Archive for the ‘Disability’ Category

Sargon of Akkad Destroys UKIP

April 19, 2019

Ho ho! Good news for everyone concerned with UKIP’s lurch to the far right. While current Kipperfuhrer Batten might believe he’s regenerating the party through recruiting far right activists and YouTube ranters like Paul Joseph Watson, Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, and Mark Meechan, alias Count Dankula, this appears to be backfiring somewhat. And particularly in the case of Sargon.

The Sage of Swindon has been selected by UKIP as their candidate for the south west in the European elections, and Zelo Street and many other left-wing and anti-racist bloggers have pointed out the numerous reasons why genuinely liberal people shouldn’t vote for him. Sargon styles himself a ‘centrist moderate’ and a ‘classical liberal’. By which he means he’s a supporter of complete free trade and an absolutely privatised economy with no, or little welfare state, according to the classical economists of the early 19th century. He believes he’s anti-racist, and has taken on Richard Spencer and the Alt Right in debates, but his views on race aren’t much different from theirs. He hates ‘social justice warriors’, which is the Right’s term for anyone who wants a better deal and equality for the working class, the poor, the disabled, women, Blacks, Asians and other ethnic groups. During a livestream with a group of other right-wingers, he told them they were behaving ‘like a bunch of n***ers’ and ‘White n***ers’, and has also used the offensive terms ‘Spics’ and ‘retards’ for people of Latin heritage and the mentally handicapped.

But what many find most offensive is his anti-feminism and misogyny. And this is damaging his own party. When Jess Philips was describing how she had been sent death and rape threats over social media, Sargon responded by tweeting at her ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’. This got Sargon banned under Twitter’s terms of service. On last Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show, the former editor of the Independent interviewed Gerard Batten, raising the issue of Sargon’s disgusting tweet. What did the Kipperfuhrer have to say about it? Batten first of all responded by saying he didn’t know the context of the tweet, but then tried to defend it by saying it was satire.

Er, no. No, it wasn’t. And people know it. Including three female Kipper MEPs, Jane Collins, Jill Seymour and Margot Parker resigned from UKIP to join Farage’s Brexit Party. Sky News quoted Collins, who said

“To have people like Carl Benjamin on the list for the party is something I find disgusting, and to hear Gerard Batten on national TV yesterday defending this man’s use of rape as ‘satire’ made me sick to my stomach.

“I know women who have been raped and the mental and physical destruction it wreaks on these victims and their loved ones is the opposite of satire: it is a tragedy.”

They also quote Seymour, who said that she wasn’t walking away from UKIP, but that UKIP had walker away from her, and Parker. She was not only the Party’s deputy chair, but also their spokesman for women and equalities. She accused Batten of carrying out a purge in favour of the supporters of the islamophobe Tommy Robinson, and stated that Batten was going on a ‘crusade’ that was dividing communities up and down Britain.

https://news.sky.com/story/three-meps-quit-ukip-after-gerard-battens-defence-of-candidates-rape-tweet-11694846

As for Sargon, he promptly caused even more outrage by inviting his supporters to an online gaming community, which had chatrooms full of White Supremacist and anti-Semitic content.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2019-04-17T15:43:00%2B01:00&max-results=20

Sargon, however, has failed to learn his lesson. When Dr Kristi Winters, an American social scientist teaching in Germany posted a tweet stating that Sargon had been banned from Twitter for violating his terms of service, he responded through one of the other Twitter accounts he’d set up, Backworldsman. He denied that the tweet ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’ violated the ToS, and repeated the remark to Winters.

At which point he was banned again.

Here’s Dr. Winter’s short YouTube video about the episode.

And this is one of the intellectual leaders of the far right!

There’s no way Sargon should be a candidate for any decent political party, and the attacks on him for his disgusting views are coming thick and fast. Sky News’ Kate McCann tackled Batten and Sargon at a press conference, stating

Mr Batten suggested earlier that if I would like to hold his candidate to account, I should turn up at your press conference and ask the question. So I would like to ask Carl Benjamin why you think it is acceptable to say, on Twitter, that you wouldn’t even rape a female Labour MP”.

To which the Sage of Swindon replied

Because I don’t think women are any different to men in the way you should treat them. Unlike the establishment, unlike our judges, who literally say ‘If you were a man I would send you to jail’, I think you should treat women the same as men”.

And that means if a woman is being a giant bitch and laughing at male suicide, I’m going to be a giant dick back to her. Any questions?”

Reporting this exchange, Zelo Street has pointed out that Phillips wasn’t laughing at male suicide, and is consulting m’learned friends. McCann asked him if he thought it was acceptable, to which Sargon said ‘100 per cent’ and told her to deal with it to rapturous applause from the assembled Kipper stormtroopers.

McCann has posted a tweet stating that his comment about rape is unacceptable, as it implies there are people he would rape, and that it perpetuates the myth that rape is about sexual attraction.

Zelo Street also adds the observations that Sargon and the press conference also leave the Kippers open to two other lines of attack. Firstly, Sargon was standing next to Mark Meechan, who trained his girlfriend’s pug to make the Nazi salute when he shouted ‘Gas the Jews!’, and two, Sargon’s also notorious for his other, racist views. As well as another vile comment when he appeared to excuse paedophilia when talking to another YouTuber, whose tastes ran that way. When he was asked if he thought it was wrong, Sargon said that it depended on the child.

Very, very, wrong answer.

And, like Paul Joseph Watson’s former boss at InfoWars, Alex Jones, he’s a truther, who thinks that the world trade centre couldn’t be brought down by two large passenger aircraft. He also believes in ‘cultural Marxism’, which carries an awful lot of anti-Semitic baggage ever since the Nazis first coined it as Kulturbolschevismus.

