documentary at 8.00 pm on the negative aspects of automation and information technology. Entitled Secrets of Silicon Valley, it’s the first part of a two-part series. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

The Tech Gods – who run the biggest technology companies – say they’re creating a better world. Their utopian visions sound persuasive: Uber say the app reduces car pollution and could transform how cities are designed; Airbnb believes its website empowers ordinary people. some hope to reverser climate change or replace doctors with software.

In this doc, social media expert Jamie Bartlett investigates the consequences of “disruption” – replacing old industries with new ones. The Gods are optimistic about our automated future but one former Facebook exec is living off-grid because he fears the fallout from the tech revolution. (p. 54).

A bit more information is given on the listings page for the programmes on that evening. This gives the title of the episode – ‘The Disruptors’, and states

Jamie Bartlett uncovers the dark reality behind Silicon Valley’s glittering promise to build a better world. He visits Uber’s offices in San Francisco and hears how the company believes it is improving our cities. But Hyderabad, India, Jamie sees for himself the apparent human consequences of Uber’s utopian vision and asks what the next wave of Silicon Valley’s global disruption – the automation of millions of jobs – will mean for us. He gets a stark warning from an artificial intelligence pioneer who is replacing doctors with software. Jamie’s journey ends in the remote island hideout of a former social media executive who fears this new industrial revolution could lead to social breakdown and the collapse of capitalism. (p. 56).

I find the critical tone of this documentary refreshing after the relentless optimism of last Wednesday’s first instalment of another two-part documentary on robotics, Hyper Evolution: the Rise of the Robots. This was broadcast at 9 O’clock on BBC 4, with second part shown tomorrow – the second of August – at the same time slot.

This programme featured two scientists, the evolutionary biologist, Dr. Ben Garrod, and the electronics engineer Professor Danielle George, looking over the last century or so of robot development. Garrod stated that he was worried by how rapidly robots had evolved, and saw them as a possible threat to humanity. George, on the other hand, was massively enthusiastic. On visiting a car factory, where the vehicles were being assembled by robots, she said it was slightly scary to be around these huge machines, moving like dinosaurs, but declared proudly, ‘I love it’. At the end of the programme she concluded that whatever view we had of robotic development, we should embrace it as that way we would have control over it. Which prompts the opposing response that you could also control the technology, or its development, by rejecting it outright, minimizing it or limiting its application.

At first I wondered if Garrod was there simply because Richard Dawkins was unavailable. Dawko was voted the nation’s favourite public intellectual by the readers of one of the technology or current affairs magazines a few years ago, and to many people’s he’s the face of scientific rationality, in the same way as the cosmologist Stephen Hawking. However, there was a solid scientific reason he was involved through the way robotics engineers had solved certain problems by copying animal and human physiology. For example, Japanese cyberneticists had studied the structure of the human body to create the first robots shown in the programme. These were two androids that looked and sounded extremely lifelike. One of them, the earlier model, was modelled on its creator to the point where it was at one time an identical likeness. When the man was asked how he felt about getting older and less like his creation, he replied that he was having plastic surgery so that he continued to look as youthful and like his robot as was possible.

Japanese engineers had also studied the human hand, in order to create a robot pianist that, when it was unveiled over a decade ago, could play faster than a human performer. They had also solved the problem of getting machines to walk as bipeds like humans by giving them a pelvis, modeled on the human bone structure. But now the machines were going their own way. Instead of confining themselves to copying the human form, they were taking new shapes in order to fulfil specific functions. The programme makers wanted to leave you in new doubt that, although artificial, these machines were nevertheless living creatures. They were described as ‘a new species’. Actually, they aren’t, if you want to pursue the biological analogy. They aren’t a new species for the simple reason that there isn’t simply one variety of them. Instead, they take a plethora of shapes according to their different functions. They’re far more like a phylum, or even a kingdom, like the plant and animal kingdoms. The metal kingdom, perhaps?

It’s also highly problematic comparing them to biological creatures in another way. So far, none of the robots created have been able to reproduce themselves, in the same way biological organisms from the most primitive bacteria through to far more complex organisms, not least ourselves, do. Robots are manufactured by humans in laboratories, and heavily dependent on their creators both for their existence and continued functioning. This may well change, but we haven’t yet got to that stage.

The programme raced through the development of robots from Eric, the robot that greeted Americans at the World’s Fair, talking to one of the engineers, who’d built it and a similar metal man created by the Beeb in 1929. It also looked at the creation of walking robots, the robot pianist and other humanoid machines by the Japanese from the 1980s to today. It then hopped over the Atlantic to talk to one of the leading engineers at DARPA, the robotics technology firm for the American defence establishment. Visiting the labs, George was thrilled, as the company receives thousands of media requests, to she was exceptionally privileged. She was shown the latest humanoid robots, as well as ‘Big Dog’, the quadruped robot carrier, that does indeed look and act eerily like a large dog.

George was upbeat and enthusiastic. Any doubts you might have about robots taking people’s jobs were answered when she met a spokesman for the automated car factory. He stated that the human workers had been replaced by machines because, while machines weren’t better, they were more reliable. But the factory also employed 650 humans running around here and there to make sure that everything was running properly. So people were still being employed. And by using robots they’d cut the price on the cars, which was good for the consumer, so everyone benefits.

This was very different from some of the news reports I remember from my childhood, when computers and industrial robots were just coming in. There was shock by news reports of factories, where the human workers had been laid off, except for a crew of six. These men spent all day playing cards. They weren’t employed because they were experts, but simply because it would have been more expensive to sack them than to keep them on with nothing to do.

Despite the answers given by the car plant’s spokesman, you’re still quite justified in questioning how beneficial the replacement of human workers with robots actually is. For example, before the staff were replaced with robots, how many people were employed at the factory? Clearly, financial savings had to be made by replacing skilled workers with machines in order to make it economic. At the same time, what skill level were the 650 or so people now running around behind the machines? It’s possible that they are less skilled than the former car assembly workers. If that’s the case, they’d be paid less.

As for the fear of robots, the documentary traced this from Karel Capek’s 1920’s play, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robot, which gave the word ‘robot’ to the English language. The word ‘robot’ means ‘serf, slave’ or ‘forced feudal labour’ in Czech. This was the first play to deal with a robot uprising. In Japan, however, the attitude was different. Workers were being taught to accept robots as one of themselves. This was because of the animist nature of traditional Japanese religion. Shinto, the indigenous religion besides Buddhism, considers that there are kami, roughly spirits or gods, throughout nature, even inanimate objects. When asked what he thought the difference was between humans and robots, one of the engineers said there was none.

Geoff Simons also deals with the western fear of robots compared to the Japanese acceptance of them in his book, Robots: The Quest for Living Machines. He felt that it came from the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. This is suspicious of robots, as it allows humans to usurp the Lord as the creator of living beings. See, for example, the subtitle of Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein – ‘the Modern Prometheus’. Prometheus was the tAstritan, who stole fire from the gods to give to humanity. Victor Frankenstein was similarly stealing a divine secret through the manufacture of his creature.

