Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Jeremy Corbyn Denounces Universal Credit at Bangor University in Wales

December 8, 2019

Please hold your noses for this, as it’s a video from the Torygraph. It’s of part of speech Corbyn made at Bangor University in Wales in which the Labour leader denounces Universal Credit, pledges not to sell off the NHS, make Social Care universally available, bring the utilities back into public ownership, give remote communities broadband internet, and compensate WASPI women. And the pride with which he describes his announcement that the Labour party would end Universal Credit in Iain Duncan Smith’s own constituency is a direct challenge to the wretched policy’s architect. The Labour leader begins

In 2010 a political choice was made. They could have invested for the future. Instead, they decided to cut for the present and damage the life chances of a whole generation of people all across the UK. And that austerity started off with Universal Credit being rolled out. Universal Credit, which is cruel in the way it operates, brutal in the way it does PIP assessments, Work Assessments, the way in which it does not give support to children in larger families…

I was very proud to go to Chingford and Woodford Green in the northeast of London, a constituency represented by Iain Duncan Smith and announce a Labour government will end Universal Credit. This is greeted with applause.

You can’t cut your way to prosperity! You invest your way to prosperity! And there’s no more important investment than investing in young people, children and the next generation. And that is what – applause – and that is what I want our Labour government to do. More applause.

Under Labour our NHS is not for sale to anybody… I want Social Care available for everybody all across the UK and I’ll save this today(?) to make that available. Applause.

Our manifesto here, this wonderful red book, I’ve got two red books, one in which I write my memoirs, notes and speeches,  and this one is the manifesto – they’re actually much the same thing really….

We, the Labour government, will compensate the WASPI women. Applause.

I’ll give you an example. Less than 18 hours after he’d become Prime Minister he came to parliament to make a statement and announced there were going to be 40 new hospitals. I was very impolite and asked him where they were going to be. Corbyn then imitates Johnson’s blustering manner, saying there’s no answer to that, old boy, it’s not possible, how can I possibly know…

A Labour government will be one that will empower people but will also ensure that public ownership comes back for rail, mail and water, the national grid,  and that we will – applause – we will invigorate poor and remote communities by broadband to every part of the UK within 10 years. 

These are great policies which will make this country a better, more prosperous and more equal place. A place were it’s people will get the health and social care they need and deserve, women the pensions they should have had, if it weren’t for the Tories, and an end to the austerity that has killed 130,000 people at minimum.

And against that the Tories are offering just more poverty, privatisation, starvation and misery, but are trying to deny this with smears and lies.

Get them out, and Corbyn in!

It’s Hammer Time! Cassetteboy’s Latest Video Against Boris Johnson

December 8, 2019

Mike put this up on his blog a few days ago, but it’s well worth repeating and publicising. Cassetteboy is another group of fun-filled pranksters like JOE, who produce satirical videos by carefully editing the speeches and actions of the great and not-so-good so that they appear stupid and nonsensical. They’ve done this yet again to our unfunny, murderous Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to reveal how stupid, cruel and massively unjust his government and its policies are. They’ve edited it so that he’s reciting a description of his failings and injustices to the tune of MC Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This’. Which, due to Johnson’s own massive deceitfulness and mendacity, has been changed to the chorus ‘Can’t trust me’.

The video begins with Johnson repeatedly stammering out ‘My, my, my’ and then

‘My Brexit is so hard

Makes you say

“Oh my word.

What about my job security?

Sick pay, healthcare and the economy?”

These are the things

You need to discuss

When I say

“Brexit won’t hurt you much!”

Remember the lies on the side of a bus,

I am a guy who you can’t trust.’

There then appears the caption ‘Sacked by the Times for lying’.

He goes on, singing

‘Can’t trust me.

Then another caption ‘Sacked from the Shadow Cabinet for lying’.

Can’t trust me.

I promised thousands more police

But that’s less than we already cut.

If you trust me you must be off your nut.

I lied to the Queen to get Parliament shut.

I say the Tory party ‘Is the party of prosperity

But not for the 130,000 people killed by our austerity.

Nor for disabled people robbed of money and their dignity.

Or the millions of children our policies

Have left in child poverty.

Are those kids mine? probably not

But I won’t admit how many I’ve got’

Another caption here, ‘Wont admit how many kids he has’.

‘Can’t trust me’.

Then another caption: ‘Lied to the Queen to illegally shut down Parliament’.

‘Can’t trust me’.

‘The planet now is burning at a terrifying rate

And I don’t even turn up to the climate change debate.

And now let me say this, two of my biggest disgraces

Are of course that I’m homophobic and a racist.

Stop. Stammer time.’

The video then moves into footage of Johnson stuttering and stammering away, under which appears another caption, (Affected waffle, disguising genuine lack of preparation, competence and decency).

‘Stop. Stammer time.’

One more thing before this ends,

You don’t judge a man’, and the next voice is that of Donald Trump, completing the sentence, ‘by his friends’.

‘Our standards will fall with a bump as I align us all with Trump,

Allow the NHS to fail and off it to Trump for sale.

It will no longer belong to you though I say

That’s not what we’ll do.

Is that true? Here’s one way of proving if I’m lying

if my lips are moving.

Another caption: ‘Won’t apologist for racist and homophobic comments.’