Sargon and the rightists Batten’s recruited have brought the party’s membership up to 27,000 from its low point of 18,000. But as Zelo Street comments, they’re also doing a very good job of driving people away.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/carl-benjamin-ukip-downfall-begins.html

Hopefully with a few more comments like it won’t be long before the party completely collapses.

Tonight at 8.00 on YouTube, Winters and Kevin Logan are hosting one of their ‘Happy Hours’, the theme of which is going to be ‘UKIP Deselect Sargon’. This could be worth watching for anyone fascinated with Sargon’s disgusting antics and Batten’s disgusting party.

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Book on the Plight of the Embattled Christians of Palestine

April 13, 2019

Said K. Aburish, The Forgotten Faithful: The Christians of the Holy Land (London: Quartet 1993).

Aburish is a Palestinian, born in Bethany, and the author of several books about the Arabs and specifically the Palestinians and their persecution by the Israelis – A Brutal Friendship, Children of Bethany – The Story of a Palestinian Family and Cry Palestine: Inside the West Bank. In The Forgotten Faithful he tackles the problems of the Christians of Palestine, talking to journalists, church official, charity workers, educationalists, businessmen and finally of the leaders of the PLO, Hanan Ashrawi. Christians used to constitute ten per cent or so of the Palestinian population before the foundation of Israel. Now they’re down to one per cent. Much of this decline has been due to emigration, as educated, skilled Christians leave Israel to seek better opportunities elsewhere, and the indigenous Christian future in the Holy Land, the in which Christianity first arose, is uncertain.

Said states clearly the issues driving this decline early in his book – persecution by the Israelis, and particularly their attempt to wrest the lucrative tourism industry from them on the one hand, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism on the other. He writes

Twenty-five years of Israeli occupation have been disastrous for Palestinian Christians. In addition to the widely known closures of schools, imprisonment and torture of children, deportation of dissenters and activists, the expropriation of land owned by individuals and church-owned property, the Christians’ primary source of income, tourism and its subsidiary service businesses, have been the targets of special Israeli attempts to control them. In other words, when it comes to the Israeli occupation, the Christians have suffered more than their Muslim countrymen because they have more of what the Israelis want.

Furthermore, the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism is confronting the Christians with new problems against most of which they cannot protest without endangering the local social balance, indeed their Palestinian identity. Muslim fanatics have raise the Crescent on church towers, Christian cemeteries have been desecrated, the statues of the Virgin Mary destroyed and, for the first time ever, the Palestinian Christians are facing constraints on their way of life. In Gaza a Muslim fundamentalist stronghold, Christian women have to wear headscarves and long sleeves or face stoning, and Christian-owned shops have to close on the Muslim sabbath of Friday instead of on Sunday. 

These combined pressures come at a time of strain between the local Christian communities and both their local church leadership and the mainline churches of the West. The mainline churches in the West are accused of not doing enough to help them financially or drawing attention to their plight, for fear of appearing anti-Semitic and to a lesser degree anti-Muslim. The local church leaders are caught between their parishioners’ cry for help and the attitude of their mother churches and have been undermined by their identification with the latter. In addition to problems with the mainline churches, Christian evangelist groups from the United States, Holland and other countries support the State of Israel at the expense of local Christians. The evangelists accept the recreation of Israel as the prelude to the second coming to the extent of ignoring local Christian rights and feelings, a fact overlooked by Muslim zealots who blame the local Christians for not curbing their insensitive pro-Israeli co-religionists.

Two subsidiary problems contribute towards closing the ring of helplessness which is choking the local Christian communities of the Holy Land. The suffering inflicted on them by others and the direct and indirect results of the neglect of outside Christianity still haven’t induced their local church leaders to cooperate in establishing a common, protective Christian position. The traditional quarrel, alongside other disputes between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, continues and its stands in the way of creating a constructive Christian front. Furthermore, the Israelis make the appearance of favouring them against their Muslim nationals, a divide-and-rule policy which contributes towards inflaming the feelings of ignorant Muslims who do not understand the reasons behind the Israeli actions and use them to justify whatever anti-Christian feeling exists. (pp. 2-4).

The Palestinian Christian community has largely been middle class, assimilated and patriotic. They have provided the Palestinian people with a large number of businessmen and professionals, including a significant part of the membership and leadership of Palestinian nationalism and the PLO, as well as the civil rights lawyers working to defend the Palestinian people from persecution by the Israeli state and military. They have also been active establishing charities to provide for the Palestinians’ welfare. Said visits one, which specialises in rehabilitating and providing training for people physically injured and mentally traumatised by the Israeli armed forces. Visiting a Palestinian hospital, he also meets some of the victims of the IDF wounded and crippled by the IDF, including a young man shot by a member of the Special Forces simply for spraying anti-Israeli graffiti on a wall.

This isn’t an anti-Semitic book, as Aburish talks to sympathetic Israeli journalists and academics, but he describes very clearly the violence and bigotry that comes not just from the Israeli state and army, but also from Jewish religious fanatics. In the first chapter he describes a group of Israeli soldiers sneering at Christian Palestinians, and how he deliberated placed himself between a group of Jewish schoolboys and an elderly Ethiopian nun going through one district of Jerusalem. The boys had first started insulting her, and then began throwing stones at her and Aburish before the local, Jewish inhabitants rushed into the street to drive them away. The churches and monasteries in that part of town are close to an area of Jewish religious extremists. They’re not usually physically aggressive, but they make it very clear they don’t like Christians being there.