I think the situation is rather more complex than this, however. Firstly, I don’t think the Japanese are as comfortable with robots as the programme tried to make out. One Japanese scientist, for example, has recommended that robots should not be made too humanlike, as too close a resemblance is deeply unsettling to the humans, who have to work with it. Presumably the scientist was basing this on the experience of Japanese as well as Europeans and Americans.

Much Japanese SF also pretty much like its western counterpart, including robot heroes. One of the long-time comic favourites in Japan is Astroboy, a robot boy with awesome abilities, gadgets and weapons. But over here, I can remember reading the Robot Archie strip in Valiant in the 1970s, along with the later Robusters and A.B.C. Warriors strips in 2000 AD. R2D2 and C3PO are two of the central characters in Star Wars, while Doctor Who had K9 as his faithful robot dog.

And the idea of robot creatures goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of fire, was a smith. Lame, he forged three metal girls to help him walk. Pioneering inventors like Hero of Alexandria created miniature theatres and other automata. After the fall of the Roman Empire, this technology was taken up by the Muslim Arabs. The Banu Musa brothers in the 9th century AD created a whole series of machines, which they simply called ‘ingenious devices’, and Baghdad had a water clock which included various automatic figures, like the sun and moon, and the movement of the stars. This technology then passed to medieval Europe, so that by the end of the Middle Ages, lords and ladies filled their pleasure gardens with mechanical animals. The 18th century saw the fascinating clockwork machines of Vaucanson, Droz and other European inventors. With the development of steam power, and then electricity in the 19th century came stories about mechanical humans. One of the earliest was the ‘Steam Man’, about a steam-powered robot, which ran in one of the American magazines. This carried on into the early 20th century. One of the very earliest Italian films was about a ‘uomo machina’, or ‘man machine’. A seductive but evil female robot also appears in Fritz Lang’s epic Metropolis. Both films appeared before R.U.R., and so don’t use the term robot. Lang just calls his robot a ‘maschinemensch’ – machine person.

It’s also very problematic whether robots will ever really take human’s jobs, or even develop genuine consciousness and artificial intelligence. I’m going to have to deal with this topic in more detail later, but the questions posed by the programme prompted me to buy a copy of Hubert L. Dreyfus’ What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason. Initially published in the 1970s, and then updated in the 1990s, this describes the repeated problems computer scientists and engineers have faced trying to develop Artificial Intelligence. Again and again, these scientists predicted that ‘next year’ ,’in five years’ time’, ‘in the next ten years’ or ‘soon’, robots would achieve human level intelligence, and would make all of us unemployed. The last such prediction I recall reading was way back in 1999 – 2000, when we were all told that by 2025 robots would be as intelligent as cats. All these forecasts have proven wrong. But they’re still being made.

In tomorrow’s edition of Hyperevolution, the programme asks the question of whether robots will ever achieve consciousness. My guess is that they’ll conclude that they will. I think we need to be a little more skeptical.

Vox Political: Snoopers’ Charter Allows State to Lie When Evidence Gather through Spying

December 7, 2016

I’ve also written several pieces over the past few days talking about the slow death of democracy and freedom in America. Obama has taken over and made permanent all the infringements on Americans’ constitutional freedoms set up by George Dubya Bush, the Democrats and corporate media have taken to smearing leading left-wing journos and website as disseminators of Russian propaganda, and a Conservative student group is compiling a black list of left-wing college professors.

But civil liberties and the rule of law are also under attack here as well. Tony Blair also tried to set up secret courts in Britain when he was prime minister. David Cameron and Nick Clegg also passed legislation establishing them, and expanding the powers of the British surveillance state. Theresa May is determined to do the same with her Investigatory Powers Bill.

Mike today has put up a piece commenting on the way the May’s ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ demands that the prosecution lie in court to avoid revealing that the evidence has been gathered through spying. Section 56 of her wretched Act makes it an offence not only to reveal that the evidence was obtained by lying, but also that spying is, was and/or will be going on. This includes a clause meaning that the legislation also acts retrospectively. In other words, you can be charged and convicted of doing this before this pernicious piece of legislation was ever passed.

This means that the state can lie to secure a conviction. And there seems to be little way to defend against it. Mike has suggested that there is a possible way out, if the defence can show that the evidence could not have obtained it in the normal ways, but crucially does not state that it was obtained through spying. But Mike states that this is no more than a suggestion, and asks his readers for their opinions.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/07/if-the-snoopers-charter-allows-the-state-to-lie-in-court-how-can-the-innocent-foil-it/

The whole issue of secret courts is profoundly anti-democratic and a real and present danger to civil liberties. Under the legislation introduced by the Conservatives and their Lib-Dem enablers, Cameron and Clegg, a court case may be held in secret if a public trial is believed to constitute a threat to national security. The accused may not see the evidence against them, nor the identity of their accuser, again, all to safeguard ‘national security’. Now you may not even be told that you have been spied on.

I’ve pointed out before that this is exactly like the judicial system set up by the totalitarian states of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, and also Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Iraqi legal system contained a series of secret clauses, whose disclosure to the public was a crime. Thus someone under Saddam’s regime could be charged with a series of offences he was not aware he had committed, and could not legally be made aware.

Franz Kafka, the great Czech writer, described all this in his novels The Trial and The Castle. These are about people hauled through convoluted court proceedings, tried and executed, without being told what crime they have committed or indeed anything much about the supposed offence. These are praised by the connoisseurs of great literature and historians, because they prophesy the gross miscarriages of justice at the heart of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. I think Kafka was probably less serious about his novels’ intentions. If I remember correctly, he had been a clerk for an insurance company, handling sickness claims, and his books are satires on convoluted bureaucracy. I think he even described them as long jokes. But dry, and ironic in style of the Middle European sense of humour.

But there is nothing remotely funny or joking about this piece of legislation. This is the corporate establishment using brutally authoritarian methods to hang on to its power and suppress dissent. All the while telling us that it’s all for our own good, because of the threat of Islamist terrorism. After politicians like Theresa May, Cameron and Clegg have finished, I shall be surprised if we have any freedom left for ISIS or al-Qaeda to destroy.

Poppy: 3D Printed Open Source Robot

October 27, 2016

I’ve put up several posts this week about robots and robotics, discussing the ultimate origins of H.B.O.’s WestWorld in Karel Capek’s 1920 play about a robot revolt, R.U.R. This has been performed using real, lego robots, and a short speech about the play given by a British robot, Robothespian, by Café Neu Romance at the National Technical Library in Prague. Robothespian also appeared on the BBC’s Breakfast TV show a couple of years ago in 2014.

The humanoids in WestWorld are less like today’s industrial machines and far more like the Replicants in Blade Runner or Capek’s original robots. They’re a kind of artificial biology created through synthetic chemistry, and produced through something like 3D printing, rather than today’s mechanical devices. Scientists are, however, exploring various synthetic materials, which would expand and contract similar to the way animal muscles move, which gives WestWorld’s humanoids a grounding in scientific fact, even if we are still a very, very long way away from such complex, truly intelligent and self-aware artificial beings.