‘Can’t trust me.’

And then the screen is filled with text showing his various failed and harmful policies.

‘Can’t trust me’.

The richest have tax loopholes

While schools can’t afford loo rolls.

We’ve failed the NHS and left the country in a mess and

To the best to fix it are myself and Rees-Mogg

Is like expecting dog shit to be cleaned up by the dog.’

The video ends with a black screen on which the slogan ‘Vote Boris Out’ is written in white text. There’s then the Cassetteboy jingle, the sound of someone sighing or snoozing, and a final scene of Johnson making a throat-cutting gesture at LBC.

The dialogue’s invented, but everything it says is true.

Vote him out!

Here’s the video.

 

 

 

Desperate Tories Now Using Smear Manuals against Labour and Lib Dems

December 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the Tories are forcing people into prostitution.

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

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

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

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

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

Astronomer Vladimir Firsoff’s Argument for Space Exploration as a Positive Alternative to War

December 2, 2019

Vladimir Firsoff was a British astronomer and the author of a series of books, not just on space and spaceflight, but also on skiing and travel. He was a staunch advocate of space exploration. At the end of his 1964 book, Exploring the Planets (London: Sidgwick & Jackson) he presents a rather unusual argument for it. He criticises the scepticism of leading astronomers of his time towards space exploration. This was after the Astronomer Royal of the time had declared that the possibility of building a vehicle that could leave the Earth’s atmosphere and enter space was ‘utter bilge’. He points out that the technology involved presented few problems, but that ordinary people had been influenced by the astronomers’ scepticism, and that there are more pressing problems on Earth. Against this he argued that humanity needed danger, excitement and sacrifice, the emotional stimulation that came from war. Space exploration could provide this and so serve as a positive alternative, a beneficial channel for these deep psychological needs. Firsoff wrote

The traditional planetary astronomy has exhausted its resources. No significant advance is possible without escape beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The orbital observatories to come will reveal much that is now hidden about the other planets. Space travel is a short historical step ahead. The basic technical problems have been solved, and the consummation of this ancient dream is only a matter of a little effort, experiment and technical refinement. When Bleriot flew the Channel the Atlantic had already been spanned by air lines. And so today we have already landed on Mars – even Triton and Pluto have been reached.

But do we really like to have our dreams come true?

Possibly that happy extrovert the technologist has no misgivings. He sees the Solar System as an enlargement of his scope of action, and has even suggested preceding a descent on Mars by dropping a few bombs, “to study the surface” (this suggestion was widely reported in the press). Yet the astronomer does not relish the prospect of leaving his ivory tower to become a man of action. He is troubled by this unfamiliar part, and a small voice at the back of his mind whispers insidiously that his cherished theories and predictions may, after all, be false. The dislike of space travel is psychologically complex, but there is no mistaking its intensity among the profession.

The general public shares these enthusiasms  and apprehensions, more often than not without any clear reasons why. The Press (with a very capital P) feeds them with predigested mental pulp about what those ‘wonderful people’ the scientists have said or done (and not all scientists are 12 feet tall). At the same time the scientist is a ‘clever man’, and the ‘clever man’ is traditionally either a crank or a scoundrel, and why not both? Whatever we do not understand we must hate.

Of such promptings the fabric of public opinion is woven into varied patterns.

“Space flight is too expensive. We can’t afford it”… “What is the point of putting a man on the Moon? It is only a lifeless desert.”… “We must feed the backward nations, finance cancer research” (= in practice “buy a new TV set and a new care”)…

Wars are even more expensive and hugely destructive, and cars kill more people than cancer and famine put together.

And yet before 1939 Britain ruled half the world, her coffers were stuffed with gold, she also had 5 million on the dole, slums, an inadequate system of education, poverty and dejection. Came a long and terrible war, a fearful squandering of resources, the Empire was lost, and in the end of it it all the people “had never had it so good”, which for all the facility of such catch-phrases is basically true. Not in Britain alone either-look at West Germany, look at the U.S.S.R.! One half of the country devastated, cities razed to the ground, 30 million dead. BHut in Russia, too, the “people had never had it so good”.

In terms of ‘sound economics’ this does not make any sense. 

The reason is simply: ‘sound economics’ is a fraud, because Man is not an economic animal, or is so only to an extent. He needs danger, struggle, sacrifice, fear, loss, even death, to release his dormant energies, to find true companionship, and-oddly-to attain the transient condition of happiness … among or after the storm.

That German soldier who had scribbled on the wall of his hut: “Nie wieder Krieg heisst nie wieder Sieg, heisst nie wieder frei, heisst Sklaverie” (No more war means no more victory, means never free, means slavery) was a simple soul and he may have survived long enough to regret his enthusiasms among the horrors that followed. Yet the idea, distorted as it was, contained a germ of truth. For heroic endeavour, which the past enshrined as martial valour, is as much a necessity as food and drink. We must have something great to live for.

Hitler’s ‘endeavour’ was diabolical in conception and in final count idiotic, but it cannot be denied that it released prodigious energies both in Germany and among her opponents, and we are still living on the proceeds of this psychological capital.

What we need is a noble uplifting endeavour, and even if we cannot all take direct part in it, we can yet share in it through the newspapers, radio and television, as we did, say, in the epic rescue operation during the Langede mining disaster. It became a presence, everybody’s business-and I doubt if it paid in terms of £ s.d…

You will have guessed what I am going to say.