Nor is it anti-Muslim. The Christians community itself sees itself very firmly as part of the Palestinians. Many Christian men have adopted the name Muhammad in order to show that there is no difference between themselves as their Muslim fellow countrymen. And historically they have been fully accepted by the Muslim community. Aburish talks to the headman of a mixed Christian-Muslim village. The man is a Christian, and historically Christians have formed the headmen for the village. The Christians also point with pride to the fact that one of the generals of Saladin, the Muslim leader who conquered Palestine back from the Crusaders, was a Greek Orthodox Christian. Aburish is shocked by how extremely religious the Muslim community has become, with Friday services packed and one of his aunts traveling to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to pray. This, like the less obvious religious revival among the Christians, is ultimately due to Israeli pressure and the failure of secular Palestinian politicians. There is no truth in politics, so they seek it instead in Islam and the pages of Qu’ran. And behind this rise in Islamic intolerance are the Saudis. Aburish recommends better Muslim-Christian dialogue to tackle this growing intolerance.

Aburish hears from the Palestinians how their land is seized by the Israelis for the construction of new, Israeli settlements, how people are shot, beaten, injured and maimed, and the attempts to strangle Palestinians businesses. This includes legislation insisting that all tourist guides have to be Israeli – a blatant piece of racism intended to drive Christians out of the tourist business through denying them access to the many Christian shrines, churches and monuments that are at the heart of the industry. Christian charities and welfare services don’t discriminate between Christian and Muslim, but they are oversubscribed and underfunded. And the churches are more interested in defending their traditional institutional privileges than in helping their local flock. They look west, and are more interested in promoting and defending the churches’ response to the worlds’ problems as a whole, while the Palestinians are also being pulled east through their Arab identity. Senior Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox clergy are often foreigners, who cannot speak Arabic and may be to a greater or lesser extent indifferent to the needs and problems of their congregations. The Palestinian Christians are also hampered by the fact that they don’t want to acknowledge that they have specific problems as a minority within the wider Palestinian nation, partly for fear of further antagonising the Muslim majority.

Nevertheless, some Palestinian Christians choose to remain, stubbornly refusing to emigrate while they could get much better jobs elsewhere. And all over the world, expatriate Palestinian communities are proud of their origins and connection to the land. Aburish even talks to one optimistic Palestinian Christian businessman, who believes that Cyprus provides the model for a successful Palestine. There local people have built a thriving commercial economy without having the universities and educational institutions Palestine possesses. And some Palestinian Christians believe that the solutions to their crisis is for the community to reconnect with its oriental roots, reviving the traditional extensive Arab family structure, which has served Arabs so well in the past.

The book was published a quarter of a century ago, in 1993, and I’ve no doubt that things have changed since then. But not for the better. There have been recent magazine articles by National Geographic, among others, that report that the Palestinians are still suffering the same problem – caught between the hammer of the Israeli state and the anvil of Islamic fundamentalism. Christian Zionism, however, has become stronger and exerts a very powerful influence on American foreign policy through organisations like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. Netanyahu’s vile Likud is still in power, and Israeli politics has lurched even further to the right with the inclusion of Fascist parties like Otzma Yehudat – Jewish Power – in the wretched coalition. And some British churches maintain a very determined silence on the problems of the Palestinians. According to one anti-Zionist Jewish blog, the Methodist Church has passed regulations at its synod preventing it or its members officially criticising Israel. Because of the church’s leaders was friends with members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

I am very well aware of the long, shameful history of Christian anti-Semitism and how real, genuine Nazis have also criticised Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and claimed that they’re just anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to provoke further bigotry against the Jewish people. But Israel is oppressing the Christians of Palestine as well as the Muslims, but we in the West really don’t hear about it. And I’m not sure how many western Christians are really aware that there is a Christian community in Palestine, or how its members largely identify totally as Palestinians. Certainly Ted Cruz, the American politico, didn’t when he tried telling a Middle Eastern Christian group that they should support Israel. He was shocked and disgusted when they very firmly and obviously didn’t agree. He made the mistake of believing they had the same colonialist attitude of western right-wing Christians, while Middle Eastern Christians are very much the colonised and know it. Hence the fact that according to Aburish, many Palestinian Christians look for theological support to South American Liberation Theology and its Marxist critique of colonialism. And they also supported Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, as a secular Arab state that would allow them to maintain their religious identity and culture.

The book’s dated, and since it was written the Christian presence in the Holy Land has dwindled further. Aburish describes in strong terms what a catastrophe a Palestine without indigenous Christians would be. He writes

The growing prospect of a Holy Land Christianity reduced to stones, a museum or tourist faith without people, a Jerusalem without believers in Christ, is more serious than that of a Rome without a Pope or a Canterbury without an archbishop. It is tantamount to a criminal act which transcends a single church and strikes a blow at the foundations and the very idea of Christianity.

I thoroughly recommend this book to every western Christian reader interested in seeing an alternative view of the religious situation in Palestine, one of that contradicts the lies and demands of the right-wing press. Like an article by the Torygraph’s Barbara Amiel back in the 1990s, which quoted a Christian mayor as stating that the Christian community welcomed the Israeli occupation. His might, but as the book shows, most don’t. Or that scumbucket Katie Hopkins telling us that we should support Israel, because it represents Judaeo-Christian values and civilisation, a claim that would outrage many Jews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have the Tories Killed More Disabled People than the Nazis?

April 9, 2019

Some may be outraged by the question, but it’s perfectly legitimate. The Nazis were Social Darwinists, who believed that the social elite, aristocrats and businessmen, were biologically superior to those at the bottom of the social hierarchy. And like Social Darwinists elsewhere in the West, they bitterly despised the disabled. They were ‘lebensunwertigen Leben‘, ‘life unworthy of life’, and a danger to the racial purity and biological fitness of the German people. Other nations had attempted to prevent the congenitally disabled from breeding through eugenics legislation providing for the sterilisation of the congenitally disabled and mentally handicapped. 22 American states had passed such legislation prior to the Nazi seizure of power, and when the Nazis in their turn enacted such laws, they claimed they had done nothing new. But they went much further, setting up a programme of official euthanasia in which the disabled and the incurably insane were taken by the SS to special clinics, where they were medically murdered.