Looking through some of the videos on robots on YouTube, I found the short video below for a small, humanoid robot, Poppy, created by a group of French scientists and engineers. This is interesting, as it shows how far robot technology has come, including their manufacturing methods, and how close we are to a true age of popular robotics. The machine is bipedal, and designed to be used as a research tool by scientists. It’s also open source and can be made at home using a 3D printer. It’s creators state that it’s a robot for everyone, and so while it can be used for serious research – the video shows the machine walking along a treadmill, for example – it is not solely for professional robotics scientists, but aimed at a popular market.

This brings the world of R.U.R. and other, similar works of SF, where everyone owns a robot, just that bit closer. Along with Star Trek’s universe, in which anything can be produced using a replicator, an idea which the late Arthur C. Clarke explored in his book, Profiles of the Future, some decades ago. Robots pose serious problems in the mass redundancies that have occurred and are threatening to become worse through their adoption in industry, as well as the possibility that they will overthrow and replace humanity as the dominant beings when their intelligence eventually exceeds ours. 3D printing also has its drawbacks and problems for the economy. One of these is how people will be able to make a living from manufacturing, when nearly anything at all can be made cheaply by anyone at home with a printer. We haven’t reached that stage yet, and possibly never will. Nevertheless, it’s a serious issue that needs careful consideration and debate.

Poppy isn’t the only open source robot available that can be created through 3D printing. A glance through some of the other videos available on this subject on YouTube shows that there are a number of them. No doubt this will grow as the technology improves and costs drop so that the technology becomes more affordable. Assuming that everyone isn’t put out of work by then as more firms decide its cheaper to employ machines than people.

Here’s the video for the Poppy robot:

Robothespian, the British Robotic Actor

October 25, 2016

Yesterday I put up a piece about a performance of Karel Capek’s classic play about a robot rebellion, RUR, at the Czech national library a few years ago by a theatre group, Café Neu Romance, using lego robots. The theatre company was the creation of Vive Les Robots, a Danish company set up to encourage public interest in robots and robotics. I said in the article that I thought it would be good if the play could be performed by full-sized robots, to give it the stature it deserves. I realise, however, that was unlikely given how massively expensive the animatronic technology is, that brings to life robotic puppets like Ry’gel from the SF series Farscape.

One British company, Engineered Arts, has created such a full size mechanical actor. It’s called Robothespian, and there are a number of videos about it on YouTube. The video below shows it, appropriately enough, talking about R.U.R. as part of Café Neu Romance, a robot arts festival, at the Czech National Technical Library in 2012.

Robothespian has also appeared on British breakfast television. In this clip from the Beeb’s Breakfast TV programme from 2014, the two presenters talk about, and sometimes to Robothespian with Dr Nigel Crook of Oxford Brookes University. The robot was created by Engineered Arts as a research project to explore the ways people interact with robots. Crook explains that it can respond to a number of voice commands, and the two presenters ask it questions such as what advantages robots have over human beings. Crook also explains that despite this ability, real intelligence is a long way off, and the problem of giving the robot the ability to hold a genuinely intelligent, wide-ranging conversation is very challenging. So right now, the machine responds giving the answers programmed into it by a human operator.

Robothespian, or Artie, as it is called, from RT – Robothespian – replies to the question about its usefulness that robots can perform simple, repetitive tasks accurately without tiring, or needing to go for breaks. They ask it if it could do their job. Its answer is that it certainly could, as all they do is read from an autocue. So when does it start?

The machine has a range of expressive hand gestures, a moving mouth, and two screens in its head, which show images of eyes. These blink, helping it show a number of expressions. They also show hearts, like those shown in the eyes of cartoon characters to indicate they have fallen in love. The two presenters are, however, advised to stand a few feet away from the robot. Crook explains it is compliant, which means that, unlike an industrial robot, it won’t blindly continue to perform a gesture if it accidentally strikes someone who happens to stand in the way. Similarly, it’s possible to pull the robot’s limbs away from where they’ve settled without damaging it. Nevertheless, the presenters were advised to stand clear of it just in case it accidentally flipped back and struck them.

As well as delivering monologues, Robothespian can also sing, giving a hilarious rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, and do impressions, like Darth Vader from Star Wars. Crook explains that it was built to act as a guide at museums, festivals and exhibitions. The two presenters ask about its gender, and are told that it’s creators think of it as male, as it’s been given a male voice.

Also on the show is a little feature about a robot toy, Caspar, which is used in schools to teach autistic children. The toy was being tried out as a teaching tool as autistic people can find it immensely challenging understanding other’s emotions. They also like things in a very set order. Caspar is useful in that its responses, although intended to mimic those of humans, are always the same. For example, when it smiles, that smile is always the same smile every time it makes that expression. And this regularity and constancy of expression is intended to be reassuring and non-threatening, so that the child using it finds it easy, or easier to do so, than more conventional forms of interaction with people.

Robothespian isn’t cheap. Crook explains that it costs about £50,000. Despite this, Engineered Arts have built more than one of them. In this video from last year, 2015, two of them sing, ‘I Am Not A Robot’.

I find robots and robotics interesting, but I am very much aware of the problems they pose. There are the general philosophical issues like human identity and uniqueness – how long before they develop real intelligence and consciousness, start performing sophisticated task like creating art or composing music, or resent at their enslavement and control by humans? There are also the very real social and economic problems caused by their manufacture. The more industry is automated, the more real jobs, that could be performed by people, are lost. The Beeb a few months ago broadcast a documentary which forecast that in the next 15-20 years a third of all jobs could be lost in Britain. You can certainly see it in retail, where a number of companies have replaced human staff with self-service tills, where you scan in yourself the items you want to purchase into the machine, which then takes your money and hands you your change and receipt. If we aren’t careful, this will lead to the emergence of a society very much like that of 2000 AD’s Megacity One. Judge Dredd’s home city has, thanks to robots, a massive unemployment rate of 95% or so. As a result, most people’s lives are marked by boredom and despair, a situation brought home in the classic ‘Judge Dredd’ story, ‘Un-American Graffitti’, featuring Chopper, a teenage lad trying to escape this crushing social malaise through ever more daring pieces of graffiti artwork. 2000 AD and the ‘Dredd’ strip in particular always had a very strong element of satire and social commentary, and this was one of the most outstanding examples of the strip telling an entertaining story while also describing the real situation many of its readers faced for real due to Thatcherism.

And unfortunately, despite the boom years of the 1990s, the prospect of long-term unemployment and grinding poverty has got worse, due to globalism and the spread of neoliberalism as the dominant political and economic ideology. This will only get worse unless humanity finds ways to manage robotic technology wisely, to create jobs, rather than to the replace them.