Mankind needs space flight. Let us have space ships instead of bombers, orbital stations instead of ‘nuclear devices’. The glory of this great venture could do away with war, juvenile delinquency and bank raids. It could be cheap at the price.

It is a fallacy to imagine that money spend on developing spaceflight is lost to the nation; it is only redistributed within it, and it is much better to redistribute it in the form of real wages than in unemployment relief. Besides, real wealth is not in a ledger; it is the work and the willingness to do it.

Yet if we go into space, let us do so humbly, in the spirit of cosmic piety. We know very little. We are face to face with the great unknown and gave no right to assume that we are alone in the Solar System.

No bombs on Mars, please.

For all that they are well meant and were probably true at the time, his arguments are now very dated. I think now that the majority of astronomers are probably enthusiasts for space flight and space exploration, although not all of them by any means are advocates for crewed space exploration. The Hubble Space Telescope and its successors have opened up vast and exciting new vistas and new discoveries on the universe. But astronomers are still using and building conventional observatories on Earth. Despite the vast sums given to the space programme during the ‘Space Race’, it did not solve the problems of crime or juvenile delinquency. And it was resented because of the exclusion of women and people of colour. Martin Luther King led a march of his Poor Peoples’ Party to the NASA launch site to protest against the way money was being wasted, as he saw it, on sending White men to the Moon instead of lifting the poor – mainly Black, but certainly including Whites – out of poverty. And as well as being enthused and inspired by the Moon landings, people also grew bored. Hence the early cancellation of the programme.

And people also have a right to better healthcare, an end to famine and a cure for cancer. Just as it’s also not wrong for them to want better TVs and cars.

But this isn’t an either/or situation. Some of the technology used in the development of space travel and research has also led to breakthroughs in other areas of science and medicine. Satellites, for example, are now used so much in weather forecasting that they’re simply accepted as part of the meteorologists’ tools.

But I agree with Firsoff in that space is an arena for positive adventure, struggle and heroism, and that it should be humanity’s proper outlet for these urges, rather than war and aggression. I think the problem is that space travel has yet to take off really, and involve the larger numbers of people in the exploration and colonisation space needed to make it have an obvious, conspicuous impact on everyone’s lives. There is massive public interest in space and space exploration, as shown by Prof. Brian Cox’s TV series and touring show, but I think that to have the impact Virsoff wanted people would have to feel that space was being opened up to ordinary people, or at least a wider section of the population than the elite scientists and engineers that now enjoy the privilege of ascending into Low Earth Orbit. And that means bases on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere, and the industrialisation of space.

But I think with the interest shown in the commercial exploitation of space by Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, that might be coming. And I certainly hope, with Firsoff, that this does provide a proper avenue for the human need for danger and adventure, rather than more war and violence.

Private Eye’s Demolition of Cameron’s Book about His Government

December 1, 2019

Way back at the beginning of October, our former comedy Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to give us all the benefit of his view of his time in No. 10 with the publication of his book, For The Record by William Collins. The review of it in Private Eye was not kind. Reading it, it appears that Cameron was deeply concerned to present a rosy, highly optimistic view of his years as Prime Minister. His was a government that gave Britain prosperity and growth, and had improved conditions in the NHS. The current, wretched economic and political situation is all due to everyone else, not him. It’s entirely false, as the Eye’s review made abundantly clear, citing Cameron’s book again and again as it he tries to claim success in tackling an issue, only to show the present grim reality and how Johnson actually made it all worse with Brexit.

The review, titled ‘Shed tears’, in the magazine’s issue for 4th – 17th October, runs

John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln at a Washington theatre inspired the quip: “Apart from that, Mrs, Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” David Cameron’s autobiography leaves the reader asking: “Apart from Brexit, Mr Cameron, how did you enjoy being prime minister?”

“I liked it,” he declares, and so should we. At 800 pages, this account of his generally tedious career – apart from Brexit – is only 200 pages shorter than Churchill’s Second World War memoirs. Indeed, Dave may have originally matched Winston, for the Mail reported his publishers cut 100,000 words from the manuscript.

The verbose special pleading William Collins so sadistically allowed to survive tries to anesthetise readers into accepting that – apart from Brexit – they should applaud his playing at being prime minister too.

When Cameron stood for leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, he recalls, “Everyone said that I was too young. That I had no ministerial experience.” Instead of worrying that a gentleman amateur would lead the country to perdition, we should have rejoiced. “However new and inexperienced” he was, young Cameron saw himself “inheriting the mantle of great leaders like Peel, Disraeli, Salisbury and Baldwin.”

In 2010, with the world in crisis, he followed his illustrious predecessors and produced one of the “most stable and I would argue, most successful governments anywhere in Europe”. That Brexit has subsequently produced a paralysed parliament, culture war without end in England, the highest support for Welsh independence ever recorded, a revitalised Scottish National Party and a clear and present danger to the peace in Ireland must be someone else’s fault.

Only Ukraine is a less stable European country now. Not that Cameron can admit it. The Brexit referendum was “a sore confronted”, he says, as if he were a doctor who had healed wounds rather than a quack who had opened them. His greatest regret is for himself, not his country. “I lament my political career ending so fast,” he sighs. Brexit ensured that he went from private citizen to national leader to private citizen again in 15 years. “I was a former prime minister and a retired MP at the age of 49.”