A similar attitude seems to underlie the Tories’ policies towards the disabled and the hated fitness to work tests. These are based on policies introduced by Blair’s New Labour, in that the disabled are required to undertake tests administered by private contractors like Atos and now Maximus in order to judge whether they are ‘fit for work’. Those that are, are thrown off benefits and left to survive on their own. And all too many don’t. As has been pointed out by left-wing and disability rights bloggers and activists, the tests are based on pseudoscience within an inbuilt assumption that people are malingering. Whistleblowers have also come forward to tell how there are targets set by the DWP for declaring a certain proportion of claimants well enough to work, even though they are anything but. Blogs like Atos Miracles and the satirical magazine Private Eye have reported incidents where people in terminal comas have been declared fit for work, along with others with serious physical and mental conditions. Amputees have been asked when they expect their limbs to grow back, and depressives suffering from suicidal thoughts have been asked why they haven’t attempt to kill themselves. People in real, pressing need have been thrown off benefits and left to starve to death. Mike at Vox Political and other activists and bloggers have fought hard  to get the statistics out of the DWP for the number of people, who have died after being declared fit for work. The Tories have attempted to refuse the information, and only very grudgingly released it. At the same time they have also consistently denied that there is any connection between their policies and the deaths of the disabled and the unemployed, who have suffered similar removal of benefits under the infamous sanctions system. This has been so even when people have taken their own lives, leaving behind notes explaining why they have taken their own lives and placing the blame firmly on the DWP’s iniquitous policies.

Yesterday John McDonnell, Corbyn’s chief ally, urged people to make their concerns about the hardships caused by the DWP and Universal Credit known to their MPs personally, especially Tory MPs. He believes that if MPs personally met people, whose lives have been made worse through the sanctions system and Universal Credit, MPs would have a greater understanding of their suffering than through the ordinary process of parliamentary debate.

Mike in his piece about it was sceptical, pointing out that the government shares the same fundamental attitude towards the disabled as ‘useless eaters’, and believe that any policy that cuts down their number is good for the nation. Which means that it allows them to give massive tax cuts to the very rich. Mike also points out that the same rich the Tories defend and promote are far worse parasites, as they contribute less to the economy and use more of the state’s resources, funded by the taxpayer. Many of the business elite aren’t responsible for establishing the businesses they own or run. They simply inherited them.

But contacting the Tories won’t do any good. They’ll simply spit out the same old stories denying that their policies are responsible for the suffering and death they have manifestly caused. Meeting the disabled and unemployed personally won’t do any good either, they’ll just nod solemnly, look concerned and then carry on as before. This is because the Tories want the disabled and the unemployed, who find it difficult to get work, to die. Mike feels that the only way the DWP’s reign of terror can be stopped is if a court case or public inquiry found that a reasonable person would conclude that there was a connection between their policies and the deaths of the unemployed and disabled. This would open the way to the government being prosecuted for corporate manslaughter, possibly of as many as 100,000 people, although this is a conservative estimate.

The only other possibility is through a general election which puts Labour in power, though this may not be possible. Although the public believes in Labour’s policies, they are being deliberately misled into thinking that Corbyn himself is a threat. Hence the spectacle last week of soldiers in Afghanistan shooting at a picture of the Labour leader. Mike concludes

The system is stacked against Labour, and therefore against anybody who is in a position of vulnerability; anybody who isn’t a vastly rich Tory.

So if you have a relative or friend who has to claim sickness and/or disability benefits, go and see them, and give them a lot of affection. They may soon be dead – and if you voted Conservative, it’ll be because of your vote.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/08/confront-your-mp-personally-about-tory-abuse-of-people-on-benefits-says-mcdonnell/

Mike here is absolutely right. The rich do use more state services than the poor, which is one reason why they should be charged a consequently higher tax rate. And the Tories have cut welfare benefits in order to give massive tax breaks to the rich. Who don’t pass the benefits of their increased wealth further down the social hierarchy in the form of wages increases or opening new businesses. It simply stays in their accounts. And they really do seem keen to kill as many of the poor and disabled as possible.

Which brings us back to the Nazi euthanasia campaign. This ran between January 1940 and August 1941, when public outrage led by the Roman Catholic aristocrat, Count Galen forced the Nazis to abandon it. By that time they had murdered somewhere between sixty to eighty thousand disabled people. See D.G. Williamson, The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) 68-9.

If the Tories are responsible for the deaths of 100,000 people through Universal Credit, benefit sanctions and the fitness for work tests, then they have killed at least 20 – 40,000 more people disabled people than the Nazis.

This is horrendous. I dare say that Tory supporters would reject the comparison, as those left to die are not being forcibly taken to places against their will, like the Nazis’ murder hospitals or concentration camps, where they are then murdered by SS soldiers or compliant doctors. They are just thrown off benefits to starve on their own, so that the Tories, with a clear conscience, can say that they had nothing to do with their deaths.

But they did, and are. And its a disgrace. It’s long past time the Tories’ murder of the sick, disabled and unemployed was ended. Ideally those responsible, like Iain Duncan Smith, should be personally brought to trial and charged with their manslaughter. But this is probably impossible. The best solution would, as Mike says, be a Labour government brought in by a snap election.

And the fact still remains that the Tories have now killed more disabled people than the Nazis, and that those who voted for them are complicit in this.

Handbook of Disability History in Latest Oxbow Book Catalogue

March 31, 2019

I got the latest issue of Oxbow Book News, for Spring 2019, through the post the other day. Oxbow are specialist booksellers and publishers for archaeology and history. The Book News is really a catalogue of what they have in stock. And in the latest issue was The Oxford Handbook of Disability History, edited by Michael Rembis, Catherine J. Kudlick and Kim Nielsen (Oxford: OUP 2018). The blurb for it in the catalogue runs

Disability history exists outside of the institutions, healers, and treatments it often brings to mind. It is a history where the disabled live not just as patients or cure-seekers, but rather as people living differently in the world. The Oxford Handbook of Disability History is the first volume of its kind to represent this history and its global scale, from ancient Greece to British West Africa. The twenty-seven articles, written by thirty experts from across the field, capture the diversity and liveliness of this emerging scholarship.