RUR Performed by Lego Robots in Prague

October 24, 2016

Yesterday I put up a piece discussing the similarities between the humanoids in H.B.O.’s WestWorld SF TV series, based on the 1970s film of the same name by Michael Crichton, and R.U.R., the 1920’s play by Czech writer, Karel Capek, which introduced the word ‘robot’ to the English language. In both WestWorld and RUR, the robots are actually closer to the replicants of Blade Runner, in that rather than being machines, they’re biological constructs produced artificially through the processes of industrial manufacturing. Capek’s play has been produced many times, and its theme of a robot rebellion against humanity has been one of the dominant themes in Science Fiction. It’s most famous treatment has been in the Terminator films, in which a virus infects the Skynet computer system, causing it to revolt against humanity, unleashing an army of killer drones and humanoid robotic soldiers.

I found this short video on YouTube. It’s about a production of R.U.R. staged last year, 2015, at the Czech republic’s national gallery in Prague by Café Neu Romance, and directed by Christian Gjorret. Gjorret is a member of the group, Vive Les Robots, which has been set up to get the public interested in robots and robotics. The theatre company took the unusual step of performing the play entirely with robots, made out of the commercially available lego kits available in toy shops.

It’s an interesting approach, even if it means that the physical scale of the performance is rather small. I think there’s an opportunity to stage the play on a much grander scale, using life-size animatronic robots. There is, after all, a robot band called Compressorhead, which plays cover versions of various Rock and Heavy Metal tracks. The ABC Warrior, which appeared in the 1995 Judge Dredd film was also genuinely robotic. It also looked to me very much like a real robot was used to show C3PO’s mechanical nature, when R2D2’s metal mate made his first appearance being built by Anakin Skywalker in the first of the Star Wars prequels, The Phantom Menace. The problem with staging such a production would be the immense cost. Animatronics aren’t cheap. The operators of the Ry’gel puppet in the SF series Farscape said in an interview that the portable version of the character cost as much as a car, while the studio version was even more expense, and cost the equivalent of a house. Nevertheless, I think if it could be staged, it would be a fascinating and genuinely thought-provoking experiment. If nothing else, it would show how near we are to creating some of these machines, and how pressing and prescient some of the SF stories dealing with the issues of Artificial Intelligence, freedom, and the survival of humanity faced with machines, which may be its superior, are.

Here’s the video:

West World and the Original Robots of R.U.R.

October 23, 2016

A few weeks ago H.B.O. launched the latest SF blockbuster show, West World. It’s a TV series based on the 1970s film of the same name, written by Michael Crichton. Like Crichton’s Jurassic Park nearly twenty years or so later, West World is about a fantasy amusement, presided over by a sinister inventor played by Anthony Hopkins, the man who scared audiences witless as the cannibalistic murderer Hannibal Lecter in the Silence of the Lambs and its sequel, Hannibal. While Jurassic Park was about scientific attempts to recreate the dinosaurs for popular amusement, in West World the amusement park was a resort which attempted to recreate past eras for fun. This included the Middle Ages, and a section devoted to the old West. Like Jurassic Park, things go disastrously wrong. A computer malfunction makes the robots break the inbuilt restrictions on their behaviour, so that they gain autonomy and independence. In the medieval part of the resort, a man, who is used to getting his way with the female androids has his advances rebuffed with the curt answer, ‘Methinks Sir forgets himself’. But the real action of the story is the attempts by the movie’s hero over in the West World part of the resort to overcome the black-garbed, robot gunfighter, played by Yul Brynner. Like Schwarzenegger in the Terminator films, the gunslinger is an implacable, unstoppable killing machine, and the hero has to destroy it before it kills him, just like it gunned down his friend.

The TV series has adapted and altered the story. The gunman is now human, rather than robotic, and the focus seems to have shifted more to the robots than the humans. They are the victims of the humans enjoying the resort, who come to act out terrible fantasies of rape and killing that they would never dare consider doing in the real world to other human beings. The robot hosts they use – and abuse – are repaired and have their memories wiped ready for the next set of visitors to do the same, all over again. But attempts to give the machines consciousness have had an effect. The machines are beginning to remember. The press releases to the series state that its premise is not about machines developing consciousness and intelligence, but what they will make of us when they do.

The artificial humans in West World are less robots in the sense of mechanical people, than artificial humans. The titles show artificial tendons and muscles being placed on synthetic skeletons by robotic arms in a more developed version of 3D printing.

This conception of artificial humans shows the influence of Blade Runner. Based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the film changed Dick’s androids to ‘replicants’, artificial men and women created through sophisticated genetic engineering for use as slave soldiers and sex workers. Produced by the Tyrell Corporation under the slogan ‘More Human Than Human’, these genetic constructs have a desire for freedom and longevity. In order to stop them overthrowing humanity, they only have a lifespan of six years or so. They are also becoming increasingly sophisticated psychologically and emotionally. In the book and film, they can only be distinguished from natural people through the Voight-Comp Test. This is a complex psychological test in which the subjects have to answer a series of questions. Part of this is to measure their capacity for empathy. Replicants generally are unable to sympathise or understand others’ suffering. The test asks those undergoing its questions to imagine their in a desert. They see a tortoise lying on its back, dying in the hot sun. The animal is clearly in pain and dying, but they don’t help it. Why not? At the end of the movie, Deckard, the film’s hero, a Blade Runner – the special policemen charged with catching and ‘retiring’ replicants that have made it down to Earth, is in serious danger. In his battle with Roy Batty, the replicants’ leader and now their only survivor after he has tracked them all down, Deckard has failed to make a jump across two of the buried skyscrapers underneath the sprawling future LA. He is hanging from a girder, about to fall to his death. Until Batty, before his own programmed obsolescence kills him, pulls him to safety. Batty has developed genuine sympathy for another stricken creature. He has triumphantly passed the Voight-Comp test, and shown more humanity than the humans who made him and who enslave his kind.

It’s a very old theme, which goes all the way back to one of the very first Science Fiction plays, if not the very first SF play, to deal with a robot revolt, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robots. Written by the Czech playwright Karel Capek, this was the play that introduced the word ‘robot’ into the English language. The word comes from the Czech for ‘serf’ or ‘slave’. It’s set in a company producing these artificial people, which are used for everything from factory workers to domestic servants. They have also been stripped of complex emotional responses to make them suitable servants. But as with the synthetic hosts of West World, this is breaking down. Instead of simply performing their tasks, the robots are increasingly stopping and refusing to work. They simply stand there, grinding their teeth. Eventually their growing dissatisfaction turns from simple recalcitrance to outright revolt. The machines rebel, exterminating humanity and leaving the company’s accountant, Alquist, as the only survivor.

Like Blade Runner’s replicants and the synthetic hosts of West World, Capek’s robots were not machine so much as creatures produced through a kind of artificial biology. In the first act, the company’s general manager, Domain, explains the origins of the robots in the biological researches of the biologist, Rossum, to Helena Glory, the daughter of an Oxbridge prof.