He shouldn’t despair. His work experience on the British now completed, Cameron could be ready to hold down a real job should one come his way.

As for his supposed successes, in his own terms he would have a point – were it not for Brexit. “When I became prime minister my central task was turn the economy around,” he says. Now the British Chambers of Commerce reports that companies are living through the longest decline in investment in 17 years. He left Downing Street in 2016 “with the economy growing faster than any other in the G7”, Cameron continues, showing that whatever else he learnt at Eton, it wasn’t humility. The UK is now bottom of the G7 growth table, while the governor of the Bank of England is warning a crash out could shrink GDP by 5.5 per cent.

By the time Brexit forced his resignation, “hospital infections, mixed-sex wards and year-long waits for operations were off the front pages.” In the very week his book appeared, patients were preparing as best they could for a no deal Brexit cutting off drug supplies, while NHS trusts were wondering what would happen to the 8 percent of health and social care staff they recruit from the EU.

“It was clear to me that reasserting Britain’s global status would be one of our biggest missions in government,” Cameron says of the premiership, while failing to add that the Britain he left was both a warning and laughing stock to the rest of the world.

Regrets? Come off it. “One of the core ideas of my politics,” Cameron tells those readers who survive the long march through his pages,m “is that our best days are ahead of us and not behind us, I don’t think Brexit should alter it.” The bloody fool does not realise his best days are behind him  and he (and the rest of us) have nothing to show for them – apart from Brexit.

It’s not the comprehensive demolition that Cameron’s mendacious book deserves. It hasn’t just been Brexit that’s caused mass poverty, starvation, despair and misery to Britain. It was the policies he and his government both inherited from New Labour, and ramped up and added a few of their own. He continued the Thatcherite policy of the destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, as well as the wage freeze and pushing zero-hours and short term contracts. As well as allowing firms to make their workers nominally self-employed, so they don’t have to give them things like sick pay, holidays or maternity leave. Thanks to his policies, as continued by Tweezer and then Boris, a quarter of a million people have to rely on food banks for their daily bread, 14 million people are in poverty and an estimated number of 130,000 people have died after being found ‘fit for work’ by the DWP.

As for the tone of lofty self-assurance with which Cameron makes his assertions, that can only come from someone, who has enjoyed immense privilege throughout his life, and never suffered uncertainty due to the advantages bestowed by his background. He got a job at Buckingham Palace, remember, because they actually rang him up and asked for him. Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris, in his book Great Parliamentary Scandals observes that MPs, contrary to received wisdom, are not polished all rounders. Rather they are more likely to be the lonely boy at school. They have huge, but fragile egos due to the respect the public gives them tempered with the humiliation they receive at the hands of the whips and the awareness of how little power they really have. All the decisions are made by the Prime Minister. Parris’ own career as a cabinet minister came to a sharp end when he sent a rude reply to a letter sent to the former Prime Minister. Clearly, Cameron himself has never suffered, or appears not to have, from any kind of personal or professional uncertainty. He’s always been supremely confident in his own ability, choices and decisions. It’s this arrogance that has caused so much suffering to the country and its working people. But he certainly hasn’t suffered the consequences. Instead of trying to do something about the mess he created with Brexit, he left it for others to do so. And we’re still grappling with that problem nearly four years later.

Cameron’s was the start of a series of Tory governments that have actually left this country far worse than Tony Blair’s administration. Blair was determined to sell off the NHS, but he kept it well funded and he had some success in tackling poverty. It was the Tories who massively expanded the use of food banks instead of giving the disabled, unemployed and poor the state support they needed.

Cameron’s book is therefore one mass of self-delusion and lies. As have all the statements about how well the country is doing from his successors. Don’t vote for them. Vote for Corbyn instead.

 

Video of British Scientist Eric Laithwaite Explaining Principle of Magnetic Levitation (Maglev)

November 29, 2019

This is a fascinating film from Imperial College London. Shot in 1975, it shows great British scientist/engineer Eric Laithwaite explaining how a maglev train would work. He begins with first principles, simply showing how magnets act upon each other with bar magnets. Magnets with the same poles facing each other repel, and he demonstrates how this can be used to suspend one magnet above another. This can be done with ring magnets, but usually something has to hold them in place, like the solid glass tube in this video. But ordinary magnets don’t generated enough lift to raise heavy objects off the ground. He then moves on to electromagnets and how these can also be made to move aluminium objects along them when using AC current. The electromagnets can be flattened out to produce a kind of river – the ‘Magnetic River’ of the film’s title – along which an aluminium sheet can be propelled at great speed. He then shows how the same principle could be used to drive a train by placing a model on the maglev track.

Laithwaite was working on making maglev trains a reality when the project was cancelled due to the budget cuts of the late 70s. The idea has since been taken up by German and other, foreign engineers. It has been seen by visionary scientists and SF writers like Arthur C. Clarke as the solution to current transport problems through the great speed that these trains could in theory attain without friction from wheels touching the tracks. They would also be clean and green through being powered by electricity, preferably solar power, rather than the burning of coal or other hydrocarbons. See the discussion about them in Clarke’s Profiles of the Future.