Unfortunately, this book is going to be well beyond most people’s pockets. It’s hardback, and the listed price is £97.00, which means that it’s only really going to be affordable to the very affluent. On the other hand, you might be able to order it from your local library, assuming that the Tories haven’t shut it down already.

What is interesting is what its publication on its own says about this as an emerging area of scholarship. It says that the history of disabled people themselves is coming to be recognised as a field of historical research and endeavour by itself, alongside other disciplines in social history like Black, women’s, and gender history. It’s possible that this is part of a change in general cultural attitudes towards the disabled, in the way that the Black civil rights and feminist movements directly caused the emergence of Black and women’s history. Unfortunately, despite this apparent change in academic attitudes, popular attitude towards people with disabilities still has some way to go. We still have the Tories closing down services for disabled people in the name of austerity, efficiency and all the hypocritical cant about concentrating resources where they’re really needed. And we still have the wretched Tory press and media demonising them as welfare scroungers. A week or so ago Zelo Street put up a post about the Spectator’s Rod Liddle attacking people with ME as malingerers, who didn’t have a real illness. To which the answer is, no, Rod, it is, they are, and you’re a soulless Murdoch hack. This wasn’t the first time he’s taken a swipe at the disabled either. A few years ago he wrote a piece about how he’d like to get a disability, that would allow him to get off work without really being disabled. Once again, he went for ME and fibromyalgia. I’ve known people with ME. They’re not malingerers, and it’s a real illness which leaves them wiped out through chronic fatigue. And it’s a long time since doctors seriously doubted whether it really existed. I think that stopped with the end of the 1980s. But obviously not in Liddle’s squalid excuse for a mind. And if you need convincing that fibromyalgia is a real disease, go over to Mike’s blog and look up some of the posts, where he mentions the suffering it’s caused Mrs. Mike. This is real, genuine pain, and definitely not imaginary. Unlike Liddle’s pretensions to objective journalism.

This looks like it could be a very interesting volume. It’s too bad it’s price puts it beyond the reach of most of us. Hopefully this will lead to further scholarship, some of which will be aimed at a less restricted audience beyond academia, and will be at a more affordable price. And I hope some of it is also taken up by activists, who use it to challenge the assumptions of Liddle and the rest of the close-minded bigots in the right-wing press and Tory party.

Democrapic: A Word to Describe the Independent Group

March 4, 2019

One of the most entertaining books I’ve read on the stranger or more remarkable items of the English lexicon is simply entitled Words, by the American author Paul Dickson (London: Arrow Books 1982). It’s subtitled ‘A Connoisseur’s Collection Of Old And New, Weird and Wonderful, Useful And Outlandish’ -. And one of the most useful political terms it records, in the chapter on ‘Neologisms’, is ‘Democrapic’. The book gives its definition as ‘Garson Kanin’s word for the expression of democratic beliefs by those who cannot tolerate democracy in action.’ (p.168).

It’s particularly appropriate at this time, as we heard a lot of democrapic last week from the Independent Group. They are the breakaway politicos from Labour and the Tories, who are so passionate about democracy and parliament, that they don’t want to hold bye-elections, don’t have any real policies, except opposition to Brexit – or at least, not any they want the public to know – and have registered as a private corporation so they don’t have to do what real parties do and reveal who their sponsors and donors are. Nor do they have any infrastructure to allow a mass membership that would decide party policy.

Of course, they have serious rivals in their use of democrapic by the Blairites in the Labour Party, the Lib Dems and the Tories. The Blairites maintain that they’re the true heart of Labour and stand for genuine inclusion, equality and diversity, while all the time trying to purge the real moderate and left-wing members of the party. At the same time, Tony Greenstein has noted that there’s also a very nasty racist undertone in the anti-Semitism smears, in that they’re targeted primarily at anti-Zionist Jews and anti-racist Black activists. The Lib-Dems are very democrapic since they effectively dumped John Mills’ On Liberty as their founding text determining the pursuit of real democracy to support David Cameron’s secret courts, where in the interests of national security, you may not know who your accuser is, nor the evidence or charge against you, and the whole trial will be held in secret. Pretty much like Labour’s Compliance Unit examining charges of anti-Semitism. And when you come to the Tories, there’s a whole mountain of democrapic coming from a party that despises the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, Blacks, Asians and Muslims, but make a lot of noise about how they stand up for British ideals of tolerance and democracy when anyone challenges them on all this.

Democrapic is a very useful term to describe this type of political hypocrisy. Just as the old slang term ‘gentleman ranker’, for a ruined gentleman reduced to serving as a private in the army, aptly describes Iain Duncan Smith. Who was rumoured to have failed the office course at Sandhurst and Returned To Unit.

IDS is now out of office, but sadly, not out of parliament. But I predict that ‘democrapic’ will remain intensely relevant, especially as applied to the Independent Group, who are particularly democrapic.

Ken Loach Talks about Writer and Poet Kevin Higgins, Suspended for Satirising War Criminal Blair

March 3, 2019

Here’s another excellent piece from Labour Against the Witchhunt, where the respected left-wing film-maker, Ken Loach, talks about the case of Kevin Higgins. Higgins is a writer and poet, an overseas member of the party, living in Ireland. He was suspended in June 2016 for daring to write a poem satirising Tony Blair and the bloody carnage he had caused in Iraq. Loach only reads a part of a poem, as it’s rather too long to repeat in full. Before he does he jokes that as this is what got Higgins suspended, then everyone present is also going to be suspended simply for being there. So anyone who doesn’t want to be suspended should leave.