‘It was in the year 1922’, informs Domain, ‘that old Rossum the great physiologist, who was then quite a young scientist, betook himself to this distant island for the purpose of studying the ocean fauna, full stop. On this occasion he attempted by chemical synthesis to imitate the living matter known as protoplasm, until he suddenly discovered a substance which behaved exactly like living matter, although its chemical composition was different; that was in the year 1932, exactly four hundred years after the discovery of America, whew!’ (The Brothers Capek, R.U.R. and The Insect Play(Oxford: OUP 1961) p. 5). Later Domain tells Helena a little about the industrial processes in which the robots are manufactured:

Domain: … Midday. The Robots don’t know when to stop work. In two hours I’ll show you the kneading-trough.

Helena: What kneading-trough?

Domain. [Dryly] The pestles and mortar as it were for beating up the paste. In each one we mix the ingredients for a thousand Robots at one operation. Then there are the vats for the preparation of liver, brains, and so on. They you’ll see the bone factory. After that I’ll show you the spinning-mill.

Helena: What spinning-mill?

Domain: For weaving nerves and veins. Miles and miles of digestive tubes pass through it at a stretch. Then there’s the fitting shed, where all the parts are put together, like motor-cars. Next comes the drying-kiln and the warehouse in which the new products work. (p. 15).

Like Blade Runner, the robots of R.U.R. end by becoming human emotionally. Just as the replicants in Blade Runner have a severely limited lifetime, so Capek’s Robots, as beings created purely for work, are sterile. After their victory, they approach Alquist requesting that more of them be created as their numbers of falling. Despite their entreaties, Alquist can’t. He is not a scientist, and the last of the company’s management destroyed the manuscript describing how they were made before they themselves were killed. Radius, the leader of the robots, requests Alquist to find out by dissecting living robots. When Primus, one of the male robots, and Helena, a female robot, each defend the other, refusing to let Alquist take them for experimentation, the old accountant realises that the mystery of their reproduction has been solved. The play ends with him reciting the text of Genesis describing God’s creation of Man. The last lines are him reciting the Nunc Dimissit : ‘Now, Lord, lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy will, for mine eye have seen Thy salvation.’

This last marks the major difference between R.U.R. and modern treatments of the rise of robots and their possible replacement of humanity: R.U.R. is explicitly Christian in its underlying tone. It’s stated very clearly that Rossum was a militant atheist, who wanted to play God in order to show that God is unnecessary for the emergence of life. The ending, however, is ambiguous. Rossum was an anti-theist, but his artificial creations, which are based on a chemistry not found in nature, clearly work, and in turn become genuine, self-perpetuating, authentic men and women with intelligence, emotions and morality.

Some critics have said that R.U.R. really isn’t SF so much as a technological parable about the threat of Communism. It was written in 1920, a few years after the Russian Revolution and similar outbreaks of working class militancy across Europe, including Germany, Austria and Hungary. But other works, that are undoubtedly considered Science Fiction, are also veiled comments on events and issues of the time. Much of the SF of the former Soviet Union, like that of the Strugatsky brothers, who wrote the classic Stalker, was written in the ‘Aesopian Mode’. They were intended as parables to say in veiled form truths and comments that could not be overtly made under Soviet censorship.

And the conception of robots as a form of genuine artificial life does seem to be based on some of the scientific speculation of the time. Russian scientists, such as Oparin, were acutely interested in the emergence of life on the prehistoric Earth, and devised several experiments to suggest how the chemicals necessary for life may have been formed. And the Communists, as militant atheists, were keen supporters of Darwinian evolution, though I think they viewed it as proceeding through a form of dialectal materialism, and so bearing that theory out, rather than some of the more sophisticated, non-Marxist conceptions that have occurred later. Russian Cosmists, like the Transhumanists today, wished to develop scientific methods of resurrecting the dead and then colonising space as a suitable habitat for the new, perfected humanity.

Furthermore, some experiments and speculation in robotics has moved away from simple, mechanical processes. Human muscles operate biochemically. Messages from nerves changes the shape of the molecules composing muscles, which in turn makes those same muscles contract or expand, moving the organism’s limbs. Some scientists have therefore worked on trying to mimic this process of movement using artificial substances, rather than existing electrical or petrol-driven motors. This brings the construction of robots very close the type of 3D printing shown in West World’s titles.

My own feeling is that it will be a very long time, if ever, before humanity produces anything like the sentient robots of SF. As I mentioned in my previous article, one of the scientists interviewed by the science magazine, Frontiers, in 1998 stated that he didn’t think we’d see genuinely conscious, intelligent robots in his lifetime. Anthony Hopkins in an interview in this week’s Radio Times makes the same point, stating that we haven’t created anything as simply as a single cell. This does not mean that humanity won’t, or detract from stories about robots as entertainment, or as the means by which philosophical issues about creation, the nature of life and humanity, consciousness and intelligence, can be explored. West World in this sense is part of a trend in recent screen SF attempting to explore these issues intelligently, such as Automata and The Machine. These new treatments are far more secular, but as philosophical treatments of the underlying issues, rather than simple stories about warfare between humanity and its creations, like the Terminator, they also follow in a long line that goes all the way back to Capek.

Vox Political on Yet Another Anti-Semitism Smear against Jackie Walker

September 29, 2016

I was starting to think that maybe I wouldn’t have to write many more pieces about the anti-Semitism allegations in the Labour party after my last post, which reported that Mike has his book out, The Livingstone Presumption, which soundly refutes them. In the same piece in which he announces the publication of his book, Mike also discusses an article by Michael Segalov, who roundly denied that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters were anti-Semites. Mr Segalov pointed out that the people, who put their lives and their bodies on the line time and again to protect Jews and their religion, were left-wingers, including Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. He made the point that the real anti-Semites were the Nazis, who have no qualms of spouting their filth and making the Nazi salute right in your face. Smearing genuine anti-racists like Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as anti-Semites devalues the word and its ability to protect Jews from those, who really wish them harm.

Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum against Real Nazism

This is all entirely correct. As I blogged yesterday, it’s been my experience too that the people, who took ant-racism very seriously and went on the marches and demos against racist and Nazi organisations were left-wingers like Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in Momentum. And there are all too genuine Nazi organisations in Britain today. One is National Action, which openly spouts conspiracist nonsense about the Jews trying to destroy the White race using Blacks, and whose members will make the Nazi salute and chant ‘Sieg heil!’ during their rallies. There’s also a miniscule National Socialist Party, who are exactly what their name suggests they are: Nazis. A few years ago there was a furore about their meeting in a pub near Bristol. Somehow the organisation had managed to book it to hold a meeting. I think they used a false name. On the day, they were there in full Nazi regalia, complete with flags. The neighbours were disgusted, properly made complaints, and the whole incident ended up on the local news. This included photos and footage of the event, showing the flags. And they were the proper, vile thing.

Jackie Walker Accused Yet Again of Anti-Semitism

Unfortunately, members of the Blairite Labour party hierarchy don’t seem to have got the message that Momentum and its members aren’t anti-Semites, and that the real threat is showing itself quite openly in the shape of National Action and the National Socialist Party. According to a story in today’s Guardian, Jackie Walker, the vice-chair of Momentum has faced calls to resign after she made ‘insensitive’ comments at a Labour party training day on anti-Semitism. She ‘incorrectly’ criticised Holocaust Memorial Day for commemorating only Jews, and is quoted as saying

“In terms of Holocaust day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced holocaust?”