Laithwaite is one of the great scientists most people have never heard of. In the 1990s he got caught up in developing anti-gravity based on his experiments with gyroscopes. His claim that he had discovered a new principle of anti-gravity propulsion was not accepted by the scientific community. I’ve got the impression that the furor that aroused has caused his earlier, solid work to be unfairly overlooked.

I realise the video’s long at just over 18 minutes, but it’s worth persevering with if you’re interested in the subject. Before computer graphics came in, this is pretty much what science broadcasting was like when I was a schoolboy. It was simply the scientist, engineer or presenter standing in front of the camera talking with the machine or other object in front of them, and using simple diagrams or illustrations. And I’m really impressed with the way Laithwaite is able to explain a sophisticated piece of engineering in ordinary, non-technical language. As one of the commenters says on the YouTube page for this, he would have been a great science teacher.

He isn’t quite on his own here. Helping him with the equipment is his mysterious assistant, Barry, who helps set the apparatus up and loads the sheets of aluminium and then the model train on the maglev tracks, but who never speaks.

It’s a very basic presentation compared to some of the films on today’s popular science television, and it’s not clear if it was intended for broadcast. But it was experts like Dr. Laithwaite who brought science to ordinary people and inspired a new generation witih its wonder when I was young.

Today the government is concerned about the lack of young people choosing to study STEM subjects. Perhaps if broadcasters were able to find a few more experts with ability to explain science with the simplicity of some of those, who graced our TVs then, people able to convey real enthusiasm for the subject, and weren’t afraid of putting more popular science programmes on TV, there would be more school and university students taking up these subjects.

 

 

Of Course the Tories Are Privatising the NHS

November 29, 2019

More lies from the party of smear and bully: they’re denying they’re selling off the NHS. At around 10.00 O’Clock on Wednesday Jeremy Corbyn appeared, brandishing a copy of the documents of the negotiations between Donald Trump and his British counterpart, Boris. And two minutes after he made his speech, the Tory spin machine trundled into action using what Peter Oborne has called its paramilitary wing, Guido Fawkes. The site stated that they had all six of the documents Corbyn had seen, and one didn’t mention the NHS at all. And the second, he declared, showed that Britain was heading for cheaper drugs through the deal with the Americans.

The Torygraph’s Christopher Hope then claimed that Corbyn was a threat to national security, as those documents had been marked secret. Zelo Street has pointed out how hypocritical this is, coming from the man or the paper that leaked ambassador Kim Darroch’s confidential views on what a massive imbecile Trump is. Tory chairman James Cleverly decided to add his tuppence worth’s, a declared that this breach of confidentiality by Corbyn showed his wasn’t fit to be Prime Minister. This was then refuted by Aaron Bastani of Novara Media, who pointed out that if that was true, then what about Fawkes, which had uploaded the documents with the civil servants’ names attached. Which Corbyn hadn’t done. And Pete tweeted that the documents actually showed that NHS access to generic drugs is an issue for the US.

This was confirmed by Steve Peers, who cited the relevant texts to disprove the Fawkes’ lies utterly. Peers tweeted

This is either ignorant or dishonest about Trump’s trade policy on drug pricing. It’s the other way around – Trump’s policy is to *increase* the prices paid for drugs outside the US … Here’s Trump’s policy on drug pricing in his own words, objecting to ‘unreasonably low prices’ outside the US – from the House of Lords library briefing on ‘the NHS and future trade deals’, 4 July 2019.

Some have objected to Corbyn saying that Trump seeks ‘full market access’ for medical products. But this phrase is found in the Trump administration’s own public document setting out its objectives in the US/UK talks … this falls short of the claim that “the NHS is for sale” in the trade talks with Trump. But we do know: a) patents/NHS drug pricing is under discussion (although we can’t be certain what final FTA would say on this) … b) Trump’s objective is NHS paying *more*, not less.

Zelo Street concluded its coverage of this with the comment

‘Labour’s revelation has cut through. The Tory boot boys have confirmed it. Game changer.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/labour-nhs-leak-validated-by-tory-spin.html

But the Tories are still pursuing a policy of NHS privatisation even without the wretched trade negotiation with Trump.

They and the Blairites have been doing it for forty years, ever since Thatcher got into power in 1979. She really did want to privatise the NHS completely, but was only prevented by a cabinet revolt. So she contented herself with privatising the ancillary services by opening them up to private tender, and trying to encourage a target of 15 per cent of the British population to take out private health insurance instead.

This piecemeal privatisation continued under John Major, who introduced the private finance initiative, in which private firms would cooperate with the government to build hospitals. A few years ago Private Eye published a piece on this, revealing that its architect, Peter Lilly, saw it as an opportunity to open up the NHS to private enterprise.

Then in 1997 Blair’s new Labour came to power, and the process of privatisation was ramped up. Blair was no kind of socialist. He was an ardent Thatcherite, who the Leaderene in her turn hailed as her greatest success. He immediately pushed through a series of reforms in which the management of hospitals would be opened up to private healthcare companies. At the same time, the NHS could also contract in private healthcare providers like hospitals. The new polyclinics or health centres that the Blair regime established were also to be privately managed by companies like BUPA, Circle Health and Virgin Healthcare. And the Community Care Groups of doctors, which were supposed to be responsible for allowing doctors to manage their own funds, were part of this policy. They could raise money through private enterprise and contract in private healthcare companies.