The poem is a reworking of a piece by Brecht, about a soldier, who gets shot, and his needy widow receives only something insignificant. In the part Loach reads, which I’m paraphrasing, not quoting, Blair’s ‘no longer new’ wife wonders about what she will receive from all the depleted uranium shells he had dropped during the battle of Basra, all the soldiers he had sent to meet Improvised Explosive Devices in far Mesopotamia? She got for all that white night terrors of him on trial for his crimes and the desire never again to look out the window of their fine Connaught Square House at the tree, which people said was once used to hang traitors.

Loach says of  Higgins that he guesses Higgins isn’t the only one who’s disgusted with Blair, with his illegality, the hundreds of thousands he caused to die and the millions he’s made since he left office. ‘If anyone brings the party into disrepute, it’s that mass murderer.’

He goes on then to reveal what happened to Higgins himself. He didn’t hear anything, so in May 2017 he wrote to the Governance and Legal Unit requesting all the documents relating to him to be sent to him within forty according to his right in the laws about data protection. Nine months later, no reply. The video was uploaded on YouTube on 7th February 2018. He was still suspended, as far as Loach knew.

The cineaste concludes

It is incompetent. It is inefficient. It is unprincipled. And those people should not be in charge of that disclipinary procedure.

Loach is absolutely correct. And Higgins’ suspension, simply for satirising Blair, isn’t the mark of a democratic socialist party. It’s the action of a rigidly centralised dictatorship, where the leader was, like Mussolini, always right. It’s like nothing so much as Stalin’s ‘cult of personality’ in the USSR, with the exception that Higgins only got suspended. In Stalin’s USSR, he’d have been tortured and shot, or at the very least sent to a gulag.

And Loach is definitely correct when he says that he probably isn’t the only one disgusted with Blair. Millions of us are. Over a million people marched against the Iraq invasion, including the priests at my local church. It was one of the biggest popular demonstrations in British history, but Blair and his vile cronies ignored it. And people certainly left the party and refused to vote for the grotty profiteer because of his greed, his illegality, his warmongering, his privatisation, his insistence on absolute obedience and micromanagement of party affairs. Private Eye called him the ‘Dear Leader’, satirising the smaltzy, sentimental image he tried to project, as well as his demand to be loved. The Tory party at the time stood in opposition to the War, which got a left-wing friend of mine to buy the Spectator for a time. I think that this was mostly opportunism on the Tories’ party, as there is nothing they love better than a good war. But to be fair to them, Peter Hitchens, the brother of the late atheist polemicist Christopher, genuinely despised him for Iraq and continues to loathe him, describing him as ‘the Blair creature’.

And this monster seems intent on coming back into politics. He has praised the Independent Group, which led Mike, Martin Odoni and others to ask why he should still be allowed to remain in the Labour party. It is against the rules to be a member or support a rival organisation. This was the rule the Blairites used to throw out Moshe Machover, the Israeli academic and anti-Zionist. His crime was that he had a piece published in the Morning Star, as have very many leaders and MPs over the years. Professor Machover was grudgingly readmitted to the party after a massive outcry. But Blair gives them his support, and no-one important seems to raise any objections whatsoever. The left-wing vlogger, Gordon Dimmack, says he has heard speculation that if the wretched group survives, then before long Blair will return to active politics. It’s an idea that he says gave him nightmares.

Unfortunately, I think it’s a distinct possibility. Despite the fact that his time as this country’s leader has been and gone, he was on Andrew Marr’s wretched propaganda show today. I’m glad I missed it, as it would only have infuriated me. But it does seem to bear out these rumours.

One million men, women and children killed. Seven million displaced all across the Middle East. A secular state with free healthcare and education destroyed and looted. A state where women were free to have their own careers and run businesses. Where there were no ‘peace barriers’ between Shi’a and Sunni quarters in cities to stop them murdering each other. A country whose oil reserves have been looted by the American and Saudi oil companies, and whose state industries were plundered by American multinationals.

And this creature appears on TV again, to grin his sickly smile and utter neoliberal platitudes and smooth words. But hey, you can’t criticise him, because he stands for inclusion and diversity. While parents starve themselves to feed their children, students are faced with unaffordable tuition fees and the disabled are thrown off benefits thanks to the wretched assessments and work capable tests he, Mandelson and the others in his coterie introduced.

Higgins’ poem reminds me about one of the great protest poems written back in the ’60s about another unjust war, Vietnam. This was To Whom It May Concern (Tell Me Lies About Vietnam) by Adrian Mitchell, where every stanza ended ‘Tell me lies about Vietnam’. The note about it in Colin Firth’s and Anthony Arnove’s The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport states that he added stanzas later to include more leaders and more wars.

So perhaps if Blair comes back to politics we should write another: ‘Tell Me Lies About Iraq’. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home-Made Badge Commemorating the Unemployed in the Concentration Camps

February 27, 2019

Along with Jews, political and religious dissidents, gypsies, prostitutes, neurotics and recidivist criminals, the Nazis also incarcerated in the concentration camps the habitual unemployed. These were people the Nazis dubbed workshy, who had refused offers of work ‘without good reason. According to the Wikipedia pages on concentration camp badges, they had to wear a black triangle, which was also the badge worn by Gypsies, the mentally ill and mentally disabled, prostitutes, alcoholics, drug addicts, beggars and vagrants, as well as pacifists and those who refused conscription.

According to the article, those sent to the camps for ‘labour education’ wore a white letter ‘A’ on the black triangle.

I’ve mentioned before how closely the current Conservative policy towards the long term unemployed resembles that of the Nazis, with the exception that in Thatcherite Britain, the unemployed aren’t sent to concentration camps. The DWP simply lets the same starve to death, either because of delays in implementing Universal Credit, which leaves claimants waiting a month before they are paid, or through the infamous sanctions system. They are then thrown off the benefits they desperately need for the flimsiest of excuses. And this is all done to reduce the unemployment figures while at the same time creating a cowed and frightened workforce that will accept any job, no matter how poor the pay or condition.