She also took issue with the definition of anti-Semitism used at the training day, and is also accused of questioning the need for Jewish organisations, including schools to have so much security to protect them from attack. Walker has made a statement denying she said this, and apologising for any offence she might have given.

Definitions of Anti-Semitism

Mike in his comments on the case begins by stating that he also appeared at an event marking Holocaust Memorial Day, where he read a piece about the Shoah by the German playwright Peter Weiss. He states he makes an attempt at defining anti-Semitism in his book, but also gives a 7-point definition of it by David Schneider. Roughly summed up, this says that you might by an anti-Semite if you don’t make a distinction between Jews and Israel, hold Jews responsible for all the atrocities committed by Israel unless they explicitly say otherwise, and believe in the stupid conspiracy theories about the Jews having control of capitalism, the government and the BBC in order to control the world. Mr Schneider says of the latter that if they have control of the Beeb, no-one’s yet told him. Which makes me wonder if David Schneider is the actor and comedian, who has been a frequent star on a number of shows, such as the spoof news programme, The Day Today, and Alan Partridge, where he played the TV host’s boss.

Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone Not Anti-Semites

Mike also makes the point that Naz Shah’s suspension has been lifted, and only one of the tweets on which the accusation against her were made could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic. As for Red Ken, they are based on ignorance of history and taking the original comments out of context. He also makes the point that Rhea Wolfson had her bid to join the NEC voted down by her constituency Labour party by Jim Murphy, because she was a member of Momentum, who were anti-Semites. Mike makes the point that it’s amazing how people could believe that an organisation full of anti-Semites would want to see Mrs Wolfson, a Jew, promoted to the party’s governing body.

Mike’s absolutely right. They wouldn’t. The real, Nazi anti-Semites are all about keeping Jews as far away from power as possible, following all that rubbish they believe of the Jewish conspiracy to destroy the Aryan race.

Wilhelm Marr and Anti-Semitism

If you want a short definition of anti-Semitism, try the one from the person, who first coined the term in the 19th century, Wilhelm Marr. Marr was an anti-Semite, and the founder of the Bund der Antisemiten, the League of Anti-Semites, if I recall correctly. He defined anti-Semitism as the hatred of Jews simply for being Jews, regardless of Judaism as a religion. The stupid conspiracy theories that have grown up around them are basically an elaboration of that, roughly based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious forgery drawn up by the Tsarist secret police, the Okhrana, to persuade Nicholas II to persecute the Jews more savagely in the Russian Empire.

Why Security in Britain?

Mike also makes the point that the Groan’s article does give the definition of anti-Semitism that was made at the event. He also says he is confused about the need for Jewish organisations here to have high security, as the reason given was the example of the attack in Toulouse. This is in France, and the French government has been criticised for failing to protect its citizens, not just Jews. And he also makes another, very good point, that Mrs Walker’s accusers have also shown their insensitivity in not considering the harm they’re doing.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/29/another-anti-semitism-row-that-completely-misses-the-point/

Another Politically Motivated Smear

I think Mike’s right when he observes that the paper doesn’t supply the definition of anti-Semitism the party used at its training day. In fact, I think there is a lot that this article isn’t telling us. And it seems to me that this is yet another attempt to smear Mrs Walker as an anti-Semite, which is itself part of a wider campaign to purge politically liberal Jews from positions of leadership as part of a Neocon agenda.

Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians

If you remember, Mrs Walker was accused of anti-Semitism previously, because she had dared to criticise Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and state, quite correctly, that other peoples had also experienced their own holocausts. Both of these statements are exactly true. Israel has been and is pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians. It has been abundantly documented by courageous Jewish scholars like Ilan Pappe and Norman Finkelstein. I even found a copy of Pappe’s book on it, whose title calls it what it is, in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham.

The Holocaust and Other Genocides

As for other nations also having suffered their own genocides, the great Afro-American historian and one of the founders of the modern civil rights movement, W.E.B. Dubois, stated that the transatlantic slave trade had caused ‘a holocaust in central Africa’. The extent of the devastation inflicted on the African population by the slave trade is a subject of debate, and many historians of the slave trade would take issue with Dubois’ statement. But nevertheless, that is how many Blacks see the slave trade and its effects on Africa, not unjustifiably. And the campaigns to exterminate the First Nations of North and South America, beginning with the genocide of the Taino in the Caribbean, by European settlers is notorious. If you want to read about the genocide of the Amerindians in America, try the classic Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. There have also been campaign to wipe out Aboriginal Australians following the British invasion of that country, and a long string of other crimes against humanity, including the ethnic butchery following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, culminating in the Armenian Massacres and the Day of the Sword against the Christian population in the Empire’s Middle Eastern territories. Not to mention the horrific persecutions after the Second World War, such as the invasion of East Timor, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the Rwandan genocide and Bosnia during the break up of the former Yugoslavia.

The Guardian article states that

Holocaust Memorial Day is intended to commemorate all victims of the Nazi Holocaust, and other genocides, including atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda.

Neocon Attacks against Jews Universalising the Holocaust

I wonder if that attitude was being seriously followed at the Labour party training day. It’s certainly the attitude of the older, mainstream Jewish organisations, but more recently this universalising of the Holocaust has come under attack from the Neocon right. For example, one of the rightwing Canadian blogs is Five Feet of Fury, run by Kathy Shaidle. Shaidle’s blog is pro-privatisation. She attacked the 2012 British Olympic opening ceremony because it celebrate the NHS, which she and the other Republicans and High Tories desperately, and openly wanted to see sold off. She was rabidly anti-Muslim, and despite indigenous Canadians. She also hated Bernie Farber, the head of the main Jewish organisation in Canada, and those she derided as ‘official Jews’. In one of her rants against Mr Farber, she attacked him precisely because he had universalised the Holocaust. This was at the time of the Darfur massacres. Mr Farber and his organisation had launched a ‘Shabbat for Darfur’. This was a ‘sabbath’ in the sense of a day of fasting and prayer. Mr Farber and the other organisers explicitly connected the genocide now being suffered by the people of Darfur, with that of other victims of similarly massacres, and the Holocaust of the Jewish people in the Third Reich.

For most decent people, whether they’re Jews or not, Mr Farber’s stance was noble and honourable. He represented a victimised, persecuted people, standing up on behalf of all victimised peoples, to demand an end to the genocide of yet another suffering people. Shaidle, however, had nothing but scorn for Mr Farber, his organisation, and proposed Shabbat. She was outraged that the Holocaust was to be universalised. In her opinion, it was an event unique to the Jewish people, and should be regarded as such. She also sneered at Mr Farber and his organisation for concentrating on the threat to Jews from White Nazi organisations, and ignoring, or downplaying, the threat from militant Islam. The blog is also vehemently Zionist, regularly attacking the Palestinians as terrorists, and defending Israel’s annexation and occupation of the West Bank.