One of Blair’s Health Secretaries wished to reduce the NHS to nothing more than a kitemark on services provided by private companies.

And this policy was continued and expanded in turn by the Tories.

They have done nothing to repeal any of this legislation. Instead they have taken it further. Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill is particularly obnoxious as underneath its convoluted verbiage it absolves the Health Secretary from the responsibility of ensuring that everyone in the UK has access to proper healthcare. This overturns one of the core principles of the NHS that has been there ever since it was set up by Nye Bevan and the Labour Party in 1948.

And it has gone on. The Tories wanted to give whole regions over to private healthcare providers, which would have brought the NHS’ complete privatisation that much closer. At the moment the majority of medical contracts have been given to private healthcare providers. Mike revealed on his blog that about 309 contracts had been given out, thus refuting the Tory claim that they aren’t selling the Health Service off.

Let’s be clear: Corbyn is not wrong and the Tories ARE selling the NHS – now

This is a process that has been going for decades. But it is extensively covered by books like Raymond Tallis’ and Jackie Davis’ NHS – SOS. I’ve also written pamphlets on it, one of which is still available from Lulu. See my publications’ page on this site. And there are other books. Many others.

The Tories are selling off the NHS, and it is only Corbyn and his team that oppose it. The Blairites in Labour and the Lib Dems are utterly complicit in it.

If you still value the NHS, vote Labour.

£70 Bn Black Hole in Tory Spending Pledges

November 28, 2019

Despite all the Tory bluster, as Mike has pointed out Labour’s spending plans are properly costed and have the support of 163 leading economists. They have sent a letter to the Independent stating their support, saying

It seems clear to us that the Labour party has not only understood the deep problems we face, but has devised serious proposals for dealing with them.

We believe it deserves to form the next government.

Labour spending plans are backed by leading economists

The Tories, however, have always claimed that they are the party of proper fiscal responsibility, who truly understand economics. In contrast to profligate, spendthrift Labour, they can be trusted with wise, frugal expenditure.

So how do their manifesto pledges stand up?

Not well. According to an article in Tuesday’s I, they’ve got a black hole to the tune of £ 70 bn in theirs.

The article by Hugo Gye reads

The Conservatives face a £70bn black hole in their spending plans after making a string of manifesto promises without explaining how to pay for them.

Boris Johnson has pledged to build dozens of hospitals, create a new rail network and set up a hi-tech “gigafactory” to make electric cars. He is also promising national insurance cuts, a new system of social care and relief for indebted students. None of his policies is costed in the party manifesto revealed on Sunday. They add up to £52.2bn in added capital investment, and an extra £20.6bn on the annual bill for day-to-day spending, according to figures calculated by I.

The Conservative manifesto proposed a rise in day-to-day spending of £2.9 bn as well as £3.6bn in tax cuts. But it also contained a number of policies with no price tag attached.

The biggest is Northern Powerhouse Rail, a new network linking Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds, which will cost £39 bhn. Other promised capital projects not costed by the manifesto include building 40 new hospitals and the construction of a gigafactory to make eco-friendly vehicles.

Tory sources said future investment plans would be funded by a £100 bn pot of capital expenditure, only £22 bn of which has so far been allocated to specific projects. The shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said, “With no evidence behind any of their figures, it looks like the Conservatives’ fake news approach applies to their manifesto too.”

The deputy Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, added: “Boris Johnson’s relationship with numbers has all the hallmarks of his relationship with the truth – nonexistent.”

That’s precisely how it seems to me.

The fact that these pledges are not costed suggests very strongly to me that, like his promise to build 40 new hospitals, they’re lies. The Tories have no intention of honouring them. They’re only interested in slashing welfare spending and privatising the NHS and anything else they can get their hands on for the benefit of their rich corporate donors, Donald Trump and the American private healthcare industry, and the hedge funds. And they are going to wreck this country to do so.

Don’t be fooled by them. Labour really stands for restoring the welfare state, public infrastructure and the NHS. And it’s all properly costed.

They are the party of economic sense. Not the loony, lying Tories.

Boris Johnson Declared Islamophobia ‘Natural Reaction’ to Islam

November 28, 2019

Mike also put up another excellent piece, pointing out that while the Tories are misdirecting people to look for massively over-exaggerated anti-Semitism in the Labour party, they have been actively promoting hatred against Muslims. According to the magazine Business Insider, in 2005 our comedy prime minister wrote in the Spectator that

To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers.

This was in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings, and Johnson questioned the loyalty of British Muslims and said that the country must realise that ‘Islam is the problem’.

Mike concludes ‘He’s not my prime minister. He is racist filth.’

Boris Johnson believes Islamophobia is a ‘natural reaction’ to Muslims. Let’s vote this racist OUT

No argument there from me, especially after Mates Jacobs has released a dossier of rabidly islamophobic, racist and anti-Semitic comments from the supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and our buffoonish Prime Minister. Not after Sayeeda Warsi has repeatedly demanding investigations into islamophobia in her party, and been condescendingly told that there’s little to worry about. Not when an inquiry into it has been pushed back after the General Election – presumably so that it won’t embarrass Johnson when it uncovers massive prejudice and hatred.