I decided to make my own version of the Nazi concentration camp badge for the ‘workshy’ in order to make my own gesture against the DWP and the way it is leading people into misery and starvation. I created a black triangle with a white letter ‘A’ in the centre using Paint. I printed it off, and then pasted it on to an ordinary piece of cardboard cut into the shape of a triangle. I then sellotaped a safety pin on the back.

Here’s what it looks like from the front.

And this is the rear.

I admit, it’s only a very tiny gesture of protest, but I felt that it had to be made, using Nazi symbolism to attack the callousness and ruthless destruction of human life of the Tory system. I also wondered if others might also like to make the badge as a mark of their disgust with the Tories’ Nazi-like hatred of the ‘asocial’ and unemployed. Who knows, if enough people make them it might even become a mass protest symbol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tories Bringing Back 1920s-30s Era Levels of Poverty and Degradation

February 20, 2019

A few days ago Mike put up a story about a couple, who had been arrested and tried for stealing food to feed their family. They were on Universal Credit, but this hadn’t been paid, and they had used up all the four visits to the foodbank that starving people are allowed. So simply to feed themselves and their children, they stole food from one of the supermarkets.

How absolutely horrific that this is happening now, in Britain, the sixth richest society in the world! And how absolutely, shamefully disgusting!

But this incident reminds me of one of the stories Gran told me about the poverty her relatives had personally seen during a trip to Scotland in the first few decades of the last century. Our gran was born c. 1907. At some time before the outbreak of World War II, she told me that some of her cousins had taken a holiday to Scotland, which included a trip to Glasgow. Wandering through the town, they found themselves in a back street, where a gang of men were eating pigswill. The men noticed them and started to chase them, but mercifully the girls were able to get away.

I realise that this this story is just anecdotal. And I also want to make it very clearly that I’m not writing about this incident to sneer at people from Glasgow, and make them appear to be somehow subhuman or animalistic. Glasgow’s got a reputation as a very rough town, but my gran told me this story to show the desperate poverty that existed up there at the time. Just as I’m very sure there was the same desperate poverty in other parts of the United Kingdom at the same time. Remember, the striking miners that Churchill had shot down in Wales were starving and in rags.

I wonder if this is what the Tories are trying to bring back today. Years ago I put up a piece which gave a late Victorian description of children waiting in a queue for charity food, and the news that the starving today were having to go to food banks. Since they’ve we’ve heard that working parents, who are unable to feed their children on their pay, are starving themselves. And that people are stealing food in order to survive. I also recall reading news stories about people taking uneaten food or leftovers from rubbish bins.

This level of poverty is happening today. We really do seem to be going back to the grinding desperation of the ’20s-’30s. How long before we read stories about the poor and starving eating pigswill, as in gran’s story? At this rate, it won’t be long. Perhaps it’s already happening.

Meanwhile, the Tory toffs and their propaganda machine in the Beeb and the right-wing papers will be telling us all how prosperous is, thanks to their free market reforms, and lying about how they aren’t destroying the welfare state, but making it more targeted and less wasteful, to tackle poverty where it’s needed. And how under them, average pay has increased. And all the vicious, murderous lies they tell whenever they get into power. While all the while the poor, the unemployed and the disabled and long term sick are further forced into greater poverty and misery.

The Tories – and especially people like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson – are making millions, while at the same time a quarter of a million people are forced to use food banks, and 14 million people are officially below the poverty line. It’s time to ignore their propaganda about Corbyn and Labour, and get them out, and Corbyn into No. 10.

‘I’ Newspaper on Scientist Building Artificial Arms from Lego

February 13, 2019

Last weekend’s I newspaper for Saturday, 9th February 2019, carried a profile of David Aguilar, a disabled Andorran scientist, who has been building artificial arms out of Lego since he was a small boy. The article by David Woode, ran

Hand Solo?

A university student who was born without a forearm due to a rare genetic condition has created a robotic prosthetic arm using Lego. David Aguilar, who built three other models before his current one, said “I wanted to see myself in the mirror like I see other guys with two hands.

Is this his first bionic arm?

No. David, 19, began experimenting with artificial limbs as a child. he said his father bought him a lego Titanic set aged five and the colourful bricks became one of his favourite toys. David made his first artificial arm, albeit with limited movement, aged nine. ‘As a child I was very nervous to be in front of other guys, because I was different, but that didn’t stop me believing in my dreams,’ he said.

How does it work?

David uses Lego pieces given to him by a friend. Last year he built a red-and-yellow, fully functional robotic arm, it’s fitted with an electric motor and he can bend it at the joint and flex a grabber attached at the end. His latest prototypes are marked MK followed by the number – a tribute to comic book superhero Iron Man and his MK armour suits.

Could this spawn an army of Iron men and Iron Women?

The rookie inventor from the small principality of Andorra is studying bioengineering at the Universität Internacional de Catalunya in Spain. His post-graduation dream is to design affordable robotic limbs for those in need. He said “I would try to give them a prosthetic arm, even if it’s for free, to make them feel like a normal person, because what is normal, right”.

There’s a lot of research going on into artificial limbs, some of it very inspiring. The robotics unit at the University of the West of England has formed a private company to build artificial hands for children. They’ve produced one with the consent of Hollywood shaped like the hand of the Marvel superhero, Iron Man. I think they were also planning to produce one based on C3PO in collaboration with Disney, if I recall correctly. Aguilar’s clearly a very skilled engineer, and his own experience of disability undoubtedly gives him real, personal insight into what disabled people need in artificial limbs and how they can be best designed for them. I wonder what his work will be like after he’s graduated and, hopefully, begun working on them at a higher level. It should be really good.