I don’t know how many readers Shaidle’s blog has. Possibly not many, but I don’t think she was alone in her views. The Tories over here definitely want to privatise the health service, as very many people have pointed out, including Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in NHS-SOS, and I’ve also written my own pamphlet about it, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, which is available at Lulu. Similar attacks on Islam and the mainstream Jewish organisations have also been made by Ezra Levant, a journalist and presenter on a minor right-wing cable TV station in Canada.

The Manipulation of the Commemoration of the Holocaust by Zionism

One of Prof. Norman Finkelstein’s most controversial works is his The Holocaust Industry. Prof. Finkestein wrote it a few years ago, tracing the emergence of an industry exploiting the memory of this most heinous crime from Israel’s victories over the Arabs at the end of the 1960s. He makes the case that the Holocaust has been deliberately exploited by Zionist organisations as a way of creating public support for Israel. I’ll make it very plain here to avoid any misunderstanding: Professor Finkelstein is not a Holocaust denier. He is the son of parents, who managed to survive the horror. Hence, I think, his outrage at the way its memory has been exploited for narrow political gains and the ethnic cleansing of another people.

Using the Holocaust to Justify the Occupation of Palestine

There was an example of the kind of political exploiting Prof. Finkelstein describes about a week ago. Counterpunch wrote an article criticising Binyamin Netanyahu, after he made a speech declaring that he would not halt or recall the colonisation of the West Bank by Israeli settlers, because this would violate their civil rights. And he, or one of his cabinet, invoked the Holocaust once again to justify Israel’s colonisation of the Occupied Territories. It’s disgusting to see one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century used in a piece of twisted rhetoric to justify the persecution and dispossession of another people.

This is what makes me suspicious that there is more behind this latest smear against Jackie Walker. Despite the Groan’s protestations, there are Zionists, who would like the Shoah seen as an exclusively Jewish tragedy and resent its extension to cover the victims of other, similar crimes against humanity. It looks to me that Mrs Walker has been censured, precisely because she did universalise it and has criticised its political use by the Israel lobby.

Jackie Walker’s Black, Jewish and Anti-Racist Heritage and Activism

As for her ‘insensitivity’, I give that the same about of credence I give to the allegations against her of anti-Semitism. Mrs Walker is half-Jewish. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist, who was thrown out of America because of her activism. Her father was a Russian Jew, and so therefore probably knew more than most about real anti-Semitic persecution. She has made it clear that she has always fought against racism and anti-Semitism, and with her heritage, I do not think there are any grounds for doubting her at all. She has also stated that her partner is Jewish, and said in an interview that their family had not spoken to her after the allegations were made. This must clearly have caused her distress, so I think her accusers should be called up on their insensitivity and the emotional distress they have caused her.

The Jews and Other Victims of the Nazis

As for Walker’s own ‘insensitivity’, from the sound of it, she asked a reasonable question at a time when at least some Zionists are trying to deny the universalisation of the Holocaust, and manipulate its memory to support their own ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. It’s a disgusting attitude that insults the memory of those who suffered and perished in the Shoah. And it wasn’t just Jews, who perished in the Nazi camps. The Roma – the Gypsies, who are even now persecuted in central and eastern Europe, were also targeted for extermination by the Nazis as untermenschen, subhumans. As also were the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe – the Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Czechs and Slovaks, who were to be reduced to illiterate peasants supplying the Reich with agricultural goods, when not forced off their homelands for German colonisation and worked to death as slave labourers. And historians of the Reich have pointed out that the Nazis began their extermination campaign against the Jews with their odious Aktion T4 ‘euthanasia’ programme against the disabled. I was taught at school that altogether 11 1/2 million people died in the Nazi camps. The majority of these – six million – were Jews, but in addition to these victims there were 5 1/2 others, who included not just the aforementioned peoples, but also political prisoners – Socialists, trade unionists, Communists, anti-Nazi Conservatives, such as Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s first president after the War. It certainly should not be out of the question why these victims are also not given their due commemoration along with the Jews, with whom they were enslaved and perished.

More Hatred against Muslims than Jews in France and Britain?

I also don’t think Mrs Walker was at all out of order when she asked why Jewish organisations, including schools, needed so much high security. I am not complacent about anti-Semitic hate crime against them. The threat of Daesh is very real, as is the murderous buffoons of National Action and the National Socialist Party and related sects. But if the situation in France is comparable to that of England, then Jews are much less likely to suffer hate crime from mainstream British society than Muslims. One of the reasons the French government was keener to protect Muslims from hate crime than Jews, was because more French people considered the Jews to be French than felt that way about Muslims. In polls, only about 5 per cent of French people said that they did not consider Jews really French. While that’s clearly troubling, it’s also somewhat reassuring as it says that 95 per cent of all French people consider Jews to be French. The number of French people, who don’t consider Muslims to be French, is much higher. My guess is the situation in Britain is probably similar, and that more mainstream Brits consider Jews to be properly British than they consider Muslims.

Muslims Also Victims of Islamist Terrorism

Al-Qaeda and Daesh also do not limit themselves to killing only Jews. They kill and maim all Brits, including Muslims. That was abundantly shown in the 7/7 bombings. It was also shown earlier this week, when a young man, who had fallen under their influence, was found guilty of murdering the imam at his local mosque. The imam performed healing rituals using amulets. While this is common in parts of Islam, it is condemned by Daesh. The man was described as ‘self-radicalised’, and had come under their influence through the net. Motivated by the Islamic States sectarian intolerance towards other Muslims, he attacked and killed the imam. Just like Daesh are butchering other Muslims in Iraq and Syria, for having the temerity to hold different views about what it means to be a member of the ‘umma, the Muslim community. Muslims are as at risk from their attacks as the rest of British society.

High Security Imprisoning British Jews and Black Americans?

I think also think that Mrs Walker’s question was justified following remarks about the amount of security around Black schools in America. The left-wing internet news and politics show, The Young Turks, had a piece the other day comparing Black American schools with prisons because of the amount of security. Mrs Walker, as a woman of colour, may well have been worried that the Jewish community was also going to suffer from the same imprisonment behind walls of security designed to protect them. After all, the article states that she was particularly worried about schools, such as that attended by her daughter. While the reasons for the security are different for Black and Jewish communities – its their to protect Jews from attack by outsiders, while it’s present in Black schools to protect the children from the violent criminality that plagues many poor communities – Mrs Walker may well have been worried that the sociological and psychological effect would be the same. If that is the case, then she asked a reasonable question with only the best intentions at heart.

Jackie Walker Smeared; They Owe Us an Explanation

It is therefore my belief that the truly wronged party in this instance is Mrs Walker. This seems to be yet another attempt to smear her character as part of a campaign by the Israel lobby against the country’s critics. As I said, it looks like there is a concerted neocon campaign to make sure that only Zionists have ownership of the memorialisation of the Holocaust, to the exclusion of more liberal voices from the rest of the Jewish community. And I can understand Mrs Walker’s opposition to seeing the Jewish community and its schoolchildren walled off from everyone else behind high security. I feel dismayed by the amount of security schools generally have to maintain, with locked gates, though I well appreciate the need to protect our young people from those, who would do them harm.