Now let’s put Johnson’s comments into their context. Many Brits understandably were worried about the possible danger from Islam after the 7/7 bombings on the London Underground and on buses. This was also a period when alienated Muslim youths marched through the street waving placards against the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, proclaiming that Islam would dominate the West and promising more violence and terrorism. But it is a mistake to claim that this alienation and rage represents true Islam, or comes from the pages of the Qu’ran.

In fact Islamism is the product of a distinct set of social and political circumstances. This includes the economic and political stagnation of Islamic societies, rising poverty and the bewilderment and dislocation felt by many Muslims to rapid modernisation. Some of the problems are due to the adoption of neoliberal economic programmes by secular Arab and Middle Eastern states, like Algeria, which have massively increased poverty. Some of it is a reaction to western colonialism and cultural and economic hegemony. And some of it is a response to real oppression by non-Muslim states around the world. Like there is massive discrimination and organised violence against Muslims, as well as Sikhs and Christians, by Hindu ultra-nationalists in India.

I studied Islam as part of my religious studies minor degree at College. Yes, Islam has expanded through violence and conquest, just as Christianity has. But it has also spread through peaceful contact and conversion. And the problems Islam is experiencing as it modernises aren’t unique to it. Christianity and the West experienced the same process in the 19th and 20th centuries. There were reactionaries in the Anglican Church in the 19th century, who were frightened of the extension of the franchise and political rights to Protestant Dissenters, Roman Catholics, and other religions. In the middle of the century the Papacy placed on its index of forbidden doctrines the idea that Roman Catholic countries should allow freedom of religion and conscience to non-Catholics. But now the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches as a whole very definitely are not anti-democratic, despite the attempts of General Franco and Roman Catholic clerico-Fascists during the Second World War. And aggressively atheist states like the Soviet Union have their own bloody history of intolerance. Religion was viciously persecuted in the USSR, and millions of people of faith, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or shamanist, were killed or imprisoned in the gulags for simply holding their beliefs. Nathan Johnson, surveying the vicious intolerance across secular, atheist as well as religious societies in his books on the mythology of New Atheism, has suggested that such intolerance may be part of human nature, rather than just unique to religion or a specific religion.

Islam also has a tolerant side. Christianity survived in the Balkans after the Turkish conquest because, when the Ottoman emperor wanted to force the Christian peoples to convert to Islam, the majlis, the assembly of Muslims scholars and jurists, told him it was specifically forbidden, for example. And even after the conquest, there were many areas in which Christian and Muslim lived side by side in peace. When Mike visited Bosnia after the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, he saw areas where churches and mosques had been built next to each other. Not the mark of an intolerant society, at least, not at that time.

Boris Johnson is, as Mike and so many others have repeatedly pointed out, a vicious racist. This is in sharp contrast to the Labour leader, who is a determined opponent of all forms of racism. Don’t believe him when he smears Labour as anti-Semitic.

And don’t let him get away with smearing Muslims. This is what the Tories are doing and have always done: manufacture hate against an out-group in order to gain power. They are doing it against the poor. They are doing it to the unemployed, to the disabled, to anybody, even working people, who claim benefits. And in the early part of the 20th century they did it to Jews. Now they’re doing it to Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims.

A better world is possible. Reject the Tories and their prejudice and bigory, and vote for Corbyn and his anti-racism instead.

 

 

Oh No! ‘I’s’ Simon Kelner Now Criticises Chief Rabbi for Attack on Labour

November 27, 2019

I don’t really have any time for Simon Kelner. If I recall correctly, he started out as a reporter on the mid-market Tory tabloids before moving to the I. He’s very much a Tory, and has been one of those pushing the anti-Semitism smears against Labour in that newspaper’s pages. He has frequently cited his own Jewishness as some kind of proof of his assertion that Corbyn’s Labour is anti-Semitic, even though there are very many other Jews, who know that Corbyn isn’t and never has been, and could use the same argument to back up their beliefs. But it seems that yesterday’s remarks in the Times by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis repeating the smears were a step too far even for him. In today’s edition, Kelner has written an article, ‘The Chief Rabbi is wrong to preach about Labour’ criticising Mirvis and his comments. He still seems to be trying to peddle the line that Labour is anti-Semitic and Corbyn is deeply distasteful to Jews. But he realises that if Corbyn and Labour do come to power, they aren’t going to persecute the Jewish community.

He begins the article by quoting Mirvis’ own remark that  by convention, the Chief Rabbi should be above party politics, commenting that

it’s safe to say that the spiritual leader of Britain’s Jews understands that his treatise on anti-Semitism in the Labour party – on the very day that Labour launched its faith and race pledges – was unprecedented, unconstitutional and potentially divisive.

He then goes on to talk about Mirvis’ better qualities – he isn’t a self-publicist, has encouraged equality for women in orthodox synagogues, supported LGBT students and promoted interfaith understanding. He’s addressed a Church of England synod, and an invited an imam to talk to his congregation while he was a rabbi in Finchley. Mirvis declared in his article that challenging racism was above party politics, before going to talk about how the overwhelming majority of Jewish Brits were afraid of Corbyn and Labour getting into power.