In the meantime, I’d really have loved to be able to make a proper, working robotic arm out of Lego, Meccano or any other construction kit when I was child as well as knowing how he does it now.

Radio Programmes Next Week on Homelessness, Conspiracy Theories and Aliens

February 6, 2019

Looking through next week’s Radio Times for 9th-15th February 2019 I found a number of programmes which might be of interest to some people following this blog.

On Monday, 11th February at 8.00 pm on Radio 4 there’s Beyond Tara and George, about rough sleepers. The blurb for this programme reads

Last year there were nearly 600 deaths on the streets of the UK. In this follow-up to last summer’s Radio 4 series on east London rough sleepers Tara and George, presenter Audrey Gilan catches up with the pair to ask what it would take to prevent the unnecessary deaths of homeless people. (p. 137).

Then a half hour later at 8.30 on the same channel, Analysis covers conspiracy theories. The Radio Times says of this

Professor James Tilley explores the current spate of political conspiracy theories, and examines what belief in them tells us about voters and politicians.

The next day, Tuesday 12th February, at 1.30 pm on the Beeb’s World Service there’s Documentary: So Where Are the Aliens?, which the Radio Times describes thus

Space, to quote the late, great Douglas Adams, is mindboggling big. So huge, in fact, that the probability of there being civilized life elsewhere in the universe is almost a mathematical certainty. This begs an obvious question, to which Seth Shostak – chief astronomer of the Seti institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has devoted his career. He speaks with fellow scientists Frank Drake and Jill Tarter about their pioneering work chasing extraterrestrial radio signals as well as the new listening and light-based techniques designed to open up the sky like never before. Last year’s tantalizing fly-by of the mysterious cigar-shaped Oumuamua has revived interest in this topic, although in 2019 ET could be forgiven for giving Earth a wide berth. (p. 138).

Regarding the programme on preventing the homeless dying, one way to stop it would be to fix the welfare state so that poor and vulnerable people didn’t become homeless in the first place. Giving more funding and expanding the number of homeless shelters so that they were safe and able to provide accommodation for rough sleepers would also be very good. As would support schemes for those with drug, alcohol or mental health problems. And as Mike’s pointed out in his reports on attacks on the homeless, it would also be very good idea for the right-wing media to stop portraying the homeless, as well as the disabled, the unemployed and those on benefits generally all as scroungers committing welfare fraud and generally demonizing them. But as the Tory party, the Scum, Express and Fail all depend on this for votes and sales, it isn’t going to happen.

The prgramme on conspiracy theories could be interesting, but I doubt it will actually face up to the fact that some conspiracies are real. Not the malign and bogus myths about a Jewish plot to destroy the White race, or that the business and political elite are really evil Reptoid aliens, a la David Icke, or have made a demonic pact with grey aliens from Zeti Reticuli to allow them to abduct us for experimentation while giving them the benefits of alien technology. Or similar myths about the Illuminati, Freemasons or Satanists.

The real conspiracies that exist are about the manipulation of politics by the world’s secret services, and secret big business think tanks and right-wing pressure groups. Such as the various front organisations set up by the CIA during the Cold War, the smears concocted by MI5 during the 1970s presenting Harold Wilson as a KGB agent, and the contemporary smears by the Integrity Initiative, funded by the Tory government, claiming that Corbyn and other left-wing figures across Europe and America were agents of Putin. And, of course, the real conspiracy by Shai Masot at the Israeli embassy to have Tory cabinet ministers, who didn’t support Israel, removed from government. As well as the embassy’s role in making fake accusations of anti-Semitism against entirely decent people in the Labour party.

But I’ve no doubt that the Beeb will shy well away from these real conspiracies, not least because of Britain’s sordid role in the West’s history of regime change in Developing nations that dared to defy the Americans and ourselves. The Beeb has put on similar programmes before, and the person being interviewed or presenting the argument was former Independent journo David Aaronovitch. And his line has always been to ignore these real conspiracies, and concentrate on all the mythical rubbish, which he presents as typical of the conspiracy milieu as a whole. Which you’d expect from an establishment broadcaster, that now seems to see itself very much as the propaganda arm of the Conservative British state.

Moving on to the programme on SETI, Shostak, Tarter and Drake are veterans not only of the search for intelligent alien life, but also of programmes and documentaries on the search. Drake was the creator of the now famous equation which bears his name, which is supposed to tell you how many alien civilisations we can expect to exist in the galaxy. He was one of the brains behind Project Ozma, alias ‘Project Little Green Men’ in the 1960s to listen for alien signals from two nearby, roughly sun-like stars, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. Which found zilch, unfortunately. Shostak and Tarter were two of the leaders of the new wave of SETI researchers in the 1990s, and Shostak wrote a book about the possibility of alien life and what they would possibly be like. This concluded that they wouldn’t be anything like us, ruling out aliens like Mr Spock in Star Trek. In size they would probably be the same as Labradors.

It’s been known now that the Galaxy is old enough and big enough, with the right kind of stars and an increasing multitude of known planets, some of them possibly suitable for life, for alien civilisations to have emerged several times. And if they only advanced at the speed of light, they should be here by now. But they’re not. So far we’ve detected no sign of them. Or no absolutely indisputable signs. So where are they? This problem is called the Fermi paradox after the Italian-American physicist, Enrico Fermi. Suggested answers are that life, or perhaps just intelligent life, is extremely rare in the universe. Space travel may be extremely difficult. Aliens may exist, but they may be completely uninterested in talking to us. In this respect, we may even be a ‘protected species’ considered too fragile at our current level of civilization for contact with the rest of the Galaxy. Or perhaps there really are predatory alien intelligences and civilisations out there, who automatically attack any culture naïve and trusting enough to announce their presence. In which case, all the alien civilisations out there are paranoid and keeping their heads well down. One of SF writer even wrote a collection of short stories, each of which gave one solution to the Paradox.