I think rather than Mrs Walker being queried and investigated for anti-Semitism and ‘insensitivity’, it is the anonymous organisers of this training day, who deserve to give the rest of the Labour party, both Jews and gentiles, an explanation.

For Netanyahu’s grotesque invocation of ‘human rights’ to justify the ongoing colonisation of the West Bank, see the Counterpunch article ‘The Human Rights of the Settler’, by Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini, at http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/13/the-human-rights-of-the-settler/

More from Vox Political on the Blairites Doing the Stalinist Hot-Trot

August 29, 2016

Over the past few days Mike’s put up a few more posts about the Blairites and their attempted purge of the Corbynites in time for the leadership elections.

Among their various antics, they sent a tweet to one victim of the coup, who had been told they did not have the right to vote, in the middle of the night asking them to support Owen Smith. Which is, as Isabel Waby, a friend of Vox Political, observed, simply adding insult to injury. Another person, Catherine Starr, was banned because of an ‘inappropriate’ tweet. She had made the cardinal sin of posting that she ‘f**king loved the Foo Fighters’. Richard Burgon, the Shadow Justice Secretary, responded to this woman’s ban with the jocular comment that he preferred Motorhead, but liking the Foo Fighters was certainly no reason to ban someone. Quite. Nor is foul language on a completely unrelated topic. I realise the ‘F bomb’ is still very shocking to quite a few people, but it’s now so widely used that it is using much of its ability to shock. If you want an example of this, think of the number of times Paul Merton and some of the other panellists on Have I Got News For You have cussed. When I was at school, the use of the word got Jools Holland thrown off the Friday early evening pop show, The Tube. Admittedly, this show was on much earlier, at about 6 O’clock, while HIGNFY is on after the 9 O’clock watershed. But even so, Merton and co are still going, and the shows as strong as ever. Starr was planning to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, so it looks very much like the Blairite National Executive was simply trying to find an excuse to ban her.

Corbyn was moved to tweet his own disapproval about the one-sidedness of the purge: “I’m very concerned that some people seem to have been unfairly removed from the ability to vote in this election. I’ve written to Labour’s General Secretary to raise concerns about members being suspended from voting in the leadership contest often without knowing why, being given an option to challenge or appeal.”

For this, the Labour leader got told by a Scottish Labour councillor, Stephen McCabe, that he should have some faith as leader in the NEC, knowing perfectly well Corbyn can contribute, but can’t control what they do.

Among the other victims of the purge is Ronnie Draper, the General Secretary of the Baker’s, Food, and Allied Worker’s Union. He was told that he was being denied the vote on the basis of an unidentified tweet. He has also been given no opportunity to refute the charge, and no hearing has been set for him to challenge it.

According to Mike, 200,000 people have been denied the vote by the NEC. The process of deciding who gets to vote, and who doesn’t, is overseen by Joanna Baxter. She tweeted that the decisions were made by 2 panels, comprising three people from the NEC, and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith. She did not, however, give any details on the criteria by which the suitability of the voters was assessed. Furthermore, Baxter is no longer a member of the NEC, and so has absolutely no right or obligation to oversee the purge.

Mike concludes:

So far, it seems you get the boot for comments made at any time since you joined social media – no matter how long ago and never mind whether you have changed your mind since. Use of profanities at any time means you’re out – if you’re a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. Tweeting support for a point of view put forward by another political party – out. Publicly disagreeing with Owen Smith – out.

It is hard to tell the criteria by which supporters of Mr Smith are likely to be removed from the voting register. Does anybody know?

Mike also has put up the advice, given by one of his commenters, that anyone intending to appeal against the decision to ban them should throw in a Data Access Request for Data held on them under the Data Protection Act. As data holders, the Labour party will be obliged to provide them with all the data they have on them.

Mike also warns that as Baxter complained that she was receiving abuse even before these shenanigans began, she’s now got a running commentary on her twitter feed about the abusive messages she’s receiving. Or claims to have received. As Mike says, it’s unknown whether these are ‘false flag attacks’ or not. But he strongly advises his readers to be polite in any case.

See his article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/27/labour-member-is-denied-vote-in-leader-election-then-owen-smith-txts-to-ask-for-support/

I remarked before, when the purge began a few days ago, that this is New Labour and the Blairites behaving exactly like Stalin. He took over the Russian Communist party by purging the membership of his rivals’ supporters. Once installed as the president of the USSR, he continued his purges, not by merely throwing his opponents out of the party, but by sending them, and millions of others, to the Gulags and the firing squads as enemies of the Revolution and so forth. Baxter and Smudger aren’t sending people to forced labour camps, but in other respects they’re following Uncle Joe’s tactics. As he said, ‘it’s not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.’

It’s also all very Kafkaesque. In his novels The Castle and The Trial, the Czech novelist described farcical bureaucratic tyrannies, in which the regime’s victims were arrested, tried and condemned without knowing what their crime was, or who their accusers were. Which is pretty much what’s happening here, with people being told their banned simply on account of ‘inappropriate comments’.

But only Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, apparently. Lord Sainsbury, who is now supporting the Lib Dems, has, it seems, not lost his right to vote. Never mind. As Mike has put up in a later article today, after the election there will be a reckoning of this bureaucratic tyrants.

UKIP Poster Repeats Nazi Anti-Immigrant Propaganda

June 18, 2016

Mike also put up an article yesterday reporting that Dave Prentice, the head of Unison, has written to the Metropolitan police complaining that Nigel Farage’s latest poster for UKIP breaks the laws against inciting racial hatred. Farage appeared to unveil the poster, which shows a long line of mostly non-White immigrants stretching out, with the slogan, ‘Once again, the EU has failed us’. The poster is almost exactly like a section from one of the Nazis’ propaganda movies, about the immigrants that flooded into Europe after the First World War, which they described as ‘parasites, undermining their host countries’. Indeed, Hitler states in Mein Kampf that he became an anti-Semite after he saw a Jew, dressed in a kaftan, in the backstreets of Vienna, when he was a tramp living in a men’s hostel before the First World War. Joachim C. Fest, in his biography of the dictator, suggests that the man was probably a refugee from the eastern provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, such as what is now the Czech and Slovak Republics, or perhaps Ukraine, who had been displaced by the pogroms that broke out in the 1890s. The story is almost certainly a lie, as Adolf was probably a raging anti-Semite long before that. Many schoolchildren and young ethnic Germans in Austria were pan-Germans, wishing for a union with Germany and intensely hostile to Jews, Czechs and other Slavs. It was probably at this time that Hitler caught his crude racialism from the anti-Semitic pamphlets sold at newsagents and tobacconists. Nevertheless, the fact that Hitler thought it worth telling this tale, show how he thought it had immense psychological value as propaganda. Just as Farage also thinks his poster has. And as Mike says, those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/17/the-tactics-of-hate/