Kelner continues

In fairness, I don’t think they are the only community gripped by anxiety about such an outcome, but his point is that Labour’s failure to deal properly with the anti-Semitism in its ranks reveals a deeper and wider threat to the fabric of society. “Be in no doubt,” he says, portentously, “the very soul of our nation is at stake.”

Has Rabbi Mirvis overstepped the mark with such a politically incendiary contribution? If politicians don’t “do God”, should men of God do politics? It depends entirely on whether you agree with the Rabbi’s viewpoint, and, in this, and as a Jewish person myself, I find it hard to get behind him.

Yes, the Labour hierarchy has, at the very least, been found wanting in the way it has dealt with accusations of anti-Semitism within the party. It has done too little, too late, and this has been extremely bad politics on Labour’s part. It deserves to be castigated for this,. But does it amount to an existential threat to British Jewry, as Rabbi Mirvis warns?

I would suggest not. “What will become of Jews and Judaism in Britain if the Labour Party forms the next government?” he asks. Well, nothing much, would be my answer. There will be no pogroms in north London, and having Jeremy Corbyn in No 10 will not immediately legitimise anti-Semitic sentiment and unleash a new hatred against Jews. There may be many reasons why you wouldn’t vote for Labour on 12 December, but the fear of Jews being drive to the edge of society should not be one of them.

I understand why many Jews of my acquaintance feel a distaste for Corbyn’s brand of politics, and the Chief Rabbi is, of course, entitled to his opinion. Given his position of privilege and influence, however, I rather wish he had heeded his own words and kept it to himself.

There are a number of issues to be raised here. Firstly, his statement that Labour hasn’t done enough to tackle anti-Semitism is a flat-out lie. Labour has just about bent over backwards to tackle the issue. They’ve ordered inquiries and suspended and expelled members. Indeed, they’ve conceded too much. The real reason for the anti-Semitism allegations has always been political. The Israel lobby are frightened of Corbyn, because he wants justice for the Palestinians and an end to Israeli apartheid and their slow-motion dispossession and expulsion. It is definitely not because he’s anti-Jewish. Indeed, his record in tackling anti-Semitism and racism is exemplary. For the Tories, Lib Dems and Blairites in Labour, the anti-Semitism allegations were nothing but a useful tool to force him and his supporters out. Hence the entirely fake allegations and kangaroo trials of decent people like Mike, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth, Ken Livingstone, Chris Williamson and many, many others. The Thatcherites – and this include the Lib Dems and the Blairites – simply want to get rid of Corbyn and his supporters because they want to restore the welfare state, revitalise the NHS and public services by ending privatisation and bringing them back into public ownership, and give working people proper rights at work, decent wages and strong trade unions to defend them.

The various communities Kelner claims are also afraid of Labour coming to power are, I would say, those of rich industrialists, newspaper proprietors, editors and right-wing journalists, afraid of this attack on their wealth, power and profiteering.

Kelner has also shown that he’s afraid that by opening his mouth, Mirvis has opened the door to other religious leaders making party political statements. And the Tories are particularly vulnerable to this. They’ve had numerous very public disputes with the Church of England and several archbishops ever since Dr. Robert Runcie and the Church published a report in the 1980s about how Thatcher her policies were causing massive poverty in Britain. Clearly Kelner’s afraid that Mirvis is in danger of setting a precedent for more religious criticism of Thatcherism.

And Mirvis himself is a prime target for such criticism, as he’s a friend of Boris Johnson who congratulated him on becoming Prime Minister.

He also seems to be worried about how Mirvis’ sputterings about racism look compared to Labour. Mirvis made his remarks on the day Labour published its pledges on race and faith, promising fresh legislation to tackle racism and revising the school curriculum so it covered the British Empire, colonialism and slavery.  Corbyn himself is a determined anti-racist activist, who was arrested protesting against apartheid outside the South African embassy.

And what has Mirvis done?

Well, zip, as far as I can make out. And worse than zip. Tony Greenstein has put up an article today revealing that Mirvis joined the former Chief Rabbi when the latter took a party of British Jews to join the March of the Flags in Jerusalem a few years ago. This is the occasion when Israeli bovver-boys parade through the Muslim section of the Holy City waving Israeli flags, vandalising Palestinian homes and property, chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’. He also supported Norman Tebbit’s infamous ‘Cricket Test’. Tebbit, a former Cabinet minister under Thatcher, had a simple rule for determining who was properly British: they should support England at Cricket. If Blacks and Asians didn’t, they weren’t British. And Mirvis apparently agreed with him.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/11/the-hypocrisy-of-ephraim-mirviss.html

And it also appears that Kelner is worried about the consequences for the Jewish establishment – which includes not just the Chief Rabbinate, but also the Board of Deputies of British, Jewish Leadership Council and so on – if Corbyn does come to power. Because he knows full well that Corbyn isn’t an anti-Semite and won’t launch pogroms. British Jews will carry on with their own business and lives untouched and unmolested. And that’s a danger to the Chief Rabbinate and other official organs of the Jewish community, because their scaremongering against Labour will be shown to be mistaken at best. At worst it will reveal that the Jewish establishment is politically motivated and biased, and its accusations against Labour are unfounded and profoundly deceitful.

And this, it could be argued, would be far more damaging to the Jewish establishment than any threat Labour supposedly represents.